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« Goodbye to all that - Josh 272 | Main | The hand that feeds bites back »

Sinnickal critique

Talking of publicly funded political activism in universities, Talking Climate, an activist blog that receives funds from the University of Nottingham, has issued a response to the Climate Control report on green education in schools,  authored by a biology teacher named Luke Sinnick. I can't say I'm very impressed. Take this, for example:

[Montford and Shade] start with the sug­ges­tion that pro­moting envir­on­mental aware­ness entails “the cor­rup­tion of the cur­riculum in schools in sup­port of a rad­ical world­view that is almost cer­tainly at odds with the majority view in our society”. However, there are repeated polls showing that the ‘majority view’ is that human activity is affecting the cli­mate and that levels of con­cern about the effects of cli­mate change remain high.

The problem with this critique is that the lines from our report that Mr Sinnick cites are about environmentalism rather than climate change, so unfortunately he has got hold of the wrong end of the stick. But I'm nevertheless amused that he thinks that anthropogenic climate change might be a worldview rather than a scientific hypothesis. Isn't this what "bad people" like me are supposed to believe?

Then there's this:

In Part 2, Montford and Shade cri­ti­cise the Geography Association’s sug­ges­tion “to encourage chil­dren to think about issues such as the alleged imminent exhaus­tion of fossil fuels”. However, deple­tion of oil reserves in 40 years is a reality sug­gested by groups not nor­mally con­sidered pro­moters of ‘rad­ical world­views’ such as Institute for Mechanical Engineers.

The link at the end takes you to a blog post which discusses the peak oil theory, but there are two problems with it. Firstly, an article about peak oil is of limited assistance in refuting an claim about fossil fuels - there are of course lots of fossil fuels other than oil, most notably gas and in the future no doubt clathrates too. Perhaps more importantly though, the article dates back to 2010, thus predating the widespread understanding of the shale revolution, which has killed off the peak oil theory in fairly impressive style.

John Shade and I are also taken to task for our discussion of the bias in textbooks - readers will recall that we noted the use of manipulated graphs, activist materials, and the appearance of climate change material in almost every part of the curriculum. Several egregious instances of this kind of thing came from revision guides published by CGP and Mr Sinnick seems most agitated by these. He takes us to task because, it seems that CGP guides are known for their jokes:

CGP are known for their ‘informal’ style and inclu­sion of (bad) jokes. For example, one guide sug­gests that “methane is a stinky problem but an important one”. We could ana­lyse this state­ment for its fac­tual accuracy (con­sid­ering methane is actu­ally odour­less) but that would not be a fruitful exer­cise when writing a ser­ious policy paper.

The particular criticisms we made of CGP texts were the uncritical promotion of biofuels and the appearance of global warming materials in English courses. If Mr Sinnick is correct and these were done as jokes then I have to say it is lost on me. "Luckily there are some biofuels out there that we can use, which are carbon neutral" was how the biofuels issue was put in the book. Is that funny?

When it comes to the section on teachers' opinions, we noted the comments on a thread on the Times Educational Supplement website in response to a researcher's requests for teachers to complete a survey about green education. Mr Sinnick's criticism is in two parts. Firstly:

They only use a tiny selec­tion of com­ments at the bottom of a TES survey as an example of ‘what teachers think’

This is pretty gobsmacking stuff - at least, that is, until you remember that we are at the Talking Climate blog. Let me explain why. Across the two threads on the survey,* there were eleven comments, four of which were from the researcher who was making the request. That leaves seven comments. We quoted from six of them. The one that we didn't quote was from someone having technical problems with the survey. So far from using "a tiny selection of comments" we actually quoted 100% of the ones that offered up an opinion. Like I said, it's Talking Climate.

The second part of the critique is that we should have cited a Guardian article in which four teachers offered up opinions on the subject of climate change education. Interestingly, I had come across this article during my research and had noticed that one of those interviewed was John Rutter, the deputy head of North Berwick High School. This was a familiar name because Rutter was the author of one of the textbooks that I had criticised for including a graph that had somehow managed to avoid showing any pause in temperature rises after 2000.

We know that there are teachers who are happy with children having a dark green education. In our report we bemoaned the lack of any systematic review of opinion. But I think it's fair to say that the comments thread at the TES is likely to be more representative than a group handpicked by the Guardian to offer a critique of Michael Gove.

