Swindle and the Stick

The first complaint by RMS (and others) against Swindle seems to be about their handling of the Hockey Stick. A new complaint from someone at the University of Bristol includes a spaghetti graph, including MBH, saying that it shows that the newer reconstructions use “superior methods”, “supersede” the earlier results and that the old IPCC 1990 version was “wrong”. They assert:

Seemingly, TGGWS uses the old versions of the reconstructions because, in the context of the program, they support the notion that the current warming trend is small by comparison to the medieval warm period. Their failure to cite this more advanced and recent work is puzzling, misleading and wrong.

I think that most of the Swindle battles are a waste of time because I don’t think that either side has played their cards very well.

In this case, I think there was a very powerful story line connecting the IPCC 1990 graphic to the Hockey Stick – one which Ross and I have used in presentations on several occasions. Had Swindle followed this exposition, I think that, on the one hand, it would have been a much better exposition and, on the other hand, it would not have been open to complaint about biased use of obsolete versions.

On the other hand, the complainants are opening up the entire Hockey Stick issue, which is a lousy issue for them. Imagine trying to defend Mannian methodology as an improvement on anything.

Think about the following storyline (or any subset of it) as an alternative to the present situation.

The IPCC 1990 graph is an important reference point. Ross and I have used it in presentations – but differently than Swindle. We said loud and clear that this is what the specialists thought in 1990 — providing a specific reference to IPCC 1990. You don’t imply that it’s what IPCC climate scientists are selling right now. Durkin could still use it as a segue to the visually appealing bits about the MWP and LIA by explaining that that’s what people thought only 16 years ago.

After the graphics about the MWP and LIA, you can turn back to the graphic and observe — if this is what specialists thought in 1990, it certainly doesn’t convey any sense of urgency. It must have been hard/impossible to convey alarm with this as a sales graphic. You need good graphics to sell stock and this graph won’t sell stock. Then you segue into David Deming and “Get rid of the MWP”. Deming said [note – see his Senate testimony in 2006 here] (and he’d probably make an interesting interview):

With the publication of the article in Science [in 1995], I gained significant credibility in the community of scientists working on climate change. They thought I was one of them, someone who would pervert science in the service of social and political causes. So one of them let his guard down. A major person working in the area of climate change and global warming sent me an astonishing email that said – We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.

Maybe Jonathan Overpeck could be asked on the record about this quote. Then move along to 1998: just like the medieval king’€™s wish to be rid of the turbulent priest, there was someone ready to get rid of the MWP. Along came the MBH Hockey Stick. It not not only got rid of the MWP, but it came with the promise of “statistical skill”. It came with fancy graphics luridly showing phenomenal statistical achievement.

Here’s a graphic from MBH98 showing fancy verification r2 statistics (the ones that weren’t calculated.)


It didn’t just have statistical skill; for people who were worried about potential problems with tree rings, it had something for them too: it was “robust” to the presence or absence of tree ring proxies altogether. Best thing since sliced bread.

Right away Mann was made lead author of the IPCC section studying the Hockey Stick. The promotion didn’t stop there: the Stick went right to the top of the IPCC food chain. At the big press conference announcing IPCC TAR, on the podium behind John Houghton was the Stick.

Climate scientists were delirious with joy. MBH got cited more times than Einstein. Mann was one of Scientific American’s visionaries of the year. It was what the market wanted. But did anybody check it? Here’s what Mann said in 2003:

30. Did IPCC carry out any independent programs to verify the calculations that you made in MBH98 or MBH99? If so, please provide copies of the reports resulting from such studies.

Mann: It is distinctly against the mission of the IPCC to “carry out independent programs”, so the premise of the question is false. However, the IPCC’s author team did engage in a lively interchanges about the quality and overall consistency of all of the papers as the chapter was drafted and revised in the course of review.”

