Archive for July, 2008

Whither a Climate Debate?

2008/07/26 4 comments

Gavin Schmidt writes at RealClimate

“The obvious ineptitude of this contribution underlines quite effectively how little debate there is on the fundamentals if this is the best counter-argument that can be offered.”

But it has been my impression that the main story, Monckton’s press releases notwithstanding, has been (and still is) the FPS Editor remarking that there is a considerable number of scientists skeptical of the IPCC conclusions.

The FPS Executive Committee now states on the FPS July 2008 page that they do not agree with the previous remark, suggesting it is all a matter of opinion.

However, with the APS jumping in against Monckton’s paper with red inks (thankfully now turned to black), and more than one call for the FPS Editor to be “fired” from his volunteer position for the mere reason that he made that remark, I wonder what kind of “debate” could at all be possible?

Actually, I’d rather the APS had replied with Gavin’s words “The obvious ineptitude of this contribution etc etc” challenging any of its readers to come up with something better than Monckton’s.

That would have given debate a chance. As things stand, I pretty much doubt any against-consensus contribution would appear on the FPS in the future, even were such a contribution to surface (and am sure, it won’t: otherwise yet more people’s bosses will receive e-mails asking to “fire the heretics”, an ominous metaphore it there’s ever been one)

“Global” Warming Consensus Forgets Two-Thirds of the Landmass

2008/07/25 7 comments

More figures to understand how awfully incomplete is the current knowledge of global climate.

And it’s very clear for all to see in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report – Working Group 2 (AR4-WG2), in Chapter 1 and in the Summary for Policymakers.

A bumper 96% of reported changes are from Europe and Europe alone. And what does that mean?

It means that for the whole of Australia/New Zealand, the IPCC could find only 6 significant changes (SC). For the whole of Africa, 7 SCs. For the whole of Latin America, 58 SCs. For the whole of Asia, 114SCs.

In terms of SC per square kilometer, Europe has:

1- 11,978 more than Africa
2- 85 more than North America
3- 853 more than South America
4- 1066 more than Asia
5- 3,702 more than Australia/New Zealand
6- 270 more than Antarctica

But one may reply to that, I am putting too much emphasis on the 28,000+ European biological SCs.

Let’s recompute the above with reference to North America then. In terms of SC per square kilometer, North America has:

1- 142 more than Africa
2- 10 more than South America
3- 12 more than Asia
4- 43 more than Australia/New Zealand
5- 3 more than Antarctica

It is blazingly blatant that before we can speak of global warming, more data has to be collected at least about Africa/Asia/Australia-New Zealand/South America .

We are talking 67% of the total land area of the planet.

Is anybody in the IPCC/Al Gore/James Hansen/Tim Flannery crowd pushing hard to get a complete picture of what is changing where and how?

Review, Peer Review and the APS Debacle

2008/07/22 6 comments

With their over-the-top reaction to the publication on one of their newsletter of Monckton’s ideas on climate sensitivity, the APS leaders have shown themselves not stupid…

…because a “stupid” is somebody that damages others without a gain for himself: whilst the APS has only damaged itself.

Look at the “peer-reviewed” issue. Monckton is likely to be behind a wildly-exaggerated press release by the SPPI

Mathematical proof that there is no “climate crisis” appears today in a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 46,000-strong American Physical Society, SPPI reports.

Should have been child’s play to issue a counter-release explaining that there cannot be any mathematical proof in a scientific field (outside of mathematics, that is); that “Physics and Society” is a newsletter, and not a “learned journal”; and that Monckton’s invited article was only part of the beginning of a debate.

Look what’s happened instead: Monckton is now perfectly in the right to state that he’s been unfairly, and uncourteously treated. He’s been invited to write an article that has been published, that then caused APS to undergo all sorts of fits, including a series of unwarranted put-downs plastered all over the place in apparent panic.

In fact: at this very moment both Monckton’s article and the IPCC-consensus piece by Hafemeister and Schwarz sport on top the following statement in black ink (my emphasis) (this is similar to what appeared in red ink on Monckton’s article alone):

The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review, since that is not normal procedure for American Physical Society newsletters. The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007: “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

Something similar has materialized at the beginning of the FPS July 2008 issue’s web page:

The Forum on Physics and Society is a place for discussion and disagreement on scientific and policy matters. Our newsletter publishes a combination of non- peer- reviewed technical articles, policy analyses, and opinion. All articles and editorials published in the newsletter solely represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Forum Executive Committee 

But that is not the way the FPS is presented:

Physics and Society is the quarterly of the Forum on Physics and Society, a division of the American Physical Society. It presents letters, commentary, book reviews and reviewed articles on the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society.

