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Beeb responds

You may remember that I emailed Emma Jay, the producer of the Horizon programme who appeared to have misled James Delingpole over the nature of the programme. The BBC promised to get back to me and now, with a bit of prompting, they have sent me a copy of the letter that editor Aidan Laverty sent in response to Delingpole's article in the Spectator:


In response to James Delingpole’s article last week I wanted to clear up a few points concerning the Horizon documentary ‘Science Under Attack.’

From the outset, we made clear to James that the purpose of this film was to examine public trust in science generally - not just in the area of climate change - reflecting both the role of scientists and the influence of the internet and bloggers. At no point did anyone on the production team lie or mislead any contributors about the programme's content or objective.

Well, hold on Lord Copper, in her letter to Delingpole Emma Jay said this:

The tone of the film is very questioning but with no preconceptions. On the issue of who is to blame no-one will be left unscathed, whether that is science sceptics, the media or most particularly scientists themselves.   Sir Paul is very aware of the culpability of scientists and that will come across in the film. They will not be portrayed as white coated magicians who should be left to work in their ivory towers – their failings will be dealt with in detail.

None of this was true, was it? The tone of the film was unquestioning and carried a clear preconception that sceptics were wrong. No scientist emerged criticised in any meaningful way. The idea that Sir Paul felt the scientists to be culpable in some way (if indeed he does) was not conveyed to the audience and none of the scientists' failings were discussed.  This is hard to square with Mr Laverty's statement that " At no point did anyone on the production team lie or mislead any contributors about the programme's content or objective." Very hard indeed.

To return to the new missive...

We recorded an interview in good faith with James lasting just over 90 minutes - a typical length of interview for most scientific documentaries. The film contained five minutes from this interview, including what we believed were his key arguments.

Were they what he believed were his key arguments though, or was this just another example of sceptic arguments having to be interpreted by an environmentalist?

The science in the film was rigorously researched and accurate.

This is plainly untrue. Even the scientist interviewed by the programme has admitted that he got the figures wrong. It was a clear case of the BBC regurgitating anything that met their preconceived green agenda.

There is a substantial body of evidence that humans – rather than natural causes – are producing most of the increases in atmospheric CO2

The significance of this human contribution can only be properly assessed against the evidence that the natural release of CO2 into the atmosphere is almost completely balanced by the absorption of CO2 into the land and oceans as part of the carbon cycle.

That ain't what they said in the programme though was it?

Really, this is an appalling letter for the BBC to write. Why do civil servants feel that the correct response to being caught fibbing is to fib some more? 


Simon says...?

I wonder what Simon Singh makes of the latest findings of the climate numpties?


Steig's method massacred

Ryan O'Donnell has posted a splendid pictorial guide to the oddities of Eric Steig's method for creating trends in the Arctic. If you have been one of the people not following the story too well so far, here's a little layman's version of the posting, which assumes no prior knowledge. I hope this helps.

There's a lot of talk of the Antarctic peninsula. This is fairly obvious at the left hand side of each map below. The name refers only to the narrow bit of land though. The slightly fatter bit that joins the Peninsula to the main part of the Antarctic continent is West Antarctica.

Now Steig's method purported to show that he whole continent was warming, and particularly West Antarctica. Previously it had been thought that only the peninsula was warming.

Here's Steig's original result with the warming showing up as the dark colour in West Antarctica.

Click to read more ...


Baghdad Fi

Fiona Fox has the most hilarious article up at the BBC College of Journalism blog, in which she defends the BBC as being neutral on global warming.

Shades of Comical Ali.


Intergovernmental Panel on Economics

Ross McKitrick has posted up a paper he wrote ahead of the Lisbon conference on reconciliation among climatologists. It's quite short, but quite pointed. I liked this bit.

Suppose the International Monetary Fund (IMF) created an economics version of the IPCC, which proceeded to issue an Assessment Report and Summary for Policymakers every five years that was promoted as the consensus view of what “every mainstream economist believes.” Suppose further that the IMF was committed to one particular school of economic thought, such as New Keynesianism, that they ensured that all the lead authors of the IMF report were dedicated New Keynesians, and that the report inevitably concluded the New Keynesians are right and their critics are wrong (or do not even exist). And finally, suppose that the IMF report was sponsored and endorsed by government departments who benefited by promotion of New Keynesian ideas, and that major funding agencies and  university oversight agencies also began to endorse, support and promulgate the views in the IMF report.

It should be obvious that all of this would, over time, degrade the intellectual climate in the economics profession. It would do so even if New Keynesianism is true—and moreso otherwise. Members of the research community would be forced to respond to the warped incentives created by such a dominant institution by embracing, or at least paying lip service to, New Keynesianism. Over time it would be costlier and costlier to be publicly identified as a critic of New Keynesianism, and as critics became marginalized by political forces the IMF’s declaration of a “consensus” would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Josh 76


Steig snippets

The reaction to Ryan O'Donnell's article about Steig has been astonishing, and the rate of deletion of comments from Real Climate hasn't been this high for...well...days.