Isn’t it great that they had a “lively interchange”? Who needs to check things when you can have a “lively interchange”. Then discuss the attempts by the Team to block examination of the stick:

Jones: We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

Mann: Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in.’

Then they could ask: was any of it true? (in Swindle’s words). What about Mann’s claims about verification r2? Cut to Mann telling the NAS Panel that he didn’t calculate the verification r2 statistic as that would be a “foolish and incorrect thing to do”, while leaving the Nature graphic on the screen. Show the claims about statistical skill on the screen with a Mann voiceover saying “I am not a statistician”. (I’ll bet that there’s some tape of this around.)

Then go to the UCAR press release from Ammann and Wahl announcing that allegations about MBH98 — including the failed verification – were “unfounded”. Show their letter refusing to provide the verification r2. Read in John Houghton piling on. Then read from the NAS Panel and Wegman on verification statistics. Put up a screen showing the verification r2 bankruptcy.

Maybe there could be a little segue on bristlecones. I’m sure that something visually attractive could be found. Read from Mann saying that his reconstruction was “robust” to presence/absence of bristlecones. Then show the CENSORED directory and the graphs from the CENSORED directory.

Then show that Mann’s method made hockey sticks out of random data.

Wegman would make a great interview. Even without interviewing him, there must be footage from the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings. Ask Jerry North about how the NAS Panel carried out due diligence.

One could even bring the discussion full circle by discussing treelines in California and the Urals (Millar et al 2006, Naurzbaev et al 2004) both of which have nice quotes about a very warm MWP (and both cited by the NAS Panel). They close the circle to IPCC 1990 since Lamb’s original calculations which underlay the IPCC 1990 case were heavily influenced by treelines.

It’s hard to know where to stop. The Swindle complainants should be careful what they ask for. If Durkin had to re-do the section on the Stick, he might well come up with something that is much more powerful than what he’s presently got.


  1. kchua
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 1:01 PM | Permalink


    It seems to me though that Swindle is being held to a higher standard than AIT.

    I suppose that is the nature of the game.

  2. John Nicklin
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 1:39 PM | Permalink

    AIT is now conventional wisdom, as oxymoronic as it may seem. AIT therefore does not have to answer for its shortcomings.

    When you fight against conventional “wisdom” you will always need to go through hell. What we have to keep in mind is Churchill’s admonision: “When you find yourself in hell, keep going.”

    We are starting to see more skeptical reportage, which should lead to more of the debate that we need to have. That some people (RMS) are making this fuss means that the other side is afraid.

  3. Posted May 8, 2007 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    The author of the Bristol letter appears to be a PhD student in the Chemistry department rather than a prof.

  4. bruce
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    Another devastating graphic would be the one that you produced showing that downward temperature adjustments for the first part of the last century and upward adjustments for the latter part of the century account for nearly all of the claimed warming last century.

    I tried searching for that post using the search function, but couldn’t find it for some reason.

  5. L Nettles
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 3:09 PM | Permalink

    When you are complaining about others, perhaps you should review your own arguments carefully.

    From the new complaint letter:

    No thermometers existed prior to 1850, so there is no absolute record of what the temperature was like hundreds of years ago.

    History of Thermometers

    The Celsius Scale
    In 1742 a Swedish scientist named Anders Celsius (1701-1744) devised a thermometer scale dividing the freezing and boiling points of water into 100 degrees. Celsius chose 0 degrees for the boiling point of water, and 100 degrees for the freezing point. A year later, the Frenchman Jean Pierre Cristin (1683-1755) inverted the Celsius scale to produce the Centigrade scale used today (freezing point 0°, boiling point 100°). By international agreement in 1948 Cristin’s adapted scale became known as Celsius and is still in use today.

  6. Follow the Money
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 3:46 PM | Permalink

    The Swindle complainants should be careful what they ask for.

    Which IMO is exampled by the letter’s No. 1

    1. The use of outdated versions of past temperature reconstructions, and the failure to mention newer examples of this type of work.

