Paper on climate scepticism published

A little over a year ago I noticed a call from the journal Environmental Communication for a special issue of articles on “Climate change communication and the internet”.  For some time I had been thinking vaguely about writing something about the interesting Reader Background thread at Jeff Condon’s Air Vent blog, so I wrote a paper on this and sent it to the journal.

The paper was handled very well by the journal.  It was reviewed ‘double-blind’, i.e. both the author and reviewers were anonymous. This isn’t usually done in my field but apparently it’s quite common in social science.  The reviewers were clearly experts in the field; they read the paper very carefully and made a lot of comments, criticisms and constructive suggestions for improvement. I revised the paper and then there was another round of quite detailed comments, but after that the paper was accepted.

The published paper is here, paywalled because I did not pay Taylor & Francis the Open Access fee.  However, apparently I can give 50 people access to the paper – let me know if you’d like this (in the olden days, you used to get a bundle of 50 paper reprints to mail out).  Alternatively there is a draft preprint version of the paper, before the review comments, with a few very minor changes. It contains a bit more discussion and opinion, fewer up-to-date references, and more mistakes, than the final version.

Below is a brief summary of the main points of the paper.

Why are people sceptical about climate change?

Surveys show that a significant minority of the population are sceptical about climate change and that there has been a modest increase in scepticism over the last few years. Some research has considered why this may be, but surveys do not usually ask people exactly what it is that makes them sceptical. There is some useful information on this question in comments on climate sceptic blogs, but this has not been studied in the literature. However, it should be kept in mind that these views expressed in blog comments are probably not representative of the general public.

In April 2010, Jeff Condon launched a “Reader Background” post, proposing “a discussion of our various backgrounds and how we came to be interested in climate science”. I count that there are 154 people on that thread who express some degree of scepticism about climate change. 17 of these explicitly call themselves lukewarmers, and at least 8 others express lukewarm opinions, so about 1/6 can be regarded as lukewarmers – though this is probably an underestimate. At the other end of the spectrum, about 1 in 10 are what might be called “hardcore sceptics”, using language like “scam” in relation to climate change.  Over 1/4 of the responders say they have a PhD, and a further 1/3 have some form of degree.  More than 1/4 say they switched from being concerned about climate change to being sceptical.

Reasons given for scepticism include

  • Hype and alarmism, either in the media or from climate scientists. 32 people give this as a reason.
  • Memories of previous scares, such as the 1970s ice age scare, mentioned by 15.
  • Politics – some say  the climate story seems politically motivated, others say  it does not fit with their own views, which often lean more towards libertarianism than conservatism.
  • Climategate is mentioned by 30 people, but only seems to have been a major influencing factor for 13. The survey was only 5 months after climategate, so most had probably already formed their view.
  • Poor science is mentioned by about 60, with the hockeystick most common issue.
  • Blogs – Climate Audit is most cited (57 times), followed by RealClimate (42 times) with many negative comments about their attitude and apparent failure to answer questions satisfactorily.
  • Other minor factors include books, newspapers and films.

Two other blogs have carried out similar exercises, see Judith Curry’s Denizens thread (Nov 2010) and My personal path to Catastrophic AGW skepticism at WUWT (July 2013). These show a similar picture – though there is some overlap in the contributors.

Another dumb climate psychology paper

A paper Public division about climate change rooted in conflicting socio-political identities was published yesterday in Nature Climate Change. The six authors, Bliuc et al, come from Social Science and Psychology departments in Australia. There is also an associated News & Views article by Tom Postmes, Psychology: Climate change and group dynamics.

The paper is truly awful, in so many ways, and effectively illustrates the blinkered thinking that is endemic in the field, nicely summarised by Andy West in his recent post at Climate etc. The following paragraphs raise some of the problems with the paper.

It starts badly, with unquestioning assertion of the Cook et al 97% consensus paper. As usual this is stated in an unclear way, “97% agree that climate change is caused by humans” (what, some of it? Most of it? All of it?), a feature that Ben Pile refers to as consensus without an object.

