The Daily Telegraph misrepresent a scientist’s work, then refuse to correct it when he writes to them.

January 8th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in climate change, telegraph | 109 Comments »

People in the “public engagement” community often talk about how scientists should do more to communicate with the media. I take a different line: scientists have good grounds to be extremely nervous, and some entities and journalists could quite fairly be blacklisted.

Here’s just one more example. It doesn’t stand out, I get sent plenty every week, and when I get a moment I’ll find a way to archive the tips efficiently online: but I’m posting this one here because the Telegraph have misrepresented a scientists work, refused to correct it when he writes to them, and then refused even to let him post an online comment on the article which misrepresented his own work. This strikes me as harsh.

So, on the 1st of January the Telegraph’s science correspondent wrote this piece: “Greenhouse gases could have caused an ice age, claim scientists” was the headline. “Scientists have warned” that “filling the atmosphere with Greenhouse gases associated with global warming could push the planet into a new ice age”.

Wrong. And I’ve posted the whole article below, in case they quietly change it, because the entire story was bullshit from start to finish. The work showed nothing of the sort. The Telegraph didn’t speak to Prof Ian Fairchild (they call him Dr), and their authoritative quote from him in the article was copied and pasted out of context.

Worse than that, Prof Fairchild has tried to post comments on the article which flatly misrepresents his own research, twice, but his comments have been rejected by the Telegraph’s online comment moderators, while 23 other comments have appeared.

It’s quite hard to understand both the intellectual and moral reasoning behind this kind of behaviour.

He also sent the following letter on Monday, which they have not deigned to print. It is now Thursday and it has not appeared. That means it will not.

Sir,

Contrary to the headline about our scientific work that appeared last week on the Telegraph website, high levels of greenhouse gases did not trigger an ice age. In our paper in Science we provided independent evidence for a theory that a hot atmosphere rich in greenhouse gases could coexist with a cold, glacial Earth surface.  A planet largely covered in ice and snow (a Snowball Earth) would allow carbon dioxide emitted from volcanoes to build up in the atmosphere over millions of years.  We show that this actually happened at a time in the Earth’s history prior to the evolution of animals.

Perhaps it was the prolonged cold snap over Christmas that set the headline writer’s mind racing, but the contemporary relevance of our work is rather different.  A Snowball Earth could be re-created, in spite of greenhouse warming.  For example, a nuclear war would generate a pall of dust, reflecting sunlight away from the Earth.  Also, a proposed technological fix to global warming – launching a mass of tiny sulphate aerosol particles in the atmosphere – could be overdone with the same result.    Barring these horrors, we are left with the physical reality of greenhouse warming, despite the vagaries of our wonderfully capricious British weather.

best wishes,

Ian

Ian J. Fairchild
Professor of Physical Geography

To my mind this is poor quality journalism followed, more importantly, by cowardly editorial decision-making. This article could very easily be retracted or corrected, clearly and unambiguously, in the newspaper. I honestly don’t understand why they wouldn’t do this. People make mistakes. What distinguishes you from the morons is what you do when the mistakes get pointed out.

A proper lay summary on the work is available here:

www.gees.bham.ac.uk/staff/fairchildresearchglacial.shtml

You can read the academic journal article on the work here:

www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5910/119

The Press Association managed not to get the story wrong:

www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5gTxL07eoayqwyXcqkpQyShNb9cFw

Tim Lambert already spotted this:

scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2009/01/telegraph_takes_lead_from_aust.php

And finally here is the Telegraph piece:

Greenhouse gases could have caused an ice age, claim scientists

Filling the atmosphere with Greenhouse gases associated with global warming could push the planet into a new ice age, scientists have warned.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:51PM GMT 01 Jan 2009

Comments 23 | Comment on this article

Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that 630 million years ago the earth had a warm atmosphere full of carbon dioxide but was completely covered with ice.

The scientists studied limestone rocks and found evidence that large amounts of greenhouse gas coincided with a prolonged period of freezing temperatures.

Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university’s school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned.

While pollution in the air is thought to trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up, this new research suggests it could also have the opposite effect reflecting rays back into space.

This effect would be magnified by other forms of pollution in the earth’s atmosphere such as particles of sulphate pumped into the air through industrial pollution or volcanic activity and could create ice age conditions once more, the scientists said.

Dr Ian Fairchild, lead investigator, said: “We came up with an independent test of a theory that the earth, like a baked Alaska pudding, was once hot on the outside, surrounding a cold, icy surface.

“It happened naturally in the past, but the wrong use of technology could make it happen again.”

The limestones studied were collected in Svalbard in the Arctic Ocean, which is covered in ice and snow.

And lastly, if you are an academic, and you have been misrepresented in the media, it’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last, so get in touch. I am always very keen to hear from you.

ben@badscience.net


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
If you like what I do, and you want me to do more, you can: buy my books Bad Science and Bad Pharma, give them to your friends, put them on your reading list, employ me to do a talk, or tweet this article to your friends. Thanks! ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

109 Responses



  1. devilskitchen said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:40 am

    “As you will know the Telegraph are a friendly home to climate change denialist bores.”

    Wow, Ben: with one sentence, you have managed to lose any support that I had for you.

    I know that you doctors are absolutely brilliant at grabbing a sensational headline and never admitting that you are wrong, e.g. prion transmission of TSEs, but I had, oddly, thought that you might be different.

    What a pity.

    DK

  2. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:48 am

    ooh hello, only posted a second ago, i was editing that sentence out and jiggling as i thought the whole thing was too long.

    dont know what youre on about with prions and me being part of a gang of doctors out to grab headlines, but the tele do enjoy climate comedy, their christopher booker is a bit of a joker, and this linked above

    www.badscience.net/2008/09/dont-let-the-facts-spoil-a-good-story/

    was pretty rubbish too.

  3. Wurzel said,

    January 8, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Also, any chance of elaboration on the prion thing? As a university student of animal and plant disease I’d be pretty interested in hearing any evidence that prion transmission of TSEs (which I thought was pretty definitely shown, at least for CJD, vCJD and BSE) is an incorrect model.

  4. oneoffmanmental said,

    January 8, 2009 at 3:51 am

    I do wonder what percentage of your readership does side with the denialist reading of climate change. It might be higher than you think.

  5. Picklish said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:13 am

    Devilskitchen:

    The Telegraph employ Christopher Booker. He denies climate change, this cannot be denied. see:

    www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/3982101/2008-was-the-year-man-made-global-warming-was-disproved.html

    What makes him a bore is the fact that he uses no sources, speaks to none of the ‘eminent climate experts’ he claims to represent, and bases the argument for his headline entirely upon anecdote.

    But what Richard Alleyne and his editors have done borders on criminal. Is there not a law against such intentional misrepresentation?

    Last year, the Telegraph sold more than 800,000 copies a day. (www.mad.co.uk/Main/Home/Articles/4cc0f6c763b840c188174f50993f0ba3/emTelegraphem-is-the-only-paper-to-increase-sales-in-November.html) They need to be held to account.
    If you want to do something about it go here:

    www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/process.html

    then write to here.

    Press Complaints Commission
    Halton House
    20/23 Holborn
    London EC1N 2JD

    picklish

  6. gimpyblog said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:55 am

    I do wonder what percentage of your readership does side with the denialist reading of climate change. It might be higher than you think.

    I should imagine it is, there are a lot of people out there in the blogosphere who confuse contrarianism with scepticism. This, I belive, stems from the observation that being at odds with public opinion on an issue that can neither be proved strongly right or wrong is proably a good thing in a free thinking democratic society and improves the general quality of debate, but unfortunately this gives some people a false sense of their good judgement which leads them to believe that opposing the scientific consensus on an issue is a good thing. It can be, but only if you are an expert in the field with some convincing evidence at your fingertips. The devilskitchen is a webdesigner of somesort.

    With respect to the original post, pretty awfdul behaviour from The Telegraph but not unusual from the media unfortunately. Take this example of Britains happiest places which was covered on Badscience, my blog but most endurably by apgaylard who, after much communication, got them to admit fault but they still managed to get the story wrong and haven’t corrected all aspects of it. The media as a whole simply do not have the knowledge, experience or judgement to communicate science effectively.

  7. benry said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:36 am

    I am sorry to say that since Roger Highfield left the Daily Telegraph for New Scientist, the quality of its reporting has gone down hill rather dramatically. Dr Highfield is a scientist. I can’t say what qualifications Richard Alleyne has.
    As to your point about the moderators, it is my experience on both the Daily Telegraph and its spiritual cousin, the Daily Mail, that comments that criticise or cast the article in a bad light don’t often get through.

  8. Bob Ward said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I’m afraid Ben that you are aiming at the wrong target. the Telegraph article is a pretty faithful reproduction of the press release issued by the researchers’ host institution, the University of Birmingham: www.newscentre.bham.ac.uk/press/2009/01/Ice_Age_Press_Release_02_01_09.shtml

    I bet that the article in the Telegraph was probably written in good faith by the journalist who, not unreasonably but erroneously, probably expected that the University of Birmingham’s press office had had checked the contents of the release with the researchers.

    The letter from the researchers to the Telegraph, which you quote above, fails to admit the mistake originated from the press office and implied that the mistake was entirely the fault of the newspaper.

    So, do you still want to shoot the messenger?

  9. NorthernBoy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

    DevilsKitchen, that post was useless without you providing some information to back it up. Well, not entirely useless, as it succinctly gives a reasonable piece of evidence that you side with the climate change denialists.

    The denialist label is, I think a valid one. Cogent and coherent arguments for or against a scientific conclusion really only work if they are done from a position of intellectual honesty, and all too many voices regrding climate change are not. As a veteran of arguing with cranks from all manner of scientific disciplines, it is always disappointing to see the sort of arguments put forward in a current discussion which are popular among those who disbelieve relativity or quantum mechanics.

    Basically, if an argument is from final consequences, or from personal incredulity, it is pretty much worthless. If someone posts an article against global warming which fundamentally distorts a scientist’s work (and then refuses to accept this), then that is fairly called climate change denial. If a newspaper makes a habit of doing this, then it is perfectly fair to point out that they are doing it.

    To criticise this form of argument is not to stifle debate. It is not an Orwellian plot to change the language to stop dissent, but is simply correctly pointing out that any conclusions reached from a flawed argument are unsupported by that argument.

