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Posted at 10:50 AM ET, 06/30/2010

Newspapers retract faulty climate reporting

By Andrew Freedman

* Can super weather stay through the 4th? CWG's Full Forecast *

The reverberations of the scandal many refer to as "climategate," which erupted last December after personal emails between top climate scientists were taken from a British University server and posted online, continue... but they are taking some new twists and turns.

One of the key components of the pseudo scandal was the hostile treatment that climate scientists received in the mass media, in North America but especially in Europe. Story after story appeared that lambasted the credibility of all of climate science, based only on emails between a handful of climate specialists. Press coverage was so unfair to one researcher that he has resorted to suing a publication for libel to force it to issue retractions.

It didn't help that immediately following climategate there came another kerfuffle regarding minor errors in the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report. One such dustup concerned statements about the likelihood that climate change would dry out the Amazon Rainforest. A particular reference to Amazon drying was sourced to the environmental group WWF, rather than to a peer-reviewed scientific paper.

"Amazongate," as people who lack respect for the magnitude of Watergate called it, was trumpeted in the press as another example of climate scientists behaving badly. Yet, as was made clear last week, at least two media outlets got that story completely and totally wrong.

As detailed by Newsweek's Sharon Begley, two newspapers -- The Sunday Times of London and a German language paper -- both retracted their reporting on "Amazongate," and by extension, raised the specter of journalistic malpractice in their coverage of "climategate" as well. As Begley notes, the Times "led the media pack in charging that IPCC reports were full of egregious (and probably intentional) errors." The paper, she noted, "retracted its central claim--namely, that the IPCC statement that up to 40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change was 'unsubstantiated.'"

The Sunday Times' retraction stated in part:

The article "UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim" (News, Jan 31) stated that the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had included an "unsubstantiated claim" that up to 40% of the Amazon rainforest could be sensitive to future changes in rainfall. The IPCC had referenced the claim to a report prepared for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) by Andrew Rowell and Peter Moore, whom the article described as "green campaigners" with "little scientific expertise." The article also stated that the authors' research had been based on a scientific paper that dealt with the impact of human activity rather than climate change.
In fact, the IPCC's Amazon statement is supported by peer-reviewed scientific evidence. In the case of the WWF report, the figure ... was based on research by the respected Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM) which did relate to the impact of climate change. We also understand and accept that ... Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.

Although the retraction was comprehensive, it's doubtful it will have much of an influence on public opinion in the U.K., which had turned sharply more skeptical of the threat of manmade climate change soon after "climategate" (although it's not clear that there was a cause-and-effect relationship there). Nor will it make much of an impression here in the U.S., where similar shifts in public opinion have been noted by some pollsters, and where that particular Sunday Times article influenced the blogosphere and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal.

As Begley astutely observes:

The Times's criticism of the IPCC--look, its reports are full of mistakes and shoddy scholarship!--was widely picked up at the time it ran, and has been an important factor in turning British public opinion sharply against the established science of climate change. Don't expect the recent retractions and exonerations to change that. One of the strongest, most-repeated findings in the psychology of belief is that once people have been told X, especially if X is shocking, if they are later told, "No, we were wrong about X," most people still believe X.

Jim Hoggan, a Canadian PR executive and author of the book "The Climate Coverup," wrote in a blistering post on his "DeSmogBlog" that the retraction offers a lesson for the media: get the story right the first time!

Had the Times' editors bothered to verify the story before running it, we may never have seen this level of confusion in the public about threats to the Amazon from climate change. Ditto for the entire Climategate saga - had reporters read the emails themselves and investigated the context of statements cherry-picked by deniers to fuel doubt, Climategate would have fizzled out quickly under scrutiny. But that's not how it happened, and we will continue to face the consequences of the mythical tale spun by deniers for the foreseeable future.

The views expressed here are the author's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang.

By Andrew Freedman  | June 30, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman, Media, News & Notes  
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You guys do a great job reporting the weather, but if I want opinionated political reporting I'll check the front page of your paper. Anyway, you are missing the forest for the trees in this little post, the clear thrust of all of the emails and reports show a group of people who have already made up their mind about a theory, rather than unbiased scientists taking a "cold" hard look at the facts. That is why it set off the firestorm it did, and confirmed what many people had long assumed about the "scientists" who are promoting this theory (and profiting in the form of grants). Bottom line, everyone is welcome to their opinion, but I see this article as rather tenuously linked to our local weather... stick to what you do best!

Posted by: readerchevychase | June 30, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

The WWF piece is here and refers to this:
(links thanks to Willis Eschenbach who wrote about this at WUWT). I'm still reading the latter paper and this paper but as for the first link (the WWF report) it's pretty clear the authors are "green campaigners", that shoe fits.

Posted by: eric654 | June 30, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

It is perfectly reasonable for scientists to both have their research, backed by facts, and to campaign to make their point of view more widely known. If there is not a campaign message, no one will hear and we'll continue to blindly go down the path of doing nothing.

I thank you for providing any weather-related issues to this forum. I agree with you that providing occasional essays makes the blog more interesting and will attract more viewership.

Posted by: jrichstar | June 30, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

As noted recently in Scientific American, there were several reports that a senior Al-Qaeda leader was killed during a raid in Iraq. This was later found to be erroneous, reflecting failure by media sources of “humans’ pervasive susceptibility to misbelieve”. Even relatively small mistaken beliefs can come with severe consequences, as in the climategate saga by undermining public’s belief in the big picture/whole of the IPCC report and its consequences.

Unfortunately, in the 24/7 media barrage of truth, lies, hyperbole, and opinions across the entire spectrum of science, politics, and societal and economic interest groups, disbelief, misunderstanding, and self-deception are unavoidable.

 Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying. “It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.” Nice, except in today’s media environment, this would translate to a large fraction of the populace having no ideas and beliefs of their own.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | June 30, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

jefferson was the bomb! my favorite founding father....(w/madison a close second).

begley said,
"One of the strongest, most-repeated findings in the psychology of belief is that once people have been told X, especially if X is shocking, if they are later told, "No, we were wrong about X," most people still believe X."

this is exactly the reason for all the "gates" and the various "it's cooling" or whatever skeptic memes you care top name. all the "skeptics" have to do is get the false scandal out there: "arctic ic is back to normal" or "the sun is causing warming" or "scientists predicted an ice age in the 70s" or "phil jones says 'no warming'". it can be retracted, or scientists can explain it, but who cares? it's mission accomplished from the "skeptics" point of view: doubt has been sown. and that's what they sell.

mike hulme can issue clarifications all he wants, but the "IPCC author says the consensus is bogus" meme is already out there. people will think of his correction as part of a "cover up" or something.

many people still think richard jewell did the atlanta olympic bombing...and have never heard of eric rudolph.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | June 30, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

SteveT, I'll respond with question I always ask on these threads. What is the specific catastrophe (just one please so it can be thoroughly examined) that we are trying to prevent?

In the case of the retracted article, the WWF reported that "Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left.(46)"

I posted the link to (46) above. The article states that 270k + 360k of the Brazilian Amazon had water issues which is 13%, not 40%. Second, that 13% wasn't destroyed in 1998/99 as would be implied by "extremely sensitive". The statement above implies that it is measurements (not climate models) that show imminent catastrophe. But the bottom line is there was no catastrophe and there will be no catastrophe except as modeled in the climate models. So I will ask again, what is the catastrophe? Point it out in any paper (it's not in the one above).

Posted by: eric654 | June 30, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for sharing this retraction. I work on climate issues and yet even I didn't see this.

The real story is that the basic facts of climate change science are settled but climate change policy in this country is not. It's as if, in an analogy to tobacco, we believed the tobacco companies' attempts to cast doubt on the link between smoking and lung cancer, instead of believing the thousands of studies that show otherwise.

From a Proceedings of National Academy of Science report, as published in Greewire:

Between 97 and 98 percent of the world's top climate researchers agree with the major conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- that it is "very likely" that greenhouse gases produced by human activity have produced "most" of the "unequivocal" warming of Earth's average global temperature during the latter half of the 20th century.

They found an overwhelming majority of scientists who agreed that humans are driving climate change.

But that larger group has been countered by a vocal minority of climate change skeptics, contrarians or deniers that "has received large amounts of media attention and wields significant influence in the societal debate about climate change impacts and policy," the study says.

Those skeptics account for just 2 percent of the top 50 climate researchers, which the study authors determined by looking at how many scientific papers each researcher had published.

Moreover, the study found that a majority of climate skeptics -- 80 percent -- had each published fewer than 20 papers on climate change. Just 10 percent of scientists who agree with the IPCC's conclusions fell into the 20 papers or less category.

Posted by: climategirl | June 30, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

a vocal minority indeed. and they're telling people what we want to hear: "don't worry - keep doing what you're doing. you can keep your SUV. no need to conserve energy. no need to "get off oil". in fact, oil, is your friend."

exxon, bp LOVE the environment - haven't you seen those full-page ads in the post from exxon with green things and pictures of children and trees and beaches etc...

oh, yeah, and smoking is cool, and not bad for your health - no matter what those cancer alarmists think.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | June 30, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone notice how the Washington Post is starting to distance itself from Andrew and his Capital Warming Gang?

"The views expressed here are the author's alone and do not represent any position of the Washington Post, its news staff or the Capital Weather Gang."

Nature has proven the "model predictions" of the WWF paper to be entirely wrong in the face of actual events.

Nasa studied the Amazon during the 2005 drought and found that unlike the model predictions, the Amazon is increadibly resilient to draught.

When are you going to stop using this blog as a platform for propaganda and start reporting the weather?

Posted by: ecocampaigner | July 1, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Ecocampaigner: That disclaimer has existed for about a year, so it's nothing new. And it's there to make clear that certain climate pieces that we run are opinion pieces, rather than news pieces, and that those should not be taken as representative of the news staff.

A key point of the UK paper's retraction, had you actually read it, was that the Amazon reference in the IPCC report was actually sourced to peer reviewed literature, not WWF. (See the second graf of the retraction).

As we've stated umpteen times, this blog covers all things weather. Climate, and climate change, is integrally related, and will be covered here at least once a week. Weather is covered here several times per day. If you'd rather not read the climate posts, then don't read them. But it's not propaganda to state the facts, it's just that you don't agree with the facts in this case. And disagreement is welcome here, but not when you cloak it in serious accusations.

Also, can you provide a reference to the 2005 NASA study on drought in the Amazon? I'd like to check it out..

Thanks, Andrew - CWG

Posted by: afreedma | July 1, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I think its so important to not take one or two scientists or news channels as fact, scientists write up reports assuming they will be read as a bit of the collective science not as be all end all. When they are taken at that level then the slight mistakes smooth out.

Posted by: CaliforniaSolarEngineering | July 1, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Andrew, I understand the point of your article is that the criticism that it was un-peer reviewed was retracted. Its peer review status is irrelevant if it paper's conclusions have been proven invalid.

Here's the link which you requested, its in my original post as well, not sure how you missed it.

I read both the paper, the criticism, and now the retraction. If you had read them, you'd know that the fault lies with the IPCC/WWF, for failing to properly cite the correct peer reviewed literature.

