Johann Hari on Journalismgate

Johann Hari has written an excellent article in The Nation on the scandalously poor reporting in the main stream media on climate science and scientists:

Yet when it comes to coverage of global warming, we are trapped in the logic of a guerrilla insurgency. The climate scientists have to be right 100 percent of the time, or their 0.01 percent error becomes Glaciergate, and they are frauds. By contrast, the deniers only have to be right 0.01 percent of the time for their narrative–See! The global warming story is falling apart!–to be reinforced by the media. It doesn’t matter that their alternative theories are based on demonstrably false claims, as they are with all the leading “thinkers” in this movement. Look at the Australian geologist Ian Plimer, whose denialism is built on the claim that volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans, even though the US Geological Survey has shown they produce 130 times less. Or Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker, who says the Arctic sea ice can’t be retreating because each year it comes back a little… in winter.


Many Americans assume that if a story has been in the news section of a reputable English newspaper, it has been fact-checked. One recent climate “scandal” that spread from Britain shows how these stories actually originate. In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–the umbrella organization of the world’s climate scientists–explained that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of dying if there is even a slight reduction in rainfall. This is true. It is the view of the most distinguished scientists in the field. The IPCC sourced this claim to a report by the World Wildlife Fund–when, in fact, it should have referred to a report by professor Dan Nepstad, whose work is mentioned only in passing by the WWF.

It was a minor footnoting error–but when a denialist blogger named Richard North noticed it, he announced he had found the IPCC making fake predictions. He tipped off the Sunday Times, owned by Fox king Rupert Murdoch. The newspaper’s journalists quoted Dr. Simon Lewis, a leading rainforest expert, who explained that it was a very minor mistake and that the core claim is accurate. The paper ignored the bulk of his comments and mangled his quotes to make it sound like he agreed that the IPCC had been talking rubbish–and ran the “story” under the headline “UN Climate Panel Shamed by Bogus Rainforest Claim.” It gave credit for “research by Richard North.” The story was then zapped all over the United States as Amazongate, and as a result millions of people are now under the impression that the Amazon is in no danger. The Sunday Times refuses to admit it made a whopping error–in a story that attacks the IPCC for supposedly making a whopping error.

Read the whole thing.

Also worth reading is Mark Hertsgaard in the same issue:

Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who has been surveying Americans’ views on climate change since 1995, says that, in fact, Americans remain overwhelmingly convinced that man-made climate change is happening and must be confronted. “The media is sensationalizing these polls to make it sound like the public is backing off its belief in climate change, but it’s not so,” argues Krosnick, who delivered a paper on the subject at an American Meteorological Association briefing in Washington a day after the Gallup poll was released. Krosnick says that Americans’ views have remained quite stable over the past ten years and that in November 2009–the very time the media were full of stories about the stolen British e-mails–a whopping 75 percent of Americans said they believed that global temperatures are going up.

Krosnick, whose academic specialty is the wording of survey questions, suspects his colleagues at Gallup and elsewhere have gotten misleading results because of the way they worded their questions: their phrasing ended up testing whether Americans believed in the science of climate change rather than the phenomenon of climate change. “Most people’s opinions are based not on science but on what they experience in their daily lives,” Krosnick told me. “So our surveys ask people if they have heard about the idea that temperatures have been going up over the past 100 years and if they agree with this idea.” The 75 percent of Americans who answered yes to that question amounts to “a huge number,” says Krosnick–a far higher level of agreement than pertains on most political issues. Where climate change deniers have had an effect, he adds, is in reducing, to 31 percent, the number of Americans who think all scientists agree about climate change. “But most Americans have thought that [scientists don’t all agree on climate change] for the entire fifteen years I’ve been polling on this issue,” adds Krosnick–further tribute, it seems, to the media’s longstanding habit of giving a handful of deniers prominence equal to the vast majority of scientists who affirm climate change.

Hat tip: Climate Shifts.

Comments

  1. #1 Phil M
    April 19, 2010

    Yes, the two media big guns here in Australia (Fairfax & Murdoch) seemed to have dodged the subject completely & placed it in the ten foot pole department.

    In Murdochs press here in Australia, I could only find a mention in Adelaide:

    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/world/investigation-finds-hacked-emails-contain-no-indication-of-climate-conspiracy/story-e6frea9c-1225848226590

    Fairfax wasnt much better with only a mention in the Brisbane Times technology section:

    http://news.brisbanetimes.com.au/breaking-news-technology/uk-climategate-inquiry-largely-clears-scientists-20091123-it11.html

    On Fairfax commercial AM stations its pretty much the same, no mention at all, yet they flew the conspiracy flag with the best of them. No mention on 4BC, 3AW, 2UE or 2GB.

  2. #2 Dave Andrews
    April 19, 2010

    Johann Hari is a good journalist and when he wrote for the Independent was forthright about his support for the Iraq war based on his contact with Iraqi individuals,organisations and trade unions.

    He argued valiantly about this for some considerable time, but ultimately changed his mind. Personally , I guess this was because of the considerable amount of vitriol that was no doubt sent his way on a daily basis.

    That said it doesn’t mean he is right about climate change.

  3. #3 Fran Barlow
    April 19, 2010

    This is a good piece. It’s cogenetly argued and well composed.

    That said this paragraph troubles me:

    And while the United States has been engaged in these fake rows, the world may have just crashed into one of the climate’s tipping points. For years, climate scientists have had a nightmare scenario. Buried in the hard Arctic permafrost is a massive amount of the gas methane, which causes thirty times more warming than carbon dioxide. There is more carbon in the world’s methane deposits than in every lump of coal and barrel of oil on earth. As the poles defrost, it becomes possible that all of this gas will be farted out into the atmosphere–and trigger catastrophic warming. [my emphasis: FB]

    Now I am amongst those who is very worried indeed about the releases of methane consequent upon the decomposition of the permafrost, but Hari is surely careless to put an equals signh between these deposits and the world’s methane deposits.

    Most of these will be located proximate to coal and oil deposits or in seabed clathrates on the continental shelves.

  4. #4 Mike
    April 19, 2010

    It would be nice if Dave could point out exactly which main points in Hari’s article are wrong and why.