    I believe the writer is sincere, but is not engaged in the politics of AAGW to recognize why a history of the “work” would be disasterous. If the science is shown to have evolved, it immediately raises “whys” like “Why have they changed” and “Why has each later addisiton conformed to the political agenda, showing sharper warming, etc.”

    The tactic that others have taken are a kind of supercessionism – the latest “work” is validated it being the most recent creation, prior work is superceded rather than to be tested against. It is not inherent in science that this faith-like attitude is taken, but in the greater context of the political aims of the money pushing AAGW.

    No thermometers existed prior to 1850

    The writer probably meant to write “no thermometer records”

  7. Dave Dardinger
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 3:51 PM | Permalink

    What complaint letter are you talking about? You really need to provide a link if something isn’t in the same thread you’re posting in.

  8. Sam
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

    Steve, I would also add something about the “revisions” to the GHCN and the USHCN and how “convenient” these changes are.

    Also, wouldn’t the 1990 graphs become relevant once again since MBH98-99 and the HS had been disapproved? Doesn’t the old “concensus” come back into being – the one where the MWP and LIA were firmly accepted?

  9. L Nettles
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    What complaint letter are you talking about? You really need to provide a link if something isn’t in the same thread you’re posting in.

    Dave, see the link “new complaint” in the second line of the main post.

  10. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 6:19 PM | Permalink

    #8. All I would say is that it’s an open question. It’s plausible that the modern warm period is warmer than the MWP; the opposite is also IMO plausible.

  11. ks
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 7:55 PM | Permalink

    Mr. McIntyre, since this is your area of expertise I thought you could help guide me. I’m looking for a recent (within the last 3-4 years) peer-reviewed global reconstruction of the last 1000 years (or more) that shows the Medieval Warm Period as comparable to global temperatures in the last 10 years or so. Could you point me towards some publications?

  12. e.o.
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 8:40 PM | Permalink


    If the complaint is filed before a court of law may we know the venue, lawyers for both parties and the media coverage. The court trials should be more interesting that the ” Tennesse monkey trials”.

  13. bender
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 9:00 PM | Permalink

    Cook et al. 2004
    Esper et al. 2002
    Both have threads devoted to them at this blog.
    Happy reading.

  14. Al
    Posted May 8, 2007 at 10:05 PM | Permalink

    Better than:

    “Then show that Mann’s method made hockey sticks out of random data.”

    The _reversed_ series should also generate… a hockey stick. Still going up.

    The way the model is arranged it is that strongly predisposed to sticks with the blade pointing up.

  15. Willis Eschenbach
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 2:10 AM | Permalink

    Follow the Money, you say:

    No thermometers existed prior to 1850

    The writer probably meant to write “no thermometer records”

    There are thermometer records, as well as thermometers, prior to 1850. See, for example, the Armagh temperature records, continuous since 1796. So I don’t think that his mistake was the mis-statement you propose.


  16. Paul
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 2:51 AM | Permalink

    The ‘new complainant’ is, as pointed out above, a PhD student. Furthermore, his complaints are nothing new. He appears to have got his misinformation from ‘realclimate’ and wikipedia, in the mistaken belief that these are reliable sources.

  17. Jeff Norman
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 5:38 AM | Permalink

    Regarding complaint #1):

    1) The use of outdated versions of past climate temperature reconstructions, and the failure to mention newer examples of this work

    When GISS/CRU/whomever issue a “climate temperature reconstruction” do these include statements to the effect of:

    “This climate temperature reconstruction supercedes all previous climate temperature reconstruction issued by this institute/research facility. All previous climate temperature reconstructions should be discarded and not used to represent historical and/or prehistorical local/regional/hemispheric/global temperatures when establishing the need for climate policy.”

    I didn’t think so. Why then would these people assume that an earlier temperature trend would be less valid than a current temperature trend? Surely the use of a particular temperature trend depends upon the message you are trying to convey, or so it would seem…

    The whole response to the Swindle is absolutely brilliant. Durkin can now produce a sequel that focuses on the response and detail all the arguments being presented on both sides. Really, quite clever.


