Insert “swindle” joke here.

March 11th, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, climate change | 152 Comments »

On Thursday night, Channel 4 broadcast what it described as a “controversial documentary”. It was essentially the same rather elderly climate denialist arguments that have been seen many times before – and assessed, and refuted – but packaged up with a bit of drama, as if they were new and unheard of.

That wasn’t the only problem with it.

Climate scientist ‘duped to deny global warming’
Ben Goldacre and David Adam
Sunday March 11, 2007
The Observer

Annoyingly this got very badly cut for space in the paper. Link above is to the paper’s version, pasted here is the last version me and David saw, with lots more quotes from Wunsch. There’s excellent coverage in the Independent below too.

A leading US climate scientist is considering legal action after he says he
was “duped” into appearing in a “misleading” Channel Four documentary,
which claimed that man-made global warming is a myth.

Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at MIT, said the film, The
Great Global Warming Swindle, was “grossly distorted” and “as close to pure
propaganda as anything since World War Two”.

He says his comments in the film, screened on Thursday night, were taken
out of context and that he was misrepresented. He also says that the
project was misrepresented to him by the film makers, and that he would not
have agreed to participate if he had known what it was to be called, or
that it would argue that man-made global warming was not a serious threat.
“I thought they were trying to educate the public about the complexities of
climate change,” he said. “This seems like a deliberate attempt to exploit
someone who is on the other side of the issue.”

He has demanded that his comments are removed from the program, and says
that Channel Four “owes an apology to its viewers”. He is also considering
legal action and a complaint to Ofcom, the broadcasters regulator.

The film was made by Martin Durkin. In 1997, Mr Durkin produced a similar
series for Channel Four called Against Nature, which attacked many of the
claims of the environmental movement, and characterised them as comparable
to Nazis.

Channel Four was forced in 1998 to broadcast a lengthy apology after
several interviewees complained that they had been deceived . The
Independent Television Commission (now part of Ofcom) upheld the complaint
and found that “the views of the four complainants, as made clear to the
interviewer, had been distorted by selective editing”, and that they had
been “misled as to the content and purpose of the programmes when they
agreed to take part.”

Professor Wunsch did not see Thursday’s program before it was broadcast,
and watched it only after colleagues in the UK contacted him with their
concerns. “The company I keep in this film makes me very uncomfortable,” he
said. “Why Me? I was duped. Perhaps my English colleagues might have
recognised Martin Durkin’s name and said no. I didn’t recognise the name.”


Martin Durkin

The film claimed that the role of human emissions in climate change has
been exaggerated, and that changes in the sun and cosmic rays could be to
blame instead — claims that have been repeatedly discussed and rejected by
climate scientists. In February, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change said that a sharp rise in temperatures seen in the twentieth
century was “very likely” to be caused by human activity.

The film introduced Professor Wunsch by describing his current and previous
academic affiliations. He was then shown talking about how the oceans
release carbon dioxide as they warm.

He told the Observer: “I explained that warming the ocean was damaging
because it will release more carbon dioxide. They used it to claim that
carbon dioxide is all natural.” He added: “I could forgive someone not
understanding the issues. This seems like a deliberate attempt to exploit
someone.”

“We should be trying to explain to the public what we do and do not
understand. I feel my time was wasted, the public were misled, and an
opportunity was kicked away.”

Martin Durkin said: “Carl Wunsch was most certainly not “duped” into
appearing in the film, as is perfectly clear from our correspondence with
him. Nor are his comments taken out of context. His interview, as used in
the programme, perfectly accurately represents what he said.”

Channel 4 said: “The film was a polemic that drew together the well
documented views of a number of respected scientists. We feel it is
important that all sides of the debate are aired. If one of the scientists
featured now has concerns about his contribution, we will look into it in
the normal way.”


Resources:

Now to me, this is a rather interesting story from a public understanding of science perspective, because what defines Wunsch is that he is a man who has always been critical of hysteria on both sides of the debate, specifically criticising, for example, that slightly childish BBC program where the world froze over as a result of the evils of mankind. He is somebody who openly and honestly questions certainty and hysteria, whilst still clearly coming down on the side of man made climate change, but his very sceptical and critical approach to the evidence has been, as far as I can see, hijacked, to portray him as someone who is a friend of the climate “sceptics”, “dissidents”, or “denialists”.

So. Realclimate.org is always a good resource on climate stuff, and written by proper climate scientists.

Here they specifically address the rather elderly claims in The Great Global Warming Swindle:

www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/swindled/

And here are a couple of more general guides to arguing with a climate sceptic, that cover the same ground:

gristmill.grist.org/skeptics

illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/how-to-talk-to-global-warming-sceptic.html

If you prefer books, Mark Maslin’s Global Warming – A Very Short Introduction is also very good, explains the science, and specifically addresses the climate sceptics claims.

The Independent Did It Very Well

Climate change: An inconvenient truth… for C4
This expert in oceanography quoted in last week’s debunking of the Gore green theory says he was ‘seriously misrepresented’
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Published: 11 March 2007

It was the television programme that set out to show that most of the world’s climate scientists are misleading us when they say humanity is heating up the Earth by emitting carbon dioxide. And The Great Global Warming Swindle, screened by Channel 4 on Thursday night, convinced many viewers that it is indeed untrue that the gas is to blame for global warming.

But now the programme – and the channel – is facing a serious challenge to its own credibility after one of the most distinguished scientists that it featured said his views had been “grossly distorted” by the film, and made it clear that he believed human pollution did warm the climate.

Professor Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said he had been “completely misrepresented” by the programme, and “totally misled” on its content. He added that he is considering making a formal complaint.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: “The film was a polemic that drew together the well-documented views of a number of respected scientists to reach the same conclusions. This is a controversial film but we feel that it is important that all sides of the debate are aired. If one of the contributors has concerns about his contribution we will look into that.”

Any complaint would provoke a crisis at Channel 4, now recovering from the Jade Goody Big Brother storm. It had to make a rare public apology after the Independent Television Commission convicted previous programmes on environmental issues by the same film-maker, Martin Durkin, of similar offences – and is already facing questions on why it accepted another programme from him.

The commission found that the editing of interviews with four contributors to a series called Against Nature had “distorted or misrepresented their known views”.

Professor Wunsch said: “I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a programme about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the programme, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled.”

When told what the commission had found, he said: “That is what happened to me.” He said he believes it is “an almost inescapable conclusion” that “if man adds excess CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm”.

He went on: “The movie was terrible propaganda. It is characteristic of propaganda that you take an area where there is legitimate dispute and you claim straight out that people who disagree with you are swindlers. That is what the film does in any area where some things are subject to argument.”

Mr Durkin last night said that Professor Wunsch was “most certainly not duped into appearing into the programme” and that it “had not in any way misrepresented what he said”.

Before the programme was shown, the IoS asked Channel 4 why it had commissioned another film from Mr Durkin and, further, whether it was making any special checks on its accuracy.

A spokesman said the programme made by Mr Durkin for which it had had to apologise was a decade old, adding: “We treat Martin as any other film-maker.”

* David Cameron will tomorrow unveil three schemes to tax air travel in order to combat global warming. He is to consult on whether to impose VAT or fuel duty on domestic flights, institute a flight tax targeted at the most polluting engines, or to set up a “green miles scheme” to tax frequent flyers at a higher rate. The revenue raised would be used for tax cuts to help families.

The cold, hard facts about global warming

What do most scientists believe caused global warming?

The vast majority are convinced it is human emissions of carbon dioxide. It was established scientifically 180 years ago – and has never been seriously disputed – that natural levels of the gas given off by decaying vegetation and the oceans help to keep the Earth warm; without it, and other natural greenhouse gases, the planet would be some 20C colder and we would freeze. Adding even the so far relatively small amounts from human activities makes us warmer.

Has the world warmed before?

Yes, and big warmings over prehistoric times were not started by increasing CO2 levels; changes in solar activity are more likely. Levels of the gas started rising some 800 years into the warming, but then probably reinforced it, making it bigger and longer. Temperature and CO2 are interdependent; when one goes up the other follows. This time it is different because vast amounts of the gas are being artificially put into the atmosphere by humans.

What about more recent history?

There was a warm period in Europe in the Middle Ages, again probably caused by solar activity, but it does not seem to have been a worldwide phenomenon, although records are scanty.

So is the sun responsible now?

Some sceptics say so and probably it played the major role until quite recently. But over the past three decades, solar activity has scarcely risen, while temperatures have shot up – a fact disguised in the film. What has gone up is CO2 and even top sceptic Nigel Lawson admits it is “highly likely” that the gas has “played a significant part” in global warming this century.


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152 Responses



  1. standing_here said,

    March 11, 2007 at 2:26 am

    If only someone could have forseen this happening.
    Oh.
    Right.

  2. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 3:02 am

    Not the only thing that Durkin misrepresented:

    [IMG]http://img132.imageshack.us/img132/3378/fredsingerpp9.png[/IMG]

    – Fred Singer was never the ‘Director of the National Weather Service’.

    The ‘Departments’ that a number of the other sceptic contributors are supposedly affiliated to similarly don’t exist….

  3. jackpt said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:24 am

    One of the things that strikes me about documentaries such as this is that they’ve become bargain bucket controversy. What I mean by this is that the people they tend to focus on are often controversial for being controversial, so prior to a programme being broadcast people in the know tend to sigh or snigger. This is summed up by something a someone religious said to me prior to a recent Ron Liddle documentary, “God, Ron Liddle, couldn’t they have gotten someone good” (before talking about some Anglican vicar, I forget the name). I think they were right and that documentaries that tend to select controversialists often choose those that make the right noises but have little depth. Much like “The trouble with atheism” people will “provoked” (much as a flamebait, or troll) and then forget about it. I believe this could be solved by speaking to experts that hold the consensus opinion and asking who they strongly disagree with but respect. They need to reach further than the Liddle-Durkin bargain bucket.

    The commissioning process must be very much like the way the magazine The Ironic Review worked. You can watch a little about it here.

  4. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:47 am

    .. and for Wunsch’s true opinions on global warming:

    www.royalsoc.ac.uk/page.asp?id=4688&tip=1

  5. Daniel Rutter said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:28 am

    The Independent piece is good, but who wrote the headline?

    WTF is this “Gore green theory” they’re talking about? I wasn’t aware that Al Gore came up with it, or indeed that you had to be “green” to believe it…

  6. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 8:19 am

    I don’t remember the film being referred to as “polemic” prior to broadcast. Wasn’t it advertised as the “truth about global warming”?
    Out of interest what happened to the orignal article on badscience?

  7. Roger Macy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 9:10 am

    “The Independent did it well”
    The Independent on SUNDAY might have done it well, but all I read in the Independent was Dominic Lawson. He might do a useful job in taking contrary views against received opinion but here he’s mostly wrong. Perhaps some scientifically literate writers should take objection to some of the more facile headlines that appear in that paper and elsewhere about every weather phenomenon being caused by ‘global warming’ (as if it were itself a cauaive agent) before we give too much ammunition to the debunkers.

  8. BobP said,

    March 11, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Here’s a decent deconstruction of the program:
    inthegreen.typepad.com/blog/2007/03/deconstructing_.html

  9. Toby Hopkins said,

    March 11, 2007 at 10:29 am

    In response to Daniel Rutter (4) – a rather worrying number of people who claim to be knowledgeable about the global warming debate attribute Al Gore with “Expert” status – also claiming his has performed extensive research. Not that people supporting this very strong scientific theory is a bad thing, but doing so without really understanding why is…no – knowing this site I wont draw a parallel with nutritionists.

  10. Bendy McBend said,

    March 11, 2007 at 11:31 am

    #3, that Royal Society article from Wunsch doesn’t particularly help to unmuddy the waters. In summary: the climate is known to have varied wildly, sometimes on a scale of decades, and it is very hard to isolate human contributions to this variation. Oh, and computer models are no help either. Compare this with the mainstream position: the science now firmly points to anthropic warming. Wunsch is clearly at odds with that position, holding that in all honesty the science could not possibly give such an indication.

    He ends with an appeal to precaution (i.e. given almost total uncertainty, we should assume action to be less risky than inaction), saying that policy has to be guided by probabilities, not certainties – but his own position doesn’t even hold much hope of assigning meaningful probabilities to climate predictions, let alone certainties. So I’m not sure where this leaves us. On a “scepticism scale” from 0 (Al Gore) to 99 (David Bellamy), where do we put Wunsch? He seems bound by his intellect to making sceptical noises, but too scared of the professional/public reaction to take an unambiguous position. Can’t say I blame him.

    There are undeniably rich opportunites for ad hominem attacks on the C4 documentary, yes. But does that mean every point it made can be dismissed out of hand? Of course not. It made at least one good point: there is clearly such a thing as an “environmental journalist”, Dominic Lawson being a fine example, who take every apparent weather anomaly as a sign of the coming apocalypse, usually without any scientific basis – the impeccable realclimate.org also complains about this tendency. This is a real problem because pubilc policy ultimately will not be guided directly by science, but by politicians’ fear of the voters, and the voters will be guided by years of steady reinforcement from journalists.

  11. Bendy McBend said,

    March 11, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Eep, I got that last bit muddled! Dominic Lawson is NOT a fine example of that kind of journalist. He tends more to the David Bellamy end of the scale.

  12. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Bendy McBend wrote

    “But does that mean every point it made can be dismissed out of hand? Of course not.”

    Well David Irving probably doesn’t get every fact about Nazi Germany wrong- just all the important ones. This programme accused the entire scientific community of lying (and being involved in a global conspiricy against humanity). As it is clearly deliberately distorted evidence I think it’s quite reasonable to question the whole thing. Most of the public that it was aimed at won’t have the tools or the access to information to question what was said – and more than one has said “the answer must be somewhere in the middle”.

    Durkin has deliberately distorted a Nasa graph to make his point – this might be ‘artistic license’ in the world of humanities but in the scientific world this activity is considered fraudulent.

    img103.imageshack.us/img103/6634/sdodgygraphgm3.jpg

    I’ve commented more fully on this on Ben’s forum:

    tinyurl.com/2mo7cl

    Incidentally I should add that these views are my own – not Ben’s and I’m quite happy to defend them should Durkin want to sue for libel – contact details available on request…

  13. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Bendy you make a good point that “pubilc policy ultimately will not be guided directly by science, but by politicians’ fear of the voters”. So, as politicians cannot be trusted to act on scientific advice, the best solution would be to have a government where the big decisions are made by an unelected body unanswerable to the people. Scientific totalitarianism therefore would be the ideal form of government. Unfortunately I can’t see it catching on.