I know this story inside and out, but you seem to know little more than how to repeat the warmist talking point of the day.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | July 1, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, your coverage, as usual, is horribly one sided. So much so as to create a false impression.

At the very heart of the original criticism, from the article that was retracted, is that the claim that (as Sharon Begley downplayed/mischaracterized and you quoted and thereby helped spread the mischaracterization),"40 percent of the Amazonian rainforest could be vulnerable to climate change" is that there is NO PEER-REVIEWED PUBLISHED PAPER that supports that claim. As you well know, the IPCC requires all claims be based upon and supported by peer-reviewed literature.

Do your readers a service and point to the PEER-REVIEWED PAPER which supports the original IPCC claim. Point to the IPCC approved peer-reviewed journal that it was published in. Include the journal publication date/issue. Please.

If you can not point to the IPCC approved peer-reviewed journal which includes the peer-reviewed paper, then the original criticism is valid.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 1, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

It still remains an unequal struggle. Climate scientists have to meet high standards to publish in the scientific literature. Self-styled 'skeptics' simply have to make things up and publish them in blogs and the media.

Posted by: severn2 | July 1, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q is correct, there is no peer-reviewed paper concluding that "Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall." If the supporters of the IPCC process want to defend that process and the retraction, they should point out the paper. The DeSmogBlog and other critics did not point to any paper.

As for inequality overall, it is considerably more complex than "high standards" versus no standards. As Judith Curry explains here the political advocacy aspect of this particular scientific pursuit has slowed and somewhat corrupted the normal processes of scientific self-correction. It is broken and needs to be fixed.

Posted by: eric654 | July 1, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Ecocampaigner: Thanks for your response. The IPCC erred in its citation, but that's all. It did not make up evidence, and the peer-reviewed findings on Amazon drying have not been overturned or proven incorrect (nor, however, have they been completely validated either). The newspaper completely ignored its responsibility to provide accurate information to the public by turning a story about a citation error into one centering on fabricating evidence. There should be shared blame in this case, yet you just want to fault the IPCC.

And saying that you know this case inside and out, and showing it, are two different things. So far you have only shown that you buy the skeptic campaigner's arguments hook, line and sinker. You say I am a "warmist," whatever that means. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.

Mr. Q: Even the Sunday Times disagrees with your assertion that "there is no peer-reviewed published" literature that supports the Amazon drying claim. Read their retraction. Then read the references in IPCC WGI. Also, refs 40-46 of the WWF report. And the studies of Daniel Nepstad of the Woods Hole Research Institute. Here are a few recommendations:

Betts, R., et al., 2004: The role of ecosystem-atmosphere interactions in simulated Amazonian precipitation decrease and forest dieback under global change warming. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 78(1–3), 157–175.

Cox, P.M., et al., 2004: Amazonian forest dieback under climate-carbon cycle projections for the 21st century. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 78, 137– 156.

Huntingford, C., et al., 2004: Using a GCM analogue model to investigate the potential for Amazonian forest dieback. Theor. Appl. Climatol., 78(1–3), 177–185.

Marengo, J., and C.A. Nobre, 2001: The hydroclimatological framework in Amazonia. In: Biogeochemistry of the Amazon Basin [McClaine, M., R. Victoria, and J. Richey (eds.)]. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 17–42.

Negri, A.J., R.F. Adler, L.M. Xu, and J. Surratt, 2004: The impact of Amazonian deforestation on dry season rainfall. J. Clim., 17(6), 1306– 1319

45 D. C. Nepstad, A. G .Moreira, & A. A. A l e n c a r, Flames in the Rain Forest: Origins, Impacts and Alternatives to Amazonian Fire, Pilot Program to Conserve the Brazilian Rain Forest. Ministry of Environment, Secretariat for the Co-ordination of the Amazon, 1999

46 D. C. Nepstad, A. Veríssimo, A. A l e n c a r, C. Nobre, E. Lima, P. Lefebvre, P. S c h l e s i n g e r, C. Potter, P. Mountinho, E. Mendoza, M. Cochrane, V. Brooks, Larg e -
scale Impoverishment of Amazonian Forests by Logging and Fire, Nature, 1999, Vo l 398, 8 April, pp505

Posted by: afreedma | July 1, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

ecocampaigner: I checked out the NASA writeup, thanks for the link. Here's another NASA writeup about a different study that began in 2005: And here is more info on Amazon rainforest, albeit from an environmentally-oriented web site (still useful for flagging studies): Also, see a recent study from 2009:

The IPCC claim was based upon multiple peer-reviewed studies. Not just one. So to say they were invalidated by one study is rather dubious, albeit theoretically possible. I don't think scientists know exactly what will happen to the Amazon rainforest in a warming world. They have found evidence of risks, and the IPCC reported some of those. There are many forest ecologists out there who think the risks of drying in that region are significant, and others who downplay such concerns. This is how science works - the slow accumulation of sometimes contradictory evidence.

At issue in the case of the UK newspaper retraction, though, is whether they accurately reported on the IPCC's failings. They did not, and they have admitted it.

Posted by: afreedma | July 1, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, thanks. I'm reading the first two papers now (both by Cox and Betts) because I presume that's where the 40% number came from. The WWF report did not include those as references. What was the IPCC error in its citation? Did it not cite those papers, just the WWF report (which did not cite those papers)? That may seem like a small problem, but it's not.

Posted by: eric654 | July 1, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse

afreedma wrote, "Even the Sunday Times disagrees with your assertion that "there is no peer-reviewed published" literature that supports the Amazon drying claim."

Let's set the record straight. The IPCC wrote, in working group 2, not WG1, chapter 13, section 13.4.1, "Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000)."

Direct link to the above quote.

That is the IPCC claim in question.

