Take that, Nigel!

lawson.jpg Nigel(*) Lawson, flown over to NZ by the Business Roundtable last year to mislead us on climate change, has written a book which comprehensively debunks the whole climate alarmist bandwagon. Robin McKie in the Observer is suitably impressed:

What really grates is Lawson’s conviction that most of the world’s climatologists, meteorologists, atmospheric physicists, Arctic experts, and biologists, as well several Nobel Prize winners, are all stupid, misguided and wrong in thinking manmade global warming is real. By contrast, Lawson, ensconced in his Gascogny house, where, incidentally, he found conditions ‘perfectly tolerable’ during the 2005 French heatwave that killed 15,000 old people, is virtually the only one with the brains to work out the Truth.

It is breathtaking arrogance, to say the least, although Lawson is not alone in displaying it. Several other individuals, usually male, elderly, and right wing, still deny climate change is happening, mainly because they cannot stand the thought that greenies may be right and that we will have to curtail our use of big cars, international flights and other carbon-boosting luxuries. These Grumpy Old Deniers feel their lifestyles are threatened by greenies and so reject the entire concept of global warming. ‘With the collapse of Marxism, those who dislike capitalism have been obliged to find a new creed,’ says Lawson. ‘For many of them, green is the new red.’ In short, global warming is a commie plot.

Ring any bells? Don? Bob? Terry? Owen? Bryan? “Grumpy old deniers” has a certain ring to it, does it not?

But McKie’s only just hitting his stride.

If only it was. Then we could have a chance of dealing with it. In fact, the problem is far more pervasive and worrying. So perhaps Lord Lawson should turn his mighty brain to that issue, instead of writing piffle like this – then the Earth really might be saved.

McKie wins the 2008 Hot Topic prize for most heartfelt use of the word “piffle” in global media.

[Update 25/4: Not quite as scathing, but just as interesting, is the Guardian review by Richard Lambert, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (a sort of heavyweight version of Business NZ). In Lawson’s heyday, the CBI regarded Thatcher as a bit wet – now they’re fully committed to action on climate change.]

* I know that’s not Nigel, but I prefer Nigella’s…


39 thoughts on “Take that, Nigel!”

  1. The length that people will go to to denigrate and label those who seek to know know the truth about climate change, rather than follow the madding throng, has long since stopped amazing me.

    In the increasing hysteria of the taunts of “old,rich, anti-greenie, in the pocket of the oil companies, wastrel, illogical, GW denier …” rhetoric it is all too easy to hear the rising echoes of long ago breaking glass and jack booted feet, the roar of the 1930’s Nuremburg crowd and the far longer ago crowd mindlessly crying for blood at Gabbatha. The progression from ‘ridicule!’ to ‘crucify!’ or equivalent can be uncomfortably short.

    The fact is that climate change happens all the time – by the hour, the day (it’s colder at night), month year and century. Climate changes. It’s also a fact that anthropogenic effects are real and may be having a major effect on climate change, and that effect may be bad, or very very very bad. And may, just possible, actually be beneficial overall. But, it’s also a fact, available for anyone who cares to pursue truth openly and honestly to see, that the “science” has been well and truly cooked by those pushing the concept of anthropogenic global warming. The IPPC, the official GW global cheer leaders, have quietly moved the goal-posts of Science so that their reports can use pseudo scientific language about their confidence limits. Information showing that they have done this is available even on their own website, albeit buried far from the usual populist pages. And almost nobody has said anything.

    Time magazine have a glossy A4 “Global Warming” publication currently on sale at ‘The Warehouse'(for about double it’s US real price)that is full of page after page after page after page of absolute rubbish, half truths, quarter truths and full truths which imply things which ‘jest aint so’. And yet the august editors of Time are not embarrassed to put their name to something which would make any honest scientist cringe. Maybe they don’t have any scientists on their advisory panel? [[ One only sample – on the index page is a gorgeous double page photo of the Antarctic Fimbur [sic] Ice Shelf with the statement “… the melting of such vast expanses of ice due to global warming could innundate coastal cities”. Leaving aside the fact that the inference about the ice shelf melting due to GW is not part of any mainstream GW scenario, the claim about innundation is wholly false. Ice Shelfs, by definition of the term, are floating on the ocean surface and could wholly melt without affecting sea levels at all. While, if the Fimbul Ice Shelf did melt totally it would indicate that “something was probably happening” the lack of understanding in their statement reflects, at best, a total lack of competent scientific scrutiny.

