Buy

Books
Click images for more details

Support

 

Twitter
Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing
Links

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Happy Christmas! | Main | Deja vu »
Friday
Dec192014

Walport bashes the Guardian

A few weeks ago Adam Vaughan wrote an article in Guardian that suggested that a report by Mark Walport had compared the risks of fracking to thalidomide and asbestos. Vaughan's contribution to the debate has now received an extremely cutting response from Sir Mark (see update at link above):

The Guardian article that linked fracking with thalidomide and asbestos is a florid example of what my report argued most strongly against. It confuses arguments about science with value propositions. It selected one sentence from one evidence paper, quoted it in part, and in doing so misrepresented both the report and indeed the evidence paper itself.

Marvellous stuff. I just don't quite understand why Sir Mark has chosen this moment to speak out about Guardian Eco playing fast and loose with the facts. They do much worse than this on an almost daily basis.

Why now?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (40)

Great that the Grauniad maintains its low standards, despite its dire financial circumstances. A real benchmark for its political readership

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterGolf Charlie

[Snip - manners]

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

"The controversial (sigh) technique, which involves pumping chemicals, sand and water...." I would have thought that good journalistic practice should require ingredients to be listed in descending order of their proportion of the mixture.

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

If you look at the URL of the Adam Vaughan Guardian piece, you can see what the original title was:
"Fracking Risk Compared to Thalidomide and Asbestos in Walport Report"

And the first sentence was
"Fracking carries potential risks on a par with those from thalidomide, tobacco and asbestos, warns a report produced by the UK government’s chief scientific adviser."

The misleading headline and first few sentences were copied by various climate and anti-fracking groups.

So the answer to the "Why now" is of course that he was explicitly mentioned in the headline.

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:42 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The misleading headline and first few sentences were copied by various climate and anti-fracking groups.
Suggesting to this cynical mind that that was the intention behind it.

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:56 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:42 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

As you say they made it personal.

Dec 19, 2014 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

Why now?

Perhaps thalidomide is an field he knows a bit about?

Dec 19, 2014 at 4:25 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

[Snip O/T. If I have to snip another of your comments I will block you.]

Dec 19, 2014 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

It's all very well for Walport to claim that he has been misquoted, but his report did have a piece by another professor making a connection between fracking and thalidomide, so I think he is on weak ground to claim it is inaccurate. If he didn't like it he should not have published it in the first place.

Dec 19, 2014 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek

Well up to the normal standards of The Graun - as they say "sets itself low standards and fails to achieve them".

I won't even use it for wrapping my fish and chips in.

Dec 19, 2014 at 5:25 PM | Registered Commenterretireddave

"Why now?"

The papers have;

"Vivienne Westwood and son attempt to deliver asbestos to David Cameron in protest against fracking"

Dec 19, 2014 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

So the Gurniad says that the report was "produced" by Walport, but the relevant chapter in the report was written by " Prof Andrew Stirling of the University of Sussex". Stirling himself says that he

"..shifted thro' 'science studies' to a masters in archaeology and social anthropology. I then worked as a field archaeologist and ecology and peace activist in the 80's, going on to co-ordinate the nuclear, disarmament and energy campaigns for Greenpeace International, then later serving on national and international Greenpeace boards."

Well what did Walport expect? Just what sort of camel did he think he was inviting into the tent?

Dec 19, 2014 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

@ ssat

The Evening Standard has a photo of Vivienne Westwood holding up a placard saying Don't let fracking be the next asbestos.

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/vivienne-westwood-and-son-attempt-to-deliver-asbestos-to-david-cameron-in-protest-against-fracking-9933525.html

Dec 19, 2014 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Nothing to worry about. I am sure, certain in fact, that "and then there is physics" spent hours trolling the blogs criticizing Adam Vaughan.

Dec 19, 2014 at 8:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Has anyone in the "fracking industry" in the UK tried to explain in a very public way ( full page advertorial or something similar) how fracking works and what chemicals are used etc. ? Just get the simple facts out there.

I'm from NZ and our relatively small oil exploration industry has been using forms of fracking for years with no issues.
( Yes, we have our share of nutters around at the moment but we try not to take any notice of them)

Dec 19, 2014 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

Ross on Dec 19, 2014 at 8:11 PM

"( Yes, we have our share of nutters around at the moment but we try not to take any notice of them)"

Yes, but have they been elected to parliament and become cabinet ministers?

Dec 19, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

The Guardian playing fast and lose with the facts.Not unusual for any newspaper.So much for Levison.

Lefty old guard are slowly going even our Viveinne is about 71 isnt it about time she retired.
So who will the Guardian get to replace piano playing Alan Russbridger when he leaves next year.
Suppose under the next Milliband Labour SNP Coalition government he will be ivory tinkling Lord Russbridger.

Dec 19, 2014 at 9:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

"Walport bashes the Guardian"

Sopping wet leather smears wet wash lather?

