Get ready. Lies originating in the U.K. over the weekend in newspaper stories by Jonathan Leake of the Times and Jonathan Petre of the Mail on Sunday, are about to hit the contrarian echo chamber. As usual, Marc Morano is on the case, with his Climate Depot science fabrication clearinghouse claiming that “World may not be warming, say scientists” and “Phil Jones admits: There has been no global warming since 1995″.
But a cursory examination of the actual articles shows that not only are both claims false, but the articles themselves are chock full of other misleading statements. And reborn skeptic evangelist Jonathan Leake of the Times has not only selected highly dubious research, but has glossed over the fossil fuel industry ties of the researchers, especially those of economist Ross McKitrick. So, for the benefit of Leake and other journalists, I’ll also go over a few unsavoury facts about McKitrick that I didn’t get to last time.
Not that any of that matters to the contrarian blogosphere and the right-wing U.S. press who will no doubt embrace these latest supposedly fatal blows to climate science in the days to come.
Taking the more obvious fabrication first, the Daily Mail’s Jonathan Petre has rendered a highly slanted summary of an interview given by Phil Jones to the BBC. The Mail ran the false quote as the headline “No global warming since 1995″ and repeated it in a subhead for good measure.
In the article, Petre clarified that Jones actually said that “for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming”. That’s technically correct, but highly misleading when you consider the full response:
B. Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?
Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.
Jones also said that the period from 1975 to 2009 had a “very similar trend to the period 1975-1998″, implying of course that the long-term trend has not budged over the last 10 years. Climate contrarians are concentrating on meaningless shorter-term trends once again, as has been observed countless times here and elsewhere.
In a real howler, Petre also claimed:
[Jones] also agreed that there had been two periods which experienced similar warming, from 1910 to 1940 and from 1975 to 1998, but said these could be explained by natural phenomena whereas more recent warming could not.
Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.
H – If you agree that there were similar periods of warming since 1850 to the current period, and that the MWP is under debate, what factors convince you that recent warming has been largely man-made?
The fact that we can’t explain the warming from the 1950s by solar and volcanic forcing – see my answer to your question D.
Petre noted reaction from unnamed “skeptics”:
Skeptics said this was the first time a senior scientist working with the IPCC had admitted to the possibility that the Medieval Warming Period could have been global, and therefore the world could have been hotter then than now.
Well at least now we know that Petre is an avid weekend reader of WattsUpWithThat. With his colleague David Rose’s adoration for Steve McIntyre’s ClimateAudit, the Mail clearly has the denialosphere well covered.
Turning to Jonathan Leake’s abominable piece in the Times, we see that the Times headline (“World may not be warming, say scientists”) does accord with the text:
The United Nations climate panel faces a new challenge with scientists casting doubt on its claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.
But it turns out the researchers cited include only one scientist, John Christy, along with economists Ross McKitrick and Terry Mills, and meteorologists (of the non-PhD variety) Joseph d’Aleo and Anthony Watts. Perhaps a rewrite is in order, although more honest references to ideologically driven economists and ignorant TV weathermen-turned-climate-bloggers would perhaps blunt the point Leake is trying so hard to make.
It would be somewhat tedious to whack all the moles Leake brings up here, so I’ll direct readers to Tim Lambert’s Deltoid piece for quick refutations of the cited research.
I will note, though, that not only did McKitrick’s earlier research purporting to show “contamination” of temperature data by economic factors contain an egregious error (a most unforunate mixup of degrees and radians), but his subsequent paper along the same lines was roundly refuted by climate modeler Gavin Schmidt in his 2009 International Journal of Climate paper, “Spurious correlations between recent warming and indices of local economic activity”.
But Leake’s most grievous offence is omitting or glossing over the dubious history and ties of his sources, particularly in the case of McKitrick.
The IPCC faces similar criticisms from Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph, Canada, who was invited by the panel to review its last report.
The experience turned him into a strong critic and he has since published a research paper questioning its methods.
This is, to put it politely, utter nonsense. As I showed recently, Ross McKitrick has been tied to skeptic think tanks, astroturf groups and PR firms for years, going back to 2002, just after the previous IPCC Third Assessment Report in 2001. The list is long and includes APCO Worldwide, Friends of Science, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Marshall Institute, and the Fraser Institute. All of these, of course, have enjoyed significant funding from fossil fuel companies and other interests opposed to the regulation of greenhouse gases.
In fact, during the review of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, McKitrick was also co-ordinating the so-called Independent Summary for Policymakers for the Fraser Institute, which was released just afterward. You can get some idea of McKitrick’s woeful climate science credentials by reviewing the ISPM’s impressive catalogue of errors and misleading statements. (You can also be sure I’ll be returning to this another time – it’s a story that deserves its own post).
McKitrick has also managed to parlay his association with Tom Harris (ex-APCO Worldwide) and the Fraser Institute into frequent appearances on the National Post opinion pages.
And on both the scientific and journalistic fronts, McKitrick recently hit new lows. His bogus estimate of tropospheric trend amplification (relative to surface) was used by Klotzbach et al to demonstrate “warm bias” in the surface temperature record on land. But when corrected amplification factors are used, a similar differential between observed and expected satellite trends are seen over both land and ocean.
McKitrick’s screed in the National Post on the Keith Briffa’s Yamal tree-ring temperature reconstruction was a shameful piece of yellow journalism, containing a litany of misleading half-truths, and at least two outright falsehoods. McKitrick wrote about Briffa and dendroclimatologist Fritz Schweingruber :
Then in 2008 Briffa, Schweingruber and some colleagues published a paper using the Yamal series (again) in a journal called the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society …
[Steve McIntyre] quickly found a large set of 34 up-to-date core samples, taken from living trees in Yamal by none other than Schweingruber himself …Why did he [Briffa] not fill out the Yamal data with the readily-available data from his own coauthor?
Two expert panels involving the U.S. National Academy of Sciences were asked to investigate, the U.S. Congress held a hearing, and the media followed the story around the world.
So any science journalist who wants to trash his own reputation in a hurry, should look no further than Ross McKitrick. If there’s any justice, that’s a lesson Jonathan Leake is learning right now.
Meanwhile, North American media looking for new angles on the old, tired contrarian talking points have a couple to choose from this week.
So let’s see who will be first off the mark in repeating each of the two fabrications described here. And this is where you, dear readers, come in. I’ve got two polls, one for each falsehood – let’s see if we can guess which media outlet will be first to play these particular games of transatlantic telephone. And be sure to let me know about any sightings of these pernicious falsehoods in the mainstream media.
[Update, Feb. 17: I've closed the polls below. It was hardly a fair fight, as it appears that FoxNews were on top pf this within hours of my post, if not before. I'll be looking at mainstream media echoes of these latest variations on the "global warming has stopped" meme in a subsequent post (coming soon). ]