  18. Posted May 9, 2007 at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    This debate is also going on over at my site,
    I have the Bristol chap getting rather huffy in the comment section.

    And Dr John Christy doesn’t seem too impressed either.

  19. EP
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

    #18 The “Teacher of Science” clearly doesn’t like the 1996 Education laws which specifically tried to remove political bias from teaching in UK schools. IF you’re using a political source (“IPCC”, consensus decisions etc.)then you open a whole new can of warm worms.

  20. bernie
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 11:17 AM | Permalink

    Elaib #18
    I for one believe that the current debate is an excellent opportunity to teach intellectual curiousity, critical thinking, statistics
    and science. However, there is no way I would use Gore’s self-aggrandizing book as a text. It really should be a source of quasi-empirical assertions that need verification. One could start simply from “How do you measure the temperature of the world?” That should keep the sharp students busy for a couple of months and will force them to recognize that all is not what it seems.
    I will again blatantly hype the terrific book by Aaron Wildavsky – “But is it true?” – God, I wish Mr Catt, my Physics teacher, used that instead of crammers for O and A-Levels.

  21. Posted May 9, 2007 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    Is it not true that the Swindle movie is just wrong about the relative magnitudes of CO2 emissions. John Christy is on camera at about 22:30 stating that human contibutions to CO2 are small. Then at 22:44 there is an animation behind which the announcer says that volcanoes produce more CO2 than man.

    When I google CO2 and volcanoes I get a number of articles that all trace back to studies by Gerlach. Gerlach reports that man made CO2 is about 150 times that of volcanic CO2. If this is true or even close to being true then the Swindle movie is flatly wrong on this point.

    Is there something I’m missing here?

  22. Steve McIntyre
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 11:45 AM | Permalink

    You’re not wrong. The volcano stuff is wrong. Durkin acknowledged this and said that it was being removed – see for example the Scotsman exchange.

  23. Larry Huldén
    Posted May 9, 2007 at 12:10 PM | Permalink

    “No thermometers existed prior to 1850”
    “The writer probably meant to write “no thermometer records””

    Uppsala recording in Sweden is continuous since 1722, homogenized measurements.
    Stockholm is a similar series since 1756.

  24. John Nicklin
    Posted May 10, 2007 at 8:54 AM | Permalink

    23: Larry

    Don’t some of the US records go back to 1775 or so, I think I remember seeing a chart somewhere that shows a timeline that long but I could be mistaken. If anyone knows where such a chart is, I’d appreciate the URL.

  25. John Nicklin
    Posted May 10, 2007 at 9:01 AM | Permalink

    This debate is also going on over at my site,
    I have the Bristol chap getting rather huffy in the comment section.

    Rather huffy would seem to be an understatement. Its the whole 2500 scientists agree with me syndrome all over again. Some lecturer at a university has made a statement and by God, that’s the end of the arguement.

    Swindle has errors, Durkin seems to be refining the presentation. I think the more telling aspect of Swindle is that some well respected scientists are speaking out against the belief system of AGW. That, in my mind, carries some weight, even though those same scientists are being slandered at desmogblog as shills for the oil industry. In my books being attacked by desmogblog is a good sign that one is on the right track.

  26. ks
    Posted May 10, 2007 at 10:55 AM | Permalink

    Re #13

    bender, could you specify which papers and if possible, a link to the original article?

    if you were referring to –
    Extra-tropical Northern Hemisphere land temperature variability over the past 1000 years
    ER Cook, J Esper, RD D’Arrigo – Quaternary Science Reviews, 2004

    It does not show the Medieval Warm Period as comparable to temperatures within the last 10 years for the extra-tropical NH land temperature. Also, I was hoping for a global reconstruction, not a regional one.

    Thank you for your assistance on the matter.