Now..what is the difference between peer-reviewed and reviewed?

Is there such a thing in scientific circles as an article reviewed but not by peers?

Has anybody ever heard of an inferior-reviewed article? Or of a superior-reviewed article? Who knows?

Looks like at the APS they have been cavalier with the issue of reviewing, until now. But if they need to sort out their own house, it should be for the future, and not for the past (unless they want to go against the principle of cause and effect).

And so Monckton on one thing is certainly right: for all intents and purposes, maybe the wrong way, maybe without thinking at the consequence, but Monckton’s article has been peer-reviewed indeed.

Why the NASA Planetary Atmospheres Website Doesn’t Mention Greenhouse Gases

2008/07/21 10 comments

Discussions with people holding a different view are obviously quite likely to help bring one’s reasoning forward (as long as there is no name-calling or other infantilism).

For an example of what can happen, look no further than this exchange with Ed Darrell at his Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. The topic is, what is the relevance of the fact that the NASA Planetary Atmospheres website (PDS-A) doesn’t mention greenhouse gases.

To which my answer has been:

if the experts in the field don’t take it into consideration, I surely want to know why!!

Ed has replied with an interesting suggestion:

The site doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive resource for all studies of all atmospheres everywhere. It’s a site to get a line into work NASA has actually done.

But if that’s true, it means that in all these years, NASA has seldom if ever looked at ways to investigate the same greenhouse effect that keeps Earth’s average temperature above freezing, and Venus with a surface temperature higher than an oven. And furthermore, there is a dearth of data in this most practical of planetary atmospheric fields!!


Let’s try to figure out if Ed’s interpretation is right. In its About page, the PDS-A site says “As an additional service, the Atmospheres Node provides information on relevant planetary atmospheres topics for educational purposes”.

There are links for Educators, including to the NASA Planetary Data System College Student Investigators (CSI) webpage that states

The objective of this activity is to involve undergraduate students in research and development projects related to the holdings of NASA.s Planetary Data System (PDS). Through the PDS College Student Investigators activity, the PDS strives to prepare the next generation of PDS science investigators.

A recent proposal is about investigating the role of dust in the thermodynamics of the Martian atmosphere. Neither there nor elsewhere there is any mention of greenhouse gases, a topic that evidently and mysteriously does not interest “next generation of PDS science investigators”.

Going back to PDS-A, there are educational links also to “Broker Forums“. One of them is the web site for the “Sun-Earth Connection” at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, curiously linking to another website “Space Weather” containing a few unorthodox remarks on the Sun and Earth’s climate.

Another link for the Broker Forums goes to NASA’s Solary System Educational website where (finally!) there is some serious content about the greenhouse effect (GH).

And what does that refer to? Step forward ESA’s Venus Express, that lists among its scientific objectives the investigation of

what is the role of the radiative balance and greenhouse effect in the past present and future evolution of the planet?


Chapeau to Ed Darrel, then…for all intents and purposes, NASA has dedicated no mission to the study of the greenhouse effect. That’s why there is no mention of it in the PDS-A site, the Planetary Data System for Atmosphere: simply, there is no data to report. Because nobody ever looked for those.

Is the current state of Climatology on this planet and everywhere else sad or what? If Goddard’s Director and climate worrier James Hansen is unable to gather funds for a terrestrial or planetary mission on the greenhouse effect; or worse, if even he is not interested enough to put one together: then how solid will the science of the climate ever be?

ps Still, the PDS-A Encyclopedia could have had a page on the GH effect. Its equations albeit simplified, still are possible

Surprising Remarks in NASA-Endorsed Website

2008/07/21 4 comments

Cosmic rays stream down into Earth’s atmosphere from the sun and elsewhere beyond the solar system. Recent studies show that these particles penetrate into the troposphere and alter the way that droplets condense to form clouds, rain and snow with important weather and climate consequences. Changes in the sun’s ultraviolet light affects the ozone layer and the energy input into the upper atmosphere. As the upper atmosphere is heated, it expands into space causing increased friction for satellites.

The ISS must be ‘re-boosted’ every three months to prevent it from burning up in the atmosphere. The Skylab station on July 11, 1979 reentered prematurely because of a solar storm event.

The above from the Solar Storms “Space Weather” website, listing NASA more than once in its endorsements page.

The below is instead from their Climate page:

Scientists have examined the climate record for other signs of the connection between space weather and climate-weather changes with many surprising results listed below.

The Trends page, alas, loses out on many of those “surprises”…

How the BBC Used the Wrong Picture to Talk About Media Accuracy

2008/07/21 2 comments

This is too funny to pass. Message just sent to the BBC:

Hi – you are using the wrong picture to accompany one article about the Ofcom ruling on the “Global Warming Swindle” documentary.

The page “Opinion: A reluctant whistle-blower” is using the IPCC TAR (2001) “Hockey Stick” graph

IPCC TAR (2001) Hockey Stick

IPCC TAR (2001) Hockey Stick

The above can be seen in a 2004 BBC News article “Climate legacy of ‘hockey stick’“.

Obviously, you should have used the more recent IPCC (2007) temperature graph, as per your own website

IPCC AR4 (2007) Temperature Graph

IPCC AR4 (2007) Temperature Graph

That graph is published in the BBC News website’s “Climate Change: The evidence“.

Please have it fixed asap. After all, the article with the wrong picture is about…accuracy in the media!!

regards – maurizio

A Glass Half Full: UK Ofcom’s Global Swindle Ruling

2008/07/21 2 comments

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? About the UK media regulator Ofcom’s ruling on the broadcasting by Channel 4 of the documentary “Great Global Warming Swindle”, the BBC writes in the new home page, under “Latest”:

LATEST: A Channel 4 film on global warming broke Ofcom rules on impartiality and fairness, the regulator says.

The link goes to an article by Richard Black, titled “Climate documentary ‘broke rules’” summarised as “A controversial Channel 4 film on global warming broke Ofcom rules, the media regulator says.” Still, it “did not mislead audiences”.

It depends on what rules, one imagines. Much better then, to try to understand what the Ofcom actually says, is to go to their website: “Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin issue number 114” dated July 21, 2008, where one can learn:

  • Channel 4 breached Rule 7.1: “Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes”, specifically regarding Sir David King and Professor Carl Wunsch
  • In part 5 (final) of the documentary, Channel 4 breached Rule 5.11 about “due impartiality” and Rule 5.12 about including an “appropriately wide range of significant views“; those rules apply because the topic can be included among the “matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy
  • Parts 1 to 4 (final) of the documentary were exempt from Rules 5.11 and 5.12
  • Channel 4 did not breach Rule 2.2 of the Broadcasting Code, about materially misleading the public

Looks like all they would have had to do to pass with full marks, was to provide an opportunity of comment for King and Wunsch, and to mention the full gamut of climate-change-related political opinions…

Enough for now, apart from a link to the 86-page bulletin, 17 of which dedicated to Channel 4 and the Swindle documentary.


Quotes from the Ofcom bulletin…there are several interesting points. And lots of meaty stuff hidden behind the statement about “not materially misleading the public”:

[…] Ofcom received 265 complaints about the programme from members of the public. Ofcom also received a substantial complaint 176 pages long from a group of complainants, some of whom were scientists (“the Group Complaint”).

[…] Ofcom is not a fact-finding tribunal and its obligation in this case was to reach a fair and reasonable decision on whether The Great Global Warming Swindle breached the requirements of the Code. Given the ambit of Ofcom’s obligation as regards adjudicating on the complaints, however it was in Ofcom’s opinion impractical and inappropriate for it to examine in detail all of the multifarious alleged examples of factual inaccuracy set out in the complaints

[…] Ofcom therefore chose four particular aspects of the programme to examine as part of its overall assessment of whether the programme materially misled the audience. These were:

the use of graphs;
the alleged “distortion” of the science of climate modelling;
presentation of the argument that the theory of man-made global warming is promoted as a means to limit economic growth;
and, not giving an accurate and fair presentation of the expertise and credibility of various contributors.