    Do we know what is happening? No, we don’t.
    Are “we” having a bad effect overall? Quite possibly!
    Can we be sure? Perhaps, but we don’t know yet.
    Should we find out more? Absolutely!
    Should we be doing something while we find out more? Sounds like a good idea.
    Are “a consensus of scientists” right? Possibly.
    Are they probably right? No! (!!!)
    What about the science? IPPC has killed science!
    How can you say that? email me and ask- make my day 🙂


    For a reasoned & balanced statement about global warming in 5 simple sentences [I wrote it 🙂 ] see http://others.servebeer.com/gwthetruth.pdf also gwthetruth.doc


    Russell McMahon (ME elec)
    Climate Change truth seeker

    What am *I* doing about it?
    “make a new light bulb” “russell mcmahon”
    Every bit helps.

  2. It’s the ‘IPCC’ not the ‘IPPC’.

    The MSM can be stupid (I once saw a guy on TV asking if recent earthquakes were caused by climate change – possibly england). Presumably if icebergs are melting then everything else is melting though…

  3. The trouble with Godwin’s law, which I was well aware of when I wrote that, is that it’s a sure defence for those who wish to act in such manners. Just invoke the law and act as you will.

    Read the original quote that was quoted (1 level of indirection :-).) Read much of what is said. To be an honest questioner of GW rhetoric or IPCC (yep, typo, sorry) “science” immediately gets all sorts of labels attached, slurs cast and general denigration set in process. It has got to the stage where employment opportunities are at risk for those who try to be honest with their questioning. The “burning of books / burning of men” (does Godwin’s ‘law” apply to references to the work of 1850’s playwrights?) progression is well under way. Publication in peer reviewed journals of anything that does not match IPCC opinion is becoming increasingly difficult.

    I’ve changed my website reference above to a page that contains 100+ GW papers etc. These are of all persuasions. Criteria for inclusion is relevance and / or interest.

    IF we are going to save the world it can best be done with real science and open debate. The present process is an utter farce. Science has been killed by IPCC. They now have a single P value for data in the range P = 0.3? to P=0.05. This range USED to stop at P=0.9 but they quietly changed it last cycle. Now ANY data with even a hint of variation for the norm “proves their point”. Am I telling the truth? Would anyone like to assert that this is NOT what the IPCC have done?

    Fortunately, there are indications that we may know with more certainty in the next very few years. The 2007-2008 Antarctic melt was the 2nd lowest in 20 years, 40% of the 20 year average. This may just be a ststistical hiccup. Or may not. IF it is a sign of things to come in sunspot cycle 24, in the wings and not yet born, then we may be in for quite a ride. When/if you can next skate on the Thames at Tower bridge you can tell me I was right 🙂

    before then though, if you value truth, integrity and the place of science, look critically at the IPCC and similar statements. Look at the science, not of the honest scientists at work but of the massagers and presenters. See if it looks like they are doing well by the world by standards that you would like to see applied. Godwin or not.


  4. Agh. More typo.

    Was say 0.66 – 0.9
    Now 0.66 – 0.95
    The difference is “significant”.
    They have redefined “statistically significant” in a way that would fail you PhD, your school exam, your funding application and possibly your job. But, it’s good enough to help lead governments and to trade carbon credits.

  5. Sorry Russell but you don’t seem to have qualified for grumpy old denier status.

    Grumpy – yes
    Old – hard to tell
    Denier – No, agnostic more like.

    And, better still, an agnostic who is willing to take precautionary action. I’ll buy a lightbulb from you!

    But, I won’t buy the conspiracy theory that says the IPCC is corrupt…not since NASA faked the moon landings has anything so bold been attempted.

    Oh and watch out for the difference between weather and climate.

  6. Old in body – mind says otherwise (I say 🙂 )

    NASA landings – yes I know (hope) you are joking. I like to point out that essentially anyone who wishes can access the 3 corner reflectors on the Moon at 3 of the Apollo sites. You do need a reasonably capable LASER and telescope BUT unless ALL the world’s qualifying LASER and telescope operators are in on it (and, of course they are!) then the nice flash you get back does fair violence to Fox TV’s assertions.

