Lorne Gunter – again (and again)

The headline and deck from Lorne Gunter’s op-ed piece in Sunday’s Edmonton Journal say it all.

Climate alarmists feeling more heat

But discredited data-fudgers have too much at stake to give up now

Lorne GunterOnce again, columnist Lorne Gunter, Canada’s answer to George Will, has launched an outrageous, libelous attack on climate science and climate scientists. And, once again, his diatribe is remarkably free of any actual facts, and contains several clearly erroneous assertions and accusations. Gunter does manage to maintain balance in one way, however; he gets off a number of whoppers about each of the two most cited global temperature repositories, the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia (CRU), and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA.

The only surprise is that this tripe has appeared in the Edmonton Journal, rather than Gunter’s usual haven in the anti-science newspaper of record, the National Post.

Gunter’s list of those who have “too much at stake” in discredited climate science and thus refuse “to slink away in defeat” is apparently long, if exceedingly vague, and includes the usual suspects of researchers, environmental groups, and governments. A little less vague is his wholly unsubstantiated assertion that “key climate scientists and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have corrupted the scientific process in an obsessive drive to prove that climate change is real.”

Gunter goes on to present several falsehoods, while managing to avoid a single factual statement (that’s how you can tell the column is authentic).

First, he claims that CRU was “fudging data” to show “more warming in recent decades than had actually occurred”. It’s hard to know if Gunter is referring to the inoperative, commented out computer code in one CRU tree-ring graphing program, or Steve McIntyre’s fanciful “hide the decline” blather. Either way, the assertion is utterly baseless and at any rate does not involve the actual instrumental temperature record.

Gunter then claims that CRU scientists tried to “upend the peer-review process at major scientific journals so scientists who disagreed with them would be unable to get published”. But the evidence runs very much the other way – there has been gross subversion of the peer-review process by scientists allied to the fossil-fuel industry in order to get dubious papers published, an outrage that even resulted in mass resignation at the journal Climate Research.

Gunter goes on to mischaracterize Phil Jones’s position on global warming (yet another false interpretation of the BBC interview I discussed last week):

Jones, in fact, continues to insist the Earth is warming. But what he now admits is that it is not warming that rapidly (just 0.12 C per decade) and not “at the 95-per-cent significance level,” the level needed to assert statistical certainty.

Gunter does magnanimously concede that the Daily Mail went too far in characterizing this as a “U-Turn” or an assertion of “no warming since 1995″. However, he also conveniently omits the truth of the matter, namely that Jones went to great pains to emphasize that the long-term trend from 1975-2009 remained at 0.16 C per decade, virtually unchanged since 1998 (and higher than the 1975-1995 trend).

Jones also stated that the period from 1995-2009 was too short to make any inferences about climate trends.

Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

In fact, despite the BBC’s leading questions based on contrarian talking points, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Phil Jones has changed his postion on any aspect of climate science. It’s telling that Gunter managed to avoid all the quotes that completely contradict the claim of “admission”, including this key statement:

I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.

Gunter then lets forth a volley of boners about NASA, to wit:

“… [T]hree years ago a significant error was found in its records… When it reconciled its old records to its new method, recent warm years ceased to be as remarkable. For instance, 1934 replaced 1998 as the warmest year.”

Wrong: The error concerned U.S. temperatures only (which are not officially published by NASA and cover 2% of the globe), and did not appreciably affect the global temperature record. Even the ranking of U.S. temperatures remained the same immediately before and after the change (obviously, because the error did not affect the U.S. temperature before 2000). And 2005 is the global temperature record in NASA’s data set, not 1998. That’s at least the third time around for Gunter for this particular falsehood, by the way.

Then Gunter is onto another incident he’s discussed before:

In 2008, NASA substituted September’s global temperatures for October’s (they claimed accidentally), thereby distorting upward the worldwide averages for the fall of that year — an otherwise rather cool year.

Wrong, again. Despite Gunter’s libelous accusation, the errors were introduced by NASA’s data provider the Global Climate History Network (GHCN), had nothing to do with NASA, and were quickly corrected to boot. Not only that, but Gunter’s original assertion greatly exaggerated the effect of the error:

October wasn’t the warmest October ever, it was only the 70th warmest in the past 114 years – in the bottom half of all Octobers, not at the top of the list.

Um, no, the corrected data left October 2008 as the fifth warmest on record, not seventieth.