  14. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    “So, as politicians cannot be trusted to act on scientific advice, the best solution would be to have a government where the big decisions are made by an unelected body unanswerable to the people. Scientific totalitarianism therefore would be the ideal form of government.”

    I first assumed that this is tongue-in-cheek. But following your attempt to use the bell curve to show that people were too stupid to understand the “truth”, I’m not so sure.

    If it wasn’t in jest, your search for the political extremism on the forum site and comments to Goldacre’s previous blog entry www.badscience.net/?p=381 (which for some reason has been removed from the front page) would have been better served by simply looking in a mirror. Many a true word said in jest, though… As they say, and what it illustrates are the problems environmentalists have in actually convincing people that their best interests are not served by the fruits of modern economies and technologies. They can’t, but it’s not because people are stupid – it’s because people aren’t stupid. The recent green conversion of the mainstream political parties, for example, only indicates that they are as out of touch as environmentalists are – and that they share Gimpy’s dim view of the public too.

    The fact that people don’t see it Gimpy’s way does not give him cause to reflect on why he might be wrong, but evidence that they are the problem. Misanthropy.

  15. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    Bendy you make a good point that “pubilc policy ultimately will not be guided directly by science, but by politicians’ fear of the voters”.

    —–

    Which is why vested interests such as the Oil, Tabacco, and Commercial Christianity lobbies work so hard to spread the illusion of scientific controversy about Environmental Tabacco Smoke, Global Warming and Creationism. They deliberately try to undermine the democratic process to achieve their ends – and science is directly in the firing line.

    Gimpy was joking of course – what we need to do is to challenge these deliberate attacks on science in the defence of democracy.

  16. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    EssTee I’m sorry I forgot to add the ;) which would have indicated the tongue-in-cheek nature of my comment.
    I won’t rise to your bait about the bell curve or extremist politics. Can we at least agree that politicians in general tend to ignore scientific advice unless it aids their attempts to get re-elected. Going completely off topic I’ll use the example where the funds lost by the DTI in the bailout of failing car companies (who are failing partly due to a lack of innovation) is taken from research councils who fund innovative cutting edge research. The DTI decided that the short term effect of appearing to care about the plight of industry takes precedence over the long term benefits of scientific progress.

  17. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Deano, I’m afraid scientists need to do a bit more than attack the lobbyists, nutrionists, creationists, etc. The strategies used by these groups use the scientific ignorance of the general public to fuel fear and spread confusion. What we need is science and the phillosophy of science to be taught in schools from a very young age. Despite what politicians claim the scientific knowledge of first year university science students is pretty woeful on average in my experience. These are people who have studied science at A level or what ever. God knows what your average humanities student knows about science.

  18. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    “Can we at least agree that politicians in general tend to ignore scientific advice unless it aids their attempts to get re-elected.”

    I think TGGWS did a good job of showing exactly how politicians have used science to further their agenda, and create funds so that research can strengthen that position. But so what? It was ever thus, and it was “political motivation” which put man on the moon, and it was “political motivation” which has created the enourmous number of instutions which continue to innovate to improve our lives. There always has been, and there always will be, political involvement in science. Without that, science would still be the preserve of aristocratic hobbiests, not the major transformative dynamic behind society’s progress over the last 200 years.

    It’s only a problem when politicians “do what they need to do to get re-elected” when politicians don’t have a coherent point of principle from which they campaign. The problem there then, is not “the way politicians abuse science”, but political exhaustion. Environmentalism also thrives in such an atmosphere of disorientation. As we can see, green politics has become louder as the three main parties have drawn so close together that there’s no point of principle which distinguishes them. I wonder how different green politics are. (Actually I don’t, they’re pretty much the same).

  19. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    “It’s only a problem when politicians “do what they need to do to get re-elected” when politicians don’t have a coherent point of principle from which they campaign.”
    When was the last time a politican campaigned on a coherent point of principle? The only organisations that do that these days are those on the extremes of right and left politics who tend to focus on single issues. I would argue that the Green Party are a excellent example of a party with a coherent point of principle (even if the execution of that principle is unworkable).
    Having said that I find the attitudes of politicians and individuals who argue for greenhouse gas decreases then refuse to back nuclear energy or wind farms on a point of principle ridiculous.

  20. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    “When was the last time a politican campaigned on a coherent point of principle? The only organisations that do that these days are those on the extremes of right and left politics who tend to focus on single issues.”

    Hmmm. Yo useem very confused. If left/right politics was about “single issue politics”, then they wouldn’t be called “left” and “right”, they would be called “save the whales”, or “stop global warming now”. The GP don’t have any meaningful political point of principle, and that why you get elemnts of the old right, and the old left shouting about the dangers of atomic power, and people convinced of their own liberal and progressive credentials arguing for authoritarian and retrogressive policies.

  21. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    EssTee I would appreciate a less aggressive tone. I used the phrase “extremes of right and left” for simplicity. Can you name any centrist politician campaigning on a point of principle?

  22. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    “Can you name any centrist politician campaigning on a point of principle?”

    Nope. Hence my comments about a “political crisis”.

    As for your comments about agressiveness. I’m not being agressive. The fact of the matter is that I can only put things bluntly because you really are terribly confused and poorly informed, yet this hasn’t stopped you littering the site, and no doubt others, with your very strong opinions, and innuendo about the film maker.

  23. Ambrielle said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    EssTee, I find your attitude confusing and yes, aggressive. This film maker has been shown to behave misleadingly and dishonestly in the past. There is now evidence that he is up to the same tricks. Time will tell if this is true.
    I also find Gimpy’s comments fair and reasonable. I don’t understand why you take the comment that the majority of the public are poorly educated in scientific thinking and analysis to be an insult. It is the truth.

  24. Squander Two said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    As I recall, Wunsch was quoted in the show as saying that the ocean’s, being huge, take a long time — perhaps hundreds of years — to change temperature, and so it is probably wrong to claim that any increase in the oceans’ temperature is due to anything that’s happened in the last fifty years. Does Wunsch believe that? If so, what’s the problem?

    I take issue with scientists who object that their findings might be combined with someone else’s findings. Of course they might; that’s the nature of knowledge. Michael Crichton explicitly made the point that a lot of the scientists whose work he has quoted to support his belief that global warming is not anthropogenic disagree with him, but that doesn’t make him wrong: it is perfectly good science to theorise that another scientist’s findings don’t mean what he thinks they mean. The obvious example, as ever, is Einstein and quantum mechanics: he may have been wrong when he said that the data didn’t overturn determinism or refute relativity, but that doesn’t mean he was a bad scientist.

    If Wunsch’s comments have been edited to make it look like he said something other than what he really said, that is a Bad Thing, for which Durkin should be hauled over the coals. If Wunsch’s comments have been reported accurately but he doesn’t like the conclusions that Durkin and others have drawn from them or the other scientists’ other theories with which his have been combined, then Durkin has done nothing wrong and Wunsch needs to get over himself.

    Returning to Einstein… He had all sorts of good reasons to object to the use of his discoveries in creating the atom bomb, but none of those reasons meant that the bomb didn’t work.

  25. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    “This film maker has been shown to behave misleadingly and dishonestly in the past. There is now evidence that he is up to the same tricks.”

    If this is true – and i suspend judgement – then it would be easy to show it to be the case, and there would be no need to resort to the levels of innuendo that Gimpy, Goldacre, and greens generally have.

    I’m not all that convinced that the ITC report satisfies the argument that Durkin has been dishonest in the past. The allegations made against him were about political, not scientific comments, there is no record of how the ITC reached its decision, and the comments about its decision seem to make rather more of it than the ITC do.

    You may find it “fair and reasonable” argue that the public are easily mislead by Durkin. I think that’s wishful thinking. If that means I’m “agressive”, it’s not me who is being irrational.

  26. Squander Two said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Gimpy,

    > What we need is science and the phillosophy of science to be taught in schools from a very young age.

    Absolutely, yes. Especially the philosophy of science. All too many people, even those who can do a fair bit of science, have no idea about the relationship between science and truth.

    Ben,

    > It was essentially the same rather elderly climate denialist arguments …

    It’s a sad day when we see the word “denialist” used on this site to describe sceptics. It’s a loaded word, designed to bypass debate. For instance, Ben, you are an MMR-autism denialist. See how that sounds? It has a built-in implication that that which is denied is probably true and that people who deny it are probably extremists.

  27. jackpt said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    I think you’re being aggressive too EssTee.

  28. jackpt said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    It’s a sad day when we see the word “denialist” used on this site to describe sceptics. It’s a loaded word, designed to bypass debate. For instance, Ben, you are an MMR-autism denialist. See how that sounds? It has a built-in implication that that which is denied is probably true and that people who deny it are probably extremists.

    It’s not being used to describe sceptics, it’s being used to refer to people that cling to a position despite the consensus being against them. Which is just a useful descriptor. So given its usage it’s very unlikely that Ben would be called an MMR-autism denialist by anyone other than the deluded people that take the position that there’s a link.

  29. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    “I think you’re being aggressive too EssTee.”

    Don’t like robust arguments which criticise your POV? Then don’t engage in conversations with people about controversial subjects, especially on the internet.

  30. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    “It’s not being used to describe sceptics, it’s being used to refer to people that cling to a position despite the consensus being against them.”

    Hmm. What consensus? As the film adequately demonstrated, the IPCC is the only approximation of a consensus, but includes non-specialists, non-scientists, and is a principally a political institution.

    “Consensus” is of no value to science, on the contrary.

  31. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    “but includes non-specialists, non-scientists, and is a principally a political institution….”

    Forgot to add:

    And includes people who *explicitly* do not agree with the consensus position.

  32. jackpt said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    You say:

    Hmm. What consensus? As the film adequately demonstrated, the IPCC is the only approximation of a consensus, but includes non-specialists, non-scientists, and is a principally a political institution.

    But then say:

    And includes people who *explicitly* do not agree with the consensus position.

    This about sums it up. Don’t expect a reply from me.

  33. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    “This about sums it up. Don’t expect a reply from me.”

    Hmm. yeah, well, that is one, isn’t it. So it’s as much an oxymoron as a “consensus” between people who disagree with one another.

    You’ve obviously not watched the film.

  34. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    “Hmm. What consensus? As the film adequately demonstrated, the IPCC is the only approximation of a consensus, but includes non-specialists, non-scientists, and is a principally a political institution.”

    I refer EssTee to the following 2004 Science article www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686. This article sorts all the peer reviewed literature on climate change between 1993 and 2003 based on their agreement, disagreement or neutral view on anthropogenic climate change. 75% agree it does, 25% take no position and 0% disagree. That is remarkable.

    If EssTee doesn’t have access to Science I shall quote the conclusions to EssTee
    “This analysis shows that scientists publishing in the peer-reviewed literature agree with IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and the public statements of their professional societies. Politicians, economists, journalists, and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement, or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.

    The scientific consensus might, of course, be wrong. If the history of science teaches anything, it is humility, and no one can be faulted for failing to act on what is not known. But our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it.

    Many details about climate interactions are not well understood, and there are ample grounds for continued research to provide a better basis for understanding climate dynamics. The question of what to do about climate change is also still open. But there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Climate scientists have repeatedly tried to make this clear. It is time for the rest of us to listen.”

  35. gruff said,

    March 11, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    #29

    “Don’t like robust arguments which criticise your POV? Then don’t engage in conversations with people about controversial subjects, especially on the internet.”

    No, that’s rubbish. You can argue robustly without making jibes. And even if it happens elsewhere, that doesn’t make it right.

  36. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    “If this is true – and i suspend judgement – then it would be easy to show it to be the case, and there would be no need to resort to the levels of innuendo that Gimpy, Goldacre, and greens generally have.”

    Well it is easy to show this to be the case:

    This comparison of the original Nasa graph – and that presented by Durkin.

    This is not ‘innuendo’ it’s a direct challenge that Durkin has distorted scientific data to promote his political point of view.

    I’ve written to Channel 4 – and invited him to defend this – perhaps you’d like to have a go in his absence??

    img103.imageshack.us/img103/6634/sdodgygraphgm3.jpg

    (Note the axes are aligned – if Durkin hadn’ t distorted the graph the traces would overlap)…

    ;)

  37. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Umm Deano the zero points on that graph don’t align. Are you sure that Durkin’s data was from the Nasa graph? I ask in the interests of fairness and balance.

  38. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 6:56 pm

    “No, that’s rubbish. You can argue robustly without making jibes. And even if it happens elsewhere, that doesn’t make it right.”

    If saying “you appear confused” is a “jibe”, then god help us, we’re all doomed. DOOOOMED, I TELL YOU, DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMED.

  39. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    “I refer EssTee to the following 2004 Science article”

    Interpreting the abstracts from journal articles (on a variety of different subjects, incidentally) is not the same thing as measuring a consensus.

  40. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Er you see the label ‘Nasa’ on the graph? – here’s the original:

    img99.imageshack.us/img99/1541/capturefn7.jpg

    and here’s where I got the ‘Nasa’ graph:

    data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/

    data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A.lrg.gif

    and the underlying data:

    data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A.txt

    The ‘zero’ points do align (look carefully)

    the Nasa reference point is an average of temperatures from the sixties – years when the average actually hits ‘zero’ are I958 and 1970.

    It doesn’t start at zero – and actually dips down to -0.4 early on – the scale on the Durkin graph doesn’t even go down that far…

    …….

    Hope that helps.. ; )

  41. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    EssTee all the abstracts were linked in ISI with the keywords “climate change”. That asserts relevance to climate change. Abstracts state the conclusions of a paper. If the conclusion of a paper was that climate change was not anthropogenic that would be clearly stated. The Science article looked at how many papers differed from the consensus view that climate change was anthropogenic. If thats not measuring consensus then I don’t know what is.

  42. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Dean’s graph isn’t yet convincing me that the case against Durkin is proved. Nasa produce more than one graph, and it looks to me like the difference between the two might be explained by the use of different averages, and different averaging.

    The TGGWS graph could have been better labelled, and sourced, but I don’t think the arguments made in the film are debunked by producing graphs which show different scales, and averages.

    Why doesn’t Dean apply the same critical appraoch to “An Inconvenient Truth”, I wonder?

  43. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Deano I was just playing Devil’s Advocate. The Durkin data bears only a very limited passing resemblance to the original data. That’s tantamount to fraud.

  44. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    “If thats not measuring consensus then I don’t know what is.”

    A vote is a measurement of consensus.

    So any qualified scientist who didn’t publish a paper effectively gets no vote. Any scientist who published several gets as many again. That’s not a measurement of consensus.

  45. Gimpy said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    “A vote is a measurement of consensus.

    So any qualified scientist who didn’t publish a paper effectively gets no vote. Any scientist who published several gets as many again. That’s not a measurement of consensus. ”

    I’m sorry but that is absolute nonsense.