  5. #5 SamG
    April 19, 2010

    You know Tim, allowing the use of the hideous term ‘denier’ on your blog makes you a zealot and a bigot and therefore one who is not being transparent with your agenda.

    I’d suggest losing the holocaust connotation and refrain from dismissing skepticism if you want to be taken seriously.

  6. #6 Michael Ralston
    April 19, 2010

    Do you have another term for people who reflexively deny reality, SamG? One that has never ever been used in the same sentence as a word that might related to the Nazis, as that is apparently your standard for having a “holocaust connotation”?

    I mean, me, I only figure someone to be calling a person a holocaust denier when, you know, they use the word holocaust as a modifier to the word denier.

  7. #7 Pierce R. Butler
    April 19, 2010

    … the number of Americans who think all scientists agree about climate change.

    That little word “all” has a big impact on how this American would answer that question.

  8. #8 Fran Barlow
    April 19, 2010

    SamG said something like:

    allowing the use of the hideous term ‘denier’ on your blog makes you a zealot and a bigot and therefore one who is not being transparent with your agenda.

    I’d suggest losing the holocaust connotation and refrain from dismissing skepticism if you want to be taken seriously.

    Sasdly, SamG failed to supply explicit reasoning for the link between allowance of the term denier and zealotry and/or bigotry and/or not being transparent with [his] agenda. He just assumed it as self-evident. This is often called concern trolling on this blog.

    Note: Some deniers assert that Tim’s agenda is all too transparent, which is why they call this a “consensus” blog.

    2nd Note: The term “zealot” carries with it negative connotation, most typically, of someone whose focus on a particualr issue or realted sert of issues allows them to lose who these issues affect the wider context within which they must operate, and thus inflict harms on other legitimate interests that would generally be seen as exceeding the benefit of resolving the problem as per the specifications of the zealot.

    In some cases, those called zealots may well be characterised in this way, though strictly speaking, a zealot is no more than a person who seeks to apply consistent ethical principle. Being zealous about preventing anthropogenically-forced climate change harm is perfectly reasonable, and I would say, a duty we bear our fellow human beings. Certainly, we should seek to minimise undesirable unintended consequences, nor allow our concern to blind us to other things that ought to attract our concern, but the idea that this is what zealotry over AGW entails is a mere strawman attack.

  9. #9 Fran Barlow
    April 19, 2010

    eRRATUM FROM ABOVE:

    The term “zealot” carries with it negative connotation, most typically, of someone whose focus on a particulAr issue or related set of issues inclines them to lose sight of how these issues affect the wider context within which they must operate

    Deary me … hasty composition …

  10. #10 Meme Mine
    April 19, 2010

    VOTERS HAVE CONSENSUS, NOT “SCIENTISTS” OR POLITICIANS

    It is a moot point anyways considering how Volcanoes show clearly that human’s effect on this poor little five billion year old planet is like f a r t i n g in tornado. We are mortal monkeys and not immortal Gods dictating temperatures of planets.So the planet is NOT dying and voter support is gone so get ahead of the curve and be a responsible enviros, not neocon like fear mongers.

  11. #11 MFS
    April 19, 2010

    Dave @ #2: I don’t see how Hari’s views on Iraq have any bearing on his article on mainstream media reporting on climate science. If you do, I’d love to hear how, and how you think his article is incorrect, or is it just his views that are wrong?

    SamG @ #5: The term ‘denier’ is in pretty widespread use to denote somebody who uses his preconcieved conclusion to deny a fairly well settled issue. I will not get into the minutae here, but it has been [shown](http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf) that there is about as good a consensus in this as there is in any other mainstream issue in science. If you associate the term denier with a holocaust denier then that’s your problem, nobody over here is calling climate change deniers holocaust deniers.

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    April 19, 2010

    Statisticians Comment on Status of Climate Change Science
    http://magazine.amstat.org/2010/03/climatemar10/

    “… The views of climate change ’skeptics’ and ‘deniers’ appear in many media, from blogs and videos to op-eds and congressional testimony. We prefer to think of the views of skeptics as part of the scientific spectrum, but nevertheless believe they are a minority who do not represent the mainstream scientific viewpoint.

    Some organizations that feature these views in sophisticated advertising campaigns have manipulated the evidence to create the impression that the consensus among climate scientists is quite different from what it is….

  13. #13 MFS
    April 19, 2010

    Meme Mine @ #10: If you value knowledge over opinion you might be enlightened enough to research that volcanic activity produces on average [300 million](http://www.cabnr.unr.edu/gustin/ERS765/geologic%20carbonarticleJMB.pdf) tons of CO2 per year, whereas humans produce around [29 BILLION](http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/txt/ptb1119.html)

  14. #14 SamG
    April 19, 2010

    Michael, the type of elitist mindset your comment displays is what bothers me about any form of zealotry. The real denial is in fact an unwillingness to be transparent with ones own agenda, thus the ardent religious-like qualities of the advocacy.

    AGW contains a modicum of truth but you are unable to prove beyond doubt that it is the perceived crisis that you and others have made it out to be.
    In reality, none of this matters but the incentive does.
    One should always be weary of idealists, environmental groups, non-profit organizations etc. Totalitarianism is always cloaked by altruistic causes.

    Now, there’s something I can attest to being real.

  15. #15 Mike
    April 19, 2010

    Yeah that’s right Meme Mine. The voters, not the scientists or specialists, are the ones who really know the facts.

    This is why I always put my annual ECG to an internet poll to determine whether or not it is normal.

    And how long exactly was it that you thought 6 billion humans and their supporting industrial complex has been around for? CO2 belching vehicles, power plants and factories sprang up alongside the first bacteria during the Pre-Cambrian did they?

  16. #16 SamG
    April 19, 2010

    Fran, seriously, you are playing mind games.

    I know perfectly well what is meant by the term denier. Don’t pretend that proof of AGW is the reason why you use it.
    Proof or no proof, it’s a term that seriously compromises the integrity of the user.

    The illusion is a fantasy bolstered by consensus.

  17. #17 Mike
    April 19, 2010

    Speaking only for myself SamG, I have adopted the use of the word “denialist” to describe people who are not convinced of the validity of the science but who also fall into a particular sub-group.