Finally we have this gem:

… NASA has been shown to be cherry-picking the Earth stations it uses to calculate global average. It has been eliminating stations in colder locations (polar, rural, mountainous) and over-relying on warmer ones (mid-latitudes, urban).

Wrong, once more (sigh). This appears to be a reference to some nonsense published by Anthony Watts and Joe d’Aleo. It, too, has been widely debunked. For Gunter’s edification, here is a detailed discussion, by Zeke Hausfather of the Yale Climate Media Forum, that demonstrates the utter vacuity of the argument.

It turns out that the stations were not “removed” by NASA, but rather that the long-term records of these stations are – wait for it – retroactive and thus not up to date. The number of stations updated in near real time, is substantially smaller, leading to the false impression of a drop-off. And the effect of the differences in the number of stations included at different periods does not, and can not, have the effect claimed. As Hausfather notes:

There is no significant difference between the temperature from discontinuous and continuous stations, suggesting that there was no purposeful or selective “dropping” of stations to bias the data. If anything, discontinuous stations have a slightly higher trend over the century than continuous stations.

The most disheartening aspect of this sorry episode is the appearance of Gunter’s nonsense in the Edmonton Journal, which usually has higher standards than the National Post (both are part of the CanWest newspaper chain, Canada’s largest).

You’d think Journal editors would learn from their past experience with Gunter. Last year, the Journal was forced to print two major corrections following another Gunter error-fest. The original corrections do not appear with Gunter’s piece or anywhere else (an unfortunate lapse), but I did note them and cut and paste them in the comments on March 24 and 25.

At least the Journal has shown some willingness to admit mistakes, something the Post seems thoroughly incapable of doing. Let’s hope Journal editors do the right thing now – issue a forthright retraction of all the errors and false accusations, and bar Gunter from ever writing on this subject in their pages again.

It’s either that, or devote a full-time fact checker to his columns. On the other hand, you have to wonder: how long will aggrieved scientists sit back and do nothing about the ever-mounting pile of libelous accusations?

Gunter simply can’t be trusted to get anything right. Not now. Not ever. It’s time for responsible editors to do their job.

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17 responses to “Lorne Gunter – again (and again)

  1. Much appreciated DC. I only hope that your efforts gain traction in offsetting the damage and delay caused by our esteemed professional journalist.

  2. Well, at least we have DC and others keeping these charlatans honest. Nice job again, DC.

  3. The Edmonton Journal is part of CanWest. This is their mission statement:

    “To inform, enlighten and entertain people everywhere so as to improve the quality of their lives.

    Core Values:

    Serve the customer
    Strive for quality and excellence
    Win, but win fairly, with integrity and honesty
    Empower citizens with knowledge
    Give back to the community”

    Did I read that right? They go on to say:

    “We will build on the rich history and credibility of our brands to become known, quite simply, as the best and most trusted source for news and entertainment available anywhere. We will protect and build our reputation as people who pursue excellence, embody integrity, and deliver meaningful, credible content. ”

    Read more at:

    http://www.canwest.com/about/Values.asp

    I think that it is time to start holding them to those values, b/c right now they are failing horribly thanks to the likes of Gunter and Lamphier.

    Either they toss Gunter, or they change their core values to be consistent with his diatribes.

  4. I just sent the following email to the Chief editor of the Edmonton Journal Allan Mayer.

    He can be reached here:

    amayer [at] thejournal.canwest.com

    I am writing to express my frustration with the edmonton journal’s printing of a recent Lorne Gunter op-ed piece titled Climate Alarmists Feeling More Heat.

    http://www.edmontonjournal.com/story_print.html?id=2593111

    I am a lifetime resident of Edmonton and have only recently ended my subscription to what I have long considered a great newspaper. My decision to end my subscription was based partly on these dishonest op-ed pieces by Lorne Gunter. Misrepresenting science and falsely accusing scientists of fraud goes way beyond the bounds of responsible journalism and common decency. I won’t go into details – i will just point to this analysis of Gunter’s piece.

    http://deepclimate.org/2010/02/22/lorne-gunter-again-and-again/#more-1591

    I urge you with all sincerity to please stop publishing these misrepresentations and libelous accusations against the climate science community without any evidence, context, or fact checking whatsoever. I am not opposed to contrarian views and opinionated editorials on climate science. I am, however, deeply opposed to outright fabrication of facts. It saddens and disturbs me.

    Regards,

    Al

    • Al,

      Excellent letter. You just beat me to it. Thanks for a) taking the time to write to them, and b) for providing the contact details.