*There is a missing reference in the report - we only gave the URL for one of the threads from which we quoted. For the avoidance of doubt the two URLs are:

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Reader Comments (35)

Master Sinnick's comments encapsulate for me the meta message from your recent excellent report: The diminution of critical and scientific thinking among those in the thrall of our "education" system.
My wife teaches ESL to graduate students coming to a US University. 30% of the chapters in the various reading texts she has reviewed present uncritical versions of climate change or global warming. Many are articles from National Geographic and the Smithsonian Magazine. The canker is deep.

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Well now I think I see part of the problem with a person who tried to tell me that the Earth's temperature had climbed by 2C since 2000.

I think it will be instructive to a lot of people - unfortunately, NOT True Believers, though- if I take that image and line it up over an image of the actual temperature trend.

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

What aspect of climate alarmism renders people senseless and their writings?

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered Commenteromnologos

Your Grace, you say:

I'm nevertheless amused that he thinks that anthropogenic climate change might be a worldview rather than a scientific hypothesis.
You should be worried rather than amused. I once asked Adam Corner, who runs Talkingclimate, why he put a battery of 15 questions about the environment in an opinion survey on climate change, since it played no part in the analysis. He said it was a version of the New Environmental Paradigm, and everyone in this line of research put it in. (The NEP is a series of pseudo-scientific statements you're invited to agree or disagree with, such as “we live on a fragile planet” etc.) I traced it back to its origins, (Dunlap and Van Leire 1978) and they trace it back to a book “Ark II” by Ehrlich and Pirages, which is a kind of hippy version of “Limits to Growth”.
There are two references to climate change in “ArkII”. One forecasts a coming ice age, and the other quotes John Holdren as saying the urban heat island effect will heat the planet 10°. No mention of greenhouse gases.
So Sinnick is right. Anthropogenic climate change is a worldview.

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:40 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I note that Mr Sinnick says that 'the majority VIEW is that human activity is affecting the climate...'
In other words, an opinion - not a fact.

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Should Mr. Sinnick pop by perhaps he would, within the confines of his subject of biology, explain the observed effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on this planet's lifeforms, present and past.

Should he know a history teaching colleague perhaps he could prevail upon him to to describe the impact of past climate optimums on societies.

And if either of them could persuade a teaching geographer to contribute here then we might be availed of information which showed differences in coastal outlines, mountain glaciers, river courses and major population centres during those periods.

We would of course promise not to tell our children about those facts lest they were confused in their studies to pass exams.

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Geoff: Interesting comment by Adam Corner, leading to some history I'd like to know more about. But I think you're missing Andrew's thrust by not considering his next sentence:

But I'm nevertheless amused that he thinks that anthropogenic climate change might be a worldview rather than a scientific hypothesis. Isn't this what "bad people" like me are supposed to believe?

All of us "bad people" are aware I'm sure how even the emptiest of shibboleths "climate change is happening", and its slightly more intelligent partners, are taken by many to assert agreement with the full catastrophist, environmentalist wolrdview Ehrlich's done so much to promote, uber-fragile planet and all. But Andrew and John have been at pains in their report, quite rightly, to draw a distinction between the scientific hypothesis - more precisely stated and, hopefully, in the end, taught - and the worldview. Sinnick quotes them talking about environmentalism - "a rad­ical world­view that is almost cer­tainly at odds with the majority view in our society” - then tries to say they're wrong because opinion polls show majorities believe in and are concerned about AGW. Andrew's amusement is about the category mistake which seems to admit AGW itself is a worldview. That's a disastrous admission in the educational context, surely? Can pupils only be taught about the radiative properties of CO2 in religious studies? That's where the educational rubber hits the road.

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:21 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Our comical 'Omega-woman' claims to "post on global warming because I don't like the lies told by [skeptics]" yet hasn't the gonads (literally, in her case) to comment at WUWT, the Telegraph or any other serious mainstream blog, reserving her pithy insults to the Daily Mail (!!) and here. In fact, I don't recall ever having seen her over at the Guardian.

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Harry Passfield, could it be that she doesn't comment at Guardian because she doubts they need her help?

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:37 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

jferguson: By not commenting at CiF I guess it saves embarrassment of knowing the funding for Nutticelli comes from 'big oil'.

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

Bishop -
I hadn't seen the temperature graph before. The lack of a plateau (and an uptick) must be due to the smoothing method used. Was there any attribution, or description of how the graph was obtained?

