Friday, April 30, 2010

Picking Nature's Cherry

COMMENT:  What  makes this newsworthy..."Sea ice loss key to Arctic warming: study" (based on a report in Nature) and this not  "Soil microbes produce less atmospheric CO2 than expected with climate warming"  (based on a report in Nature Geoscience)?

Wonder why this fact wasn't mentioned in the piece on sea ice:Arctic sea ice above "normal" see WUWT).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ABC audiences and Fairfax readers deserve better

COMMENT: Editorial piece in today's Australian suggests we deserve more from ABC and Fairfax.

ABC audiences and Fairfax readers deserve better
READERS of the Fairfax press and ABC audiences must have been surprised by major political announcements of late. The Rudd government's axing of its $2.45 billion roof insulation scheme, the scrapping of Green Loans and the review of the $16.2 billion school building program must have come as a bolt from the blue for those relying solely on The Sydney Morning Herald and The 7.30 Report for news as coverage of the problems besetting the schemes had been so scant. 
More at The Australian  "The public interest sold short"

Publish or perish?

COMMENT: "A scientific researcher has come up with evidence that a "publish or perish" culture is skewing results in published papers. Dr Fanelli is now with the University of Edinburgh and has just published a paper in the Public Library of Sciences' online journal PLoS one. It looks into whether the publish or perish culture in academia is conflicting with the integrity of research. He says he found a general bias towards "positive" results.    Publish or perish: scientists under pressure PM 27/4/ 2010
But somehow climate science remains immune? 
Sensationalist headline for CSIRO study on ocean salinity
Butterfly study: a case study in confirmation bias

see also  Being published does not turn fiction into fact...
Peer review system is flawed, scientists say

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Weather whisperers say one thing, ABC says another

Update: 14 July 2010-see below
A little while ago (see HERE) we pointed out that local Inuit knowledge was important in recognising that Polar Bears sometimes eat each other. As Inuits are around to witness Polar Bears a lot more than tourists and passing scientists, it makes some sense to listen to what they are saying. ABC now report on a recent study (lead by the aptly named Betsy Weatherhead - a scientist from the University of Colorado) that has used Inuit Knowledge to suggest that the weather has been "ogianaktook" (phonetic) or less predictable over the past 15 or 20. 

The study titled "Changes in weather persistence: Insight from Inuit knowledge" was published online in the journal Global Environmental Change. The abstract reads:
Since the 1990s, local residents from around the Arctic have reported changes in weather predictability. Examination of environmental measurements have not, until now, helped describe what the local inhabitants have been reporting, in part because prior studies did not focus directly on the persistence aspect of weather. Here we show that there is evidence of changes in persistence in weather over the last two decades for Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada. Hourly data indicate that for local spring, the persistence of temperature has changed dramatically in the last 15 years with some years showing a strong drop in day-to-day persistence in the local spring afternoons, somewhat at odds with changes in persistence on a more global scale. Changes in daily persistence may have implications for human health, agriculture, and ecosystems worldwide. More importantly, the approach of merging indigenous knowledge with scientific methods may offer unexpected benefits for both.

ABC's headline however reads: "Inuit knowledge reveals warming effects". The study is about Inuit knowledge of weather persistence, not warming or cooling. The emphasis is on unpredictability in weather over the past 15 years (which hardly covers half a climate cycle). Hence we lodge a complaint on the grounds that the report headline lacks factual accuracy and breaks ABC editorial policy. We request the ABC amend the headline and we provide the following title for ABC to consider:  "Inuit weather whisperers say weather less predictable-study"
The ABC appear to have found out about the article through a press release from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, issued on the 7th of April, 2010 (seems like ABC were a little slow off the mark with this one).

ABC Audience and Consumer affairs reply: 13 July

Thank you for your further email regarding The World Today.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

Your complaint has been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit separate to and independent from ABC program areas.

I am advised by ABC News management that the reporter discussed the findings of the paper "Changes in weather persistence: Insight from Inuit knowledge" with the researcher Betsy Weatherhead from the University of Colorado, prior to The World Today interview of 26 April.  I understand that Dr Weatherhead confirmed that the research reflected a link between global warming and weather predictability.  In light of your complaint, the reporter has since confirmed with Dr Weatherhead that the description of the research in the story is accurate.

With regard to your concern that the first paragraph of the story constitutes an 'editorial opinion and not a factual statement', I would point out that the statement is clearly attributed to Dr Weatherhead:  "A scientist from the University of Colorado says that local knowledge from the Inuit in Canada has revealed important new information about how global warming is affecting weather in the Arctic."  This is not the editorial opinion of the ABC; we are merely reporting the views of Dr Weatherhead.

Audience and Consumer Affairs notes that the issue of global warming was referred to during the interview, and that the research itself states that: "Inspired by the observations and knowledge shared by Inuit around weather variability and predictability, this paper looks at another dimension to change that we might experience with the increase in greenhouse gases: changes in the character of weather."

On review, Audience and Consumer Affairs is satisfied that the report is in keeping with the ABC's editorial standards for accuracy; the story was based on the research findings from the University of Colorado, which were clarified with the researcher before the item went to air.  The claims made by Dr Weatherhead are correctly attributed throughout, and she is properly credentialed to speak to the subject at hand.