Dec 19, 2014 at 11:16 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I'll take this opportunity to repost my comment below that Guardian article. I also note I am a 'natural' Guardian reader. I've grown up with the Guardian and Observer, and my parents (now 80) still receive them every day, religiously doing the crossword. As a lifelong Guardian reader, I feel I have a natural right to critcise when they get it wrong. However, my comments are often censored - I presume on the assumption I am a right wing troll. My comment below the article - and I'm pretty sure they have since toned down the headline:


The misrepresentation of the report by this headline amounts to a lie. It is a genuine shame when The Guardian uses such deliberate distortion to push an agenda. It is a diservice to professional journalism, a disservice to the athors of the report and a disservice to science.

This headline - just like many other reportings of this report (just Google it) - intends to give the impression the chemicals used in fracking could be as dangerous and deadly as thalidomide and asbestos. This was repeated by the Green Party leader on this week's Any Questions (BBC Radio 4). In fact, I presume she had just read it in The Guardian.

What the report says:
- we have suffered from innovations in the past when we have rushed into them with insufficient checks and controls. Examples include thalidomide, asbestos, lead in fuel, CFCs, etc.
- It does not present a case that shale fracking is dangerous
- What it says, is that for any new innovation or technology (examples: GM foods, nanotechnology, shale fracking, etc), we need to be sure to understand the risk enough and have the controls in place before we let them go ahread. Fracking is not mentioned as a special case of concern, but simply an example of a number of new innovations. To suggest the report is about shale fracking is highly misleading.
What the multi-author report says on shale fracking:
In big bold letters on page 82 (quoting the Royal Society):
"Fracking is unlikely to contaminate drinking water."

and

Earth tremors resulting from fracking are smaller than those caused by coal mining, and in this context ‘earth tremor’ is a much more appropriate term than ‘earthquake’. To put fracking-related earth tremors in context, the two induced by hydraulic fracturing near Blackpool in 2011 had a Richter magnitude of 2.3 and 1.5....very unlikely that future earth tremors caused by fracking would ever exceed magnitude 3 – and the effects felt would be no worse than a passing lorry

The one NGO quoted on shale fracking (RSPB) has its concerns, not that it is unacceptably dangerous or should be banned, but very legitamately, that it presents risk, and so the necessary regulatory controls and checks must be in place. [No-one does or would disagree with that]. In fact the RSPB says:
The public and political debate about fracking in the United Kingdom has become so polarized that a discussion about risks and responses has been effectively impossible.

This very article is an example of that 'polarisation of the debate', helping to hinder the rational, science-based debate.
It is a shame and disservice to the journalistic tradition of The Guardian.

Dec 19, 2014 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered Commenteroakwood

And as for most of the 'chemicals' added to water and sand, they are primarily thickeners (quar gum, a food additive, being the most common) needed to suspend sand in water, and surfactants ( dishwashing/clotheswashing detergents) needed to counteract the negative oil effects on the fracking fluid in the fracking zone.
All of this taking place thousands of meters below the groundwater table, penetrated by triple thick steel/concrete casings to protect groundwater. Call them out on the facts. See essay No Fracking Way in ebook Blowing Smoke.

Dec 20, 2014 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

The chemical dihydrogen monoxide is by far the largest quantity of fracking chemicals that is pushed down a frack well. We should all be worried because this product is used in such large volumes that it could contaminate everything in the ground and we would all die and the world would end and the climate will change and CO2 will do something..........

Here in Western Canada this process has been done 10s of thousands of times and there is not one documented incident of any contamination that I have ever come across.

Dec 20, 2014 at 7:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeterK

If Vivienne Westwood was in possession of asbestos( I'm sure she's not been in possession of other substances or her faculties) where did she obtain it and how will she dispose of it?
Knowingly handling asbestos without proper procedures is a criminal offence and so is not disposing of it properly?

Dec 20, 2014 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Sorry, Oakwood, your spirited defence of the shoddy remnants of a once-proud organ is let down by the organ itself:

…innovations that were adopted hastily…
Do they really expect the sheeple to accept that an industry that has been in operation in this country for over 30 years already could be described thus? (Not forgetting that at least one of these sites is on a RSPB – also steadfastly “anti-fracking” – reserve!) Let’s haul out the old chestnut: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

Of course, if the sheeple are not sufficiently scared by the one article, there is a host of others conveniently linked to at the bottom of the page.

Dec 20, 2014 at 10:18 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

To make it worse the BBC appears to use the Guardian as its reference base. This week, they have been stressing the mild nature of the weather, when it is actually a perfectly normal month. Probably hoping for that 0.01 degree to fill their vacuous news schedules.

Dec 20, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

...a report by Mark Walport had compared the risks of fracking to thalidomide and asbestos....


It was quite justifiable for the Grauniad to be taken to task for this deceptive comparison.

Everyone knows that the risks of fracking are comparable to the Third World War, the world-wide distribution of Ebola fever, an asteroid bombardment, and the Coming of the Antichrist at the Battle of Armageddon. All at once. Anything less is simply pandering to the Koch brothers and Big Oil...

