The latest false scandal in climate science hit the blogosphere over the weekend. National Post columnist Lawrence Solomon [not to be confused with atmospheric chemist and IPCC WG1 chair Susan Solomon] wrote a column with the outlandish claim:
The UN’s IPCC misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider.
Charges of a “phony UN IPCC consensus” are already reverberating on contrarian blogs around the world, thanks to the quick efforts of climate science disinformation specialist Marc Morano.
But now Mike Hulme, a professor of climate change at the University of East Anglia, has set the record straight. His “correcting and clarifying” statement is unambiguous in its disavowal of Solomon’s and Morano’s misinterpretation:
I did not say the ‘IPCC misleads’ anyone – it is claims that are made by other commentators, such as the caricatured claim I offer in the paper, that have the potential to mislead.
Solomon, who is also Executive Director of of the right-wing, anti-science group Energy Probe, posted the following piece on the National Post website early last Sunday.
The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider
Lawrence Solomon – June 13, 2010 – 8:50 am
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.
“Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous,” the paper states unambiguously, adding that they rendered “the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism.”
Hulme’s depiction of IPCC’s exaggeration of the number of scientists who backed its claim about man-made climate change can be found on pages 10 and 11 of his paper, found here.
Never mind waiting until the ink dries. Marc Morano swung into action within hours, while readers of the National Post print edition have yet to benefit from Solomon’s latest wisdom. Climate Depot breathlessly announced:
Will Media Now Apologize for being complicit in the ‘Consensus Con’? UN IPCC ‘consensus’ on climate was phony, says IPCC Lead Author Mike Hulme!
The results were depressingly predictable. The piece has already been reproduced or excerpted hundreds of times, including at Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation website and PrisonPlanet.
Now it turns out that Solomon’s post was based on selective quotation and gross misinterpretation of an article by Hulme and his student, Martin Mahony, in press at Progress in Physical Geography. But don’t just take my word for it.
This morning, Mike Hulme prominently posted a statement “correcting misleading newspaper and internet blog reports of the Hulme and Mahony paper on the IPCC”. Here is the key passage (see below for the entire text):
First, I did not say the ‘IPCC misleads’ anyone – it is claims that are made by other commentators, such as the caricatured claim I offer in the paper, that have the potential to mislead. Second, they have a potential to mislead if they give the impression that every statement in IPCC reports is ‘signed off’ by every IPCC author and reviewer. Patently they are not, and cannot. Third, it is the chapter lead authors – say 10 to 20 experts – on detection and attribution who craft the sentence about detection and attribution, which is then scrutinised and vetted by reviewers and government officials. Similarly, statements about what may happen to the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) of the ocean are crafted by those expert in ocean science, statements about future sea-level rise by sea-level experts, and so on.
The piece concludes thus:
Giving the impression that the IPCC consensus means everyone agrees with everyone else – as I think some well-meaning but uninformed commentaries do (or have a tendency to do) – is unhelpful; it doesn’t reflect the uncertain, exploratory and sometimes contested nature of scientific knowledge.
So clearly, Hulme is not criticizing the IPCC itself or touting “IPCC exaggeration”, but rather “well-meaning but uninformed commentaries” from groups such as Greenpeace that do refer to a “consensus” of 2500 scientists in support of specific IPCC statements, for example on attribution of climate change.
Even more important, though, is Hulme’s recognition that the IPCC’s “consensus” approach can lead to findings that are perceived as overly conservative by many experts in a given field. As the Progress in Physical Geography paper states:
But consensus-making can also lead to criticism for being too conservative, as Hansen (2007) has most visibly argued. Was the IPCC AR4 too conservative in reaching its consensus about future sea-level rise? Many glaciologists and oceanographers think they were (Kerr, 2007; Rahmstorf, 2010), leading to what Hansen attacks as ‘scientific reticence’. Solomon et al. (2008) offer a robust defence, stating that far from reaching a premature consensus, the AR4 report stated that in fact no consensus could be reached on the magnitude of the possible fast ice-sheet melt processes that some fear could lead to 1 or 2 metres of sea-level rise this century. Hence these processes were not included in the quantitative estimates.
That tendency to conservative caution is an inconvenient aspect of IPCC “consensus-making” that Solomon somehow forgot to mention.
