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Quote of the day, science with Guardian characteristics edition

Without a Paris agreement, global warming is set to reach as much as 5C (41F) above pre-industrial levels. Scientists estimate that warming above 2C (35.6F) will result in catastrophic and irreversible changes to the weather, including droughts, floods, heatwaves, fiercer storms and sea level rises.

Fiona Harvey, award winning environment writer for the Guardian, struggles with mathematics

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Reader Comments (74)

the very 1st comment at the Guardian spotted the same old error (15hours ago)

"Please correct the errors, 5C is not 41F above pre-industrial levels and 2C is not 35.6F above pre-industrial levels. The figures should be 9F and 3.6F."

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The author of the article says "...warming above 2C (35.6F) will result in catastrophic and irreversible changes to the weather..."

Reputable sites like DeSmog or SkS have reported over and over that only deniers use the word "catastrophic" in reference anthropogenic climate change. The Guardian's article is clearly the result of a hack.

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterAila

'Fiona Harvey, award winning environment writer for the Guardian' yes but to do that you have to , a)have no journalistic talent , b) be happy to set aside reality c) and most importantly to show unquestioning loyalty toward 'the cause'

So taken any person working at the Guardian has been a worthwhile expert on the environment, with given they have zero actually qualifications in the area , is a bit like taken the BNP spokesman has being has worthwhile expert on race relations.

In reality Fiona can best be consider be a 'photocopier' that is all they did is reproduced, without question nor change , any PR they are feed by green groups such has friends of the earth.

Nov 23, 2015 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterknr

In fact churnalism.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

From the article,

“The tone will be more serious, and less festive. Activists will have to find more creative ways to show the world the impact of climate change. There will be less grandstanding, and more focus.”
Intersting that even the activists didn't think climate change required much focus when there were festivities available.

Technical issues may be beyond them but this is quite a scoop for the Guardian.

Nobody thinks climate change is more important that a jolly.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:02 AM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Never mind the Guardian, that high-carbon-footprint ambassador for the Greens, Prince Charles, is on Sky News tonight, explaining why Syria is all about drought and climate change.

Special Report ‘Climate Crisis: Prince Charles Speaks Out’ will air on Sky News at 8pm on Monday 23rd November.

Yes, sir.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan

The lady obviously has a simple conversion programme on her ‘puter – she has entered “5°C” and has had the reply, “41°F”; only correct in a definitive context, not in a comparative one.

One has to admire the conviction of these people that they are so utterly correct when all the evidence shouts out that they are most definitely not.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:06 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

More Scott Trust 'rithmetic - Jehovah's Witnesses seem tame by comparison - frogs and locusts tomorrow hopefully

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:06 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Fiona Harvey is an "award winning" environmental journalist, and should be basically competent by now?!

Climate Scientist Peter Thorne's reaction, as it's not the 1st time...

Peter Thorne ‏@climpeter
@BarryJWoods oh lord have they done that AGAIN? Shakes head

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

MA (Environmental Journalism), Neasden University

Tomorrow's lesson will be about MW and MWh. By the end of the week students will be able to use the terms volt and ampere with some confidence.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterCapell

Some may find this pedantic, but as this Guardian piece demonstrates, lazy terminology can easily confuse stupid people. As always used by Monckton, but very few others, the correct usage is of course:

Use ˚C when referring to a specific temperature.
Use when referring to a temperature interval.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Dawkins

Jack Dawkins
Nothing pedantic about it. It's the only way you avoid ****-ups like Harvey's.
The main consolation we have is that the error is relatively easily pointed out and since it's such a basic primary school level error nobody, once they've had it pointed out to them, will believe a word she says.
Added to which it opens the door for, "Fiona Harvey? Isn't she the idiot who ....?"

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:52 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I forgot to mention that she's talking rubbish anyway.
Maybe the "error" is an attempt to distract attention from the near-total enviro-bollocks in the rest of the piece.

Nov 23, 2015 at 10:55 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

@ Mike Jackson at 10:52 AM

Jack Dawkins
Nothing pedantic about it. It's the only way you avoid ****-ups like Harvey's.

Unless she used K

Nov 23, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

There is value in the Guardian and in Prince Charles in that since neither can ever seem to tell the truth, they make a great way to know what is false. Witness both on the climate fraud. I refuse to believe that the Guardian is populated by complete moron writers --- they must be committing fraud on purpose.

Nov 23, 2015 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark Stoval

Surely, if warming of 2C is catastrophic and irreversible then the earth can never have been 2C warmer than now, or we would still be stuck in that historical catastrophe.
Or else she's lying.
Um, I wonder which is correct.

Nov 23, 2015 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex11

Mark Stoval

Yes, they are committing fraud on purpose because HSBC and Shell have paid them fortunes to promote global warming (carbon trading).

Nov 23, 2015 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

She didn't, did she?

With a natural acuity for mathematics like that, I reckon she would be a shoe-in for Doug's challenge.

