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« The inhumanity of the environmentalist | Main | More climate McCarthyism »

Mischief making at the Graun

Next week metropolitan bigwigs are off to the Foundation for Science and Technology for a debate on the correct level of response to manmade global warming. Speakers include Mark Walport and sceptic MPs Peter Lilley and David Davies and it's sure to be an interesting occasion. With an influential audience, the debate could prove quite important. 

One can't help but wonder, therefore, if a wish to set the tone of Monday's debate is not a factor behind some rather disreputable journalism at the Guardian today. The article in question considers Walport's views on the subject of responses to climate change, which is fair enough, but bizarrely goes on to suggest that Benny Peiser, of all people, is right behind the chief scientist's views.

Benny Peiser, director of the climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is against many policies to tackle global warming, welcomed Walport's call to action. "It's not about the nitty-gritty details of the science. It's about finding the best way of dealing with a big issue that has a potential to cause a lot of problems in the future," he said.

I don't think readers need me to point out that this doesn't sound much like the Peiser we know and admire, and I emailed to ask whether he had been quoted out of context. Here is his reply:

No, I'm misquoted.

I said that climate change and climate policy both have the potential to cause problems in the future.

Neither did I welcome "Walport's call to action."

I said I welcomed opening up the climate policy debate **if all views were allowed to be voiced**

Oh dear.

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Reader Comments (20)

Hopefully Harrison Ford will be able to make it. He will be able to explain how climate change is such a threat except when you need to fly to get a cheeseburger or be airlifted to hospital with a sprained ankle.

That's better.

Jun 13, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

The problem with these science advisers is that they can jump.

Jun 13, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

There has been a flurry of this kind of activity in recent months. A kind of

"Look, those misguided [formerly evil] sceptics agree that we are right...",
...without actually taking the trouble to make even a half-assed attempt to report the views of said misguided sceptics.

Whether this change of tactics represents a raising of the ethical level of the "debate", I am undecided. I suspect they still don't get it.

Jun 13, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Is it just me or is there an ever so slight softening of positions occurring?

Despite on-going green rhetoric more intelligent observers cannot but be aware of the Pause and multiple failures of theory, models, feedback, sensitivities etc.

Sure, many still publicly talk tough and there's still huge policy overhang, but there seems to be more of this type of superficially reasoned approach appearing here and there. 'The Greatest Threat To Humanity Ever' is a rarer call these days.

Of course it's purposely designed not to look anything like a retreat - that would mean a huge loss of face and we can't be having that. More of a gentle re-positioning exercise so - depending on future unknowns, they can continue onwards or claim how balanced and fair they were all along, just in case the unthinkable happens.

Jun 13, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

You expect truthful reporting by the Guardian???
Good luck!
I recommend the Beano instead! A far superior comic.

Jun 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Any chance of providing details of the debate - I can't find any on the FST or Guardian websites.

Jun 13, 2014 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterChairman Al

Chairman Al

There isn't much beyond the identities of the speakers and the motion. It's invitation only.

Jun 13, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

For the record, I was quoted correctly.

A lot of greenies are cross with me for pointing out that you can't have both stringent targets on greenhouse gas emissions and lots of ruminants around the place.

Jun 13, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Cheshirered: "a gentle re-positioning exercise"

Repositioning global warming as theory not fact? I seem to recall the bedwetters got very irate about that when an American power company allegedly tried it.

Jun 13, 2014 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

Thanks your most Reverend Excellency, I was hoping that there might have been an opportunity to attend but it seems unlikely.

Jun 13, 2014 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterChairman Al

Myself and Barry Woods attended the talk by Walport at BMA House last week in London.

Both of us had the opportunity to put questions to him.

- Barry had some back and forth with Walport over conflating policy and science where climate change was concerned. We both discussed this afterwards and concluded that Walport didn't really understand the question as he only seemed to waffle in response.

- I asked a question responding to something he said in his talk. He said that "the consensus" covered three things:

i) that climate change is happening
ii) that we are causing it and
iii) that it is going to be bad

I put it to him that my reading of AR5 definitely does not support iii). I argued that the main line of "evidence" for catastrophic outcomes from anthropogenic CO2 was model scenarios. I then quoted what the technical summary said about them: "The scenarios should be considered plausible and illustrative, and do not have probabilities attached to them."