Dec 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterdodgy geezer

Both AGW and anti-Fracking thinkings self develop now in their proponents' mind up to a level of deep irreversible psychopathy. They shall go to psychiatric hospitals before to commit suicide when the 21st century will be declared (by some of them) as "the hottest century so far in Mankind.." !!....

Dec 20, 2014 at 2:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterHerve

Robert Christopher
"Yes, but have they been elected to parliament and become cabinet ministers?"

Fortunately we have not had that happen yet, in NZ. The Greens down here have been "taken over" by the very far left. They are true watermelons. But like the UK, the Green orientated NGOs have the MSM in their pocket and as a result make a nuisance and often idiots of themselves.

Dec 20, 2014 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

I think on this Walport is trying to bolt the stable door after the horse has ran out , spent quite a few happy years roaming around , died peacefully in its sleep and rotted down to the earth .
Although to be fair the Guardian does also do BS headlines for BS studies as well , and its shame Walport does not put his energy into condemning theses BS studies which is after all is something a person in his role should care about.

Dec 21, 2014 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

A piece of useful data here (http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/has-increased-sunshine-caused-uk-warming-in-late-20thc/) for Richard to feed into his beloved models.

Dec 21, 2014 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

In other news, the Gruaniad has fired Nafeez "everything is a conspiracy" Ahmed who claims, predictably, that it is all a conspiracy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbe43yjTLnY

I wonder when Lew will write a paper on Mr Ahmed.

Dec 21, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Heh, 'this is the only way it can work', she quavers. Did Ahmed, by the way, say anything at all? N.B. I only listened to the last four minutes of it, germane to the Grandiua Glove.
=======================

Dec 21, 2014 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

>In other news, the Gruaniad has fired Nafeez "everything is a conspiracy" Ahmed who claims, predictably, that it is all a conspiracy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kbe43yjTLnY

I wonder when Lew will write a paper on Mr Ahmed.
Dec 21, 2014 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol<

This is what he was apparently fired for:

http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/2014/12/5/is-it-the-guardian-of-judea-or-just-the-observer-of-zion

Dec 21, 2014 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhusq

>To make it worse the BBC appears to use the Guardian as its reference base. This week, they have been stressing the mild nature of the weather, when it is actually a perfectly normal month. Probably hoping for that 0.01 degree to fill their vacuous news schedules.
Dec 20, 2014 at 12:23 PM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon<

Many forms of subsidy were suggested: A slice of the BBC’s or ITV’s cake is the starting point (which Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger broached in these pages recently).

http://buzzmachine.com/2008/12/15/guardian-column-ditchley-and-the-market-demand-for-journalism/

Dec 21, 2014 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterhusq

kim, he said he was fired officially because it was not an environment story and he was writing too many non-environment story. He gave the impression that it was Israel wanting to steal Gaza gas which seems a bit unlikely as total reserves in Israeli waters are probably far greater. NBC make the case of it more likely just being Israel preventing development of Gaza gas fields.

Ahmed then says that the Guardian is a strongly pro-Israel paper, which I wasn't particularly aware of (in the British scale of these things). I generally don't read it anymore, but I might have guessed the opposite.

Dec 21, 2014 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

..forgot to add that I did listen to all of his interview, but I'm not really sure if he said anything at all. It was ostensibly about the CIA torture issue. He has the skill of being able to talk at length and yet leave you thinking "what did he say?". Maybe he does have some new or profound insight, but my ears glazed over while I was doing something else.

Dec 21, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

For some reliable, properly researched information on fracking go to the UK Onshore Operators website at:

http://www.ukoog.org.uk/

I saw their presentation at PROSPEX2014, very clear and very impressive. I'll see of its accessible anywhere else.

Dec 22, 2014 at 8:13 AM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

Ahmed then says that the Guardian is a strongly pro-Israel paper, which I wasn't particularly aware of (in the British scale of these things). I generally don't read it anymore, but I might have guessed the opposite.michael hart

only in an alternative reality , if you think its environmental coverage is poor and biassed , that is nothing compared it its ME coverage.

Dec 22, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

@husq.

Nafeez Ahmed, I wondered what happened to him. He wrote some of the most extreme, barn-pot insane pieces you could ever wish to behold. Only matched in recent times by the equally loopy Dana Nuttercelli.

Dec 22, 2014 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

"Why now?"

He was told to by the politicos - take a look at the guy who wrote the appropriate section, Sterling, is a full on ecoloon. I'm assuming Walport was comfortable with him in that role, and was cool about the comparisons to thalidomide else he'd have edited them out of the report so they couldn't be misrepresented in the press. The government is trying to get past the Greens on this and get on with fracking because of the huge economic payback, so although Walport seems to have been cool about the article his masters have given him a knew one and told him to write (indignently) to the Guardian trying to set the record straight.

Dec 22, 2014 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

michael hart,

The ONLY reason lefties trot out the BBC/Guardian support Israel meme is because to them if Israel isn't condemned enough that has to be a sure sign of Israeli support/jew control of the media.

Mailman

Dec 22, 2014 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>