Now that it is clear the only thing phony about the whole affair is Solomon’s story itself, the most important remaining question is whether the National Post and Energy Probe will issue much-needed corrections. Based on past form, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
[Hat tip for alerting me to Solomon’s post: MapleLeaf]
The full text of Mike Hulme’s statement follows. The original may be viewed at Hulme’s website.
Correcting and Clarifying Hulme and Mahony on the IPCC Consensus
Various newspaper and internet blogs are reporting me as saying that the IPCC has ‘misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming’ whereas in fact only ‘a few dozen experts’ did so. This story emanates from an article, in press with Progress in Physical Geography and posted on my website http://mikehulme.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/Hulme-Mahony-PiPG.pdf, which reviews 20 years of published literature on the nature of the IPCC and its functions and governance. The relevant section from this paper is the following, which is part of a longer discussion about the nature of uncertainty and consensus in the IPCC assessments …
“Without a careful explanation about what [consensus] means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism. Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies; other IPCC authors are experts in other fields. But consensus-making can also lead to criticism for being too conservative, as Hansen (2007) has most visibly argued.”
Three things should be clear from this. First, I did not say the ‘IPCC misleads’ anyone – it is claims that are made by other commentators, such as the caricatured claim I offer in the paper, that have the potential to mislead. Second, they have a potential to mislead if they give the impression that every statement in IPCC reports is ‘signed off’ by every IPCC author and reviewer. Patently they are not, and cannot. Third, it is the chapter lead authors – say 10 to 20 experts – on detection and attribution who craft the sentence about detection and attribution, which is then scrutinised and vetted by reviewers and government officials. Similarly, statements about what may happen to the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) of the ocean are crafted by those expert in ocean science, statements about future sea-level rise by sea-level experts, and so on.
The point of this bit of our article was to draw attention to the need for a more nuanced understanding of what an IPCC ‘consensus’ is – as I say: “Without a careful explanation about what it means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism.” The IPCC consensus does not mean – clearly cannot possibly mean – that every scientist involved in the IPCC process agrees with every single statement in the IPCC! Some scientists involved in the IPCC did not agree with the IPCC’s projections of future sea-level. Giving the impression that the IPCC consensus means everyone agrees with everyone else – as I think some well-meaning but uninformed commentaries do (or have a tendency to do) – is unhelpful; it doesn’t reflect the uncertain, exploratory and sometimes contested nature of scientific knowledge.
Mike Hulme, Norwich
15 June 2010
It has already become established “Truth” that Hulme said only a few dozen scientists agree with the IPCC. Just like Phil Jones said warming stopped in 1995, or “hide the decline” was about hiding the decline in late 20th century temperatures. It doesn’t matter if little details like the facts say otherwise; fake but accurate is the new rule.
I doubt that any statement now by Dr. Hulme will have a fraction of the impact that selective quoting and re-interpretation of his words are having as they echo ’round media and blogosphere. Inadvertently perhaps, he has provided new ammunition to throw against science.
They’re making it up as fast as they can…
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Sterling work as usual, and thanks for the rebuttal ammo, DC. Much appreciated.
I was referred to that piece yesterday and read the draft. I couldn’t see the fuss – I found it more a review of perceptions to such reports etc.
Quote mining I guess.
I have written to the National Post demanding a correction and including the significant part of Professor Hulme’s rebuttal. I have not too much expectation that it will do so since I have been through this previously and have spoken to Corcoran there about these misrepresentations. The last time about Briffa.
Why don’t a few more people do so? The “paper” may then begin to take this seriously.
[DC: There may be more doing this than you might think. I have a fairly history of correspondence with the Post myself. ]
I wrote about this at Dawgs and e-mailed Professor Hulme who allowed me to publish the following statement ” When contacted by e-mail Professor Hulme confirmed that the National Post article offers a meaning rather different to that intended and to that implied”.
So there is not much wiggle room there.
Couldn’t have happened to a better bloke… here’s to hoping Mike Hulme getting real about the nature of denialism.
I’ll tell you one thing; the denialati really don’t like this subject being foisted on them. They try to change the subject like their lives depend on it, and not letting them off the hook makes them go all quiet when it’s pointed out that they’ve fallen for a massive misrepresentation. Same with the Roman period nonsense 😉
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Indeed, classic quote mining.
