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What New Scientist wouldn't print

A couple of weeks back, New Scientist published an article trying to up the ante on climate sensitivity. 

One headline-making 2013 study had concluded that the immediate warming that would result froma doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would be around 1.3°C - significantly less than most previous estimates. But this was before global temperatures shot past 1°C above pre-industrial levels last year, as predicted by New Scientist in July 2015. If the 2013 study was repeated using that value, it would give an estimate for the immediate warming of 1.6°C, says Piers Forster...

It also claimed that Forster and Lewis's 2013 paper had got its estimates of aerosol forcing wrong:

[Other studies] suggested that Forster's team underestimated how much warming has been masked by the cooling effect of other pollutants, such as sulphur aerosols, that we pump out alongside CO2. 

Quite why anyone would want to estimate TCR from a single year's temperature figure is anyone's guess. This observation prompted Nic Lewis to write a letter to the editor, which, needless to say, has not been published. So you can read it here.

Letter to the Editor concerning New Scientist article in the 28 May 2016  issue, Vol 230, No 3075, page 8: 'Earth's sensitive side'

The claim in your 28 May article 'Earth's sensitive side' that the strong warming over the last few years means we can now rule out low estimates of climate sensitivity is wrong. You quote Piers Forster, a co-author (along with myself) of one 2013 study that concluded near-term warming from a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere would only be around 1.3°C. I have also been sole or lead author of three different studies published since then, all of which support that conclusion. One of those studies used the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014 assessment report's estimates for the effects on the Earth's radiation balance of both warming agents such as CO2 and of cooling agents such as sulphur aerosols. I have extended these estimates to 2015 and recomputed the warming from a doubling of CO2. It is unchanged at 1.3 °C, averaging over 1995-2015 data. It remains 1.3 °C when using data just for the last ten, or five, years. Use of a shorter period gives a less reliable estimate; using a single year's temperature is unsound.

The suggestion that the team Forster and I were part of underestimated how much warming had been masked by the cooling effects of sulphur aerosols and other pollutants is mistaken. Our team's method is unaffected by the arguments on this point raised by the Shindell and Schmidt team studies referred to. The latter study anyway contained several errors.  The corrected version fixed two of the errors I had pointed out, and shows that near term warming from a doubling of CO2 is correctly estimated from the historical mix of warming and cooling agents, including sulphur aerosols. Moreover, the findings by the Storelvmo team relied on a relationship existing between solar radiation at the surface and sulphur emissions, but over their full data period that relationship is statistically insignificant. Furthermore, two recent studies (Stevens 2015 and Kirkby et al. 2016) conclude that sulphur aerosols have had less effect on radiation than previously thought, implying that estimates of the warming from a doubling of CO2 are actually too high.


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Reader Comments (123)

Isn't saying that something is masking any underlying warming the same as saying there is no warming?


Jun 3, 2016 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered Commentermailman

So it's settled then. The climate imperialists are not able to have a meaningful conversation about climate.

Jun 3, 2016 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I remember NS when it was a pulp paper magazine, with crude three colour covers. Then it was full of science, actual science, with none of its current obsession with social science (and the agenda-driven articles that that engenders). When I was in the RAF I ensured every officers' mess had its weekly copy.

Now, I wouldn't even punch a hole in the corner and hang it up in the outdoor dunny.


Jun 3, 2016 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

The New Scientist has become little more than an activists' trade magazine. I used to read it regularly, but not anymore. Now I only read old copies in waiting rooms when there's little else available. What a come down.

Unfortunately, its decline has been accompanied by many other formerly good to great science magazines and journals.

Jun 3, 2016 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Gullible people are easier to sell to, that's why advertising based magazines like NS find it best to cater to them.
They'll buy the trashy idea of science pushed in the content.
They'll buy the products advertised there.

Probably the advertisers don't want people who can actually do maths reading the adverts for pension plans, insurance and investment schemes that they sell.

