A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Friday, February 11, 2005

The rain in Spain.....

Plain speaking on the Protocolo de Kioto by Philip in a long, exclusive interview given to the excellent BBC Mundo.com - "Lamentablemente, por diversos motivos, la agenda establecida por Kioto es completamente errónea" - : 'La agenda de Kioto es errónea' (BBC Mundo.com, February 10):
"Aún cuando pareciera que existe un consenso sobre el Protocolo de Kioto, su entrada en vigor ha vuelto a poner en la palestra las opiniones encontradas de la comunidad científica.

Por un lado están los especialistas que aseguran que de la puesta en práctica del protocolo depende el futuro del mundo, y por el otro quienes piensan que Kioto es absolutamente innecesario.

Philip Stott es profesor emérito de biogeografía en la Universidad de Londres y es uno de los mayores oponentes al Protocolo de Kioto, pues lo considera ineficiente.

En entrevista exclusiva con BBC Mundo explica el porqué de su posición..... (now read on).

Philip, off for some tapas.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Jolly hockey sticks.....

Published this week:

Moberg, Anders, Wibjörn Karlén et al., 2005. 'Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data.' Nature 433, No. 7026, pp. 613-617, February 10, 2005:
"A number of reconstructions of millennial-scale climate variability have been carried out in order to understand patterns of natural climate variability, on decade to century timescales, and the role of anthropogenic forcing. These reconstructions have mainly used tree-ring data and other data sets of annual to decadal resolution. Lake and ocean sediments have a lower time resolution, but provide climate information at multicentennial timescales that may not be captured by tree-ring data. Here we reconstruct Northern Hemisphere temperatures for the past 2,000 years by combining low-resolution proxies with tree-ring data, using a wavelet transform technique to achieve timescale-dependent processing of the data. Our reconstruction shows larger multicentennial variability than most previous multi-proxy reconstructions, but agrees well with temperatures reconstructed from borehole measurements and with temperatures obtained with a general circulation model. According to our reconstruction, high temperatures—similar to those observed in the twentieth century before 1990—occurred around AD 1000 to 1100, and minimum temperatures that are about 0.7 K below the average of 1961–90 occurred around AD 1600. This large natural variability in the past suggests an important role of natural multicentennial variability that is likely to continue." [my italic]

Precisely. And this excellent work comes after these:

McIntyre, Stephen and Ross McKitrick, 2005. 'Hockey sticks, principal components and spurious significnace.' Geophysical Research Letters (in press);

Loehle, Craig, 2004a. 'Climate change: detection and attribution of trends from long-term geologic data.' Ecological Modelling 171, No. 4, pp. 433-450, February 1, 2004;

Loehle, Craig, 2004b. 'Using Historical climate data to evaluate climate trends: issues of statistical inference.' Energy & Environment 15, No. 1, pp. 1-10, 2004;

McIntyre, Stephen and Ross McKitrick, 2003. 'Corrections to the Mann et. al. (1998) 'Proxy Data Base and Northern Hemispheric Average Temperature Series.'' Energy & Environment 14, No. 6, pp. 751-771, October 28, 2003;

Soon, Willie and Baliunas, Sallie, 2003a. 'Proxy climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years.' Climate Research 23, pp.89-110, January 31, 2003;

Soon, Willie, Sallie Baliunas, Craig Idso, Sherwood Idso and David R. Legates, 2003b. 'Reconstructing climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 Years: a reappraisal.' Energy & Environment 14, Nos 2 & 3, pp. 233-289, April 11, 2003.

"Sir, I need a new hockey stick. Mine is broken."

"Here's a tennis racket - you might do better with this."

"Love - 40!"

"Perhaps, not!"

Philip, off to broadcast.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Blair's climate-change policy becoming clearer by the day.....

Yesterday, as ever, Mr. Blair gave a consummate political performance before the liaison committee, which comprises a group of senior MPs who are themselves all committee chairs. Two of his replies, in particular, throw intriguing light on his thinking about the politics of climate change.

First, he resolutely resisted, on political grounds, any idea of new taxes on cheap airline flights (remember airlines are currently exempt from duty on fuel and from VAT on the planes they buy), a Green shibboleth. Instead, he argued that it was important to opt to support scientific advances that might improve fuel efficiency. Yet again, therefore, Mr. Blair focused on technological improvements rather than on economic or political curbs. This re-inforces the increasing evidence that his agenda is quite different from that of the Kyoto Protocol and of many Greens. Above all, he wishes to employ the threat of 'global warming' primarily as a tool for technological 'forcing' and engineering solutions.

Secondly, and perhaps even more tellingly, Mr. Blair made it abundantly clear that, despite 'global warming' being a key theme of Britain's leadership of the G8, he will allow nothing that might: "... do unnecessary damage to our business." Indeed, he had no qualms at all about defending the recent decision to try to raise Britain's agreed EU limit on CO2 emissions.