  27. Michael Jankowski
    Posted May 11, 2007 at 1:21 PM | Permalink

    Swindle has errors, Durkin seems to be refining the presentation

    Imagine that – dialogue, admissions of errors, corrections, etc. A productive process free of rubber-stamping and adamantly refusing to admit when wrong.

  28. John Nicklin
    Posted May 11, 2007 at 3:31 PM | Permalink

    Climatedenier.blog has taken exception to TGGWS because, among other things, Fred Singer was called the former Director of the US Weather Service. Dr. Singer was actually the Director of the US Weather Satellite Service. They didn’t point that out though so people could see how similar the titles are. Apparently they are comfortable with Al Gore introducing himself as the former next president, a job that doesn’t exist at all.

    They also like Ross Gelbspan the Pulitzer Prize winning author who never got a Pulitzer prize.

  29. John Nicklin
    Posted May 11, 2007 at 3:32 PM | Permalink

    Oops, sorry, that should be climatedenial.org, need to be precise about these things.

  30. Keith Herbert
    Posted May 15, 2007 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

    The purpose of the documentary used to be to present a broad scope of an issue and let the viewer decide where they stand on the issue. Michael Moore and now Al Gore have perverted the genre to be more persuasion than education. In response, there are contrasting documentaries that present another side of an issue that the original documentary neglected to present.
    I viewed AIT and TGGWS one after the other. I found AIT contained very little science but many images of Al Gore’s profile gazing at some landscape. When scenes of retreating glaciers or hurricane damges were shown it didn’t say nor offer any proof that they were due to AGW, but most would assume that was the message. Real Climate did provide a review http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=299, but claimed the science was mostly good. They also admit Al Gore is a fan of their work.
    Swindle goes more out on a limb. They try to address some of the science and risk criticism for possible innaccuracies. But there are actual interviews with scientists and studies cited. It is much easier for the lay viewer (such as myself) to verify their accuracy as they actually present something to research. AIT does not so little is risked.
    I am not a scientist but was struck by a comment made by a friend. I said there were differing opinions about the science of global warming. He said, “they can always find someone to disagree with the concensus”. So I began my research. After about six months of compiling scientific studies and opinions, I can clearly state there is no consensus.

  31. Jim
    Posted Aug 14, 2007 at 7:01 PM | Permalink

    These two quotes are stunning to say the least. They (and Jones quite explicitly, at that) defend their work by invoking the antithesis of how scientific inquiry works.

  32. Spence_UK
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    OfCom in the UK has reported on its investigation into The Great Global Warming Swindle. The net result was a bit of a wash out, NAS style, with “something for everyone”.

    One thing that caught my eye was the BBC report – see here for the full info – describes the finding, but what is more interesting is how they link it from their main science/nature page; yep, using MBH98! I’ve captured the page, and you can see my screen cap here. BBC link here, at least until the story moves off the headlines. Not sure whether this is a subtle attempt at irony or not on the part of someone at the BBC.

    In summary, OfCom were unimpressed by the 176 pages of documented factual errors in the programme. They found the science bits of the programme did not breach any codes, nor did it mislead. They were dinged for their treatment of Carl Wunsch and for their criticism of the IPCC without giving the IPCC a chance to reply – ironically because the IPCC is considered a political body, rather than a scientific one, it should have had an opportunity to defend itself.

    The hockey stick link is interesting because, of course, this is such a shining example of bias by the IPCC. Nice of Auntie to remind us all.

  33. brent_ns
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 1:48 PM | Permalink

    Here’s the Ofcom report

    Click to access issue114.pdf

  34. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 1:59 PM | Permalink

    The best part is Martin Durkin’s responses in the e-mails. Ward sounds like a hockey player.

  35. UK John
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 3:57 PM | Permalink

    So in UK, OFCOM found the “Swindle” was a swindle. A UK Court found “Inconvenient Truth” full of Untruths.

