Cut and cherry-paste: The Australian shamelessly cherry picking the words of scientists

Pity poor Tim Lambert.

For some time he kept us amused with his series The Australian’s War on Science, keeping News Limited’s flagship paper honest by pointing out its frequent distortions of science.

Tim blogs less frequently on Deltoid, nor have seen an entry for the War on Science for some time. Before I started Watching the Deniers I was a frequent reader of Deltoid: I credit his work as one of influences and inspirations for this blog.

I blame Chris Mitchell – editor of The Australian – for Tim’s silence. How so you say?

The distortion of science has reached such prodigious proportions at “The Oz” you’d need a veritable army of winged monkeys locked in a science library, each one furiously researching and cataloging that paper’s ongoing misrepresentation of science. Cataloging the breadth and depth of the misrepresentation of science and scientists within the pages of The Australian is now beyond the capacity of a single individual.

Tim did the smart thing: he came, he saw, he captured their many distortions and then preserved his sanity by moving on. In doing so he has left us an invaluable record.

No doubt, Tim is experiencing far less moments like this:

Still every now and then it is worth revisiting how Mitchell and his merry band of scribblers happily ensconced in their Surrey Hills bunker like to play at “science”.

Cherry picking: four-for-four misquotes

The no warming for almost 17 years myth got a healthy push today across News Ltd today, with both the Cut and Paste section of The Australian and Andrew Bolt pushing this falsity. 

Green Senator Christine Milne was the subject of today’s ritualized skewering of dissidents (i.e. those voices the editors of Murdoch’s publications deem enemies of unfettered free markets) for expressing the view climate change was “accelerating” on Channel Ten’s Meet the Press:

TORY Maguire: One of the ongoing, really damaging things for Julia Gillard politically, has from the very beginning continued to be her backflip on the carbon tax. Are you starting to look now at the fact that you, the Greens, pushed her so hard in 2010 to make that deal, when, really, it is going to end up being counter-productive, because she’s going to get absolutely obliterated at the next election, and Tony Abbott has promised to overturn it.

Christine Milne: Well, the key thing is that global warming is accelerating.

In the style typical of Cut and Paste, Milne’s comments were juxtaposed with four seemingly authoritative quotes that both undermined her view while implying the science community had reached a new consensus on climate change: that the warming had “stopped”.

In case you were in doubt, today’s Cut and Paste was titled “Isn’t it terrible when people insist on denying the consensus about climate change.”

The four quotes are as follows:

[Quote 1] Professor Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, January 8:

A LOT of people (not the IPCC) were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought. What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends. We did see unexpectedly fast warming from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, but the IPCC, quite correctly, did not suggest this was evidence for acceleration.

[Quote 2] Dr Richard Allan, reader in climate science at the University of Reading, January 8:

GLOBAL warming is not at a standstill but does seem to have slowed down since 2000 in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s.

[Quote 3] Professor Brian Hoskins, the director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London:

THE current news item that the Met Office now predicts no global warming in the period up to 2017 is based on the latest five-year forecast run with their new climate model . . . One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017. This is consistent with a multi-decadal fluctuation in temperature that presently opposes the continued upward trend.

[Quote 4] David Shukman, science editor, BBC News, January 8:

THE UK Met Office has revised one of its forecasts for how much the world may warm in the next few years . . . If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.

Of course, I could not resist going to the original sources. Let us examine the quotes and see if the experts cited in Cut and Paste agree with the implication that global warming has come to a standstill.

Quote 1: Myles Allen “It is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends”

The source of the Allen quote can be found in an interview with the Science Media Centre (SMC) in an article published online on January 8 2013.

Here is the full quote – note, I’ve highlighted the text cited by Cut and Paste in blue and the critically omitted text in red:

“That said, a lot of people (not the IPCC) were claiming, in the run-up to the Copenhagen 2009 conference, that ‘warming was accelerating and it is all worse than we thought’. What has happened since then has demonstrated that it is foolish to extrapolate short-term climate trends. We did see unexpectedly fast warming from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s, but the IPCC, quite correctly, did not suggest this was evidence for acceleration. 

“While every new year brings in welcome new data to help us rule out the more extreme (good and bad) scenarios for the future, it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened since the early-2000s as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

Note the crucial sentence that follows on from the quote used by The Australian: “it would be equally silly to interpret what has happened… as evidence that the warming has stopped.”

So far, the first example of what can only be described as blatant cherry picking.

Quote 2: Richard Allan “Global warming is not at a standstill but does seem to have slowed down…”

Once again we can turn to the same SMC article, where Allan’s quote is provided in full:

“Global warming is not ‘at a standstill’ but does seem to have slowed down since 2000 in comparison to the rapid warming of the world since the 1970s. 

