Met Office responds to Mail on Sunday article

Following on from my last blog post about David Rose from the Mail on Sunday telling us to forget about global warming I will provide the full statement from the Met Office that was given to Rose before the article was published (he just chose to ignore it):

A spokesman for the Met Office said: “The ten year projection remains groundbreaking science. The complete period for the original projection is not over yet and these projections are regularly updated to take account of the most recent data.

“The projections are probabilistic in nature, and no individual forecast should be taken in isolation. Instead, several decades of data will be needed to assess the robustness of the projections.

“However, what is absolutely clear is that we have continued to see a trend of warming, with the decade of 2000-2009 being clearly the warmest in the instrumental record going back to 1850. Depending on which temperature records you use, 2010 was the warmest year on record for NOAA NCDC and NASA GISS, and the second warmest on record in HadCRUT3.”

Furthermore, the Met Office were able to confirm that:

Despite the Met Office having spoken to David Rose ahead of the publication of the story, he has chosen to not fully include the answers we gave him to questions around decadal projections produced by the Met Office or his belief that we have seen no warming since 1997.

As well as clarifying Rose’s assertions about the possible impact of the Sun on global temperatures (Rose suggested reduced Sun activity was about to drag us into an ice age):

Furthermore despite criticism of a paper published by the Met Office he chose not to ask us to respond to his misconceptions. The study in question, supported by many others, provides an insight into the sensitivity of our climate to changes in the output of the sun.

It confirmed that although solar output is likely to reduce over the next 90 years this will not substantially delay expected increases in global temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The study found that the expected decrease in solar activity would only most likely cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08 °C. This compares to an expected warming of about 2.5 °C over the same period due to greenhouse gases (according to the IPCC’s B2 scenario for greenhouse gas emissions that does not involve efforts to mitigate emissions).

Just another example of a journalist having the facts to hands, but choosing to ignore them in order to pursue an editorial agenda.

Mail on Sunday encourages us to ‘forget global warming’

Apparently the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit have released some figures that will prove ‘an inconvenient challenge’ for the ‘supposed “consensus” on man-made global warming’. Naturally, the Mail on Sunday online article provides not one link to what it is they are actually talking about (seriously, the busiest ‘news’ website in the world cannot even use simple Internet etiquette) but the writer – David Rose – seems convinced that this data completely changes every piece of evidence ever collated to support the greenhouse model of global warming.

Those of you with a good memory might remember that the Daily Mail have covered the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit before when hackers targeted the unit and released internal emails supposedly showing that the unit had been massaging figures to maintain the illusion that global warming was real. Now it seems that their figures are to be trusted because they happen to coincide with the newspaper’s editorial belief that global warming is not real.

However, before this can be established we need to know exactly what data has been released by the CRU and how the Mail on Sunday has arrived at its conclusions. Sadly, thanks to the newspaper’s complete lack of transparency we can only hazard a guess because no MailOnline / Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday writer seems to have permission (or the decency) to link to any external website (unless they are cut and pasting PR copy, of course).

Visiting the CRU website shows that the most recently updated information sheet was updated back in January 2011 and states that:

The period 2001-2010 (0.44°C above 1961-90 mean) was 0.20°C warmer than the 1991-2000 decade (0.24°C above 1961-90 mean). The warmest year of the entire series has been 1998, with a temperature of 0.55°C above the 1961-90 mean. After 1998, the next nine warmest years in the series are all in the decade 2001-2010. During this decade, only 2008 is not in the ten warmest years. Even though 2008 was the coldest year of the 21st century it was still the 12th warmest year of the whole record.

This time series is compiled jointly by the Climatic Research Unit and the UK Met. Office Hadley Centre. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities are most likely the underlying cause of warming in the 20th century.

Presumably, the figures that the Daily Mail has got hold of must completely contradict the figures that they have released previously; or that newspaper must have arrived at a very different conclusion to the report’s authors.

The latest press release issued by the CRU (October 2011)- at least the latest one that I could find on their website – seems pretty equivocal:

The University of East Anglia notes the provisional findings of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group (BEST) that any doubts about the previous peer-reviewed, published research showing that the world has been warming are unfounded.

If the BEST studies are confirmed by independent peer review, they will further strengthen the scientific consensus built over the last 30 years by groups around the world, including our Climatic Research Unit (CRU). They will also vindicate – once more – those in CRU unfairly accused of scientific fraud following the theft of their personal emails in November 2009. The university has stood by the science and stood by CRU throughout.

Prof Phil Jones, research director of CRU, said: “I look forward to reading the finalised papers once they have been reviewed and published. These provisional findings seem encouraging and echo our own results, particularly our conclusion that the impact of urban heat islands on the overall trend of global temperature is minimal.”

