I thought the award for mistakes was mine!

Glacier-gate – the current feeding frenzy for climate change deniers brought back memories.

Any publishing scientist will have experienced the problem of errors getting through the review and checking process. Of course you notice them immediately when you proudly read through you masterpiece in the print journal.

However, I burst out laughing when I read this  post by a local blogger – IPCC: Earning the award for greatest number of errors per page. Because I was convinced I won that award years ago!

One of my old papers has far more errors than the IPCC reports. These were all misspellings of my own name in the reference list.

Bloody spell checkers!

Extrapolating way past the data

Of course the deniers are trying to make more of “glacier-gate” than it deserves. They wish to extrapolate from one faulty paragraph (or even sentence) on one page to all pages (about 2900) of all the reports. Talk about a faulty extrapolation technique!

Their motives are obvious. As this blogger says this error “is making the truth very hard to believe.” I guess if you don’t want to accept the truth you will grab at any excuse. Even one this far-fetched!

Not that the mistake itself should be ignored. The denier brigade dishonestly grabs such things and passes them straight on to fellow believers via their echo chambers (Twitter, blogs, conservative newspapers, etc).

So the mistake is irresponsible given the current political climate. The mistake had been brought up in the review process (see Publicly available IPCC archives )so it should have been removed before publication. Thankfully the IPCC has acknowledged it, apologised, is investigating and will fix the procedural problems which allowed it.

Fortunately, this mistake was in WG II Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, not the main evidence-based WG I The Physical Science Basis and did not make it into the The AR4 Synthesis Report meant for policy makers.

There really is such an award

Now, let’s get back to this award – the one I thought was on my mantelpiece.

There actually is such an award and it is specifically aimed at the climate denial industry. The Christopher Booker prize (see image above) was inaugurated by the Guardian jounralist George Monbiot (see Pure rubbish: Christopher Booker prize). George Monbiot said:

the award goes to whoever in my opinion — assisted by climate scientists and specialists — managed in the course of 2009 to cram as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single online article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change.”

“It is named in honour of the Sunday Telegraph columnist’s amazing ability to include misinformation and falsehoods in his pieces on climate change and other environmental issues.

Believe it or not, this stylish trophy is made entirely of recycled materials!

Lovingly fashioned by master craftsmen in mid-Wales, it shows what can be done with items that are often treated as mere rubbish!

And this isn’t all. I am suggesting that the winner of the Christopher Booker prize 2009 take the holiday of a lifetime: a one-way solo kayak trip to the North Pole. Following in the footsteps of the great Pen Hadow, the award winner could use the trip to see for him or herself the full extent of the Arctic ice melt. The Guardian will support this intrepid venture by supplying THREE BARS of Kendal mint cake towards the costs of this expedition.”

While Christopher Booker was considered to be the first winner (“In just one short column in the Sunday Telegraph, he managed to drop six and a half clangers”) I would have though Christopher Monckton would have won hands down. The fact that he didn’t may be more due to Monbiots refusal to to the hard work (“Viscount Monckhausen could have come out in front with one of his online lectures, which are riddled with crazy assertions and shocking misrepresentations, but the thought of spending a day inside his mind made me feel physically sick.”).

In the end the award went to John Tomlinson, a columnist for the Flint Journal in Michigan, “with a stunning 38 howlers.” His error density was “one per 21 words”! (see Winner of climate change denial’s premier award revealed).

OK – I concede the award. My mistakes were fewer in number, and they were in the reference list – not the body of the paper.

Nor were they intentional!


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See also: Climate chief admits error over Himalayan glaciers

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12 responses to “I thought the award for mistakes was mine!

  1. It’s all about the evidence that the peer review processed used in climate science is sub par. This is no longer really in dispute.

    Incidentally, you might be interested by the fact that the bogus claims made about the Himalayas in that report and now exposed, were actually used to gain hundreds of thousands of pounds in research grants: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6999975.ece

    The sad thing is, this stuff is no longer surprising or shocking.


  2. It’s all about the evidence that the peer review processed used in climate science is sub par. This is no longer really in dispute.

    Glenn, check your facts first.
    Do a little research.
    Find out what the scientific community is saying for a change.
    Getting your science information from Jonathan Leake is not a smart move.


  3. Thanks for the link Glenn. Timesonline is proving to be an important conduit to the echo chamber used by climate change deniers.