“In fact, consistent with rising greenhouse gases, heat is continuing to build up beneath the ocean surface: 

http://www.ncas.ac.uk/index.php/en/climate-science-highlights/284-warming-over-the-last-decade-hidden-below-ocean-surface 

“This indicates that changes in ocean circulation are in part responsible for the recent slower rate of surface warming. The way the ocean distributes the extra energy trapped by rising greenhouse gases is critical in determining the new Met Office forecasts of global surface temperature over the coming decade and is an area of active research. 

“These decadal forecasts are very much experimental – they are at the cutting edge of the science and are technically very challenging. The Met Office are being open and transparent by making the forecasts available to allow a proper validation to occur. The Met Office is one of about 10 groups performing these type of forecasts worldwide and all predict a warming over the coming decade. 

“Nothing in their data leads me to think that global warming due to human influence has stopped, or is irrelevant. It hasn’t, and it isn’t.”

Is it me, or are we beginning to see a pattern here? Allan’s careful comments and clarification of the science are completely misrepresented.

Note the final sentence: “Nothing in the date leads me to think that global warming… has stopped.”

Quote 3: Brian Hoskins “One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017…”

Does it seem a rather odd co-incidence that the Hoskins quote also appears in the same SMC article as the previous two? Fortunately the full quote is also available:

“The current news item that the Met Office now predicts no global warming in the period up to 2017 is based on the latest 5-year forecast run with their new climate model. Such forecasts are at the frontiers of the subject and form part of a research programme in this area in the Met Office and elsewhere, but should not be considered to be predictions. 

“One interpretation of the forecasts is for little warming from 1998 until 2017. This is consistent with a multi-decadal fluctuation in temperature that presently opposes the continued upward trend. However the two supported one another during the rapid warming in the 1990s and can be expected to do this again in the future, leading to another period of rapid warming. 

“The forecast results also suggest that half the years in the period to 2017 would be expected to give new record global temperatures.”

I’m shocked – shocked I tell you!

How could the editor of Cut and Paste miss the critical sentence that follows on where Hoskins states we can expect to see “another period of rapid warming” and that “half the years in the period to 2017 would be expected to give new record global temperatures.”

Surely a simple and honest mistake by the editor of Cut and Paste?

Quote 4: David Shukman “If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades.”

At this point one hopes to be surprised, and that perhaps the BBC has changed it’s view from warmist to sceptical. But once again, when one goes to the article by Shukman one finds the following:

If the forecast is accurate, the result would be that the global average temperature would have remained relatively static for about two decades. 

Blog suspicions

An apparent standstill in global temperatures is used by critics of efforts to tackle climate change as evidence that the threat has been exaggerated. 

Climate scientists at the Met Office and other centres are involved in intense research to try to understand what is happening over the most recent period. 

The most obvious explanation is natural variability – the cycles of changes in solar activity and the movements and temperatures of the oceans.

A Met Office spokesman said “this definitely doesn’t mean any cooling – there’s still a long-term trend of warming compared to the 50s, 60s or 70s.

“Our forecast is still for temperatures that will be close to the record levels of the past few years.

“And because the natural variability is based on cycles, those factors are bound to change the other way at some point.”

The fact that the revised projection was posted on the Met Office website without any notice on December 24 last year has fuelled suspicions among bloggers.

However the Met Office says the data had been published in a spirit of transparency as soon as it became available from the computer that produced it.

Again, note the most critical information that provides context is in no way referenced by Cut and Paste.

Four-out-of-four quotes cherry picked.

Three scientists and one BBC journalist completely misrepresented.

That’s cut-and-cherry-pasting The Australian way.

 

Note: hat tip John for Skeptical Science article that global warming has “accelerated”.

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47 thoughts on “Cut and cherry-paste: The Australian shamelessly cherry picking the words of scientists

  1. [...] Cut and cherry-paste: The Australian shamelessly cherry picking the words of scientists (watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com) [...]

  2. Dr. kevin Moor says:

    Where has the erudite, Australian of the Year, Dr. Tim Flannery gone since he suggested Australian Funeral Directors should pull out the amalgim filled teeth of corpses before cremation?
    Hopefully back under his stone.

    • zoot says:

      Thank you for contributing Dr. Moor.
      Your devastating wit and unsurpassed logical intellect have left us totally demolished. No doubt next time you’ll have something to say which is actually on topic.

    • john byatt says:

      What a joke ” amalgim filled teeth”

      and calls himself doctor.

      you blew that big time kev

  3. [...] Watching The Deniers has the story. [...]

