NBR interviews Steve McIntyre: hard-hitting business journalism or fatuous piffle? You decide…

The National Business Review (NBR) is New Zealand’s biggest selling business weekly. This weekend it published a profile of Steve McIntyre, the ClimateAudit blogger and amateur statistician who has long had an unhealthy obsession with hockey sticks. Here’s how it introduced him on the web version of the article1:

A man who has become the arch-enemy of climate scientists for exposing serious flaws in a United Nations study on global warming believes the issue has been greatly overstated.

Vilified by global warming zealots, Canadian Steve McIntyre, who was passing through Auckland this week, told NBR ONLINE the impact of global warming is likely to be “about half” of what current scientific models are showing.

Unpacking all the errors and misrepresentations in just those two opening sentences is a major task, so I’ll restrict myself to a few bullet points:

  • McIntyre has pissed off a few paleoclimate people (Mike Mann in particular), but is no “arch-enemy” of an entire discipline.
  • He exposed no substantial flaws in any study, though he has tried hard to create that impression. The sum total of his efforts has done nothing to change our understanding of paleoclimate.
  • The United Nations doesn’t do climate studies. The UN and WMO coordinate the IPCC, which summarises all the science done in academic institutions around the world.
  • McIntyre’s main contribution to science has been to orchestrate and agonise over freedom of information requests sprayed around the climate community, especially the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, and thereby to waste a huge amount of real scientists’ time.
  • McIntyre lacks any credible expertise that would allow him to sit in judgement on the likely impact of a warming climate.

The NBR article continues:

Mr McIntyre, who is a mathematician and former mining company executive, says “the onus is on the people arguing it’s a big problem to really show in an engineering quality report why it’s a big problem”.

More to the point is that McIntyre has been up to his elbows in organised efforts to delay action on climate change for at least the last ten years, as DeSmogBlog’s record of his activities shows — but you wouldn’t guess that from the fawning interview by Rod Vaughan.

The really jaw-dropping moment, however, is when Vaughan presents McIntyre’s views on climate impacts:

Asked how much damage has been caused to the environment so far from global warming, he said:

[…]“Activists will tend to say that carbon dioxide emissions in the last 50 years have caused serious negative impacts.

“But from my point of view I would say I don’t know what they are and certainly on balance there’s been no serious impact.

There’s none so blind as those who won’t look at the Arctic, glacier retreat, increasing extreme weather events, or any of the many other signs of a rapidly changing climate system. McIntyre has made no contribution to the study of climate change, but he has made a huge contribution to the campaign to do nothing about it. His wilful ignorance, and his willingness to present it as wisdom, makes for unedifying reading. More’s the pity, then, that the NBR should choose to feature McIntyre’s piffle as worthy of its reader’s attention.

Climate change is already the biggest challenge the business community will have to face over the next century. Dealing with the impacts of climate change — from extreme weather events to shifting climate zones and ocean acidification — is going to be tough. Creating an economy in which business can thrive at the same as radically reducing emissions is an urgent necessity. It can’t be dismissed by the arm-waving of mining consultants with a political axe to grind.

It could be argued that the business community gets the journalism it deserves. On the basis of this dreadful and fatuous interview, it would appear New Zealand’s business community is in deep, deep trouble.

  1. A longer version is in the print edition. []

Time to worry: NBR editor lacks insight on climate change

nevil-gibson.jpg Relax everybody, NBR editor Nevil Gibson has conducted extensive research (read the Wall Street Journal), and discovered that we really don’t need to worry about climate change any more. In an astonishing “editor’s insight” this week, headed No worries: Climate change debate goes nowhere fast, he writes:

In the past year or so since you last worried about it, the climate change debate has moved on. In fact, it is in danger of extinction as the scientific “consensus” disappears and international agencies and governments backpedal on draconian measures to stamp out use of carbon.

Gibson repeats some of the arguments used by a WSJ columnist to support this view, including mention of the shonky (and repeatedly debunked) “700 scientist” list promoted by Senate denier James Inhofe, and then quotes the WSJ verbatim:

Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.

Oh really? This is counterfactual, an invention, an ideologically-inspired attempt to mislead, misdirect and misinform, and I’m being polite. The peer-reviewed research, as handily summarised in the Copenhagen synthesis report so extensively covered at Hot Topic (and see also RealClimate), shows that far from being debunked, “doomsday scenarios” are looking more likely than ever. Worse, if the business world that Gibson seeks to inform believes what he writes, then doomsday scenarios will be assured.

New Zealand’s business community does not need ideologically-inspired excuses for inaction, it needs clear-sighted assessment of the real risks (and opportunities) that climate change brings. Sadly, Nevil Gibson prefers to repeat nonsense from US ideologues. If that’s the quality of the “insight” he offers, then perhaps the NBR needs a new editor.