Sunday, February 14, 2010

very serious indeed

OK, so the Guardian spent last week having a great fit of very seriousness* about the UEA Climate Research Unit e-mail leak. Things that weren't Serious enough to get into the paper included the decisive refutation of the whole idea that the urban heat island effect explains warming and the exoneration of Michael Mann. Here are some other pieces of climate-related news that failed the Seriousness test.

Eli Rabett's comments thread discovered that the FOIA requests involved were created by Steve McIntyre's supporters as part of a deliberate spam campaign; they came up with a question that they could re-ask for every state and territory in the world, starting with Afghanistan and working through Wallis and Futuna Island.

They could have issued a single request for "any confidentiality agreements signed with any state or territory" - instead they generated over a hundred, and unwisely discussed the standard template they used on the web. It's an attack so obvious that the Freedom of Information Act itself foresees it; one of the grounds on which you can turn down a request is if it comes as part of a "vexatious" campaign. Yer man McIntyre does seem to like slightly clunky denial-of-service attacks.

The Independent, meanwhile, interviews Sir John Houghton and discovers that:
The words are the very first to appear in the "manual" of climate denialism written by the journalist and arch-sceptic Christopher Booker. They get more than a 100,000 hits on Google, and are wheeled out almost every time a climate sceptic has a point to make, the last occasion being in a Sunday newspaper article last weekend written by the social anthropologist and climate sceptic Benny Peiser.

The trouble is, Sir John Houghton has never said what he is quoted as saying. The words do not appear in his own book on global warming, first published in 1994, despite statements to the contrary.

And they proceed to land a palpable hit on Peiser and his wanktank:
Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University, also cited the 1994 edition of Sir John's book as the source of the quote, which he used last Sunday in an article denouncing the alarmism of climate scientists. Dr Peiser admitted to The Independent that he had not read the book recently and had only used the quote "from memory" because it is so widely cited in other books on climate scepticism.

"I've seen it printed in many books. He is well known for making these statements. I've used that quote on many occasions from one of the books on climate alarmism. If he makes the claim that he never said this then he has to clarify that," Dr Peiser said.

"If he publicly says that he never made that statement then, of course, I wouldn't use it, but this is the first time I've heard [his denial] and this has been going on for 15 years. This quote has been used for the past 15 years," he said.

In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006...

Mind you, the Indy still lets Lawsons Dominic and Nigel babble away in its pages. You can't have everything.

*Does anyone know where the very first use of Very Serious Person might be?


Nick said...

As one of the people who's submited FOI request, I can tell you I haven't done so in any conspiracy.

However, I can tell you some of the results.

There are no signed confidentiality agreements. It was all a distraction. They wanted to hide the information, and there is strong evidence that the data isn't there. It can't be checked. See the BBC interview with Jones.

However, they are still hiding the data, even though there are no agreements - illegally

Kevin said...

If you want the data so badly and want to find out what the confidentiality agreements are why don't you just get the data for free or where necessary buy the data from the original national government meteorological sources. CRU got the data for free and if you are at a University you could ask through your connection to the University to get the data for free.

You have a nice disconnect between, they haven't got the data and they are illegally keeping it from us.


CRU got rid of most of the data in the eighties

NomadUK said...

As one of the people who's submited FOI request, I can tell you I haven't done so in any conspiracy.

Then you're what I believe is commonly referred to as a 'tool'.

silburnl said...

Regarding the Houghton thing - it's been getting more convoluted still. Piers Akerman, the aussie hack who was responsible for the earliest known (at this time at least) example of the made up quote - is now saying that he got it from... Benny Peiser!

It's denialists all the way down. Or a circular firing squad. I remain fascinated to see which denialist blowhard is going to prevail in this fratricidal clusterfuck.

Regarding the Graun's fit of seriousness regarding the CRU hack - I've been somewhat bemused by it. Various septic denydiots have been concern trolling the comments threads at RealClimate and similar venues claiming that the argument is truly lost if even the Guardian has turned denialist and what are you warmists going to do now, huh? But if you actually read the Climate Wars articles they do a good job of laying out the known facts and timelines, so its blindingly obvious to anyone with the eyes to see that the whole CRU hack affair is a massive fuss about nothing very much at all. Pearce says as much at several places during the series (although elsewhere he tries to work some moral outrage up out of the thin gruel he has to hand, but you can tell his heart isn't really in it).

I wonder what the story behind this story is? Did Pearce think he was onto something big and then only realised it was bust after he'd sold it as a major investigative piece to his bosses? Or did senior management think there was something big and they got one of their Investigative guys to take the story on because they were worried that their team of regulars on the Science/Environment beat were too invested in the issue?

ejh said...

I can't believe the Independent printed the term "a 100,000 hits".

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