  4. debunker says:

    The funny thing is, that Eric is so certain that he is right & the vast majority of scientific opinion is wrong. He will not accept any evidence that doesn’t come from denier sites, or even a slight possibility he could be wrong.

    Given he is 100 per cent certain it is all a hoax, why won’t he bet on it? I mean 100 pc is not betting, its a dead cert!

    C’mon Eric, give us a Polar ice recovery prediction. Give us all a laugh!

  5. Dreadful. How could anyone condone such behaviour? Mind you, isn’t it rather reminiscent of the authors of the recent “Recursive Fury” cherry-picking quotes of sceptics? Barry Woods is rather cross with the authors of that paper at the moment for doing that, and rightly so. They apologised to Richard Betts, why not Barry? Seems a little inconsistent to me.

    • john byatt says:

      you have misunderstood, go to SKS and read the post,
      how many times do we need to explain stuff to you lot,

      It was quite obvious that Barry Woods whoever he is did not even read the post before commenting,
      it was the multi denier blog posts on it that confused betts, this was sorted ,
      as stated on the post read the tweets

      http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/stormy-teacups-misrepresenting-recursive-fury/

      • john byatt says:

        would the person ending a rather tedious comment with this

        “Let me be quite clear. The title of the paper makes a false claim from authors with an agenda of silencing opponents. It is entirely without any proper evidence.’

        be a conspiracy theorist,?

        “an agenda to silence opponents”

        ,

      • john byatt says:

        What is funny to me is that I am called an alarmist from even mentioning climate change and one of satan’s disciples on a regular basis in newspaper letters are they trying to silence me?

        who gives a toss, grow a set of balls bazza

      • john byatt says:

        No2 Persecuted Victim: Self-identifying as the victim of an organised persecution.

  6. Have to love the way eric comes in trying to sound reasonable but quickly reverts to form. Eric my offer to come and write aps for you still stands as long you continue to try and talk science. That’s a fair exchange since I know nothing about aps

    • john byatt says:

      eric as stated by CC like all deniers

      “Dear dear SP. you continue to amaze with your ability to compartmentalize and isolate one issue from another’

      We see this with his separating the survival of Polars bears as a different issue separate from the death spiral of the Arctic ice.

      Eric believes that they will survive on berries and goose eggs.not that he believes the Arctic is in any threat anyway because Watts has posts about an ongoing recovery after each record melt season

      he forgets that polar bears have now included polystyrene and batteries into their diet requiring the fencing of rubbish tips.

    • Flatline. Eugenics. Climategate. And boring with it.

  7. john byatt says:

    must get one of those kettles that eric uses

    heat the water and it never cools down

    sounds great, what brand eric?

  8. john byatt says:

    Thank goodness that politicians like Christine Milne have the guts to call it like it is.

    top work on that one mike

    must send christine an email.

  9. Eric Worrall says:

    Andrew Bolt’s cut and past does look a bit naughty in this instance – though I haven’t looked at his original post.

    But the last quote, from the MET is intriguing.

    “And because the natural variability is based on cycles, those factors are bound to change the other way at some point.”

    The fact that the revised projection was posted on the Met Office website without any notice on December 24 last year has fuelled suspicions among bloggers.

    From this, we can tell that the “settled science” suggests that its going to start warming again someday. But it can’t tell us when.

    And there is no excuse for not providing advance notice of when the computer would finish its calculation. Such metrics are trivial to add to something as predictable as running model simulations – even a running count of “how many model simulations have been completed, how many to do” could have been used to calculate a reasonable estimate of completion time.

    The fact is that global warming has stalled, and shows no sign of restarting in the near future. Each passing year increases the divergence between high climate sensitivity predictions and observations. For all we know this stall might continue 30 – 40 years or more, just like the mild decline from the 1930s – 1970s.

    If CO2 causes a small increase in global temperature once every 30 years, its game over for alarmism. Even if CO2 is the driver, a 1c or so temperature rise by the end of this century will not get anyone excited.

    Of course the ongoing flatline also increases the probability that the main driver of late 20th century warming was not CO2. Given that the rise in temperature in the early 20th century, before CO2 levels were high enough to have a significant effect on climate, was similar in rate and duration to the rise in temperature in the late 20th century, there is a strong case that 20th century climate change was dominated by a forcing other than CO2.

    And a good alternative candidate for such a forcing is the highest level of solar activity for 8000 years, since the start of the Holocene Optimum.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/solanki2004/solanki2004.html

  10. It’s not a new technique, is it? There’s even an app for it. :-)

    Cut’n’paste this. http://www.skepticalscience.com/new-research-confirms-global-warming-has-accelerated.html

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