    Re IPCC and science. ALL I ask is that people look at the confidence interval they are using for their data, look at what they used up until this cycle and then go and talk to some real scientists at all levels (school teachers through Professors say), show them the intervals and ask for comment.
    Warning: Skip talking to climate scientists for this part of the process :-).

    Weather and climate – I’ll accept whatever the offerer offers. Distinctions may be made and meaningful. But doing so can sometimes hide things. eg “The weather” changes by the day. So does “the climate”. But such well explained and “reasonably well” understood ultra short term cycles are excluded from consideration as they cloud the macro issues. BUT people can (and do) keep on excluding well understood [tm] cycles to get at the real picture until all that may be left may be the real picture we wish to see. Obviously this is not a problem with good science done well [tm[again]] but … .

    GW truth seeker again/still

  7. Russell “Help! Help! I’m being repressed!” McMahon should dress himself up like Galileo and sneak into a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Then maybe, just maybe, he’ll get burnt at the stake just like he so secretly wishes.

    * * *

    Andrew H.:

    The problem with the term “denier” is why I’m now advocating the use of the word “inactivist”.

  8. Russell, while I agree that too often alarming pictures are drawn of the effects of AGW that aren’t supported by the science, I don’t agree that the conclusions reached by the IPCC can be as easily dismissed as you think. If it’s a credability contest between Russell McMahon and the IPCC, the IPCC wins: There’re more of them, they’re better qualified and they’ve done the maths.

  9. There’s plenty of science to go on, but here’s an easier-to-understand application of the scientific method which I abide by:

    If the inactivists have been saying that Hansen predicted global cooling in a 1970s paper, and Rob Marciano disputes the very existence of global warming, and the phrase “socials commentary” is conclusive evidence that there’s a huge Bolshevist conspiracy behind the AGW theory, etc. etc. etc… and they’ve all been shown to be wrong, then the principle of induction allows me to conclude that the inactivists are very reliably wrong.

  10. I find this extremely interesting.
    I’m NOT a denier – I’m a “know we don’t knower”. I’m a [professional Engineer with a Masters degree in electrical engineering and an interest in ANYTHING technical. The ME gives me no formal qualification in climate science – but it and extensive professional experience in numerical manipulation do give me at least a basic understanding of the IPCC’s numerical processes.

    I didn’t say I wass being repressed (that goes with the breaking glass 🙂 ) – what I said was that
    – the IPCC have brazenly and openly cooked the books and
    – broken real science andthat
    – this FACt can be established from their own web pages plus reference to a range of science literate people (school teachers to professors).

    Nobody says (here or elsewhere) “No, this isn’t what the IPCC have done”. Instead they say my mother wears army boots or whatever.

    Let’s try that again:
    Re IPCC and science.

    *ALL I ask*

    is that people look at the confidence interval they are using for their data,
    [On the web]
    look at what they used up until this cycle
    [on the web]
    and then go and talk to some real scientists at all levels (school teachers through Professors say), [easy to find]
    show them the intervals and ask for comment.
    [easy to do].

    If anyone here is a mathemetician or a statistician they will be easily able to look at what the IPCC have done and whether they have cooked the books. Don’t believe me without checking. BUT don’t rubbish me without checking either.

    The other thing that the IPCC have done, which is another facet of the same cooking, is that they have taken probabilities and given then menaings which they never ever had until recently. They have totally deconstructed scientific statistical description and nobody is saying anything.

    Instead of thinking or saying that I am a conspitacy theorist/denier/ oil company shill whatever, just look at an IPCC stats page and ask a science professional about it if you don’t follow it yourself.