    OED defintion of consensus

    “Agreement in opinion; the collective unanimous opinion of a number of persons.”

    The point of the article was that there is not a single peer reviewed paper that disputes a anthropogenic contribution to global warming.

    Your attempt to use semantics to deny that there is a scientific consensus on global warming is laughably absurd.

  46. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    “Dean’s graph isn’t yet convincing me that the case against Durkin is proved. Nasa produce more than one graph, and it looks to me like the difference between the two might be explained by the use of different averages, and different averaging.”

    Okay ST – an interesting hypothesis. Come back when you’ve found that ‘different’ graph produced by NASA?

    – and why Durkins graph consistently shows average temperatures 0.4 degrees higher than the than the data – right up until the key date of 1975? this can’t be explained by your ‘averaging hypothesis’.

    In the meant I stand by what I say – Durkin has distorted a graph to aid his ‘polemic’ and and Gimpy says – “The Durkin data bears only a very limited passing resemblance to the original data. That’s tantamount to fraud.”

    Come to think of it you’ve given me an idea – I’ll send Durkin’s graph to Nasa – I think they might be interested…

  47. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 11, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    Squander Two @ 26,

    It’s a sad day when we see the word “denialist” used on this site to describe sceptics.

    A skeptic is someone who demands high standards of supporting evidence before they will accept a given proposition as true for all intents and purposes.

    The difference between skepticism and denial is that someone in denial about a proposition is someone who declares the proposition false or undecided despite a signifigant weight of evidence that it is true. A level of evidence that, for other propositions, they would find more than acceptable to validate their truth.

    For example, I would put it to you that there is considerably stronger evidence for anthropogenic global warming than there is for the big bang / inflationary universe hypothesis. Yet I am sure there are many people who accept the Big Bang who are skeptical about AGW. For the most part, I would not call these people ‘denialists’ because for the average punter on the street it is an unfair judgement – they don’t actually understand all the evidence for each of these hypotheses, and are unable to draw a comparison; instead they are influenced by programs like the (aptly named, for the wrong reasons) ‘Swindle’.

    No, denialists are those who are in a position to review and make sense of the evidence for these hypotheses and yet they will accept the more tentative one whilst rejecting the firmer one. Often, it seems, due to a conflict with their political idealogy.

    There is another class of denialist – the ‘Jam today’ denialist, who publicly denies the truth of a proposition because it is in their short-term personal interest to do so, whilst privately accepting its truth. These are the worst kind. They will deliberately make disingenuous statements, lie and obfuscate the evidence for commercial interest or personal fame.

  48. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    A funny thing… Ben didn’t watch the program before he posted to his blog about it… And David Adam didn’t watch it at all. (According to his blog at commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/david_adam/2007/03/envirocon.html )

    On thursday afternoon, Ben was wondering “who can I trust to tell me the truth”, but by Sunday morning, he and David convinced themselves that they knew enough to share their thoughts on this film.

    But… we still don’t know how Wunsch is supposed to have been wronged.

    Ben has taken down his last blog entry. I wonder why.

  49. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 11, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    what’s been taken down? not wondering who to trust, btw, saying it would be interesting to see an attack on consensus from someone who could be relied on not to distort.

  50. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Your last blog entry is no longer linked to from your front page. Disappeared at about the time you posted this page.

    In it, you say, “I am approaching this entirely as a punter. Call it an experiment: I’ve specifically not double checked all the facts in the documentary.”

    I take it that David Adam (who didn’t watch the film) helped you with all the fact checking?

  51. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 11, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    Erm….EssTee, I can see that blog entry on the front page of www.badscience.net as clear as day. It’s beneath ‘Laugh…I nearly died’. Can’t miss it. Unless your tinfoil hat happened to slip down over your eyes of course! (joke)

  52. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    My mistake then, LG. Point remains however, in just wo days, Ben aquainted himself with the facts sufficiently well to team up with a man who’d not watched the film, and raise the public understanding of the filmby writing an article which says “durkin mislead”, but doesn’t actually go into ANY detail as to how.

    I’d like to know what Wunsch says which has been so altered?

  53. Stu said,

    March 11, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    That blog post definitely disappeared last night. And wasn’t there when I looked again earlier today. It’s certainly back now though. Memes, eh. They have a life all of their own.

  54. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 11, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    How about this for a statement of consensus, since we seem to have descended into a squabble over definitions –

    “A consensus of published climate scientists (by ‘published’ we mean having published at least one piece of peer-reviewed research in a respected scientific journal) have inferred or stated in their published research that human activity is making a substantial contribution to observed global climate change.”

    Now, the question is, are they the only people whose opinions matter?

    Should we consider the silence of unpublished climate scientists to be a vote against the AGW hypothesis? At what point do you qualify to call yourself a ‘climate scientist’ anyway? Surely with no research to point to that paints a different picture to the consensus, your silence doesn’t really count as a ‘no’ vote that we should worry about, does it?

    How about other scientists? How much do we need to worry about what they have to say? Do we have to worry about their silence on the climate issue? Might their silence not simply mean ‘actually, we have nothing to say on this issue – this isn’t our field?’ What if they reject AGW – isn’t worrying about this a little like a doctor prescribing you some medicine, but then you decide not to take it because your dentist tells you that you don’t need it?

    I suppose people who claim that a consensus of published research by climate scientists doesn’t form a scientific consensus on global warming also believe that everyone who doesn’t vote in a general election is voting for us to have no government at all.

  55. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    I think Gherkin, that a definition of consensus must be measured directly, or it doesn’t exist. There is no proxy measure of it. Detecting opinion from publications is frought, as Wunsch says in the film:

    “If I run a complicated model and I do something to it like ugh melt a lot of ice into the ocean and nothing happens, ugh it’s not likely to get printed. But if I run the same model, and I adjust it in such a way that something dramatic happens to the ocean circulation like the heat transport turns off, ugh it will be published. People will say this is very exciting. It will even get picked by the media. So there is a bias, there’s is a very powerful bias within the media, and within the science community itself, toward results which are ugh dramatizable. If Earth freezes over, that’s a much more interesting story than saying well you know it ugh fluctuates around, sometimes the mass flux goes up by 10%, sometimes it goes down by 20%, but eventually it comes back. Well you know, which would you do a story on? That’s what it’s about.”

  56. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    Disappearing blog pages ?

    That’d be the climate illuminati up to their own tricks again then – final proof (as if any was required) of the world-wide conspiracy to the brave band of sceptics,,,???

    In the meantime I’m waiting for someone to come up with a credible challenge to my claim that Durkin distirted NASA data in the graph he used in the programme.

    A bit of hand waving about ‘averages’ and hypothetical ‘secret Nasa graphs’ doesn’t cut the mustard I’m afraid…

  57. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    “A bit of hand waving about ‘averages’ and hypothetical ’secret Nasa graphs’ doesn’t cut the mustard I’m afraid…”

    Gosh, it seems as though I’m facing the inquisition for Durkin’s crimes!!!

    Be patient Dean. Why don’t you write to the production company, and ask them for the data? I merely made the point that the fact that the graph you’ve produced doesn’t math the one in the film isn’t particularly convincing, nor sufficient to write anything off – the film, the arguments contained within it, nor Durkin’s moral character.

    Meanwhile, if it’s graphs you want right here and now, how about you go and have a quick scan through Al Gore’s film – plenty of liberties taken with scientific fact in there.

  58. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 11, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    I think Gherkin, that a definition of consensus must be measured directly, or it doesn’t exist.

    I suspect that you would try to find a definition of consensus that allows you to say “There is no consensus” as a technicality. I think the stakes are a bit high for inaction on this basis.

    I know you will respond in kind and say that the stakes are a bit high for action on the basis of an unclear consensus. But I think we both know which of our positions would receive the most agreement from the climatologists whose ‘consensus’ we are quibbling about.

  59. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 11, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    By the way, EssTee – are you actually Squander Two posting under another ID?

    ST – Squander Two – seemed a bit of a coincidence…..(and it may be nothing more, of course)

  60. EssTee said,

    March 11, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    “I suspect that you would try to find a definition of consensus that allows you to say “There is no consensus” as a technicality. I think the stakes are a bit high for inaction on this basis.”

    Either “consensus” means something, or it doesn’t. If it is important that there is a consensus, and it is meaningful, then it is worthwhile measuring it, don’t you think, rather than speculating as to what a consensus might or might not be? Throwing easily challenged defintions about is never going to satisfy sceptics, nor is it going to squash “denialism”. The fact is that the scientific value of consensus is weak to begin with, nevermind that there is no solid description of the consensus, let alone the size of it. If AGW thesis arguments actually had a concrete consensus to refer to, it might help the argument develop, however, because then there would be some serious parameters on which we might be able to base arguments about policy decisions on. Then anrgy Guardian journalists would be better positioned to say “these people are denialists”.

    “But I think we both know which of our positions would receive the most agreement from the climatologists whose ‘consensus’ we are quibbling about.”

    If that were true, we wouldn’t need a consensus. I beleive that the consensus – if that is what it is – contains many people of views which contradict each other. IE, it is a camp of varying positions, not a principle upon which its members each agree to. A scientist who thinks that man may be responsible for maybe 2% of global warming might be included in the consensus with a scientist who thinks that 100% of global warming is due to human influence, and lumps extreme views in with mainstream, or even sceptical ones. The consensus doesn’t tell you about that difference. In not being defined, it is naturally going to be a huge impediment to making any progress because as soon as anyone criticises this amophous mass of confused arguments, they are accused of herecy. That’s an absurd state of affairs – sceptics are challenged to counter an average of arguments, not any specific one. There’s so much wrong with the idea of consensus that I would need much more time and space than this page can reasonably offer. I’m just not ever going to be moved by the argument that “this many people think it”, or “those people who don’t think it are being paid”, or “those people who disagree are like tobacco companies”, etc, etc, etc. It’s. just. not. science. Concentrate on defining the consensus, not those outside it.

    Nope, I’m not Squander Two. Nor am I Stu, or anyone else with the letters ST in their name. somebody did accuse me of being George Bush once, though.

  61. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    I’ve written to Channel 4, Ofcom and James Hansen at Nasa to get the bottom of the distorted graphs.

    I’d also contact Durkin’s production company if I had contact details – with your contacts in TV perhaps you’ve an idea ST?

    Incidentally until you produce something specific as I have done I’m afraid your suggestion that Gore has taken liberties with scientific fact are little more than innuendo.
    (I could point to one minor error of fact in the film – but since its hardly central I’m not going to bother to mention it – why don’t you go try find it for yourself??)

  62. Deano said,

    March 11, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Incidentally Ben – if you think there is an interesting documentary to be made about ‘cosmic rays and cloud formation’ I think you’d find it as interesting as a programme about why ‘Vitamins Kill Aids’ in a petri dish – and for precisely the same reasons…

  63. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:12 am

    “I’d also contact Durkin’s production company if I had contact details – with your contacts in TV perhaps you’ve an idea ST?”

    They are Wag TV – www.wagtv.com/ though the knowledge is not insder – it’s freely available, and on many news items about it.

    “Incidentally until you produce something specific as I have done I’m afraid your suggestion that Gore has taken liberties with scientific fact are little more than innuendo.”

    I posted two links to exhaustive critques of AIT – at www.johnstonsarchive.net/environment/gore.html and www.cei.org/pages/ait_response-book.cfm

    Why don’t you just focus on the criticism of the graphs used in the film from there.

    “Incidentally Ben – if you think there is an interesting documentary to be made about ‘cosmic rays and cloud formation’ I think you’d find it as interesting as a programme about why ‘Vitamins Kill Aids’ in a petri dish – and for precisely the same reasons…”

    One could make exactly the same statement about the role of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  64. Ambrielle said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:20 am

    EssTee: Argument from Personal Incredulity.

  65. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Ambrielle: argument from F*** all.

  66. TimD said,

    March 12, 2007 at 1:29 am

    ST#52
    “My mistake then, LG. Point remains however, in just wo days, Ben aquainted himself with the facts sufficiently well to team up with a man who’d not watched the film, and raise the public understanding of the filmby writing an article which says “durkin mislead”, but doesn’t actually go into ANY detail as to how.

    I’d like to know what Wunsch says which has been so altered? ”

    I think the point of the article was to highlight the unreliable nature of some of the sources cited within the program, or at least the way in which they may have been presented. This, combined with a track record of similar actions on the part of the director, do not look particularly good for the reliability of the evidence presented in the film. To relate this to a typical scientific example, if a scientist was shown to be so distorting references in a paper as Durkin was in his first effort on this topic was shown to then one/I would hope his professional body would’ve struck him off. And therefore he would’ve had a whole harder time getting his work presented on a similar forum again, and that if it was, it would be thoroughly peer-reviewed in the process.

    ST #65
    “Ambrielle: argument from F*** all.”

    Excellent work supporting the ‘I’m not aggressive in my posts’ stance.

    As a fairly cautious ‘agnostic’ on the subject of global warming (e.g. we should take action but not believe we’re all about to die) I was keen to hear a mixed range of views here. ST’s occasionally incoherent, usually aggressive rants have rather reminded me of Dawkins at his worst. Ironically enough.

  67. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 1:51 am

    “think the point of the article was to highlight the unreliable nature of some of the sources cited within the program, or at least the way in which they may have been presented.”

    So much for science then. My point was that if Ben wants to stop writing about clear cases of science abuse, into the much covered territory of “who can we trust on issue X” (I mean, common, it’s not as if we have to hunt for angry reactions to TGGWS on the Guardians pages) then this is a departure from his “brand”, if you like, into some much murkier territory. This new venture in muck raking suggests to me that Ben isn’t all that confident that scientific understanding is sufficient to help us understand what’s going on.

    “Excellent work supporting the ‘I’m not aggressive in my posts’ stance.”

    It is funny how people only recognise agression when it’s flowing in one direction, but not the other. So for example, Ambrielle’s comment is somehow not agressive. Oh, but I am aggressive for responding?!! I’m not going to pull any punches with comments like that flying in this direction, and I don’t see that I have any duty to treat such shallow invective with any sensitivity.

  68. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 1:54 am

    Oh, and Tim, you didn’t explain how Wunsch was wronged… I’m hoping that you don’t think a single allegation is sufficient for us to have make up our minds about what the other contributors and Durkin were saying? Do you know? Or is it that you’re deferring judgement to a higher power?