Nov 23, 2015 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

No. She's just not a scientist. Never attribute malice where ignorance or incompetence will do.
The mantra, from the less-than-honest scientists, from the pig-ignorant ones that know nothing about history and less about paleontology, from the mendacious eco-warriors (are there any other sort?), and from the useful idiots like HRH and Emma Thompson and Vivienne Westwood and the BBC (see comments on the "Why does the Bishop post graphs ..." thread on the Discussion section) is that an extra two degrees C will be may be / could be / has the potential to be catastrophic.
I'm not sure what qualifications Harvey has to expound on environmental matters (I can't find anything about her except the Guardian blurb, repeated on every link I could find) but it seems likely that she doesn't have a clue about anything scientific and is making a good living regurgitating the usual enviro-scare stories.
More to be pitied than to be blamed perhaps? On the other hand, if she is a scientist ...

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:00 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Leo Hickman was at a loose end as a Guardian lifestyle correspondent (curtains and wallpaper a specialty) when he was thrown into the climate bear pit. He once stupidly admitted to me he had no maths/ science education.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Shame they,re not holding their Climate Summit in Brussels

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

It's not the worst error she makes in that piece - by a long way.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Heh, fortunately the error is so obviously merely from not paying attention that she's absolved of any criticism that she's being unnecessarily alarmist; even I would consider a 41 degrees F temperature rise socially destabilizing.

On that point only. She is, however, still being unnecessarily alarmist. 2 degrees C is not the border of harm, and 5 degrees C is not likely to be achievable even were we to attempt it.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Celcius degrees is not the 'correct' term. It is a mere suggestion, seldom-used and non-standard. The use of degrees F nowadays is non-standard too and shouldn't be encouraged. C is Coulombs and F is Farads if we're being that pedantic.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I prefer K (for Kelvin) rather than °C, and (as JamesG has pointed out) C without the degree symbol is entirely incorrect usage.

In the article, Nick Mabey is quoted, "There will be less grandstanding" and Lord Stern "I don’t think there will be any grandstanding [as seen at previous meetings]." I'd bet otherwise; in fact the raison d'être of such convocations is to grandstand, making a public display of virtue and self-importance.

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:02 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Yes, I too noticed that Prince Charles is blaming the Syrian crisis on climate change.

I knew the bloke was bonkers, but - blimey - even for him this is a bit of a stretch...!

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Fiona Harvey is one of the top mathematical brains in climate science churnalism. This is why so many mistakes go unnoticed.

Climate scientists are very grateful for her continued lack of understanding.

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

17 hours and that basic error is still there*... So I put a screenshot on Montford's FB page.
It's not really a maths error, so much as a knowledge error.
It's what you get from someone who parrots "Computa says 'no'"
Or someone who has too much faith in models. Like she has a model on her computer which knows the relationship between centigrade and Fahrenheit and what comes out is "truth".

She must know that C and F don't share the same zero point. She must know that 100F is considered a pretty hot temperature . (Even if she has never come across that freezing, body temperature and water boiling point are +32F, 98.6F, 212F respectively).
So typing 41F and 35.2F wouldn't you think to yourself "wow they seem like large numbers" ? and "why's a the 5C difference in Fahrenheit only a little bit more than the 2C one ?"
and then realise "ah yes, cos they don't begin at the same zero, converting absolute temperatures is different to calculating relative difference changes ?"

* The very first commenter highlighted the error and some human moderator must have read the comments cos some comments say "This comment was removed by a moderator, because we arbitrarily delete stuff we don't like"
Strangely most of the commenters don't mention it , as if they haven't actually read the article they are commenting on.(surprise, surprise)

With the Guardianistas it's all "trust me" on the emotional level, rather than proper maths.

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:14 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

On that point only. She is, however, still being unnecessarily alarmist. 2 degrees C is not the border of harm, and 5 degrees C is not likely to be achievable even were we to attempt it.

Nov 23, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

And that is, rightly, the true measure of her incapacity.

Whither, Myles "11 degrees" Allen?
Although she's got a long way to go to break that record, there really should be an annual prize for the worst claims in Cli-Sci. Perhaps we could entice Richard Betts to sit on the jury? I feel a game show coming on...

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

She struggles with both mathematics and reality.

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commentersrga

Miliband on Today this morning wants zero carbon emissions to be made law.

Nov 23, 2015 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Oh silly Fiona to try numbers objective
Instead of a vague but scary adjective
Her parentheses show what she doesn't know
Would embarrass her climate collective

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The Guardian makes a thing about publishing 'errors and corrections', doesn't it (M Courtney could confirm)? So I expect they will offer an apologia for this screaming stupidity in tomorrow's paper - no?

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

The Guardian's top climate science experts have an unprecedented ability to demonstrate what is wrong with climate science, and it's collaborators.

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

If environmentalism means anything, it means a failure to develop a sense of proportion. It's not as much about inconvenient facts as inconvenient faculties. You can't get a job as an environmental correspondent if you can 'do the math'; the point is to NOT do the math.

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

GC: -The Guardian's top climate science experts have an unprecedented ability to demonstrate what is wrong with climate science, and it's collaborators.

