Apologies would be nice

Blimey! This whole climate change issue is so political – you have to be very careful what you say.

Climate scientists, especially, are being quoted out of context, or even misquoted. Remember the distortion of Phil Jones’ comment on the increase in global temperature in the last decade not being statistically significant?

I guess that’s the nature of a political mind set which wishes to find evidence (or distort evidence) to support a preconceived position. Rather than derive a conclusions from the facts. (I might start calling that the “theological” method).

Mike Hulme

The Deep Climate blog discussed a recent distortion of a quote from Mike Hulme, professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA). This was just a warning that it was counterproductive to make excessive claims of consensus. The IPCC reviews of the literature on climate change draws conclusions about the overall picture but this does not mean that every single statement in these reports is signed off by every single author of the papers reviewed, or every single reviewer. (The quote is in his review paper Climate Change: what do we know about the IPCC?)

Seems a quite reasonable comment to me.

But climate deniers have latched on to his comments, taken out of context, to produce headlines like The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider. This from Lawrence Solomon executive director of a right-wing, anti-science group Energy probe. He uses the out of context quote to argue that scientific claims of human caused global warming are supported by only a few dozen experts.

And the denier echo chamber took over. Twitter deniers rapidly reproduced ther claim with tweets like “The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider” Mike Hulme; U of East Anglia”; “That’s big! A prominent IPCC member says there is no general agreement on whether global warming exists”; and “The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider.” The bloggers got onto it. For example Gateway Pundits, another Conservative US blog, declared: Top UN Scientist: There Never Was Consensus on Global Warming – Only a Few Dozen Believed It.

It even got to New Zealand. The local blog Not PC trumpeted Only a few dozen” IPCC “experts” support their so-called consensus! And Richard Treadgold at the Climate Conversation Group breathlessly exclaimed:

“This is as stunning as the release of the CRU emails and I think it will prove just as disastrous to the case for dangerous AGW. We want this news spread quickly around the country, and I don’t think we can count on the MSM helping us!”

Of course, none of these twitterers or bloggers bothered to check out the article from which the quotes were taken. Bugger the context – they had their story.

Unfortunately for them Mike Hulme responded with a statement “correcting misleading newspaper and internet blog reports of the Hulme and Mahoney paper on the IPPC.” (see ). He says in this:

“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.”

He also makes clear that his comments on consensus claims are relevant to situations like sea level rise where many think the IPCC reports are too conservative.

Mike has further clarified his comments with another statement. he makes clear his crticisms were not of the IPCC and states:

“for the record … I believe that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal and that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

And that is the IPCC position.

I guess it’s too much to ask that Richard Treadgold and Not PC apologise for their inaccurate reporting? Yeah, right.

See also:

The Much Maligned Mike Hulme
Mike Hulme says Lawrence Solomon story was phoney

Thanks to Deep Climate: Mike Hulme sets Solomon and Morano straight


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22 responses to “Apologies would be nice

  1. As Treadgold et al (where Al is not Gore) have repeatedly demonstrated, being wrong means never having to say sorry.


  2. I guess it’s too much to ask that Richard Treadgold and Not PC apologise for their inaccurate reporting? Yeah, right.

    Al Gore is still fat though!


  3. Get with it Cedric. The deniers on Twitter have moved on to speculating on why Gore’s wife left.


  4. I was led to the that blog by a denier and read the draft (I was shocked that it was only in draft form and had already hit the denial web). As you say, it sounded quite reasonable to me… It’s like the general debate of “AGW”, instead basing their (cough) scepticism on scientific reason, deniers are heading further into the strawberry patch, obsessing with reasonable uncertainties and semantics.
    It seems likely to me that the true colours of denial are starting to show through (maybe in the wake of losing Monckton, or/and the rebuttals being published (ie. letters from scientists, the denial coverage in New Scientist etc) and their rationale is becoming (if it truly can) more absurd.
    I think the last “fact” of denial (and as provable as fairies and spaghetti monsters) will be this silly “world government” propaganda that always latches onto any major change.


  5. Mike Hulme is spelt with an L.


  6. Well, actually Ken, some bloggers did bother to check out what he said, and linked to what he said, and in fact quoted the very words that he said–and the point I was reporting was the very point he is making in passing, i.e, “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….”

    THat he thinks this point is uncontroversial, ie., that “consensus… is reached by only a few dozen experts,” is itself worth reporting, wouldn’t you say?

