The Times does climate
Nov 28, 2015
Bishop Hill in Climate: MWP, Climate: WG2

Respected professor, or international laughing stock?The Times has a trio of articles on climate this morning, from Mark Lynas, from Matt Ridley, and from science editor Tom Whipple. Matt Ridley is doing the good news on global warming, Lynas is doing the "right wing people must do as I say" thing. But it was Whipple's piece that caught my eye. This was because he opened by shooting himself smack bang in the middle of his foot. As a way of getting attention this is hard to beat.

He achieved this feat of public relations when he described a Royal Society meeting and

...a talk by a respected professor who expected the summer collapse of Arctic ice before 2020. The problem, for those listening, was that this same professor had previously given different dates — 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Yes folks, he means Peter Wadhams, who I think it's fair to say is not actually much respected at all - he is actually seen by both sides of the climate debate as a bit of a noodle. Whipple does seem to have cottoned on to the fact that Wadhams was wildly wrong, but he seems to be under the impression that he will be right in the near future. I'm not sure how convincing this is.

Whipple also schools us all about extreme weather, and in particular about typhoons:

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines — less because of the strength of its winds, than its storm surge. Before the industrial revolution a storm of precisely the same scale as Haiyan would have hit with the same speed, but that surge would have been 20cm lower.

This is anecdote rather than data of course, and the data is fairly clear that there has been a decline in tropical hurricanes in recent decades. But if it's anecodotes being traded, perhaps it would be better to think about Typhoon Hyphong in 1881, which killed 20,000 people at a time when the poplulation of the Philippines was less than 5 million; Typhoon Haiyan killed less than a third of that number when the population was 100 million.

Whipple then does the full hockey stick, by claiming that:

...human civilisation developed in a period with a temperature range that we have just breached.

Which rather seems to finish the article where it began, discussing science so shonky that only the most politicised find it convincing.

Ho hum.


Article originally appeared on (
See website for complete article licensing information.