I call it Mediocracy. In the case of science reporting, Mediaocracy.

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Airhead Fiona says "global warming is set to reach as much as 5C (41F) above pre-industrial levels. Scientists estimate that warming above 2C (35.6F)".

Trouble is most "Graunird" readers are equally innumerate- as are most Gov. Ministers, so they will believe it.
You would laugh if wasn't so serious.

Maybe this might help;

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitter&Twisted

Harry Passfield, Yes.
The Guardian has a readers' editor - Chris Elliott

And this sort of correction often comes up when he explains how things are very complex in the wonderful world of journalism but generally the Guardian does a jolly good job.
His style is always along the lines of "It was a simple error that should have been corrected more promptly but as the first comment pointed it out no harm was done..."
Which is fair enough as far as it goes.

But serious biases (by the Environment and Women's blogs) do not get addressed. Despite the comments invariably highlighting those two areas as prejudiced beyond honesty.

Here is a recent example where he shows Monbiot was wrong to think the Guardian is paid to mislead.

Nov 23, 2015 at 2:58 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

Thanks, M Courtney. I followed your link. It showed me two things: 1. Monbiot does not read his published columns (they say), which strikes me as odd; and 2. The Editor/powers-that-be seem quiet insouciant about altering a columnist's copy without telling him Shows how much respect they have for him.

Nov 23, 2015 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

I had an interesting exchange with Fiona Harvey a few years ago when she claimed in the Guardian that oceans are more acidic now than at any time in the past 300 million years. Many people who should have known better Tweeted this phrase. Harvey had misread the paper (it was referring to 'rate' of acidification not 'level'). More to the point, she told me she had checked her article with the original scientists who failed to correct her misunderstanding - which I found more worrying than her original error.

Anyway, she finally corrected her article after I emailed her pointing this out (we exchanged several emails and a phone call). I wrote it up on My Garden Pond (not very easy to follow because of all the updates).

Nov 23, 2015 at 3:53 PM | Registered CommenterRuth Dixon

Canada embraced metric back in the early 1970s, and as this was just as my generation was actually learning to measure, you can imagine that being on the cusp so to speak, we are either the most confused generation, or we have an amazing ability to have our minds in both the old and new worlds, measuring-wise.

I speak to my parents in imperial, and my son in metric.

I've have to correct Americans when they make the error of confusing a temperature reading with a temperature increase, but there really is no excuse for a European to make the mistake.

Nov 23, 2015 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaligula Jones

The tottie Fiona has form,
Says the 'globe' can only get warm,
She thinks Farengrade
Is like Centinite
And that humans cause every storm.

Nov 23, 2015 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterpatrick healy

The correct answer is – None Of The Above.

I've tried several times to explain the difference between, say, 5 C. degrees and 5 degrees C.
I'll write it out again.

5 C. degrees is a difference, for example 25° C. minus 20° C. = 5 C. °

5 degrees C. is a temperature, also written 5° C.

Many years ago our science teachers insisted that labels be kept track of when doing computations.
Yes, Fiona Harvey (and a copy editor – if there is such a person today) got it wrong.
So have most others, just in a different way – but still wrong.

Nov 23, 2015 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn F. Hultquist

I never, ever thought it would be possible to be a journalist with a name and convert dT using the absolute T scale. I struggle to understand how she graduated from elementary school. It's funny that you can actually be able to spell 'Greenpeace' without knowing how to multiply with 9/5. No, it's not funny. Come to think about it, these geniuses typically can't do a multiplication with division without messing up multiplier with divisor. And she did worse than that.

It would be funny if they didn't think they actually understand more than me.

Pardon my English, of course, but I bet I beat her with a better grasp on Swedish grammar. For example.

Nov 23, 2015 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterwert

ore to the point, she told me she had checked her article with the original scientists who failed to correct her misunderstanding - which I found more worrying than her original error.

Maybe she didn't check after all?

Or maybe she checked but decided ignore the fix she received?

Nov 23, 2015 at 4:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterwert

Somewhat off-topic (maybe), there is a UK environmental reporter in my polar bear attack novel.

Some of you might enjoy reading what happens to her... "EATEN: A novel"


Nov 23, 2015 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterSusan Crockford

I presume her lack of understanding about temperatures would have prevented her from becoming a nurse.

Her recommendations about what the world should do about dangerous global warming, which she is convinced is happening, despite all the evidence, qualifies her for an Honourary Doctorate in Voodoo Spin Medicine.

Nov 23, 2015 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie


"oceans are more acidic now"

But they weren't acidic in the first place... :-(

Nov 23, 2015 at 5:35 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp


Is the clue in the title..?


Nov 23, 2015 at 5:36 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Wert - no, I think Harvey did check- she told me so at length. And the lead scientist approvingly tweeted her article while it still showed the error. (this tweet now points to the corrected article, but you can see my question to him in the thread).

Nov 23, 2015 at 5:46 PM | Registered CommenterRuth Dixon

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