Fred Pearce informs us that opinions on the shape of the Earth differ

Thingsbreak finds some value in a New Scientist "He said, she said" story by Fred Pearce on the dreadful McLean et al paper (you know, the one that removed the long term trend and then made much of the fact that after you did that CO2 had little effect on temperatures):

This article should be held up as a model for how reporting should not be done.

I agree.

Also in New Scientist, Chris Mooney reviews Fred Pearce's book about the emails stolen from CRU:

Some scientists faulted the Guardian series when it appeared, and similar objections apply to this book. Pearce (who is a consultant for New Scientist) writes as though he is covering a real scandal, and takes a "pox on both houses" approach to the scientists who wrote the emails and the climate sceptics who hounded them endlessly - and finally came away with a massive PR victory. But that's far too "balanced" an account.

In truth, climategate was a pseudo-scandal, and the worst that can be said of the scientists is that they wrote some ill-advised things. "I've written some pretty awful emails," admitted Phil Jones, director of the CRU at the time. The scientists also resisted turning over their data when battered by requests for it - requests from climate sceptics who dominate the blogosphere and don't play by the usual rules.

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Pearce and Monbiot over at el Gruaniad were both very quick to denounce Jones. Long before any real investigation had been done. Once they had cast the die they stuck to their guns with Monbiot calling for Jones to resign.

Running from the enemy at the first whiff of grape and gunpowder in my book.

Balance! What is it with journalists and balance?

If you used their notion of balance when measuring out ingredients for a Victoria sponge it would surely be over-egged.

In truth, climategate was a pseudo-scandal, and the worst that can be said of the scientists is that they wrote some ill-advised things.

I wouldn't even go that far. The most annoying thing about "climategate", aside from the fact that it was all bullshit, is the finger wagging at scientists for having said mean things about the denialists in private emails. A lot of this comes from people who should know better.

Scientists have a right, and a duty, to say exactly what they think about the denialists. In public, without pulling punches, and without apology. That doesn't mean that some rhetoric isn't counterproductive, but to apologize for calling someone a prat, when the person has acted just like a prat, sends the signal that the denialists deserve a sort of kid glove treatment that no one else enjoys.

Lots of problems with the Pearce piece, as is typical of his stuff.

"Foster's team concludes that McLean's analysis maximises the apparent influence of the four-year El Niño cycle by filtering out temperature variability on timescales greater than six years. They say El Niño only explains 15 to 30 per cent of recent warming."

This last line is misleading. The 15-30% figure is mentioned once in the study. It doesn't refer to "recent warming". It refers to the longer-term variability (up or down) of an arbitrary period of time, whether it's interseasonal or multi-decadal. Foster et al. cite a Trenberth et al. study that examines the 1977-1998 period. Since it ends on a strong el Nino uptick, a small part of the trend can be attributed to ENSO. If you extend it to present, you would get an insignificant ENSO contribution.

"Using NiËno 3.4 region (170 -120 W, 5 N-5 S) sea
surface temperature (SST) anomalies as an index of ENSO,
Trenberth et al. [2002] found a residual global mean surface
temperature trend of 0.4 C over the period 1977-1998 after
ENSO impacts alone are removed. More recently, Thompson
et al. [2008] removed an estimate of global temperature
variations associated with both ENSO and the so-called cold
ocean/warm land or âCOWLâ pattern of extratropical temperature
variation, and found a residual global mean surface
warming of 0.4 C over the 1950-2006 period.

In all of these previous analyses, ENSO has been found
to describe between 15 and 30% of the interseasonal and
longer-term variability in surface and/or lower tropospheric
temperature, but little of the global mean warming trend of the past half century."

MarkB, am I understanding your point correctly that an allegedly clued-up journo like Pearce imagines that ENSO doesn't just circulate heat around, but somehow adds/generates it?

Because that would be kinda like, wow.

chek: Pearce doesn't imagine anything, he just cuts and pastes with no more intelligence than a computer. A quote from Mann will be countered by any blogger that falls to hand with a counter charge on the same or similar subject. Read his 'balanced reporting' in the Guardian on climategate.

Isn't Pearce the guy who helped spread the Himalaya-glaciers-gone-by-2035 mistake? His reporting after ClimateGate was pretty abysmal. It got a bit better when the damage was already done. Monbiot throwing Jones under the bus so quickly was a bit of a disappointment as well.