These particular areas were selected because they featured in a large number of the complaints, and in Ofcom’s opinion were reasonably illustrative of the key issues and different types of alleged factual
inaccuracy in the programme

[…] (regarding due impartiality) Channel 4 said the programme must be considered within the context of the ubiquitous media coverage of the global warming issue and so, in addressing the question of due impartiality, Channel 4 presented an extensive list of programmes over recent years across all the main channels, including Channel 4, which accepted the view that the principal cause of global warming is man-made emissions of carbon dioxide. […] Programmes referred to included, on Channel 4: Channel 4 Year of the Environment, 2007; A World Without Water; and The Year the Earth Went Wild. On ITV, Climate Change – Make A Difference and on Discovery Channel Global Warming: What You Need to Know

[…] Ofcom considers it of paramount importance that broadcasters, such as Channel 4, continue to explore controversial subject matter. While such programmes can polarise opinion, they are essential to our understanding of the world around us and are amongst the most important content that broadcasters produce. It is inevitable such programmes will have a high profile and may lead to a large number of complaints.

[…] In dealing with an issue such as the theory of anthropogenic global warming, which is the subject of scientific controversy, those involved in the debate will – by definition – disagree over the factual accuracy of each others’ claims. Therefore, it is to some extent inevitable that in a polemical programme such as The Great Global Warming both sides of the argument will violently disagree about the ‘facts’.

[…] The anthropogenic global warming theory is extremely well represented in the
mainstream media. […] it is reasonable for the programme makers to assume that the likely audience would have a basic understanding of the mainstream man-made global warming theory […] the programme was clearly trailed and its authorship was clearly identified […] At no point did the programme state that the theories it contained were the mainstream or majority view

[…] Ofcom is of the view that the audience of this programme was not materially misled in a manner that would have led to actual or potential harm. […] Regardless of whether viewers were in fact persuaded by the arguments contained in the programme, Ofcom does not believe that they could have been materially misled as to the existence and substance of these alternative theories and
opinions, or misled as to the weight which is given to these opinions in the scientific community

[…] Ofcom considered it highly unlikely that the programme could have caused actual harm. As to potential harm some complainants had considered that the programme’s questioning of the theory of man-made global warming would create doubt and confusion in viewers’ minds about the need to take action against global warming. Ofcom considers that, although the programme may have caused
viewers to challenge the consensus view that human activity is the main cause of global warming, there is no evidence that the programme in itself did, or would, cause appreciable potential harm to members of the public

[…] (regarding the graphs) Ofcom did not consider the inaccuracy to be of such significance as to have been materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence in breach of Rule 2.2

[…] (regarding the reliability of climate models) Ofcom noted that, although the complainants disagreed with the points made by the contributors in the programme, they did not suggest that the overall statements about climate models were factually inaccurate […] Overall however Ofcom’s view was that the passages complained of were not materially misleading so as to cause harm and offence.

[…] (regarding the suggestion that some environmentalists are trying to reverse economic growth) In line with the right to freedom of expression, Ofcom considers that the broadcaster has the right to transmit such views and the audience would understand the context in which such comments were made. The content was therefore not misleading

[…] (regarding the contributors to the programme) The decisions by the programme makers not to include all the qualifications of contributors, and not to include more background on them (some of which is strongly disputed), were editorial decisions which overall did not in Ofcom’s view result in the audience being materially misled.

[…] Although this programme was intentionally designed as a polemic, [some of the] comments were so sweeping and intemperate that they risked to some degree undermining the fact that overall the programme very aggressively challenged the mainstream scientific consensus on man’s contribution to global warming, without concluding that the mainstream scientific theory was completely without merit

[…] Ofcom considers there is a difference between presenting an opinion which attacks an established, mainstream and well understood view, such as in this programme, and criticising a view which is much more widely disputed and contentious […] In the context of this particular programme, given the number of scientific theories and politico-economic arguments dealt with in The Great Global Warming Swindle, it was not materially misleading overall to have omitted certain opposing views or represented them only in commentary

[…] while unfairness to participants has been found (failures to give an adequate opportunity to respond and the unfair presentation of views), Ofcom does not consider that, overall, these failures led to material being transmitted which was so misleading that harm would have been caused to viewers.