I was so surprised by his response that I didn't think to come back at him immediately as Barry did. He simply said "By 'bad' he doesn't mean 'catastrophic'". He didn't subsequently provide a definition. I thought it was a pretty poor show given that he'd just been extolling the virtues and importance of "climate communication", especially given how I think many people would interpret "bad".

Jun 13, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterKatabasis

I think it was Ben Pile who pointed out that if 'deniers' didn't exist, the Green/Left would have to invent them.

In fact, that is what they have done, in large part. The 'denier' is never explicitly characterised in terms of their scientific belief. It is enough to create an amorphous enemy class called 'deniers' who are not just wrong but evil, a despised flat-earth minority, whose obvious clout in delaying the Green agenda comes from an anti-science agenda funded by Big Oil.

Activists always need to create enemies to oppose; otherwise it might occur even to them that they were simply pursuing their own narcissistic ego fulfilment.

Jun 13, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

A debate - Invitation only..

Member of Public can get stuffed then..
all that is wrong..

where is my invite..
where is my chance to watch the 'special' - 'important' people debating..

Or at least can I purchase a first come first served ticket to watch the spectacle. - I know my place, no questions from me..
At the Walker annual Lecture - I asked Walport a question afterwards, rather than chat he couldn't get away fast enough..

Jun 13, 2014 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

in the actual lecture the Q/A format was ask a question, Walport gives the answer - then moves on..

actually trying to discuss his response - like Danny and I did, seemed to cause confusion..

and what does 'bad' mean - to a climate activist, it translates to if a 'scientist (these conservative people, with a small c) says bad. it must mean catastrophic.. or does it mean 'bad' like stubbing your toe.

very poor communication. I wish someone was able to ask him to define 'bad' and what evidence he had that a consensus of scientists agreed with 'bad'

(ie there is none)

Jun 13, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

@Rick Bradford.
This is an observation that I have also made. I like to frequent one or two science blogs and when the subject of climate change comes up the 'Denier' bogeyman is always denounced. As you say, the problem is that there are no actual people out there that believe any of the things that they claim that these deniers do.

Jun 13, 2014 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Here's some more G skullduggery...........An answer for everything....It's interesting that the article states "a" climate scientist.....So a consensus there worth reporting as a fact then.

Must confess I chuckled.



Jun 14, 2014 at 1:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterjones

…to tackle global warming…
That phrase is really the nub of this problem. There are those who say, “It happens; live with it,” and there are those who say, “It is so frightening! We must stop it! Give us your money, and we will stop it!” Most on this site are of the first view; those who are actually in control of so much government and academia are in the second group – they do have a vested interest in keeping the scare going. A similar problem might arise with the question: how do you tackle rainfall? Most of us would say, “Buy an umbrella.” Those, such as Davey, Mann, et al, with a vested interest would say, “Give us more money, and we will control the weather.” Sadly, the days of the general population seeing the latter claim as so much hogwash seem to be long gone, as they so eagerly lap up every lie, conceit and deceit issued by the main-stream media.

Jun 14, 2014 at 11:27 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

The warmist can't even agree on a correct way to measure Global temperature.

Of course this won’t stop the Watermelon’s bandwagon of lies

Jun 14, 2014 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Well, I KNOW cAGW is Real: humans are getting taller. Why aren't they using this metric yet?

Jun 15, 2014 at 7:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterClunking Fist

When it started out the Foundation was intended to provide a forum for the discussion of current and emerging issues that interested the then members of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee (an informed and influential group). Efforts were made to get equally or better informed speakers representing different points of view on an important contemporary issue and to get responses from the audience through questions after their presentations and after a dinner. The audience comprised members of the Foundation and invited guests with knowledge and an interest in the subject debated. These members and guests were drawn from academia, business, the civil service and the Houses of Parliament. Potentially, it was an influential occasion because it could be opinion forming in circles where it mattered, that is in those that influenced, drafted and passed future legislation or regulation.

I am unclear about the present status of the Foundation (when it started out it raised funds from a wide variety of sources and valued and protected its independence). I believe that in the 2000s it found it needed to hold out the begging bowl to government departments to keep its head above water - a very bad sign. Nevertheless the presence of the two MPs as speakers on this occasion is therefore very welcome. The exchanges are likely to be lively. And the event could be a helpful straw in the wind.

Jun 15, 2014 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

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