If the figures David Rose has found are that groundbreaking then the least he could do is point us in the direction of them. Instead he describes any climate change skeptic as a ‘leading climate scientist’, or ‘solar expert’ or ‘one of America’s most eminent climate experts’ whilst relegating the Met Office’s statement (‘But yesterday a Met Office spokesman insisted its models were still valid’) to one throwaway line without any fancy introduction.

You see it’s simple really, all of the graphs put together over the years by scientists who have demonstrated beyond question that global temperatures have risen in the last 30 years have now been disproved by those same scientists releasing another graph. The sole reason for believing this latest graph and disbelieving all the others seems to be that it roughly corresponds to the prejudices of the author and the newspaper that they write for.

And it’s even more simple than that. Everyone who agrees with David Rose’s view is ‘the very best leading expert in the whole wide world’ whilst anyone with any different viewpoint is not even worth mentioning.

This is ‘journalism’ at its very worst and the longer publications are allowed to publish propaganda rather than at the very least flirt with established scientific fact, the longer such manufactured controversies will be allowed to flourish.

Incidentally, The New Journalist has now been launched so if someone more scientifically-minded and patient than I wants to track down this Met Office report and cover it for The New Journalist that would really be good.

Fact: Richard Littlejohn is the ultimate lazy hack

Another day, another woefully ignorant Littlejohn snippet on climate change:

The latest piece of ‘climate change’ lunacy comes from an ‘expert’ who claims peat bogs pose a clear and present danger to the polar bears.

Apparently, stopping people using peat would be the equivalent of taking 330,000 cars off the road.

Leave aside the fact that peat is the ultimate renewable resource. How many people do you know who burn peat?

Who would have thought you could cram so much wrong into so little space.

Firstly, the inverted commas around ‘climate change’ and ‘expert’ are stunningly hypocritical and ignorant. ‘Climate change’ as a generic tag is actually an invention of industry funded global-warming denialists who wanted a less loaded term to replace ‘global warming’. ‘Global warming’ clearly describes the fact that the earth is heating up, climate change implies that some kind of change is happening, but we’re not sure which. As cigarette manufacturers stated for years when they fought scientific evidence that smoking was extremely damaging to health: ‘doubt is our product’. Climate change is a phrase that encapsulates doubt, but it is not a scientific term because it does not describe what the evidence demonstrates – ‘global warming’ describes this. So for Littlejohn to not even like ‘climate change’ – a manufactured, inaccurate description – enough to not place it in inverted commas just demonstrates once again that he knows nothing about his subject.

Along the same lines is the use of ‘expert’. There is a reason why newspapers can get away with writing the word ‘expert’ in inverted commas: they so often refer to people with no expertise as ‘experts’ that the very notion of expertise has been devalued. For high profile examples of this refer to the press going to a guy working from a shed in his garden for the latest on MRSA (his samples were always positive because his shed was contaminated, and he really didn’t know what he was doing – the press described him as the foremost expert in this field) or the whole MMR scare where they backed one ‘expert’ in the face of many and got their hands badly burned. Basically, the press can’t keep quoting ‘studies’ that are little more than PR surveys, and experts who are basically anybody with any kind of profile that will provide a suitable quote for the biased drivel being produced (see Migrationwatch as the perfect example of this). And finally, you can’t write three paragraphs of astounding ignorance and have the cheek to mock ‘experts’ on the subject as not knowing what they are talking about – it completely destroys you every single time.

Secondly, it is not lunacy to suggest that peat bogs play a significant part in the storage of carbon and subsequently the release of it when burnt. As the International Mire Conservation Group make clear:

Peatlands constitute the top long-term carbon stock in the terrestrial biosphere.

While covering only 3% of the World’s land area, peatlands contain 550 Gt of carbon in their peat. This is equivalent to 30% of all global soil carbon, 75% of all atmospheric C, equal to all terrestrial biomass, and twice the carbon stock in the forest biomass of the world (Draft UNEP-GEF Assessment on Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change).

So, even though not much peat is used, it releases a disproportionate amount of carbon. No ‘lunacy’, no ‘apparently’, just a simple fact.

Thirdly, Richard Littlejohn states that it is a ‘fact that peat is the ultimate renewable resource’. It isn’t. Here is a nice explanation from the IMCG of why it isn’t:

Peat occupies an intermediate position between biomass and lignite/coal. It has been forming for 360 million years and it is still being formed today. Part of the present-day peat is at this moment changing into lignite and will change into coal in future. Similar to lignite and coal, peat is renewable.