    Doesn’t this particular story rely on a biased interpretation, though? (well, actually, don’t they all?).

    Surely it is well accepted that glaciers are retreating and that this will present specific problems for people living in the run-off areas from the Himalayan glaciers. It is important that the question be researched, the extent of the future problems estimated and adaption and mitigation policies considered. It seems to me just the very sort of research that we should be funding.

    The WWF report (even with the incorrect detail of the 2035 date) would have been an obvious reference for inclusion in any grant application. And especially as the standard of regional research papers on this subject is admittedly lower than elsewhere. Just a fact of life – of regional differences in development.

    A few things for you to consider:

    1: This mistake was made by the WWF. It is incredibly embarrassing for them as they have tried to achieve a high standard in their reports. They are being very apologetic.

    2: The IPCC’s mistake was not a research problem – their job is not, as you claim, “to conduct research and produce findings.” The IPCC reviews the existing literature – usually sticking to the peer-reviewed literature. Use of so-called “grey” literature like the WWF report has been sometimes seen as necessary because of the existing inevitable lower standard of the literature dealing with some regional impacts referred to above.

    So the IPCC mistake was one of review, not research. The publicly available record of feedback during the review process did raise a question about this sentence, and also about necessity for references (after which the WWF was added, I think). So there is a responsibility on those people who handled the final review of comments.

    The IPCC is of course embarrassed by this slip up. They have apologised and they are investigating procedures to prevent future occurrences. ( It would have been nice for some of our local bloggers to show a similar level of integrity over their promotion of the discredited report “Are we warmer yet?”)

    But apart from providing ammunition to deniers who are grabbing anything they can it changes nothing. Either about the Himalayan glaciers or the authenticity of the IPCC reports in general.

    3: Use of the term “bogus” to describe mistakes and procedural slip-ups is obviously motivated. It implies an intention to defraud that wasn’t there. (Or at least no one has show – despite use of such words).

    4: This sort of claim is typical of the Gish gallopers. We have seen a whole succession of discredited claims coming from those campaigning against scientific findings on climate change.

    Look at all the effort and money put into trying to discredit the so-called “hockey stick.” Failed.

    The “climategate” emails. Nothing substantive to bring into doubt any published science.

    The interpretation of findings of no change in fraction of atmospheric C in 150 years. Based on an ignorant misinterpretation.

    The claim of research showing a cooling period (very popular with the current cold winter in the NH). The researcher publicly objected to the way their results were misrepresented.

    The probably upcoming story of IPCC getting claims on projected sea level rises due to Arctic ice melting rise wrong.

    etc., etc.

    We could add, of course.

    The local denier publication of a graph showing no increase of temperature in NZ. While still repeated maliciously (eg: http://clareswinney.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/godfrey-bloom-in-the-eu-parliament-says-the-nz-national-climate-data-base-is-all-fraudulent/) this was discredited locally, Vincent Gray admitted (privately) it was a mistake. Treadgold has angrily declared that everything they produce is correct (by definition) but says “their scientists” wish to remain anonymous! (That’s after claiming they had no scientific input or checking and after Gray telling me his task was to check!)

    The notable thing in all this (as is easily seen locally with bloggers treatment of the NIWA data and the discredited denier graph) is that whenever scientists take trouble to show the mistake, the deniers just move on to the next one. No admission of mistake. No apology. Just a Gish Gallop.

    Fortunately governments are not that gullible. The scientific findings from the IPCC have huge authority with most governments, despite the unpleasant implications for policy. There are political exceptions of course. Such as Rodney Hide and his extremist ACT party.

    And of course there are the usual conspiracy theorists like Ian Wishart and the NZ Centre for Political Research who, together with their overseas conservative mates such as the Heartland Institute, help peddle this rubbish.

    When you think about it (if you think about it?) isn’t it astonishing that with so many people so highly paid by Exxon and others to pick holes in the IPCC reports, this is all they have found? (One sentence in 3000 pages!)

    And even then, it was the climate scientists who identified this problem – not the deniers – or even sceptics (who I have much more respect for).


  4. (One sentence in 3000 pages!)

    Are you including the pages with only pictures, Ken?
    ARE YOU????
    The conspiracy has been revealed!!!
    Climate change is all a hoax.
    I knew it all the time.
    Deep down in my gut, I just knew it.
    Can’t fool me.