Apparently one of the guests TBA is going to be none other than the inquis^H^H^H^H^H^Hauditor in chief himself, Stevie Mac.

By Rattus Norvegicus (not verified) on 03 Jul 2010 #permalink

Rattus,

As you well know Steve Mc is paying his own way to the Guardian debate since the paper said it could not invite him because of the cost.

Perhaps you would learn something if you went along

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 03 Jul 2010 #permalink

I've got my ticket too.

By andrew adams (not verified) on 03 Jul 2010 #permalink

Useless Dave interjects: "Perhaps you would learn something if you went along"

What exactly? How to get famous without doing your own original research perhaps? Or try this: how about searching for pre-determined conclusions based on one's own political slant? Sound good?

By Jeff Harvey (not verified) on 04 Jul 2010 #permalink

Balance! What is it with journalists and balance?

If you used their notion of balance when measuring out ingredients for a Victoria sponge it would surely be over-egged.

When I teach media ethics, I ask the students whether, in a story on pedophilia, they would make sure to include a spokesperson from NAMBLA for `balance'.

Unfortunately, most of the students just don't seem to care about these questions. In my more optimistic moments I remind myself that they are undergraduates who have yet to gain the necessary life experience. In my more pessimistic moments I think that they consider balance, objectivity, honesty etc. not as moral obligations of their profession, but rather as things one might want to be perceived as doing in order to create a more marketable product.

So, you know, it could be that the media are genuinely trying to pursue the goal of objectivity but are going about it in a misguided way. Or it could be that they don't give a rat's arse about objectivity as such, and only want to do the bare minimum necessary to create the impression that they care about objectivity. Thus, of course, cultivating the perfect environment for denialists and scum of all types to thrive.

Jeff Harvey,

I've been reading CA for a while now and I can't recall Steve McI ever expressing an overtly political point of view. Indeed he tends to snip comments if he regards them as too political,

So I don't quite see where your"Or try this: how about searching for pre-determined conclusions based on one's own political slant? " comes from.

OTOH, I note that you see 'advocacy' as an important part of your role as a scientist.

By Dave Andrews (not verified) on 05 Jul 2010 #permalink

I could never figure out McI's political views - he lets in a lot of ad-hom attacks by right-wingers and snips out the real nutters. He's claimed in the past to have political views of an "average liberal-leaning Canadian" which would put him pretty left by US standards (except for AGW of course). I think he's just "in it" for egotistical purposes, and has gotten skewed from all usefulness by his right-wing nutter "cheerleaders" as well as his need to find a "smoking gun" daily. I mean he's found "conspiracies" in every damn thing from Australian scientists I've never heard of through all of these climategate panels as "whitewashes" and beyond.

#14
Jennie,
Are you trying to conflate pedophilia with climate science, as your comment seems to suggest? If so, I am horrified that you are in a position to teach ethics to anyone.

Pedophilia is a revolting crime, with lifelong adverse effects on its victims. Climate science is an area of ongoing academic research, whose uncertainties need to be discussed if we are to arrive at the most sensible and effective policy decisions.

To suggest, as you appear to, that climate skeptics should be treated with the same distaste as pedophiles, seems to indicate a complete abandonment on your part of any moral values whatsoever.

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

Rick Bradford:

OK, that made me laugh. Comprehension Fail, dude.

Here's some Critical Thinking 101 for you: a universal generalisation may be falsified by just one instance in which it doesn't apply. One may demonstrate the falsity of the generalisation by pointing to such an instance. It usually helps, for those who may be hard of thinking, to ensure that the instance is obviously false.

Get it now?

^
Why don't you address the point?

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

Rick Bradford, why don't you get the point?

By The hottest ye… (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

Rick Bradford, you missed the point. (I say, with dryly humorous understatement).

It wasn't even a subtle point. And yet there you are, giggling maniacally and running after a dog with a puffy tail.

Jennie, (14 & 23)

Let me put it this way.

You state that a lack of true objectivity helps in 'cultivating the perfect environment for denialists and scum of all types to thrive.'

Do you have the self-awareness to see how subjective that comment is, stating flatly that 'denialists' should not be allowed the chance to thrive?

Hence, you demand 'true objectivity' from others, but only as long as that objectivity conforms to your own subjective viewpoint.

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

I think you're missing Jennie's point. "Balance" is incompatible with objectivity and accuracy. When media outlets treat two sides of a dispute equally, even when one side objectively has by far the stronger case, they do their audiences a disservice; they present a distorted and inaccurate account of the situation. The point of the pedophilia example is to provide an example where balance is obviously wrong, not to compare denialists with pedophiles. While it is important to let audiences know the the main points of each side's arguments in a major public dispute such as AGW, it's even more important to convey the relative strength of each side's case. In the case of AGW, one side, the AGW or "warmist" side, has objectively by far the stronger case. You may find that disagreeable but it's true, and it's the moral obligation of any journalist to make that clear.

Has Rick Brandford has taken up a position that lead to his arguing that 'denialists' should be "allowed the chance to thrive?"

What about demagogues and hate mongers? Rick should we nurture their opportunites and enable an enviroment for them to florish?

Here is the point Rick, denailism is a harmful practice, it is intellectual assult. And as a practice it should be condemed like other perversions of power such as physical or sexual assult.

To put it another way for Rick, if he is a skpetic, would he really want the intellectual playing fieild churned up with debunked misinformation that keep leading him and others away from points of genuine skepticism?

Denialist practices, such as churning out repetative misinformation, or fabricating new false memes is a delaying tactic that does not help genuine skepticim.

Does Rick really beleive denialism should be allowed to thrive?

jakerman @ 26:

Has Rick Brandford has taken up a position that lead to his arguing that 'denialists' should be "allowed the chance to thrive?

Well, if this is the same Rick Bradford who posted here at "australianclimatemadness.com" I think it's fair to say "yes".

Thanks for those helpful and thought-provoking replies. I don't know if most of you generally distinguish between 'skeptics' and 'denialists', or whether you believe they are one and the same, but let me ask this -- who do you think these skeptics are and what do you think their motivations are?

Do you believe that most of them are selfish people whose opposition to global warming theory is that legislation will force them to change their comfortable lifestyles? Do you believe that many of them belong to a well-funded, well-organised conspiracy to discredit AGW driven by the fossil fuel industry? Are they generally evil people who need to be suppressed? Do you believe that any of them feel they have legitimate concerns about the science of AGW and related policies which they resent having dismissed as unimportant?

By Rick Bradford (not verified) on 07 Jul 2010 #permalink

"What has happened to the Guardian?"

Closing ranks. And that the FOIA was hard fought for by the press and it's far more important to THEM that the FOIA be protected than abuses of it be punished or even acknowledged, because such admission of failures with the act being open to abuse would be reason for the act to be curtailed and limited.

"Thanks for those helpful and thought-provoking replies. I don't know if most of you generally distinguish between 'skeptics' and 'denialists', or whether you believe they are one and the same"

Nobody believes they are one and the same except the denialists who SAY they are skeptics.

However, their skepticism only goes so far as "I am skeptical of AGW" and NEVER "I am skeptical of AGW being falsified by this".

Rick, there are many types of 'skeptics'. Many of them are not skeptics in the true meaning of the word, they are unidirectionally skeptic. That is the most common denominator. But then the diversity starts: for example, there are those that are ideologically opposed to anything that reeks like government-imposed restrictions on the free market. Some accept the science, but put "free choice" higher than the (sometimes also accepted) potentially catastrophic consequences. But some others run into cognitive dissonance: they cannot accept, morally, that inaction would lead to potential catastrophe, but also don't want any government action. Thus they need to block out the science and/or run after anything that creates doubt. It soothes the mind to know there is uncertainty, so one can 'safely' dismiss that there will be anything problematic in the future.

And then there are so many more, including those who seriously think they are the new Einsteins, some whose religious ideology says the earth was made for us and thus will always be 'good to us' (and yes, there's major cognitive dissonance there, too), others who stand to lose if any action is taken by the government, people who go where the bucks are (and are thus bought to spread disinformation, and happily do so).

Finally, there is a large group of people who simply not knowledgabele enough, depend on their friends/family/local newspaper for information, and get entangled in the web of disinformation. Not having time and/or ability to get to the bottom, they repeat the standard talking points that have often been debunked many times. This may well be the largest group of 'skeptics'.

And yes, there are some real skeptics, who have valid questions and concerns, and don't spice those up with "Al Gore is fat" or "Mike Mann's a fraud"-type of accusations.

Wow @ 31:

the FOIA was hard fought for by the press and it's far more important to THEM that the FOIA be protected than abuses of it be punished or even acknowledged, because such admission of failures with the act being open to abuse would be reason for the act to be curtailed and limited

IMO it isn't just the press that has a stake here, but all of us. While not condoning the abuse, I'd rather any FOI legislation be sufficiently open to occasional abuse than the other way round.

"I'd rather any FOI legislation be sufficiently open to occasional abuse than the other way round."

Ah, "Think of the Children" or "If it saves ONE LIFE" rhetoric.

Just a heads-up for you, the debacle of the McIntyre DDoS of CRU by snail was NOT an occasional abuse.

It's not like there was anything like the furore over the MP claims scandal or the ACTA secrecy or no-bid contracts, corporate political funding, lobby group funding, etc...

"Ah, "Think of the Children" or "If it saves ONE LIFE" rhetoric.

Just a heads-up for you, the debacle of the McIntyre DDoS of CRU by snail was NOT an occasional abuse."

And here's one for you. READ MY CAVEAT. Since you failed once, here it is again:
"While not condoning the abuse..."

Got it?

And your caveat has nothing to do with your concern being a "think of the children" cry.

So you don't want abuses, but you don't want to stop them. How then is your concern stopping the abuse? It isn't.

Rick Bradford @29:

Thanks for those helpful and thought-provoking replies. I don't know if most of you generally distinguish between 'skeptics' and 'denialists', or whether you believe they are one and the same, but let me ask this -- who do you think these skeptics are and what do you think their motivations are?

There are very few informed honest skeptics on AGW; the majority are denialists pure and simple.

Do you believe that most of them are selfish people whose opposition to global warming theory is that legislation will force them to change their comfortable lifestyles?

This is a significant component. Marco has covered the ideological factor, so I'll mention that, in the U.S. at least, cultural identification is a major factor. Some of them have a strong need not to be on the same side of any issue as goddam dirty tree-hugging hippies and Al Gore.

Do you believe that many of them belong to a well-funded, well-organised conspiracy to discredit AGW driven by the fossil fuel industry?

Another critical component. It's well established that there are people who do this sort of thing for a living.Also see this.

Are they generally evil people...

Generally? No. A few, definitely.

...who need to be suppressed?

Refusing to give their arguments more respect than they deserve â  "suppression". Nobody is arguing for censorship. Scorn, ridicule, condemnation or simply refusing to give their notions more publicity than they merit is not censorship.

Do you believe that any of them feel (my emphasis) they have legitimate concerns about the science of AGW...

Just because they may feel that way does not mean that their concerns are scientifically legitimate. Keep in mind that many of them have willfully refused to learn AGW science.

...and related policies which they resent having dismissed as unimportant?

Now we get to policy, which is a related but separate subject. The legitimacy and appropriateness of a given proposed policy is extremely dependent on the quality of the science. However the legitimacy and quality of the science is not at all dependent on any and all proposed policies; it stands or falls on its own merits. Attacking policies by attacking science is another identifying feature of denialists as opposed to skeptics.
There is plenty of room for debate about AGW policy. Getting policy right is going to be hard. Every proposed approach comes with its own mix of costs and benefits and uncertainties. Some of the policy concerns of denialists are legitimate; it's in the policy debate, not the science debate, where they should express those concerns. Legitimate debate starts with provisional acceptance (which is all that the "consensus" side is doing) that the science presented in the IPCC and related reports is the best information we have and we have to make decisions about what to do about it.

Jennie, Are you trying to conflate pedophilia with climate science, as your comment seems to suggest?

Analogies between different subjects only suggest conflation of the subjects to fools unable to understand how analogies work, or intellectually dishonest people who choose to not understand how they work when it would be inconvenient to do so. I'm guessing that you don't do well on those IQ tests with questions like "baby is to human as ______ is to fly" -- how dare anyone liken babies to maggots!

By truth machine (not verified) on 12 Jul 2010 #permalink