Another Climate Change Catastrophe from the Mail

It seems that no Sunday is now complete without another pile of nonsense about climate change from David Rose in the Mail on Sunday (see my previous post here for example) and this week was no exception.

Rose has found a graph which he claims contains

…irrefutable evidence that official predictions of global climate warming have been catastrophically flawed.
The graph on this page blows apart the ‘scientific basis’ for Britain reshaping its entire economy and spending billions in taxes and subsidies in order to cut emissions of greenhouse gases.

Typically for Rose the whole piece is riddled with inaccuracies and distortions – for example he completely misrepresents the views of climate scientist James Annan and repeats the easily debunked myth that scientists in the 1970s were just as concerned about global cooling as global warming. But the main problem with Rose’s argument is more fundamental. The graph that he shows in order to support his argument simply doesn’t show what he claims it does. His “smoking gun” is not only not smoking, it is not even warm. Here is the graph in question


The graph itself is genuine – it has been taken from the blog of climate scientist Ed Hawkins and shows projections of surface temperatures from climate models going back to the early 1950s and forwards to the mid 21st century with different certainty levels, and actual observations to date. Rose is wrong about the certainty levels they actually represent 50% and 90% but I’m betting that this is an innocent mistake because (as we will see) he just doesn’t understand statistical terminology very well.

Continue reading

The last acceptable prejudice

Liberal Conspiracy had an excellent piece earlier this week about the discrimination and persecution suffered by Romani citizens of various EU countries. I won’t quote excerpts here as it really is worth reading the whole thing, but I am glad to see that this rarely publicised issue is finally starting to get the attention it deserves (I’m not trying to claim any moral high ground here, this is my first post on the subject).

Two contrasting pieces in Saturday’s newspapers sum up the problem perfectly and show that even if this country does not have the kind of instututionalised discrimination seen in others bigotry towards the Roma is seemingly the last acceptable prejudice. Firstly, here is the Guardian

The European Union was today accused of “turning a blind eye” as countries across Europe carried out a wave of expulsions and introduced new legislation targeting the Roma.

Human rights groups criticised the EU for failing to address the real issues driving Europe’s largest ethnic minority to migrate in the first place and for choosing not to upbraid countries for breaking both domestic and EU laws in their treatment of them.

And here is the Express.

Now it has to be said that the Express is happy to display its own brand of racism towards all sorts of minority groups, immigrants and (especially) asylum seekers, so it would be unfair to accuse it of specifically targetting Roma, but it is still not unusual to hear people expressing views about “Pikeys” when they would never use phrases such as “Pakis” or “Yids”, and it is unlikely that the Express headline raised many eyebrows. This needs to change.

The Guardian’s Fred Pearce seems to be confused

The Guardian is not the first place one expects to see stories jumping on the “climategate” bandwagon, but they made a big splash this week with this story by Fred Pearce.

Phil Jones, the beleaguered British climate scientist at the centre of the leaked emails controversy, is facing fresh claims that he sought to hide problems in key temperature data on which some of his work was based.
A Guardian investigation of thousands of emails and documents apparently hacked from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit has found evidence that a series of measurements from Chinese weather stations were seriously flawed and that documents relating to them could not be produced.

The “evidence” which supposedly incriminates Jones seems to me to be rather flimsy, but my point is not to argue the rights and wrongs of the accusation. What I find a bit odd is that Fred Pearce seems to have rather changed his view of the hacked emails – after all he had previously published a piece with the headline “How the ‘climategate’ scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics’ lies” with the sub-heading “Claims based on email soundbites are demonstrably false – there is manifestly no evidence of clandestine data manipulation” in which he wrote

Almost all the media and political discussion about the hacked climate emails has been based on brief soundbites publicised by professional sceptics and their blogs. In many cases, these have been taken out of context and twisted to mean something they were never intended to.

Of course people do sometimes change their positions on particular issues, there’s nothing wrong with that. So how long did it take Pearce to undergo this rather drastic conversion? Well the piece alleging malpractice based on evidence in the hacked emails was posted on the Guardian website at 21:00 on 1st February, whereas the piece claiming that the “climategate” scandal was bogus was posted at , er, 18:04 on the same day, less than three hours earlier.