I have searched in your first reference, and I only found one occurrence of "40%". On page 167.

--begin quote--
Here the precipitation reduction was found to be driven predominantly by external influences, and this is too great to be offset by CO2 fertilization nd increased water use efficiency. With insufficient water available to allow the vegetation to take advantage of the higher CO2, forest dieback in north-eastern Amazonia remains present 166 R. A. Betts et al. in RADPHYS. At some points, dieback is even accelerated by the greater precipitation reductions caused by enhanced surface warming elsewhere.
Overall, then, the direct effect of CO2 on plant physiology contributes to decreasing precipitation across Amazonia. This is due partly to reduced moisture recycling, and partly to modified atmospheric circulations arising from greater warming of the land surface under reduced transpiration. However, despite decreased precipitation, forest dieback is slowed in south-western Amazonia by enhanced vegetation productivity. In the north-east, though, where the precipitation decrease is externally-driven and most severe, dieback either remains unchanged or is increased by climatic responses to the direct effect of CO2 on vegetation elsewhere in the world. Amazonian precipitation decreases by approximately 30% in RAD, which includes CO2 only as a greenhouse gas and does not include the direct effects of CO2 on plant physiology and transpiration (Table 2). This compares with an approximately 40% decrease in RADPHYS when both radiative and physiological responses are included (Table 2). This suggests that the precipitation reduction is primarily driven by radiative forcing, with the physiological forcing of stomatal closure acting as a secondary influence.
--end quote--

Is it asking too much for you to point to the IPCC approved journal publication which supports the claim in question? You are the person who claims it exists. Why won't you point to it? Why offer up a laundry list of bogus crap for us to search through? Just point to the IPCC approved peer-reviewed journal.

Thanks in advance.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 1, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q, instead of saying "laundry list of bogus crap" please make a specific and objective argument based on facts. If you prejudge the material it's going to make it a lot harder to take your future arguments seriously. I have read at least one of the papers in the list (#46 above) and it doesn't support any conclusion of 40% (or any percent) of the Amazon threatened, it only describes drying during El Nino. But that particular paper is not "bogus crap".

Posted by: eric654 | July 1, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse


The study you linked is interesting, but is very weak compared to the one I linked. Your study is about a small experiment involving artificial drought. My link was a satellite study proving that actual drought, on the actual amazon, had no effect.

The studies you cited were all from pre-2005, so they wouldn't have had the advantage of observing an actual drought. Climatology simply must be willing to admit their models are wrong when the actual events they are supposed to model happen quite differently.

The 40% figure is well known to have been in relation to the Amazon that is threatened by deforestation. It was peer reviewed, but not about climate change.

Since when is it the newspaper's job to do IPCC fact checking? Isn't that the IPCC's job? Other IPCC claims like the himmalayans melting in 25 years, and malaria spreading have been proven entirely fictional.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | July 1, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

eric654 wrote, "But that particular paper is not "bogus crap"."

I wrote, "Why offer up a laundry list of bogus crap for us to search through?"

I was not saying that the papers in that list were bogus. I was asserting that the list itself was bogus. I see now that I phrased it very poorly. I should have said a "bogus laundry list of crap", rather than, "laundry list of bogus crap". My sincere apologies for the poor phrasing.

At 12:11 PM, I asked Mr. Freedman at to -
"Do your readers a service and point to the PEER-REVIEWED PAPER which supports the original IPCC claim. Point to the IPCC approved peer-reviewed journal that it was published in. Include the journal publication date/issue. Please."

I asked for him to show me the needle. Not point my to the haystack. I am perfectly capable of finding the haystack without his assistance.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 1, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Before I get nitpicked again, I want to clarify my comment one last time. What I meant to say is that afreedma's reply to my query/suggestion was totally bogus. I asked for the specific paper. Instead, I got a laundry list. Getting a list after requesting a single paper is bogus crap.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 1, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q, got it, thanks! Isn't writing clear sentences fun? I have read the Cox paper and agree with you and ecocampaigner that there is no justification for the 40% claim. It is likely the paper was chosen because Cox has put forth the well-known but controversial argument of Amazon die-back since about 2000 and they hoped that it would cover the claim.

My biggest complaint with the paper is that it doesn't even resemble other climate models such as and which are consistent with each other (a few degrees rise in the Amazon region and no major decrease in precipitation, just localized) Cox admits as much in his presentation in the last bullet.

In short, the IPCC took the unsourced 40% claim from a WWF paper, then claimed it came from Cox (which it did not). And even if it did, Cox uses a highly speculative outlier model that doesn't agree with the others. The other models and Cox's have numerous problems which would require another discussion, the main one being parametrization of weather.

Posted by: eric654 | July 1, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Hi Eric,

I really did a crappy job of phrasing that sentence. I have to admit it and take ownership. Mea culpa. :(

I allowed my annoyance with afreedma's response to creep into my comment. The fault is all mine. I don't normally allow emotions to creep into my replies, but that time I did. I apologize.

I have not read every paper, but I agree with the general thrust of your comment (as I understand it). They are seriously reaching. They are trying to cite multiple papers and pull them together in such a way as to justify the IPCC comment. But it just isn't working. Booker over at the Telegraph is having none of it. Neither is Neither am I.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 1, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Anybody able to find a copy of Link seems to be dead, it is the alleged response to the 40% claim.

Posted by: eric654 | July 1, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

These roaches are trying to take us down, toughen up folks - get ready for a good fight!

Here's some even more bad news for you thanks to our Global Elitist friends! We've got to shake these snakes folks!