From Morano? What else would one expect?
What annoys me most (and I suspect it’s not a new phenomena) is that this mindless “debate” of AGW illustrates just how much scientists much watch what they say – either when being interviewed or in professional print, because someone, somewhere, at some time in the future might want to take it out of context to serve their particular purpose.
This insanity puts scientific research under increasing pressure to defend what’s been said, rather than expand on that research. Must science literature return to Latin for solidity, or would that cause a Lutheran-like backlash by the most paranoid? Quote mining is a disgusting habit reserved for the most useless of investigative journos.
No, we just need to keep banging back at them when they lie and distort. Keep letter-writing and blogging. Scientists are in the ring now even though it is not part of our training and we feel there are better things we could be doing.
Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
Global Warming: Man or Myth?
My Global Warming Blog
I meant that more or less as rhetoric – the way forward is never the way back,
However, I here you on being in the ring and not being part of the training. As Glikson suggested the other day on Climate Shift, such a fight seems to be unfair due to the deniers not following the rules of scientific rigour, which at least leads tends to an illusion of a sceptical victory.
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Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading
scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous.
Do you agree with his statement?
If you do, is it also clear that those sympathetic to the IPCC are the ones who made the above claim?
Did not the IPCC chairman Pachauri make this ‘disingenuous’ statement at any point of time?
But of course, that is not my primary point.
The structure of the IPCC is such that it can take credit for a broad range of declarations, but specific blame or responsibility cannot be fixed.
What Solomon is pointing out and what Hulme says , are both two sides of the same thing.
If those skeptical of CAGW point out that it is only a handful of scientists make up the ‘consensus’, they are laughed at, but Mike Hulme defends himself with the same statement?
Looks more like Solomon is setting Hulme straight to me. 😉
“If those skeptical of CAGW point out that it is only a handful of scientists make up the ‘consensus’, they are laughed at, but Mike Hulme defends himself with the same statement?”
Solomon lied and said only a handful of scientists *accept* the consensus and the conclusions of the IPCC, which is a very different thing than what Hulme wrote, which is that any specific claim in the IPCC reports is developed by the few dozen experts in those fields, not all of the scientists who contribute to the IPCC. Solomon lied and said that the consensus on AGW is phony, and that Hulme said that the IPCC misled people into thinking more than a few dozen scientists accept AGW. Hulme said no such thing; he’s said the opposite.
Why do you feel compelled to defend a blatant liar like Solomon, Shub?
“Looks more like Solomon is setting Hulme straight to me.”
Well, you see what you want to see, even if it’s not there.
In what way is that quote disingenuous?
It’s not saying it’s a UNANIMOUS verdict.
So how is it disingenuous?
Looks like you and Solomon are the liars here to me 🙂
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To be honest I do think that Hulme’s original statement was very badly worded.
His meaning, as far as I understand his clarification, was that it would be disingenuous to suggest that every scientist agrees with every statement in the IPCC report. That is fair enough but that is not the same as suggesting that there is “a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate”. Clearly you can have a wide consensus on the broad question of whether human activity is causing global warming but disagreement on particular points of the science.
I mean does anyone here think that “2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate” IS a disingenuous statement?
IMHO, the “consensus” arises from the (literally) thousands of scientific papers which corroborate the theory of AGW. The overwhelming consensus arises from the published scientific literature– it is that science (and consensus) which those scientists involved in writing and reviewing the IPCC reports speak to. When one tallies up the scientists cited you do get into the thousands….
This is just more obfuscation and distortion by Solomon to feed the “skeptics”. Funny how the skeptics love to blindly support folks like Solomon who have a history of deception and playing loose with the facts– so long as he keeps feeding them what they wish to hear. Solomon is playing at the same game as A. Watts.
Anyhow, this is another example of people (and thew IPCC itself) not expressing itself clearly enough (because they are not PR/communications people), and leaving its statements open for manipulation and distortion by those in denial about AGW.
Hulme has released a second statement, where he refines the “disingenuous” statement; he now acknowledges that the “caricature” was too general.
This also points to various interpretations of “consensus”. Hulme’s point is that the specific findings of the IPCC WG1 are each reached by a consensus of a few dozen experts.