    These people, IMHO, are not simply “ignorant”, nor do they engage in legitimate debate over global warming. Rather, they systematically and deliberately misrepresent scientific papers, opinions, knowledge and research so that it casts unreasonable doubt so as to fit their preconceived and unchallengeable view that AGW has been, and always will be, an impossibility.

    They are denialists, there are many of them, and they deserve no respect whatsoever.

  18. #18 Ezzthetic
    April 19, 2010

    We are mortal monkeys and not immortal Gods

    Speak for yourself, Meme Mine.

  19. #19 SamG
    April 19, 2010

    Interesting framing Mike.

    Are you a climate scientist by chance?

  20. #20 Think Big
    April 19, 2010

    @10 Meme Mine

    It’s amazing how people can miss the most obvious truths when looking for evidence to support their fantasy.

    To match even curent human CO2 output (regardless of where we’re headed) we’d need roughly 210 volcanoes similar to the Icelandic one belching 24-hours-a-day for a whole year, every year (rather than just for a week or two).

    Surely this gives you some idea of the scale of human impact on the planet?

  21. #21 SteveC
    April 19, 2010

    SamG @14: One should always be weary of idealists

    Indeedy. I can’t read even one of your posts without yawning.

  22. #22 Mike
    April 19, 2010

    No I’m not a scientist at all, nor have I ever pretended to be.

    Is that a pre-requisite for being educated, rational, and able to understand the basic scientific arguments?

    I am fairly politically neutral. Never been interested in what Gore says, and I think Palin was extremely funny as far as idiots go. Does that help?

  23. #23 Michael Ralston
    April 19, 2010

    (To clarify, I am not Mike, I am a different person)

    I am impressed at your claims to mind-reading, SamG. Perhaps you can also identify my favorite color while you’re performing psychic tricks.

    Really, how is it bad to be “elitist” when elitism has been defined as “thinks that when the people who have actually looked at the evidence are nearly unanimous, that maybe those people are right”? At that point, the alternative looks like the worst of postmodernism. Are you a postmodernist, then, Sam?

  24. #24 ChrisC
    April 19, 2010

    I know perfectly well what is meant by the term denier. Don’t pretend that proof of AGW is the reason why you use it. Proof or no proof, it’s a term that seriously compromises the integrity of the user.

    From dictionary.com:

    –noun
    a person who denies.

    In the context of this post (and most on Tim’s blog), this refers to a Global Warming Denier. If you deny multiple streams of robust scientific evidence indicated that the global average temperature is rising largely due to the accumulation of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then you are, in this context, a denier. This is why I use the term, it’s short, direct and correct.

    If you think the term is poisoned due to it’s connotations with holocaust denial, then the onus is on you to give us a reason not to use this term. That your feelings may get hurt is unlikely to sway me.

    AGW contains a modicum of truth but you are unable to prove beyond doubt that it is the perceived crisis that you and others have made it out to be. In reality, none of this matters but the incentive does.

    Proof is for mathematicians. Applied science rarely deals with “proof”. What those on the side of majority of scientific opinion have is not proof per se, but evidence. Reams upon reams of evidence, from solutions to radiative transfer equations through to satellite measurements. The “incentive” or otherwise of environmental organisations does not make a jot of difference one way or another to this. The difference between their “incentive” and that of (say) Exxon Mobil, is that they are (broadly) on the side of the majority of scientific evidence.

    One should always be weary of idealists, environmental groups, non-profit organizations etc. Totalitarianism is always cloaked by altruistic causes.

    Yes SamG, Greenpeace is coming to place you and everyone you care about under the yolk of totalitarianism. My history is a little rusty, but I’m pretty sure that it was concerns about industrial impacts on the climate system that enabled Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin and Nero to take control. [These](http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/tin-foil-hat) may be of interest to you.

  25. #25 Balance
    April 19, 2010

    Why is it that the media, particularly the Murdoch press, is so willing to deny that global warming has anything to do with human activities?

    Newspapers he owns, even those which in other areas are regarded as world class publications, are happy to publish biased or inaccurate views on global warming and its effects.

    Do these publications unthinkingly reflect the views of their owner, Rupert Murdoch? If so they – and Murdoch – have a lot to answer for, as have those who indulge in stupid semantics rather than admit that their own views are wrong, misleading and can not be substantiated.

    The Australian newspaper, once properly regarded as providing balanced accurate and informed opinion on matters of science and environment is now regarded as being the last place one would go in search of sound reporting.

    As evidence of global warming and its causes become increasingly obvious and damaging, the Murdochs of this world and their biased editors will hopefully be thoroughly discredited.

    The only problem is that by the time that occurs, the severity of climate change will have advanced to the point where it is undeniable, uncontrollable and unsafe for human survival. Most scientists seek to prevent those conditions arising. None take pleasure in seeing their emergence so that they can say “I told you so”.

  26. #26 Don Wigan
    April 19, 2010

    Samg, Mike at 17 nails it. ‘Denialist’ is a term applying especially to those who quite deliberately mislead and misinterpret fragments of evidence that just might throw doubt on the weight of evidence.

    ‘Climategate’ is of course the classic example, and really the efforts of McIntyre, Watts and others to discredit the integrity of the research and the reputations of scientists such as Jones and Mann is thoroughly unethical. And they know it.

    Of course there are others who stubbornly refuse to let any empirical evidence get in the way of their preconceived views. These rightly get called denialists, but are perhaps more accurately simply ignoramuses.

    The old concern troll trick about the Holocaust has been raised before and we are well immune to it.

    DaveA@2
    “He argued valiantly about this for some considerable time, but ultimately changed his mind. Personally , I guess this was because of the considerable amount of vitriol that was no doubt sent his way on a daily basis.”

    Gee, I’ve never heard of vitriol changing anyone’s view before. You’d have a lot more fans here if that was the case. You sure it wasn’t the mounting evidence of a fiasco that changed his mind?

  27. #27 t_p_hamilton
    April 19, 2010

    SamG, I suppose the next time I hear somebody say that “de Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt” I should tsk tsk (and cluck, AND wag my finger) about how they are equating the behavior with the Holocaust.

  28. #28 SteveC
    April 19, 2010

    Balance @ 25: This http://sphaerica.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/mission-accomplished/ is kind of appropriate.