    So both are wrong, what is the Truth? is anybody right? Does it matter?

    We believe what we want, that is our human nature, we are human first and scientists, engineers, doctors etc. a very poor second. Every human civilisation has believed our actions affect the planets climate, this is who we are.

    The Climate Change industry and debate, including this Blog, tells us a lot about Human Nature, it will tell us very little about the Earths Climate.

  36. bernie
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 4:09 PM | Permalink

    My read of Ofcom Report is that if you want to push in a particular public policy direction on a politically live issue you need some effort to balance the argument. If so one assumes that what is sauce for the goose, should be sauce for the gander. Otherwise, they have pronounced no harm, no foul.

  37. trevor
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 4:10 PM | Permalink

    UK John. I think that if you read the OFCOM report, you will find that they did not, in fact, conclude that the “Swindle” was a swindle. I was very impressed by the thorough and careful consideration that OFCOM gave to the issues, and in particular the nuanced discussion that led the findings made.

    Having read press accounts (from the Sydney Morning Herald and The Guardian) before I read the whole report, it becomes very evident that the OFCOM review of the complaints is very difficult to summarise succinctly, given its thorough and detailed consideration of the issues.

    To do justice to the issue, those seriously interested in the issues should read the entire OFCOM report on the matters raised. It is illuminating in many ways, and I suggest that the IPCC and its acolytes could hardly be happy with the outcome.

  38. Wansbeck
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 5:29 PM | Permalink

    Taken from Sir John Houghton’s website:


    Dr Benjamin Santer has written on our Responses to the Ruling page:

    Anyone who has children has an investment in the future – an investment in the kind of world we leave behind for our descendants. In order to take informed decisions on “what to do” about the problem of human-induced climate change, and hence on our climatic legacy, we need an informed electorate. The media play a crucial role in this process of disseminating information to the general public. They are a trusted source of information. Given their privileged position, they have a responsibility to “get the science right”, and to get the facts right, particularly on matters of significant national and international concern.

    Unfortunately, Channel 4 abdicated their journalistic responsibility to give a fair and balanced picture of the current state of climate science. They presented a completely false picture of a community of climate scientists actively engaged in duping the rest of the world. Channel 4’s Great Global Warming Swindle focused on selling a bizarre conspiracy theory to the British public, rather than on doing the diligent, painstaking reporting that would have been necessary in order to improve public understanding of a complex scientific issue.

    My Bold.

    Apparently this applies to commercial television stations.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if it also applied to publicly funded bodies like the IPCC.

  39. Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 5:35 PM | Permalink

    Having read the Ofcom report AFTER hearing the BBC news on the subject I was expecting to see the Swindle slated. However the media reports and the actual ruling are very different, and in this respect there are considerable similarities with Media treatment of Wegmans congressional report on the Hockey stick debate. Wegman slated the AGW material but you wouldn’t know that from the media reports.

    Ofcom basically found almost totally in favour of Channel 4 with caveats about impartiality. A little strange perhaps, bearing in mind it was a polemic and plenty of Pro AGW programmes get transmitted routinely (Including the News!) without ‘Balance’ from the other side.

    The fact the Scientific community thoroughly lost the debate can be seen from their determination to appeal against the ruling. You don’t appeal if you’ve proved your point.
    Depressing to read the exchange with the Bristol Physics teacher. What a narrow minded individual. My sons School had got the ‘propaganda’ pack and he got really angry when I started querying the ‘science’ of the various Dvd’s. Now he’s (almost) convinced that he hasn’t been told the full story but is confused as to the reasons why he was being fed propaganda as scientific fact. They are not being told to question the consensus which surely defines science

    Tony Brown

  40. Wansbeck
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

    Yes, here’s the BBC headline

    Climate documentary ‘broke rules’

    Wouldn’t it be nice if impartiality also applied to publicly funded bodies like the BBC!