    By the way, you might note as well, that this is the only point on which I rely upon Mr Hulme’s paper. (Yes, it’s Hulme, not Hume. You might like to correct your copy.) And all I report is what he said, a point that should really be uncontroversial since it’s an accurate reflection of the IPCC process, even if most people are blithely unaware of that.

    So just to clarify, since my own report did not “mislead” anyone, except apparently yourself:

    **I did not report him saying the ‘IPCC misleads’ anyone — so his clarification on that point is irrelevant to your criticism of my reporting.

    **I did not report his views on the warming of the climate system either — so his clarification on that point is also irrelevant to your criticism of my reporting.

    **Nor did I report his views on the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid 20th century, nor yet the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations — however enlightening those vierws might be — so his clarifications on that point are equally irrelevant.

    HE said what he said, and I reported it. There’s nothing to apologise for in that. I also linked to Mr Hulme’s paper,and invited readers to study what he said for themselves, just to ensure what I reported could be checked.

    So, yes, apologies would be nice–but I guess it’s too much to ask that you apologise for your own inaccurate reporting, eh?

    No matter. I’ll just take it as read.


  7. Yes, Anon. Picked that up.


  8. Come off it Peter. You just copied Solomon’s article The IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney, says IPCC insider word for word.

    You didn’t bother checking. Come on – tell us. Did you read the draft paper? If you had you would have realised that Hulme’s paper did not warrant such a headline.

    However, uncritically lifting Solomon’s purple prose enabled you to produce “evidence” for your preconceived conclusion that the IPCC conclusions don’t actually have plenty of scientific support. (That does not require every single scientist or reviewer signing off on every single statement as Mike Hulme points out).

    There is just too much of this sort of dishonest attack on climate science going on at the moment.

    No – I didn’t really expect an apology – there was no mistake on your part. It was intentional.

    But at least I have given readers a chance to read exactly what Mike has said in his attempt to clear this up.


  9. Andrew Frenette

    Hi Ken,
    Thanks for clarifying Mike Hulme’s paper and his position. This issue has been bothering me since the story broke a few days ago.

    When I first read the headline and accompanying article (National Post, Canada) my first thought was “How’d the deniers screw this up?” So I read the actual paper produced by Hulme and Mahony and then said to myself, “Oh, that’s how.”

    I concluded that, although individual statements are accurately quoted, the context had been removed completely and the deniers just ran away with it.

    Clearly, Mr. Cresswell (above) is the disingenuous one. He seems to have missed the point of the Hulme-Mahony paper entirely and then offhandedly dismisses Mr. Hulme’s own clarification and position.

    In our acceptance of AGW and climate change I can’t help but compare it to banging our heads against a brick wall. Repeatedly. The deniers will not give up until the water is past their eyeballs, the forests have all burned to the ground, and the last frog is found belly-up in the pond.

    My own solace: I’m not giving up either.

    I think it’s absolutely crucial to question the science, the motives, the words written, the clarifications, the positions – be skeptical, in short.

    But it is pure shortsightedness and foolish behaviour to state flatly that it’s not happening.


  10. Andrew – I don’t think Peter even read the paper. He simply reproduced the Solomon article with the “phoney” charge because it fitted his own agenda.


  11. Please don’t start calling that the “theological” method… call it the “BAD theological method” by all means… but just because there is a lot of bad “science” out there (eg. ID, Global warming skepticism) does not warrant calling it the “scientific” method!

    Good theology, like good science really should be looking for conclusions drawn from facts rather than trying to defend an already decided upon idea.


  12. OK Max, I am being a little bit provocative. But still there is a difference, isn’t there.

    Modern science is evidence based. We start with evidence and we verify ideas against reality. It is a method we have had to fight for and still have to defend against those who would like to impose untested ideas on science.

    The scientific revolution really represented the break away of science from philosophy and religion. The insistence of evidence over ideas.

    To me theology is still very much idea based. Evidence is selected to “prove” preconceived ideas. Again and again this approach seems to be evidenced in theological, and particularly apologetics, arguments.

    So when I refer to the “theological approach” I imagine that I am referring to a methodology which theologians happily accept. They would not be offended by it.

    I imagine the “scientific approach” in theology would be considered very much a criticism.

    Correct me if you think I am mistaken.

    Now, I have absolutely no time for theology. It doesn’t interest me one bit. Theologians can use whatever methods they like as long as they keep out of my hair (or what is left of it). But I objective very much for such unscientific methods being imposed in science. That is bad science.

    To placate any knee jerk feelings let me assure you that I understand that the “theological” approach is actually a very natural one. Our species evolved to become intelligent – but not rational. Rather rationalising. So pattern seeking and choosing evidence to fit preconceived ideas has actually been a useful survival adaption.