Yet surely, broad acceptance of the IPCC’s main findings by the scientific community as a whole represents an undeniable scientific consensus. The evidence for this scientific consensus on AGW, in a wider sense, is overwhelming. It can be seen in the corpus of published scientific research (as noted by Oreskes in her landmark Science piece of 2004), and in the statements of all the world’s prominent scientific bodies.
At most, Hulme’s point amounts to a distinction between different levels of “consensus”. And just as importantly, it implicitly distinguishes between the *crafting* and the *acceptance* of that cosnensus.
In other words, it is “disingenuous” or worse, to cite Hulme in support of the statement “that a handful of scientists make up the ‘consensus’”, as one commenter did above.
It is also seems that Hulme fails to understand the nature of climate science disinformation. If this latest incident has a silver lining, it may be in finally alerting him to the true dynamic at play here.
…as I said.
Hulme is a lousy communicator. Perhaps he should leave that to others. What is worse, he appears to be a muddled thinker, having ‘gone pielke’ without having Roger’s cunning, or media savvy.
[DC: I tend to agree with much of what you say. However, so far, Hulme hasn’t explicitly, or even implicitly, approved the outrageous attacks by the likes of McKitrick and McIntyre. Rather, he’s simply ignored them, as far as I can tell.
I do think he needs to be pinned down on this issue, and I intend to do just that if I can. ]
Did I cite Hulme to support a claim that a handful of scientists make up the consensus?
I said skeptics would be criticized if they ever made claims like that.
And they have been criticized for pointing the very thing Hulme did.
Let me ask once more.
Mike Hulme now states, once again:
Claims made by commenters such as:
‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists agree that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely [greater than 90% likelihood based on expert judgement] due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations’
Do you agree with this statement or not?
Shub, you said:
But, in fact, you claimed that Hulme made the “same statement”, which you specifically described:
This is a falsehood in two important respects. First the consensus referred to is unclear. And even if it is that “scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate”, Mike Hulme himself has already stated that the statement is too broad for his point. Second, your formulation fails to distinguish between the number of scientists who were actively involved in formulating a specific or general “consensus” and the much larger number who implicitly or explicitly accept or “make up” that consensus.
Finally, I’ll answer your original question, which was:
No, I don’t. And even Hulme does not agree with it, since he has revised it since.
I also point out that you say in your last comment:
You aren’t asking the same question “once more” . You are asking a very different question, because Hulme amended his statement substantially in the interim.
Did you really think no one would notice?
I’ve had enough of your deception. Please refrain from posting here any more. Thanks!
You have every right to misunderstand me. But my aim is not to ‘decieve’.
Of course, I did ask the same question: “Do you agree with Hulme’s statement above?”. Of course, the question pertained to two different statements. Those statements are not mine though.
Both the times, I reproduced verbatim Hulme’s sentences . (by copy-pasting from his pdf documents)
How is that deception?
If you do not like those statements, your issue is with Mike Hulme, not me, isn’t it?
Secondly, the statement I made about the ‘handful’… is (and I copy from above)
“If those skeptical of CAGW point out that it is only a handful of scientists make up the ‘consensus’, they are laughed at, but Mike Hulme defends himself with the same statement?”
Let us look at what Mike Hulme himself says:
Three things should be clear from this….
Third, it is the chapter lead authors – say 10 to 20 experts – on detection and attribution who craft the sentence about detection and attribution, which is then scrutinised and vetted by reviewers and government officials.
The IPCC consensus does not mean – clearly cannot possibly mean – that every scientist involved in the IPCC process agrees with every single statement in the IPCC!
I agree with Mike Hulme – every scientific statement in the IPCC cannot be backed by the expertise of each and every scientist.
Those commenters who have created the rhetorical impression that all the scientists stand 100% behind all the conclusions, are wrong.
PS: I request you not to delete my comment. On other forums, I have defended your position, I have posted adversarially to your position too – you can verify this.
[DC: As a courtesy, I have let you make your excuses. But I don’t buy them. Nor do I accept that I have merely misunderstood you. ]
Not every scientist believes:
1) Smoking is strongly linked to cancer
2) Life evolves
3) HIV causes AIDS
Until every scientist agrees, then the list above should not be taken seriously and we should always highlight the extremely few scientists that do not accept the statements in the list above while simultaneously downplaying the vast majority that do accept the list.