    Statements of probability and statistical significance are based on areas under the “tail” of a normal population curve. The further away from the norm you get the smaller the remaining area is in the tail as a % of the total area in your half of the curve. In “real science” a variation is said to be statistically significant” ONLY when you are so far away from the norm with the result that you get that there is only 5% or less in the tail beyond that point. At 10% left what you have is a “maybe something is happening” indication. The difference between 5% and 10% is vast and the two do are not equivalent. If you did a PhD and used 10% tail for you results you would br failed. Same for an application for research funding. Or experimental data etc. ***BUT*** for a long time IPCC data that supported their premises was approaching the 10% tail area. They actuallyy hid this quite well by using new “plain English” words to describe data probabilities that USED to mean “nothing happening here, these are not the ones you want, move along”.
    BUT this time round they COMBINED the 10% tail and 5% tail into a single “box” so anything approaching 10% tail probability suddenly made the jump to light speed and was able to be seen as “statistically significant”. What is not good enough for PhD science, funding, experiments, labs, exams etc – or ANY real science ever done, is now OK for trillion dollar carbon trading science.

    Is this true?
    Am I making this up?
    Grab a tame statistician/scientist. Show him what I say. Look at the IPCC site. I know it’s a lot easier to call me names and make up new terms etc. But if you are interested in try=uth and integrity it would be easy to look at what I say.

    Note that the “do nothing” tag, applied above by inference, does not apply. Read my original post to see why.

    One last try:
    ” If it’s a credability contest between Russell McMahon and the IPCC, the IPCC wins: There’re more of them, they’re better qualified and they’ve done the maths.”

    Get a tame statistician. See if he’s remotely alarmed by what I claim. Look at the IPCC site.

    Also 🙂 – Buy TIME publication “Global Warming” from The Warehouse by the checkout recently when I bought it – $24.99 :-(.
    email nme and I’ll point out the lies stupidities and untruths on page after page after page. Clear scientifically demonstrable rubbish being pedalled to people who will not think for themselves and ask questions.

    AGW *MAY* yet turn out to be the primary factor in climate change BUT the carbon trading and rich fat cats selling China’s pollution to make the US pretend to be green will not help save the world one tiny bit. I’ve been in China twice this year. Horizon to horizon smog literally everywhere – no matter how far you are from a city. Even in the far north west, where a friend of mine lives, it’s as bad. BUT China has the credits to allow the US to buy them and make itself carbon neutral. Yeah, right.

    Think for yourselves or let the trillion dollar rakeoff continue :-(.

    Russell McMahon
    rmcspam @gmail.com

  11. “professional Engineer with a Masters degree in electrical engineering and an interest in ANYTHING technical.”

    Hahahahahaha. And to prove how much you know about numbers and statistics, you just keep throwing out a lot of p values in a random fashion with no coherence whatsoever.

    “Buy TIME publication ‘Global Warming’ from The Warehouse by the checkout recently when I bought it – $24.99 :-(”

    Oh, I thought you were talking about some specific part of the IPCC report. Now I see you’re just blowing smoke.

  12. Back to the topic:

    “‘With the collapse of Marxism, those who dislike capitalism have been obliged to find a new creed,’ says Lawson. ‘For many of them, green is the new red.’ In short, global warming is a commie plot.”

    All the world’s climatologists, economists, medical doctors, etc. are engaged in a Vast Marxist Warmist Conspiracy. Yeah.

    Does Lawson have a dog? Maybe his dog’s part of the Vast Conspiracy too.

  13. re: “Grumpy old men”

    perhaps it’s time to invoke the late Arthur C Clarke who stated (Clarke’s first law):

    “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

    Lord Monckton, the darling of the Heartland Institute, stated in an interview around Heartland’s recent conference in New York, that most of the “scientists” who attended were retired. Precisely!

  14. I’ve seen that ‘law’ before, but I thought it was more in the context of science fiction – conservative-minded scientists who thought ‘something couldn’t be done’ e.g. go to the moon.

  15. > professional Engineer with a Masters
    > degree in electrical engineering and an
    > interest in ANYTHING technical.”
    > Hahahahahaha.

    You appear to have a fine sense of humour 🙂
    Google “Russell McMahon” and discard the non techo ones and see what you have left.

    “Russell McMahon” “Rockefeller foundation”
    to see why RF (you may have heard of them)generaously donated a most welcome and substantial sum to me recently. The Time magazine article that that search will find that mentions me is largely about the overall project – it should be easy to work out where the technical input is coming from.

    Is that enough bona fides for you?

    > And to prove how much you know about
    > numbers and statistics, you just keep
    > throwing out a lot of p values in a random
    > fashion with no coherence whatsoever.