    Wansbeck former S.Tel. E. Tel. Rec. FES BBC (long, long time ago)

  41. Pat Keating
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 6:11 PM | Permalink

    38 Wansbeck

    Apparently this applies to commercial television stations.

    Of course, Channel 4 is a publicly-funded television network.

  42. Wansbeck
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 6:23 PM | Permalink

    Channel 4 is a publicly-funded television network

    Channel 4 is a ‘public service’ service network but its revenue is from commercials.

    I beleive, but am not sure, that it has received some public support for minority programs and there has been some recent talk of a partnership with the commercial arm of the BBC but it is a commercial station.

  43. bender
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 6:34 PM | Permalink

    Climate documentary ‘broke rules’

    They could have complied with the ‘rules’ that were ‘broken’ (unfairness, nondisclosure) and the story would not have changed all that much.

    Specifically, Singer’s quote (on the the chief UK scientist on habitability under warming) could have been modified to comply without much loss. Wunsch’s contribution could have been given an expanded context or dropped altogether, without much difference. IPCC could have been given 4 weeks instead of 4 days to reply as to the editorial process. Who’s to say they wouldn’t request 4 months or 4 years?

  44. Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 6:35 PM | Permalink

    Re #41

    Channel 4 is a public service broadcaster which is commercially funded and subject to the Communications Act 2003 and is currently answerable to the Ofcom and formerly the IBA.

  45. Gerald Machnee
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 7:41 PM | Permalink

    Were the rules broken when the schools were issued copies of the Inconvenient Truth? This seems to work one way. I seems the only way they could complain about showing the Swindle was to use the “rules”. Much like the trolls do here. They started with rules then digressed to details.

  46. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 21, 2008 at 8:21 PM | Permalink

    I’m going to do a post on this. I’ve read the Ofcom decision closely. I disagree that the decision was “a bit of a wash out”. It was about as total a win as Swindle could remotely have hoped for. Bob Ward and the gaggle of 37 professors (Myles Allen, John Houghton, Phil Jones) got absolutely stuffed on 99% of the complaint.

    Every single one of their complaints about the science was rejected. Not that Ofcom said that they were wrong about the science; only that they had come into the wrong room if they were looking for comfort. Ofcom’s powers were limited to deciding on whether sections 2 or 5 of the Act had been breached and, in respect to the science, they concluded that they hadn’t.

    Swindle only lost on a couple of pretty small points – their handling of the last segment on Africa and a couple of restricted finings on unfairness to individusls, essentially boiling down to a finding that they had not given adequate change to IPCC or David King to respond or give enough explanation to Carl Wunsch. But when you read the decisions, they make the individual complainants look incompetent. Someone at Ofcom has a real sense of humor.

    I started writing up a long post, but the grandkids came over. I’ll post tomorrow.

  47. brent_ns
    Posted Jul 22, 2008 at 12:10 AM | Permalink

    Climate film ‘flawed but useful

    The blockbuster climate disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow contains badly flawed science and ignores the laws of physics, leading UK scientists believe.

    But many of them have welcomed the film as a dramatic and popular way to raise people’s awareness of climate change.

    Sir David King, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said he hoped many ordinary Americans would see the film.

    And the former US Vice-President Al Gore said the risks the film portrayed were a threat to our common future.

    Beyond the science

    Speaking in London, Sir David described The Day After Tomorrow as “a spectacular action film” which portrayed the switching off of the Gulf Stream and the Northern Hemisphere’s subsequent plunge into a new Ice Age.

    The scientific consensus was that climate change might lead to a weakening of the thermohaline circulation (THC), the phenomenon that drives the Gulf Stream; but it was not expected to cause its complete halting, as in the film.

    Sir David said the present global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 379 parts per million, the highest for at least 420,000 years, was “very significantly higher” than during previous warm periods.

    But that did not mean the THC, which keeps north-western Europe about 5C warmer than it would be otherwise, would switch off at all, and certainly not as quickly as The Day After Tomorrow suggested.

