Stuff stuff up (another bloody ice age)

There’s a major fail today for the new science section of the news web site — the web portal for Fairfax NZ, home to The Press (Christchurch) and the Dominion Post (Wellington) newspaper web presences. A front page teaser — “Could cooling sun cause ice age?” (see image at left) — leads to a page with a headline that screams ‘Solar minimum’ could trigger Ice Age [Web Cite]. It’s a short piece that originally began thus:

The world could be heading for a new ‘solar minimum’ period, possibly plummeting the planet into an Ice Age, scientists say. Researchers say the present increase in sun activity with solar flares and storms could be followed by this minimum period.

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of global-warming alarmists.

This alarming introduction, helpfully archived by morgue, has since been rewritten to change the final sentence:

The period would see a cooling of the planet, refuting predictions of further global-warming.

Two small problems for Stuff: “scientists” aren’t saying anything at all about a coming ice age, refuting predictions of global warming, or projecting new solar minima. The paper they’ve based the story on is a lot less exciting, suggesting that there may be a plausible link between changes in solar activity and regional climate a few thousand years ago as measured by varves from a German lake. The story — one of the day’s “top stories” on their iPad app — is made up nonsense. And there’s a second problem: it may have been lifted in part from an earlier item in Britain’s Daily Mail

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Cranking it out: NZ papers conned by denier media strategy

My inbox in the last month has filled with emails about denier articles in leading New Zealand newspapers. It’s been a veritable crank central across the country. They include the ridiculous opinion piece by Jim Hopkins in the Herald late last year, a similar feature by Bryan Leyland  published in both the DomPost and The Press, then, last week, a piece by Chris de Freitas in the Herald, arguing that desertification in Africa isn’t caused by climate change.

Did Leyland and de Freitas, both leading lights in the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, take advantage of newspapers’ lack of feature material over the holiday break and provide some copy to fill the gap?

An insight to the strategy behind our newspapers’ fairly regular publication of our local deniers can be gained from reading a document I came across recently: the Canadian-based International Climate Science [denial] Coalition’s (ICSC) media strategy, originally posted on the front page of its website last year (pdf here).

Continue reading “Cranking it out: NZ papers conned by denier media strategy”

Hansen in NZ: first reports

James Hansen’s tour of New Zealand is off to a flying start, with an appearance on TVNZ’s Close Up, coverage in the Herald (they got his age wrong) and an interview with the Dominion Post‘s Kiran Chug, followed by a business lunch (or a lunch with business) and an evening talk to a packed room at Auckland University. Jim Salinger reports:

Jim Hansen’s lecture last night was great. The lecture room held 250, and there were 350 stuffed in sitting on the floor and standing room only, with an overflow room full and buzzing.

The talk was recorded, luckily, and can be seen here. Blogger No Right Turn was at today’s Palmerston North session and tweeted: It was a good talk. The thrust: “think of the grandchildren”. No surprises there. Hansen will be interviewed on Kim Hill’s show on Radio NZ National on Saturday morning at 8-15am, and although my sources suggest Kim may want to push a sceptical line, it should be well worth a listen. For a little amusement, Facebook users might want to check out the tour Facebook page, where a couple of NZ’s more incorrigible denialists — Steve Wrathall and Andy Scrace — have taken it upon themselves to post stupid comments. No surprises there, either. Meanwhile, plans are afoot for GR and The Climate Show to interview Hansen next week in Christchurch. Watch (and indeed listen) to this space…

[Update 14/5: Full report on Palmerston North talk at No Right Turn here.]

Sunday Times apologises for “Amazongate” misinformation

Three months after Simon Lewis laid a complaint with the UK’s Press Complaints Commission, which I reported here, the Sunday Timeshas retracted Jonathan Leake’s disgraceful Amazongate article and apologised to Dr Lewis. The article has been removed from their website. Here’s the apology:

The article “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim” (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an “unsubstantiated claim” that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall. The IPCC had referenced the claim to a report prepared for WWF by Andrew Rowell and Peter Moore, whom the article described as “green campaigners” with “little scientific expertise.” The article also stated that the authors’ research had been based on a scientific paper that dealt with the impact of human activity rather than climate change.


In fact, the IPCC’s Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure had, in error, not been referenced, but was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change. We also understand and accept that Mr Rowell is an experienced environmental journalist and that Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.

The article also quoted criticism of the IPCC’s use of the WWF report by Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. We accept that, in his quoted remarks, Dr Lewis was making the general point that both the IPCC and WWF should have cited the appropriate peer-reviewed scientific research literature. As he made clear to us at the time, including by sending us some of the research literature, Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports’ statements on the potential vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.