    Quote:
    “Blogs like Watts Up With That and JoNova make me crazy with the complete, indisputable inanity of their arguments. Media disasters like Times Online and The Daily Mail and Fox News make me crazy. Now even more rational news centers like The Guardian and Der Spiegel are getting it wrong.

    The deniers are declaring complete and total and final victory. One can almost picture them, standing in a line, mugging for a photo-shoot, grinning from ear to ear on the deck of an aircraft carrier, with a huge green banner behind them reading “Mission Accomplished.” I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if the green stands for ecology or money.

    It’s infuriating, because they are so patently, obviously wrong to anyone that takes the time to look, but almost everyone involved, from journalists to scientists outside of climate science to the average Joe, not only doesn’t take the time, they don’t even come close.”

    hat tip Hank’s comment on RC.

  29. #29 dhogaza
    April 19, 2010

    Shorter SamG:

    “I can type and wave my dick at the same time, therefore whatever I type must be true”.

  30. #30 David Irving (no relation)
    April 19, 2010

    My use of “AGW denier” is a quite conscious and deliberate reference to Holocaust denial.

    The only difference is that I think AGW deniers are even more reprehensible than Holocaust deniers, as they would destroy us all, not just deny the destruction of 6 million of us.

  31. #31 MFS
    April 19, 2010

    David @ #30: Your type of exaggeration (they will destroy us all…) does those of us trying to explain things and hopefully enlighten others, no favours at all.

  32. #32 truth machine, OM
    April 20, 2010

    it’s a term that seriously compromises the integrity of the user

    Uh, no. OTOH, that claim and just about every other one you make throws serious doubt on yours.

  33. #33 jakerman
    April 20, 2010

    SamG writes:

    >*AGW contains a modicum of truth but you are unable to prove beyond doubt that it is the perceived crisis that you and others have made it out to be. In reality, none of this matters but the incentive does.*

    Sam which part is truth?

  34. #34 truth machine, OM
    April 20, 2010

    AGW contains a modicum of truth but you are unable to prove beyond doubt that it is the perceived crisis that you and others have made it out to be.

    Perhaps you can expand upon this and explain, based upon your extensive scientific research, just what truth AGW “contains” and what the possible consequences (with probability estimates — please show your work) it may have, so that we can judge whether there’s a crisis. Also perhaps you could go into detail about your theory of scientific epistemology that requires a “prove beyond doubt” standard.

    Or you could just admit that you’re an arrogant ignoramus with your own transparent (to intelligent people — see “Dunning-Kruger”) agenda.

  35. #35 silkworm
    April 20, 2010

    [Deleted as off topic — Tim]

  36. #36 Fran Barlow
    April 20, 2010

    MFS @31 speaking of DI(NR)s claim that AGW deniers would “destroy us all” said:

    Your type of exaggeration (they will destroy us all…) does those of us trying to explain things and hopefully enlighten others, no favours at all.

    I suspect you have misinterpreted ADI(NR)s claim. Being familiar with his posts elsewhere, I doubt his substantive claim is that anthropogenic climate change will destroy us all. I suspect his claim was that the deniers’determination to privilege their own perceived interests and indifference to human welfare extended to all humanity, rather than one subsection of it. It’s not uncommon to find the deniers adopting a fatalistic pose on the survival of the species — explicitly comparing past extinction events with today.

    Some of therm fancy their chances in heaven, which simply bolsters their panglossian view of future climate developments, since all the righteous will be saved.

    I agree that we should refrain from suggesting that all of humanity will be wiped out by the direct and indirect consequences of climate change. This seems most unlikely, though the possibility that 300 years from now, the planet will only be supporting a very small fraction of the present numbers is surely a serious possibility.

  37. #37 Keith
    April 20, 2010

    [Please Note points 6 and 7 ](http://nofrakkingconsensus.blogspot.com/2010/04/seasoned-veterans-view-of-ipcc.html)
    Time to stop wading in the shallow end.

  38. #38 David Irving (no relation)
    April 20, 2010

    Thank you, Fran. I must admit, I used hyperbole in the interests of brevity, but perhaps I should have been more rigorous.

  39. #39 allen mcmahon
    April 20, 2010

    Tim,
    I think you are misrepresenting Richard North with regard to his reporting on the Amazon. He actually engaged in investigative journalism something that is lacking in many MSM reports. He posted six times on the subject and referenced scientific literature to support his claims. Nepstad has clear links with the WWF having worked directly for the WWF and having some of his studies were part funded by the WWF.
    With regard to Nepstad’s claim that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of dying if there is even a slight reduction in rainfall he cites studies from Marengo (2009, 2006) Zeng et al (2006) and Coe et al (2002) that refute Nepstad claims.
    Marengo offers detailed evidence of significant climate variability in the Amazon basin, of differences in rainfall patterns between north and south, and of a “succession of relatively wet and dry periods (cycles) of approximately 20–30 years, suggesting indicators of long-term variability on multi-decadal time scales.” Marengo finds there are “no systematic unidirectional long-term trends towards drier or wetter conditions have been identified since the 1920s.”
    I think that a journalist who is prepared to adequately research a subject should be commended even if his views differ from yours. As you are aware for most papers there is generally a rebuttal and an analysis of the literature suggests an uncertainty with regards to risks to the Amazon forest that is at odds with the stated position of the IPCC.

  40. #40 J Bowers
    April 20, 2010

    #25 Balance: “Newspapers he owns, even those which in other areas are regarded as world class publications, are happy to publish biased or inaccurate views on global warming and its effects.”

    He’s not the sole owner. Check out who the second largest shareholder is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corporation#Shareholders

    I have read that he’s not exactly hands-off with content.

  41. #41 MFS
    April 20, 2010

    No worries. David: if I misinterpreted you I apologise.

  42. #42 David Irving (no relation)
    April 20, 2010

    No apology necessary, MFS.

  43. #43 allen mcmahon
    April 20, 2010

    @24
    ‘If you deny multiple streams of robust scientific evidence indicated that the global average temperature is rising largely due to the accumulation of anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then you are, in this context, a denier. This is why I use the term, it’s short, direct and correct.’
    I accept that GHG’s are in part responsible for rising global average temperature but largely put it down to natural causes so I guess that makes me a denier although my only issue is climate sensitivity. Do I find the term offensive,nope I do see no parallel with the Holocaust. What bothers me are extremists, from the right or left so I guess @30 bothers me.