    The film “unrealistically concertinas into a few weeks a scenario which, if it did occur, would take decades or a century”.

    Sir David said: “The film brings events together into a highly unlikely or even impossible scenario. It’s very difficult to explain the physics of it.

    “But what’s good is that while my colleagues and I have just spent half an hour presenting you with the scientific understanding of climate change, the movie gets the basic message across in a few sentences of dialogue. It’s a beautiful piece of script-writing.

    Ignoring the facts

    “I hope US audiences will see it. It’s very important that we all take cognisance of what science is saying, and that includes American politicians.”

    Dr Jenkins said scientists thought a collapse of the THC was a low-probability but high-impact event. But they did not know how low the probability was, and in principle it could happen.

    Dr David Viner, of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, told BBC News Online: “The film got a lot of the detail wrong, and the direction of change as well – cooling of this sort is very unlikely with global warming.

    “But the fact that The Day After Tomorrow raises awareness about climate change must be a good thing.”

    Images copyright 2004 Twentieth Century Fox.


  48. brent_ns
    Posted Jul 22, 2008 at 12:46 AM | Permalink

    Climate Swindle film: bruised egos, but no offence

    British regulator Ofcom has rejected complaints that the popular polemical film, The Great Global Warming Swindle, misled viewers. The regulator said it was paramount that the public received alternative points of view – even if these were not endorsed by institutions or the major political parties.

    While some aspects of the presentation “caused some concern”, the regulator notes, such as failing to give guests time to respond after broadcast, the errors were “of such insignificance” that they could not be judged to mislead the audience.

    Ofcom said it couldn’t judge the validity of the facts on each side of the argument, but rather that its job was to decide whether the programme breached the Broadcasting Code, in which programmes must not mislead viewers in order to cause offence.

    “Ofcom considers that it is important, in line with freedom of expression, that broadcasters are able to challenge current orthodoxy. It is self-evident that there will be strong disagreements over the ‘facts’ on an issue such as the causes of global warming – where some scientists disagree. Some may wish to challenge the evidence and the conclusions drawn from it. Channel 4, however, had the right to show this programme provided it remained within the Code and – despite certain reservations – Ofcom has determined that it did not breach Rule 2.2. On balance it did not materially mislead the audience so as to cause harm or offence.”

    The hour long programme, directed and narrated by Martin Durkin, was screened in March 2007, and has subsequently become a hit on DVD. Environmental activists blame the film, and the broadcaster Channel 4, for undermining public confidence in the theory that human CO2 emissions are primarily responsible for increasing temperatures in the late 20th century.

    Ofcom ruled that Swindle did not pretend to represent the mainstream view, and clearly labelled its contents; it did not dispute that temperatures were rising (something it could legitimately have done, as temperatures have been steady for almost a decade, the British climate research centres Hadley and the Climatic Research Unit now agree).

  49. henry
    Posted Jul 22, 2008 at 6:33 AM | Permalink

    #38, re: Dr Benjamin Santer quote:

    Unfortunately, Channel 4 abdicated their journalistic responsibility to give a fair and balanced picture of the current state of climate science. They presented a completely false picture of a community of climate scientists actively engaged in duping the rest of the world. Channel 4’s Great Global Warming Swindle focused on selling a bizarre conspiracy theory to the British public, rather than on doing the diligent, painstaking reporting that would have been necessary in order to improve public understanding of a complex scientific issue.

    Consider this “revision”:

    An Inconvenient Truth focused on selling an alarming scenario to the public, rather than on doing the diligent, painstaking science that would have been necessary in order to verify their findings, and improve the public understanding of a complex scientific issue.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] pick up today with a 2007 post that was critical of the reification of the IPCC 1990 graphic in Martin Durkin’s Swindle. I […]

  2. […] In previous reflections on this topic (most recently in 2007 here), I had made the (to-me-obvious) point that it would be difficult to motivate policy makers or the […]

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