    So please, could you explain further? Despite the evidence in Dr Goldacre’s post, do you deny that the newspaper has been dishonest here? Do you not see that it is right to call these things when they happen?

  10. Dudley said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Every single press story ever should always be read without reference to the headline. Headlines are mostly written by very junior newspaper staff, and it is not their responsibility to investigate the article, only to give a rough idea of its contents. Being usually both fairly inexperienced and under a great deal of minute-by-minute pressure, it’s only natural they make loads of mistakes. This isn’t an ideal situation, but unless and until people are willing to pay an awful lot more for their daily newspaper, it will continue to be the case.

  11. James-Ketteringham said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Do you know if Prof Fairchild has complained to the Press Complaints Commission?

  12. Bob Ward said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

    One of the interesting aspects of the letter from the researchers is that it appears only to be correcting the headline – which, of course, was written by a sub-editor and not the reporter. Does this mean that the researchers are happy with the rest of the article? Ben thinks “the entire story was bullshit from start to finish”, and by implication, that must mean the press release is as well!

    As Ben says, people make mistakes, but “What distinguishes you from the morons is what you do when the mistakes get pointed out.”

  13. hughcharlesparker said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Bob Ward: I’ve read both the press release and the article. The press release is accurate, the article isn’t. Although Prof Fairchild’s letter started with a reference to the headline, the body of his letter referred to the body of the article.

  14. LadyL said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I’ve just read the press release and it says nothing of the sort!

    Story:
    “Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university’s school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned.”

    Press release:
    “This type of glaciation could occur again in the future if the Earth’s atmosphere reflected too much solar radiation – this process could be triggered by a nuclear war creating a dusty mantle around the Earth. The same applies if we were not careful with a suggested technological fix for global warming and launched tiny particles (aerosols) of sulphate into the atmosphere. ”

    Absolutely not the same thing. Almost the exact opposite.

    But Simon is right. The fact that the Telegraph refused to publish his comments or a letter or correct the story is a disgrace.

  15. splittter said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I don’t really understand the people claiming the press release shares some of the blame. The problem with the Telegraph article seems to be the claimed causative link between greenhouse gases and an ice age, which is entirely absent from the press release, but which is present both in the headline and the main text of the article.

  16. NorthernBoy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Splitter, indeed. The press release absolutely does not claim that an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could trigger a snowball earth. The Telegraph story does.

    Plese, Mr Ward, could you explain how “Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed” is consistent with the press release?

    I genuinely do not understand your contention that the Telegraph did not misrepresent the story. Your claim that the reader should not rely on the headline would appear to be facetious, and to misdirect, as it implied that reading the story without reference to the headline would show that it matched the press release. It does not.

  17. ChrisSamsDad said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Is it just me, or are people apparently able to post from an hour in the future today?

  18. SimonCox said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    The Biologista: “The blame lies with the Telegraph. Even if the press release had fluffed it, it would still lie with the Telegraph for failing to seek clarification on an extraordinary claim.”

    Yes, the more I look at it all the less I think the Birmingham University press office was at fault and the more blame I am inclined to lay at the feet of the Telegraph journalist. And there was already a large, steaming heap of blame there.

  19. Bob Ward said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Let me offer a clarification of my comments. I am not seeking to absolve the Telegraph of all blame. For a start, the article independently introduced the erroneous statement that “such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed”, which is not suggested by the press release.

    However, it seems pretty clear that the confusion at the Telegraph was caused by the spin that the press release placed on the original paper, which nowhere mentions current warming or geoengineering proposals to counter it by pumping sulphate into the atmosphere.

    There is responsibility to be shared here and I don’t think it is reasonable to place all of the blame on the journalist.

  20. HowardW said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    I agree – the blame lies with the Telegraph article, not with the Birmingham press release.

    The “greenhouse gases can cause glaciation” idea only appears in the Telegraph, as does the bizarre paragraph that says “pollution in the air is thought to trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up, this new research suggests it could also have the opposite effect reflecting rays back into space.”

    Again, this seems to rest on a misinterpretation of “pollution”. In the press release, they clearly talk about sulphates from pollution or volcanoes having a reflective/cooling effect. The Telegraph seems to somehow link pollution to greenhouse gases, resulting in their “more greenhouse gases = more reflection of sun’s energy away from earth = possible glaciation.”

    Mad.

    Howard

  21. S said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Trusting a press office to check contents is not a reasonable action, methinks – they are a press office. Their aim is to generate press and therein lies their main goal – I somehow doubt that your average press office, university based or otherwise, is as concerned about accurate representation of facts as they are about generating press.

    And putting aside the fact the story even appeared in the first place, the Professor has dutifully tried to correct the story and The Telgraph have denied him the opportunity – never mind the heinous printing of the article in the first place – their total inability to admit any fault is far worse, in my opinion.

  22. tom-p said,

    January 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Bob Ward, the torygraph article tells a completely different story to the press release.
    Both the story and the headline do this. It is clearly the telegraph’s fault for their error.

    For those who don’t know, Devil’s Kitchen is a climate change denier. Like all extreme right wingers who call themselves libertarians, he wants to be able to dowhat he wants when he wants and bollcks to the rest of the world.

  23. ponting said,

    January 8, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    The Telegraph news operation is now run by the same people who were in charge of the Mail during MMR. Their definition of journalism is completely alien to the that which existed before their arrival 2-2.5 years ago. Whereas previously specialist journalists were tasked with knowing their subjects and evaluating the truth/worth of stories, they are now tasked with doing what they are told. If a reporter refuses to write a story on the grounds that it is not true, the Mail reject news managers simply get an inexperienced, low paid newcomer to do it and start planning how to get rid of the journalist with standards.

    One journalist was asked to investigate a report that a household appliance increased the risk of a particular cancer. When the journalist provided a list of a series of reasons why the research was not to be trusted, the story was run anyway.

    On another occasion a dubious rival media outlet ran a piece on a a miracle embryonic stem cell cure carried out by a known charlatan who refused to publish or provide any details, and was based purely on one ill person’s claims. The journalist who pointed these flaws out was ignored and the piece was run prominently.

    There are hundreds of similar stories. Those making these decisions believe they can fool Telegraph readers in the same way they did Mail readers for years. Having spoken to someone who has seen the tone and volume of the complaints this has generated from formerly loyal readers, I suspect they are wrong.

    Out of around 25 news journalists who were at the Telegraph when it was a quality newspaper before the arrival of the Mail rejects, only three remain. Leaving is the only option for those refuse to have speculation, exaggeration, omission and conscious distortion appear under their names.

    So yes there may well be criticisms that can be levelled against those who allow their ambition, or more usually their fear, to rise above their standards. However the reality is the real blame lies with those higher up the ladder who have closed down one of the remaining quality news outlets in Britain for their own short-term personal gain.

  24. Ben Goldacre said,

    January 8, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    bob ward,

    i really do think you are very mistaken here.

    the telegraph article was simply wrong. the press release, and the lay summary, and the academic paper, explained that there were high levels of greenhouse gases around at the time of an ice age in the past. this is important and relevant to various models of climate.

    the telegraph sprang on this, but the story, in their fertile imaginations, suddenly became that high levels of greenhouse gases could CAUSE an ice age.

    this was NOT just in the headline, as you claim, it was in the body of the telegraph article, eg “Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university’s school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned.” The researchers did not warn about this, and the reporter also seems – to my mind – to be rather confused about different forms of pollution.

    i’m particularly concerned by your defense of this spectacularly bad journalism given your history of defending what i consider to be iffy practises, and arguing that journalists should be more free to report on academic research in the absence of an academic paper,

    eg here in Times Higher Education:

    www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=310280&sectioncode=26

    which i argued against here in Times Higher Education, on the grounds that it seems to be a fairly consistently observed risk factor for cockups:

    www.badscience.net/?p=537

    I guess your view of science journalism strikes me as a little utopian, and fails to engage with the important issues not just of how and how often it goes wrong, but also the crucial failure to manage errors after the fact.

    i also see that in (deep breath) your THE response to my THE response:

    www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=310700&sectioncode=26

    you explain that “the media at least try to present information that is accessible to the public, something that researchers fail to do through scientific papers and conference presentations.”

    actually research often do this, and often want to, but many in the media create an artificial barrier and seem to keep their readers from this material, rather than actively linking to it, I suspect because it offends the journalist’s prize position as mediator.

    in this case, for example, someone in birmingham produced some excellent extra materials which must have taken considerable time and effort to produce.

    i don’t just mean the press release which is of course available to the public:

    www.newscentre.bham.ac.uk/press/2009/01/Ice_Age_Press_Release_02_01_09.shtml

    but more importantly, this very lengthy and nicely illustrated lay summary which i linked to above:

    www.gees.bham.ac.uk/staff/fairchildresearchglacial.shtml

    in this specific example – just one of many – the media were guilty of spectacularly misrepresenting a piece of scientific research, and refusing to clarify on it, and as far as I can see, the scientists in question did absolutely everything one could expect of them.

    i know you’ve done work in this area before, at least i assume you had something to do with the Royal Society’s rather good science communication guidelines for journalists and academics:

    royalsociety.org/document.asp?id=1412

    and i guess i just think it would be great if we could hope to have someone like you on side in helping to document and manage some of these problems.

  25. MedsVsTherapy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Dr. Fairchild has a PhD. Therefore the title “Doctor” is valid.

  26. MedsVsTherapy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    We should coin this phenomenon: the “Headline Exemption” to journalistic integrity. Newspapers hide behind this one a lot. One person writes the story. But another person, who may barely review the story, writes the headline. So, when a headline is misleading, the journalistic entity can claim that they are not being irresponsible; it was simply a quirck of how they work. I wrote Reuters complaining that they should not use “hooker” for prostitute, or “drunk” for alcoholic, in headlines (both unacceptable derogatory labels). They claimed the “headline exemption.”

  27. jsymes said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    As a journalist, it is immediately obvious to me that the Telegraph’s headline and article misrepresent both the PA report and the university’s summary by making a causal link between greenhouse gases and glaciation. That was wrong and should have been corrected and apologised for (perhaps using the standard line “We apologise for any embarrassment caused”, which always makes me laugh, since the embarrassment is almost always on the newspaper’s part).