  44. #44 Sou
    April 20, 2010

    @ allen mcmahon

    I’ve looked at recent papers authored by Marengo and don’t see any suggestion of a disagreement about AGW. There may be a difference of opinion regarding the nature of future changes to the Amazon if there were a reduction in rain or change in rainfall pattern or intensity. (I note you are talking about papers published pre and post the latest IPCC report.)

    In fact, Tim has done some further research for us:
    From Marengo:

    “Yes, I believe that the Amazon forests are vulnerable to rainfall reduction, and high temperatures, and this would lead to what some studies call the Amazon die back. However, the die back is still somewhat uncertain, but without reaching a level in which the forest would replaced by savanna, the forest is highly vulnerable to drought.”

    Full context here.

  45. #45 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Mike, not being a scientist, and particularly one in such an ambiguous field such as climate science; you can not possibly claim ignorance on behalf of skeptics. You can not categorically state that anything hitherto stated by you, is based on anything more than your bent towards listening to the pontifications of a few climate scientists.
    To try to claim otherwise is disingenuous.

    Give me unequivocal, testable evidence. Give me a science community subsidized to the eyeballs that didn’t have their house of cards smashed by just a handful of skeptics.
    In fact, state to me what the skeptic position actually entails while refraining from the usual ‘big oil’, nihilist clichés

    Your usage of the term ‘denier’ may make you feel morally smug, it may even give you a hard on but it is not on par with the Jewish holocaust is it? That actually happened.
    And my apologies to victims of the holocaust for having the term denigrated.

  46. #46 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Michael Ralston

    -evasive

  47. #47 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    ChrisC

    Reams of evidence?

    How many institutions deal with the science of AGW and collect/collate raw data. How many of these people have failed to archive and share this data? How much dissent has been censored?

    Tell me if you personally know the answer to this. That’s ‘personally’. Please be astute and be careful not to generalize.

  48. #48 Michael
    April 20, 2010

    Fascinating rhetorical questions SamG.

    No doubt you believe the answers are – all of them, and lots.

    And no doubt the amount of time you’ve spent looking for the real answers is – zero.

  49. #49 ligne
    April 20, 2010

    “Your usage of the term ‘denier’ may make you feel morally smug, it may even give you a hard on”

    it certainly makes me feel funny, you know, “down there”. but then i always did have a thing for the caress of fine fabrics.

  50. #50 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Truth machine. The burden of truth lies with you. Why do I have to disprove your theory? Just don’t write incriminating emails, refuse to share unadulterated data, change the goalposts every time your theories crumble and plainly just make things up. They are the allegations and it would be convenient for you to accept CRU’s vindication without question. They are sloppy and corrupt.

  51. #51 John
    April 20, 2010

    Give me a science community subsidized to the eyeballs that didn’t have their house of cards smashed by just a handful of skeptics.

    Did you even read the article that inspired this thread?

  52. #52 MikeH
    April 20, 2010

    So SamG is a skeptic …

    Give me a science community subsidized to the eyeballs that didn’t have their house of cards smashed by just a handful of skeptics.

    If you want the respect given to skeptics trying being one
    i.e try actual addressing the science. Until then stop winging about being called a denier.

  53. #53 ligne
    April 20, 2010

    “Why do I have to disprove your theory?”

    since your posts seem indicate you have all sorts of evidence that proves AGW dead in the water, it should be a piece of piss. so please, entertain our ignorance one moment, that we may see the truth.

    “They are the allegations”

    …since found to be unsubstantiated. i’m sure it was all a whitewash though. after all, you *know* he was guilty, right? you could tell from the way he kept publishing papers whose conclusions you disagreed with. the cad!

  54. #54 John
    April 20, 2010

    Why do I have to disprove your theory?

    Because you’re the one who’s claiming the AGW theory is “smashed”.

    Evidence provided: None.

    I don’t know. Looks pretty sturdy to me. The CRU have been exonerated twice. Is this not good enough for you?

  55. #55 ligne
    April 20, 2010

    “How much dissent has been censored?”

    oh, all of it is suppressed, my dear boy. that’s why we’ve never seen any papers from Lindzen, Pat Michaels, John McLean, Bob Carter, Chris de Freitas, Steve McIntyre, Ross McKittrick, etc. and why you’ll never read fact-free, defamatory attacks on the professionalism and integrity of climate scientists in the press.

  56. #56 Fran Barlow
    April 20, 2010

    SamG said @45

    And my apologies to victims of the holocaust for having the term denigrated. [my emphasis]

    If you are going to rip things out of context and deem playing silly word games legitimate I am going to ask you to refrain from insulting black people by suggesting being like them is an insult. Racism simply brings you into disrepute, surely?

  57. #57 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Typo acknowledged but it is irrelevant.

  58. #58 JamesA
    April 20, 2010

    I have met plenty of people in real life I would be happy to refer to as ‘sceptics’, but unfortunately, the vast majority of people questioning climate science you meet on the internet don’t deserve the title. In my view, a true sceptic will do more than simply question a thesis; they will go into a debate without prejudice and be open to changing their mind if presented with a sufficiently reasoned argument. This is, in my opinion, what separates a sceptic from a cynic.

    But of course, the global warming deniers go a step beyond simply questioning or dismissing arguments. When presented with any evidence or reasoning contrary to what they’d like to believe that they can’t argue with, they start attacking the integrity of the arguer, changing topic, asking unrelated questions, spouting rhetoric and smearing individuals. It’s like they are incapable of conceding even the slightest point.

    By that token, if SamG doesn’t deserve the title ‘denier’, I don’t know who does.

  59. #59 John
    April 20, 2010

    It was irrelevant, but the rest of our points are entirely relevant. Please counter them with your super secret scienctific information and conspiracy theories.