      Hopefully they will retract his piece and cut ties with Gunter. I’m not holding my breath. This is sad, the Edmonton Journal is so much better than this, but by entertaining Gunter’s and Lamphier’s bias the whole paper is suffering.

      Concerned parties can also email letters to the editor at:

      letters [at] thejournal.canwest.com

  5. I don’t like writing these letters (editors are busy enough as it is), but too much has really become too much lately.

    Dear Sir / Madam,

    It is not my intention to waste your time with vexatious requests, especially as I’m not a subscribed reader of your paper or a Canadian citizen for that matter. But if there is truth to the article on the DeepClimate-blog linked below, you should really consider the ethical implications of letting misinformation and distortion masquerade itself as opinion in the column format. If it’s not possible to write a controversial piece without resorting to lying, then the piece obviously should not be written.

  6. The biggest gem of the whole “removed high latitude stations to get more warming” is this recent post on WUWT:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/02/20/spencer-developing-a-new-satellite-based-surface-temperature-set/

    In it, Spencer argues that removing the stations has NO effect on the warming trend, as shown by the satellite measurements.

    Has Watts already corrected his false claims?

    Oh, I also read the comments. Some moving the goalposts, attacking the pre-1980 records, and Steve Goddard coming with something I have anticipated for a while already:
    “It raises questions about the accuracy of TLT measurements”.

    Soon Spencer and Christy will feel the wrath of the deniosphere, too. Let’s see how well they fare when suddenly attacked.

  7. Damn Gunter. His misinformation isn’t limited to the newspapers, he also gets invited on to radio shows, so his cr*p is disseminated far more widely.

    Does he not read the comments of his articles, or does he just not care he’s spreading bull s**t?

    [DC: I can't argue with your point, but please watch the language. I'm Canadian, eh? ]

  8. I’m Canadian too, living in the midst of Gunter’s target audience, white trash red necks all.

    Sorry for the unrestrained invective earlier, I shall do my best to resist next time. (pretend you see a smiley face here)

  9. I don’t know if I’m relieved or not to see the same kind of lies repeated in Canada that are common in US papers.

    You are doing a great job, DC, but most Gunter readers don’t have any idea he’s making it up. Here in the US, the average person thinks that George Will and Lou Dobbs are thoughtful and serious thinkers.

    I don’t know if we can do much about media corruption, which is one of the causes, but shouldn’t there be institutional policing here? This is, after all, science we are discussing, with specific claims about data and the current state of knowledge on a critical subject. Without a credible body listing these kinds of errors regularly, and seeing that they are publicized, not much will change.

    Whatever self regulation existed here in the US from professional journalist bodies SEJ and CJR has been muzzled, since these organizations have become cowardly. Even environmental journalists are usually not scientists, so they lack the technical knowledge needed for evaluations. I think that scientists such as yourself through one of your professional organizations need to set up a media review board, to identify the kind of scientific falsehoods that are becoming routine. Ideally, it would cover both the US and Canada. This problem has been getting worse, and it’s just unacceptable that the public is being misled, and the real work belittled.

    What do you think?

    [DC: Mike, I agree with you that scientists need to speak out through professional organizations, preferably at the highest level, i.e. the national acdemies.

    I hasten to add I'm not a scientist myself, though. I'm just a concerned citizen who is outraged by the disinformation and media complaisance with it (rising to active co-operation in some cases, like the National Post).

    It's worth noting that most major Canadian newspapers belong to regional press councils, which will hear such cases (e.g. refusal to correct factual errors).

    But the National Post (alone among major newspapers in Canada, as far as I know) refuses to submit to even that process. ]

  10. [DC: Mike, I agree with you that scientists need to speak out through professional organizations, preferably at the highest level, i.e. the national acdemies]

    …….it would appear they are.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc3902.htm


    [DC: The Institute of Physics has shown poor judgment in attacking climate scientists, yet remaining silent on the dubious journalism and even outright lies emanating from the U.K. media. I expect some controversy within IOP.

    The U.K. National Academy of Science has shown the right kind of leadership in the past:

    http://royalsociety.org/Royal-Society-and-ExxonMobil/

    Meanwhile, the position of U.K. scientists is best seen in the joint statement issued at the end of last year:

    http://royalsociety.org/Joint-Royal-Society-NERC-Met-Office-climate-science-statement/

    ]

  11. Pingback: Round and round we go with Lindzen, Motl and Jones « Deep Climate

  12. The Royal Society is getting in on the act too. The earlier comments made by The Royal Society were made prior to the email revelations and prior to Phil Jone’s special brand of science.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4702.htm

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc4202.htm

    [DC: Those are different organizations, by the way.