In both these responses, we see Mr. Blair as ever the New Labour politician. It is increasingly obvious that he is using the threat of 'global warming' to achieve three goals:-

(a) create the impression that he is leading the world on the issue of climate change by building an independent bridge with the Bush administration. This requires the by-passing of the Kyoto Protocol and replacing it with more practical and positive economic and technological options;

(b) force technological change with respect to both energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy; and,

(c) soften up the British public for the inevitable, namely, a mid-term return to nuclear power (this is necessary on purely energy grounds, never mind anything else). Blair is well aware that so-called 'renewables' are unlikely to deliver in the mid-term, but he has a big problem in the UK with the politics of nuclear power. Frightening the public over 'global warming' will help enormously with this, while, at the same time, splitting the Greens, pitting Lovelock against FoE.

Never underestimate Mr. Blair. He is a politician first and last, right down to his fingertips. In Mr. Blair's case, don't bother watching the science; just observe the politics.

Philip, actually feeling a tad sorry for the more naif Greens. Coffee?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Spare a thought for the poor old environmental correspondent.....

I think we should feel just a smidgen sorry for Geoffrey Lean of the lachrymose Indy and Paul Brown and John Vidal of The Gloomiad. Despite all their unremitting hype on the dire perils of 'Media World Global Warming', the British public remain (thank goodness) resolutely unfazed1, possessing far too much common sense to fall for the tear-stained angst of the environmental correspondent's 'World of Daily Disasters'.

In a new Populus Poll (February 4-to-6), issued in today's The Times (February 8, p. 9), 'global warming' doesn't even feature in the list of key political issues. Here is the ranking (showing the % interest among the populace, with the change from May 2004 provided in brackets):

National Health Service 49% (-15);
Crime 45% (+11);
Education 41% (-8);
Pensions and Social Security 32% (+4);
Immigration and Asylum 28% (-9);
Level of Taxes 23% (+5);
International Terrorism 19% (-7);
International Poverty 17% (na)
Europe 10% (+2);
Transport 9% (-2);
Iraq 9% (na);
Interest Rates 6% (na).

You will notice that, while Mr. Blair's drive on international poverty, especially in Africa, has registered with voters, his rants on 'global warming' have not. Crime, by contrast, is becoming a most serious issue.

I'm thus delighted to be able to report that 'global warming' angst remains the preserve of a rather tiny circle of our most liberal elite who live within 2 miles of Green College and George Monbiot's house in Oxford; in the laptops of a few Eeyore-like and rather gloomy environmental correspondents; on the ever-frenetic 'Horizon'; in waffly degree courses called Environmental Studies or Development Studies; and, of course, in and around the computers of the Hadley Centre.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are getting on with our lives, if increasingly concerned about crime, pensions, and world poverty.

[1 Hat tip to Louis Hissink over at Henry Thornton.com - 'Oh Dear, A spilling misstake' - for spotting our tragic spelling error, which we have gratefully, and most humbly, corrected! We like to improve our posts, phase by faze.....]

Philip, always grateful for the pragmatic good sense of British folk. Moonbats might feature regularly on breathless tele, but who notices?

Monday, February 07, 2005

'Michael Crichton ate my polar bear!'.....

Welcome to the tabloid horror movie that is The Independent..... meanwhile, back on Earth, of course, polar bears are thriving.....

Is The Independent striving hard to become the very worst newspaper in Britain? I have rarely read such dire stuff as this: 'Apocalypse now: how mankind is sleepwalking to the end of the Earth' (The Independent, February 7). It's a disgrace. How on Earth can serious, critical science survive with crass and uncritical reporting like this? It is not even worthy of a genuine tabloid or red top, where, at least, the headline would have been: 'Michael Crichton ate my polar bear!'

Meanwhile, of course, on the real planet Earth, polar bears are doing quite well, thank you: 'Polar bears defy extinction threat' (The Scotsman, February 7):
"According to new research, the numbers of the giant predator have grown by between 15 and 25 per cent over the last decade.

Some authorities on Arctic wildlife even claim that hunting, and not global warming, has been the real cause of the decrease in polar bear numbers in areas where the species is in decline.

A leading Canadian authority on polar bears, Mitch Taylor, said: 'We’re seeing an increase in bears that’s really unprecedented, and in places where we’re seeing a decrease in the population it’s from hunting, not from climate change [my italic].'"

We must surely call "time" on the fatuous reporting of climate change in The Independent. British journalism deserves better.

See Crumb Trail for an excellent comment on this blog: 'Incremental dramatization' (Crumb Trail, February 7).

Philip, rarely arroused, but this is unacceptable. Dinner, and a full-gooseberry sauvignon blanc, to calm me down. And you all know what I'll be lighting my fire with this evening..... grate choice!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Observer observed.....

My 'Letter to the Editor' in today's The Observer: 'No cold comfort' (The Observer, February 6, Letter 5).

Philip, enjoying a quiet Sunday afternoon of Beethoven violin sonatas and Proust. Time most certainly not lost.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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