UK Scientist Dismayed by Media Misrepresentation

Fri, 2008-09-19 08:00Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

UK Scientist Dismayed by Media Misrepresentation

As reported in Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column in the Guardian and previously on the DeSmogBlog, there was a media stampede last month to misrepresent a new piece of research as evidence that climate change is not happening - a bit of truth twisting that left the researcher in question aghast.

Captain Cook and Lord Nelson seem unlikely figureheads in the fight against climate change alarmists,” said the U.K. Sun. “Lord Nelson and Captain Cook's shiplogs question climate change theories,” said the London Telegraph. But the research on ship's logs by Sunderland Univesity Prof. Dennis Wheeler says nothing of the kind. “As I pointed out to the Sunday Times (which ran an original and accurate story), the ships' log books I work with only give us information about wind force and wind direction, they basically do not give us information on temperatures, and if they do it's very scant and unreliable,” Dr. Wheeler said. “We've simply never claimed indirectly or directly to have any direct evidence on changing temperatures.

So, imagine Wheeler's surprise when he read this on the US website Now Public: Captain Cook and Lord Nelson's logs prove global warming isn't manmade.”

“It was odd reading articles which were written as if a reporter had spoken to me,” Wheeler told Goldacre at the Guardian. “I wasn't fully aware of the extent to which the media copy each other's newspapers - but worse was the brazen way they distorted our work. Not a single one of the journalists from any other newspaper contacted us to see if their take on the story was correct.

In a phone conversation with the DeSmogBlog, Wheeler said the whole affair has been frustrating because of the damage that it does to legitimate scientific inquiry and debate. Researchers around England have been picking through 130,000 pre-insturmental log books from Royal Navy ships (they've got through 6,000 so far) trying to tease out details of past climate. They do so in part to help contribute to the accuracy of Global Climate Models - the GCMs that today give us our best chance of anticipating how our climate is likely to evolve in the future. Now, rather than being used for that good purpose, the denier press has taken his research and misrepresented it in a way most perfectly calculated to leave people even more cynical and confused.

Wheeler also pointed out the perversity of climate dissemblers who deride concern about global climate change as some kind of a socialist plot. The biggest contributor to climate change research in the UK - and one of the best in the world - is the Hadley Centre for Climate Research and Prediction, a special section in the UK Met Office that was started by (satire alert) that old socialist icon Margaret Thatcher.

Previous Comments

This might be what really happened to Prof. Wheeler:

http://tinyurl.com/5f22f7

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Cue the man smoking a cigar speaking with a Russian accent.

Alternatively, perhaps Prof. Wheeler’s real name is Ivan Mikhailovich Vilov.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

This is how newspapers work. They dig up a few quotes that seem to fit in with some other info and they build a story. It’s risky and it’s not honest.

The story’s main point though is beyond dispute. Periods of comparably fast global warming happened in the past. Nobody disputes that.

So they took that basic fact and grabbed some quotes that they thought supported it. Dumb, not very professional but hey, it’s the Sun - that’s what they do.

So Rick is saying, “Yeah, it’s wrong, but it’s human nature, so I’ll do everything in my power to stop you from righting this wrong! Wheee!”

Oh, sorry. Rick wants “civility”. Yes, Please, Sir.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

For balance here is a Sun GW scare story

http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article491977.ece

The sun is hardly a skeptic paper. They just want flashy headlines and half naked women.

Rick, this is precisely one of the most important aspects of what Desmogblog has been describing for the last few years – “journalistic balance”. On one side, peer-reviewed science, but the other “half” of the story is mostly unsupported talking points and makebelieve that the media find a need to include with equal weight in their coverage. A newspaper that takes it a step further and gives prominence to fringe positions on opposite sides of the spectrum – makebelieve on both sides – on its pages does not serve the public interest in promoting informed discussion and democratic action on important issues. You say this is just the Sun. Littlemore’s complaint (and Desmog’s general complaint) about this extends to other media as well.

On the one hand is Peer Reviewed speculation and theories.

On the other hand physical observation that contradicts the theories.

Or is it metaphysical masturbation that “contradicts” the theories?

Such as stuff about the One World Government or what-have-you.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Gary,
Why do you do it? Why do you persistently write such transparently illogical crap? Forget the illogic, why do you persist in writing what you must know is crap?
Do you get some gratification with seeing your posts on the internet? Or maybe you get some reward from the fact that people answer you. I mean, honestly mate, I don’t understand. Are fourteen or something?