[…] for most of its 90 minute duration the requirements of due impartiality did not apply to The Great Global Warming Swindle. This is because for the first four of its five parts the programme did not deal with a matter of political or industrial controversy or matter relating to current public policy. However, in Part Five of the programme Ofcom noted that the discussion moved away from the scientific debate about the causes of global warming, to consider the policies alleged to result from the mainstream scientific theory being adopted by UN and Western governments and their consequences

[…] Ofcom also had regard to the fact that, both domestically and on a worldwide level, the political debate had largely moved on from questioning the causes of climate change to attempting to find solutions to deal with it. Therefore, in the political arena at least, there was a very broad consensus of opinion which accepted the scientific theory of man-made global warming. In this respect it could be said that the discussion about the causes of global warming was to a very great extent settled by the date of broadcast (8 March 2007).

[…] by simple virtue of the fact that one small group of people may disagree with a strongly prevailing
consensus on an issue does not automatically make that issue a matter of controversy as defined in legislation and the Code and therefore a matter requiring due impartiality to be preserved

[…] (in part five) These issues are matters of major political controversy and are major matters relating to current public policy as defined by the Code. During this section no alternative views on this issue were presented […] Part Five of the programme therefore breached Rules 5.11 and 5.12.

[…] (regarding Sir David King) The (Fairness) Committee found that the views attributed to him and the manner in which they were expressed, amounted to a significant allegation about his scientific views and credibility. The Committee found that Sir David had not been offered an opportunity to respond to the contributor’s criticism. In the circumstances the Committee concluded that the broadcast of the comments, without an offer being made to Sir David to respond, resulted in unfairness to him in the programme as broadcast

[…] The Committee acknowledged that while there is a broad consensus amongst scientists, governments and the public that global warming is directly related to anthropogenic causes, this is still a topic of debate. There continues to be discussion about the different methods of measuring change in the climate, the best way these changes should be analysed, and what predictions, if any, can be made from the data. Indeed such discussion and debate are essential for the formulation of robust,
scientifically sound theories, projections and conclusions. Global warming is clearly a legitimate and important subject for programme makers and it is not Ofcom’s role to adjudicate on whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon or on the validity of particular scientific views

[…] (regarding the IPCC) The Committee found that the programme broadcast a number of comments by contributors that amounted to serious allegations about the IPCC […] The Committee found that the IPCC had not been provided with a proper opportunity to respond to these allegations. Therefore, the broadcast of the allegations had been unfair.

[…] Channel 4 maintained that the IPCC had been offered an appropriate opportunity to respond. Channel 4 said the right to reply letter had been sent to the IPCC press officer nine days before the programme was broadcast, excluding the weekend which fell in between. Channel 4 said nine days was an appropriate and acceptable time period in which right of reply requests are sent and responses are expected to be received. Channel 4 said that no response was received whatsoever, not even to request more time for the IPCC’s response.

[…] the Committee considered that it was unreasonable for the programme makers to have expected the IPCC to understand that its response was required in a matter of days, and that it was not reasonable to expect the IPCC to be able to provide a response within the one day of being advised of the deadline. The Committee therefore found that the opportunity to respond had not been offered in a timely way.

[…] In the Committee’s opinion, it was not unreasonable to describe the consequences of the changes predicted in the FAR (1990) report as being disastrous, especially for those most likely to be directly affected […] The Committee did not uphold this part of the IPCC’s complaint

[…] the Committee considered that the programme maker’s had provided sufficient information for the
IPCC to understand the nature of Professor Reiter’s criticisms in relation to malaria […] the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded a timely opportunity to respond to the allegation that the statements by the IPCC in relation to the spread of malaria were alarmist, untrue and based on poor scientific literature.

[…] the Committee concluded that the IPCC was not afforded an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegation regarding the statements by the IPCC in relation to the IPCC’s handling of Professor Reiter’s resignation or the compilation of its author’s lists

[…] the Committee found that the IPCC had not been provided with an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the re-broadcast of Professor Seitz’s reported criticisms

[…] the Committee considered that Professor Wunsch was not provided with adequate information to enable him to give informed consent for his participation. The Committee found this caused unfairness to Professor Wunsch in the programme as broadcast in that his contribution had been used in a programme

[…] In the Committee’s view Professor Wunsch made clear in his full unedited interview that he largely accepted this consensus and the seriousness of the threat of global warming (albeit with caveats about proof) and therefore found that the presentation of Professor Wunsch’s views, within the wider context of the programme, resulted in unfairness to him.

[…] the Committee therefore found that the programme maker’s editing of Professor Wunsch’s comments about the presence of CO2 in the ocean did not result in unfairness in the programme as broadcast. Accordingly the Committee did not uphold this part of Professor Wunsch’s complaint

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