    Two points:
    1) This was published during the festive silly season, when a skeletal staff and a lack of hard news means it’s a case using the services of “Phil Space”, interviewing “Mr Del Keyboard” et al, to fill the paper and website. Any editorial checks and balances that may normally exist tend to go by the wayside at this time of the year.
    2) It is the latest dire manifestation of what has been going on in the dumbed-down, redundancy-hit editorial department at the Telegraph for some time (see Street of Shame, Private Eye, this week and past issues, seemingly ad infinitum).

    Note: This is not to excuse the Telegraph’s mistakes and lack of apology, merely to explain how it possibly came about. Whether it would have been any different if the Telegraph was properly, fully staffed, and at a different time of the year, I don’t know.

    That said, I have a problem with Prof Fairchild’s “baked Alaska” analogy. I can see what he’s sort of getting at, except the pudding in question does not have a hot, molten centre. Earth, even Snowball Earth, most assuredly does, and did.

  28. SimonCox said,

    January 8, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    jsymes: “That said, I have a problem with Prof Fairchild’s “baked Alaska” analogy. I can see what he’s sort of getting at, except the pudding in question does not have a hot, molten centre. Earth, even Snowball Earth, most assuredly does, and did.”

    Like all analogies it’s not perfect, but he goes on to explain the concept clearly enough: “Earth, like a baked Alaska pudding, was once hot on the outside, surrounding a cold, icy surface.” So the surface of the Earth was cold whilst the atmosphere was hot…kind of like the ice cream/meringue interface in a baked Alaska. Yes, it would have been a better analogy if the recipe for baked Alaska incorporated a ball of molten metal inside the ice cream, but you can’t have everything.

    Thanks for the insight into how this particular article might have come into being, by the way. Interesting stuff.

  29. Bob Ward said,

    January 8, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Ben,

    I hadn’t realised that you have so much pent up feelings about me!

    Let’s see if we can define some common ground between us.

    The Telegraph article is based on the press release issued by the University of Birmingham, not the paper in Science.

    The press release includes fairly prominently a reference to current warming and the possibility of countering it with geoengineering by pumping sulphate particles into the atmosphere.

    The Science paper does not refer to current warming or geoengineering.

    The Science paper was subject to peer review.

    The press release was not subject to peer review.

    So, do you think the Telegraph would have got things so wrong if it had only used the peer-reviewed paper? Was the university wrong to produce the press release with the intention of it generating media coverage? Is it really only the newspaper’s fault, and the is the university completely blameless?

  30. tom-p said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Bob Ward,

    Please forgive me for butting in, but the telegraph is completely to blame on this story.
    compare and contrast:

    Press release headline
    Scientists Discover Carbon Dioxide Rich Atmosphere Present in Ancient Ice Age

    Telegraph headline
    Filling the atmosphere with Greenhouse gases associated with global warming could push the planet into a new ice age, scientists have warned.

    Press release first 3 paragraphs
    Research by the University of Birmingham has provided evidence that a warm atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide was present in an ancient ice age. This could only have happened if the planet was nearly all covered in ice and snow.
    Scientists from the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, say that, whereas today, we associate more greenhouse gases with a warm world, in a very severe ice age, even plenty of greenhouse gas cannot stop the world being covered in reflective ice and snow.
    This type of glaciation could occur again in the future if the Earth’s atmosphere reflected too much solar radiation – this process could be triggered by a nuclear war creating a dusty mantle around the Earth. The same applies if we were not careful with a suggested technological fix for global warming and launched tiny particles (aerosols) of sulphate into the atmosphere. Such aerosols arise both from industrial pollution and from volcanic activity, and even in trace quantities are known to cause cooling.

    Now that clearly makes it plain that the snowball earth came first and that greenhouse gases are not to blame for snowball earth, also that non-CO2 things being pumped into the atmosphere might cause a cooling effect

    Telegraph’s first 3 paragraphs
    Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that 630 million years ago the earth had a warm atmosphere full of carbon dioxide but was completely covered with ice.
    The scientists studied limestone rocks and found evidence that large amounts of greenhouse gas coincided with a prolonged period of freezing temperatures.
    Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed, the university’s school of geography, earth and environmental sciences warned.

    This last paragraph clearly states “Such glaciation could happen again if global warming is not curbed”, which is obviously wrong to anyone with even half a brain (not that I’m suggesting that Telegraph journalists have half a brain, I wouldn’t be so kind).
    As someobody pointed out above, it appears that they conflated a nuclear winter and sulphate aeerosols with CO2 (see below)
    “While pollution in the air is thought to trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere, causing the planet to heat up, this new research suggests it could also have the opposite effect reflecting rays back into space.”

    Basically, the Torygraph spectacularly misrepresented the press release and they compounded this by refusing right-of-reply to the prof.
    They would probably still have misrepresented the peer-reviewed paper, but that’s ‘cos they’re clearly either incompetent or ideologues (or both).

  31. drahcir said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    it might be a bit sneaky, but when a doctor or scientist get misrepresented like this, and then constantly ignored when they try to clarify the issue, why dont they write to other newspapers and tabloids explaining whats happened. Surely a newspaper isn’t going to be that shy about exposing the wrong doings of a rival paper, as we saw when the mirror faked those pictures of iraci (pardon spelling) war criminals being tortured. the sun and other tabloids jumped on the opportunity to mock the mirror for this. surely the same can be done with stories like tthis one, not only would it clear up the issue but it would also make the media more wary about printing bullshit

  32. The Biologista said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Ponting’s post above is very illuminating and also very disturbing. It seems that far from mere negligence or ignorance being a driving force behind the mainstream media’s dismal presentation of science, there is actually an active anti-reason movement at work here. Active barriers to the communication of science by scientists to the public. Is this an effort to boost profits? Does it reflect a public less willing to deal with the traditional broadsheet style?

  33. The Biologista said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    drahcir,

    That sounds like an excellent idea. Fairchild should write to the other papers. The problem being that the reality of this story is a lot less interesting to the public than the bullshit version. Hard to know how interesting the expose piece would be considered.

  34. Jamie Horder said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    Bob Ward: There’s something very disturbing about the idea that journalists should be treating press releases uncritically, such that if a press release is misleading, the journalist isn’t to blame for reporting it as fact.

    The journalist did not say, “According to a University Press Officer, ‘X'”. He said “X”. That means he has a responsibility to check his facts.

    Checking facts used to be an important part of journalism. There was a time when press releases wouldn’t have been treated so kindly – indeed, there was even a time when they didn’t exist.

    It’s not that hard to read the original paper. Or if it is, you shouldn’t be writing about science.

  35. Jamie Horder said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    P.S I also take issue with this :

    “The media at least try to present information that is accessible to the public, something that researchers fail to do through scientific papers and conference presentations.”

    It’s not scientists job to communicate with the public. If a scientist makes even a so-so attempt to do so that’s above and beyond the call of duty. Journalists are paid to communicate the public the truth. If they make a so-so effort, that’s failure.

  36. Michael_K_Vegfruit said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    But what Richard Alleyne and his editors have done borders on criminal. Is there not a law against such intentional misrepresentation?

    It’s not criminal, but it looks like pretty clear cut defamation.

    To make a claim for damages for libel, you have to show:
    *That an article identifies you, and makes a claim about you
    *That the claim is likely to damage your reputation in some way (in this case, his professional reputation)
    *That the claim is untrue

    The article identifies Prof Fairchild, and claims that he has produced a paper (and drawn conclusions) that noone who was competent in his field would produce. He didn’t produce any such paper. So, the article falsely implies that Fairchild is professionally incompetent.

    If he really wants to make the point they should be a bit more careful with scientists’ reputations, he (ideally with the backup, and deep pockets, of his university) should point out to the Telegraph that he has grounds for a claim.

    As an industry journalist, I would never risk making this sort of mistake, because the fallout could bankrupt me and stop me ever working in my field again: businesses do sue you if you f*ck up. If scientists took the same approach, or at least threatened too, papers would have much more of an incentive to report their work accurately (or, at least, not to report it unless they did so accurately).

    —-

    Someone, above, calls headline writers ‘junior staff’. Good subs are skilled staff, and should be able to judge whether a story is likely to be true, just on whether it is coherent, and fits what they already know. A good headline will express the article’s main them consistently. It’s not a job for ‘junior staff’, but for skilled journalists.

    —-

    Finally, there’s no such thing as a ‘headline exemption’. A headline will reach more readers, and affect their opinions more, than the article will. On that basis, a defamatory headline could earn you more damages than a defamtory article: it causes more damage to your reputation than a falsehood tucked away in the tenth paragraph of an otherwise true article.

  37. Michael_K_Vegfruit said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    *”theme concisely”, not “them consistently”, and numerous other typos. I really should review my comments before hitting submit (or have them subbed properly…)

  38. MedsVsTherapy said,

    January 8, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Finally, there’s no such thing as a ‘headline exemption’. A headline will reach more readers, and affect their opinions more, than the article will. On that basis, a defamatory headline could earn you more damages than a defamtory article.”

    I agree totally. I am just noting that I have observed the ‘headline phenomenon’ presented by journalism outlets as their excuse for a misleading headline.

  39. zitnok said,

    January 8, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Is this relevant? www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=42219&sectioncode=1

  40. joabbess said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    It’s not just the headline that’s wrong with this piece : it’s practically the whole article, in my view.

    I have corresponded with Dr Huiming Bao, one of the scientists who co-wrote the research paper, and after some considerable exchange, and a crash course in paleo-geology (courtesy of Google), I was able to determine exactly in what ways the Daily Telegraph science was bad :-

    www.changecollege.org.uk/html/snowball_earth_baked_alaska.html

    I too have written to the Daily Telegraph, asking for published corrections or a retraction of the piece.

    No reply, as yet…

  41. Ginger Yellow said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Bob, Ben has long argued that university press releases are often misleading and that journalists should only use material in the papers themselves (and talk to the researchers of course). And as other people have pointed out, a press release is not an excuse, even if it is wrong. Press releases are spin. News reporting is supposed to be fact.