This last post of yours is such an obvious fallacy even you should be ashamed at posting it.

Please attempt to show exactly what was in error in my last statement.

AGW is supported by theories and computer models and speculation about how accurate the models may be. (not vary as it turned out)

The actual climate has not behaved as the models and theories predicted.
It has behaved as though it is controlled by solar influences however.
That fact has caused much panic in the AGW crowd and generally causes statements like yours that are weak attempts at deflecting attention away from reality.

Stay tuned for the NASA news conference on Tuesday.
They will of course try desperately to spin it in a face saving way, but it will still open the debate wider finally.

“weak attempts at deflecting attention away from reality.”

Once more: Oh. The. Irony.

The blog post was about reporters and deniers misrepresenting Prof. Wheeler’s research on ship logs. Guess what Gary is trying to talk about? Something else, that’s what.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Why does DesmogBlog continue to tolerate the infantile Frankbi on what is otherwise an interesting and entertaining blog? Richard, please send the ignorant smart-alec to the showers.

What can they possibly say about the Sun that we don’t know already? I imagine they will say they expect that the Solar wind will continue in a down cycle for a while, possibly 50 years or more and that will inescapably mitigate climate change in that Earth’s climate is Solar powered.

Repeat after me Alarmists: EARTH’S CLIMATE IS SOLAR POWERED.
It’s a pretty basic concept.

It is indeed a basic concept and I very much doubt you would find a climate scientist or modeller on the planet who disagreed with you. But only to a first approximation. But wait that would give us a climate like the Moon.
Ok, so we have an atmosphere, and oceans as well as land and..well, lets just make everything uniform, oh, look, we have a second approximation, let’s user a zero dimensional model. Wikipedia-climate model-Zero-dimensional models. Oh, the land and sea aren’t uniform, best we take the approximation to another level, et cetera.

I follow you on that. It’s the quality of the estimations and approximations I wonder about. I think we’re just guessing here.

Rick…

It’s denied everywhere on the sites you read, but here’s the thing…

With one notable exception, the climate modeling is successful in predicting what should be happening. It may vary by a few years here and there, but what the modelers predict is exactly what is happening… Which suggests that their modeling is highly accurate.

To start you imply, (by omission) that physical observations are not peer reviewed. As if they were conducted by some heroic band of selfless individuals determined to break some conspiracy. When in fact, the observations are made by scientists funded by grants, and their observations are published in peer reviewed journals.
Additionally you appear to deride speculation and theories, when this is actually the essence of science. Formulation of a hypothesis based on observations, followed by experimentation, culminating in a theory is what scientists do. In fact formulating an hypothesis on selected facts is what you do on this site.
Then you manage in the previous post to separate observation and theory, when you know as well as anyone that the basis of modelling is to incorporate both observed properties and theory of behaviour to enable predictions of response to be made.
In fact you appear to have totally ignored the section of the original article that says, “Researchers around England have been picking through 130,000 pre-instrumental log books from Royal Navy ships (they’ve got through 6,000 so far) trying to tease out details of past climate. They do so in part to help contribute to the accuracy of Global Climate Models”.

Finally why don’t you show us, which models have failed, based on which observations. Be sure to include the age of the models and the assumptions used in building them.

Wow … Wordy.
But sifting through it all, you seem to confirm exactly what I said.
AGW is supported by theories, models and speculation only.

The models are crude attempts to predict future cliamte and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM failed to predict the current cooling phase of the natural Solar controlled climate cycles.

No need to be specific, they ALL Failed.
But then, considering they are controlled by the assumptions that were input at the begining, that is not very surprising.

I forget where I read it but I liked this line of thought. “models are electronic tinkertoys, you can build whatever you want with them”.

You could build a computer model that shows we are on the brink of another little ice age and a knowledgeable computer modeler could do so and defend his inputs and assumptions based on past history, solar wind trends etc, etc. …. but then it would just be another electronic tinkertoy that worked out his assumptions.

So - are the inputs and assumptions good enough to be useful? Does any modeler dare to say “this will happen” or is it only “this may or may not happen but it’s something to think about”

The usual language used is “We’re 90% sure that mankind is the cause of most of the recent global warming”

Is 90% just an arbitrary number? Why don’t they say 100%? Why not 75 or 60?
Does anybody come up with a percentage for “most”? Is it 51? Is it 99?