  69. TimD said,

    March 12, 2007 at 2:13 am

    “Oh, and Tim, you didn’t explain how Wunsch was wronged…”

    I don’t think that needs much explanation beyond the fact that the person himself thinks that he was wronged/misrepresented? Or am I missing something here? And the veracity of (some of, at least) the other people cited has also been factually called into question (a response to which I haven’t yet seen)…

    I’m seriously trying to not fall on a particular side of the argument. For the sake of gaining a more rounded knowledge of this issue what does anyone make of this analysis of the issue?
    julesandjames.blogspot.com/2006/09/can-we-believe-in-high-climate.html

  70. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 2:27 am

    “I don’t think that needs much explanation beyond the fact that the person himself thinks that he was wronged/misrepresented?”

    And are you really suprised that he feels wronged? Virtually every climate activist in the world has been bombarding the man with statements about what his participation in this film imply. Like many other people who watched it, I am left wondering how the three or four short comments he made during the 90 minutes can have been taken out of context.

    I’m rather less worried about what he feels than what he said. If someone can demonstrate how he was wronged, then I will have some sympathy. Meanwhile, it kind of proves more than there’s some kind of stigma attatched to climate scepticism which prevents scientists talking freely. That’s got to be a bad thing.

    The blog you linked to didn’t seem to be talking about the film. Though it does look like an interesting read., thanks.

  71. TimD said,

    March 12, 2007 at 2:45 am

    “Meanwhile, it kind of proves more than there’s some kind of stigma attatched to climate scepticism which prevents scientists talking freely. That’s got to be a bad thing.”

    No I entirely agree that this issue needs more free and open discussion. I entirely support the notion of a well-informed and non-polemical documentary/review of the data/research as it now stands. And I hope/assume that’s the position you support too. Funnily enough I think quite a few people on here have been quietly making the same request/hope/desire etc, including Ben himself (in the previous thread?)

    “The blog you linked to didn’t seem to be talking about the film. Though it does look like an interesting read., thanks.”

    No – sorry, it’s not related to the issue of the programme – when I said ‘analysis of the issue’ meant the issue of global warming. This is certainly an approach I haven’t seen dealt with (funnily enough in psychological science, particularly vision circles, we’re coming to grips with Baysian approaches much more readily these days so it appeared as a side of the argument that hasn’t been much explored thus far…)

  72. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 3:14 am

    Re: polemics: I’m not sure I’ve understood you correctly, but I think polemics are a good thing (obviously, they have their place, and eveything was a polemic, we’d be lost). I think they are a healthy way to explore an issue, and so can be confronted on their own terms. I often find documentaries which attempt “balance” lack substance, and faux objectivity prevents serious arguments being made. For example Adam Curtis’ films are utterly brilliant polemics, which although I often find things in them which I think he overstates, I can see past them to the broader points he’s illustrating.

    “Funnily enough I think quite a few people on here have been quietly making the same request/hope/desire etc, including Ben himself (in the previous thread?)”

    I just don’t see that. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but it seems to me that Ben’s comments were ill considered. Firstly, he gave his opinion on the film maker before the film aired. Secondly, he relied on Monbiot (of all people) for the basis of his argument. If we’re interested in balance, we don’t ask another polemicist for an opinion about the other polemicist, we take their arguments, and weigh them. I also think that the comments about trust preclude the possibility of examining Durkin’s claims. The subject of the conversation becomes Durkin, not the politics, and not the science. Personally, I don’t think that his past record is that bad. Yes, he mislead Monbiot as to the nature of the films he was making in 1997, but that is kind of legitimate in an investigative journalism kind of way. Also, I’ve got no reason to believe that the editing didn’t reflect what Durkin edited Monbiot’s comments into. Firstly, there’s no record, secondly, there’s no details about how the ITC achieved their decision. Thirdly, I don’t think there was any right of reply to the decision for Durkin. And Fourthly, from what I remember, I think if Durkin edited Monbiots comments to reveal what he thinks monbiot really thinks, he understated things. Whatever the current state of green thinking, it’s certainly not fair to suggest that any political idea should be exempt from having the historical context of its development examined, and questions asked about the continuity of those ideas. Environmentalism is not a humanist philosophy, so we should be quite careful about its claims to ethical correctness.

  73. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 3:16 am

    “Also, I’ve got no reason to believe that the editing didn’t reflect what Durkin edited Monbiot’s comments into.” = “Also, I’ve got no reason to believe that the editing didn’t reflect Monbiot’s comments”.

  74. Gimpy said,

    March 12, 2007 at 7:22 am

    EssTee your entire argument that anthropogenic glboal warming is a myth seems to be based around a dodgy documentary, a couple of websites and arguments over definitions of words and non-humanist philosophies. There is not a single peer reviewed scientific paper published in the last 10 years that agrees with your stance. Can you not admit defeat?

  75. Deano said,

    March 12, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Thanks for your links to exhaustive critiques of Gore ST – one from the Competitive Enterprise Institute – (an ultra right-wing American think tank funded by Exxon) and another from a crank.

    If that’s the best you can do, and since you obviously you base your innuendo about Gore on your naive acceptance of sources like this I think its cheeky to call yourself a ‘sceptic’.

    Thanks for the link to WAG TV – there’s an e-mail winging it’s way to them.

  76. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 12, 2007 at 9:54 am

    I beleive that the consensus – if that is what it is – contains many people of views which contradict each other. IE, it is a camp of varying positions, not a principle upon which its members each agree to. A scientist who thinks that man may be responsible for maybe 2% of global warming might be included in the consensus with a scientist who thinks that 100% of global warming is due to human influence

    These positions are not contradictory when the proposition under consideration is “Human activity is contributing to climate change.” They only become contradictory when you change the wording of the proposition in such a way that it filters the positions and sorts them into opposing camps.

    Whether we take action on climate change is not a matter of whether an over-simplified proposition passes or fails a given test of support for its truth. It’s a hugely complex matter with many issues to be considered. Whether we take action or not depends on how much we care about the likely consequences of the ‘best-case scenario”. The extent of the action we take needs to consider whether we can afford to take the risk that the worst-case scenario may arise. We also need to consider future consequences of the action we take (or not) in the present.

    I’m not sure whether you are simply arguing over the definition of the word ‘consensus’ here, or whether you are arguing that we should not take action because we cannot agree on what action to take. Perhaps you could clarify.

    The IPCC is an organisation that exists to provide governments with the ‘scientific consensus’ picture on climate change – it has been criticised by some for failing to include some of the more extreme scenarios and for being too circumspect in its reporting. IPCC reports err on the side of caution, and tend more towards the lower end of the spectrum of % human contribution rather than the upper end.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPCC#History_and_studies_suggesting_a_conservative_bias.2C_under-stating_dangers

    Now you can argue until you’re blue in the face about the definition of the word ‘consensus’ or whether the consensus presented by the IPCC is a ‘good enough’ consensus for your exacting standards of the word. If you really want to dilly-dally about this, you can argue about the definition of other words like ‘human’ (provide me with an unambiguous definition that everyone agrees on) or ‘activity’ (What sort of activity are we talking about? Breathing?). Fortunately, people don’t generally act only on the basis of things that they can unambiguously agree on. ‘Near enough is good enough’ is the way that things get done. If it weren’t then we would be incapable of any sort of collective action.

  77. Squander Two said,

    March 12, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Lurkinggherkin @#47,

    Thank you. Your explanation of what’s wrong with the word “denialist” is far better than mine.

    EssTee (who isn’t me, by the way),

    > Like many other people who watched it, I am left wondering how the three or four short comments [Wunsch] made during the 90 minutes can have been taken out of context.

    Yeah, me too. He simply wasn’t one of the scientists on the show who was expressing scepticism about the anthropogenicity of global warming. He gave a good explanation of what publication bias is, extremely similar to the explanations Ben has given before on this site; and he explained that the oceans take at least decades and more likely centuries to warm or cool in response to global temperature changes. So where was the misrepresentation? Does he not believe in publication bias, or does he believe that the oceans can be warmed or cooled quickly?

    > Yes, he mislead Monbiot as to the nature of the films he was making in 1997, but that is kind of legitimate in an investigative journalism kind of way.

    There was another example of of a TV company doing this recently, arguably far worse: the producers didn’t just fail to tell the participants what type of show they were making; they failed to tell them they were making a TV show at all, filming them secretly, without permission, while pretending to take their opinions seriously, with the express purpose of ridiculing their views on national TV. That was Newsnight’s report on homeopaths telling people not to take malaria medicine before going to Africa.

    I thoroughly approve of not telling people what their quotes are going to be used for. It’s a good way of getting their real opinions out of them.

  78. Squander Two said,

    March 12, 2007 at 10:11 am

    Lurkinggherkin,

    >> A scientist who thinks that man may be responsible for maybe 2% of global warming might be included in the consensus with a scientist who thinks that 100% of global warming is due to human influence

    > These positions are not contradictory when the proposition under consideration is “Human activity is contributing to climate change.”

    Oh, come on. Are people who think that DNA accounts for 100% of heredity and people who think that it only accounts for 40%, the rest being down to morphic fields, part of the same concensus that DNA is responsible for heredity? Please.

  79. Gimpy said,

    March 12, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Oh come on Squander Two you are using the same tactics as EssTee in disputing the definitions of words to fuel your arguments. The peer reviewed scientific consensus is that anthropogenic climate change is a reality. The fact that there is not a single peer reviewed paper that disagrees with this statement demonstrates that anthropogenic climate change denial is not a evidence based position. Even if there was strong publication in favour of anthropogenic climate change you would expect several papers contradicting it to be published.

  80. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 11:41 am

    “Oh come on Squander Two you are using the same tactics as EssTee in disputing the definitions of words to fuel your arguments. The peer reviewed scientific consensus is that anthropogenic climate change is a reality. The fact that there is not a single peer reviewed paper that disagrees with this statement demonstrates that anthropogenic climate change denial is not a evidence based position. Even if there was strong publication in favour of anthropogenic climate change you would expect several papers contradicting it to be published.”

    Gimpy didn’t watch the film then.

  81. stever said,

    March 12, 2007 at 11:51 am

    ST – go and do some work. you know you shouldnt be here arguing with Dean.

  82. Squander Two said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Gimpy,

    > Oh come on Squander Two you are using the same tactics as EssTee in disputing the definitions of words to fuel your arguments.

    I think you may have missed my point. I’m not disputing the definition of anything. For the record, I think that Lurkinggherkin is absolutely 100% correct when he says

    > These positions are not contradictory when the proposition under consideration is “Human activity is contributing to climate change.”

    I wasn’t saying it was wrong. I was saying that it is pointless to talk about such a consensus, because it’s too broad. It is true to say that NASA scientists and Flat-Earthers are part of the same consensus when the proposition under consideration is “There is an Earth” — and does that tell us anything useful? OK, that’s a tad more extreme than Lurkinggherkin’s example, but it’s the same principle. It is not good science to describe those who think that humans contribute to 2% of global warming and those who think that humans contribute to 100% of global warming as essentialy agreeing with each other, just as it is not good science to lump together people who think that homeopathy fails 100% of the time with people who think that homeopathy fails 2% of the time, even if it is technically true that both groups agree with the proposition “Homeopathy can fail.”

    As far as I understand it (though I’ve not read his book), Lomborg’s position is that humans do contribute to global warming, which would make him a part of the consensus that Lurkinggherkin is describing. The fighting that broke out after he published would indicate that there are at least two factions within this consensus and that they disagree with each other about rather a lot.

  83. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Squander Two,

    Oh, come on. Are people who think that DNA accounts for 100% of heredity and people who think that it only accounts for 40%, the rest being down to morphic fields, part of the same concensus that DNA is responsible for heredity? Please.

    No, but clearly they are both part of the consensus that heredity is at least 40% accounted for by DNA. This is obviously a significant proportion.

    My point was that nobody in a court of law would try to argue that someone’s human rights are not being abused because they are not actually human – when it can be plainly seen that they are. DNA tests are not demanded and a debate is not held over what it means to be ‘human’.

    In a similar way, quibbling over whether or not there is a ‘consensus’ amongst climatologists regarding whether human activity is contributing to global warming is somewhat pedantic. You certainly don’t see climate scientists organising petitions to reject the conclusions of the IPCC report because they feel their views have not been represented. If anything, they tend to complain that the report has not been couched in strong enough terms. Yes, there may well be a small handful that reject the AGW hypothesis (although the peer-reviewed research that demonstrates this is thin on the ground).

    Whether or not you think that ‘consensus’ is a valid way of advancing science is a seperate issue. But can you really say that there is ‘no consensus among climate scientists that human activity is contributing to climate change’ with a straight face? You seem like an intelligent sort of person, after all.

  84. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Squander Two,

    I posted without reading your response above. I may have misconstrued your point about consensus as you seemed to be defending Esstee’s position which seems more radical than your own. EssTee seemed to be denying any sort of consensus existed at all, in any terms that we should act on.

    I won’t be continuing this discussion as I don’t think it is very constructive at the moment. You have made some interesting points. But I think we will simply have to agree to disagree on this issue.

    Later,

    LG

  85. Martin said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Are Channel 4 (E4, More4, etc) going to repeat the show? I was going to watch both this show and Gore’s film over the weekend, but I forgot to set the video.

  86. EssTee said,

    March 12, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    “EssTee seemed to be denying any sort of consensus existed at all, in any terms that we should act on.”

    That’s not true. I was arguing that a poorly defined, very broad, and generalised consensus was of little value because it doesn’t tell you anything, and encompasses contradcting views. At least three of the opening comments to the film by the so-called deniers would suggest that they were included in the “consensus” as it has been described in this thread.

  87. Bendy McBend said,

    March 12, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Squander Two said, March 11, 2007 at 4:32 pm:

    > As I recall, Wunsch was quoted in the show as saying that the ocean’s, being huge, take a long time — perhaps hundreds of years — to change temperature, and so it is probably wrong to claim that any increase in the oceans’ temperature is due to anything that’s happened in the last fifty years. Does Wunsch believe that? If so, what’s the problem?

    Well, quite. The problem is that Wunsch is comfortable saying that in a science-context but not in a political-context. He doesn’t want to appear to be taking a side in a public debate. This whole thing, the documentary and the reactions to it in these UK press articles, looks like two political sides trying to win a propaganda battle by claiming Wunsch as their own pawn.

    If you read what the guy himself said in March last year on this subject, he basically thinks that no one can honestly know why the climate is doing whatever it is doing right now. There are so many drivers and they all go through so many layers of time-delayed feedback that any such claim is literally incredible. So take for example, Gimpy’s rather hopeful claim in post #79, “The peer reviewed scientific consensus is that anthropogenic climate change is a reality.” Wunsch says, if that’s the case, the peer reviewed scientific consensus must have overlooked one or two things somewhere. It cannot possibly make such a claim.