Coal and lignite are, however, called “non-renewable” because their slow rate of renewal makes their renewability irrelevant for humankind. The volume of old coal currently being burnt is many orders of magnitude larger than the volume of new coal currently being formed. The same accounts for peat. In the EU, in almost all countries of the EU, and in the whole world, the stocks of peat are decreasing much more rapidly than new peat is being formed. Globally peat losses exceed the new formation of peat with a factor 20, leading to a net emission of 2 Gigatonnes of CO2 annually (Draft UNEP-GEF Assessment on Peatlands, Biodiversity and Climate Change).

Classifying peat as a “long-term renewable energy resource” is misleading because – in order to achieve environmental sustainability and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – carbon-based fuel resources must replenish as quickly as they are consumed.

Peat used for fuel, in contrast, is thousands of years older than our modern society. This and the failing renewal of peat cause peat fuel to contribute to the greenhouse effect in the same way as burning other fossil resources. Therefore peat – similar to lignite and coal – should be treated as a non-renewable resource.

Now, there is a reason why Richard might have thought that peat was a renewable source of energy: the EU. The above quotations from the IMCG were taken from a letter sent to the European Parliament in 2007 following this event:

On December 14th, 2006, the European Parliament adopted the Resolution on a Strategy for Biomass and Biofuels (2006/2082(INI)). During the discussions, the following amendment was submitted unexpectedly and ‘last minute’ by ALDE MEPs from the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland, and endorsed by the Parliament:

“The European Parliament… [78] Calls on the Commission to include peat, with regard to the life-cycle aspect, as a longterm renewable energy source for biomass and bioenergy production”.

So, those meddling bureaucrats in the EU that Richard hates so much have wrongly endorsed peat as renewable energy source – the amendment was submitted by EU countries that just happen to be have sizeable peat deposits and industries that would greatly benefit from peat being classed as a renewable energy source. Richard – the ever-vigilant enemy of power – has fallen completely for a change of classification brought about solely for business interests.

I know nothing about peat beyond the joke ‘what do you call an Irishman who has been buried for 100 years? Pete’, yet in 20 minutes I can uncover the truth behind why some people might consider it as a renewable energy source when in real terms it simply isn’t. Richard Littlejohn on the other hand portrays himself as a permanent skeptic yet cannot be bothered to even spend a few minutes checking his facts. If he had, he would have actually found out something interesting about how certain industries are trying to climb aboard the renewable energy bandwagon (are there any subsidies or tax breaks involved?) even though they don’t meet the criteria. Even as a complete skeptic he could have written about this – he could have approached it from the angle of how every business is trying to get on the climate change band wagon to fleece the taxpayer, hell, he might even have been partly right.

Instead he just insults his readers – and his employers who pay him nearly £1m a year to write barely two columns a week – with this lazy, ignorant and baseless drivel.

Journalistic Standards

Another day, another lazy Richard Littlejohn column. His main article is criticising an four-page leaflet produced by the Food Standards Agency, which mainly involves quoting large chunks of it verbatim (presumably, but you never know). Out of 922 words, 230 words (around 25%) are copied word-for-word, whilst another 50% seems to be paraphrased from the pamphlet. A member of the Mailwatch forum has an interesting theory as to why Littlejohn’s column is centred around an inane leaflet this week:

I think this latest column shows the fuck-ups of last week must have got back to him in some way – it’s a greatest hits of the usual simplistic bullshit to get the Mailites back on side. Bin collections, allegations of wasting money on ‘elf and safety, a dig at a comedy target (fat people), some climate change denialism, a dig at the BBC, a dig at labour and an accusation that Campbell is as bad as a Nazi. Short of a Dad’s army reference, it’s all there. And buried within, an apology that I’m sure he’ll hope his readers skim over, thinking it’s just a follow-up rather than an admission he does no research whatsoever.

While I’m depressingly sure it’ll work and he’ll have his fans wheeling out stale plaudits, it’s nice to know he obviously had a bit of a knock to the ego last week to feel the need to cram quite so many crowd-pleasers into one column. It’s like a faded rock star wheeling out all his best of hits everyone has heard a million times after his new material goes down like a lead balloon.

I appreciate the hypocrisy of calling Littlejohn lazy and then copying and pasting the above, before anyone points that out. If you haven’t seen Littlejohn’s apology, then you really should pop over to Tabloid Watch and take a look at it, it really does make clear that Littlejohn doesn’t even attempt to fact check the stories that are emailed to him.