  60. #60 Jeff Harvey
    April 20, 2010

    ligne,

    since when have you possessed a monopoly on scientific wisdom? Your list of ‘experts’ @55 sums up your predicament. Inadvertantly you have listed about 80% of the prominent denialists, and most of them are either not climate scientists or are shills. You could throw in others like Baliunas, Soon, Balling, Singer, Ball, and then you would soon be running out of names. After this you would be forced to list weathermen, emeritius academics (many old farts) with little or no expertise in climate science to bolster your erroneous claim that there are a sea of sceptics out there. Fact is there isn’t. This shows precisely how thin the denial community is.

    This alone shows how much out of whack you and the denialati are. The reason their ‘data’ rarely sees the light of day in peer-reviewed journals has nothing to do with any kind of conspiracy as much as you would like to believe that. It is simply because their data are mostly crap, and do not stand up to scrutiny.

    I have been a peer-reviewer for 54 journals in my career and I was a former Editor at Nature, and I can assure you that the system may be flawed but all in all it works. But since the denialati are not interested in the science they have been forced to make ludicrous claims about being excluded from the mainstream because of a broad conspiracy amongst rank-and-file scientists to marginalize them. This is b*s. They are marginalized because their science is poor. Moreover, as most of us should know by now climate change denial has never been about science but about a small coterie of scientists promoting a pre-determined world view based on a brazenly political agenda. The same is true for other areas in the environmental and global change arena where there are policy-related implications. Many of the same names and/or organizations attacking climate change are the same names and/or organizations that tried to downplay the deleterious effects of acid rain and CFCs, as well as the extent and implications of the loss of biodiversity. They are shape-shifters and move from one topic to another based on the amount of scientific evidence that is accrued.

    The denialists cannot and never will win the scientific argument, but that has never been their aim. Their aim is to render any action to deal with climate change mute. To do this all they have to do is to shed enough doubt on the process, and it is in this area where their well-funded PR apparatus has been very successful. But do not humor me by claiming that the debate on climate change is about science. It is not and never has been for most of those in the denial camp.

  61. #61 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    John

    Evasive. I’ve never claimed the non-existence of AGW.
    Copenhagen was a failure largely due to a handful of skeptics. If the science were unequivocal, a few pesky skeptics couldn’t have hijacked such a politically significant event -surely.
    And how many millions have been injected into climate science?

    Stop attributing motive.

  62. #62 JamesA
    April 20, 2010

    SamG@61: That claim about Copenhagen just broke the hubris-o-meter. Very few of the delegates doubted the science and certainly none of the key players. It was a failure of politics, not science.

  63. #63 Dave R
    April 20, 2010

    Jeff @ 60, ligne was being sarcastic.

  64. #64 ligne
    April 20, 2010

    Jeff Harvey: don’t worry, i’m not a denialist :-)

    i was just trying to point out how utterly moronic it is to go about screaming about being suppressed, when 5 minutes on this very blog makes it plainly clear that no such thing is happening.

    in fact, they get utterly disproportionate coverage considering their minuscule numbers, and how easily debunked their arguments usually are.

    can we get back to laughing at SamG’s stupid arguments now? i’m sure he’s going to come out with a real corker any moment now :-)

  65. #65 Don Wigan
    April 20, 2010

    um Jeff, I’m on your side … but I think you’ve misread ligne who was using satire with a fair dose of sarcasm to parody the denialist position.

  66. #66 Jeff Harvey
    April 20, 2010

    ligne,

    my apologies! Its just that I have no time for denialists.

    In my lexicon a climate change denialist is a very appropriate term for most of the those who would prefer to be called ‘sceptics’. The world sceptic has been abused by the climate change denialists because all scientists, by defintion, are sceptical; we are trained to be. In the climate change debate, a small group of scientists (many with little pedigree in the field of climate science and/or with poor publication records even in their own fields) are abusing science to promote what is in effect a political agenda. They are not sceptical but are in denial; little in thew way of ewmpirical evidence will change the way they think.

  67. #67 Sou
    April 20, 2010

    Why do so many people choose to take offense from words. An AGW ‘denier’ is a person who denies that humans are causing the world to warm and the climate to change, refusing to consider or accept the multiple lines of evidence.

    There are multiple definitions of ‘denier’. As someone pointed out, one of the definitions is that it is a measure of the fineness used in yarn such as in a stocking.
    Neither is the definition of holocaust constrained. That word had meaning from before the 1930s.

    Here is the definition of denier from the Concise Oxford:

    Denier:
    // n. a person who denies something.
    // n. 1 a unit by which the fineness of yarn is measured, equal to the weight in grams of 9,000 metres of the yarn.
    2 a former French coin equal to one twelfth of a sou.

    No mention of holocaust in the definition of ‘denier’ in my edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

  68. #68 P. Lewis
    April 20, 2010

    Not only does SamG wish to deny the science, he/she also wishes to deny lexicographic precedence.

    Courtesy of the SOED, the complete definition of “denier”:

    denier /dn/ n.1 LME. [f. DENY v. + -ER1.] A person who denies.

    Note the “LME”. This dates the word as being in use from c. 1400 to c. 1700. Note also the lack of reference to denial of any specific issue.

    Yes, SamG is truly a denier in every sense of the word, as are all climate septicsTM.

  69. #69 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Amazing Jeff Harvey, perhaps you need to adjust your bow tie and clean your (green-tinted) glasses and read before reacting. Your emotions just ran riot.

    Scientific my arse.

    Point proven. Stop hiding behind intelligentsia and hold yourself together. Down penis, down.

  70. #70 Nathan
    April 20, 2010

    SamG

    Just explain the scientific problem you have with AGW. We don;t care if you object to it on political grounds.

  71. #71 Jeff Harvey
    April 20, 2010

    SamG,

    So what infinite scientific wisdom are you personally bestowed with that gives you the ability to separate a ‘sceptic’ from a ‘denialist’? You said ‘scientific my arse’? OK, then, what do you know about science? Are you uniquely qualified to say that you know what the hell you are talking about?

    More precisely, since your posts are about as intellectually deep as a puddle, what innate ability to do you possess that enables you to know the scientific state-of-the-art in climate science or any other field of Earth science?

    Sou nailed it above. No amount of scientific evidence will shift the deniers from their position. As for me wearing ‘green tinted’ glasses, this kind of dumb remark tells me all I need to know about an ignoramus like SamG. Its the usual kind of baseless smear used to attack scientists all of the time by the anti-environmental lobby. SamG seems to be a happy member of this motley bunch.

