The Economist calls a lie a lie

The Economist tells it like it is

This led to a Daily Mail headline reading: “Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995.”

Since I’ve advocated a more explicit use of the word “lie”, I’ll go ahead and follow my own advice: that Daily Mail headline is a lie. Phil Jones did not say there had been no global warming since 1995; he said the opposite. He said the world had been warming at 0.12°C per decade since 1995. However, over that time frame, he could not quite rule out at the traditional 95% confidence level that the warming since 1995 had not been a random fluke.

Anyone who has even a passing high-school familiarity with statistics should understand the difference between these two statements. At a longer time interval, say 30 or 50 or 100 years, Mr Jones could obviously demonstrate that global warming is a statistically significant trend. In the interview he stated that the warming since 1975 is statistically significant. Everyone, even climate-change sceptics, agrees that the earth has experienced a warming trend since the late 19th century. But if you take any short sample out of that trend (say, 1930-45 or 1960-75), you might not be able to guarantee that the particular warming observed in those years was not a statistical fluke. This is a simple truth about statistics: if you measure just ten children, the relationship between age and height might be a fluke. But obviously the fact remains that older children tend to be taller than younger ones, and if you measure 100 of them, you’ll find the relationship quite statistically significant indeed.

What’s truly infuriating about this episode of journalistic malpractice is that, once again, it illustrates the reasons why the East Anglia scientists adopted an adversarial attitude towards information management with regard to outsiders and the media. They were afraid that any data they allowed to be characterised by non-climate scientists would be vulnerable to propagandistic distortion. And they were right.

Meanwhile here in Australia look what IPA executive director John Roskam said on national TV:

You had, the other day, one of the leading climate change scientists in the world say the world hasn’t warmed since 1995.

That is a lie.


  1. #1 Bud
    March 1, 2010

    Motl, I suggest you stop PWOC.

    (posting whilst on crack)

  2. #2 Majorajam
    March 1, 2010

    No doubt, Lotharsson. In correspondence with me on his blog, Lubos once characterized eugenics as “impressive”. Lubos is an Asperger-suffering fascist. The good news is that, like all high functioning autistics, Lubos possesses a special talent. The bad news is that his is being an Olympic champion asshole.

  3. #3 guthrie
    March 1, 2010

    Ahh, Lubos, you are truly a disturbed individual.

    Meanwhile, global temperatures are still trending upwards. And you never present any evidence that you are correct.

  4. #4 A. Lurker
    March 1, 2010

    My goodness, that is some grade-A bile! I particularly like the argument that those with whom he disagrees would be mass murderers and worse if only they weren’t such abject cowards. I’ll have to work that one into my conflict management repertoire.

  5. #5 JasonW
    March 1, 2010

    Lubos, good man, YOU have some titanic issues. Nevertheless, your illuminating bonmots are much appreciated. They go a long way towards showing the true mindset of many a denialist. “Dangerous individuals of society” indeed.

  6. #6 frankis
    March 1, 2010

    Lubos Motl at #101 is clearly very sick at the moment. I don’t see any way that someone this unwell could be contributing meaningfully to theoretical physics as he used to claim he did. Here in blogworld there’s no possibility of engagement with one who writes as he does. Medication? Asperger’s maybe Majorajam but schizophrenia also seems a possibility; if he’s religious there are nasty demons tormenting him.

    Seek professional help Lubos.

  7. #7 Milan
    March 1, 2010

    This is very encouraging. The media has generally been so vulnerable to manipulation by people trying to create confusion about the nature and seriousness of climate change, so it is important that forceful counterarguments be used when they are available.

  8. #8 TrueSceptic
    March 1, 2010

    95 Lubos,

    I think that the few religious bigots who gather e.g. on this blog are dangerous individuals for the society and for the human rights, and as another reader has correctly observed, the responsible officials should think about the most human ways possible how to protect the society – and individuals – against the likes of yours.

    You are highly delusional, possibly borderline psychotic. I suggest professional help.

  9. #9 Chris O'Neill
    March 1, 2010

    Let’s thank the Pope Lubos troll for directing us to those quality tabloids The Telegraph, Daily Mail etc. We wouldn’t get the opportunity to believe everything they say without his example.

  10. #10 Lotharsson
    March 2, 2010

    He’s a pontif troll…

    Ah, so he does think he is a Pope!


  11. #11 Stu
    March 2, 2010

    I have read that Lubos is nice in person.

    Lubos, what is it about the internet that turns you into such a bitter, twisted individual? If you met us in the street, would you say the same things?

    I agree that you really do seem to need help. On the upside, we do now have a stash of Lubos quotes that we could helpfully update his wikipedia entry with… even if they likely wouldn’t stay there for long.