In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis’ concern at the IPCC’s use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view – rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public’s understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

Leake’s article was not only celebrated ad nauseam in the denialist community but also taken up by mainstream media in many countries.  Here in New Zealand the Dominion Post used it in an editorial claiming that the ethics and integrity of climate scientists is being called into question. I wrote about that here. The editorial accepted that human activity is contributing to global warming, but drew this appalling conclusion about the IPCC:

“Why trust a panel that confuses opinion and fact, wrongly attributes that opinion, tries to shout down critics and displays a determination to make the facts fit the theory rather than the other way around.

“The IPCC should leave the spin to the politicians and get on with its real job – establishing the facts. By glossing over inconvenient truths and misrepresenting opinion as scientific fact, it has undermined its credibility.

“It now has a great deal of work to do if it is to persuade peoples and governments that its findings should be taken seriously.”

Jonathan Leake and the Sunday Times have a lot to answer for, but so do journalists in many places who allow themselves to be so easily misinformed. The credulity with which they have received accusations of malpractice by the East Anglia scientists, and alleged IPCC errors (beyond the acknowledged and regretted error relating to the Himalayan glaciers) is astonishing. Where on earth did the Dominion Post find the confidence to make such a declaration about the IPCC?  Not by reading the science, that’s for sure.  And that’s the nub of the matter: the media generally gives the impression that it has not ensured that enough of its journalists are informed about climate science. That’s why the mischief wrought by disinformers, especially when they’re backed by seemingly reputable papers, can reach global media proportions overnight.

Perhaps any of our readers who see the Dominion Post might consider writing to the editor and inviting them to retract their editorial, or at least to write another acknowledging that they have reason to reconsider their verdict on the IPCC.

The Sunday Times correction has been published on their website here, but be warned that you have to go through a full registration procedure to view it.

Dominion Post editorial as shaky as Herald’s

When I was writing the post on the Herald’s acceptance of journalistic say-so in its editorial on the IPCC Gareth drew my attention to the fact that the Dominion Post had also produced an editorial claiming that the ethics and integrity of climate scientists is being called into question.  I was too engaged with the Herald to consider including the Dominion Postin the ambit of my attention at the same time, but now that I’ve had a closer look I rather wish I had.  The editorial is four days old, but still deserves taking apart.

The evidence the editorial draws attention to is first the publication of the stolen emails, suggesting, it claims, a conspiracy to hide data and play down information which didn’t fit the theories of the scientists concerned.  Then the Himalayan glacier error.  Nothing new here and comment familiar and predictable.

But the editorial had a  revelation (a different one from those offered by the Herald):


“Now it has been revealed that another IPCC warning –- that global warming could wipe out 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest –- was extrapolated from an unsubstantiated claim by two green campaigners who had no scientific expertise.”

Looks pretty serious.  Where did the revelation come from?  It turns out from the same journalist as one of the Herald’s revelations.  Yes, Jonathan Leake in a different article in  the UK Sunday Times.

I’m relieved of the need to track down the details of Leake’s supposed exposure of yet another bogus IPCC claim by Tim Lambert of Deltoid who has a detailed analysis of the shady process by which Leake got to where he did. It turns out that Leake had been told by the scientist concerned, Dan Nepstad, that the IPCC statement was correct, but there had been an error in the citations listed in the WWF report (yes, WWF – no prizes for guessing who’s been trawling through the IPCC references looking for the letters WWF). I won’t try to cover the details of the account Nepstad has given to Lambert, which you can read on Deltoid, but the essential point is that Leake in his article concealed the fact that he had been told by the scientist concerned that the statement was correct. Presumably it would have made his story unnecessary. Why bother telling the truth when it would interfere with a story which opens like this?

A startling report by the United Nations climate watchdog that global warming might wipe out 40% of the Amazon rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise.

The Dominion Post is as guilty as the Herald of uncritically passing round journalistic stories which drastically and groundlessly distort the work of the IPCC. Its editorial doesn’t draw the conclusion that climate change is not happening, but makes this extraordinarily sweeping and ignorant statement:

“Why trust a panel that confuses opinion and fact, wrongly attributes that opinion, tries to shout down critics and displays a determination to make the facts fit the theory rather than the other way around.”

Evidently in the editorial sections of our leading newspapers where the IPCC is concerned  ignorance and carelessness won’t be permitted to inhibit confident assurance.