  72. #72 Neil
    April 20, 2010

    Shorter SamG: “We don’t like it when you commie bastards call us bad names.”

  73. #73 Dappledwater
    April 20, 2010

    Sou @ 44 I’ve skimmed over the Marengo 2009 paper and it definitely does not refute Nepstad et al, seeing as the study deals only with South American climate variability throughout the instrumental record, nothing whatsoever to do with Amazon rain forest susceptibility to drought.

    It does however, affirm the connection with ENSO and dry periods in the Amazon & in particular the intensification & increased frequency of El Nino in the later part of the 20th century – part of the basis of why Nepstad and others were investigating the Amazon’s vulnerability to drought in the first place.

    Furthermore the quotations from Allen McMahon, appear to originate from some other source, not the Marengo paper.

  74. #74 Sou
    April 20, 2010

    I have to qualify the definition of denier as per the Oxford Concise – to which I referred above. Firstly, when it defines ‘denier’ as being ‘ equal to one twelfth of a sou’ it is pronounced differently to the ‘denier’ of AGW, and in any case, if it was so imputed, would be worth much less than one twelfth of marvellous Sou :D

  75. #75 Sou
    April 20, 2010

    @ Dappledwater – I agree with you. It looks like a case of misinterpretation by allen mcmahon (and North – but I haven’t read what North said).

    @ Jeff Harvey, take care / beware. Seems as if SamG has the hots for you – lol.

  76. #76 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Jeff, you may be a scientist but you’re behaving like an imbecile.

    Why on earth would a man of your ilk be participating in a political blog? You claim that for the ‘denier’ camp, it has never been about science but I’ll wager that most contributers to this blog are scientific laypeople, yet you consider their opinions meritorious. Why? Because you value consensus, not science.

    Stand up those who are scientists and if not, explain how your ‘opinions’ are superior to those of a skeptic?

    Let me reiterate. This is a political blog. Got it?

  77. #77 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Please quit the dictionary definitions of the word denier.

    It’s embarrassing.

  78. #78 Sou
    April 20, 2010

    SamG, apologies. I didn’t write the definition with any intent to embarrass you. It was meant to clarify. That’s all.

    At least now you should be able to understand what the word means.

  79. #79 ligne
    April 20, 2010

    “explain how your ‘opinions’ are superior to those of a skeptic?”

    because his “opinions” are backed with scientific evidence, perhaps? that’s something that seems in permanent short supply among the denier camp.

  80. #80 Dave H
    April 20, 2010

    @Jeff Harvey

    I’m afraid I think ligne was being sarcastic.

  81. #81 Dave R
    April 20, 2010

    [SamG](http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/04/johann_hari_on_journalismgate.php#comment-2446292)
    >explain how your ‘opinions’ are superior to those of a skeptic?

    My opinions — that human caused global warming is a real and serious problem — [are those of a skeptic](http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/feb/22/climate-change-sceptics). Yours are those of a denier.

  82. #82 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Ligne, still contributing to this farce ‘eh?
    You omitted the beginning of the paragraph.

    Now answer it for yourself. Are you a scientist?

  83. #83 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    R.E. Dave R

    Oh Lord.

    Are you reading this Jeff.

  84. #84 allen mcmahon
    April 20, 2010

    Sou@44 said
    “ I’ve looked at recent papers authored by Marengo and don’t see any suggestion of a disagreement about AGW.”
    I am not suggesting that Marengo disagrees with AGW theory but his work indicates that he disagrees with Nepstad that a small reduction in rainfall could result in 40% of the Amazonian being reduced to savannah . Marengo essentially agrees with Zeng that PDO is the major influence in the Amazon on decadal scales and that Nepstad’s conclusions are not supported because his analysis is based on too short a timescale. A further problem is that Nepstad’s bases his conclusions in part rest on the output of climate models and Malhi et al (2009) provide a convincing argument that all of the current models underestimate Amazon rainfall. In any event the point that I was making in my earlier post was that Richard North is a credible investigative journalist.

  85. #85 jakerman
    April 20, 2010

    Guys, you’ve asked the questions, and you’ve got the answer, he got nothing, and he’s just baiting.

  86. #86 SamG
    April 20, 2010

    Hats off to Tim Lambert for letting me speak. I know this is O.T. but some of your posters have difficulty with comprehension.

  87. #87 Jeff Harvey
    April 20, 2010

    SamG,

    This is not a political blog. Several scientists contribute to it regularly, and most discussions involve scientific discourse. My motivations for writing in here are that (1) it gives me a chance to correct a number of contributors who routinely ignore (or distort) the effects of anthopogenic processes – including climate change – on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and (2) it gives me the chance to reach a general audience of readers who are genuinely interested in environmental science but who do not possess a background in that field. It is my view that not enough scientists connect with the public and this is a way for me to do it. At the same time, most of the contributors here make very valuable contributions in their own right and are interested in learning the ‘truth’, as elusive as that is in science.

    I consider those who support the overwhelming empirical evidence in support of AGW, irrespective of their academic backgrounds, to understand that there is a broad scientific consensus on the subject and to defer to that consensus. I am much more dubious of those laypeople attacking most of the scientific community (such as you) who apparently have little in the way of scientific pedigree in the fields they routinely write about on sites such as Deltoid. By the way, IMHO this is far and away the best site I have seen in discussing important contemporary issues such as climate change. For that reason it is about the only one I read regularly or contribute to.

    As for the defining the word’s ‘sceptic’ and ‘denialist’, it is my opinion that you fit snugly into the latter category. Most of those who are mangling the science underpinning climate change routinely do. Again, in my view they are not interested in scientific debate but in promulgating a political agenda which is largely right wing and whose foundation is profit maximization for commerical elites. Certainly the ‘debate’ has scientists doing science on the one side but who are poorly equipped in the public relations side, and well oiled coporate hacks and a few bought and paid for scientists (or those who broadly support a conservative political agenda) on the other. The major achievement of the denialati has been to give the impression that they are dedicated to uncovering the scientific ‘truth’. I do not believe this for a second.

  88. #88 David Horton
    April 20, 2010

    The climate change aspects of this http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2876268.htm unleashed post are coming to the fore as the thread heats up.