The dollar is an unreliable international currency and should be replaced by a more stable system, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs said in a report released Tuesday.
The use of the dollar for international trade came under increasing scrutiny when the U.S. economy fell into recession. “The dollar has proved not to be a stable store of value, which is a requisite for a stable reserve currency,” the report said.
Many countries, in Asia in particular, have been building up massive dollar reserves. As a result, those countries’ currencies have become undervalued, decreasing their ability to import goods from abroad.
Read entire article:

Posted by: PaulRevere4 | July 1, 2010 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Ah, it was turned into a PDF: The follow-on discussion to that press release seems to still be active at realclimate. The poster "oneuniverse" is still trying to get to the bottom of the 40% number. Discussion is here To sum it up in my own words: oneuniverse points out that none of Nepstad's references support the 40% claim. The response (aside from logical fallacies) is that Betts and Cox is the supporting evidence. It is not as I pointed out above.

Posted by: eric654 | July 1, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

As incredible as the "40% of the Amazonian forests" portion of the claim is, I am personally more interested in the "react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation" portion of their claim. I really want to know their basis for that assertion.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 1, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of journalistic malpractice, Pennsylvania State University completed it's investigation/report of Dr Mann in early June and found him innocent of any wrong doing.

It's been nearly a month, and so far the Washington Post has not covered this obviously newsworthy story. I've read elsewhere that the Post is finally going to cover this story, but I sure can't find it anywhere. Maybe it's one of those invisible stories. Check out "media matters for america" if you want to know what's actually happening.

Posted by: dougd1 | July 2, 2010 3:51 AM | Report abuse

dougd1 says there was "journalistic malpractice" regarding Dr. Mann. If you have specific evidence of that, please post it so we can analyze it. Regarding the report by Penn State, you can read (both sides) here The consensus seems to be that Penn State did not set a very high bar and Mann cleared it (he is popular in his field and he brings in lots of research money).

Like everything else in the climate debate, details matter. Mann made some serious and obvious mistakes in his hockey stick, McIntyre pointed them out, then Mann cut off access to his data. That may be acceptable to Penn State, but science as a whole suffered from Mann's behavior.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 5:39 AM | Report abuse

Here are the details of Mann cutting off access to his data. From the inquiry report at

"Specifically, Dr. Mann repeated that all data, as well as the source codes requested by Dr. McIntyre, were in fact made available to him. All data were listed on Dr. Mann's FTP site in 2000, and the source codes were made available to Dr. McIntyre about a year after his request was made, in spite of the fact that the National Science Foundation had ruled that scientists were not required to do so. The issue of an "incorrect version" of the data came about because Dr. McIntyre had requested the data (which were already available on the FTP site) in spreadsheet format, and Dr. Rutherford, early on, had unintentionally sent an incorrectly formatted spreadsheet."

Here is the record of the actual correspondence in 2003

McIntyre never asked for a spreadsheet, nor did he ever receive an "incorrect version". The real origin of the "incorrect version" meme is that the team that created the hockey stick used that as one of their original critiques of McIntyre's work. The bottom line is that Mann either lied to the inquiry committee or the committee somehow otherwise received incorrect information about what happened in 2003.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Since dougd1 didn't post anything specific, I went to media matters to see what they had to say about Mann. Basically it is a completely one-sided repetition of the official announcements clearing Mann, followed by quotes from Fox followed a very superficial analysis of "hiding declines" and other "tricks". The information provided on those is far too sparse and one-sided to be of any use. I suggest people looking for the other side of "Mann cleared" can go here:

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Now even the rapid-warmer Monbiot admits that the 40% claim was not substantiated. But then he lashes out with a more outlandish claim of Amazon die-back based on, guess who? Betts and Cox with their outlier model. His whole screed can be read here

Bottom line: he admits the 40% statement is false but now it's really 60%.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse


Did realclimate try to rationalize the IPCC statement using any of Dr. Nepstad's explanations? I am just curious. (I bet they didn't.)

Have you read Dr. Neptstad's explanation? He and I have a different understanding of how to interpret the phrase "slight reduction in precipitation". You should read the exchange in the comment section over at wattsupwiththat. It is quite illuminating.

The more I research the IPCC and their process, the more disheartened I am. They are quoting the output of climate models. This is sooooooooo wrong. The models put out what they tell it to put it out. Let me put that another way. There shouldn't be any surprise at what the model outputs because they program in the underlying code and all of the variables and conditions. The output should be a big "Duh" for the people working on the model. The output is really nothing more than a verification of their code. It is not some sort of reliable prediction of future climate.

By quoting the output of their models, this assumes (and implies/lends credibility) that their understanding of the climate, the underlying model code, is correct/adequate. I put the odds of that at one in one billion.

By quoting the output of models, they are lending credibility to the model, which in my humble opinion, the model does not deserve.

I am getting thoroughly dispirited.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

What was really interesting to me is Nepstad (basically a hired gun at a "research center" which is really an advocacy center) skipped over realclimate and argued his case at WUWT (as you probably saw). What it means, along with Monbiot's "retraction" is that the Amazon-40 argument has been demoted from science into politics and Nepstad's job is to do the talk shows like Mann. Nepstad is useless to science at this point having spent his scientific credibility.

They are not just "quoting the output of climate models" which is wrong as you say, but climate models cherry-picked for each specific purpose. The Cox-Betts climate model shows Amazon going up 9C, so they use that for the 40% claim. If they want 0.8 meter rise in sea level, just take current glacier flow rates and multiply by 10, see;321/5894/1340.pdf Never mind that sea level rise affects weather and climate.

But they probably don't realize the level of parametrization going into climate models in general. Assumptions about weather dominate model response.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"I am getting thoroughly dispirited.

Mr. Q."