    …it was the climate scientists who identified this problem – not the deniers – or even sceptics (who I have much more respect for).
    Yes, but…
    (hushed whisper)
    That was their sekrit plan all along.
    (end hushed whisper)

    They hide their disgusting corruption by planting a…DELIBERATE MISTAKE where no real scientist could reasonably find it.
    Then when their credibility is at their lowest ebb, they “voluntarily reveal” this “mistake” to show how honest and self-correcting they are.

    Wheels within wheels. They’re playing one of those double-triple game thingys just to confuse us.


  5. I remember being absolutely mortified to find that I’d written ‘signet’ where I meant ‘cygnet’ in the summary of my PhD thesis. Said thesis was about – black swans…


  6. Alison,

    Freudian slip? Not thinking of rings at the time where you…? (Admittedly, a signet’s not for weddings, but then again associative memory is a weird thing…)


  7. Ken, you truly are the king of deniers. You apparently think this raises no worries for the process of peer review that climate science depends on. Amazing.

    And you can stop feigning disappointment over the use of the word “bogus.” Bogus is indeed the correct word to use when the proponents of a claim knew at the time that the claim was not verified, but that it should be proclaimed nonetheless for political reasons.

    Surely you knew this. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1245636/Glacier-scientists-says-knew-data-verified.html


  8. Reread my post. Of course it raises worries and that is why the panel is investigating why it wasn’t picked up earlier.

    Bit different to our local deniers who produced a shoddy attack on NIWA scientists. Repeated by some local bloggers – including you Glenn. When their article was discredited and acknowedged as mistaken by Vincent Gray – what happens? No apology, no attempt to correct mistakes. The bloggers involved pretend it hasn’t happened and the lies still get repeated – more laterly in the European Parliament.

    No integrity there, is there?

    Now your reference to bogus! The proponents of the discredited claim were the WWF. I don’t think there is any evidence they knew how weak the claim was at the time. The regional IPCC editors fault is that they repeated something from “grey” literature without at least qualifying it – even after questions raised by reviewers. We will have to see if there was a regional political motive behind this (from the investigation) but FFS this didn’t even make it to the synthesyd teport used by governments and policy makers.

    Surely you have experienced peer review as a real life process. It is never perfect. And let’s face it the IPCC work is very much that of a committee. There will be inevitable mistakes and the surprising thing is that despite the effort being put into locating them by those with disjonest intent so little has been found.

    Personally I think the IPCC is mistaken in several areas – because of it’s inevitable conservatism it tends to unerplay the situation.

    However, I think it’s basic conclusions that:

    1: The global tempereture increase currently observed is unequivocal, and

    2: This increase is most likely (90% probability) partly, if not mostly, human caused

    Is impeccable.

    Just don’t be distracted by glaciers.

    Sent from my iPod


  9. “it different to our local deniers who produced a shoddy attack on NIWA scientists. Repeated by some local bloggers – including you Glenn. When their article was discredited and acknowedged as mistaken by Vincent Gray – what happens? No apology, no attempt to correct mistakes.”

    Complete and utter lie, Ken, as I have come to expect from you. I did not make any claims that I did not back up continually. The “mistaken” claim you are talking about in my blog piece was not mistaken. it was a claim about information that wa requested from NIWA and never supplied. The claim was factual. You lied again.

    I expect nothing else, actually, same old.


  10. Glenn – you backed up your claims with the discredited report from the “Climate Science Coalition.” Despite the fact that the one scientist who will acknowledge having a checking role admits the basic claim was a mistake you refuse to apologise for persisting with it.

    While the document appealed to you because it was attacking our scientists, most people were able to see through the huge mistake.

    If you were interested in honesty you would have gone after these liars instead of continuing the “when are you going to stop beating your wife” assertions against the scientists.

    Your behaviour would have been equivalent to the IPCC persisting with the discredited WWF report, refusing to apologise or investigate why the mistake had occurred. And then accusing the countries in the region of refusing to provide information.

    Now, I believe the IPCC acted with integrity over their mistake. I don’t believe you, or Ian Wishart or your mates in the “Climate science Coalition, etc., did.


  11. “They wish to extrapolate from one faulty paragraph (or even sentence) on one page to all pages (about 2900) of all the reports.”

    You really haven’t read them have you? Or the Harry files? Otherwise you couldn’t make that statement.


  12. Harbinger, what have the “Harry files” got to do with the IPCC reports?


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