Is it just me or does Fred Pearce seem to be somewhat confused?

Daily Mail spreading climate change misinformation again

Note: This piece has been updated on 15th December

The Daily Mail seems to have found yet more evidence to persuade its readers that they should be skeptical of man-made global warming. This piece by David Rose has two startling revelations – that both proxy data and an important diagram in an IPCC report were manipulated to make past temperatures appear cooler than they actually were, and that weather station data was also manipulated to show warming in recent times which may not have actually occurred. I don’t have time now to address the latter claim, but you can see a good summary here. However, I would like to address the question of the temperature data in some detail. Continue reading

Speaker’s wife in “didn’t spend college days doing ironing” shock!

I can’t say I have any interest in the recent revelations about Sally Bercow, wife of the speaker – what people got up to in their college days is a matter for them as far as  I’m concerned. However, I couldn’t help noticing this in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.

Mrs Bercow, 40, shocked the Commons last week by revealing her promiscuous, binge-drinking past

Yes, I can imagine that to our esteemed Members of Parliament the notion that someone (and a woman at that!) might indulge in a bit of casual sex or, heaven forbid, binge drinking, and at university of all places, is entirely shocking and so at odds with their own clean-living background.

It’s another one for the “Audience from clean-living TV and media industries shocked at mildly risque joke by presenter at awards ceremony” category.

So long Vic Mackey

So it’s over – the last ever episode of The Shield was aired on Monday night. It was one of the greatest TV cops shows ever, possibly the greatest,* and in corrupt detective Vic Mackey, portrayed superbly by Michael Chiklis, it had one of the most compelling central characters in the history of the genre.
The ending was handled well – there was no final blaze of glory for Mackey, no explosive climax. He managed to foil the best efforts of his adversaries to prosecute him for his various misdeeds, but he still ended up paying a big price for his sins. Vic’s family were moved into witness protection to escape from him after his wife turned on and him tried to help the police bring him down. Ronnie Garocki, his fellow strike team member and his closest friend was hauled away by their former police colleagues to pay the price for their various misdeeds over the years, sold out by Vic himself. And the ultimate humiliation – after getting the job with the Feds he had been so desperate for he was relegated to a mundane desk job, faced with three years of pushing paper instead of being out on the streets busting the bad guys. The sight of Vic, dressed in regulation suit and tie, being lectured by the HR lady on the workings of the air conditioning system was a superb portrait of a proud man humiliated by the banality of his situation. Continue reading

Illiterate headline of the year

OK, I know it’s the Sun and you expect headlines to be written in tabloidese, and you expect the misuse of the pronoun “one” in any story about the royal family. But although I haven’t read the story in detail I’m pretty certain that they didn’t mean to suggest that someone shagged the Queen in the grounds of Windsor castle.

Mel says “Yes 2 ID”

Those of us who are familiar with the views of Melanie Phillips are aware that she is nothing if not a champion of unpopular causes, and can only admire her persistence in continuing to fight her corner even when all of the available evidence is stacked against her. For example she still steadfastly refuses to believe that there is no evidence of a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and will pounce on the most tendentious and discredited “evidence” to try to ridicule the notion of man made global warming (see the comments to the piece for why this is rubbish). Furthermore, I have previously documented her strongly held belief that Barack Obama was not just the second best candidate in the US presidential election but a serious threat to Western civilisation as we know it (and especially to Israel).

Well now Mel has turned her attention to the theory of Intelligent Design and is most upset at the Today programme for “misrepresentation of Intelligent Design as a form of Creationism”. Now those of us who believe that ID is in fact Creationism dressed in fancy trousers in order to give it a veneer of respectability may scoff, but Mel is most insistent

the fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science.

Yes, Intelligent Design is in fact a bona fide scientific theory. And how does Mel justify this claim?

Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.