Jun 3, 2016 at 12:47 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

New Scientist can't bring itself to admit that they have been getting it wrong about Climate Sensitivity, along with the Consensus of 97% of climate scientists.

97% of Climate Scientists can't bring themselves to admit that their mistakes have cost billions.

Time to pay respect to the 3% of climate scientists who don't advocate sticking such a big Fudge Factor into their models, and discard at least 97% of the climate science papers approved by New Scientist.

Could the magazine survive rebranding as New Political Scientist, printed on soft recyclable paper, for reading and usage on a composting toilet? It would be an appropriate way to go, for their readers.

Jun 3, 2016 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Hi Bish

It is a quibble, but according to the heading of the Nic Lewis letter that the NS has not published, the article in question was published last week, not a couple of weeks ago.

Jun 3, 2016 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

When I saw the article (link here BTW, with alarmist title "Exclusive: Effect of CO2 on warming is worse than we thought"), it really set off my BS klaxon, especially the claims by Piers Forster that adding one or two more years of data would make such a big change to TCR.

Jun 3, 2016 at 12:57 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I don't read New Scientist magazine. However, one must remember as it appears to have decended into an activist lead publication, there is a scam going on, & con-artists are involved. These people never tell the whole truth, nor a whole lie, that way, the victim, readers & other members of the public, become so confused as to what is true & what isn't, they become hapless!

Jun 3, 2016 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

I think I am correct in stating that the 1.3 K estimate of ECS is based mostly on fast 1980s - 1990s warming.

However, as that was from another effect, now ended (Asian aerosols decreasing cloud albedo), real ECS is far lower, perhaps near zero, now going below zero as land-based biofeedback kicks in.

The phytoplankton biofeedback/thermohaline circulation will in a few hundred years bring the system under further control!

Jun 3, 2016 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Will Piers Forster revise it down again when the la nina cooling kicks in this year? Ha ha!

I don't know why they bother with these blatant fabrications anyway. The politicians don't read and have already bought into catastrophism regardless of numbers. The catastrophe they are actually causing will be more immediate and costly though than any future benign warming that may or may not restart after the pause has run its course. Maybe Forster is just jollying along the more sanguine climateers who must surely be disillusioned at the length of the pause and the crappiness of their models. What wasted lives!

Jun 3, 2016 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

To be fair to Piers Forster, he was principally answering "what if" questions based on one year global temperatures - actual for 2015 and an estimate (rather too high IMO) for 2016. And I wouldn't disagree with him that a TCR estimate of 1.6 C is closer to the truth than one of 2.1 C; however, the evidence still supports a central (median) estimate of between 1.3 C and 1.4 C.

To clarify, the study published in 2003 by a team including Piers Forster and myself was Otto et al. , full main text available here .

Jun 3, 2016 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterNic Lewis

... decended into an activist lead publication, ...

Jun 3, 2016 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered Commenter Alan the Brit

I suppose the actual grammar is "activist-led" but I like the sublime connotation of "lead" which implies sinking. Maybe we should call the magazine New Scientist Zeppelin.

Jun 3, 2016 at 3:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

I was STUCK on a train last night beside a loud, posh lady and her daughter. At one point she said 'darling, did you know Britain receives more from than the EU than it pays in ' ?.

Puts the paper down. Another major issue resolved. Life is easy when you read the Guardian. No mention of sulphur aerosols.

Jun 3, 2016 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

esmiff, I hope one day to read one of your messages and have at least some clue of what you are going on about.

Today is unfortunately not that day ;(

Jun 3, 2016 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk


Sorry but ...

No one gives a flying f* about sulphur aerosols or climate sensitivity. Not even highly sophisticated and educated posh people. They read the headlines which say '97% of climate scientists say it's worse than we thought'. or ' Britain subsides the EU and they believe it'.

People nowadays seem to unquestioningly accept whatever's put in front of them

Several posters above said similar thing about New Scientist's trashy science above. I was trying to be amusing. Obviously failed.