    But in science we should not work that way, even though it comes naturally and may be hard to resist. Fortunately the fact that science is a social process which is kept honest by its interaction with reality enables us to use an investigative process which is, for humans, counter-intuitive.


  13. Good theology, like good science really should be looking for conclusions drawn from facts rather than trying to defend an already decided upon idea.

    Which is why Krishna is lord!


  14. There is certainly a difference – they are different disciplines. I actually agree with you about much apologetics which is very much geared at proving an already decided upon viewpoint. However, the fact that there are, and have historically been huge disagreement between theologians, and new theological ideas have come about as time progresses means that at least some people must be following the evidence where it leads them rather than merely defending already decided upon ideas. I don’t think a ‘scientific’ approach would actually offend most theologians… at least honest ones ;). I think you spend too much time debating with fundies Ken!

    Most theologians these days would pay close attention to the latest developments in sociology, psychology, neurology, etc etc…


  15. Actually that last comment may be wishful thinking on my part if I am honest…


  16. Yes, Max, I wonder about spending too much time with fundies too. However, the problem is that mainstream Christians just don’t seem to want to enter into debate on these issues. Locally anyway.

    Sure more sensible theologians will keep up with scientific knowledge but how do they use it?

    An example. Physicists will ponder why certain physical constants have the values they do. There seems to be no reason coming out of existing theory. But they are happy to admit they don’t know why and that their theories are incomplete. While admitting we might never find the reasons they persist with their investigations as being the only way they will know if they can.

    But even the more mainstream theolgian takes a completely different approach claiming the values as examples of “fine tuning” and hence proof of a god creator. Not just fundies. They will mostly reject “intelligent design” when used as biological creationism but will actively argue that “fine tuning” is proof of design and intelligence in formation of the universe.

    Now that is using evidence to “prove” a preconceived idea – the exact opposite of science. And this leads to attempts to fit reality to ideas even if reality must be distorted in the process. How often have I heard the theological claim that the cosmological constant is “fine tuned” to 1 part in 10 to the power of 120! That is just not true. It is a opportunist use of a discrepancy between a theoretical vacuum energy and the determined cosmological constant. I have come across this theological argument actually referencing papers by Krauss discussing the discrepancy. The theologian either has not read the paper or not understood it. But the number was very useful for their “fine tuning” god proof so they just lifted it inapropriately.

    Similarly consider that while the scientific view is uniform across the globe the religious view is different in different regions – even in different parts of a city. Scientific views can be uniform because there is only one reality and in the end the theories are derived from the evidence and validated against reality. Religious views are based on preconceived ideas rather than evidence and are never validated against reality. Consequently there is no mechanism of acheiving uniform understanding.

    In essence the so called “materialism” criticism of science which is extremely common with mainstream theologians reflects this. Insistence on including the “supernatural” really means insistence on introducing ideas without the need for evidence and validation.

    So I think my criticism of the theological method applies to mainstream theology. Not just fundies.


  17. However, the fact that there are, and have historically been huge disagreement between theologians, and new theological ideas have come about as time progresses means that at least some people must be following the evidence…

    Nope. It doesn’t have to mean that at all.

    It could simply be that they are just all wrong.
    Their theological navel-gazing could simply be all equally flawed and worthless and based on nothing much of use at all.


  18. “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil: so fight ye against the friends of Satan” (Qu’ran 4:76)

    Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Qur’an 9:5).

    Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued”


  19. However, the fact that there are, and have historically been huge disagreement between theologians, and new theological ideas have come about as time progresses means that at least some people must be following the evidence…

    “Classical scholars argued that anyone who studied the Qur’an without having mastered the doctrine of abrogation would be “deficient.” Those who do not accept abrogation fall outside the mainstream and, perhaps, even the religion itself. The Ahmadiyah sect, for example, today concentrated in Pakistan, consistently rejects abrogation because it undercuts the notion that the Qur’an is free from errors. Many Muslims consider Ahmadis, who also see their founder as a prophet, to be apostates.

    Because the Qur’an is not organized chronologically, there has been a whole subset of theological study to determine which verses abrogate and which are abrogated. Muslim scholars base their understanding of theology not only upon the Qur’an but also upon hadiths, accounts of the Prophet Muhammad’s life.”


  20. Pingback: A New Zealand climate change pseudosceptic apologises! | Open Parachute

  21. Pingback: A New Zealand climate change pseudosceptic apologises! | Secular News Daily

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