  89. #89 Jeff Harvey
    April 20, 2010

    *I know this is O.T. but some of your posters have difficulty with comprehension*.

    Pot. Kettle. Black.

  90. #90 Sou
    April 20, 2010

    @ allen mcmahon – scientists often disagree on the detail until sufficient research is conducted. From what I’ve read of Amazon studies, scientists see an urgent need to do more research on this but it’s not easy work. Both Morengo and Napsted agree that any change in the climate of the Amazon could have very adverse consequences.

    Re Richard North, as far as I can make out he’s just a run of the mill conspiracy theorist – and not just in regard to climate change. He’s nutty as a fruit cake.

  91. #91 andrew adams
    April 20, 2010

    SamG,

    Re #45

    Like Mike I’m not a scientist, just a reasonably well informed (I think) layman. But I think I am capable of engaging in an argument on a scientific issue by making reference to the published data, the peer reviewed literature, the considered opinion of experts who work on the matter at hand professionally. If someone disagrees with me and can cite sources to back up their claims I am happy to call them a skeptic, but if they resort to claiming that none of the above can be trusted because the data is fiddled, the peer review process rigged and the experts are conspiring in order to deceive the rest of us, ie if they just plain refuse to deal in the basic currency of scientific discourse, then not only does that make any meaningful discussion of the topic impossible but it is perfectly reasonable to label their behaviour as denial and I make no apology for caling them “deniers”.

  92. #92 Dappledwater
    April 20, 2010

    @84 – Allen McMahon , you either don’t know what you are talking about, or are simply misrepresenting facts. From Marengo et al 2009:

    ” Precipitation records over South America also exhibit decadal and interdecadal variability, although its amplitude is smaller than (typically less than 10% of) the year-to-year changes. Keep in mind that only a few stations have century-long records on South America, limiting our ability to detect interdecadal changes and characterize their spatial patterns”

    “This “climate shift”is consistent with the change in polarity of the PDO (from cold to
    warm) in themid 70s (Fig. 5), but can’t be exclusively attributed to the PDO variability because El Niño events have also become more frequent and intense in the 80s and 90s compared with the previous three decades.”

    And which recent Marengo paper deals with tree mortality in the Amazon?.

  93. #93 Marco
    April 20, 2010

    @SamG:
    This is most certainly not a political blog. It’s all about science, and the misrepresentation of science by certain people. Hence our use of the word “denier”, rather than “skeptic”. Real scientists are “skeptic”, and are swayed by solid evidence and argumentation. “Deniers” are ‘skeptic’ of anything that does not fit their view of the world, and run after any bit of information that may be construed as confirming that position. Like HIV deniers jumping up and down in joy when false positives are mentioned (“See! It’s not real!”). Or like evolution deniers still jumping of joy over Piltdown Man. And yes, like holocaust deniers pointing to pictures of happy faces in a ‘supposed extermination camp’.

    As regards to scientists standing up, here goes another one. Like Jeff (I am sure I can speak for him on this part) I value the opinion of various people here because they provide a coherent argument based on factual evidence. Rather than run after any tiny little new thing, they demand solid evidence if someone goes against a body of evidence. If you want to prove evolution wrong, Piltdown Man is not solid evidence. If you want to prove the HIV/AIDS connection wrong, false positives in testing is not solid evidence. If you want to prove AGW wrong, pointing to short term trends, an article by e.g. Lindzen or Pielke Sr, handwaving from Anthony Watts, a few errors hidden deep in a very thick report, none of it is solid evidence. What we want to see is an alternative hypothesis that explains the observations *better*.

  94. #94 el gordo
    April 20, 2010

    ‘The major achievement of the denialati has been to give the impression that they are dedicated to uncovering the scientific ‘truth’. I do not believe this for a second.’

    More fool you. As a member of the Denialati I can honestly say we are only interested in uncovering the scientific truth.

    Forget the consensus, according to David Archibald solar cycle 24 will be fairly inactive and we can expect a temperature drop of 1.5 C over the coming decade. I call that ‘abrupt climate change’ and I hope you can hang around to see it.

  95. #95 ligne
    April 20, 2010

    “As a member of the Denialati I can honestly say we are only interested in uncovering the scientific truth.”

    given the definition of a denialist, isn’t that a contradiction in terms?

    and who on earth is this David Archibald chap? has he actually done any work to support his assertion, or is he just another “we’re about to enter another ice-age. i can feel it in my bones” loon?

  96. #96 John
    April 20, 2010

    El Weasel:

    …we can expect a temperature drop of 1.5 C over the coming decade.

    And I thought you were never going to tell us when the cooling was expected Gordo! It was in the wrong thread directed at the wrong person but I’m glad you finally dropped it. I assume that when you’re proved wrong you’ll pull the old “taking the piss” excuse?

    SamG:

    Evasive. I’ve never claimed the non-existence of AGW. Copenhagen was a failure largely due to a handful of skeptics. If the science were unequivocal, a few pesky skeptics couldn’t have hijacked such a politically significant event.

    If global warming really were a leftist plot to overthrow capitalism (I assume this is your reasoning, please tell me otherwise) they didn’t do a very good job, did they?

    In my opinion, Copenhagen was always doomed to fail. In Australia we can barely get our Labor state governments to agree to our federal Labor governments health plan so I don’t expect the nations of the world to be acting in unison on this issue. But if you want to attribute this to your precious “skeptics”, by all means be incorrect.

  97. #97 ChrisC
    April 20, 2010

    El Gordo @ 94 sez:

    “according to David Archibald solar cycle 24 will be fairly inactive and we can expect a temperature drop of 1.5 C over the coming decade. I call that ‘abrupt climate change’ and I hope you can hang around to see it.”

    [This](http://n3xus6.blogspot.com/2007/02/dd.html) David Archibald?

  98. #98 John
    April 20, 2010

    Oh, Gordo.

  99. #99 lord_sidcup
    April 20, 2010

    el gordo #94

    Is that a new paper from Archibald or are you recycling this one:

    [The worst climate science paper ever of all time anywhere](http://n3xus6.blogspot.com/2007/02/dd.html)?

  100. #100 lord_sidcup
    April 20, 2010

    Drat, beaten to it by ChrisC.

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