  42. S said,

    January 9, 2009 at 12:23 am

    In response to Fairchild taking his story to rival news outlets – he’d have to wade through tedious newspaper rivalries, but I’m also not so sure they’d be willing to expose a rival paper for this kind of thing – because a depressing number of them are guilty of acting in a similar manner. Maybe not across the board, but by exposing The Telegraph, surely they’d be exposing themselves to some degree?

    I was interested to see the double-page spread on Bad Science in The London Lite today – seeing as it’s one of the freesheets that’s often packed with bad science.

  43. The Inorganic Gardener said,

    January 9, 2009 at 1:12 am

    I have two comments to make here.

    1. RE: Press being buggers for ignoring facts and refusing to change things.

    I am a scientist. I happen to work on an area very closely linked to climate change. Not too long ago, I won quite a prestigious award from a learnèd society for my contributions to my field. Naturally, the University I work for wanted to do a press release re: this (I should add that it took many drafts before I was happy with the spin they put on the press-release but still…). Various local rags associated to me (e.g. where I’m from, places I’ve lived) etc printed short articles, two of which completely misinterpreted the Press Release and wrote something quite different (one of which ended up crediting me for a very, very famous piece of work done back in the early-1980s when I was just a bit young!). I wrote to them and asked that they correct the articles and I was completely ignored. At best this is an annoying misrepresentation of my work but some would read it and think that I myself was claiming to have discovered things that I hadn’t discovered.

    2. RE: Prions. 5+ years ago, I had the good fortune of working with Prof Alan Ebringer (who some might consider controversial – he has published several papers regarding TSEs being autoimmune diseases). I say fortunate because he taught me a lot about the process and politics of research. Whilst I don’t think BSE/CJD/FFI/CWD etc are 100% autoimmune diseases, I have no doubt there is some autoimmune involvement in them. Now whether this is the cause of the diseases or is caused by them, I have no idea, but the literature is out there. Some of it’s very wacky. Some of it has my name (spelled wrong) on it. Some of it is very interesting. As with all theories, the prion hypothesis has flaws and many people will be aware that the UK government has to support it because if it transpired that slaughtering all those cattle 10ish years ago wasn’t necessary there would be a lot of problems now (cf. an article by Linklater in The Times re: Ebringer c.2003). That said, I think the majority of the prion hypotheses are somewhere towards being “correct”, but there is still much work to do and holes to close.

    tig
    PS: Can you please all learn to spell “sulfate” while we’re at it? The “ph” in “sulphate” is just plain wrong – cf. basic Latin!

  44. drahcir said,

    January 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

    In response to S

    While you do have a point, remember that papers are not above hypocrasy (again sorry for spelling). Does anyone remember the paedofile special of the satrical show Brass Eye. The daily star reported on it negatively while also printing a story (in the same issue) about the 15 year old charllote church’s tits, under the headline “shes a big girl now”. we also had the daily mail describing the show in a headline as “unspeakably sick” right nect to a picture of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who were 13 and 11 at the time, in bikinis. Newspapers are not above hypocrisy.

  45. hozepipe said,

    January 9, 2009 at 11:31 am

    Just wanted to chime in on the comments about GW denialists and ‘bores’. Doesn’t anyone find that phrase a little ad hominem? It makes me very uneasy. It reminds me of the smear tactics used by the envriro-nazis with phrases like ‘frankenstein food’ and ‘terminator genes’ regarding GM food. The sub-text seems to be to perpetuate the illusion that there IS a consensus on AGW in the scientific community.

    I only recently found out about the 2008 Manhattan Declaration on Climate Change (732 qualified endorsees, 114 physically present on the day stating that ‘“Global warming” is not a global crisis’). I didn’t read about it in the UK press – funny that. I just did a search for the phrase on the BBC, Guardian and the Times websites in case I missed it… nothing. The Telegraph didn’t report it as news either apparently but it was covered by ‘denialist bore’ Christopher Booker. ho hum.

    I don’t deny Global Warming (what does that really mean anyway?) but I don’t see evidence for an anthropic cause commensurate with the level of hysteria about its projected effects. Apparently that makes me contrarian.

  46. Jamie Horder said,

    January 9, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    “Doesn’t anyone find that phrase a little ad hominem? It makes me very uneasy. It reminds me of the smear tactics used by the envriro-nazis…”

    At least Ben’s ad hominem smear is spelled correctly, and doesn’t invoke Hitler. you can’t make it up.

  47. buckley said,

    January 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    “Doesn’t anyone find that phrase a little ad hominem?”
    “envriro-nazis”

    The Irony.

  48. hozepipe said,

    January 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    OK I admit the obvious irony in my complaint there, my intention wasn’t to be sanctimonious at all, so I’ll take it on the chin.

    I would just like to know how is it reasonable to assume there’s a consensus on AGW (which is what the UK media would lead me to believe) given such things as the Manhattan Declaration? How is it possible for a non-expert to even hold an opinion on GW with so much noise in the debate?

    Re the paper: it seems to suggest that the opposite of the popular belief that carbon dioxide is the prime mover when it comes to global warming. I thought that water vapour was the main greenhouse gas anyway.

  49. ponting said,

    January 9, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Biologista: It is not an active anti-reason movement. It is not primarily about any ideology. The main driving force is the short-term personal gain of a particular group of individuals, who see the truth of a story as very low down on the list of priorities.

    Another example: Every year a certain chocolate producer puts out press releases on their pseudo research into how chocolate makes us clever/stronger/better lovers/happier, etc.. Previously the Telegraph would dismiss this as PR nonsense that should not be inflicted on its readers. Since the arrival of the Mail rejects management, when a reporter points out the flaws in the ‘research’, the instruction is to ‘include the caveats’ – which means a large story, inaccurate headline, with maybe one sceptical quote at the end, which will probably be cut out.

    A headline about chocolate curing cancer might get more short-term attention than the average true story. Unfortunately each clearly nonsense story leads to another few dozen/hundred intelligent readers leaving because they are sick of having their intelligence insulted. Which is why since the Mail reject managers arrived, circulation of the Telegraph (without giveaways) has crashed by 10 per cent, from 818,000 to 738,000 (Nov 06-Nov 08). They are now selling less copies than Richard Desmond’s Daily Express!

    This does not matter to the Mail reject managers as the consequences of their actions will not come home to roost in the short-term.

    It is essentially a view of journalism that sees it as identical to any other product in the marketplace, without any woolly ideas about social or democratic responsibilities.

  50. Cannonball Jones said,

    January 9, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Despard: Was about to post exactly that but you beat me to it. The level of actual scientific debate surrounding global warming is similar to that around evolution or heliocentrism. I wonder when the Telegraph is going to start printing stories about the evil scientific conspiracy to cover up the true disc-like nature of the Earth?

  51. The Biologista said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Ponting,

    Thank you for replying. I take your point about the idealism- the barriers to the communication of science in the mainstream are surely more about the philosophies of convenience and profit. Given that circulation numbers are dropping, what is the short benefit for the current management? Does the reliance on uncritical re-wording of press releases and reduction in fact checking make up for that loss in sales?

  52. hozepipe said,

    January 9, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    “There is no scientific debate over whether global warming is happening”

    Despard: Don’t want to sound like a broken record but as no one has given me a reason to doubt its integrity I refer again to the 700 or so signatures (including climate scientists and those in related disciplines) of the Manhattan Declaration which begins:

    ‘We, the scientists and researchers in climate and related fields, economists, policymakers, and business leaders, assembled at Times Square, New York City, participating in the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change…

    …Recognising that the causes and extent of recently-observed climatic change are the subject of intense debates in the climate science community and that oft-repeated assertions of a supposed ‘consensus’ among climate experts are false;’

    If you haven’t already please read the full declaration on the ICSC website.

  53. Deebles said,

    January 9, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Hozepipe,

    Those who oppose the environmentalist (and largely the scientific) mainstream on climate change are all agreed on one thing – that they disagree with the viewpoint which might be viewed as “the earth’s climate is warming up as a result of man’s activity, this is a problem, and we should do something about it”.

    However, they then split into four opposing camps, roughly:

    1) “The earth isn’t warming up”

    2) “The earth is warming up, but not as a result of man’s activity”

    3) “The earth is warming up and this is a result of man’s activity, but this isn’t a problem”

    4) “The earth is warming up and this is a result of man’s activity, this is a problem, but most/all of the measures proposed aren’t worth what they’ll cost”.

    Some hold to one of these viewpoints with good consistency, whereas others vacillate and oscillate between them. I largely suspect the latter (the Bush administration, for instance) of not really being interested in the truth of the matter.

    The Manhatten declaration, as written, neatly encapsulates all of the first three viewpoints, and might well have been thought worth signing by some people holding the fourth viewpoint to speak out against the myriad of measures being proposed to tackle climate change. Thus all can claim a consensus for their point of view from what is really quite a diverse set of assessments of the situation.

    ———-

    To my mind, the viewpoint worthy of most serious consideration out of these is camp 4’s (who, incidentally, truly aren’t “climate change deniers” per se). To research whether this point is valid, we need to try and get sound estimates on which measures, if any, for curtailing or ameliorating the impacts of climate change, are worth what they cost. Also, more work can also be done in regards to point 3, since estimates for the potential scale of and damage caused by climate change do vary so widely. But camps 1 and 2? I’m pretty convinced by the research already established that they’re wrong, and I’m bored of debating them when there are more useful discussions to be had. However, I don’t want to be too nasty, since your statements so far seem to put you in camp 2 – if so, and I’ve understood you correctly, what else do you ascribe the changes in climate to?

  54. ivormac said,

    January 9, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Ben, firstime poster, longtime reader :)

    I have a very unscientific point of view about the media. It boils down to one simple word, greed.

    A reward system based on greed will only bring out the worst in people, be they journos or any other type of professional.

    Anyone remember the Dilbert cartoon where the PHB announces a bounty for each bug fixed, Wally says “I’m going to code me a new mini-van!”.

    These guys sell newspapers for some nameless deity sake! If they don’t help to sell, they don’t have a job.

    They have realised that people out their in Red Top land have the attention span of a gold fish! Its like a big stoooopid race to the bottom of the barrel so that they can help the ignoramus who sits and pontificates in the Pub to sound authorative to his/her moronic friends.