    I reread what I wrote on the normal distribution and tail areas. I am happy that what I wrote is cogent enough and accurate enough even though simplified for a forum such as this. Insisting otherwise makes you guilty of attempting to mislead others with no stats background. -> Anyone interested, print out what I wrote, show it to a science or statistically competent friend. Ask whether biintljinact seem to be most credible – ie don’t believe either of us at face value – ask an expert whose opinion you value.


    >> “Buy TIME publication ‘Global Warming’ from The Warehouse

    > Oh, I thought you were talking about some specific part of the IPCC report.

    I was. The TIME publication (even if they mention me in an article 🙂 ) is a separate issue. What I said about it stands. By all means, buy a copy, email me and I’ll show you clearly and openly using basic scientific knowledge how it is utterly flawed.


    > Now I see you’re just blowing smoke.

    Would that be CO2 smoke, or Methanem, or … 🙂 ?

    Russell McMahon

  16. “Is that enough bona fides for you?”

    OK, I’ll grant that. But just to continue with the bona fides, I know of 2 computer scientists (Tim Lambert, John Mashey), a biologist (PZ Myers), and an economist (John Quiggin), who all agree that AGW is real.

    “I am happy that what I wrote is cogent enough and accurate enough even though simplified for a forum such as this.”

    I stand by what I say. You keep throwing out values: 0.3, 0.66, 0.95, … So what do you really mean? Maybe if you actually string them into something coherent, you’ll have some credibility. And keep the Time magazine out of these because it’s a distraction and you know it.

  17. OK.
    I’d be happy to discuss things in a friendly and intelligent manner – we seem to be going in the right direction after perhaps not the best of starts.

    I’ll try and be polite and I’ll TRY and be clear. This is at a level that many should follow – my apologies if it’s a bit too stats 101 for some. I’d be very happy for people to critique this and suggest areas where it’s wrong.

    I do not say that GW or AGW is not happening – rather that the uncertainties are vast, that we should be acting in a precautionary manner while we find out more as rapidly as we can AND that it may be that almost the opposite to what is being predicted publicly MAY be happening. only MAY. I will not be surprised if GW and some or other of the IPCC scenarios turns out to be true. BUT I will also not be surprised if 10 years from now in the depths of a very low energy sunspot cycle 24 the Thames is frozen at London bridge in winter and we are all burning coal as smokily as we can. That is not, hopefully, likely BUT so far it seems scientifically unwise to reject it as a possibility.

    The problem is, speaking as one who honestly wants to know the truth, that the IPCC really really do appear to be cooking the figures at the top level to make their perceived scenario be evident as the truth. *IF* they are in fact correct then they may be achieving a faster result than they would get if they didn’t cook the figures. if they are wrong then they are very wrong. I am NOT standing on a soapbox and saying that a large number of the world’s scientists are doing bad science, although inevitably some will be. What I am saying, and what I believe is very evident if people will look, is that an enthusiastic group at the top who are sure that they are correct have taken over the science reporting to help things along.

    It is done like this – note this is “according to me” – and I would be entirely happy for someone to calmly and competently point out where I am wrong.

    When dealing with a normally distributed population we usually deal with half the curve as its symmetrical (ignoring unnecessary complexities). At the middle/average/norm we have 50% of the total area under the curve “to the right”. As events get further to the right (less probable that they are part of the normal population and more probable that they are indicators that something has happened differently) then the area remaining under the “tail” to the right ( = the events that are even more improbable than our current result) gets smaller. When the probability of occurrence is 0.6666 ~= 0.67 we have P value = 1-0.67 = 0.33. ie about 1/3 of the possible results are less probable than the point we are at. The following points are all classically important: When we get to 90% the P value is 1-0.9 = P=0.10. At 95% P=0.05. At 99% P=0.01. At 99.9% P=0.001.

    Traditionally, and for good statistical reasons, when we see results with P > 0.1 (=90% to the left or 10% to the right)science has concluded that it is most likely that the event is part of the normal population.
    When we get to 95% / P=0.05 science finally declares the result “statistically significant”. This can be taken as meaning that science declares that it is considered likely that ‘something has really happened’. The difference between P=0.1 and P=0.05 (10% in tail and 5% in tail) may seem small but is in the real world very major. At P=0.1 some people may say “signs of significance” or trends towards …, but it’s not the sort of ranking that would be acceptable to qualify a study etc as proving anything.

    In really serious studies where there is a large sample base and the result is clear the results may have P<0.01 (1%) or P=0.001 (0.1%). These are common measures of statistical significance and are far better than the basic entry level P<=0.05. That will “get you there” but it’s really somewhat marginal. So, anything less than that just doesn’t make it.

    I’d be happy for anyone to show that what I’m saying is not how it is, but I really do believe that that’s how things are done essentially universally. [[The one area of exception may be the ‘soft sciences’ such as psychology, involving people measurements etc and they may perhaps P = 0.1 as their boundary. But not with any hard sciences]].

    Up until last IPCC cycle the results were in a number of cases approaching P=0.10. No major results managed AFAIK to reach or exceed P= P >= 0.1 used to be another range and , 0.1 >= P >= 0.05 another. The latter range was between “summat may be up and” just reaching statistically significant.

    HOWEVER, little or no IPCC results ever managed to get into the desired 0.1 >= P > 0.95 range, let alone the utterly desirable P = P 0.05. (67% – 95%) AND this is named “high”. eg High probability or high chance or … .

    BUT 67% is not high in real science, not even warm. it’s just a typical statistical excursion from the norm. Lumping in data in this area and saying it is just as meaningful as data approaching 95% certainty is horrendously misleading. Any result which gives more than a mild nod in the direction that is desired may now be termed “high”.

    If I take 12 “fair” coins and throw them and count the heads, any time I get 4 heads (rather than the 6 I’d on average expect) I can say using IPCC nomenclature that “there is a high probability that the coins are biased towards giving excessive heads.
    (4/12 = 0.33). That’s not what stats or science EVER said or ever say now, but it’s what IPCC are saying on behalf of the world’s climate scientists.

    IF IPCC are correct in their basic premise then they may not be doing TOO much harm – although deception tends to hurt regardless of its cause. BUT if they are wrong then they are hiding the truth from the world. Worse, they have created a 100’s of billions of dollars industry that is distorting world commerce and finances and development and much much more. The risk of that happening places a large burden on people to do the science well.

    IF we are fearful of the possible results, and IF the stats are vague, then by all means lets pour more money into the science. Rather than into the pockets of the carbon traders, the very large majority of who have no concern about saving the earth.

    I am not a communist, or a Marxist, I’m vaguely “green” but not in any way that’s liable to be objectionable to most – I want a good world for my children’s children. I don’t mind (too much 🙂 0 people making money from fair endeavours – but I see little sense in distorting the world in almost every way to make some people rich randomly. If we are going to save the world, lets do it properly.


    Re the TIME publication selling in the Warehouse. It contains much scurrilous rubbish with inadequate research that does GW understanding no credit. I am very happy to see good popularisation of science. I am sad to see lies and distortions from either “side”. I TRY to sit in the middle and see what is really happening. it does get rather hard at times 🙂


    Russell McMahon

    Polite reasoned critiques most welcome.

  18. Russell

    Consider this..the IPCC aren’t actually engaged in doing science, their job is to assess and interpret the state of the science for the people of the planet via their governments. In this respect their work has more parallels with risk management.

    Especially in the summary for policy makers I would expect them to be talking more in terms of Likelihood and Consequences rather than in statistical significance.

    The 5% statistical tail may well be a convention in science (albeit an arbitrary one) but in issues of societal risk the same constraints don’t exist. I would expect that you have seen a risk assessment matrix and you will know that for an event with major consequences will be considered significant even at a low probability of occurrence. (I can provide a reference if you need it)

    As a practical example building design in NZ (and many other countries) chooses to consider load cases that have a 10% probability of recurrence within the lifespan of the building (eg the 1 in 475 yr earthquake for our disposable 50 year life housing stock and a hell of a lot longer for Te Papa).

    So, in that case, 10% is the threshold of societal acceptability. Hence, it is no surprise to me that the IPCC have adopted a similar level. In fact I would be worried if they held out for the statistical ‘proof’ considering what is at stake.

  19. Hmm, not sure I have understood Mr McMahon’s point but I would like to respond to what I think are his points:

    Andrew is correct; the IPCC process is a five yearly review of the climate science literature. It is undertaken by scientists who work in the various fields. They write up the key papers and conclusions and then put these out for review by their peers and others (anyone who expresses and interest can become an expert reviewer and as such in itself means not much).

