Spectator on Steig v O’Donnell

The Steig-O’Donnell story is featured in this week’s Spectator in the UK. Authors are Nic Lewis, a coauthor of O’Donnell et al 2010, and Matt Ridley.


  1. Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM | Permalink

    Congratulations to Nick Lewis and Matt Ridley!

    • NicL
      Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 1:30 PM | Permalink


  2. L Nettles
    Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 11:42 AM | Permalink

    An article about the larger cover story can be found here


  3. Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Permalink

    I’m glad that the standards for accuracy on this blog are so much higher than those in the ‘coffeehouse’ teaser from the Spectator that L Nettles links to. And, considering the relative number of misleading or wrong statements in the teaser and in the excerpts included in the teaser, Lewis and Ridley’s standards for accuracy also appear to be quite a bit higher.

    There’s only one segment quoted from the article that I’d regard as factually incorrect: “They quickly learn that funding and promotion dries up if you express heterodox views, or doubt the scripture. The scripture, in this case, being the assembled reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

    The latest IPCC report (WG1, Section said: “Studies of surface temperature [in the Antarctic] (e.g., van den Broeke, 2000; Vaughan et al., 2001; Thompson and Solomon, 2002; Doran et al., 2002; Schneider et al., 2004; Turner et al., 2005) similarly showed regional patterns including strong warming in the Antarctic Peninsula region, and cooling at some other stations. Long-term data are very sparse, precluding confident identification of continent-wide trends.”

    So, in reality, Steig et al. were expressing heterodox views and doubting the scripture. The O’Donnell et al. paper, by casting doubt on Steig et al., confirms the scripture.

    • Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

      The funny thing is, I made the same observation to Andy Revkin in December. Our version appears to restore the more “traditional” view of temperature change on the continent. I have no personal knowledge whether the “traditional” view is or is not consistent with the generally accepted CO2 sensitivity numbers.

    • Nicolas Nierenberg
      Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Permalink


      In what way were Steig et al. challenging the IPCC conclusions as stated? Their paper agreed that there was strong warming in the Peninsula and cooling at some stations. The IPCC expressed uncertainty about the other trends, and their paper attempts to add more certainty.

      Similarly O’Donnell et al is also consistent with the IPCC conclusions as stated.

    • Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

      John N-G

      Is this really your best point or argument? That Steig et al were ‘challenging’ the scripture ..

      In that case, I would say: “The debate is over … “

    • Tom Gray
      Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

      I think that the orthtodox view in this case refers to the Antarctic warming predicted by climate models. Teh cooling described elsewhere was used as a club by scptics and wasd considered an embarrassment by teh AGW establishment

      • Nicolas Nierenberg
        Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 3:54 PM | Permalink

        Yes, one way of telling whether something challenged the orthodoxy is by seeing who was annoyed by it. In this case the Steig paper clearly annoyed the skeptics (unconvinced?) and not the mainstream.

        • Dave Andrews
          Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 4:07 PM | Permalink

          Are you sure it didn’t annoy the mainstream?

          After all it took almost a year to be accepted and Trenberth was pretty dismissive of its attempt to manufacture data where none existed.

    • mark t
      Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 8:10 PM | Permalink

      The difference, of course, was that the accepted view did not fit with the polar amplification meme and thus, a challenge to the scripture was what they were looking for. Shame on you for not seeing this.


  4. Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 12:35 PM | Permalink

    Steig at al gets the front cover of The Trick, O’Donnell et al gets the front cover of Spectator.

    It’s a win.

  5. steven mosher
    Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    Mentioning the lukewarmer(tm) word. Moshpit approves.

    Congrats Nic.

    This issue is messy on all sides! the scientific, the personal, the institutional.

    • NicL
      Posted Feb 17, 2011 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

      Many thanks!

    • Posted Feb 18, 2011 at 4:45 AM | Permalink

      Matt Ridley has been calling himself a lukewarmer since at least August Steve. It made me think of you when I read that. A useful label allowing a key UK science writer to join the fray without becoming a crazy (like me)!

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