  12. #12 Erasmussimo
    March 2, 2010

    Gee, Lubos, if the murder-suicide of three people provides some proof that AGW scientists are wrong, then what does the death of 30,000 people in the USA alone by firearms prove about firearms? Whatever it proves, it 10,000 times more powerfully than the case you make.

  13. #13 MarkB
    March 2, 2010

    Memo to Motl:

    You’re on the fringe, still clinging to flat Earth theory. “How can the Earth not be flat? Should I believe the scientists or my own lying eyes?”

    Odd that you preach about religious cultism after claiming “I was writing the truth”. Religious zealots always believe they are speaking the truth.

    And no – gradaully reducing carbon emissions won’t “decimate the world’s economy”. Such alarmism is quite common among global warming deniers, although one wonders how many of them actually believe such fear-mongering.

    Motl is part of a large congregation of zealots, gaining inspiration and reinforcement from each other.

    The history books won’t be kind to them. It hasn’t been so far.

  14. #14 Fran Barlow
    March 2, 2010

    […] swimming in blood and Gore for three days

    Amidst the mass of other nonsense Lubos Motl utters, this does put the finger of the obsessive hatred their lot have about Al Gore.

    I’ve long wondered about this. Personally, I’ve never felt all that strongly about Al Gore one way or the other. He seems a fairly articulate middle-of-the-road to slightly liberal US politican. Yet for some reason, the right around the world seem utterly obsessed with him.

  15. #15 Bernard j.
    March 2, 2010


    Yet for some reason, the right around the world seem utterly obsessed with him.

    I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that deep down they know that Gore was the legitimately-elected president of the USA, and that their numpty shrub stole the presidency from him. The only way to legitimise (in their eyes, at least) what was a travesty of democracy, and of subsequent government, is to attempt to convince themselves that he would have been worse than Bush Jnr.

    Talk about screaming cognitive dissonance.

  16. #16 Fran Barlow
    March 2, 2010

    There’s probably a lot to what you say Bernard, but I also suspect it’s partly to do with plebeian angst towards perceived elites. In the mind of the parochial trailer trash fringe, things from outside your immediate physical space, and even more so, from outside your cultural and intellectual space lose political authenticity. Gore probably presses their buttons because he hails from South of Mason-Dixon but sounds educated and is wealthy. This helps explain the gun nut culture — there’s nothing quite so authentic as a single guy with a rifle defending his verandah.

    Interestingly and paradoxically, their hatred for him is so great that they miss how their advocacy helps other elites who really are their enemies.

  17. #17 guthrie
    March 2, 2010

    Fran – I’m not american, but know a few of them, and feel that your characterisation of “parochial trailer trash fringe” understates the problem quite severely, in that we aren’t dealing just with some unhinged undereducated nutters. Instead, we’ve got a mix of well educated ideologues, plenty of people who would be called middle class over here but are also rabidly right wing/ christian types, and of course a large number of think tanks and rich people who may or may not believe their own propaganda.

  18. #18 Fran Barlow
    March 2, 2010

    I take your point Guthrie, but it’s the trailer trash fringe who make up the foot soldiers, the zombie and bot armies that turn up at tea party meetings with birther slogans and their guns.

    These are the people who are the Fox fodder and lend authenticity to the upper middle class/elite creeps at the top. It’s the trailer trash who bear the sedan chairs for people like Beck and Palin and Inhofe and the Senator for Lawnmowers …

  19. #19 TrueSceptic
    March 2, 2010

    115 Fran,

    I’m sure we all noticed the capital G.

    If there’s any one thing that gives away a denidiot, it’s any mention of algore, or any variation on that name.

    I suppose that Lubos thought he would impress us with his shining wit? 😉

  20. #20 P. Lewis
    March 2, 2010

    I suppose that Lubos thought he would impress us with his shining wit? 😉

    Aha! I think I spot a spoonerism.

  21. #21 TrueSceptic
    March 2, 2010

    117 Fran,

    Of course, the Bush family is trailer trash. Isn’t it great how Dubya triumphed against such huge odds?

    Heck, Dubya is the 21st century Abraham Lincoln!

  22. #22 Decca
    March 2, 2010

    112 Stu,

    (Godwin looms) My sisters Diana and Unity said that Adolf was *very* charming in person. Take that as you will.

  23. #23 Fran Barlow
    March 2, 2010

    It is quite common for sociopaths to have well developed social skills (EQ) so this might well be the case Decca.

    This of course is mere affectation rather than anything that goes to the worth of the person in question in a social setting.

  24. #24 Bernard J.
    March 4, 2010

    Luboš Motl.

    You are [missing in action](

    What’s the problem – was the question too challenging for you?

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