    The authors then have to take into account all feedback, no matter how feeble, and account for how they responded (its all on the net).

    Along the way there are lots of meetings to discuss findings and the weight that can be placed on them. The final meeting is where the final drafts are signed off and the summary for policy makers or as I think of it climate science for dummies (I know I was one) is also finalised and signed off.

    It is during this process and during that meeting that all the authors get together to give their expert view, based on the evidence that they have reviewed, on the likelihood of global warming and humanity’s contribution.

    This is known in the economics trade as a “Delphi Survey”. They put probabilities it to give them and us something to focus on. This is not a statistical test in the sense that Mr McMahon seems to alluding to. So in that sense he may be right. He is welcome to review all those papers and come to his conclusion, but since no one person has the qualifications or experience to draw such conclusions very little weight would be placed upon it.

    What I am more concerned about is extension of this view to the actual science being reviewed. As anyone who has read the WG1 report statistically tests have been rigorously applied on everything from temperature, CO2 concentrations, ice, Total Solar Incidence etc etc.

    I strongly suggest that if Mr McMahon really wants to talk about the statistical analysis used in climate science he go to Open Mind at http://tamino.wordpress.com/.

    Word of warning be prepared.

  20. Interview with Listener editor Pamela Stirling on RNZ National’s Media Watch, 27 April 2008

    Media Watch: Earlier this week I asked the Listener’s editor, Pamela Stirling, why she’d taken a legal approach to this problem.

    Pamela Stirling: Well, we’re all in favour of debate, and there is informed debate in the blogosphere, but in this case, there were things being said that were absolutely untrue, about the magazine and myself, and there’s a difference between causing offence and causing harm. This is demonstrable harm, and based on something that is absolutely wrong, with no attempt at verification, and therefore we asked for an apology and retraction and we got it. This is a website that’s not just your normal blog, it’s sponsored by a university, AUT, and it has the name of a prominent law firm, corporate law firm Minter Ellison Rudd Watts right there at the top of the page.

    Media Watch: Well Pamela, people will understand that an editor will always want to protect the reputation of their publication, but some people might not understand what’s informing the magazine’s coverage of this issue of climate change, and some people on the web site were actually only commenting on that. You had Dave Hansford a month ago in his Ecologic column saying, look, the media should no longer give too much attention to climate change sceptics, because the balance of scientific opinion so greatly outweighs them. And then the week after that there was this rebuttal from the outfit based in Chicago, the Heartland Foundation, in a very strong letter to the editor, and the week after that, what looked very much like a kind of right-of-reply piece that accommodated the climate sceptics here in New Zealand. Now, were you caving in to pressure to let the climate change sceptics have their say in your publication?

    Pamela Stirling: Absolutely not. In the past we’ve turned down lots of submissions from climate change sceptics. And I think you have to look at this in the context of the Listener. This is a magazine that’s passionate about the cause, the environmental cause. In the last year we’ve just counted up, we’ve done 70 pages on environmental and climate change issues. In that Ecologic column that brought attention to the fact that climate change sceptics had presented a case at Bali, at the UN conference in Bali, and some of our readers wanted to know what that was about, they wanted to know, and of course one of the members of the climate change coalition had claimed his viewpoint was not adequately represented. So we printed some but not all his submission of the Climate Science Coalition, in tandem with a response from Professor Dave Kelly.

    Media Watch: But ironically that was, I guess, the very approach that Dave Hansford was arguing in his column that is out of date in the media these days. Organizations like the New York Times and the BBC now have got these editorial policies where they say, look, no longer will we do this thing where we give both sides of the story equal weight. Does your treatment of this problem indicate that you’ve actually got a different approach – you don’t want to follow on from that?