    This goes much wider than just specific issues to do with the temp. of the ocean. Wunsch holds that there is a fundamental unavoidable limit on our ability to predict the climate. Whatever we decide to do (or not do) will be a gamble, either way. Anything else is wishful thinking.

    This doesn’t really make him a pawn for either side, does it?

  88. Gimpy said,

    March 12, 2007 at 1:30 pm

    “So take for example, Gimpy’s rather hopeful claim in post #79″

    I was quoting a article which stated that “anthropogenic climate change is a reality”. If you go back to my post #34 in which I posted the concluding paragraphs you will find it makes clear the complexities of climate change and calls for a debate on the nature, impact and solutions to such change.

    Anyway last post on this from me.

  89. Squander Two said,

    March 12, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Bendy,

    Thanks for that.

    > This doesn’t really make him a pawn for either side, does it?

    Depends what you think the sides are. I’m on the “Some people are placing far too much faith in computer models” side: I don’t think we’re in a position to make predictions about the climate that we can rely upon with a sufficiently great deal of certainty to be basing policy on them. If your summary of his beliefs is accurate, it looks like Wunsch and I are on the same side.

    I know that there is a “Global warming mustn’t be true because measures to combat it will force me to sell my Jeep” side, but I’m not on it. I hate Jeeps.

  90. Dean Morrison said,

    March 12, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    “Are Channel 4 (E4, More4, etc) going to repeat the show? I was going to watch both this show and Gore’s film over the weekend, but I forgot to set the video. ”

    It’s available on Google Video if you’re quick…..

  91. JunkkMale said,

    March 12, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    I usually figure it’s not worth posting by the time blog replies hit a hundred, because if I cannot be bothered to read past the first few score (I just did, before hitting ‘submit’, and realise that about half a dozen folk are just lobbing entrenched viewpoints to and fro, backed by ever more unscientific ‘support’ for arguments) why would anyone do the same to get as far as mine?

    But as I have been away, it is topical to what I was doing and, goshdarnit, it’s good practice for my blog, so it’s not really a total waste after all. At least for me.

    This weekend I was in both Cardiff and Plymouth, pitching in a NESTA competition called FameLab, which is all about bringing science, and an appreciation of same, to the viewing public. So, inspired in no small measure by the IPCC report, the Channel 4 doco and the discussion on this very blog a few days ago, as I had nothing else prepared I decided to spout forth on ‘Sick Planet Syndrome; Myths and Facts. Causes and Cures’.

    The first day was an unmitigated disaster, as I hadn’t prepared very well and also had an arc lamp in my eyes for the precise 3 minutes one got to hold forth, and hence failed to see the 20′ countdown signal, thus missing my conclusion.

    This was that, at present, either camp could be right. Or wrong… evidently, at least as far as the masses might be concerned. (I have a personal view, of course).

    Sadly, getting this in when I did manage to say it the next day didn’t help much. I even wore a black cowboy hat for ‘big oil climate denying science’ and a jaunty white eco-hat for ‘we’re toast, green taxes all round’ science, to make my point that not all science (especially green) was, could be or should be black or white, pro or con, with nothing allowed in between. On reflection, it may also have not helped that for the former viewpoint I also said a big ‘Yee-haa!” to camera and big-upped the doco, as Ch4 is one of the sponsors.

    And speaking of not helping, I also opined it certainly wasn’t doing much of value knocking spots off each other by such methods – used by opposing groups, and played up by a compliant if not complicit media – as attacking the person, or who is backing them or whatever, and not the facts.

    My jury (or rather judging panel) of eminent scientists and TV producers were still not impressed. For this show they wanted… needed a conclusion. A solution as I had promised. That was my whole point. I had offered one, at least as I saw it, which was accepting there WAS NOT always a definitive conclusion, and you can often need to act before you have one, on the best you’ve got. I guess that’s the Civil Engineer in me kicking in. We prefer things not to fall over and will move to shore things up before they topple, Tower of Pisa notwithstanding.

    So much in science is a journey rather than a destination, and it can be fun to share the ride rather than dispense a unidirectional commentary.

    But if the train is rattling around a bit maybe I believe it would be best to stop the rocking (I would say of the boat, but that would be a mixed metaphor too far) and simply work together on stabilising it now, rather than keeping thrashing about trying to prove who is right or wrong on whether it will fall off the rails before getting to the end-point.

    No, it seems quick fixes, soundbites and being seen to be ‘righter and brighter’ rather than just doing better is the order of the day. Questions being posed and left open are not favoured when answers abound, even if they are poorly founded ones. Or, possibly, just plain wrong. Delivery, with a neat opening, middle and ending that leaves nothing for the imagination, or the individual to ponder or discover for themselves, is to be ruthlessly enforced. It seems that the last thing anyone from the [insert (profession)-elite here] wants is the masses actually having an opinion or trying to influence how their lives are directed rather than those who know better.

    I think I understand now why I get so agitated by science reporting these days. These guys are not required by a huge ‘system’ to allow anything trouble the viewer by way of loose ends. Hence with climate change: ‘the planet is doomed… for this reason’. Period. Or, ‘the planet is fine… for this reason’. Period. Nice soundbite. Nice headline. Nice ratings.

    Not awfully helpful, though, when we’re not too sure.

    I’d like to wish all well and scoot off to another place where I can work with those from science and media (and government and commerce, and…) who are more concerned with moving on whilst trying to locate a tangible negotiated result, rather than staying still to bully through unconditional, theoretical Pyrrhic victories. But sadly the venue options on this planet are looking limited. And just getting there may open up a whole new can of worms.

    Seems I might owe Richard Branson an apology. Maybe Virgin Galactic is the best chance we’ve got. But bumping some billionaire from his Kodak moment atop a cloud of greenhouse gasses seems such a compromised way of doing it, and there is the small matter of effecting the swap.

    Bad Science. Naughty Science. No wonder the majority of the public switches off. And of those who do try to stay with it, like my mate Nick (a computer science grad), when both sides get in the gutter the more optimistic option being espoused often gets a more willing ear. So now I have to work a bit harder to keep him of the view that waiting until the Durkin’s of this world are proved 100% wrong may not be the best plan for now. Or, indeed, the future. What are my chances?

    STOP PRESS: Here’s the promo in my in-box from the nation’s broadcaster for tonight:

    MONDAY 12 MARCH 22:30 GMT – BBC TWO
    FROM GAVIN ESLER

    CLIMATE CHANGE
    As Gordon Brown and David Cameron compete on being greener-than-thou, we examine the science once again. Despite the fact that most reputable scientists agree that human activity in raising carbon emissions is leading to global warming, could they – in fact – be wrong?

  92. CaptainKirkham said,

    March 12, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    EssTee, I don’t know whether you are reading this any more, but please, give up. You are embarrassing yourself.

  93. JunkkMale said,

    March 12, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    I’m intrigued.

    Firstly that anyone still checks back this far, and secondly would post at 5:52pm to ask someone who last posted at 12.47pm to give up, when there have been several posts subsequently. Unless that tricky in/out missing post thing has cropped up again to catch the likes of me out too.

    But mainly I’m interested in why EssTee may be deemed to be embarrassing themselves and, hence, why they should be required to give up.

    I may not agree with some or indeed all of what they are saying, but there are some interesting points being made that I will take the time to assess, along with others.

    And having been witness to, and indeed too often (for my blood pressure) a participant in escalating flame wars, I can’t see some of the accusations that have managed to gang up on poor old EssTee to be entirely warranted.

    To this infrequent, though interested visitor, it’s coming across as rather too cosy a club, and a rather one-sided one at that.

    Which does not seem very healthy for debate.

    EssTee, for what’s it’s worth, as far as I am concerned you can keep on banging away. I’d avoid addressing anything other than the facts, and rising to the bait of those who would tempt you in venturing into unproductive areas.

    But when you are on the facts, please try and ensure that they are as good as you can make them, with appropriate attribution, and let them speak for themselves.

    With luck, and reasoned arguments put forward by those with differing opinions, I may come to a reasonable opinion of my own.

    I may even decide such a forum is worth adding it to. I admire your courage, if not your standpoint and aspects of style, because this is not a playing field that seems very level, and the ball is too easily threatened with retraction should one look like playing for any but the home team.

  94. DomShields said,

    March 12, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    This “discussion” struck me more forcibly than normal about how similar climate change deniers, holocaust deniers, moon landing deniers, world trade centre attack deniers, pentagon plane attack deniers and other such general loons are.
    Can I recommend the alt.conspiracy newsgroup ?

  95. Deano said,

    March 13, 2007 at 12:56 am

    “EssTee, for what’s it’s worth, as far as I am concerned you can keep on banging away.”

    I wouldn’t worry too much JunkMale..

    Incidentally – this isn’t the forum – it’s Ben’s blog – for forum related fun (where you’ll find ‘ST’ has been a major contributor) you need to go here (and registe):

    badscience.net/forum/index.php

  96. Earle Williams said,

    March 13, 2007 at 1:14 am

    I’ve read badscience.net for some time now, but this discussion has gotten me interested enough to register for the first time. Lots of sporty posturing here, but sadly very little discussion of the science.

    Unfortunately in the realm of climate science it isn’t very easy to pick out the charlatans from the scientists. The rhetoric flies so fast and furoius that without being able to dig into the guts of technical papers it is all but impossible to know where we stand in our understanding of climate change and man’s role in the process.

    The RealClimate web site does come off as giving a balanced presentation of a consensus. However it comes up short in the openness department. High on authority, low on disclosure. For a peek into the shortcomings of their science that RealClimate refuses to acknowledge, see www.climateaudit.org

  97. Barnacle Bill said,

    March 13, 2007 at 6:54 am

    EssTee – yes, please keep posting. You seem to embody the quest for truth.

  98. JunkkMale said,

    March 13, 2007 at 6:59 am

    Thanks Deano,

    I didn’t know about the Forum. I just get the odd email from Ben with a link, and this one was a major flag to click on for me. (What comments are meant for posting here then?)

    And while I came to it only late in the day I couldn’t resist pitching in to this one (it is quite topical in the news as most will gather, and my major concern is the consuming public’s take on it all). And again later as I did feel that very good rebuttals of poor, over-edited or agenda-driven mantras were being eroded by sharing a sea of poor, over-edited or agenda-driven mantras.

    So actually, I now have a lot to worry about. I already spend waaaaay too much time on major media blogs and forums sifting away in the hope (frequently satisfied, more often than not frustrated) of sensible debate and worthwhile information and directions to tangible areas of worthwhile activity.

    I rather suspect, and the evidence here presents a concern, that anything that does not toe a majority line may need to stand ready for a ‘robust’ challenge – which may well be warranted and even demanded – and one can only hope that this will be the facts and not the person or pejorative groupings.

    Despite this it looks like a rich seam, so there goes the social life even more!

  99. Squander Two said,

    March 13, 2007 at 9:31 am

    DomShields gives another great example of what’s wrong with using the words “denier” or “denialist” in a supposedly scientific debate, and proves Godwin right into the bargain.

  100. CaptainKirkham said,

    March 13, 2007 at 10:30 am

    I am also an “infrequent, though interested visitor”, and the point I was trying to make was that EssTee’s continual attempts to deny a “scientific consensus” were becoming more and more desperate. I don’t comment on this blog very often (this may be in fact be my fourth comment ever) and I try very hard not to “take sides” because it seems to me that in most of the threads there are some very interesting points of view being aired. I too hate flame wars, seeing them as pointless, embarrassing and rude. This wasn’t a flame, I hope.

  101. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 13, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I can’t resist one more observation. I’m sure it won’t go unchallenged, of course, and I’m sure I will be accused of quote mining, but I couldn’t help noticing that Squander Two has argued in later posts on this thread that the findings of scientists who disagreed on the extent of humanity’s contribution to global warming could not be considered part of a scientific consensus.

    Yet @ 24 ST says:

    I take issue with scientists who object that their findings might be combined with someone else’s findings. Of course they might; that’s the nature of knowledge.

    When he’s talking about Wunsch’s contrribution to the documentary!

  102. EssTee said,

    March 13, 2007 at 11:58 am

    “I too hate flame wars, seeing them as pointless, embarrassing and rude. This wasn’t a flame, I hope.”

    Hope harder.

  103. Xavier Kreiss said,

    March 13, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Another good critique of the programme (with links etc) here

    unspeak.net/infinitely-more/

  104. Squander Two said,

    March 13, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    Lurkinggherkin,

    Well spotted, but, again, you’ve missed my point.

    > Squander Two has argued in later posts on this thread that the findings of scientists who disagreed on the extent of humanity’s contribution to global warming could not be considered part of a scientific consensus.

    No, I haven’t; I have argued that they can be considered part of a consensus that is so broad as to be essentially meaningless. Like I said, Bjorn Lomborg and the editors of Scientific American are both part of this consensus, but that doesn’t stop them fighting like marmots.

    Leaving science aside for a moment, you could include the Scottish Socialist Party and UKIP as part of the same political consensus that politicians should be elected democratically. It’s true, but could you decide who to vote for on that basis?

    > I take issue with scientists who object that their findings might be combined with someone else’s findings. Of course they might; that’s the nature of knowledge.

    I did indeed say that, yes, but it doesn’t mention consensus. What I was talking about — and apologies if it wasn’t clear from context — is that two scientists can interpret the same data differently, and the one who is right is not necessarily the one who gathered the data. Similarly, two scientists may draw different conclusions from a theory, and, again, the one who is right is not necessarily the one who formulated the theory in the first place. Science is public-domain stuff, by its very nature.

    When I say “their findings might be combined with someone else’s findings”, I’m talking about actually taking theories or data and doing some sort of science with them — even if it’s just a bit of theorising — to get results. Including them in a consensus is a very different type of combining: it involves taking a number of findings, counting them, and then announcing the number.

    (Apologies for going on at such length, but it’s necessary to be clear when explaining an apparent contradiction.)

  105. DomShields said,

    March 13, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    Ah “Godwin’s Law” – one of those idiotic statements like “Political Correctness Gone Mad” or “Nanny State” which are supposed to be a devastating critique of something but are just empty rhetoric that prove nothing at all.
    In my list of general deniers I omitted the following which is actually a bit more balanced than some of the denier comments here.

    “LYNCHBURG, Va. The Reverend Jerry Falwell says global warming is “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus” from evangelism to environmentalism.
    Falwell told his Baptist congregation in Lynchburg yesterday that “the jury is still out” on whether humans are causing — or could stop — global warming.

    But he said some “naive Christian leaders” are being “duped” by arguments like those presented in former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth. Falwell says the documentary should have been titled “A Convenient Untruth.””

  106. EssTee said,

    March 13, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    “…just empty rhetoric that prove nothing at all….”

    And goes on with empty rhetoric that proves nothing at all.

    And nothing to do with the point of the article – that Wunsch was wronged. He clearly hsn’t been, yet Dom think’s there’s something interesting to add… By finding a christian nutter anti environmentalist… Proving nothing at all.

    I see your Reverend Jerry Falwell, DomShields, and I raise you Theodore Kaczynski…””Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race”.

  107. Deano said,

    March 13, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Esstee – why don’t you post Wunsch’s original complaint to make the picture clear – I’m sure you’ve seen it??

    or this link to Monbiot – who demolishes ‘Duirkin’s Swindle’ on the basis of the bad science it contains.

    www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2032575,00.html

    I’d invite you to discuss this in terms of science – but as you’re unqualified to do this I’ll wait for the hissing and spitting at the mention of Monbiot’s name.

    In fact I challenge you to dismiss anything Monbiot makes about science in that article..

    Just one will do..

    Just one…?

  108. EssTee said,

    March 14, 2007 at 12:07 am

    “I’d invite you to discuss this in terms of science ”

    If you look at the article that Ben has written, it doesn’t discuss the science. I have been commenting on that article, and the fact that Ben wrote it prematurely, without considering how Wunsch’s complaint might not have substance. It doesn’t. The letter from WAGTV is very clear about what kind of program was being made. He wasn’t mislead.

    Now, if we were really interested in science, why would we need to get hysterical, and make things up about people being mislead?

  109. Stu said,

    March 14, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Feature in New York Times about objections from scientists to Al Gore’s film…
    www.nytimes.com/2007/03/13/science/13gore.html?th&emc=th

  110. Josh (in Krakow) said,

    March 14, 2007 at 1:15 am

    I read this blog regularly and enjoy it very much, principally because I loathe “bad science” and the way the media misinform through ignorance and sensationalism.

    Anyone with even a shred of real scientific understanding would have to be very dubious about even the notion of a “scientific consensus”, which must be as good a definition of of an oxymoron as any, and certainly supersedes the traditional one of “military intelligence”.

    People are right to be worried about climate change–indeed it’s perfectly rational–but being worried about something doesn’t oblige us to suspend disbelief. There are multiple views on what may or may not cause climate change over the short- medium- and long-term on this planet and elsewhere in the solar system. Does it not occur to people who so strenuously support the sole argument for the consensus on anthropogenic climate change–the list of peer-reviewed publications that mention it–that nobody who publishes is obliged specifically to deny other theses?

    A good scientist doesn’t hold onto his corner and try and shout down the sceptics; instead he continues to accumulate repeatable experimental evidence to support his thesis. A good scientist who entertains a theory of climate change that doesn’t automatically implicate human activities and diligently pursues his research is not a “climate change denier” nor necessarily an employee of an evil multinational.

    The evidence supporting the relationship between CO2 levels and global mean temperatures over the last 150 years is still only correlative, which makes it bad science irrespective of whether you agree with it, and the famous “hockey stick” graph has been shown to work regardless of the data you input–hardly robust.

    If you are interested in learning more about the global warming debate and the range of opinions, scientific and otherwise, then you owe it to yourselves to look a lot further than the likes of Al Gore or realclimate.org, which does itself no favours by purporting to be unbiased whilst treating some (not all) data as accepted fact.

    Frankly, we need to come up with better answers than attempting to reduce CO2 emissions at what will be a crippling cost to the planet–particularly for the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged–and those better answers will come from good, ie honest, science.

  111. Deano said,

    March 14, 2007 at 1:55 am

    “A good scientist who entertains a theory of climate change that doesn’t automatically implicate human activities and diligently pursues his research is not a “climate change denier” nor necessarily an employee of an evil multinational.”

    Name one- just one that ‘diligently pursues research’.

    The denialists don’t do research, no more than the Intelligent Design crowd do. Their mission is to sow confusion, and confusion is their product.

    Your confusion is their product.

    “Frankly, we need to come up with better answers than attempting to reduce CO2 emissions at what will be a crippling cost to the planet”

    ————–

    This poster is using the ‘Creationist’ tactic of appearing to come from the ‘fair-minded middle ground’ – pretending to be open minded and trying to lure people into thinking he is a reasonable chap..

    “Frankly, we need to come up with better answers than attempting to reduce CO2 emissions at what will be a crippling cost to the planet”

    – reveals his true colours…

    nice try ‘Josh’ – come back when you’ve read the Stern report…..

  112. Josh (in Krakow) said,

    March 14, 2007 at 8:19 am

    “- reveals his true colours…

    nice try ‘Josh’ – come back when you’ve read the Stern report…..”

    Ad hominems, bad science and a closed mind; you make quite a case, Deano.

  113. Stu said,

    March 14, 2007 at 8:28 am

    “This poster is using the ‘Creationist’ tactic of appearing to come from the ‘fair-minded middle ground’ – pretending to be open minded and trying to lure people into thinking he is a reasonable chap..”

    From someone whose own tactics are borrowed from Bush’s War on Terror

  114. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 14, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Josh –

    I notice you didn’t respond to Deano’s request for the name of a climate scientist who denies any human component to global warming who is currently ‘diligently pursuing research’.

    It’s actually kind of difficult to create a good model of climate that ignores the human contribution. It’s a little like trying to create a theory that predicts the mean temperature of your house over a given period of time, that specifically ignores, for some peculiar reason, the three-bar electric fire you keep switched on all the time in your living room. The random chaotic fluctuations of the weather outside your house will make it difficult to predict the temperature at any given moment, but you’d be a fool to suppose that the electric fire has no bearing at all on the average temperature.

    (Pedants note: This isn’t intended to be an exact analogy. I’m not suggesting that an electric fire is a good model for CO2. I’m simply pointing out that – in a similar way – it’s a factor that can’t be ignored with impunity – which is what Josh appears to want us to do.)

    Once again – in case you’d forgotten – I notice you didn’t respond to Deano’s request for the name of a climate scientist who denies any human component to global warming who is currently ‘diligently pursuing research’.

  115. EssTee said,

    March 14, 2007 at 11:37 am

    “you didn’t respond to Deano’s request for the name of a climate scientist who denies any human component to global warming who is currently ‘diligently pursuing research’.”

    But as you say:

    “It’s actually kind of difficult to create a good model of climate that ignores the human contribution.”

    Which is why sceptical scientists point to things like the urban heat island effect, and don’t, as far as I’m aware ever say that “humans have no effect on the climate”.

    You mischaracterise the debate into a binary “humans do/humans don’t affect the climate” argument. But it’s far more nuanced than that, and includes many scientists who will agree completely with the notion, but argue that mitigation will be futile, and dangerous.

    Mischaracterising the debate in this way, and making the false statements that Ben has is as bad as fabricating graphs, and misleading contributors.

  116. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 14, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Squander Two,

    So, let’s cut to the chase.

    Do you object to the IPCC combining the views of scientists who disagree over the extent of anthropogenic global warming into a collective assessment of the risks posed by humanity’s influence on climate?

    And –

    Do you object to Martin Durkin combining the views of scientists who disagree over the extent of anthropogenic global warming into a collective assessment of the extent to which this risk has been exaggerated?

  117. Josh (in Krakow) said,

    March 14, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    I don’t really need to add to EssTee’s lucid comment except to point out that my earlier comment:

    “A good scientist who entertains a theory of climate change that doesn’t automatically implicate human activities and diligently pursues his research is not a “climate change denier” nor necessarily an employee of an evil multinational.”

    ..was somehow interpreted as requiring said scientist to explicitly state that human activity is in no way responsible, a view which would stretch most open-minded people. Unlike, say, “holocaust denial”, which exists and is reprehensible, “climate change denial” exists only in the minds of zealots who try and tell us that the debate is over (and whom by definition are incapable of taking a nuanced view).

    The point is surely the degree to which we think humans may be responsible (for causing potentially harmful climate change); whether factors outside our control (eg the sun) are responsible; whether climate change per se is necessarily harmful; and whether we have qualified and expert strategies on how to to deal with these possibilities. The IPCC was set up for this very purpose, and in fact its members do reflect a broad range of opinions and theories, not all of which can be condensed into a few-hundred word abstract. It’s worth pointing out that, despite the claims of overwhelming evidence from some commenters, the IPCC’s latest report is considerably more modest in its predictions than those of six years ago.

  118. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 14, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Estee,

    If I have given the impression of characterising the debate in a binary fashion, then that certainly wasn’t my intention.

    If anything, I felt that you mischaracterised it in this way by arguing over what constituted a ‘consensus’ – a very pedantic argument that seemed to suggest that we should not take action over climate change simply because the collective research conclusions of many scientists failed to meet your definition of ‘consensus’. The situation is far more complex than that, and when I saw you debating what constituted a consensus it certainly seemed like an over-simplified mischaracterisation to me.

    My response @ 115 was simply asking Josh to provide the name of a climate scientist currently diligently pursuing research who doesn’t include human activities in his climate models. Because when he replied to Deano, he skirted around this issue.

  119. EssTee said,

    March 14, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    “If anything, I felt that you mischaracterised it in this way by arguing over what constituted a ‘consensus’ – a very pedantic argument that seemed to suggest that we should not take action over climate change simply because the collective research conclusions of many scientists failed to meet your definition of ‘consensus’.”

    If it is “pedantic” to ask what the consensus actually consists of, or rather, means, then “consensus” is not important to the scientific or political argument that “we ought to mitigate climate change by reducing CO2 emmisions”.

    Since there are “pro-AGW” arguments being made which seem to depend on the idea that there is a meaningful consensus, and “anti-AGW” arguments being made which say that there isn’t a meaningful consensus, then it’s not pedantic at all; it is a key point of disagreement.

    Furthermore, it is the “sceptical camp” who dispute the value of “scientific consensus”.

    Are you saying that consensus is not important? If it is important, then how can it be “pedantic” to ask for a clear defintion (as opposed to a grossly over-sinplified version) of it?

    “My response @ 115 was simply asking Josh to provide the name of a climate scientist currently diligently pursuing research who doesn’t include human activities in his climate models. Because when he replied to Deano, he skirted around this issue.”

    Dean too attempts to draw the argument according to two false positions: “humans are changing the climate” vs “humans aren’t changing the climate”.

    What you seem to see as “skirting around the issue” is in fact not being drawn into fallacious argument.

  120. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 14, 2007 at 2:58 pm

    @ 118

    “climate change denial” exists only in the minds of zealots who try and tell us that the debate is over

    Ah, the ‘z’ word. From the person who screamed ‘Ad Hom’.

    Clearly the debate isn’t over (otherwise what are we doing here?)

    Debates in science are never over. But the debate over whether we should be taking action certainly should be. Further discussion about the extent of that action needs to be an ongoing process from here on in, until signifigant new evidence emerges that poses a serious challenge to the AGW hypothesis. Emphasis on the words ‘signifigant’ and ‘serious challenge’.

    May I remind you that we are discussing a documentary here – ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle’. The central assertion of that documentary was a challenge to the opinion that human activity is making a significant contribution to global warming – and thereby, a challenge to the idea that we need to do anything about it. This blog is called ‘Bad Science’ and is all about the mis-selling of pseudo-scientific or fringe scientific ideas to the general public, under a guise of greater scientific legitimacy than they deserve. The issue here is, does it constitute Bad Science? Is Martin Durkin selling the public something that isn’t quite what it says on the tin?

    By the way – here’s what Martin Durkin who made this documentary has to say about his work:

    “”I think it will go down in history as the first chapter in a new era of the relationship between scientists and society. Legitimate scientists – people with qualifications – are the bad guys.

    “It is a big story that is going to cause controversy.

    “It’s very rare that a film changes history, but I think this is a turning point and in five years the idea that the greenhouse effect is the main reason behind global warming will be seen as total bollocks.”

    www.lse.co.uk/ShowStory.asp?story=CZ434669U&news_headline=global_warming_is_lies_claims_documentary

    As you can see, he has no agenda whatsoever ;-)

  121. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 14, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    @ 120

    Since there are “pro-AGW” arguments being made which seem to depend on the idea that there is a meaningful consensus, and “anti-AGW” arguments being made which say that there isn’t a meaningful consensus, then it’s not pedantic at all; it is a key point of disagreement.

    And you accuse ME of mischaracterising the debate in binary terms! I’m speechless!

    Yes, those sort of arguments are made on message boards I guess. ‘Should we or shouldn’t we?’ sort of arguments. The real issues are ones of risk assessment and the extent to which we need to get moving right now on emissions to mitigate what appear to be the likely consequences – because reducing emissions is going to be a slow and painful process. How many more decades are we going to wait before we say ‘Oh sh*t, I guess those scientists were right after all – pity we didn’t start doing something about it 30 years ago.’

  122. Lurkinggherkin said,

    March 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    Well, I said a couple of days ago that I was going to bow out of this one. This debate here is very polarised and I’m sure that none of us are likely to change each other’s minds on this issue. I generally take a long time before I come off the fence on an issue, and it took me a long time before I became convinced by the AGW hypothesis. So I’m unlikely to be convinced by ‘is’ – ‘is not’ arguments about consensus. It seems the usual thing for people who are skeptical about AGW to resort to rhetorical jousting and avoid discussing the science.

    The best arguments I’ve seen here were Squander Two’s points about the cosmo stuff and the chaotic nature of climate and climate models (the latter of which I never responded to as it would have been quite a lengthy post, but just google it and you’ll find the answers yourself on that one). I will keep an eye on the cosmoclimatology issue as this may bear fruit. Because existing models already give such good agreement with observation I’m not really expecting it to be a major factor, though.

    Sq2 let himself down by pitching in to the debate over ‘consensus’, though.

    Sq2, re my post @ 117 – I know you will probably try to write a carefully worded response that exonerates you of any double standards, and accuses me of misrepresenting your views. I would prefer it if you were just to take some time to examine your own biases – you take issue with scientists who object to their commentary being included in a documentary alongside other scientists who they disagree with, but then you don’t seem to like it when the results of scientists who are in disagreement with each other are collated by the IPCC.

    Josh – yes the latest IPCC report is somewhat more cautious than previous iterations. More on this here, if you are interested (and have a subscription):

    environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19325942.800-editorial-carbon-omissions.html
    environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19325943.900-climate-report-was-watered-down.html

    Though I do take these views with a pinch of salt…..

    If I have caused anyone any personal offence during this discussion I apologise – these debates can get a bit heated sometimes.

    Keep well,

    LG

  123. EssTee said,

    March 14, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    “And you accuse ME of mischaracterising the debate in binary terms! I’m speechless!”

    It’s not mischaracterising the debate. The consensus IS a key point of difference. Meanwhile, it’s NOT true that sceptics are arguing that humans DONT have an effect on climate.