Jun 3, 2016 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

I wouldn't like to be you Nic Lewis when Ayla reads your letter. No doubt her frizzles with frazzle and she will praise the editorial style of New Scientist to her ever blue skies.

Jun 3, 2016 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

"Now, I wouldn't even punch a hole in the corner and hang it up in the outdoor dunny"

What are the red-backs going to read then?

Jun 3, 2016 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRich

Climate advocates are everywhere. They are pretty good in authoring text, but not very honest and intelligent.

Jun 3, 2016 at 5:51 PM | Unregistered Commenterwert

Location to New Scientist regarding a particular article usually appear in the third issue later. Thus letters regarding the climate sensitivity article (published in the 28th May issue) would be expected to appear in the 18th June issue.

Methinks the Bishop is guilty of premature expostulation.

Jun 3, 2016 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"I suppose the actual grammar is "activist-led" but I like the sublime connotation of "lead" which implies sinking. Maybe we should call the magazine New Scientist Zeppelin." -- Mike C

Since 'New Scientist' is an anagram of "cites nit news," I don't see that any renaming is called for.

Jun 3, 2016 at 6:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Jun 3, 2016 at 4:02 PM, esmiff over heard:

'darling, did you know Britain receives more from than the EU than it pays in ' ?
What's wrong with teaching your child that people are worth more than money?

Jun 3, 2016 at 7:17 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

EM, it seems that climate scientists have been guilty of exaggerating the size of their important little thingy. It really is small to non-existent, and Mann's Hockey Stick needs to get an appropriate droop.

The world is saved, it was all a nightmare. Can we have our money back now?

Jun 3, 2016 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Left wing rags are notorious for not presenting a balanced view, nor corrections. DEFINITEL NOT criticism - not allowed.

Jun 4, 2016 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

I think it's probably true that the UK pays more in than gets out of the EU.
But we pay in in Pounds, and get it back in Euros

Jun 4, 2016 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Good call, Alan, I get my science from real blogs, written by real scientists, places like DeSmog, 350, Stoat, and of course Skeptical Science.

You can't fool me.

I take my knowledge with plenty of knowledge to butter the knowledge of my knowledge.

Read this, for example, and surrender immediately, you evil bunch of creepy deniers:

Jun 4, 2016 at 6:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterAyla


Oh inventor of the sewing needle (and much else)
How ancient you must be to have such knowledge upon knowledge upon knowledge, upon knowledge.
Or do you use your cult skill
To re-conjure the wonders of an earlier colder climate
From even more powerful druidesses.

With knowledge overflowing about changes
bought about not by man's carbon sin.
We wonder at your predilection for activist sites
That deny such heresies

You are a conglomeration of wisdom, obfuscation and outrage
But where is the damnation of Nic
Why did he not burn?

Your minions can't be arsed to read your homework for you,
("Too many strokes").
We still smart from your ill treatment of us.

Jun 4, 2016 at 7:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

New Scientist is now about as reliable as "The Watchtower" and that publication running a piece by Richard Dawkins is about as likely as NS being honest about the whole raft of twaddle they embrace.

Jun 4, 2016 at 9:10 AM | Registered Commentertomo

What New Scientist does print

Jun 4, 2016 at 9:36 AM | Registered Commentertomo

Alan Kendall & Ayla

97% of Climate Scientists believe what they read in New Scientist.

97% of Conspiracy Creationist Theologians can't be wrong about their Faith in Confirmation Bias, can they? Marching dutifully behind a Cabal of Chief Druids with '97%' nailed to the top of a Hockey Stick, through the corridors of power, and out the other side to "Oblivion and Beyond!"

Only 3% of climate scientists are worth listening to. They say "Don't Panic!".

Jun 4, 2016 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"97%" has been unofficially named as "Cook's Constant".

Or if you want "Cook's Constant" to be more specific in its application, "Cook's Climate Constant".

Jun 4, 2016 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterROM

ROM. How about Cook's cooked constant? Or for even more alliterative value: Cook's corrupt, crooked, and cooked climate constant? That's an additional 3Cs, run for the hills!