Keep fighting the good fight my friend, you have lots of support and allies.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | July 2, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Doug1: WashPo did cover the Mann Story yday:

Also, rumors of a whitewashed investigation based upon Mann's research dollars don't make sense when you look at the numbers. As the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media found, via the blogger Brian Angliss: "Mann had brought $4.2 million to Penn State since joining the faculty in 2006, $1.8 million of it for the period from 2006 to 2009. He contrasted that to the university’s total research budget of $2.8 billion, reporting that Mann’s grants represent about 0.06 percent of the total research grants between 2006 and 2009.

More here:

Here is a question I'd like to get some of your opinions on: What must an investigation consist of in order to be accepted by those who are extremely skeptical of Dr. Mann's work? Clearly the Penn State investigation hasn't squelched the harsh criticism against him.

It seems to me that the only way critics will be satisfied is if an investigation finds him guilty of all allegations. But perhaps that is not true?

Posted by: afreedma | July 2, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Climate models are closely related to models used in numerical weather prediction. They consist of the equations of motion for the atmosphere. They are based on our understanding of the atmosphere. The use of such models in operational numerical weather prediction has revolutionized weather forecasting.

Our knowledge of the atmosphere is by no means complete. There may be some feedback the models do not have. It is also difficult to express what we know about the atmosphere in a form that a computer can handle in a reasonable amount of time.

To claim that climate models simply reflect the wishes of the climate lobby is incredibly far fetched to me.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 2, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse


Thank you. I will try. But I am serious, if they get to quote the output of their models as if they are the gospel from on high, then it is a lost battle. :(


Yes, I read the entire exchange with Nepstad over at WUWT. It didn't go well for him. It went so poorly that I encourage everyone to read the entire thread. Read the questions posed to him and notice the questions he ignores. Read his rational for the validity of the IPCC comment. He claims it is valid if you apply the
"slight reduction in precipitation" to a drought.

That's like saying a small increase of precipitation, when applied to a flood, would be very, very bad. Well DUH.

I would like to point out to everyone that the IPCC does NOT claim that there will be a reduction in precipitation. They say that variable for the Amazon is, at this point in time, pretty much impossible to predict.

BUT, if you disregard the inability to predict future precipitation in the Amazon, and then create a scenario of a "slight reduction in precipitation", and THEN apply that to a drought! Well then, that would be very, very bad. I hope we didn't spend much money for that little perl of wisdom.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse


I count exactly one occurrence of the word "lobby" on this page (prior to this comment). And it is found in your comment.

Did my browser's search function fail me? Or are you insinuating that the programmers and scientists that make climate models are actually a "climate lobby"?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The fact that absolutely no one will point to a page, much less a specific paragraph, within any one specific study, that validates the IPPC comment, proves that there isn't one. If there was, they would say, "See Nepstad et al 2004, page 117". But they don't do that. Do they?

Did afreedma take up the challenge and identify one specific paper that supports the IPCC claim in question. Bueller? Bueller?

I hope he does. Because the next question will be, "Which page of that study?"

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister, I will address what I insinuated (climate model outputs can be controlled by whoever controls the inputs). In general you are right, the weather and climate models are based on the same principles. But the difference in resolution is huge, climate models have about 200km resolution and 20-30 vertical levels. Weather models have about 3km horizontal and 100's of levels vertical. Without mesoscale resolution the climate models cannot model most of the convective processes that affect the climate particularly in a world warmed slightly by CO2. So it then up to the modeler to determine how the weather will change in a warmer world and tell the model to model it. That can be determined a variety of ways such as using fine resolution (weather) models as inputs to climate models.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

There is a group of people who fervently believe that global warming is a clear and present danger and must be dealt with on an emergency basis. There is a group of people who fervently believe that global warming is false. Either one could be called a climate lobby.

There are also people like myself who think global warming is occuring and that man has something to do about it. Exactly how much man's role is we are not sure.
We also think it would be in our interest to address energy and economic issues and pollution issues that have little to do with global warming by decreasing our use of fossil fuels. Unfortunately we do not seem organized enough to call ourselves a lobby.

My point was that the climate models I'm familiar with--GFDL, Hadley for instance--are serious models based on science as we understand it. They also have proven in my opinion fairly good at reproducing the observed climate and observed changes in climate. They are also closely related to numerical weather prediction models that do quite well at forecasting the weather, even under the right conditions making skillful seasonal forecasts. They do not merely reflect the biases of their creators.

The best model developer I ever knew once told me he would be glad to tune his model, but he did not know how.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 2, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

There is a range of resolution in numerical weather prediction models. Skill in forecasting increased long before convection could be explicitly represented. Higher resolution does help, but incremently.

Global nwp models still have to parameterize convection.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 2, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister wrote, "We also think it would be in our interest to address energy and economic issues and pollution issues that have little to do with global warming by decreasing our use of fossil fuels."

Do you know the number of times I have advocated replacing our existing coal fired power plants with nuclear power plants? Right here at this very website. Surely you have read at least one of my comments advocating nuclear power.

Unfortunately, a simple solution like that doesn't require 2,000 page bills and doesn't give the politicians whatever it is that they are after, because they just won't do it.

Have you tried to get Mr. Freedman, who has a Masters degree in climate and society, to advocate any policy whatsoever to reduce CO2 emissions? I have. You should give it a try. Maybe you will have better luck.

Why should I take anyone serious when they believe in catastrophic, man made, global warming but refuse to offer a solution for reducing CO2? It is like an obese person complaining that their weight will kill them, but refusing to come up with a plan to lose weight. I don't want to hear it their whining. If they think it is a genuine problem, then come up with some sort of solution.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse


I may have been unclear in my original post, but you still missed several points. First, my claim of "journalistic malpractice" was obviously directed at the Washington Post's lack of coverage of the PSU investigation. They sat on this developing, important story for nearly a month - generally consistent with the Post's right-wing bias. Later, I found the report and commented on it. Although the Post finally managed to cover it, the report was weak, consisting of the usual misleading "he said/she said" style of coverage and the usual lack of context.