So in part it is a scientific theory because many of its advocates are scientists. Well maybe they are, although Mel offers no evidence for this, but then many scientists are Christians but this does not in itself make Christianity a scientific theory. What is relevant is not just whether an advocate of a particular belief is a scientist but also whether they are qualified in the particular field under discussion and whether they are able to back up their views with actual evidence. AGW skeptics such as Mel always point to petitions signed by lots of “scientists” who support their view but very few of them have any kind of qualification in climate science.

Yes, there are certainly questions still to be answered around the beginning of the universe and the origin of matter, the big bang, the existence of dark matter etc. but there is no serious body of scientific opinion proposing ID as an answer. There is much excitement about what secrets the Large Hadron Collider might yield (once it is fixed) but there is no suggestion that it will reveal the hand of a hidden designer (Mel does know that the “god particle” is named ironically, right?).

As for evolution, the main target of ID-ers. well it is one of the most successful scientific theories devised by mankind. Not only can we see the evidence in the world around us but with the discovery of DNA and the nature of heredity we understand how it works at the molecular level. There is simply no need for an Intelligent Designer and not the slightest bit of evidence for one.

In fact Intelligent Design does not, even by Mel’s own reasoning, ”come out of science”, it is a rejection of science. If you hold that “the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter” then you are explicitly rejecting the possibility that science will itself provide an explanation of those complexities we do not yet fully understand. There are questions to which science cannot currently provide an answer but that doesn’t mean we have to consider any other superficially attractive proposition when there is no actual evidence to support it. The US National Academy of Sciences puts it well

Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge

So if ID is not science is it really of a different nature to Creationism as Mel claims? Not really - many religious believers do not take the creation myth as a literal description of how God created the earth, but they still believe there is a creator and this belief relies on faith, not evidence. As does the existence of Mel’s Intelligent Designer – he may not be the same as the Christian/Jewish god (although given that Mel is a devout Jew it would be rather odd if this was the case) but his existence still requires a leap of faith. And it is this reliance on faith which separates both ID and Creationism from science.  That is not to paint all people with religious beliefs as “anti-science” - most of them understand perfectly well the distinction between religion and science. What advocates of ID do is try to blur those boundaries – in fact they go further than trying to explain what science cannot, they (like the Creationists) try to provide alternative explanations for that which science itself can explain perfectly well.

That is why Intelligent Design is irrational, anti-science and anti-intellectual. And the irony is that this is from someone who sees themselves in the forefront of the battle to defend Western civilised values and rationalism from the forces of barbarism (i.e. Islam). One of the commenters puts it succinctly -

In the World War over religion, between the allies of Modernity and the axis of Mediaevelism Melanie Phillips is actually on the same side as the Iranian Mullahs, the Saudi princes and the Taleban

A tribute to Oliver Postgate

Oliver Postgate, creator of some of our best loved children’s TV shows, has died aged 83.

For those of us who were growing up in the sixties and seventies his programmes (created with collaborator Peter Firmin) are an integral part of or childhood memories and I have fond recollections of watching the Pogles, Noggin the Nog, Clangers and, of course, Bagpuss. In fact I have already have DVDs of the latter two series ready for my 6 month old son to watch when he is old enough (well that’s my excuse).

Anyone who has read his autobiography “Seeing Things” will know he was a great character and a true British eccentric.

So RIP Oliver Postgate, you will be sadly missed by children of all ages, especially those in their forties.

Pot, kettle (or possibly…fish, barrel)

One aspect of the Damian green saga which seems to have upset some people is the suggestion that he was “grooming” his mole, the objection being that this phrase is often associated with predatory paedophiles and was therefore inappropriate in this case.

One person who has particularly taken offence is Richard Littlejohn

In her [Jacqui Smith's] stubborn dissembling, she is aided and abetted by her allies in the police force, who brief menacingly that there are disturbing aspects of this case which have still to emerge, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Offensively, they claim that Green was ‘grooming’ a young civil servant to leak information – a scandalous slur normally used in relation to child sex offences.

Of course Littlejohn would never stoop so low himself as to make snide insinuations about someone’s sexuality, would he?

P.S. The title of his piece is “If I’m not here on Friday, you’ll know I’ve been nicked”. Surely it should read “If I’m not here on Friday, it’s because I live in Florida.”