    It is in the medias best interest to constantly stoke the fires of ignorance. People have grown up with the idea of the Ed McMorrow’s being the trusted voice of news reporting and they assume it is still the same.

    Its sad. I can only keep telling myself, my children, my coworkers, extended family etc. to inform themselves about what interests them and not to accept what is fed to them as established fact. Too many people accept at face value what is said by people they wouldn’t let into their own home.

    Ben, you have a hell of a job in front of you if this is what you are fighting to overcome. Dare I say it is a Sisyphean task.

    Ivor

  55. hozepipe said,

    January 9, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Deebles,

    To put it in context, I used to believe that GW was an impending disaster simply on the basis of an uninformed view fed with scare stories by the media. I came across Bjorn Lomborg’s writings and that was the eye-opener.

    Since then I’ve tried to find out what I can myself, but it isn’t easy for a non-expert. So I’m fairly and squarely in none of those categories! I simply do not know what the real situation is. If pressed the closest that I can genuinely claim is 4 but with a big ‘If’ prefix. I think Lomborg’s argument about the costs of mitigation are compelling, and that’s the only thing I’m fairly confident about.

  56. Big M said,

    January 9, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    “Bob Ward said

    The Telegraph article is based on the press release issued by the University of Birmingham, not the paper in Science.”

    Then it misrepresented the press release.

    The following couple of paragraphs from the press release make it abundantly clear, contrary to the article based on it, that greenhouse gasses do not cause ice ages. Instead what it says is that greenhouse gasses would merely be insufficient to stop such an ice age if it was caused by one of the other causes it goes on to list:

    “Scientists from the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, say that, whereas today, we associate more greenhouse gases with a warm world, in a very severe ice age, even plenty of greenhouse gas cannot stop the world being covered in reflective ice and snow.

    This type of glaciation could occur again in the future if the Earth’s atmosphere reflected too much solar radiation – this process could be triggered by a nuclear war creating a dusty mantle around the Earth. The same applies if we were not careful with a suggested technological fix for global warming and launched tiny particles (aerosols) of sulphate into the atmosphere. Such aerosols arise both from industrial pollution and from volcanic activity, and even in trace quantities are known to cause cooling. ”

    What the Telegraph reporter seems to have done is to confuse greenhouse gasses with aerosole suplhates. This is something that I, as a layman, think is entirely understandable, though it does raise serious questions about who should be reporting on scientific research.

    However, the behaviour of the Telegraph following the clarifications sent my Professor Fairchild is mind-boggling, and I find it rather disturbing that a major newspaper would take so many steps to actively avoid admitting a mistake, particularly when in direct correspondance with the scientist who wrote the paper.

  57. seanie said,

    January 9, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    hozepipe,

    Would you be similarly impressed by the 700 or so signatures, including scientists, on the petition doubting Darwinian evolution?

    www.dissentfromdarwin.org/about.php

  58. Psychedelia Smith said,

    January 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Hozepipe,

    I fear you’ve fallen victim to a textbook bit of astroturfing.

    The Manhattan declaration was signed at the the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, which, according to Sourcewatch.org, “was a conference held at the Marriott New York Marquis Times Square Hotel in New York between March 2-4 . The conference was organised and “sponsored” by the Heartland Institute, a U.S. think tanks [sic] that in preceding years received substantial funding from Exxon for its work downplaying the significance of global warming.”

    www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=The_2008_International_Conference_on_Climate_Change

    Heartland press release:

    www.heartland.org/policybot/results.html?artId=22866

    Among those who endorsed the article, listed here:

    www.climatescienceinternational.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=62&Itemid=1

    and quoted as “well-trained in science and technology or climate change-related economics and policy”, are in many cases nothing of the sort; among the list you find computer software engineers, aerospace engineers, TV weathercasters and the like – not really expert climatologists, though you could legitimately claim they have a ‘science background’ in the way that you could claim I’m a philosopher because I have a philosophy degree. Interestingly, David Bellamy’s on there too (check out www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/12/09/a-beardful-of-bunkum/ for the lowdown on his antics)

    Not only that, but if you’re sceptical about global warming, could you not apply some of that scepticism about about such alternative sources such as the icsc? While there is a list of 197 scientists with expertise in a related field, are you sure that they’ve even signed up for this? It’d be easy for someone to pluck the names off the internet. Short of ringing them all up to ask them (which 99.9% of us don’t have time to do, though it took me 10 minutes to find out all the above), we can’t be sure. That’s why people like Ben and George Monbiot who actually do go and check the sources, small print, references and the like are so stonkingly brilliant.

    Which brings me on to a related point: I must declare at this point I work professionally as a SUBEDITOR – but not, thanks heavens, for thte Daily Telegraph. The fact that journalists don’t check stuff like this is not necessarily their fault – read Nick Davies excellent Flat Earth news (www.flatearthnews.net)for an explanation of the pressures that journalists are under nowadays. The Telegraph article is a classic example of an article being written to suit an ideological agenda, and I think Prof Fairchild probably has good grounds to sue as outlined in an above post. It shouldn’t have to be the case that he should insert a caveat saying “Of course, our findings don’t disprove current anthropogenic global warming” just so it’s not misinterpreted. The Telegraph completely misinterpreted the science and turned it through 180 degrees.

    Sadly, this is why things like the Telegraph article and the Manhattan Declaration have me gnashing my teeth. They sow discord in the minds of the public about the scientific fact in exactly the same way that loony creationists do, by claiming there’s a controversy or lack of consensus when there simply isn’t. Cherry picking the data, using papers that have already been debunked – it goes on and on. And it’s worrying, especially when, in the morass of knowledge and ‘counter-knowledge’, you start to doubt what you believe. Which is exactly what they want.

    …….

    My first post – finally! Woohoo! (but not woo)

  59. Psychedelia Smith said,

    January 9, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    Yes I’m a subeditor and yes there are lots of typos. Blame laptop keyboards.

  60. hozepipe said,

    January 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    seanie:

    No, you’re right I wouldn’t.

    Psychedelia Smith:
    “I fear you’ve fallen victim to a textbook bit of astroturfing.”

    Maybe I have indeed.

    There seems to be misinformation and cherry picking on both sides and this is why I don’t find it as simple as a comparison to denying evolution. I understand evolution, the counter arguments from design are pretty ridiculous and easy to dismiss. I don’t find the counter arguments to AGW ridiculous. But as I haven’t examined the data myself, I’m reliant on the opinion of experts.

    But I can accept if I’ve taken too much notice of the extreme voices on both sides, rather than the genuine science in the middle, that this has likely skewed my perspective.

    Lomborg’s cool-headed approach, and he’s not a denier, is probably the most balanced overview I’ve read.

    If anyone can post a link to the unequivocal science on the causal link between CO2 and GW I’d be grateful.

    As you say Psychedelia Smith, most of us simply don’t have the time to check every fact or reference, and why Ben’s column and book are such brilliant resources.

  61. Deebles said,

    January 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Hozepipe,

    While I fully agree that the media overdo the scare stories, I also don’t view Bjorn Lomborg as an impeccable authority on these matters. If you take a look at his sourcewatch entry, you’ll see quite a few items on which he’s been called into question:

    www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bjorn_Lomborg

    One particular action of his which stands out imho is his exclusive consideration of the lowest-end climate change projections etc., which rather suggests that he’s the type to “use the evidence as a drunkard uses a lamp post – for support, rather than illumination”. To pick-and-choose from the IPCC’s projections without stating any reason for the selection strongly suggests that he’s purely being selective based on the point he wants to make.

  62. Despard said,

    January 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    hozepipe:

    There seems to be misinformation and cherry picking on both sides

    Most of the misinformation and cherry picking is on the side of the denialists. There are of course disagreements among scientists about the precise extent and causes of warming. If scientists didn’t disagree on the details, I’d be very surprised (being one myself!). The fact that many agree on the broad facts – warming is happening, and we are responsible – makes me very worried indeed.

    as I haven’t examined the data myself, I’m reliant on the opinion of experts.

    And this is a very real problem. I’m a neuroscientist, not a climate scientist, so I haven’t examined the data either. What to do then? In this case, I tend to trust the people funded by neutral research grants rather than the oil industry and other who have an interest in climate denialism. Checking sources for data becomes almost as important as the data itself.

    If anyone can post a link to the unequivocal science on the causal link between CO2 and GW I’d be grateful.

    It is worth noting that there is never any unequivocal science (and I state that unequivocally!). But there are well-supported theories and there are less well-supported theories. For science from real climate scientists, try here:

    www.realclimate.org

  63. NorthernBoy said,

    January 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Maybe my original comment about denialism was not as well written as I’d hope. I was trying to make the point that the label “denialism” becomes a fair one when the criticisms are not being driven by the actual science. It is perfectly legitimate for a scientist to claim that he has a better explanation than the current consensus, and to argue forcefully that his view ought to be investigated further. This is the essence of good science.

    What is not legitimate is for someone who does not like the conclusions of the consensus to simply try to pick holes in the science supported by the majority, and to ignore problems in the science that suggests the alternative. All too many will trumpet a single discredited report as being proof of the “hoax”. They will publish a truncated graph as proof that solar forcing is the only reaosn for climate change (cutting it off in the 80s, for example, when there is a decade more data available), and so on.

    The style, and arguments used by people who are arguing so blindly are, unfortunately, very similar to thise used by people denying other accepted truths.

    So, again, I am not arguing that climate change science does not allow alternative theories, I am arguing that there is no problem labelling people who argue dishonestly as “deniers”.

  64. seanie said,

    January 10, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    I raised the Dissent from Darwin petition because I think it’s very relevant. The status of AGW as a theory may not be as secure as Darwinian evolution, but it does have a huge body of evidence supporting it and is endorsed by the overwhelming majority of scientist in the field.

    Just about every national and international scientific institution of any standing has endorsed the view that warming is happening, that it’s caused principally by human activity, and that greenhouse gas emmissions should be reduced.

    And as for the scientific literature, of the hundreds of papers produced on the subject the number that cast doubt on the basics of AGW are practically zero. The ‘denialist’ campaign isn’t being conducted within science. It’s being conducted by blogs, tabloid journals, press releases and petitions.

    There’s a striking similarity there with the Intelligent Design movement. They don’t have a hope in hell of winning the scientific argument so they don’t even try. They focus purely on a propaganda war focused on the public. Cobble some petition together with ‘700 scientists’ and plead to ‘teach the controversy’ despite the utter absence of genuine controversy within science about evolution.

    I’ve no doubt there are some sincere scientists with doubts about AGW. But the ranks of the denialists are mostly filled with the sad, mad or bad.

    Idiots like Booker and Monckton.

  65. Jeesh42 said,

    January 10, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    Congrats to Will Lewis for being a worse editor than Conrad Black. Just when you think the Telegraph couldn’t be made any dumber and cheaper, it is.

  66. jsymes said,

    January 10, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Mr Goldacre: This thread is beyond silliness and should be put out of its misery. From a decent debate about the representation of science in the news, it has descended into puzzling irrelevance (“I’m a neuroscientist, not a climate scientist, so I haven’t examined the data either. What to do then? ” Ummm, maybe not comment about something you admit ignorance of, for a start?) to personal grandstanding (“I work professionally as a SUBEDITOR”. Well, actually, I am Spartacus – but don’t feel the need to shout it out in caps).
    And BTW, Jeesh42, Conrad Black was never editor of either of the Telegraphs.
    Can we stop this nonsense now?

  67. Despard said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:49 am

    I am not ignorant about climate science. I merely noted that I hadn’t examined the data. Because I am not a climate scientist. My point was that nobody can ever look at all the evidence for everything, as there is simply too much of it. So we need to be careful about who we trust when they present and interpret it.

    Really, this feeds back into the original story, which is essentially one of climate change work being misrepresented by denialists. I fail to see how this tangent talking about who to trust in terms of the interpretation of data is an ‘irrelevance’.

  68. Psychedelia Smith said,

    January 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    jsymes:

    I wasn’t grandstanding; it was admission of guilt and shame out of the terrible misdemeanours my kind commit in print. Rather like the way people stand up in AA and admit they’re an alcoholic.

    It’s a tough job too – as anyone who’s dealt with Giles Coren’s copy will undoubtedly tell you.

    However, I’d say that the Telegraph article wasn’t the fault of over-zealous subbing – it bears all the hallmarks of someone from higher up the editorial food chain telling some poor lowly hack to completely turn the story around to fit an ideological agenda. You’d expect this stuff of the tabloids, but the fact that it’s happening in such a (formerly) august publication as the Telly is worrying.

  69. tanveer said,

    January 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    The evidence on global warming is not as clear cut as for evolution or MMR not causing autism. Denialist is not a very constructive term and it would be better to engage with the arguments from each side rather than trying to close down debate. The arguments from the pro warming side are not clear cut and convincing and there is still plenty of room for debate. For example the famous hockey stick curve has been comprehensively debunked and also it is not even clear to me that the warmest years in the last century have been in the last decade. Both sides have spouted a lot of nonsense on the issue and it is hard to get at the truth. At the moment I think the best thing we can say is that we are not sure what is happening with the climate. Man does, undoubtedly, have an influence but this is not neccessarily all bad and beating ourselves up about it and imposing harsh restrictions on ourselves is not the solution. There are bigger problems to tackle like tackling poverty by allowing developing countries to grow economically. Global warming seems to be an obssession of the rich developed world, where we have the luxury to worry about such things.

  70. NorthernBoy said,

    January 11, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Tanveer, I think you are arguaing against a straw man there. No-one here is trying to shut down debate about global warming, and I don’t see anyone claiming that this is a science that has now got all the answers.

    What we do have is people calling out those whose arguments are clearly ideological, and which are proceeding according to an agenda, not according to the facts.

    Although it is an emotionally loaded term, I see no problem with labelling those who argue dishonestly as engaging in denialism.

    You see the same sort of methods used throughout science. People use them to suggest that relativity is incorrect, that quantum mechanics cannot be real, that we did not land on the moon, and so on. It is glaringly obvious when a crank is being a crank. The fact that there is still a small chance that they are going to turn out to be on the right side of the scientific debate is completely irrelevant to the question of whether they are being a crank or not.

  71. Despard said,

    January 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    The evidence on global warming is not as clear cut as for evolution or MMR not causing autism.

    Unsupported assertion.

    Denialist is not a very constructive term and it would be better to engage with the arguments from each side rather than trying to close down debate.

    Incorrect. Confusing denialism for debate is what causes this whole mess. Even if you satisfy every objection a denialist has, they will continue to move the goalposts and try to find new ways to push their ideological agenda. You are using classic denialist tactics yourself, as I shall demonstrate.

    The arguments from the pro warming side are not clear cut and convincing and there is still plenty of room for debate.

    There is no ‘pro warming’ side. There is the scientific side, and those who choose to deny the science.

    For example the famous hockey stick curve has been comprehensively debunked

    Incorrect, see here.

    and also it is not even clear to me that the warmest years in the last century have been in the last decade.

    Doesn’t matter. It is the long-term trend that is important. There is always noise in data.

    Both sides have spouted a lot of nonsense on the issue and it is hard to get at the truth.

    Poisoning the well and fallacy of the golden mean. The truth is not necessarily in the ‘middle’ of whatever sides you have defined. It is possible for one side to simply be wrong. But nice attempt to try to tar both of your ‘sides’ with the ‘they’re all as bad as each other’ brush.

    At the moment I think the best thing we can say is that we are not sure what is happening with the climate.

    Correct, but we are not 100% sure about anything in science. Read this essay by Isaac Asimov to help you understand that while all explanations are wrong, some explanations are less wrong than others.

    Man does, undoubtedly, have an influence but this is not neccessarily all bad and beating ourselves up about it and imposing harsh restrictions on ourselves is not the solution.

    In other words, ‘no harm, no problem’. See the denialists’ deck of cards.

    There are bigger problems to tackle like tackling poverty by allowing developing countries to grow economically. Global warming seems to be an obssession of the rich developed world, where we have the luxury to worry about such things.

    Except for two important points. First, there is a global economic recession and richer countries are justifiably worried about that. But in the face of the world economic downturn, there is still a huge effort to combat global warming, because it will be more expensive in the long run if we do not take action.

    And second, the developed world is unlikely to suffer anywhere near as much as the developing world (e.g. Bangladesh) from climate change, which makes your argument moot. If we in the rich developing world do not worry about such things, they’re the ones who’ll take the hit – at least at first.

  72. Despard said,

    January 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I hate formatting. I’ll try that again…

  73. Despard said,

    January 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    The evidence on global warming is not as clear cut as for evolution or MMR not causing autism.

    Unsupported assertion.

    Denialist is not a very constructive term and it would be better to engage with the arguments from each side rather than trying to close down debate.

    Incorrect. Confusing denialism for debate is what causes this whole mess. Even if you satisfy every objection a denialist has, they will continue to move the goalposts and try to find new ways to push their ideological agenda. You are using classic denialist tactics yourself, as I shall demonstrate.

    The arguments from the pro warming side are not clear cut and convincing and there is still plenty of room for debate.

    There is no ‘pro warming’ side. There is the scientific side, and those who choose to deny the science.

    For example the famous hockey stick curve has been comprehensively debunked

    Incorrect, see here.

    and also it is not even clear to me that the warmest years in the last century have been in the last decade.

    Doesn’t matter. It is the long-term trend that is important. There is always noise in data.

    Both sides have spouted a lot of nonsense on the issue and it is hard to get at the truth.

    Poisoning the well and fallacy of the golden mean. The truth is not necessarily in the ‘middle’ of whatever sides you have defined. It is possible for one side to simply be wrong. But nice attempt to try to tar both of your ‘sides’ with the ‘they’re all as bad as each other’ brush.

    At the moment I think the best thing we can say is that we are not sure what is happening with the climate.

    Correct, but we are not 100% sure about anything in science. Read this essay by Isaac Asimov to help you understand that while all explanations are wrong, some explanations are less wrong than others.

    Man does, undoubtedly, have an influence but this is not neccessarily all bad and beating ourselves up about it and imposing harsh restrictions on ourselves is not the solution.

    In other words, ‘no harm, no problem’. See the denialists’ deck of cards.

    There are bigger problems to tackle like tackling poverty by allowing developing countries to grow economically. Global warming seems to be an obssession of the rich developed world, where we have the luxury to worry about such things.

    Except for two important points. First, there is a global economic recession and richer countries are justifiably worried about that. But in the face of the world economic downturn, there is still a huge effort to combat global warming, because it will be more expensive in the long run if we do not take action.

    And second, the developed world is unlikely to suffer anywhere near as much as the developing world (e.g. Bangladesh) from climate change, which makes your argument moot.

  74. seanie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    “For example the famous hockey stick curve has been comprehensively debunked and also it is not even clear to me that the warmest years in the last century have been in the last decade.”

    The difficulty with having a serious debate with ‘denialists’ is that they come out with nonsense like this.

    The hockey stick has not been debunked. The basic premise of Mann’s hockey stick has been replicated by numerous subsequent studies.

    And what are we supposed to make of your lack of clarity on the temperature record?

    Personal incredulity is a remarkably unpersuasive argument.

  75. hozepipe said,

    January 11, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    OK Seanie, but don’t just say its nonsense, show its nonsense. Give us the links so we can read the back up for your assertions ourselves. I’m not a fruit loop and I have no ideology – its simply a matter of it being bloody difficult to know who to believe, and whether what you do read (as its principally web-based for me) is genuine.

    Similarly if I want to find out more about a theory I’ll sometimes start with the null hypothesis – that may temporally make me a ‘denier’ to some but it certainly doesn’t make me intellectually dishonest. I’m happy to change my mind about something, unlike someone with an ideology to protect.

  76. guthrie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Hozepipe- more information regarding global warming and how people became aware of it. The history is much longer and more confusing than many people thing:

    www.aip.org/history/climate/

    Then you can find the IPCC website and read the fourth report, the most recent one. That’ll take a while though, but the opening chapters are pretty good to read and should make a lot of things clear. Including how hockey sticks still exist, no matter what some people say.

    The quickest answer about the hockey stick is this, from Real climate:
    realclimate.org/index.php?p=328

    Money quote:
    “So what would have happened to the MBH results if Wegman and his colleagues had been consulted on PC centering conventions at the time? Absolutely nothing.

    Can we all get on with something more interesting now?”

  77. seanie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter6.pdf

    Page 436;

    “The TAR pointed to the ‘exceptional warmth of the late 20th century, relative to the past 1,000 years’. Subsequent evidence has strengthened this conclusion. It is very likely that average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were higher than for any other 50 year period in the last 500 years. It is also likely that this 50-year period was the warmest Northern Hemisphere period in the last 1.3 kyr, and that this warmth was more widespread than during any other 50- year period in the last 1.3 kyr.”

    Scroll down to page 467 and you’ll see Figure 6.10 showing different temperature reconstructions overlaid. You’ll also find this.

    “The uncertainty associated with present palaeoclimate estimates of NH mean temperatures is significant, especially for the period prior to 1600 when data are scarce (Mann et al., 1999; Briff a and Osborn, 2002; Cook et al., 2004a). However, Figure 6.10 shows that the warmest period prior to the 20th century very likely occurred between 950 and 1100, but temperatures were probably between 0.1°C and 0.2°C below the 1961 to 1990 mean and signifi cantly below the level shown by instrumental data after 1980.”

    If you can’t be bothered with that here’s a similar graph.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1000_Year_Temperature_Comparison.png

    Now there are considerable uncertainties in such reconstructions but methods are improving. Whatever the limitations of the original ‘hockeystick’ it has most certainly not been debunked, although you’ll find no shortage of websites claiming it has. The kind of websites that will also tell you 1934 is the hottest year on record. In otherwords
    websites that just spout bullshit.

  78. seanie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    You could also look here…

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/09/progress-in-millennial-reconstructions/

    …and here…

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/the-weirdest-millennium/

    …for information. The latter discusses figure 6.10 from the IPCC report and points out;

    “Without exception, the reconstructions show that Northern Hemisphere temperatures are now higher than at any time during the past 1,000 years (Figure 1), confirming and strengthening the conclusions drawn in the previous IPCC report of 2001.”

    That’s unlikely to change. What really generates the ‘hockeystick’ is the rapid spike in temperature during the latter 20th century in the instrumental record. And the data supporting that is very robust.

  79. seanie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Here’s a handy Myth vs. Fact page;

    www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/myths-vs-fact-regarding-the-hockey-stick/

  80. seanie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    On a more general theme why not try looking at what scientific institutions say on the subject of AGW.

    royalsociety.org/downloaddoc.asp?id=1630

    www.nationalacademies.org/includes/climatechangestatement.pdf

    www.icsu-africa.org/Resource_centre/Globalresponseclimatechange.pdf

    www.aaas.org/news/press_room/climate_change/mtg_200702/aaas_climate_statement.pdf

    www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

    www.rmets.org/news/detail.php?ID=332

    dels.nas.edu/dels/rpt_briefs/climate-change-final.pdf

  81. seanie said,

    January 11, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Another site with several relevant links;

    www.logicalscience.com/skeptic_arguments/fakeddata.html

    It includes a link the the National Academy of Sciences Synthesis Report on Temperature Reconstrucions.

    books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=11676&page=3

    It made some criticisms of the Mann report but affirmed it’s basic conclusion;

    “The basic conclusion of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) was that the late 20th century warmth in the Northern Hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1,000 years. This conclusion has subsequently been supported by an array of evidence that includes both additional large-scale surface temperature reconstructions and pronounced changes in a variety of local proxy indicators, such as melting on ice caps and the retreat of glaciers around the world, which in many cases appear to be unprecedented during at least the last 2,000 years.”

  82. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:03 am

    As for whether “the warmest years in the last century have been in the last decade”, let’s look at the HADCRU data;

    www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/hadcrut3gl.txt

    The ten hottest years worldwide since 1850 were in descending order:

    1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2001, 2007, 1997, 1999.

    Although it looks like 2008 will push out 1999.

    So of the ten hottest years on record, eight have occurred in the last ten years and all have occurred within the last 12.

    If you take the anomolies and average them over five year periods for the last 40 years what do you get?

    1968-1972: – 0.097
    1973-1977: – 0.108
    1978-1982: + 0.039
    1983-1987: + 0.065
    1988-1992: + 0.162
    1993-1997: + 0.208
    1998-2002: + 0.397
    2003-2007: + 0.445

    Mmmm…

    That almost looks like some sort of trend…

  83. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 10:26 am

    Maybe you think the Hadley Climate Research Unit is not to be trusted; part of the right-wing, left-wing, anarchist, Stalinist, government, communist, fascist, luddite, big business, Marxist, tree-hugging, Global Warming Scam devised by Margaret Thatcher to defeat the NUM.

    Then how about The NASA/GISS data for global temperatures;

    data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt

    The ten hottest years worldwide since 1880 were in descending order:

    2005, 2007, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2004, 2001, 1997, 1995.

    Although it looks like 2008 will push out 1995.

    So of the ten hottest years on record, eight have occurred in the last ten years and all have occurred within the last 12.

  84. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Maybe you don’t trust the surface temperature records at all. Maybe you’d prefer to rely on satllites;

    www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org…ature-records/

    “Four different groups produce temperature records that attempt to compile a single global mean surface temperature: NASA’s GISStemp, the Hadley Center’s HadCRU, Remote Sensing Systems’ RSS,and the University of Alabama, Huntsville’s UAH.”

    “Despite differences in calculation criteria and a host of technical problems that have plagued the satellite-based records in the past, all four temperature records now show a remarkable degree of agreement. No single temperature record exhibits a significant or consistent warming bias relative to the others.”

    “…all four temperature series align remarkably well when normalized on the same baseline period. GISS and HadCRU both show a warming trend of 0.16 degrees C per decade from 1979 to February 2008. RSS shows a warming trend of 0.18 per decade over the same period, while UAH shows a warming trend of 0.14.”

  85. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Maybe you’d like to see a visual representation of the four temperature series.

    If you look here…

    tamino.wordpress.com/2008/03/02/whats-up-with-that/

    …you’ll find an interesting piece that is also rather revealing about the competence and integrity of one of the poster boys of denialist blogging.

    It includes a graph with the records normalised on the same baseline;

    tamino.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/4way.jpg

  86. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    How about the four series displayed as twelve month moving averages?

    cce.890m.com/temp-compare.jpg

    Pretty good correlation, no?

  87. tom-p said,

    January 12, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    hozepipe,

    I wouldn’t place too much store in the manhattan declaration.
    Even the subset of “Manhattan Declaration endorsers who are climate science specialists or scientists in closely related fields” isn’t what it seems.
    Of the 197 names on it…
    52 are retired (others may be but haven’t declared it). That includes 25 of the 67 professors.
    26 have only a Diploma, an undergraduate degree (BSc or similar) or a masters (MSc or similar).
    At least 14 seem to have no formal qualifications, or at least haven’t reported any (both the Berniers, Watts, Setek, Taylor, Roseman, Peden, Mogil, Meyer, Mackey, Hays, Goldenberg, Coniglio, Coleman).

    So the 197 is down to 105.

    Of the 105, there are at least 8 noted cranks/industry lobbyists with no climatological or similar experience: Ball, Coffman, Corbyn, Gray, the 2 Idsos and Wojick.

    That leaves 97. Of these, there are 30 who don’t seem to be related to climatology or related sciences. I think I’ve been pretty generous with the names not on the following list (provided for your reference, since it’s just a value judgement made by me), but I accept that I may have made some errors.
    Anyway, assuming my list is accurate, that would take it down to 67.
    67 people who have jobs or titles which suggest that they are in some way involved in climatology or related fields and who I haven’t checked the veracity of. That’s less than 10% of the headline figure claimed by the Manhattan folks (and under a third of the ‘cliamtologists et al’ list and really not all that impressive.

    so there you are, Hozepipe, that Manhattan declaration that you cited isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it’s list of alleged climatologists seems to be at least 2/3 bluster and bullshit which can be revealed with just a couple of hours research. I haven’t really looked at the remaining 62, but I’ll wager there’s a few industry lobbyists who’ve inflated their credentials on there. Perhaps you should investigate for yourself.

    The 30 who don’t seem to be climate-related:
    Andresen, Bhat, Sutherland Brown, Chilingar, Clover, Crockford, Dacol, Douglass, Engene, Essenhigh, Evans, Goklany, Goldberg, Gray, Hammons, Hebert, Jaworowski, Kvalheim, Lippmaa, Marohasy, McFarquhar, Meleon, Monce, Motl, Robinson, Shehu, Sprott, Stilbs, Szalecki, Yakymyshyn

  88. recyclist said,

    January 12, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    re: post 94

    That’s a really useful graph. Have you got one with the last two years temperature records on it?

  89. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I’m not sure useful conclusions do you think could possibly be drawn from such a graph but as it happens;

    tamino.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/stupid-is-as-stupid-does/

    Enjoy.

  90. seanie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    Sorry. Bit oversensitive. I’m just a bit tired of outpouring of denialist bullshit that vomits forth each time the subject of Climate Change comes up.

  91. NorthernBoy said,

    January 12, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I must point out, though, that we get quite a large amount of crap from the climate change lobby too. While accepting the science, there are plenty of people who get pretty tired of the scare tactics and exaggerations that we see in the mainstream press, and from lobby groups. I assume that little of this comes from scientists, but it is slightly understandable that some people become close-minded when beaten around the head by a bunch of hippies who often seem pretty hypocritical (by, for example, criticising sports ar ownership, yet having children).

    I have heard someone claim that the planet will die if we do not mend our ways. Language like that is extreme enough to be laughable, but it not untypical of the public face of the lobby groups.

  92. guthrie said,

    January 12, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    NorthernBoy- that is why my default first option on meeting someone who may be a denier, or at the least shows bad temper and a lack of knowledge of the subject, is to throw the science at them.
    If they reject even discussing the science and spout conspiracy theories, then we can have some fun. If they go away and maybe read, fine.

  93. NorthernBoy said,

    January 12, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    There is the typical level of debate on Newsnight now. Heathrow expansion will be “illegal”, the “scientists” claim that it is impossible, it will “poison” the residents, and so on.

    This whole discussion is poisoned. It is no longer possible, it seems, to have an adult conversation about the correct response to climate change.