The truth about AGW is that it’s all a big maybe.

Gary and Rick strive so furiously to talk about something, anything, other than the subject of this thread – which is the misrepresentation of Prof. Wheeler’s research by idiotic reporters and deniers.

But of course, we are the ones trying to deflect reality. Of course.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

we dealt with it and we moved on - nothing to see here.

Wordy? Good grief! Clear and concise, I would have liked that. Voluble, loquacious or even garrulous I could of handled, but what did I get…wordy!
And although my post was never intended to be an exercise in English Comprehension – you failed.
So let me put in simpler terms. The initial parameters of the models are based on physical observations, the behaviour of the models are based on physical observations, the models are validated by physical observations.

When challenged to provide a specific example of a climate model that has failed, along with information about it’s age and assumptions – you failed. You apparently attempt to justify this by accusing them of being unable to discern three years of natural cycle variability in some parameters whilst expecting them to predict long term trends.

Said Wheeler,

“But now I’ve had emails from cranks around the world thinking I’m some kind of anti-global warming conspiracy theorist and a friend to them.”

Anyone willing to bet that part of this e-mail flurry is caused by astrotur^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcoordinated local activism?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Said Wheeler,

“But now I’ve had emails from cranks around the world thinking I’m some kind of anti-global warming conspiracy theorist and a friend to them.”

Seems he’s not cut out to be a skeptic. If you are going to be a skeptic you have to endure taunts and ridicule. If you have a need of support of the many, it’s best to remain with the great AGW global consensus support team.

Is Rick trying to make himself look like an astrotur^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H”coordinated local activists”?

If so, he’s been quite successful.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Professor Wheeler is surprised that his findings were misrepresented on a website?

Let’s be serious. How could Prof. Wheeler be dismayed by the
fact that a website, NowPublic has misrepresented his research? Nobody has ever heard of the site.

Lastly, climate researchers have been given far too easy a ride by the world’s journalists. Intimidated into submission, reporters simply regurgitate and publish every outlandish and alarmist claim *some*, not all, climate researchers and alarmists peddle.

“Intimidated into submission”

Cue the man smoking a cigar speaking with a Russian accent and the femmes fatales in sexy spy outfits. Did I miss anything?

I did say that Prof. Wheeler’s real name might be Ivan Mikhailovich Vilov, didn’t I?

http://tinyurl.com/5f22f7

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

He may or may not be intimidated. His words do lend themselves to the possible conclusion that he may very well be that way. There is the expression of some degree of fear of diminished reputation. His motivations are impossible to know but he does put a surprising amount of stress on who his friends are.

sorry - I just have a deep need to contradict Frank

“sorry - i just have a deep need to contradict Frank”

Truth at last.

Now really, where’s the stereotypical Russian honcho smoking a cigar when we need him?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Just for the fun of it,
I would like to make a prediction regarding the coming NASA announcement on Tuesday.
I can well imagine James Hansen will be in meetings all weekend with the Ulysses team pleading to spin the announcement to make sure accepted doctrine is satisfied.

I foresee the news release going something like this:

The Ulysses mission reveals the sun’s solar wind is at a 50-year low. The sun’s current state could result in changing conditions in the solar system.

This will affect climate conditions on all planets of Sol system except of course on Earth.

The earth, as you know is shielded by a protective layer of a rare isotope of CO2 called anthropomorphic CO2 . This protective layer, discovered by NASA’s own James Hansen, is appropriately named the Bozon layer.

While all the other planets will experience a climatic cooling over the next several decades, Earth will continue to warm at Alarming rates due to the effects of the Bozon layer.

Unless taxes are raised to unprecedented levels and more people buy Carbon indulgences from Mr. Al Gore, all of our coastal cities will be under water by 2100.

Thank you for your attention.

I recommend we all just empty our savings accounts and send it all to Al - he’ll know what to do with it.

How about going back to the topic of Prof. Wheeler’s research on ship logs?

Oh, and don’t give me the “you can’t stop threads from being derailed” or “it’s good that I’m derailing threads” excuses.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

go ahead - make a point about old ship logs - maybe you’ll impress me

those ship logs were documented by people crazy enough and drunk enough to cross oceans in old wooden sailing ships with a bunch of young desperate sailors who were not unlikely to consider mutiny in the middle of a sudden horrific mast busting storm. I question the sensibility and thus quality of the source.