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

M. Stevens,

Please resist the temptation to feed the troll.

Apr 18, 2014 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

"there are of course lots of fossil fuels other than oil, most notably gas"

Let's not forget coal (peace be upon it) which can be converted to oil and of which there are not inconsiderable quantities left. Behind whisky and red wine (bounteous peace be upon them), the greatest substance in existence.

Apr 18, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

"However, deple­tion of oil reserves in 40 years is a reality sug­gested by groups not nor­mally con­sidered pro­moters of ‘rad­ical world­views’ such as Institute for Mechanical Engineers."

This has long been known to be an error, caused by mistaking the technical terms 'reserves' and 'resources'. The reserves are what has been surveyed and assessed in detail, and are only one component of the supply chain. The resources are what are actually there.

The error is akin to looking in the fridge, seeing that you have 4 days food left, and wailing that you're going to run out and starve to death in about 4 days time. 4 days later you look in the fridge again, and you still have 4 days food left. We've had about 40 years of oil 'left' since about 1950.

Appeal to authority isn't science.

Apr 18, 2014 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterNullius in Verba

Bishop you said:

> This is pretty gobsmacking stuff

Are you serious? Did you really quote three comments from 'blazer' and one each from 'phlogiston', 'lunarita' and 'sparkleghirl' as being representative of what teachers think? Those comments are the epitome of banality and you don't even know if these people are teachers. The mind boggles.

So far from using "a tiny selection of comments" we actually quoted 100% of the ones that offered up an opinion.

If he had said "They only use a tiny selection of the comments at the bottom of a TES survey as an example of ‘what teachers think’", noting the insertion of 'the', then you would be right in your criticism. As it is he is right. You use 6 comments of the utmost vapidity as the basis for what teachers think. Would you consider a climate study that had just 6 data points (and selection bias into the bargain) robust? Seriously, you are loosing it.

Apr 18, 2014 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

DocBud on Apr 18, 2014 at 3:01 PM

I agree with you on the top three resources but, depending on the season, I would change their order.

In particular, in Winter, I would have to let my head rule my heart and, regretfully, put coal top.

I also note that the temperature graph starts around 1850, so we don't have much of a hockey stick handle.

Apr 18, 2014 at 3:45 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher


Please don't forget the most usefull plant on the planet. (beneficient peace be upon it)
Canabis sativa

Apr 18, 2014 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia


Apr 18, 2014 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

IPCC AR5 WG1. You haven't read it, have you.
Sure have! Long on speculation and arm waving. Almost totally devoid of empirical evidence.
Bit like the Truro Troll really.

Apr 18, 2014 at 5:57 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Some people have an aptitude for bringing down the level of any debate they join. They know who they are and will be powerless to reveal themselves.

Apr 18, 2014 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

Sorry, that should have read,'will be unable to resist revealing themselves.'.

Apr 18, 2014 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

I'm not long home after a grand day wandering about the hills with dry feet and much sunshine, two welcome contrasts with some recent excursions. A beer in the garden while I squinted in the last of the sun to read Andrew's able shredding of the comments on our report. We really could do with a higher standard of criticism than we have seen so far - it would help everybody make some progress. The superficial reactions of Mr Sinnick are more to do with the twitching of his knee than the depths of his brain. At least, I hope that is the case given his responsibilities. I note with interest his mention of 'critical analysis'. This is a can of worms about which I am busy taking notes, none of them so far at all favourable. The label on the tin looks good, but what I'm finding inside it stinks.

Apr 18, 2014 at 7:21 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Well 2 days after being published there are "No Comments" on that response.

Why ?

Either there are really "No Comments" or nothing that the site can allow through ?

So I have posted this question and it is in moderation.

We shall see.

Apr 18, 2014 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

@Morph - I guess it's an school-hours-only website.

There are some comments on some posts - but most are uncommented and the overall impression is of someone talking to himself.

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Warmists fall into two camps, liars and fools.

The liars are paid to lie, either in hard cash like Bob Ward or in kind like the typical climate 'scientist' who gets a cushy 'job' for life and lot's of 'conference' holidays etc, just so long as they can keep the scare alive.