But he isn’t alone, because surprise surprise the ‘boy thrown off bus for wearing England shirt’ story has now been unequivicolly debunked. This was a story in which a journalist just printed a story because it fitted the media narrative being created (England shirts are banned, as is patriotism and foreigners get offended with our way of life), not because it was true. The sad truth is that the journalist probably knew it was rubbish but printed it anyway.

Whenever a newspaper prints a story that was always unlikely to be true I’m always reminded of Kelvin MacKenzie’s ‘secret’ key to successful tabloid journalism. He imparted this wisdom after appointing only Oxford and Cambridge graduates during his early days at The Sun:

Satisfied that my bold move would take The Sun to a higher plain I waited for the results. They were not forthcoming. In fact, very little emerged from my new hirelings. Most disappointing.

I had to get to the bottom of this. It became clear that with their keen and analytical minds they had made a fatal mistake – they had continued investigating every story to the point where they had satisfied themselves that there was no story at all. This would not do.

I called in one of the super-brains and and explained a philosophy that had served me well over the years. The reporter leant forward with an earnest look as I told him the secret: if a story sounded true it probably was true and should therefore appear in the paper or there would be lots of white, unexplained spaces.

Such journalistic ‘standards’ result in stories like: ‘Child spotted apparently drinking beer at U.S. baseball game‘. In which we find out that:

The identity of the child, or the adults surrounding him, was not known and it has not been confirmed whether the bottle actually contained beer.

Still, we had better put it on the website, otherwise there would just be all this white space…

The Madness of Melanie Phillips

So, Dr Andrew Wakefield is now just plain old Andrew Wakefield after being struck off for – in the words of the Telegraph’s Tom Chivers:

[being] one of the principal authors of perhaps the stupidest and most unnecessary health scare of recent Western history… [and] for being “dishonest”, “misleading” and “irresponsible” in his research into the MMR vaccine and its purported links to autism.

If you want a wonderful comic-book account of the whole affair then go here and read this wonderful summary – pay close attention to the role that the media played in hyping up the non-existent link and making measles commonplace once again.

If you’re aware of this story then you’ll be aware of just how completely discredited both Wakefield and his ‘research’ is. You’d also probably expect an author of a book titled ‘The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power’ which is supposedly about our irrationality:

In what we tell ourselves is an age of reason, we are behaving increasingly irrationally. An astonishing number of people subscribe to celebrity endorsed cults, Mayan armageddon prophecies, scientism, and other varieties of new age, anti-enlightenment philosophies. Millions more advance popular conspiracy theories: AIDS was created in a CIA laboratory, Princess Diana was assassinated, and the 9/11 attacks were an inside job.

To be glad that rationality has won the day and Andrew Wakefield has been struck off. However, you then realise that the author of the above book is Melanie Phillips, and she is – for want of a better phrase – absolutely batshit insane. For starters, her book seeks to blame irrationality on:

the slow but steady marginalization of religion. We tell ourselves that faith and reason are incompatible, but the opposite is the case. It was Christianity and the Hebrew Bible, Phillips asserts, that gave us our concepts of reason, progress, and an orderly world on which science and modernity are based.

And that:

Without its religious traditions, the West has drifted into mass derangement where truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. Scientists skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts, Israel is demonized, and the US is vilified over the war on terror—all on the basis of blatant falsehoods and obscene propaganda.

One imagines that Melanie Phillip’s arguments are undermined somewhat for her track record of drawing vastly different conclusions from the witnessing of any event. Her verdict on Andrew Wakefield being struck off is this short statement utterly bereft of any relationship to reality:

Following the risible kangaroo court set up by the General Medical Council Andrew Wakefield, the doctor at the heart of the MMR controversy, has now been struck off the medical register while his colleagues have yet to learn their own fate. This is a tragedy and a travesty. I believe a monstrous injustice has been done here, which has crucified the one doctor who tried to alleviate and prevent the suffering of a particular group of children and which has also betrayed their parents. The full story of how this sinister travesty was accomplished and the full range of people who were complicit in it — along with what it means for both medicine and public safety — has yet to be revealed. Over time, I hope this will eventually be achieved.

I’d suggest after reading the above statement we could all be justifiably skeptical that Melanie Phillips has anything rational to add to the topics of global warming, Israel and the war on terror. The worst thing is that this isn’t out of character for Melanie at all, she has a proud record of arguing ridiculous points.