You also claimed I didn't post any specific references. This is untrue, as I referred readers to the Media Matters coverage. You of course rejected the Media Matters coverage as one-sided, but their concern was the media's malpractice in not covering this story, and all of their points were documented in detail.

I've been an academic psychologist for nearly 30 years, with one of my research areas looking at how motivational processes bias cognition (e.g., belief systems). Let's just say that the global warming deniers are a very sad example of people attacking science for political reasons.

Posted by: dougd1 | July 2, 2010 2:00 PM | Report abuse

dougd1 wrote, "Let's just say that the global warming deniers are a very sad example of people attacking science for political reasons."

Four simple questions -

1. Is it possible that some people are attacking what they consider to be bad/faulty science for very noble reasons?

2. If the answer to number 1 is no, is the reverse of your assertion true? In other words, are the people who support science doing so for purely political reasons? (Or is it only the people who attack science that are politically motivated?)

3. Is there such a thing as bad science?

4. Assuming you answer number three the only way possible, how should people attack bad science in such a way as to avoid being labeled as politically motivated "deniers"?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

If you wish to question science, question the science. Don't accuse the scientists of fraud and don't accuse computer models of political bias.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 2, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister wrote, "If you wish to question science, question the science. Don't accuse the scientists of fraud and don't accuse computer models of political bias."

I do question the science. Repeatedly.

I have left fraud out of it for a very long time. My preference is to talk about the science and not the scientists!!!

Accuse models of political bias?!?! What the heck are you talking about? You know what? You don't need to answer that question. You can if you want, it is a free country, but don't answer it on my account. I don't know what your deal is, first it was the "climate lobby" comment and now this "political bias" nonsense. We aren't witnessing the same reality. You and your reality can go your way, and me and my reality will go my way. I wish you well.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 2, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

dougd1 and Dadmeister, I'd like to address "attacking science for political reasons" and "don't accuse computer models of political bias". I have been very careful above to post facts and make specific criticisms of what I believe are incorrect statements. My exception was when I rather casually dismissed climate models. Dadmeister's response is valid and I would like to respond further. But I can't go to a site like media matter and address all their weaknesses and omissions point by point in my spare time, but I will address any single specific point.

If dougd1 has specific responses to my accusation above, I'd like to hear it. Did Mann lie to the committee or did the committee receive incorrect information from someone else? Details matter and he is not going to find any details at a site like media matters.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister said " Skill in forecasting increased long before convection could be explicitly represented. Higher resolution does help, but incremently."

Due mostly to better capture of initial conditions.

Also "Global nwp models still have to parameterize convection."

True but irrelevant to my argument which is that the regional scale models that capture convection are essential to provide inputs to climate models. Case in point, the Cox / Betts Amazon catastrophe climate models are 100% parametrized for mesoscale convection which then ripples up into the large scale especially in the tropics where the result was extreme banded precipitation in the Eastern Pacific. No other climate models that I have found show this result and Cox / Betts have no resemblance in the tropics to any other 100 year projections that I have looked at.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q:

Answers to your questions:

1. Yes, of course, some may attack research for noble reasons. Nobody (including me) would claim every denier was politically biased, which places your question in the absurd category.

2. Not relevant, but to clarify: The main reason for questioning the motives of the deniers is that something screwy is going on in their thinking (in most cases). For people who are not experts, the reasonable approach is to suspend one's own judgement and consider the degree of consensus among the real experts. In the case of this controversy, the consensus is overwhelming (over 90% of climatologists believe in human-influenced warming). The fact that deniers ignore such a strong consensus suggests that something else is going on (or they they may have real cognitive deficits). The simplest explanation is that they are motivated by political beliefs. For example, many may be driven by conservative political/economic beliefs involving potential damage to the economy as a result of overreacting to global warming. Other conservatives may defensively attack science because it threatens their critical belief systems related to religion, morality, and so on. Moreover, this "controversy" has been pushed from the beginning by conservative republicans and their media propagandists ( Fox, Beck, etc). Furthermore, attacks on science are common among conservatives: evolution, vaccines, mental disorders, and so on.

3. Of course there is such a thing as bad science. I was a journal editor for several years and saw a lot of flawed research. But in almost all cases, the peer-review process was capable of selecting the good science and weeding out the bad science. Again, the question seems absurd.

4. How should people attack bad science in such a way as to avoid being labeled as politically motivated "deniers"? Obviously, it depends on the research area. Many research areas have no political implications. In other cases, the politically-biased research will not be published because it is substandard (motivation does influence quality) and will not get through the peer-review screening. If it's accepted and is not politically biased, then the author should include footnotes explaining why it's not politically biased. These can often be framed in terms of responses to reviewers comments (if a reviewer has mentioned a possible bias). Alternatively, it would be legitimate in most journals to address this issue in the final discussion section. Offer "political bias" as an alternative explanation, and then shoot it down if possible. One can of course also communicate with other's apart from the publication process (emails, conferences, etc.). In general, you have to come up with a good explanation.

In short, a non-scientific bias is indicated by the extreme denial of the existing consensus, and many factors suggest that politics is the main source.

Posted by: dougd1 | July 2, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse


You can read my response to Mr. Q - some may apply to you - I have no idea.

You falsely accused me of not providing any specifics. When I pointed out that I referenced Media Matters, you predictably attacked Media Matters for being one-sided and lacking in details. But it did provide details along with additional references.