Then the paper simply declares that
“The public is divided between climate change ‘believers’ (whose views align with those of the scientific community) and ‘sceptics’ (whose views are in disagreement with those of the scientific community)”
It’s as simple as that. It’s us v them. The goodies and the baddies. Although there is a brief mention later on of multiple shades of opinion, this is dismissed with the statement “we argue that there is value in seeing climate change believers and sceptics as conflicting opinion-based groups.” Yet the paper and the News & Views piece talk about overcoming divisions, and conflict reduction – reducing a division that they themselves have artificially created. This is the same criticism I raised regarding Homer-Dixon et al (I have just noticed that the journal has now published my comment on that paper).
This isn’t just stupid – it’s really damaging.

The main “finding” of the paper is, as suggested in the title, that it’s all to do with social group identity. They say “we argue that people come to see climate change beliefs and scepticism not just as an opinion on an issue, but as an aspect of self that defines who they are, what they stand for, and who they stand with (and against)” and “the results support the contention that cultural polarization and political mobilization are at the core of the climate change divide.” This is the main idea of Dan Kahan’s work, even down to the exact wording used, “who they are”. But, amazingly, none of Kahan’s papers are cited (again, this was one of my criticisms of Homer-Dixon et al). As previously mentioned, I think there’s an element of truth in this argument, but it’s usually overstated.

As usual with such papers, although the text is nonsense, there are some interesting points in the data obtained. One of the issues they asked ‘sceptics’ and ‘believers’ about is their “anger at the opposing group”. The numbers came out (on some scale) at 2.84 for sceptics, but 4.10 for believers. We’ve seen recently several examples of the obscene vitriol directed towards even those who are moderately sceptical about climate change.
But the way this data is reported by Bliuc et al is astounding: “We note, in particular, that part of the sceptic group consciousness is anger at climate change believers”. The smaller number (sceptic anger at believers) is highlighted, while the considerably larger number (believer anger towards sceptics) is ignored.

Another common theme in these papers is that the main aim is how to change the minds of the sceptics: “strategies for building support for mitigation policies should go beyond attempts to improve the public’s understanding of science, to include approaches that transform intergroup relations”. This seems particularly devious: “efforts to undermine group efficacy, for example, by convincing sceptics that their actions are unlikely to prevent action on climate change, represent a more plausible path.” They are recommending that people should try to undermine sceptical groups – presumably they would condone the hounding of Lennart Bengtsson when he dared to join the GWPF.

The paper has a fair amount of jargon-speak. I liked this sentence: “Given that there are different causal orders proposed by existing models we conceptualize the antecedents of action as an integrated cluster of variables that represent a distinct group consciousness for believers and for sceptics, each of which predicts commitment to action to support the cause they each support.” I have no idea what it means – perhaps “we drew some pictures”.

In summary, we have a biased paper promoting political activism, exacerbating division and with a main conclusion that has already been stated many times in the literature. How did this rubbish get published? Oh, it’s in Nature.

There are articles about the paper at The Register, at The Conversation and at WUWT.

Converts to scepticism / agnosticism

“…they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

Some time ago I mentioned that two prominent climate sceptics, Anthony Watts and Patrick Moore, were originally active believers in the climate change cause and subsequently changed their minds and became sceptical. It turns out that quite a few prominent climate sceptics have followed this course.

This is interesting, because some of the academic literature says that peoples’ climate scepticism is related to their ‘worldview’ or the opinions of their cultural group. Intriguingly, when this concept originated in the work of Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky in the early 1980s, it was used rather the other way round – to provide an explanation of the surge in interest in environmentalism, a point which is now generally overlooked.

Now, it’s probably true that views on other issues and group allegiance may influence views on climate change, but this often seems to be overstated, and is often only stated one way round.  It  doesn’t seem to apply for these people here, who have been concerned about climate change, often as part of a group,  and subsequently changed their mind to a greater or lesser degree. Here are details of some of these converts, in no particular order, starting with the two already mentioned.

Anthony Watts

Anthony Watts is the man behind Watts Up With That?, described as “the world’s most viewed climate website”, which regularly runs articles very critical of the claims of climate science.  It has been running since 2006 and has won various awards.

On his About page, he says that he has an electric car and has solar panels on his roof. There is an interview with him here, where he says: “I started out actually just being a climate alarmist. I got involved with saving the planet by helping other weather forecasters do the same thing through planting trees. Then when I met the State climatologist in California, his data changed my mind and now I’m a skeptic.” He also talks of starting to ask questions about the effect of different coatings on Stevenson Screens, in his pre-sceptic days.

Patrick Moore

Not the astronomer, but the environmentalist and co-founder of Greenpeace who has been in the news recently having reported to a US Senate Committee, discussed by The Independent and by WUWT.  The Independent article says that  having helped set up  Greenpeace in 1971, he left in 1986 after they became more interested in politics than science. It seems that Greenpeace has been re-writing their history, deleting his name from the list of founders on their website some time between 2005 and 2008. 

In this interview he gives more details of how became disillusioned with the green movement as it became more ideological, and goes on to  say that we don’t really understand the factors that affect the climate and that so-called “cures” would cause more harm than the “disease”. Another interview is here, and here is one for Spiked, where he says global warming is a religion that plays on fear and guilt . He has written a book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout.

Jo Nova & David Evans

Jo Nova runs the most prominent climate sceptic blog in Australia.  In fact, her
blog was identified as on of the three “most central” sceptic blogs globally by a recent study, along with with Watts Up With That and Climate Audit. On her About page she says “A long time ago she was a Green, and still wants to save the world, but with the scientific method”.  She is married to David Evans, who has produced a number of sceptical articles and youtube videos. He used to work for the Australian Greenhouse Office modelling carbon, but during that time became increasingly sceptical.

A transcript of an interview with Jo Nova and David Evans gives much more detail.

David: “I used to work for Department of Climate Change, or as it was back then the Australian Greenhouse Office for about five or six years doing carbon modelling for them and I was out there to save the planet. I was also a member of the Labor Party on and off for 15 years and I was a member of Greenpeace so I was a believer, I thought I was saving the planet and I thought this plan problem was a really momentous one that needed solving straight away. As the years went by I found out more evidence, the evidence supporting it drifted away and evidence started accumulating that the man made hypothesis wasn’t true and so I changed my mind.”

Jo: “I was actually a member of the Australian Greens, it’s the only political party I’ve ever been a member of so … I am concerned about the environment, I’m concerned about doing things sustainably. I worry about the country that we leave for our kids …”

There are video interviews with Jo Nova, David Evans and Anthony Watts here.

Verity Jones

Verity runs a blog called Digging in the Clay. This may not be one of the most high-profile sceptic blogs, but interestingly it was one of the few to get the climategate 2 link in November 2011.

On her about page she reports:  “Climate change came along. I embraced the science and became quite evangelistic about it. But then finally something happened. The scientist in me can’t help but listen to debate, and I didn’t like what I was hearing. The scientists began to sound like politicians and the politicians looked as if they were being asked to kiss babies. And it all became loud and complicated. So I dusted the cobwebs out of my brain and started to read, and learn, and question.”

Judith Curry

Whether Judith Curry is a “climate sceptic” or not depends on how broad your definition of the term is. But via her blog she has certainly raised some awkward questions for climate science and the IPCC, and her views have clearly changed over the last few years. In an interview in May, Chatting With ‘A Climate Heretic’, she said that on a scale from 1 (intense skeptic) to 10 (intensely IPCC orthodox) she moved from about 7 to about 3 since 2009. She cited “Climategate and the weak response of the IPCC and other scientists” as a major factor, along with the lack of a satisfactory explanation for the current pause in warming. Earlier, in 2010, she wrote at her own blog of her transition from a “high priestess of global warming” to engagement with skeptics and a critic of the IPCC.

Graham Strouts

Graham Strouts blogs and tweets under the name Skepteco. His about page starts with radical environmentalism:  “I grew up in the south of England and studied sociology at Essex University 1983-6. Leaving with a radical view of the world and feeling certain that modern society was both unjust and unsustainable- and that its demise would probably be a good thing- I spent the next view years seeking a back-to-the-land lifestyle first in Shropshire, then in Scotland, finally moving to Ireland in 1990″ But then he goes on to say “More recently, I have started to question fundamentally many of my previous assumptions. This blog explores my change of direction and tries to separate the science from the ideology within the environmental movement.”

There are more details of his conversion from green ideology  in this post on GMOs, and more on this one, where he writes  “By baring all once again I hope my past delusions may serve as some kind of cautionary tale to the young radicals just getting going in life who may be open to some kind of guidance in making sense of the klaxons of environmental alarm that have scarcely quietened in the intervening years” before reposting an old blog entry  from his former self expressing “peak oil” fears. He has also written some interesting posts on political orientation.

Mike Haseler

Mike runs a blog called Scottish Sceptic, which among other things, recently conducted a survey of his predominantly sceptical audience.

He says:

“I was selected as a Green candidate for the Scottish Green party in 2003″
“I worked in the wind industry in Scotland”

But then goes on to say

“I am an agnostic on man-made warming, a sceptic by scientific training and disgusted with so called climate “science” which isn’t science as I was taught it.”

James Lovelock

Although he can’t really be described as a climate sceptic, environmentalist James Lovelock has been in the news recently for changing his tone on climate, and for plugging his new book, a Rough Ride to the Future. In an interview on BBC’s Newsnight,  he said “Well, take this climate matter that everybody’s thinking about. They all talk, they pass laws, they do things as if they knew what was happening. I don’t think any of them really know what’s happening. They just guess at it. And a whole group of them meet together and encourage each other’s guesses.” This is a big change from his previous apocalyptic pronouncements on climate, as discussed later in that interview and on his Wikipedia page.  See also his interview with ABC, I was alarmist about climate change.

Daniel Botkin

Botkin is an ecologist and environmentalist who has held posts at Yale and other universities and has over 40 years of research experience. He was chosen to give evidence to a US Committee hearing on the IPCC. His written evidence was very critical, saying that warming is not unusual, model predictions are way off reality, and that the IPCC had become politicised and was promoting an agenda.
In the question and answer session he made it clear that he feels that the case for man-made global warming is weaker than it was a few years ago.

Fritz Vahrenholt

Fritz Vahrenholt is a German politician and environmentalist.  He has worked at the German Umweltbundesamt (Environment Agency), and has also worked for a wind turbine company.  But in 2012, in collaboration with Sebastian Lüning, he wrote a book “Die kalte Sonne” with the subtitle “Warum die Klimakatastrophe nicht stattfindet” (why the climate catastrophe is not taking place). It’s been translated into English as “The Neglected Sun“. In an interview with Spiegel, he says “For years, I disseminated the hypotheses of the IPCC, and I feel duped.

Jim Steele

Jim Steele is an environmentalist at San Francisco State University, where he taught classes on plant and bird life at their Sierra Nevada Campus.  He has written a book,
Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, see also Amazon page, the title of which does not need further explanation.  There is an interview with him here.

Jean-Louis Pinault

Pinault is a French hydrologist with a substantial record  of published research papers.
He has recently written a book, From the melody of the oceans to climate change: a fight against ostracism. On Amazon we can read the first few pages, where he says that following retirement he was able to pursue his interests without any concern about research funding, and writes “This long journey led me to admit that global warming has a natural cause”.

Caleb Rossiter

Rossiter is a statistician and policy analyst who made the news for being dropped from his position with the Institute for Policy Studies for questioning global warming orthodoxy. In this interview he says that about a decade ago he would have agreed with Obama that people who didn’t agree about climate catastrophe were fools, but since then he’s become convinced that claims about cause and effects of warming have been greatly overblown. In another recent interview he describes Obama as “delusional” on climate change, despite being himself on the political left, and criticises the IPCC for its claims of 95% certainty.

Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley is a “Rational Optimist” who adopts a “lukewarmer” view of global warming – future warming will be less than is often claimed and not a serious problem.  In this blog post he says that he he was surprised by the pause in warming and that now he worries that he is exaggerating the likely warming.

Here he says that in 1979 he voted for the Green Party (then known as the Ecology Party) and recounts his increasing disillusion, mentioning ‘ecotoffs’, IPCC exaggeration and the burden of climate policy on the poor.

Update 19 Jan: More from Ridley on his conversion, citing slower warming than predicted, previous apocalyptic predictions, the hockey stick, climategate and the failure of climate scientists to answer doubts as significant factors in his conversion to a ‘lukewarmer’ view.
This article he co-wrote back in 1993 implicitly accepts that warming is a problem, and discusses how to ‘save the environment’.

Margaret Thatcher

In 1989, Thatcher gave a speech to the UN, in which she said

“But the problem of global climate change is one that affects us all and action will only be effective if it is taken at the international level. It is no good squabbling over who is responsible or who should pay. Whole areas of our planet could be subject to drought and starvation if the pattern of rains and monsoons were to change as a result of the destruction of forests and the accumulation of greenhouse gases.”

But by 2002, her view had changed completely, as shown by these excerpts from her book Statecraft:

“The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong”
“It would, though, be difficult to beat for apocalyptic hyperbole former Vice President Gore.”

See Thatcher & Global Warming: From Alarmist to Skeptic for more details.

Klaus-Eckart Puls

Puls is a meteorologist and one of the people behind the German climate sceptic blog EIKE.  In an interview titled “I’m ashamed about it today” (In German, but Google translate does a reasonably good job, or see this translation by Pierre Gosselin)  he says that until about 10 years ago he parroted without question what the IPCC said. Then he started to check the claims, and found that a lot of what the IPCC and the media say about climate change is not right and not supported by scientific facts and measurements.

Related blogs:

See also this blogpost from Pointman, which starts off with “One of the intriguing aspects of the climate wars is that you very frequently see people dropping comments on blogs that they started off as unthinking believers in catastrophic global warming but when they actually stopped and looked into it for themselves, became skeptics.” He followed this up with a second post, Sometimes you don’t have to anything but wait, where he talks of people crossing the aisle to the sceptic side, ending with “We don’t have to fight for converts – they find their way to us all by themselves.”

It is sometimes claimed that Berkeley physicist Richard Muller converted from scepticism, but this blog gives comments made by him in 2003 and 2008  showing that this is not true.

Many more converts to scepticism can be found on Jeff Id’s Reader Background thread, Judith Curry’s Denizens thread and My personal path to Catastrophic AGW skepticism at WUWT.


I will add more people who have become more sceptical or agnostic over time, as they come to my attention:

Blair King

Blair King is the author of the excellent A Chemist in Langley blog. The blog started off talking about pipelines and renewable energy, but seems to have got drawn in to the basics of the climate debate. In My Lukewarmer post, or how to lose friends on both sides in the AGW debate he sets out his lukewarm view and says he is skeptical of the political aspects. In this post he talks of his transition from “trust me” to “show me”, mentioning factors such as activist scientists predicting doom and particularly climategate as factors. He says (as many of us have said before) that the real problem wasn’t so much the bad behaviour of a few individuals, but the failure of the climate community to admit that there was a problem or deal with it. As a result of all this he says “I need to be convinced every time a new paper comes out and that convincing means releasing enough information so that work can be replicated” – a very simple point that some seem to be unable to understand.

Eija-Riitta Korhola

Korhola is a Finnish politician who served as an MEP for 15 years. She has recently completed a PhD on Climate Change as a Political Process, discussed at Roger Pielke’s blog and at Bishop Hill.

At the beginning of the thesis she writes some personal notes in the preface: “I was one of the first Finnish politicians to knowingly push the issue of climate change and its threats onto the political agenda. In 1994, I published my first effusions in Vihreä Lanka, a weekly green newspaper, to which I had contributed as a columnist for five years.” Later in the preface, hints of cynicism appear, such as “…during the great climate hype in 2007 when the political agenda changed abruptly. It seemed as if no issue could be promoted without mentioning the threat of global warming”, “the climate scare turned into a climate fatigue” and she is very critical of MEPs and the environmental movement. At the end of the thesis she includes some of her blog posts. Blog 15.49 “Is it true or not” says that temperatures are not in line with prediction, that she was flabbergasted by Climategate and that temperature data may have been massaged. The final blog included in the thesis is Confessions of a climate agnostic, where she writes of the warming pause and misleading consensus claims, and says that politicians should be ‘climate agnostic’.

Christopher Monckton

Monckton is a well-know sceptic of global warming who gives talks on the subject all over the world and has written his own version of the dead parrot sketch in which global warming salesman Pachauri claims that his product is not dead, just pausing. He has recently written a paper on why climate models run hot, along with Soon, Legates and Briggs.

In an interview, Monckton’s Journey From Warming Believer to Influential Skeptic, he says that when he was an advisor to the Conservative Party and Mrs Thatcher (see above) in the 1980s he drew her attention to the problem of global warming. He also says he spoke on the subject on the Clive James Show. Apparently his views changed in 2006 when he looked into the climate issue as part of an investigation into renewable energy.

RealClimate’s deceptive graphs

I sometimes wonder about setting up a “climate hypocrite of the month” award.
Previous winners might include:

  • Chris Rapley, who earlier this year published a report stressing the importance of establishing a dialogue with the public, yet has recently being sending audiences to sleep with a droning monologue at the Royal Court Theatre.
  • Stephan Lewandowsky, who accuses climate sceptics of being conspiracy theorists, yet wrote an article claiming that there is a “subterranean war on science“.
  • Naomi Klein, who has been flying around the world on a tour to sell copies of her book on the twin evils of fossil fuel emissions and capitalism.
  • ATTP, for criticising people for commenting on things they haven’t read, as well as for saying that people are only welcome at sceptic blogs if they agree with the blog owner (he has banned most people who don’t agree with him from his blog).
  • Paul Nurse, who wrote “We need to be aware of those who mix up science, based on evidence and rationality, with politics and ideology, where opinion, rhetoric and tradition hold more sway”. But he himself is a socialist and supporter of activism, and introduced the recent Royal Society report, full of opinion and rhetoric yet devoid of science.

Anyway, December’s hypocrite of the month is Stefan Rahmstorf, RealClimate’s master of the misleading graph, who in his latest post has criticised a graph available as part of a “widget” at WattsUpWithThat:

Rahmstorf claims the graph is ‘deceptive’ because it plots monthly data. Perhaps he thinks throwing data away is a good idea. Perhaps he prefers the decadally averaged graph that Thomas Stocker and the IPCC are so keen on, that hides the warming slowdown so effectively.

Rahmstorf also says “One needs to scale the CO2 data correctly for an honest comparison with temperature, so that it can actually be used to evaluate climate scientists’ predictions of the CO2 effect.” Shub points out on twitter that this is circular reasoning – the graph has to scaled “correctly” to make it fit with Rahmstorf’s predetermined conclusion.

Another deceptive claim by Rahmstorf is that the data shown was “from several km up in the troposphere”. In fact the TLT data is strongly weighted to the near-surface atmosphere, with a peak in the weight function at about 2 km, so “several km” is misleading.

But the hypocrisy is that Rahmstorf is himself an expert in making misleading graphs. A good example is this from his Oct 1st blogpost:

Notice how the blue line appears to continue upward while the data itself shows the well known pause in warming. Rahmstorf has been producing this sort of deceptive graph for years, since at least 2007, in papers and in a report for the Copenhagen conference in 2009, see Lucia’s “Fishy Odor” and “Source of fishy odor confirmed” posts from 2009. In that case, Rahmstorf extended the smoothing interval from that used in a previous paper, but did not change the description in the caption. What he had actually done had to be reverse engineered by the climate bloggers.
“Rahmsmoothing” has also been discussed several times at Climate Audit.
Another obvious deceptive aspect of Rahmstorf’s graph is the horizontal green line labelled “Preindustrial Level”, creating the impression that in “preindustrial” times the global average temperature was unchanging.

[ Historical note: I first started learning about climate science in about 2007/8, at which time I thought that climate science was fine but some stories in the press were over-hyped. A natural first port of call was the RealClimate blog run by Rahmstorf, Mann, Schmidt and colleagues (who at that time I had never heard of). I was quite shocked by the attitude displayed by these people in various ways, and I particularly recall the Rahmstorf smoothing. It makes no sense to continue a smoothed graph up to the end of the raw data, and even if you do that, you should explain how you did it. This was bad enough, but Rahmstorf went a step further, failing to explain even when asked. This kind of behaviour from Rahmstorf and his team was a significant formative factor in my views on climate science. This comment posted yesterday on the deceptive graph thread summarises the RealClimate problem well and shows that five years later they have learnt nothing from their earlier mistakes. More on that story later. ]

Updates 11 Dec:

There are now two three more responses to Rahmstorf, from Bob Tisdale at WUWT, Mike Haseler at Scottish Sceptic, and Lubos Motl
And there’s another nice comment from Steve Harris at RealClimate.
Shub has a blogpost on the Realclimate effect.

2014 might be 0.01C warmer than 2010!

New devastating evidence of the horrifyingly rapid pace of global warming has climate scientists and their hangers-on in a frenzy of hysteria. Although 2014 is not yet over, the Met Office has issued a Press Release saying that according to the HADCRUT4 system devised by Phil Jones and his friends, 2014 looks like it is on course to be 0.57C above the long term average, smashing the record of 0.56C set in 2010. If correct, that’s a massive increase, 0.01C of warming in just 4 years. If warming continues at this rate, the world could face a catastrophic temperature rise of 0.25C over the course of this century.

The terrifying news is reported by the WMO, Carbon Brief, and of course the BBC, who seem to think that the extra 0.01C will lead to an increase of cars rusting in ponds.
The Independent says that the 0.01C of warming has got the daffodils confused, while Paul Hudson says at his BBC blog that climate sceptics are “feeling the heat”.

Meanwhile, here is the latest graph of the temperature of the lower troposphere according to the RSS satellite system, with the thin green lines showing 33 IPCC climate models for comparison:

Has the Royal Society abandoned science?

The Royal Society, formerly a highly regarded institution, is increasingly abandoning science in favour of political propaganda.  Its latest piece of scaremongering, Resilience to extreme weather, is packed full of emotive images of floods


and completely vacuous graphics like this:

(there are at least 4 such meaningless diagrams) but contains virtually no science.

In the introduction, Paul Nurse claims that “By presenting evidence of trends in extreme weather and the different ways resilience can be built to it, we hope this report will galvanise action by local and national governments…”.
But unfortunately Nurse and his chums seem to have forgotten to include any evidence of trends in extreme weather. All we get is examples and anecdotes. Throughout the entire 100+ page report, there is not a single graph showing past trends in extreme events (there are plenty showing the results of speculative computer models for the future).

Graphs of UK rainfall are often shown at Paul Homewood’s blog, for example in his recent post Rainfall Patterns In The South West, relevant to the Somerset flooding, where it can be seen that there is no trend in rainfall and the wettest month occurred in 1929. I wonder why no such graphs are shown in the Royal Society report?

Similarly there is no data provided in the report on hurricanes and typhoons, despite there being a suitable figure on this in IPCC AR5 WG1 Chapter 2:

Hurricane Sandy is mentioned several times in the report, but there is no mention of the current record-breaking lull in hurricane activity.

Tucked away in the middle of the report are the distinctly un-alarming remarks from the IPCC SREX (2012), such as “Low confidence that anthropogenic warming has affected the magnitude or frequency of floods at a global scale”.

Roger Pielke has a useful summary of what the IPCC AR5 had to say about extreme events. He ends with “Of course, I have no doubts that claims will still be made associating floods, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes with human-caused climate change — Zombie science…” I wonder what he would make of this report by the Royal Society?

On P.109 of the report we are told that it was reviewed by a panel of eight experts before being accepted by the Royal Society. So it is curious that amateur blogger Andrew Montford managed to find a basic error in it so quickly. Maybe they should employ him in future to check their reports for errors?



Climategate Anniversary

Today is the 5th anniversary of the start of the ‘Climategate’ incident. Here’s a brief summary of what happened, plus IPCC-related issues raised and some thoughts on how it affected the opinion of scientists and the public.

On 17th November 2009, comments appeared on a number of sceptic blogs such as here at the Air Vent. The comment started with the text

“We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.
We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.
Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.
This is a limited time offer, download now:”

This was followed by a link to the file of emails and a brief summary of some of the contents.

Two years later, a second file was released, with links posted on six blogs. This included a README.txt file (converted to pdf since wordpress does not allow .txt files) which gives some insight into the motivation:

“Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day.”
“Every day nearly 16.000 children die from hunger and related causes.”
“One dollar can save a life” — the opposite must also be true.
“Poverty is a death sentence.”
“Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize
greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.”
Today’s decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on
hiding the decline.

This included about 5000 emails, plus an encrypted file containing over 200000 emails.

A third announcement was made in March 2013. This said that the person who hacked/leaked the emails acted alone, without any oill funding or political support, and hints at a past academic career.

Climategate and the IPCC

Here are some of the emails relating to the IPCC:

Phil Jones writing to Michael Mann:
“The other paper by MM is just garbage – as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well – frequently as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !”
[MM = McIntyre & McKitrick. In fact their paper was cited by IPCC AR4!]

Jones to Mann again:
“Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise… Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same?”

Tom Wigley says that
“In my (perhaps too harsh) view, there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC.”

Climate scientists Heinz Wanner says that he was a reviewer of the IPCC TAR (2001) and criticised it’s extensive use of the Mann Hockey Stick picture, but his comments were ignored.

Peter Thorne writes in regard to preparation of IPCC AR4,
“I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”

IPCC TAR Chapter 3 author Phil Jones repeatedly breaks the IPCC rules
“I’m not supposed to send these out, so you got them from Albert.”

Hans von Storch writes
“Stupid, politicized action by IPCC, not MBH’s responsibility. IPCC did one more of these silly oversellings – by showing the damage curve by Munich Re without proper caveat in the fig caption”

Phil Jones comments on political bias in the IPCC SPM
“He says he’ll read the IPCC Chapters! He hadn’t as he said he thought they were politically biased. I assured him they were not. The SPM may be, but not the chapters.”

Climategate and opinion

Contrary to the nonsense on the subject in the Wikipedia article, Climategate had an impact on the opinion of both scientists and the general public.

Climate scientist Judith Curry described in an interview how “Climategate and the weak response of the IPCC and other scientists triggered a massive re-examination of my support of the IPCC, and made me look at the science much more sceptically”.

Berkeley physicist Richard Muller discusses the notorious “hide the decline” graph here, saying that you don’t do this and that there’s now a group of scientists whose work he doesn’t trust.

At a meeting in Nottingham, Physicist Philip Moriarty said that he and colleagues were shocked by Climategate, and used the word “anathema” in relation to the withholding of data.

Mike Hulme wrote an interesting essay After Climategate … Never the Same in which he discusses the impact on science and scientists. He also notes the impact on the opinion of Guardian writer George Monbiot (who called for Phil Jones to resign) and the general public, saying that a survey soon after the event showed a significant decline in concern about climate change and public trust in climate science.

A paper by Leiserowitz et al, “Climategate, Public Opinion, and the Loss of Trust” found a significant decline in Americans’ climate change beliefs between 2008 and 2010 (from 57% saying human activity was causing warming to 47%). They also asked specific questions about climategate, to confirm that this was a significant factor.

Other papers on Climategate include Reiner Grundmann’s “Climategate” and The Scientific Ethos, which discusses the issue in relation to traditional (“Mertonian”) and more policy-linked ways of thinking about science; The legacy of climategate, by Maibach et al, who say that it increased the partisan divide in US politics; and Climate change and ‘climategate’ in online reader comments by Koteyko, Jaspal & Nerlich.

Climategate did not change my own views very much, but made me more confident that my assessment that climate change is exaggerated and politicised was correct. To me, the real scandal was not so much that two or three climate scientists behaved badly, but that virtually the entire climate science community tried to pretend that nothing was wrong.