In this installment, I’ll look at another technique in the climate auditor’s toolbox, namely selective quotation. Once again, our example case study will involve accusations by Steve McIntyre concerning the use of paleoclimatologist Keith Briffa’s tree-ring based reconstruction in a key figure from the IPCC Third Assessment Report.
Arguing from a cherrypicked selection of quotes from the “Climategate” emails, McIntyre has claimed that IPCC authors Chris Folland and Michael Mann pressured Briffa to submit a reconstruction that would not “dilute the message” by showing “inconsistency” with multi-proxy reconstructions from Mann and Briffa’s CRU colleague Phil Jones. Briffa “hastily re-calculated his reconstruction”, sending one with a supposedly larger post-1960 decline before. According to McIntyre, Mann resolved this new “conundrum” and simply “chopped off the inconvenient portion of the Briffa tree-ring data”.
But a review of the emails – including some that have never been quoted before – clearly contradicts McIntyre’s version of events:
- Jones and Briffa were concerned that Mann had an outdated version of the Briffa reconstruction, and both urged the adoption of the newer “low frequency” one, more appropriate for comparison with other multi-century reconstructions.
- Far from pressuring Briffa to change his reconstruction right away, Mann questioned whether an immediate change was required, or even possible, and counselled waiting for the next revision.
- CRU colleague Tim Osborn advised Mann that he and Briffa “usually stopped” the “low frequency” reconstruction in 1960, and went one better in his later “resend” to Mann, by explicitly removing the post-1960 data.
I’ll also show how McIntyre has changed his narrative along the way , in an effort to prove that the true “context” of the famous “trick” to “hide the decline” is somehow an indictment of the IPCC. (Speaking of which, be sure to take the poll at the end about McIntyre’s next move). But first, once again, here is the cause of all the fuss, namely Figure 2-21 from Chapter 2 of the IPCC Third Assessment Report – Working Group I: The Scientific Basis (2001).
Do you have what it takes to be a climate auditor? Try the following fun test and find out. And at the same time, you can’t help but learn something about the fine art of argumentation from charts as practiced by the master himself, Steve McIntyre, and refined in his most devoted media outlet, the U.K. based Mail on Sunday.
Here is the chart that is held to epitomize the “trick” to “hide the decline”: figure 2-21 from the IPCC ‘s Third Assessment Report, showing key temperature reconstructions.
Few columnists writing about climate science are as brazen in their open contempt for the truth as Lawrence Solomon, as I showed in my analysis of Solomon’s recent musings about Arctic sea ice.
But the second half of that article, Solomon outdoes even his own dismal record, as he takes on a New Scientist article describing new research that posits a link between declining solar activity and colder Northern European winters over the coming decades. That research is held by Solomon to be evidence that “Earth could be in for a period of global cooling”. Yet a cursory examination of the New Scientist article and the research paper it is based on, shows clearly that the phenomenon is a strictly regional and seasonal one, with little import for hemispheric or global temperature trends.
Lawrence Solomon at the Frontier Centre
As Canada’s newspaper of record for climate science disinformation, the National Post is home to many climate “skeptic” voices, all drawing on the same standard (and repeatedly debunked) memes, but each with his own distinct style. I’ve often examined the stylings of Lorne Gunter, who specializes in hyperventilating attacks on climate scientists, complemented by repackaged press releases from the likes of Marc Morano (as seen in Gunter’s recent, um, discussion of the work of Mojib Latif).
Lawrence Solomon, National Post columnist and head of the “free-market environmentalist” lobby group Energy Probe, has received less of my attention (although his weirdly paranoid “analysis” of Google’s supposed censorship of “climategate” was certainly a classic).
That’s an oversight that I intend to rectify, starting with a dissection of Solomon’s recent misrepresentation of the latest Arctic sea ice extent data, said to “augur” coming “global cooling”. Incredibly, Solomon even claims that the latest data “acts to disprove” models projecting continued decline of Arctic sea ice. That assertion flies in the face of the relentless downward trend in sea ice extent that has continued unabated, or possibly even accelerated, since the release of the last IPCC report in early 2007.