Like, for example, claiming that the BBC’s decision to sack Carol Thatcher for her racist remark was:

a chilling insight into the totalitarian universe of the closed BBC mind… If the BBC had intended to convince the public that it had departed altogether from reality and common sense and resided instead in some alternative Stalinist universe, it could hardly have done a better job

Or, for example, claiming that a 13 year old father (who turned out in the end not to even be the father):

vividly reveals how our children are being abandoned and betrayed… And we all know why this is. A sexual free-for-all legitimated by the mantra of ‘lifestyle choice’, promoted from the top by narcissistic liberals and funded at the bottom by welfare benefits, has caused a catastrophic rate of family breakdown and fragmentation which is now repeating itself in an endless generational cycle

Or, for example, claiming that the increased deposits in sharia banking in the UK means that those banks accepting deposits are:

effectively endors[ing] the extremist ideology behind it of conquering the west for Islam

Or, for example, claiming that recent teenage pregnancy figures are evidence (even though with one odd exception teenage pregnancy rates are falling year-on-year) that:

Labour is doing nothing less than trying to reshape the sexual and moral behaviour of an entire society

Or, for example, equating a nurse being suspended for praying at work and a ‘private remark’ (what, it never left the confines of her head?) made by Carol Thatcher being reported with the UK:

sliding inexorably into a culture of control which would have been very familiar to the Stasi or the KGB

Or, for example, how turning away a slightly batty Dutch MP was a sign that Britain is:

sleepwalking towards cultural suicide… If anyone had doubted the extent to which Britain has capitulated to Islamic terror, the banning of Geert Wilders should surely open their eyes

If, after all this, you still think Melanie Phillips has anything sane or rational to add to any debate, then I’d politely suggest that you’re a bit mad as well.

A reader comments

Sometimes you read a comment on the Daily Mail website and you just cringe at just how mind-shatteringly stupid it is. What is worse is that the comment is normally rated green as well, because other Mail readers have decided: ‘you know what, he’s right you know!’. Today’s utterly moronic comment comes from John, England and has already attracted 26 positive ratings. The comment is under an article with some nice pictures of a WW2 fighter plane that crashed into the sea just off the coast of Wales:

These incredible pictures show how the previously undetected Lightning suddenly appeared on a Wales beach in 2007. Shifting water displaced sand which had hidden it for 60 years and revealed a gem find for aviation buffs.*

OK, so shifting sands have revealed the plane, got it. John on the other hand thinks this is more evidence that Global Warming is a myth:


Sometimes you just have to laugh at comments like this, otherwise you’d just collapse in a state of existential despair.

* Interesting that this was over 3 years ago, and surely it should read ‘Welsh beach’…

The ‘semantics’ of climate change

A new year, same old Littlejohn. Littlejohn is now recycling his columns to such an extent that he is beyond parody. Today’s column (Mandelson to run the Jubilee? God save the Queen!) makes his normal crass, prejudiced stereotypes: Peter Mandelson is called ‘Mandy’ is drawn as camp as possible in the obligatory crap cartoon – because he is gay you see; wherever the Queen visits happen to run into brown-skinned people they are carrying out ‘ritual beheadings’, making shoe-bombs or have just returned from fighting in Yemen – because all brown people are terrorists you see… And so on, I’d have to copy and paste the whole column to get all of the prejudices from the column here – and they are so familiar I don’t see the need to.

As if this tour-de-farce wasn’t enough Richard Littlejohn tackles climate change – again – and makes the point that as it is cold outside climate change is therefore a conspiracy concocted to victimise honest taxpayers. This is par for the course (Littlejohn mentions saving the Polar Bears yet again in this column) but it is interesting to see that this time Littlejohn actually attempts to tackle the criticism he gets in his comments:

Ah, say the ‘experts’, there’s a difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’. They are forced to resort to semantics to sustain their insistence that the science is settled, even though they are all sitting there shivering like brass monkeys. They’d still cling to their belief in man-made warming if Hell froze over.

So there you have it: the only difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ according to Littlejohn is semantic. I wish everything in life was as simple as Littlejohn makes out, but sadly things are a little more complex than that and the cold weather outside today says nothing about climate change or the climate in general. I guess this is why Littlejohn rarely engages in criticism of his points, because when he does he looks feeble-minded, rather than just ignorant.

He also finds time for a quick ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ gone mad story:

On Wednesday, in Stranraer, local residents decided to take advantage of a frozen pond in Agnew Park. They included former Scottish Ladies Curling champions, past presidents of the local ice rink and two serving police officers.

Needless to say, when word reached the Town Hall, an official was dispatched to tell them to stop immediately…

Until the boxes were ticked and warning notices erected, skating and curling was banned.

A quick Google search shows a Flickr photo stream of the people curling along with the following description:

Curling on a frozen pond at Agnew Park Stranraer. Interestingly the council came along and told them to stop until they had “risk assessed” the curling on the ice……the game continued

Bravo Richard, you’ve just been paid for another terrible column.