    “It seems the usual thing for people who are skeptical about AGW to resort to rhetorical jousting and avoid discussing the science.”

    Oh, the irony.

  124. Deano said,

    March 14, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Well Durkin is guilty of fraud..

    news.independent.co.uk/environment/climate_change/article2355956.ece

    img408.imageshack.us/img408/9268/durkinfakegraphsym7.jpg

    Spo we have ‘scientists’ that do no science supported by someone who thinks that distorting a graph (i.e fabricating data and therefore ‘lying’) is a reasonable tactic to use to advance their cause.

    Whatever else this is it ain’t science – scientific revolutions aren’t based on lies.

    Durkin has done us all a favour by demonstrating how vacuous the ‘scientific’ position of the ‘sceptics’ is.

    You’ve been had ST – you’re just too stubborn to admit it…

  125. Roger Macy said,

    March 15, 2007 at 12:07 am

    In fairness, I should now qualify my post at 7, as the Independent today (Wednesday) devoted a a page to a detailed bebunking of the graphs on the ‘swindle’ programme. Good work by Steve Connor.

  126. Deano said,

    March 15, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Hey Roger – don’t give Steve Conner all the credit – didn’t you read my post 12# ??

    You saw it here first..

    …………

    “Durkin may or may not turn out to be a liar, fraudster, charlatan… whatever. What is emerging during that process, however, is the lack of integrity of his detractors.”

    so if someone points out that someone is a liar, fraudster and charlatan; and then backs this up with firm evidence – it is not the fraudster byut the accuser that is lacking in integrity??

    Like I said – you’re too stubborn to admit you’ve been had…

  127. EssTee said,

    March 15, 2007 at 12:49 am

    “Like I said – you’re too stubborn to admit you’ve been had…”

    Had by whom, and by what? And what’s that got to do with anything I’ve said? You’re making up the argument that you think you’re having.

    That’s just like making up graphs.

  128. quark said,

    March 15, 2007 at 8:43 am

    EssTee – I really do not know what you are going on about. You now almost seem to admit that the graphs in Durkin’s programme were made up, but still you attack those who criticise the programme. The graphs were vital for the arguments presented in the programme. If the graphs are fake, then the whole argument falls apart. As I pointed out earlier, the programme makers also made up fake university affiliations for some of their “experts”.

    Who is “making up the argument” here?

  129. quark said,

    March 15, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Sorry, my previous posts were posted not here but under “Against Nature – Channel 4 tonight” (www.badscience.net/?p=381#more-381). I started checking affiliations of the scientists presenting their views while watching the programme. The first two I checked were those of Philip Stott and Tim Bell (see post 43 under “Against Nature – Channel 4 tonight”).
    I’m glad to hear that you have been convinced by others that there were problems with the science presented in the programme. Maybe it would have been better to start the discussion after and not before everyone had a chance to watch the programme. The inflammatory title, however, may have tempted people to comment before watching it.

  130. Deano said,

    March 15, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    “Well, even if we assume that Durkin has made up the graph, then I can still say that BOTH sides seem to be making stuff up. Ben Goldacre and David Adam have made stuff up. Wunsch has made stuff up. Mann et al have made stuff up. The independant has made stuff up. Monbiot has made stuff up. “Deano” has made stuff up.”

    Before you start claiming that everyone fabricates information to deceive you really ought to provide some evidence.

    I’m sure Ben would be interested to know what he has “made up” for example???

    ………….

  131. Squander Two said,

    March 15, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    Lurkinggherkin,

    > Sq2, re my post @ 117 – I know you will probably try to write a carefully worded response that exonerates you of any double standards, and accuses me of misrepresenting your views.

    Well, if you’re going to trawl my comments looking for slight possible discrepancies between the wording of different sentences posted in different contexts, yes, I’m going to respond with very careful wording. I didn’t accuse you of misrepresenting my views. I suggested that you might have misunderstood my point. It happens all the time, to everyone; it’s hardly the sort of thing that warrants anything so dramatic as accusations.

    > Do you object to the IPCC combining the views of scientists who disagree over the extent of anthropogenic global warming into a collective assessment of the risks posed by humanity’s influence on climate?

    Not at all, in principle. I object to some of the interpretations that can be encouraged by such a report. As we can see on this very page, a lot of people believe that the consensus embodied in the IPCC proves that scientists are unanimous that human beings must take major action to avert climate change. If that consensus includes scientists who believe that mankind’s contribution to climate change is so slight that to try to avert global warming by changing our behaviour is futile, then that interpretation is false. I suppose that the argument about whether the IPCC’s report encourages that interpretation is probably too large to have here.

    One scientist on the program — who later repeated his allegation on Newsnight, which is (a) live and therefore unedited and (b) not produced by Martin Durkin — said that he had to threaten legal action against the IPCC before they’d agree to take his name off a report with which he disagreed, which he felt misrepresented his views and distorted or ignored his contributions. If that’s true, I object to it, too. And, if it’s true, it makes me wonder whether he’s the only one to contribute to and yet disagree with the report.

    > Do you object to Martin Durkin combining the views of scientists who disagree over the extent of anthropogenic global warming into a collective assessment of the extent to which this risk has been exaggerated?

    Nope.

    Of course, one scientist has complained that he was misrepresented by Durkin. If it’s true, I object to that, just as with the IPCC. But, as we’ve seen in this thread, what he said in the documentary seems to tally perfectly well with what he’s said elsewhere. Which makes the reason for his objection an interesting subject for debate, but doesn’t damn Durkin.

    I also think there’s a big difference between presenting your own opinions and claiming that no-one disagrees with you.

  132. EssTee said,

    March 15, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    “I’m sure Ben would be interested to know what he has “made up” for example???”

    You’re a proven liar yourself, Dean, including misrepresenting your own status as “scientist” (when you’re not), and mischaracterising other people’s arguments. So I don’t think you’re in a position to get on any soapboxes about this film, nor demand answers on other people’s behalf.

    If Ben wants to know what I think he made up, and he can’t tell from the many posts I’ve made here, then he can either ask me here, or email me at “sceptic.thing” minus the space and this sentence (for antispam reasons) AT gmail.com.

  133. Deano said,

    March 15, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Slippery ST – so now you are just spreading innuendo that Ben had ‘made stuff up’ – but are presumably hoping he hasn’t noticed you’ve said this??

    Why so shy???

  134. Geckko said,

    March 15, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve now taken time to read Wunsch’s grievences.

    I will be interested to see where his complaints go and what the ruling on them will be. However, I can’t see this as being anythnig more than a complaint that the program failed to voice his own opinions in toto. That doesn’t mean he was misrepresented. At no point in the program could I see where it was even slightly implied that did not subscribe to “The Consensus(TM)”

    The quotes speak plainly to me and also reflect comments made by or attributed to Wunsch before.

    Ben,

    Could you please commit to following developments on this subject closely. I think we would all be interested in knowing how the complaints of Wunsch are ruled upon by the authorities.

  135. Squander Two said,

    March 15, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    > I can’t see this as being anythnig more than a complaint that the program failed to voice his own opinions in toto.

    I wrote a piece about genetic modification and salt tolerance for Tech Central Station a few months ago, and interviewed a couple of scientists for it. I had to cut out almost every single thing they said, because, while it was all fascinating, putting it all in would have required an entire website, not just one article.

    > now you are just spreading innuendo that Ben had ‘made stuff up’ – but are presumably hoping he hasn’t noticed you’ve said this??

    Yeah, that’s what I’d do: if I wanted to make absolutely sure that Ben Goldacre didn’t know what I was saying about him, I’d post my comments on his site.

  136. Deano said,

    March 15, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    “Yeah, that’s what I’d do: if I wanted to make absolutely sure that Ben Goldacre didn’t know what I was saying about him, I’d post my comments on his site.”

    So perhaps you know what ST is accusing Ben of ‘making up’ then??

    Seriously – I’d like to know??

  137. Deano said,

    March 15, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    As for Wunsch I guess all that Ofcom have to do is to dust off the old ITV report:

    “The Independent Television Commission ruled: “Comparison of the unedited and edited transcripts confirmed that the editing of the interviews with [the environmentalists who contributed] had indeed distorted or misrepresented their known views. It was also found that the production company had misled them… as to the format, subject matter and purpose of these programs.” Etc.”

    – perhaps something about faking graphs and awarding contributors grand sounding distinctions they didn’t earn…

    and then tell Ch4 to come up with another grovelling apology…

  138. Squander Two said,

    March 15, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Except that, as far as anyone here has been able to figure, the edited interview matches Wunsch’s known views.

  139. Jerkinggherkin said,

    March 15, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Is this the right room for an argument?

  140. Martin said,

    March 15, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    No, this is abuse!

  141. Deano said,

    March 15, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    “”Squander Two” Except that, as far as anyone here has been able to figure, the edited interview matches Wunsch’s known views”

    Not according to Wunsch – only only a swivel eyed denialist could read his response and think his position had been fairly represented. Maybe he should have realised that Channel 4 ditched their integrity ages ago – but then maybe he doesn’t watch the channel that brought you McKeith and Celeb big brother.

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/swindled-carl-wunsch-responds/

    This is specifically what Wunsch had to say about how Durkin twisted what he had to say:

    “In the part of the “Swindle” film where I am describing the fact that the ocean tends to expel carbon dioxide where it is warm, and to absorb it where it is cold, my intent was to explain that warming the ocean could be dangerous—because it is such a gigantic reservoir of carbon. By its placement in the film, it appears that I am saying that since carbon dioxide exists in the ocean in such large quantities, human influence must not be very important — diametrically opposite to the point I was making — which is that global warming is both real and threatening in many different ways, some unexpected.”

    So – Wunsch doesn’t think that ‘the edited interview matches his known views” and neither do I – so your assertion is incorrect..

  142. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 16, 2007 at 2:33 am

    Several other people were misrepresented, evidently. They were described as scientists. I’m not referring to every contributor to the show, which I didn’t see, life’s too short even if the world wasn’t coming to an end, but to- for instance – any nutritionists contributing.

  143. Squander Two said,

    March 16, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    Deano,

    I gave my opinion on such issues way back at comment #24. The film accurately reported one of Wunsch’s findings, but the filmmakers disagree with him about the implications of that finding. To do so is not bad science, even if it’s wrong.

    Carl Wunsch:

    “It is probably true that most scientists would assign a very high probability that human-induced change is already strongly present in the climate system, while at the same time agreeing that clear-cut proof is not now available and may not be available for a long-time to come, if ever.”

  144. EssTee said,

    March 16, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Squander, I think the mistake is to beleive that Dean is interested in, or capable of reason. All he thinks he needs to do is say “I think you’re wrong” for him to feel that he’s satisified the argument “rationally”. E.g. –

    “So – Wunsch doesn’t think that ‘the edited interview matches his known views” and neither do I – so your assertion is incorrect..”

    “Proof” for Dean is not consistent and coherent argument, but his feelings and emotions. His appraoch is only marginally more sophisticated than repeating “I think you’re wrong”… “I think you’re wrong”… “I think you’re wrong”… He simply doesn’t beleive that he has to explain himself; just *expressing* himself is enough.

  145. Squander Two said,

    March 16, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Yeah, I’d noticed that.

  146. John_M said,

    March 20, 2007 at 5:42 am

    If someone is not a climate expert, and wants a really good, understandable discussion of the Earth’s climate history (including very well-backed hypotheses for some of the puzzling gyrations, like the Little Ice Age), the best single book I know is:

    William Ruddiman: Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate, 2005. About 10 pounds on Amazon.
    www.amazon.co.uk/Plows-Plagues-Petroleum-Control-Climate/dp/0691121648/ref=pd_ka_2/202-8778128-8055066?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174369178&sr=8-2

    It’s a really fine example of good scientific detective work, well explained, by a well-respected scientist.

  147. boredagain said,

    March 21, 2007 at 1:52 am

    I haven’t bothered reading all the previous comments, but I just want to comment on what Ben Goldacre’s original article seems to say, that the argument on climate change is over. I think that the economic side is important, which the Channel 4 programme touched on. On another point, I think that the one-sided way in which the programme was presented is in keeping with the style of the other BBC global warming programme.

    I remember hearing a Professor from Imperial College London on Newsnight saying that those who speak of ‘global warming alarmism’ do so because of their own political views, and that their arguments are not objective. My feeling from various things I’ve read, including the House of Lords report on the economics of climate change and the evidence presented by the expert witnesses, is that there still is a degree of subjectivity involved in the climate assessments. There were respectable economists, like Prof. Richard Tol, Dr Dieter Helm, and Prof. Dennis Anderson, who said things like ‘the economics are different depending on which economist you ask’, and that ‘top economists no longer follow the work of the IPCC’, and ‘the IPCC has become politicised’.

    I know that the Royal Society has published a document which attempts to disspel these arguments, but looking at the testimony, I get the impression that there is something in these arguments. Professor Tol explains that some countries (Germany, I think) are now only sending representatives to the IPCC from the Green Party. Some of the economics has been influenced by political decisions. It is not unusual in economics to assign different values for human life depending on the person’s wealth, but this was not allowed in the IPCC. This apparently was because some countries objected to their citizens being valued less than those in other countries.

    Another example of the uncertainty in the economics is the enormous differences in the values given for the social cost of carbon per tonne, presumably the value it is given depends on the economist doing the particular assessment. Professor Anderson, if I remember correctly, states that it is probably true that most economists are sceptical about climate change, this because the benefits of reducing carbon emissions are so uncertain.

  148. John_M said,

    March 21, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    I’ve talked with serious climate scientists, and sometimes asked the meaning of “the science is settled.”

    The general answer is that the scientific evidence is overwhelming that:
    1) The Earth is warming, and warming faster than seen in recent times (where “recent” includes at least the last few hundred thousand years, i.e., several ice-age cycles., to stay within the current orbital regime and tectonic plate arrangement. If you go many millions of years, you can find very different conditions.

    2) A big chunk of this warming is caused by human behavior.

    3) The physics and chemistry is mostly quite well understood.

    4) Science works by successive approximations anyway, and requiring perfection is a ridiculous requirement.
    Newtonian laws of motion really work pretty well … unless you need to build GPS satellites, in which case Relativity is needed. Of course, everyone would love to find the model that subsumes Relativity and quantum mechanics, but that has not yet appeared. [I.e., Relativity theories are not complete theories of everything.]
    Thus, people think they have calibrated most of the processes, and offer error bars to bound the uncertainty. Over time, the error bars tend to shrink. There are still some issues about aerosols or clouds, but when people say the science is settled, it doesn’t mean everything is known, or that models are perfect, or that there still aren’t a few fuzzy spots. However, as I’ve followed this for years, I ‘ve seen the fuzzy spots shrink, and contradictions get ironed out [as between satellites and ground stations].