Nonetheless, please be assured that your concerns are noted and have been brought to the attention of ABC News.  For your reference, the ABC's Code of Practice is available at:

Yours sincerely
Audience and Consumer Affairs

Monday, April 26, 2010

Suddenly not so salty

COMMENT:  "We're seeing signals of change, we're seeing the water is fresher than it used to be" Dr Steve Rintoul CSIRO as reported in Huge current discovered in Southern Ocean. 
What happened to the ABC's claim of extreme saltiness

Burning Up Burn up

COMMENT: ABC screened Part 1 of the British drama/thriller "Burn Up" last night. Part 2 airs next Sunday. Here's an excerpt from AA Gill's Review in the Times Online that probably won't make Auntie's home page...

"The finger-wagging about global warming was relentless and unabating, all couched in the comfy velour of the edge-of-history and watershed gibberish. The goodies were witty, brilliant, sensitive, imaginative, attractive, sexy and great dancers - rather, I suspect, like the scriptwriters. The baddies were, well,they were all American. This was film-making from the Soviet school of political subtlety, a childishly black-and-white premise, delivered with a patronising blog of a script, which overwhelmed the plot, pace, anything resembling a character and, finally, the audience’s sympathy." More at Times Online.

Media Watch crafts an appealing narrative

COMMENT: Interesting story in today's Australian newspaper looking at a recent Media Watch feature Incredible Find, Credibility Questioned...
"What Media Watch has really done is what any self-respecting entertainment outlet, National Geographic included, does: craft an appealing narrative."
Read more at: Media Watch caught out by its fossil morality tale

Update: CRE respond to Minister's Wrong Figures

COMMENT: ABC Complaints Review Executive (CRE) have provided a response to our complaint regarding factual errors in a story featuring interviews with climate change Minister Penny Wong and Macquarie University's Tim Flannery. 
The report transcript included the following statement from Minister Penny Wong:
"We've got around 85 per cent of the world's economies signed up to the Copenhagen Accord."
and the following statement from Professor Flannery:
"I think he's done a pretty good job overall and the Copenhagen Accord shows that.
We've got something like 80 countries now signed up to that."
The UNFCC indicate that currently 40 Annex I countries and 30 non-Annex I countries have provided targets under the Copenhagen Accord (see UNFCC website HERE). Number of countries in the UN: 192, Number of countries listed by UNFCC as providing emission targets under the Copenhagen Accord: 70: or 36%.
We requested that ABC append the report with a statement indicating the number of countries that have provided targets under the Copenhagen Accord to this report to clarify Minister Wong's apparently misleading statement. ABC have refused to do so, thus helping to promulgate factual inaccuracies. The ABC's Complaint Review Executive report is posted in full below:

Received 23 April, 2010

A request for review was received on 6 April 2010. It was acknowledged on 6 April and the complainant was advised that the Complaints Review Executive would aim to complete the review by 4 May 2010.
On 19 February 2010 The World Today included a report – Head of UN climate change team calls it quits.
The complainant wrote on 21 February 2010 regarding a report on The World Today. He stated that that the ‘UNFCC (sic) indicate that currently 40 Annex I countries and 30 non‐Annex I countries have provided targets under the Copenhagen Accord.’ He believed that –
‘In light of this both Minister Wong and Prof Tim Flannery’s statements are in‐correct. Although Prof Flannery’s is acceptable in context. The ABC reporter should have had these facts at hand and questioned Minister Wong on her stated figures. Instead factual errors were allowed to be reported.’
He also considered that ‘Knowledge of the number of countries that provided emission targets would have allowed the reporter to pick up errors made by the interviewees.’
ABC Audience & Consumer Affairs (A&CA) responded on 29 March advising that the ‘views of Senator Wong and Tim Flannery are their own, they are not the views of the ABC’. A&CA advised that ‘For the purposes of section 5 of Editorial Policies, the comments of contributors are not considered factual content.’ A&CA wrote that they ‘believe the interviews were suitably questioning, on the issue that was the focus of the report; the continuity of negotiations over a global climate treaty following the departure of the top UN official on climate change.’

Following a further exchange of emails on 29 March about the relevant section of ABC Editorial Policies the complainant requested a review by the CRE. On 5 April he also emailed his request direct to the CRE.
Basis of Assessment
Stories on The World Today are categorised as News and Current Affairs content and must meet editorial standards set out in section 5 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. Section 5.2.2(d) of the Editorial Policies says: Editorial judgements are based on news values, not for example on political, commercial or sectional interests or personal values.
In addition the ABC’s Code of Practice Section 3 ‘News and current affairs content’ notes:
3.2 Every reasonable effort, in the circumstances, must be made to ensure the factual content of news and current affairs is accurate and in context
3.4 Editorial judgments will be based on news values
The context of the story was a follow up to the announcement the day before of the resignation of Mr Yvo de Boer, head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):
The interviewer was seeking responses to the announcement by interviewing the Federal Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, and the Chair of the Coasts and Climate Change Council, