The Australian's War on Science 62: Quote doctoring

The Australian's Cut and Paste column is notorious for its dishonest quote mining, but today they went one step further into quote doctoring. Here's the quote that they present as contradicting the Prime Minister's quote:

Julia Gillard at a press conference on Monday:

The science is telling us that climate change is real. The government accepts the science. We accept the science from our own CSIRO. We accept the science from our own weather bureau. The advice indicates that if we do not cut carbon pollution, average temperatures around Australia could increase by between 2.2 to over 5C by 2070.


From the true believers. Robert K. Kaufmann, Heikki Kauppi, Michael L. Mann, and James H. Stock in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday:

Given the widely noted increase in the warming effects of rising greenhouse gas concentrations, it has been unclear why global surface temperatures did not rise between 1998 and 2008. Data for global surface temperature indicate little warming between 1998 and 2008. Furthermore, global surface temperature declined 0.2C between 2005 and 2008. This seeming disconnect may be one reason why the public is increasingly sceptical about anthropogenic climate change.

See, it's not warming and we don't know why! Trouble is, that's not an actual paragraph from the paper. It's been constructed by taking the first sentence of the abstract, the first and second sentence of the body of the paper and the fourth sentence of the body of the paper. If you look at the bits that they left out, you'll see why. First, the rest of the abstract:

We find that this hiatus in warming coincides with a period of little increase
in the sum of anthropogenic and natural forcings. Declining solar
insolation as part of a normal eleven-year cycle, and a cyclical
change from an El Nino to a La Nina dominate our measure of
anthropogenic effects because rapid growth in short-lived sulfur
emissions partially offsets rising greenhouse gas concentrations.
As such, we find that recent global temperature records are consistent
with the existing understanding of the relationship among
global surface temperature, internal variability, and radiative
forcing, which includes anthropogenic factors with well known
warming and cooling effects.

Gee, their conclusion is the opposite of what Cut and Paste implied. And here's the sentence they snipped from the body of the paper:

Although temperature increases in 2009 and 2010, the lack of a clear increase
in global surface temperature between 1998 and 2008 (1),
combined with rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and
other greenhouse gases, prompts some popular commentators
(2, 3) to doubt the existing understanding of the relationship
among radiative forcing, internal variability, and global surface

Dear Cut and Paste, although you can cut out mentions of temperature increases, it does not mean that temperatures have not increased. Can I also suggest that you could have made your argument more strongly and just as dishonestly by quoting Gillard like this?

The science is telling us do not cut carbon pollution. Average temperatures around Australia could increase by .2C by 2070.

See also: Joe Romm on the paper by Kaufman et al.

More like this

People who think that this sort of quite-splicing is some sort of useful way to study science are beyond the reach of reasoned argument.

Mockery might be a better idea. Using the methodology of Cut And Paste As The Australian Does It™, we can obtain the following, um, quotes:

> Heil Hitler!  -- Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

> I never got a Nobel Prize.  -- Tom McClintock

> ICSC and its affiliates avoid opposition to corporate commercial interests. We are endeavoring to encourage public policy based on vested commercial and other interests.  -- Tom Harris

Though some words are, well, still best quoted verbatim.

-- frank

> We find that this hiatus in warming coincides with a period of little increase in the sum of anthropogenic and natural forcings.

Which indicates that our understanding of what actually drives climate is quite decent. Oh, wait, they said that:

> As such, we find that recent global temperature records are consistent with the existing understanding of the relationship among global surface temperature, internal variability, and radiative forcing, which includes anthropogenic factors with well known warming and cooling effects.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

An anymouse denier over at Desmogblog mentioned on Mon, 2011-07-04 at 11:15 that this paper had been embargoed 'until 8PM GMT (12PM PDT) today, and we have an advance copy thanks to Dr. Benny Peiser.'

He then produced an even more extreme cut and paste job.

If true should not Peiser be censured for such conduct?

I notice that the Australian also describes the recent scandal in England as a "Fleet Street shame over phone hacking".

(1) The Headquarters are not in Fleet St. Murdoch moved them to Wapping.
(2) Why didn't the Australian headline it as a "News limited" scandal?

What a shocking news organisation.

Climate scientists truly have no freaking idea about the basics of PR and managing their messages. This paper virtually legitimises the denialist 'the cooling has stopped' meme, where they cherry pick 1998 and 2008 temps and draw a straight line between them. I thought we're supposed to be looking at statistically significant trends? And taking ocean warming into account as well? And trying to be consistent in the message - this decade is hotter than the last, which was hotter than the one before that, and here is the physics to explain why. This paper, well meant though it may be, just muddies the waters.

Now I've looked at Joe Romm's post and I see he's more comprehensively covered this whinge. What Joe said, then.

Not that this excuses 'Cut and Paste'. What a waste of dead trees that lot are.

I remember a "quote" in a book I found many years ago that made amazing use of ellipses:

"The...speed of" -Albert Einstein

By Berbalang (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

> This paper virtually legitimises the denialist 'the cooling has stopped' meme, where they cherry pick 1998 and 2008 temps and draw a straight line between them.

I saw someone argue that they were perhaps attempting to point out that even the argument via extreme cherrypick isn't valid...but you're right that they still don't understand "PR" and how their work will be pressganged into denialist service.

By Lotharsson (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

One of the problems with Kaufmann et al (as far as the PR angle goes) might be the fact that none of the authors is primarily a scientist. The background of each is mainly economics, not climatology. Having someone with more expertise in climate modeling and atmospheric physics might have helped them avoid some of the quirks like the unfortunate start and end years, and maybe the rest of the heat budget (in particular the oceans) might not have been ignored.

By Robert Murphy (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

Just sent this one off to a friend, former editor/reporter, and now journalism professor. Something tells me this might be turning up in his courses at some point as an example of how not to do journalism.

People willing to act like this are beyond shame. We need to move beyond being simply willing to denounce their errors. Politics is about the use of power, and we're naive to think that the people with lots to gain financially from AGW are going to behave like a debating society.

By Jeffrey Davis (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

Time for another letter to the editor......

The abuse of power by media organisations is no more better illustrated by the revelations emanating from the phone hacking scandal in the UK. Cut and Paste is an example of a relentless campaign to manipulate public opinion on a range of conservative issues including climate change. It has a long track record of effectively treating its readers as fools.

By Conspirator (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

"The...speed of"

Actually, that's a real quote.

Apparently he was stoned, or maybe having a bad trip while dictating his manuscript.

By Ezzthetic (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

Meanwhile, back in London, fossil science journalists at Daily Telegraph Delingpolytechnic have lowered the syntactic boom on the greatest non-living Australian , a three ton former wombat:

"Scientists believe the species died out because of the arrival of the first indigenous people or climate change, or a combination of the two."

When will the last non-indigenous Australian press baron depart our shores?

By russellseitz (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

Not at all surprising, especially in light of their recent editorial:

"Regular readers of this newspaper will be aware of our... deceptive manipulation of public discourse and... distorting emphasis... peddled to a deliberately misinformed readership."

Australian Media seems to be getting more extreme in it's support of Denialism, Mockery got a decent visual quote on the Channel 7 news this (thurs.)morning.

One of my supervisors just got interviewed for a story that's supposed to run Monday in The Australian regarding the implications of the carbon tax for health of the Great Barrier Reef. I can only imagine how they're going to butcher it.

@7 and 15,
The speed of light is, of course, variable; it's the speed of light in a vacuum which is not.

You need to do a better job of cherry-picking! ;)

By Douglas McClean (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

Well, Douglas, unlike journalists at The Australian, they're new to it. They'll improve with practice.

By David Irving(n… (not verified) on 06 Jul 2011 #permalink

I don't suppose it makes any difference, but I don't read The Australian any more. Their relentless barrow pushing is boring. I still buy The Weekend Australian, and do the puzzle page (and read the health bites). However, I'm going to switch to The West Australian, as it has better AFL coverage anyway, and a reasonable puzzle page.

I used to write letters to the editor at the Oz, but after a while I didn't feel comfortable about some of the people I was sharing a page with.

By John Brookes (not verified) on 07 Jul 2011 #permalink

It seems that the News of the World is to be shutdown immediately by Murdoch to try to contain the damage of the phone tapping scandals. Murdoch is very much on the back foot right now and things could get much worse if the scandals spread further than News of the World. Maybe it's a good time to pile on the pressure.

From the snippets I've read, some of the phone tapping stuff is absolutely disgraceful including tapping the phones of the families of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and hacking the voice mail of a murdered school girl.

John at 22, you will be no better off with The West - they run Paul Murray most Saturdays. He says the climate science is beyond him so it must be wrong, and recently called academics who signed a letter calling for Monckton's lecture at Notre Dame University to be cancelled "a bunch of dills". And the letters, don't get me started on the letters. You want a good weekend newspaper? Try The Guardian Weekly....

V Infernalis @ 18: seriously, if your supervisor isn't aware, you need to warn them of the kind of treatment they can expect from the Oz - especially the personal attacks if they dispute the Oz' version of what they said.

By James Haughton (not verified) on 08 Jul 2011 #permalink

James @ 26: Surprisingly (to me, at least), he was unaware of this blog and the ongoing "War on Science" series. I sent him a link to this post right after he did the interview. As I said, it will be interesting to see what a hash The Australian makes of it tomorrow.

Stephen Brook was the representative from The Australian on Radio National last night, which also included some excellent contributors from the UK press, among them a bloke who was Alastair Campbell's underling during the latter's work for Tony Blair.
The Australian copped an absolute caning from a couple of callers. Stephen Brook appeared to be in denial over the damage The Australian has suffered to its credibility as a result of Murdoch's overt politicisation of his media. He had the hide to cast aspersions on Bob Brown's motivations.

The guys from the UK had some very interesting things to say about what lies beyond the obvious criminal acts committed by Murdoch's people in the UK - their manipulation and control of UK politicians and police was something I hadn't really thought about, but that's what's at the bottom of this.

By Vince whirlwind (not verified) on 12 Jul 2011 #permalink

Well its not quote doctoring but the logic is twisted.
[So Bob, do you really want to save the planet?](…)

Am I correct in thinking that if The OZ argues that because Bob Brown believes the science in the main ICP report then he MUST believe in CCS (labeled as "feasible" in the mitigation strategies report), that this in turn means that The OZ, which does not believe in the science in the ICP main report MUST NOT believe CCS is feasible?

Surely, they wouldn't want to have it both ways now?