    The Royal Society of Statistics has confined their remarks to the desirability of having open publicly accessible weather station data. This is the direction that Hadley Center and CRU appear to have agreed on already. In some cases, that means renegotiating commercial agreements. Or perhaps if that is not possible, then certain weather stations would have to be dropped.

    My understanding is that NASA GISSTemp is based on publicly available sources already. ]

  13. The Royal Society of Statistics has confined their remarks to the desirability of having open publicly accessible weather station data. This is the direction that Hadley Center and CRU appear to have agreed on already. In some cases, that means renegotiating commercial agreements. Or perhaps if that is not possible, then certain weather stations would have to be dropped.

    What must be most frustrating about this for UEA CRU is that the appeal rejection letter sent to McIntyre *said* that UEA, despite rejecting the FOI request, was going to be working to get the various national met agencies to let them freely redistribute the data used for HadCRUT.

    This was before the e-mails were stolen. McIntyre published it on his website. To me the rejection look perfectly fine – we’re rejecting because we don’t own rights to all the data, but we’re going to work on getting that right. Not good enough for McIntyre …

    My understanding is that NASA GISSTemp is based on publicly available sources already.

    Yes, the data at the GHCN site. You can run the NASA FORTRAN code or the rewritten Clear Climate Code (which NASA wants to adopt, when complete) directly on that data.

  14. Stoat has a post about the Institute of Physics – not clear who issued the statgement and who supports it – but there is an Energy sub-group according to comments there.

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2010/03/the_iop_fiasco.php

    [DC: I noticed that. As I commented over there, Nature editor-in-chief is a prominent IOP fellow. Can't imagine he's too happy right now. ]

  15. I hope you guys enjoyed Gunter’s March 8, 2010 article titled “The Only Thing Heating Up Is The debate”. It appears he listened to you ideologues and went about trashing your pathetic debunked science. Nice. You cats keep clinging to the “truth” about how the world is heating up. Just let the rest of us live our lives in peace without your debunked preachiness.

    [DC: Once again, Gunter claims: "The earth is not getting warmer, at least not significantly. Global warming has paused." Repetition of this falsehood (Gunter is up to about, oh, easily a dozen times now) does not make it any less false. But at least he finally admits that NASA had 2005 warmer than 1998. ]

    A few parting questions:

    Do you people even admit that climate science is incredibly complex and that there is a solid chance that human activity has not caused any warming?

    [DC: All the scientific evidence points to at least some warming caused by human activity. ]

    Do you admit Al Gore lied or misrepresented facts at least 9 times in his bogus “documentary”? For example, polar bears are not becoming extinct, but rather are thriving. Today. In the arctic. This is a scientifically proven fact.

    Do you find it sad that one of the founders of Greenpeace left the movement because it became to radical?

    Do you even admit that there was a Medieval Warming Period?

    If not, then really, who are the deniers here?

    This is the point. Yeah maybe global warming is occurring, and maybe some of it is from human activity. Who cares? We’ll fix it, but not with the ridiculously costly and stupid solutions that are currently on the table. That said, can you not accept the fact that the scientists at the CRU or the IPCC or Mr. Hockey Stick look incredibly deceitful right now for their half truths and blatant deceptions and misrepresentation of facts? Gone is the moral high ground you once, wrongly, enjoyed. Say hello to a whole new world of resistance to your thoughts. I suggest changing your tactics from condescending preacher to thoughtful listener and transparency.


    [DC: Sorry to be the one to inform you, but the National Post and Lorne Gunter are the deceitful ones, not the climate scientists. ]

    But hey, again, you cats can keep wasting your time chatting amongst yourselves, preaching how right you are when the overwhelming majority of people see global warming as the farcical circus and complete waste of money it has become.

    All I can say is, “Good luck with that.”

    Peace.

    [DC: The science will prevail in the end, overcoming ignorance and greed. At least I hope so. ]

  16. It’s been “scientifically proven” that earth is getting warmer. Some of those incredibly complex scientists who study the incredibly complex climate had the bright idea of measuring the temperature with an incredibly complex machine called a “thermometer” (plus a few satellites and whatnot).

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