You stated that you will only deal with one specific example at a time. This is bogus. It is obviously much easier to debunk one argument than two (or twenty), so my guess is that you are simply taking the easy way out (I may be wrong). More important, most scientific advances are based on "converging evidence" from multiple studies. This means that focusing on one study is likely to be misleading (especially given any political biases), and that the best way to deal with controversies is to consider all the evidence. Space limitations make this impossible, but nevertheless, your "one-at-a-time" approach to research evaluation is essentially non-scientific.

Posted by: dougd1 | July 2, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

dougd1 says "It is obviously much easier to debunk one argument than two (or twenty), so my guess is that you are simply taking the easy way out (I may be wrong). More important, most scientific advances are based on "converging evidence" from multiple studies."

It would be nice to have a better example, especially showing convergence. Media matters (a Soros-sponsored web site) does not offer converging evidence, but a mishmash of selected facts, talking points and innuendo. It is typified by its comments in the comments section where nobody argues about any specifics and they just sling invective at each other similar to what you have done here so far. It's weird that they don't provide a link to the Mann inquiry report, just a WashPost story about it. I linked the report above and posted a snippet from it. Then I linked to a set of emails (released in 2003) that showed what Mann did and did not say and send which are at odds with the report.

Here's a quote from media matters: Penn State: "[N]o credible evidence" that Mann "engaged in, or participated in ... any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data."

The report has lots of specifics that don't jive with that: "Dr. Mann drew a distinction between actual data and intermediate data that are produced
as part of the analytic procedures employed. He indicated that while such intermediate data may occasionally be shared with colleagues, it is not standard practice to publish or make generally available this intermediate data (to which he and others refer to as "dirty laundry" in one of the purloined emails). Finally, he indicated that someone who wanted to reproduce his work would be able to independently reproduce this intermediate data and that, in fact, other researchers had done this."

Not correct in several respects, the "dirty laundry" is not "intermediate data" but the residuals and those were sent to Tim Osborn so he could make uncertainty estimates. Mann's calculation of those did not use any known standard method and McIntytre asked for the method along with the results. Without them McIntyre could create potentially hockey sticks with large autocorrelated residuals (provided he replicated Mann's incorrect standardization) but had no way to verify Mann's results.

The report of no "intent to suppress" repeated by Media Matters is false.

Posted by: eric654 | July 2, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I don’t know if the Sunday Times is held in much regard anyway. The Sunday Times is actually an independent newspaper from the Times, though they are both now owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post (print edition) is also systematically biased against science. In a paper published in 2004 by Boykoff and Boykoff ( ), the authors studied coverage of anthropogenic global warming by the Washington Post and three other newspapers. They found that by continually emphasizing balance over accuracy, the media cause an informational bias in their science coverage.

From the paper's conclusions:
"By empirically unpacking the robust norm of balanced reporting, this research examines what may on the surface be an obvious journalistic tendency—the proclivity to tell both sides of the story—and excavates it to find that balanced reporting is actually problematic in practice when discussing the human contribution to global warming and resulting calls for action to combat it...The central messages in the generally agreed-upon scientific discourse have therefore not been proliferated by the mass media into the popular arena. The failed discursive translation between the scientific community and popular, mass-mediatized discourse is not random; rather the mis-translation is systematic and occurs for perfectly logical reasons rooted in journalistic norms, and values. We conclude that the US prestige press—the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal—has contributed in significant ways to this failed discursive translation through the adherence to journalistic norms, and more specifically to the journalistic norm of balance. In the end, adherence to the norm of balanced reporting leads to informationally biased coverage of global warming."

This practice continues to this day at the Post. Look at the (not print edition) article linked above ( ). “Exoneration” just had to be balanced by “whitewash”. Overall, I find the work of the Post’s Juliet Eilperin and David Fahrenthold to be lacking. Unlike Andrew Freedman, neither of them seems to be skeptical enough nor knowledgeable enough, two necessary attributes for good science reporting.

Posted by: imback | July 3, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

imback, Your paper says "We found that in the majority (52.65%) of coverage in the US prestige press, balanced accounts prevailed; these accounts gave ‘‘roughly equal attention’’ to the view that humans were contributing to global warming, and the other view that exclusively natural fluctuations could explain the earth’s temperature increase."

A 52.65% measurement of "roughly equal attention"? Too much precision for such a vague criteria. Then they give two examples. First one:

"The ability to study climactic patterns has been critical to the debate over the phenomenon called ‘‘global warming.’’ Some scientists believe—and some ice core studies seem to indicate—that humanity’s production of carbon dioxide is leading to a potentially dangerous overheating of the planet. But skeptics contend there is no evidence the warming exceeds the climate’s natural variations (Abramson,1992, p. A1, emphasis added).

False dichotomy. Both are facts and are not related. One requires future models and the requires analyzing the MWP. No bias towards balance statistics can be gleaned from this example.

Second example:
"[S]ome skeptical meteorologists and analysts assert that global warming reflects a natural cycle of temperature fluctuation and cannot be decisively tied to human actions. ‘‘As far as we are concerned, there’s no evidence for global warming, and by the year 2000 the man-made greenhouse theory will probably be regarded as the biggest scientific gaffe of the century,’’ Piers Corbyn, an astrophysicist at London’s Weather Action forecasting organization told the Reuter news agency (Atkinson, 1995, p. A10).

Much better: indicates bias towards balance. No other examples are given so I conclude that their statistics are about 50% accurate.

Posted by: eric654 | July 3, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Happy Independence Day everyone!!

May God continue to bless the greatest light for liberty the world has ever known.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | July 4, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

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