  94. NorthernBoy said,

    January 13, 2009 at 12:02 am

    And it continues. The environmentalist says that illegal tactics are now justified, as the democratic process has failed. This is the level that the politics has reached now. One side is saying that if they lose the debate, they will force their side onto others, and the other side is pretty much saying that if we are not going to have a debae, then there is not any point in looking at the evidence. Why discuss it if one side has already said that they will not be swayed.

    It has become religion, on both sides (the discussion of what to do now, not the question of what the science says).

  95. seanie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 10:08 am

    It’s what the science says that compels not just a discussion of what to do now, but actual action.

    I gave this link before;

    www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

    “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.”

    That’s a pretty good summary of the scientific consensus. And if you listen to many of the scientists involved in climate research they’re actually very worried. So far, for all the ‘discussion’ about climate change, and all the science begind it, we’ve actually seen very little action. We’re already heading into unknown territory and if this continues, even a short time longer, there appears to be the potential for catastrophis effects.

    www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

    “Humanity today, collectively, must face the uncomfortable fact that industrial civilization itself has become the principal driver of global climate. If we stay our present course, using fossil fuels to feed a growing appetite for energy-intensive life styles, we will soon leave the climate of the Holocene, the world of prior human history. The eventual response to doubling preindustrial atmospheric CO2 likely would be a nearly ice free planet.”

    “Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions,for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects.”

    “The most difficult task, phase out over the next 20-25 years of coal use that does not capture CO2, is herculean, yet feasible when compared with the efforts that went into World War II. The stakes, for all life on the planet, surpass those of any previous crisis. The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable.”

  96. NorthernBoy said,

    January 13, 2009 at 11:16 am

    OK, I typed out quite a long response looking at what realy would work (basicaly a one-child policy planet-wide until we get down to a level that can survive how we live now without upsetting the climate), but decided that it missed much of the point that I wanted to make.

    I think that your reply above was in response to my stating that dishonesty is poisoning the debate. I view part of the quote you have used above as a prime example of this dishonesty. This is not a major issue for “all life on the planet”.

    It is an issue for mankind. We are not going to reduce the number of animals, plants, or bacteria alive. We may change the distribution somewhat, but that is really only an issue if it hurts us, and future generations.

    Anyone calling for serious action (such as either me or my wife no longer seeing our family, who live 1,000 miles apart) needs to work out exactly how much pain we ourselves should take against future generations benefiting. This is a serious point. Should I leave my wife, or should one of us accept that we will not see our parents again? If it is still acceptable fr us to take the train to see them, or to fly, then whee should the line be drawn.

    This is not e being facetious, it is a genuine question. Part of th reason that I pose it is that many of those urging action are being extremely hypocritical, and this needs to be addressed. If the proponents of action have had children, then they should not dare tell me not to bike up North to see my family. If they commute to work (I have always moved t be in walking or tube distance), they cannot with a straight face tell me that I cannot drive a car with a big engine for fun once in a while.

    And they are completely missing the big picture with either of these pronouncements.

  97. seanie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Do you have anything to back up your assertion of dishonesty?

    Because what’s concerning many people, including scientists working on the field, is that AGW really could be a major concern for life on the planet as it currently exists.

    There is considerable uncertainty about what might happen when, what feedback effects might kick in, positive or negative etc. But we know there’s a timelag for the warming effects and we know that CO2 emissions, far from being reduced, have continued to increase.

    If this continues, or the temperature rise turns out to be at the high end of the model predictions, then the possibility of catastrophic effects appears real.

    There have been mass extiction events before associated with climactic change, some of them warming events. And even if the temperature rise was less this time round, the comparative rapidity could have devestating impacts on ecological sytems already stressed by human impact.

    A mass extiction event may be an outlier, but there’s evidence to suggest it’s a possibility if action isn’t taken to reduce emissions.

  98. NorthernBoy said,

    January 13, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Mass extinction, even if it were to happen, still does not meet the level needed to claim that he stakes are high “for all life on the planet”.

    Let’s face it, global warming is not going to kill me. It is not going to kill the fish that I have in my fish tank. It is very unlikely to kill, for example, the current generation of salmon, and it is not hugely likely to kill off the beetles that I saw last time I was in the Sahara. Most of them will get eaten, as has been happening for a while now.

    You have now added the phrase “as it currently exists”. That is much better, it moves things back towards a point at which sensible discussion can take place. We may introduce hige change, which is very bad for us, and very bad for certain species. It is very likely very, very god fr other species, though. Certain bacteria, for example, will thrive if humanity gets squeezed closer together in the future. Cockroaches may have a field day, as it were.

    You are right, I cannot prove that the phrase “all life on the planet” was dishonest. It could well have just been horribly ignorant.

    Exaggeration weakens the arguments, and these are important arguments, and ought not to be forgotten. The debate must be kept honest, or it will be lost. I do despair of those who cannot see this, and who will allow hyperbole to slip in, which weakens the case for action among the general population. Tell people obvious untruths among the genuine facts, and this will not tend to make them want to learn more.

  99. seanie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    I see.

    Don’t worry about Global Warming…

    …bacteria will survive.

    I’m not sure people will find that terribly reassuring.

  100. seanie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Oh and I think most reasonable people would regard the phrase ‘all life on the planent’ as a pretty good approximation when considering the possibility of a mass extinction event.

  101. seanie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    www.skepticalscience.com/Can-animals-and-plants-adapt-to-global-warming.html

    “A low-range optimistic estimate of 2°C of 21st century warming will shift the Earth’s global mean surface temperature into conditions which have not existed since the middle Pliocene, 3 million years ago. More than 4°C of atmospheric heating will take the planet’s climate back, within a century, to the largely ice-free world that existed prior to about 35 million years ago. The average ‘species’ lifetime’ is only 1 to 3 million years. So it is quite possible that in the comparative geological instant of a century, planetary conditions will be transformed to a state unlike anything that most of the world’s modern species have encountered.”

    A temperature rise of 2°C has generally been taken as a ‘safe’ level, but it looks pretty unlikely we’ll manage that. There’s now talk of trying to limit the increase to 4°C, despite all the uncertainties of feedbacks.

    The point of the Hansen paper above was that previous estimes on climate sensitivity to CO2 have been too conservative, leaving out longer term feedback effects.

    Instead of a doubling of CO2 (which we’re on course to do) causing a 3°C rise, it could lead to a 6°C rise.

    6°C is mass extinction territory.

    So given all the uncertainties and the possibility of positive feedbacks, the level of CO2 that currently exists may already be dangerously high.

  102. NorthernBoy said,

    January 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    You have distorted my words, to make them say what you seem to want them to say, rather than what they actually said. Everything which I posted is consistent with my view that there is a serious problem which me must deal with. It is also my view that all too many on my side use hyperbole and step beyond what is factually accurate, which harms the cause. You did this above, yet prefer to attack, and twist my words when this is pointed out.

    This too seems to be a serious problem with most people advocating action. When presented with someone who questions even the language that we use when urging change, they immediately characterize the person with whom they are disagreeing as having the view “don’t worry about global warming”.

    If this is how you attack someone who politely points out that we should be careful to ensure that our language can never be accused of being an exaggeration, then you are doing as much harm to the cause as Plane Stupid, and George Monbiot.

  103. seanie said,

    January 13, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    But then you were pretty free and easy with an accusation of dishonesty.

    And I find your justification for that extremely weak; namely that ‘all life on our planet’ is an unhelpful exaggeration because even with a mass extinction cockroaches and bacteria might thrive.

    That strikes me as both a rather relaxed position to take and also missing the point somewhat.

  104. artberry said,

    January 22, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    The article doesn’t deny climate change, it simply implies CO2 can cause global cooling. So is still trying to sell the idea it’s all caused by man.

    But actually the idea that something we breath out along with most animals, plants and trees which forms just 0.038% of the earth’s atmosphere is the primary source of climate change is IMO plain stupid in any case. Surely if that were indeed the case we could cut carbon emissions simply by cutting down a couple of rain forests lol or maybe it’s all caused by smokers lol

    Actually I wouldn’t say the alternative theories to man made climate changed are exactly boring one theory out there is it’s due to the return of Nibiru. The brown dwarf binary of our sun. Another theory is Galactic alignment and the whole end of the Mayan Calendar on 21st December 2012. Apart from those ideas there’s also the onset of an ice age caused by increased sub-oceanic volcanism. These theories are probable mostly on the fringes, but I wouldn’t say they were boring, they are quite interesting ideas and certainly well out of the box.

  105. seanie said,

    January 23, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Your opinions, whilst I respect your right to express them, aren’t of great significance since they’re clearly bollocks.

  106. pronk said,

    January 23, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Sorry to hijack the debate, but as we’re talking about bad science journalism it looks like the Fail are dredging up MMR again:
    www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1126035/Six-months-MMR-jab–bubbly-little-girl-struggles-speak-walk-feed-herself.html
    Perhaps they’d like to explain why they’re so concerned about one little girl with an undiagnosed condition, yet don’t seem bothered by hundreds of sick children with measles – a situation they helped create.
    While I hate the legal culture of sueing everyone left, right and centre, I’d love to see the Fail et al get sued by parents claiming that their scare stories stopped them immunising their kids, and then their kids got sick. Sadly, I don’t think they’ll stop even when we have a full-blown epidemic.

  107. wayscj said,

    November 21, 2009 at 6:12 am

    ed hardy ed hardy
    ed hardy clothing ed hardy clothing
    ed hardy shop ed hardy shop
    christian audigier christian audigier
    ed hardy cheap ed hardy cheap
    ed hardy outlet ed hardy outlet
    ed hardy sale ed hardy sale
    ed hardy store ed hardy store
    ed hardy mens ed hardy mens
    ed hardy womens ed hardy womens
    ed hardy kids ed hardy kids ed hardy kids

  108. tJ30Jessica said,

    January 31, 2010 at 10:34 am

    If you like to get an academic success, you would complete the great social issues essays paper. An the supreme homework help related to this topic will be a correct issue for custom essay paper finishing, I do guess.

  109. disgustedofcyberspace said,

    March 12, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Why doesn’t Fairchild sue for libel? Misrepresenting him thus in the paper damages his scientific credibility and it is therefore libel. The UK courts do a stellar job of awarding libel damages that they shouldn’t, so one would hope they can also see this is in fact libellous.

You must be logged in to post a comment.