Jun 4, 2016 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alternatively, how about new Ca legislation aimed at Booking the Cooks?

Jun 4, 2016 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Posted this at the Blackboard.
Please remove if not interested

The Chiefio has an interesting article.
Hurst, Dependence, Persistence, and a fatal flaw in “Climate Science””Posted on 2 June 2016 by E.M.Smith.
on this article
Seasonality and Dependence in Daily Mean USCRN Temperature
Sonoma State University April 12, 2016
A study of daily mean temperature data from five USCRN stations in the sample period 1/1/2005-3/31/2016 shows that the seasonal cycle can be captured with significantly greater precision by dividing the year into smaller parts than calendar months. The enhanced precision greatly reduces vestigial patterns in the deseasonalized and detrended residuals. Rescaled Range analysis of the residuals indicates a violation of the independence assumption of OLS regression. The existence of dependence, memory, and persistence in the data is indicated by high values of the Hurst exponent. The results imply that decadal and even multi-decadal OLS trends in USCRN daily mean temperature may be spurious.

I recall an effort by Zeke some time back to describe the way all USCRN daily mean temperature is altered to reflect the changes needed by observation bias and how these changes filter back and enlarge in the past [making the past colder]

Little did I or he realize that the alterations were also taking away the ambient variability of the altered observations and including a pattern for warming and reproducibility and non Gaussian fit.

This has possibly been raised in the past but when observations are missing and have to be profiled they obviously rely on past history to fit the missing data to the right day/week/month profile.
No good having snow in summer.
The problem is that the past data now has a reproducibility fingerprint which may not have been obvious to Zeke and team when doing it.

This fingerprint of intervention becomes glaringly obvious using statistical analysis.
A bit like those teachers results in “Freakonomics” where you could tell the teachers were altering the marks.

Now, I don’t mind when people adjust the past data with a program as long as they are open and upfront about it like Zeke is though they should label it as artificial data [which they don’t]

But as these naive young scientists and the Chiefio point out data that has been tampered with by introducing seasonality and reproducibility and lack of expected natural variability into it is no longer viable or valid for deducing climate trends.

Would value any comments, especially from Carrick or DeWitt or SteveF or Lucia. Even the following two antagonists at ATTP recently who have an inking of these matters

Steven Mosher says: June 3, 2016 at 10:06 pm
TE‘the data is from US stations around since 1920 – yes the US is not the globe.”more importantly GHCN Monthly, which you plot, is not the full data [Note non related issue]

Hats off to the Chiefio. I hope I did not offend him with my presumptions.

Jun 4, 2016 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterangech

It was The Chiefio who got me to become an evil denialist.

8 years ago when I read up his original work on the temperature data frauds.

Jun 4, 2016 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterNCC 1701E

Jun 3, 2016 at 6:25 PM, Entropic man .

You are right.
It's another fortnight before we find out if New Scientist is ignoring this.
They don't normally have replies in the next edition.

Jun 4, 2016 at 6:18 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

M Courtney

Nice Lewis's letter may not be published for purely pragmatic reasons.

The NS letters editor tends to put together a group of two or three letters representing the main views in the correspondence received.Remember the NS target audience is intelligent non-specialists. Preferred letters are brief, to the point, not too technical, and entertaining.

Mr Lewis' letter meets none of these criteria. It is too long, rambling, pedanticly technical and boring. NS might publish a letter from a sceptic for balance, but probably not this one.

Jun 4, 2016 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

M Courtney

Nice Lewis's letter may not be published for purely pragmatic reasons.

The NS letters editor tends to put together a group of two or three letters representing the main views in the correspondence received.Remember the NS target audience is intelligent non-specialists. Preferred letters are brief, to the point, not too technical, and entertaining.

Mr Lewis' letter meets none of these criteria. It is too long, rambling, pedanticly technical and boring. NS might publish a letter from a sceptic for balance, but probably not this one.