Hows that Frank?

What?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Frank - you’re the most off topic guy on these threads - congrats! - I admire that.

We are accused here of not having any sense of humour, can’t take a joke, &c. So I’m going out on a limb here Frank, and suggesting that when Rick makes a wild & crazy statement like this, he is trying to be funny. It’s the only possible explanation.

re: cooling trends for a decade and solar stuff, seems to me a few months back we were discussing the fact that despite all kinds of factors that can affect average temperatures that would suggest we should be having cooler temperatures(such as solar activity at a low point in its cycle, and the status of the el Nion/La Nina cycles, etc etc), the global averages did not drop, but maintained a level. How many record high years have occurred during the past decade? And whatever anyone says, the retreat of the ice this summer came very close to matching last year’s alarming extent.

We have known for ages what NASA is getting ready to announce, but it didn’t suit the deniers to acknowledge it until they decided to claim we are in a cooling trend since 1998.

My memory is longer than that, boys. Try again.

Fern Mackenzie

the ocean is a massive heat sink. it’s going to take time for the cooling to set in in earnest. it’s on it’s way though - be patient.

FEMACK:

“We are accused here of not having any sense of humour, can’t take a joke, &c. So I’m going out on a limb here Frank, and suggesting that when Rick makes a wild & crazy statement like this, he is trying to be funny.”

Well, yeah… that kind of makes sense. There are lots of anonymous people who like to claim that they’re more “convinced” of climate “skepticism” because “skeptics” have a better sense of humour. Therefore, what better way to prove that global warming is a scam, than to insert a random funny?

Science by funnies, that’s the skeptical way.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Sign the “Sue Us” Petition!
Urge Monckton et al. to sue Gore and Hansen as promised! tinyurl.com/6265jx

“it’s on it’s way though - be patient.”

On what evidence? By what mechanism?

it’s just a projection of what I expect to see. Solar power diminishes, Ocean heat is gradually bled away, climate enters cooling phase.

could be off base. could be simplistic. I accept the possibility of being wrong.

See that’s where the AGW side messes up. They don’t accept the possibility of being wrong. basic humility problem.

(my new climate catch phrase is going to be “it’s not the heat, it’s the humility”)

it’s a borrowed line, but it’s a good one.

Okay, as I said before, no climate scientist or modeller is going to deny that the Sun is intrinsic to the climate. Without it the Earth would be a frozen lump spinning through space.

Here comes the but.

But, what do you expect to happen to the Sun?
(I need a graph here and I don’t seem to be able to post links to this site, so you will have to reconstruct it from the following). Try accessing spot.colorado.edu ~koppg TSI TSI_Composite.jpg

Total solar irradiance, base to peak is only about 2W/m^2. Yet what has the global temperature done over the same timeframe? Wikipedia Climate Instrumental_Temperature_Record.

Something else is obviously going on. Yes, TSI and sunspots appear to be correlated, according to my first graph. But we have sunspot records going back hundreds of years, and the cycles always re-assert themselves. We don’t really understand the Sun, but I’m not betting on a significant departure from normality.

“We don’t really understand the Sun, but I’m not betting on a significant departure from normality.”

the skeptic feeling is that the same sentence could be written about the Earth.

the other thing the AGW side is really up against is the funding question. How many climatology scientists are there and where would they be without the GW scare and all the funding that it produces.

Seems like a conflict of interest or make work program. If the GW issue goes away then what do we need with a bunch of climate modelers? they would have to find something else to study that brings in the grants.

proves nothing but certainly does nothing to deflate skepticism. Higher education doesn’t produce greater morality. The top motivation of the people pursuing higher education is the hope of higher income opportunities.

Oh dang it… and I thought global warming is a UN plot! Or a Soviet plot. Or is it a plot by the various individual governments? I forgot.

Ugh ugh ugh… where are you, O stereotypical Russian man smoking a cigar?

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- frankbi.wordpress.com

Can we find adequate enough ways to warn each other in the human community of impending danger before misrepresentations by the mass media, the perpetration of financial swindles by economic powerbrokers and obscene behavior political leaders who pander for great wealth destroy human civilization?