The fools are all the do-good 'environmentalists' who really want humanity to be shown to be destructive so they can do their bit to save the world. None of these idiots will actually give up the things they complain about because they 'need' their ipads with their lithium batteries and foreign holidays but they drive an economical car and give £10 a month to WWF so they're 'part of the solution'. Basically, if you're a warmist and you're not being paid to spout that cAGW nonsense then you're a fool.

Apr 19, 2014 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

A weapons grade idiot writes - "Let me guess, almost every single scientist on the plane is ......"

Could you also guess how much the planet's temperature would fall if we could only get these scientists and assorted hangers-on off the planes. Instead of travelling the world attending climate jollies. Yes airline profits would take a hit, but that's life.

Apr 19, 2014 at 12:37 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

As already noted, the insertion of a green agenda into teaching is under way in Australia, seemingly quite similar to.the UK process. It has the hallmarks of a global exercise and the UN is a likely driver.
It is an extremely serious matter because in essence, it is the deliberate insertion of propaganda into the minds of the young. I would make this assertion no matter what the topic was, environmentalism,sustainabilty, aspirations for world peace, whatever. Bodies like the UN have no place when propaganda is used. It is akin to non-violent warfare.:
There is no need to invoke the straw man of conspiracy theory and its consequent ridicule. Organised group influenceis are ever with us. Ask youself how it comes to pass that the intelligensia of Norfh Korea go along with propaganda that allows only certain styles of hair cut.
All thinking people concerned about directions in education should be vocal in opposition to propaganda. It is a duty more than an option.
But then, this pervasive green penetration exists beyond schools. Take teme to looking, for one example, at the UN inspired 'local governments for sustainability, previously somdthing like I U CL. Chances are your local rate payments are being spent on propzganda in poor countries without your knowledge.

Apr 19, 2014 at 1:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

" Deniers really are the most risible fools."

Yep. Denying the benefits of fossil fuel use, denying the uncertainty in measurements, denying the ability of the general population to get it right most of the time all by themselves, yes that really is risibly foolish, eh?

Oh - not what you meant? Sorry 'bout that!

Apr 19, 2014 at 1:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterKneel

The fact that Sinnick thinks that science is done by internet surveys of Graun readers proves our point - something is very wrong with science education.

Apr 19, 2014 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith L

Ask youself how it comes to pass that the intelligensia of Norfh Korea go along with propaganda that allows only certain styles of hair cut.
I think you picked a poor example, Geoff. You don't need much in the way of propaganda when the alternative is to find yourself examining the business end of a flame-thrower at close quarters!
The rest I agree with. I have certainly been accused of engaging in conspiracy theory — most recently by the Truro Troll who no longer appears to appreciate the irony of her meaningless posts — but there is plenty of evidence (more than there is to support to the cAGW meme) that the current agenda dates back to Strong and the Club of Rome and to those responsible for Agenda 21. "Organised group influence" seems to fill the bill nicely!

Apr 19, 2014 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Don't fret commenters, it was not a plot to prevent your responses from appearing on Talking Climate, merely the fact that I've been on holiday. They're up now. And your comments are safely logged away for recursive fury part 12 (joke)

Apr 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam Corner

Comments are now appearing - 2 that is anyway.

Apr 24, 2014 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Is this your personal web page Dr Adam Corner?

Apr 24, 2014 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Thanks for your response. Rather than argue about peak oil, lets start with two fundamental points that I agree with in your report and what I feel are underlying assumptions within it.

A. The education system should be opposed to blind indoctrination and 'brainwashing'. Children should be supported and encouraged wherever possible to be critical of scientific data they are given and be mindful of underlying bias that could potentially influence that data, including political influences.
B. Secondly, that where there is a conflicting hypothesis regarding a particular scientific issue , then children should not only be told this but also presented with the opposing hypothesis and evidence and encouraged to come to their own conclusion.

So the questions then are as follows.
A. Following this argument, shouldn't this include also looking at the misrepresentation of data and political influence of making documentaries like the 'Great Global Warming Swindle'? [1]
B. How do we determine which scientific theories we should criticise? What objective criteria would you suggest we judge a scientific hypothesis open to discussion at school? Should we teach children that tobacco might not cause cancer for example because some in the tobacco industry have still claimed this until as recently as 1990? [2]

1. ;

Apr 25, 2014 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSinnickal Luke

Sinnickal Luke

You are not off to a good start here:

But have a read of this:

The post about Sceptics being well funded is laughable.

Apr 28, 2014 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

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