    Note that economics is not exactly the same kind of science :-) as physics, and I haven’t heard anyone saying the economics are settled.

    I would note, that despite disagreements with Bjorn Lomborg on many issues, the ideas that one should do reasoned economic analyses and allocate resources appropriately are absolutely fine. On the other hand, I’m not sure economics deals very well with long-term issues that may have really serious consequences, sometimes simple present-value calculations don’t make sense if you end up with something really costs a lot to fix.

    It is also absolutely clear that some mitigation efforts are really low-cost, or actually make money rather than costing it, especially if they’re done sensibly, and early, and not in alarmist fashions. For example, as a tiny example, replacing incandescent lights, where practical, with compact fluorescents, as the older bulbs die, saves money.
    Some efforts *will* cost money, but there is plenty of low-hanging fruit in various conservation efforts (which of course some people do not want any of).

    At this point, temperature rise seems inevitable, for at least a few hundred years. At some point, after we’ve burnt most of the oil&gas, and lots of coal, and population has presumably stabilized, the temperature will start going back down towards its natural state (in current orbital setup, kilometers of ice over Stockholm), but the heat spike will probably only last a few hundred years. Good things are those that:
    a) Reduce the rate of climb.
    b) Reduce the height of the peak.
    c) Reduce the time spent at the peak [the longer we’re there, the more of Greenland melts.]
    d) Avoid serious wars over resources, like water.

    In the US, states vary wildly in their approach to regulation of:
    – pollution
    – gas mileage
    – energy efficiency

    Clearly, any state that is really aggressive in such areas must be a financial disaster, an economic basket-case! Doing anything about energy use will be the end. People will be miserable, it will be terrible …

    Well, actually given that one of the most aggressive states is *California*:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_California
    1) California is a leader in low energy/person and energy/$ GDP; of course, some of that is the mild weather, but …
    2) Per capita residential usage of electricity has stayed flat for several decades, and natural gas has declined slightly.

    In any case, this hasn’t happened because anyone waved a magic wand, but because of attention of a myriad of little details over decades [and global warming is similar, no magic wand]. Of course, some California efforts have been really “annoying” to others, like insisting on pollution controls, energy efficient appliances, and better gas mileage.

    Of course, lately, serious Venture Capitalists around Silicon Valley are investing big-time in technologies to help energy efficiency … for the same reasons as Jeff Immelt is driving General Electric in that direction.

    But why do people in California worry? [The Wall Street Journal Editorial page frequently mocks California for being crazy … well, sometimes, we are … but…]

    0) California typically sends about $50B/year more to the Federal government than it gets back. That’s about 20-25% of the total (of states that have negative balance of payments like this). Put another way, the CA economy actually matters and it ought to matter more to Washington DC – Maryland and Virginia are major beneficiaries of this.]

    1) About 50% of the US fruits and vegetables are grown here. 95% of US wine exports come from here … but, it’s in a rather fragile place.

    2) A big chunk of our water supply comes from melting of mountain snowpack.
    For those whose water supply does not work this way:
    a) Most of the state only gets precipitation only during about half the year.
    b) A lot falls in the mountains, where it builds up as snowpack, and then slowly melts.

    When we get a warm year, more of the water falls as rain, not snow, and then the snow melts faster. This is not only irksome for the skiing business in the Sierras [big article in Wall Street Journal today about ski areas going very green], but means that we get big floods in the Spring, and then big drought in the summer … both of which are seriously expensive. The 1997 flood was a nightmare.

    Oregon & Washington have similar issues to some extent or other, and so do India & China [Himalyan snowpack].
    I have no idea how well the general economics analyses actually account for this stuff.

    By the way, a big chunk of the California Delta is *already* below sea level, so taht sea-level rise is not a joke here:

    pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1999/fs175-99/
    hurt some, and help others [Like the Loch Ness Winery in Scotland, expected by Richard Selley in “The Winelands of Britain” in a hundred years or so.]

    Anyway, thoughtful people in many places (not just California) already take these economic issues very seriously, although as Richard Armour wrote:

    So leap with joy, be blithe and gay
    Or weep, my friends, with sorrow.
    What California is today,
    The rest will be tomorrow.

  149. boredagain said,

    March 22, 2007 at 2:21 am

    Hello John_M,

    If I may, I’ve got a couple of questions regarding your five points:

    1) I know that carbon dioxide levels are at their highest levels for a long time through ice cores and things, but how do we know about the actual rate of warming is higher (temperature is higher)? I’ve read Gerald North’s submission to the US Senate about global surface temperature reconstructions, and this said that surface temperatures in the late 20th century were at their highest levels for 800 years or so. Going back earlier than 800 years, we aren’t so sure.

    2) This point is, I’m guessing, based on climate models and the inability to simulate the 1900 – 2000 temperature change without including human emissions. Isn’t there still the difficulty that we have a limited set of data to test these models?

    3) I really hate to do this, but going on Karl Popper’s falsifiability idea, Newton’s and Einstein’s theories can be readily tested to check their correctness. You can do the same with climate models, but this goes back to the earlier point, there is only a limited set of data to do this. I’ve read that it isn’t actually to difficult to construct a model that produces reasonable results, this despite the complexity of the climate system. What test would show that these models are incorrect?

    My own feeling is that our best guess using climate models etc. is that humans are causing climate change, if not now then probably into the coming years. People like Professor Lindzen are probably just unhappy in the way the science is presented as being absolutely cut-and-dry. On balance, I think the critics of global warming alarmism have, in many ways, just reacted to counterbalance some of the other side of the argument – things like the Greenland ice sheet melting. When scientists say things like this, they should make it absolutely clear that our knowledge of the risks are still very uncertain. Indeed, this is probably what the author will say in their published scientific journal.

    In the end, I think that it is not surprising that climate change is presented in such dramatic terms, either the as end of the World or as a great swindle. These things are more likely to catch our attention and this is what newspaper editors and TV producers want. Virtually all of the arguments like the uncertainty regarding aerosols etc, are in the IPCC report, but the average person is not interested in what Professor Wunch is after, that is a cool and reasoned debate. That is far less interesting than a sensational TV programme. I was able to watch the David Attenborough’s BBC programme and the Channel 4 programme all the way through. I downloaded the IPCC 2001 report ages ago but still haven’t read it all. How many people actually will? :)

  150. John_M said,

    March 23, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    boredagain:

    Good questions (sorry for delay, it took a litlte while to dig out web-accessible references, rather than marked-up textbooks :-))

    1) First, my statement about temperature change rates was lamentably imprecise, and to be truly accurate, would have needed a longer explanation with a lot of qualifiers. There have certainly been abrupt climate changes, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, generally believed to be state changes in ocean water circulation.
    Of these, the Younger Dryas period is especially well-studied:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younger_Dryas

    See also Dansgaard Oeschger Events:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dansgaard-Oeschger_event

    Of course, major volcanic eruptions cause sudden drops in temperature, and then fairly quick rises as the sulfates drop out of the atmosphere.

    (I’ll explain later why I was ignoring all these as irrelevant to the current changes.)

    As to how one knows about temperatures over longer lengths of time, while we’d love to have had thermometers around, we didn’t :-) so people use various “proxies”, of which one of the most important is Oxygen-18 isotope percentages in ice cores and ocean sediments:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_isotope_ratio_cycle

    All of this can be seen together in:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_record, with expansions:

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Five_Myr_Climate_Change.png [1]
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Ice_Age_Temperature.png [2]
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png [3]

    and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise

    1) Many millions of years ago [1] it was warmer, and of course the sea level was higher, and it was a different world, of course [orbital state, continental arrangements, etc].

    2) If you look at the last 800,000 years [2], the temperature may well have been higher (a little) several times.

    3) If you look at the last 12,000 years [3] , and especially at the embedded chart of last 2,000 years, you see the vertical line at the left, i.e., temperature rising very fast. That is *not* as fast as Younger-Dryas-like transitions up or down], but I was ignoring them is that the recent temperature rise is clearly not one of these. I.e., normally, there are bunch of slow-motion effects recorded in the ice-cores and other proxies, with occasional lightning-fast state-switches likely caused by thermohaline flow changes. Under pre-human-civilization circumstances, except for these state-switches, there was enough inertia, and slow-enough moving causes, that it’s hard for circumstances to change very quickly. On longer time-scales temperature correlates with CO2/CH4 [sometimes ahead, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind, generally for well-understood reasons]. Dryas-like events are odd in that CO2 was going up beforehand; then the temperature dropped; then the CO2 dropped (for a while).

    I.e., in each ice-age cycle (about 100,000-year, lately), what seems to happen, roughly is:
    a) it’s cold.
    b) Then, orbital mechanics starts to warm things, and as it does, CO2 and CH4 go up, and then postive feedback from that helps the temperature rise faster, to some peak. If you look at the sawtooth graphs, this takes thousands of years to get a rise of about 7 degrees C.
    c) Then, with jiggles the temperature slowly goes down again.
    c) Recent effects: our interglacial just looks very different from the others, and here’s a reasonable analysis, including other explanations:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attribution_of_recent_climate_change

    In any case, I personally think that it is relatively fruitless to try to make statements like: “it is hotter than it has been for X years” as we may not have data precise enough for that, and in any case, it’s enough to know;
    a) We are at the high end of the temperature range (over last million years)
    b) CO2 in atmosphere is exceptionally high (in last million years), going up very fast.
    c) Temperature forcing from CO2 is pretty well understood, and it has been raising the global termperature faster than we’ve seen from all the other usual cyles.

    2) Testing models: there’s never as much data as people would like. I used to build supercomputers and work with their users, who include weather, oceanography and climate researchers, and they always wanted more data.

    However, people get confused about the role of the models. people identified the possibility of human-induced warming without having the models, and most of the major effects were understood well before computers were good enough to do much about this.
    Briefly, if one knows that:
    – A given concentration of CO2 has a given “forcing” effect on temperature
    – CO2 concentrations are going up very fast
    – CO2 doesn’t drop out of the atmosphere very fast, hence there is a lot of momentum built into the system [especially the oceans].
    – Orbital circumstances don'[t change very fast
    – 11-year solar sunspot cycles have minimal effects
    – Solar irradiance varies, and the current high level certainly contributes to some of the temperature rise since the Little Ice Age, but even if it goes back down to the equivalent of the Maunder Minimum, that’s not going to eliminate the CO2 effects.
    – We have 6B people on the planet, and if we’re “lucky”, maybe we’ll stabilize around 9B (absent big pandemics or nuclear war,)

    Then, we can expect the temperature to go up for a while, no matter what we do. A lot of the modeling is to try to better calibrate various “what-if” scenarios. Put another way, the idea that we’re going to have serious global warming doesn’t just arise from computer climate models…

    3) Regarding Popper & falsifiability & models: as I noted, science works by getting successively-better approximations to reality. In some cases, we don’t have the data to choose between two different models, and sometimes we never will. In other cases, new data arrives, or we get more precision, and well-established theories are over-turned. One of the reasons I recommend Ruddiman’s book is that he doesn’t just describe the current state of thought, he talks about the history of climate theories, and why they changed over time, and how.

    I don’t know Lindzen personally, although I know some people who do. He has certainly tried to find mechanisms that would ameliorate the temperature rise [the “IRIS” hypotheis], but so far, other evidence hasn’t confirmed this very well. Some good scientists are puzzled abotu why he seems so sure.

    it is not a question of cut-and-dry presentation. I’ve heard very good scientists carefully present alternative scenarios, with careful caveats. But the trouble is, thistakes a lot of time, and background, and the popular press doesn’t have the space and time to do that. I sympathize with Lindzen over one or two criticisms with IPCC and the TAR, but really, the reason there is a general consensus about the overall effects is that the evidence is overpowering, and been piling up rapidly.

    The people who have been really sure are the “denialist” industry folks, and I have seen scientists who very careful be forced to make really strong statements in opposition.
    (analogy below):

    As to who reads IPCC reports: yep, most people won’t.
    California state water planners do.

    Analogy: suppose you feel sick, and 100 doctors come by and measure your temperature, each with their own kind of thermometer.
    At first, their measurements range from 98 – 105 degrees F.
    Reporter writes: doctors have no idea.

    Over time, they improve thermometers, and now their measurements say:
    103 degrees, +/-.1, and rising at .1 degree/hour.
    They argue incessantly about the +/- .1.
    And they all say “Weird form for heat stroke, we really need to stick you in an ice bath, or you’ll be in trouble in a couple days.”
    Reporter writes: doctors worry about patient, but still don’t agree.

    However, throughout all of this, a physicist who will call FS(not a physician) looks at you (without thermometer of any sort) and says (but never writes peer-reviewede research reports):

    You look fine, temperature is 98.6, and is actually going down.
    Then
    Well, you look fine, temperature is 98.6.
    Then
    Well, temperatures have gone up and down.
    Then
    Well, if your temperature goes up, actually, that will be better for you.
    and
    In any case, there’s nothing we can do about it, and if we did, you’d lose a lot of money, so you shouldn’t. In any case, if you do get warmer, you can migrate to Alaska.

    Reporter writes: “Doctors say patient in trouble, but on the other hand, it;s an unsettled issue, as FS says there is no problem.”

    In the real-world case, the patient has not yet died, fortunately, nor is likely to, but may well get very sick for a few hundred years. The initials FS are not chosen randomly.

  151. John_M said,

    March 27, 2007 at 1:12 am

    boredagain:

    1) Again, if you read only one thing, read Ruddiman’s book.

    2) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gases is actually not bad.

    3) All other things being equal, more CO2 and CH4 = jhigher temperature, but of course other things are never equal. For instance, a really good volcanic erurption could drop the temperature substantially for a year [Google: year without summer].

    4) Be warned that the earth is like teakettle: if you fill it and put it on the fire, ti doesn’t boil instantly. Scientists calculate lag times for various effects: increases in CO2 have lag times of muitiple decades: Ruddiman [p. 155 describes this clearly].

    Like I said, I don’t think the patient is going to die … but I do suspect that the history books of 2400, assuming there are some, are not going to have kind words about the centuries in which people consumed:
    – all the reasonably-accessible oil and gas
    – most of the coal
    – a lot of aquifers

    One can only hope that we achieve sustainable high technology, because if there’s any collapse, it will be difficult to rebuild.

    I suggest not listening to clueless doomsayers … but I worry hard when I listen to sensible, highly-regarded scientists (like Ruddiman, or James Hansen, or Stephen Schneider) .

    Again: please read Ruddiman, if you do nothing else.

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