We in the family of humanity are going to be forced to do better in our efforts to communicate in a more reality-oriented way about ominously looming threats of an human-driven, global calamity of some kind. If we keep doing precisely what our leaders are saying and doing now, the future for our children looks bleak. We can surely do more and do it better. After all, human beings are remarkably intelligent, ingenious and adaptive.

Before we can determine what new and different to do, perhaps a brief analysis of our current, distinctly human-induced, global predicament is in order. Consider for a moment some of the ways in which my generation of leaders has gone so terribly wrong.

First, the leaders in my generation of elders wish to live without having to accept limits to growth of seemingly endless economic globalization, of increasing per capita consumption and skyrocketing human population numbers; our desires are evidently insatiable. We choose to believe anything that is politically convenient, economically expedient and socially agreeable; our way of life is not negotiable. We dare anyone to question our values or behaviors.

We religiously promote our widely shared and consensually-validated fantasies of `real’ endless economic growth and soon to become unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, and in so doing deny that Earth has limited resources and frangible ecosystems upon which the survival of life as we know it depends.

Second, my not-so-great generation appears to be doing a disservice to everything and everyone but ourselves. We are the “what’s in it for me generation.” We demonstrate precious little regard for the maintenance of the integrity of Earth; shallow willingness to actually protect the environment from crippling degradation; lack of serious consideration for the preservation of biodiversity, wilderness, and a good enough future for our children and coming generations; and no appreciation of the vital understanding that humans are no more or less than magnificent living beings with “feet of clay.”

Perhaps we live in unsustainable ways in our planetary home; but we are proud of it nonetheless. Certainly, we will “have our cake and eat it, too.” We will own fleets of cars, fly around in thousands of private jets, live in McMansions, exchange secret handshakes, frequent exclusive clubs and distant hideouts, and risk nothing of value to us. We will live long, large and free. Please do not bother us with the problems of the world. We choose not to hear, see or speak of them. We are the economic powerbrokers, their bought-and-paid-for politicians and the many minions in the mass media. We hold the much of the world’s wealth and the extraordinary power great wealth purchases. If left to our own devices, we will continue in the exercise of our `inalienable rights’ to outrageously consume Earth’s limited resources; to recklessly expand economic globalization unto every corner of our natural world and, guess what, beyond; and to carelessly consent to the unbridled global growth of human numbers so that where there are now 6+ billion people, by 2050 we will have 9+ billion members of the human community and, guess what, even more people, perhaps billions more in the distant future, if that is what we desire.

We are the reigning, self-proclaimed masters of the universe….. the thousands of greedy little kings of capital concentration, big business potentates and governmental sinecurists. We enjoy freedom and living without limits. Of course, we adamantly eschew any talk of the personal responsibilities that come with the exercise of personal freedoms or discussions of the existence of biophysical limitations of any kind.

We deny the existence of human limits and Earth’s limitations.

Please understand that we do not want anyone presenting us with scientific evidence that we could be living unsustainably in an artificially designed, temporary world of our own making….a manmade world filling up with gigantic enterprises, virtual mountains of material possessions, and boundless amounts of filthy lucre.

Third, most of our top rank experts appear not to have found adequate ways of communicating to the family of humanity what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the rapacious dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of the planet’s environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species, when taken together, appear to be proceeding at breakneck speed toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some sort unless, of course, the world’s colossal, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global political economy continues to speed headlong toward the monolithic `wall’ called “unsustainability” at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.

Who knows, perhaps we can realistically and hopefully hold onto the expectation that behavioral changes in the direction of sustainable production, per human consumption, and propagation are in the offing…..changes that save both the economy and the Creation.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001 http://sustainabilitysoutheast.org/index.php

you’re off topic!

just kidding - seems like an accurate description of whats going on.

This is too interesting not to post:

Online Experiment With the Latest Hockey Stick http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/online-experiment-with-the-latest-hockey-stick/

it’s all greek to me pretty much - but what I get out of this is that the data for these graphs is really played with a lot. If they are being played with by a guy who needs a certain result, whether the desired result is a hockey stick or a non hockey stick, the results becomes suspect.

skepticism is the only reasonable place to be. Confidence in the science requires something more than the conviction of a confirmed hockey stick artist. In fact Hansen really pushes a lot of people away from AGW. He makes it all seem like partisan politics rather than investigative science.

Pages