Some interesting stories have emerged from all the noise:


A commenter called CAGW_99 left a comment at RealClimate noting that Steig could find himself called to testify before the House of Representatives.

Click to read more ...


Statistical literacy

An interesting paper by Gerd Gigerenzer et al, looking at statistical illiteracy and what might be done about it. I'm struck by the emphasis on "statistical thinking" and how it is either taught too late, badly or not at all.

Rather like economic thinking, critical thinking and logical thinking.


Gloves come off

Ryan O'Donnell, who always seemed to be the icy cool leader of the team behind the rebuttal of the Steig et al Antarctic paper, shows that he can be pushed too far. His response to Steig's latest posting at Real Climate is a withering rebuke, the likes of which I don't think I have ever seen before.

It's up at Climate Audit and WUWT. Take your pick.


More Singh

A couple of interesting tweets from Simon Singh this morning. Taken to task by a correspondent for a lack of scepticism on AGW, Simon replies as follows:

I'm applying skepticism to the question is AGW significant or not? With my limited tools, my answers is it's happening. [Link]

...and then...

The vast majority of folk smarter & more informed than me come to same answer, which is partly how I arrive at my conclusion. [Link]

Both these points are interesting. Firstly, it's a surprise to see someone with "limited tools" describing people who arrive at a different conclusion to him as "numpties", particularly as many of those people have tools that are considerably less limited.

But secondly, it also appears to me that Singh is an "interpreter of interpretations" as regards climate change, an approach which apparently is reprehensible in the circles in which he moves. To be clear, I have no problem with interpreters of interpretations - as I've noted elsewhere, most people get their opinions like this and it is an entirely respectable way to go about forming an opinion on something. But when one's opinions are formed in this way, I would have thought a little reticence about the name-calling might not go amiss.

(Afterthough: I wonder if Dyson/Happer/the 43 rebels from the Royal Society are included among the numpties?)



With Simon Singh's somewhat crude contribution to the climate debate still ringing in our ears, my mind turned to an email I received recently on the subject of taxonomy in the climate debate. The message was from David Henderson and contained an excerpt from an article he had written which considered the subject of suitable terms to describe friend and foe alike in this most heated of debates.

It is often claimed that there now exists a world-wide scientific consensus on climate change issues, sometimes described as ‘overwhelming’. I believe that such language is inappropriate; but I think it is correct to say that alongside the official policy consensus (which is a reality), and providing both rationale and support for it, there exists an established body of what I call prevailing scientific opinion.

Predictably, received opinion is not universally shared. It remains subject to challenge by a varied collection of doubters, sceptics, critics and non-subscribers: I will label them collectively as dissenters. Against these, and greatly outnumbering them, are arrayed what I term the upholders of received opinion. Among economists, a clear majority of those who have expressed views on these matters can be classed as upholders.

Within both groups — and this is important to note — there are different schools thought: a whole spectrum of opinions can be identified. Each of the many subject areas, including ours and those of the different sciences involved, has a spectrum of its own. At one end of each spectrum are what may be termed strong or full-blown upholders, the dark greens so to speak. Prominent among these are Lord Stern and the team that worked under him to produce the Stern Review: the Review takes the position that AGW ‘presents very serious global risks and demands an urgent global response’. At the other end of the spectrum, strong dissenters — the dark blues — argue that such warming, if indeed its extent can be shown to be significant, is not a cause for alarm or  concern: hence measures to curb emissions should be eschewed — or discontinued, where they are now in place. In between these two far removed positions, there are upholders and dissenters who hold more limited or qualified beliefs. I count myself as a light-to-medium blue — a limited dissenter, though a firm one.


Up With That Watts!

Watts Up With That? could be about to hit the blogging big time, with a nomination for the Bloggies, the biggest, baddest blog awards on the web.

Here's how to vote.

Click on the WattsUpWithThat thumbnail little grey circle to turn it into a checkmark. Ditto for any other blogs in other categories you want to vote for.

Scroll to bottom, submit your email, complete the captcha phrase.

You'll get a confirmation email - click on that link to verify your vote. I'm told you won't be spammed.

Vote here, right now!


Singh low, sweet skeptic

There has been a conference today of skeptics - that's the Skeptic Society lot -  and one of the star speakers was science writer Simon Singh, fresh from his contretemps with James Delingpole.

As far as I can tell from the tweets, the highlights of his talk were:

  • a proposal for a credibility spectrum on climate change, with the Royal Society at one end and Nigel Lawson at the other
  • a proposal that us climate sceptics should henceforth be known as "climate numpties".

So, an argument from authority and some name-calling. Is it just me that finds this rather unimpressive from people who claim to be all about science and logic?

(As ever, please don't respond in kind.)


Josh 75


Josh 74

More cartoons by Josh here.