Jun 4, 2016 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man


Nic Lewis's letter may not have been published by New Scientist for purely arse-covering, and self preservation reasons.

The New Scientist letters editor tends to put together letters that match his biases, and those of the gullible subscribers, advertisers and other 'sponsors'. Preferred letters can not be too technically demanding for their limited abilities.

New Scientist has a track record of preferring 97% Consensus propaganda pieces, and is not going to let it's mistakes be highlighted now, with the current Editorial Team remaining in post.

Jun 5, 2016 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Yup. I'll go with Entropic Man on this one.

Jun 5, 2016 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

The problem is the political established UNFCCC and its claim about the great threat we are facing with CAGW. Anything that does not support the UNFCCC is not logical and will be meet with repressive tolerance.

Jun 5, 2016 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterSanta Baby

I think we should wait and see rather longer whether NS does publish Nic Lewis's letter before we rush to condemn.
It would be very surprising if they didn't publish it, as he is one of the principal authors whose work is discussed in their article.
Seems wrong to label Nic's letter 'long, rambling ..technical.. boring' as he is one of the few workers in this field whose writing is concise, precise and very much to topic, but EM may have a point, as New Scientist long ago became a tabloid shadow of its former scientific self.

Jun 5, 2016 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered Commentermothcatcher

Mr Lewis' letter meets none of these criteria. It is too long, rambling, pedanticly technical and boring. NS might publish a letter from a sceptic for balance, but probably not this one.
Jun 4, 2016 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

That's right EM, how dare Nic Lewis attempt to explain the technical complexities of climate sensitivity in a calm and rational manner by writing a letter. Much better if he keeps it short and throws some jokes in to keep the readers entertained. Better still he could do some stand-up and put the video's on youtube - sod the science, who needs peer review or integrity if the message is politically correct?

UPDATE - EM, I am not going to get into a discourse with you about this. You have made your comment and I have made mine. You are a delusional climate doom-monger and I have better things to do with my time.

Jun 5, 2016 at 9:32 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

If I was aggrieved like Nic, enough to write a correction, I would also be talking to a lawyer about a malicious attempt to damage reputation, future earnings potential, faith in science etc.
Money can speak when ignorance causes deafness.

Jun 5, 2016 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Geoff Sherington, only 3% of climate scientists offer value for money. The other 97% is wasted on poltical dogma, and trying to prove that it hasn't all been a waste of time and money. They can't manage to get that right either.

Jun 5, 2016 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

We are now 97% confident that Ayla (halo be her name) will unleash her hidden vitriol imminently. As we have hinted previously she is overdue. Carbon sinners take cover. Gird yourself with the shield of desmogblog and the righteous sword of Stoat.

Jun 5, 2016 at 4:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Yup. I'll go with Entropic Man on this one.
Jun 5, 2016 at 1:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Me too.

It should be kept in mind that the NS is a commercial magazine, not the journal of a learned society.

Bearing in mind that Its editor will constantly be on the lookout for interesting things to publish, I think Nic Lewis's best bet would have been to have sent in a short note, with a reasonable tone, essentially providing additional information potentially of interest to its readers. Maybe with a link to a website giving full technical details.

Having said that, I must add my own view that all attempts to estimate climate sensitivity (so-called) are futile, because of lack of knowledge of the system being modelled. Some of them (Nic Lewis's work for example) seem to me to fall in the category of "rigorous reasoning and analysis, based on assumptions which are incapable of being validated or which are inapplicable".

Jun 5, 2016 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A


I stopped breathing in 1998 in order to slow down C02 pollution.

Jun 6, 2016 at 3:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterAyla


You saved us from the thermaggedon that was the La Nino of 1998.
Ta very much

Jun 6, 2016 at 4:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kendall

Alan Kendall, what is the difference in technique for cooking Lobster Thermidor and Lobster Thermageddon? Is it the undetectable change in alkalinity or temperature?

Jun 6, 2016 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

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