    Pamela Stirling: Well our approach, our editorial policy is really clear, and it was restated just I think a month ago in an editorial. We talked about the fact that we have to, vigorously, all of us, individually and collectively, tackle climate change. So that, we’re not into censorship of any kind, as I [?] discussed with Bryan Leyland, the Voltaire quote, you know, “I disagree entirely with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” And I agree entirely that these organizations like the BBC have to have a very balanced approach. But magazines are conduits for analysis and informed debate and if you look for example at the BBC Magazine, Focus Magazine, just recently had a cover story, where they said “forget climate change, we’ve never had it so good.” And inside they look at the fact that the very worst time for temperature was 1740 and the best time was 2006. And they look at that whole issue which is very much what we’re doing too. The New Statesman, very much a left-wing magazine, had a cover story that said “Climate change – why we don’t believe it.” Now we would never do that. I think it’s alarmist and defeatist; we would never do what the BBC Magazine did either, I think its very Pollyannaish, and I think our readers will understand in the context of the magazine what we were doing. There’s a parallel here, we think. In 2004 we were pressured to print criticisms of the new meningococcal B vaccination and we decided on the basis of the precautionary principle not to do it, because there was a high possibility of immediate harm if children were not vaccinated. So the prospect of debate doesn’t always hold out over other considerations. But, you know, I suppose there might be a parallel in that a month ago we invited prominent Christians in New Zealand to talk about their faith, and we don’t put a disclaimer there that we don’t share these viewpoints, and I note that Radio New Zealand doesn’t do that either – they devote an hour to religious hymns on Sunday mornings and don’t warn about creationist viewpoints in there.

  21. I transcribed the Media Watch interview with Pamela Stirling, see previous post. In fact it was a worthwhile exercise just for me because I could scarcely believe what I had heard at first. She comes across as a [Edit: sorry Robert, I have to be careful].

    Let’s see, she didn’t cave into pressure, no, absolutely not. But of course Bryan Leyland had claimed his viewpoint was not adequately represented… After all that airtime I can’t tell what her editorial policy is. She gives the impression that she wouldn’t recognise an editorial policy if it bit her.

  22. It’s worth pointing out that Bryan Leyland explicitly said in a comment on Hot Topic last week (here) that he brought pressure to bear – the threat of a Press Council complaint. He has even made the correspondence available on his web site (go to http://www.bryanleyland.co.nz and click through to “Recent Stuff” where he notes “The Listener made amends”):

    From Leyland’s letter to Stirling: … As the first stage for a formal complaint to the Press Council is to make you aware of my views on the article, what follows below is set out in a format that would be suitable for sending to the Press Council. […]
    Your response will enable me to decide whether or not to proceed to the second stage and submit a formal complaint to the Press Council.

    It is quite clear that the article printed in last week’s Listener was granted as a “right of reply” to Leyland.

  23. The podcast of the interview is at


    The transcription is my own. I should have said that the whole programme is well done – as well as giving Pamela Stirling enough rope to hang herself (thanks, Media Watch!) extensive air time is given to a visiting BBC science journalist who strongly supports Dave Hansford’s position. Perhaps understandably they didn’t want to touch the question of DH’s dismissal.

    While I am here (and losing track of the different threads), someone, I think cindy, said a Media Science Centre would be a good idea. In fact the Royal Society ran a new programme called “Science Headlines” all through 2007


    and they also plan to open the “New Zealand Science & Technology Media Centre” in July 2008 for a 3 year trial period.

  24. Hi bi,

    Mediawatch programme (27 April) available at the Radio NZ site here. Apart from the interview with Ms Stirling, there’s some good coverage of the question of “balance” in climate reporting.

  25. It’s worth listening to for the interview with the BBC’s former environment reporter, Alex Kirby.

    Alex was an environment reporter for many, many years. He points out the obvious – why would governments conspire with scientists to cook up the whole global warming issue? They would be the ones cheering if global warming was proven wrong – tackling it is a very difficult thing to do.

    He also talks about the media’s responsibility to put their stories into context; to not just do a “black/white, for/against”.

    The context for the Leyland/de Freitas piece (my example, not Alex’s) was that they are in a tiny minority – something La Stirling forgot to mention in her haste to get Leyland and the Heartland Institute off her back.

  26. Gareth:

    No problem… and thanks for the pingback!

    (It’s “International Journal of Inactivism”, not “…Inaction”, by the way… in case you want to correct it. 🙂 )

    * * *

    It’s also interesting that when Lawson is allowed to say anything he wants, it’s called “suppression”, but when Leyland threatens to make a complaint against the Press Council, it’s called “free speech”. Up is down, freedom is coercion, death is life…

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