And do not get me started on that whole peer-reviewed thingy. Just because 99.9% of the journal articles support the list above does not make them true. Group think and grant funding cause these journals to be so biased we cannot take them seriously.
The items in the list are just THEORIES and not FACTS!
The reviewers are more than a handful of scientists. So, numeracy fail. Literacy fail.
Also, there are tens of thousands of papers out there that contribute to the IPCC picture. Each paper has several scientists. There’s a lot of overlap, but nonetheless, the scientists involved believe that their papers are correct. If one segment signs off on carbon sinks, and another signs off on percentage of human-sourced CO2, and so on, and the denialists are challenging most of those findings, then it really is tens of thousands of scientists against the denialists. So, epic science fail.
To put it in terms even a market fundie might be able to grasp:
If I have a company making an annual report, and one of my divisions says it made $2 million last year, and another says it made $3 million, and another says it made $1 million, and I say that according to our divisions, they collectively made $6 million, and one of you denialists rises to say that’s false, it’s a single source – the accountant – who says that, you should probably be ignored.
Trolls, trolls, trolls.
The bottom line: the IPCC is not responsible for what others say about it, or how others interpret what it says. To describe the IPCC as a fraud based upon what third parties say is ridiculous. This is precisely what Solomon has done, and is precisely the problem what Hulme was warning about in his article.
People regularly take the IPCC to task for things other people say it reported, not for what it actually did report.
Likewise, people take the IPCC to task for not reporting things it does report. For example, if I had a buck for every time I’ve read that “the IPCC refuses to acknowledge contradictory data about the MWP…” I’d be rich. The last report goes on about it all for some length.
These are deliberate tactics. The propagandists know that most people don’t even know what the IPCC is, let alone have read an of the reports. For that reason, straw men abound.
Well IMHO I see nothing wrong with what Hulme wrote. What I see wrong is others taking it out of context. He seemed just to be describing procedures that follow how most businesses and people operate. When I read it it just seemed like common sense. It is like something that you would expect to be discussed among IPCC members. But that would involve sending e-mails. And think what would happen if an e-mail like that were hacked. There are some that would be screaming for criminal investigations.
[DC: On the other hand, even Hulme agreed that he was not sufficiently clear in a key passage. But I agree that the main problem here is the distortion and quote-mining by Lawrence Solomon.
My criticism of Hulme would be more for “sins of omission”. I don’t see in his writings on “climategate” any appreciation for the dynamic of current climate science disinformation, which has evolved from a more “top down” think tank/PR phenomenon, to a more diffuse, opportunistic symbiosis of “traditional” deceptive PR techniques and the blogosphere. ]
Where is the global warming denial Quote Mine Project?
First came a taxonomy of quotation abuses:
Quotations and Misquotations,
then the full
Quote Mine Project.
It takes a lot of work ….
Ahh, but read the rest of his clarification. He gives another example discussing the Meridonial Overturning Current (MOC) and then states: “Most authors engaged by the IPCC are not qualified to participate in such specific knowledge crafting about the MOC. ”
In other words, the consensus is built by the people who understand the issue well enough to actually have some insight.
What does this say about all of the chumps like Anthony Watts trumpeting the H&M paper as proof that the consensus is f’d up?
BTW, Mike Hulme describes himself as a professor of climate change, but he is really a sociologist or philosopher taking the “idea of climate change” as his subject? Is this a correct interpretation? Why does anyone take him seriously? I noticed the paper that caused all this rumpus has, for example, criticized the IPCC for gender inequality in the science and for treating physical evidence as more important than sociological evidence in determining whether the world is warming and why. ????
If you guys want to see what a deranged lunatic Lawrence Solomon really is (or at least was in 2008), read this hilarious joke of an op-ed piece:
If that is not insanity, what would be?
[DC: I’ve taken the liberty of cutting down from the full piece. I admit it’s pretty scary stuff, although I’m not sure that his delusion rises to “lunacy” or “insanity”.
And, yes, Solomon actually calls himself an environmentalist. ]
Hulme’s C.V. says he got a BSc (Hon.) in geography and a PhD in Applied Climatology.
Click to access 2007-cv-hulme.pdf
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One more reason for serious climate scientists to go on offense, instead of driving themselves nuts answering spurious charges.
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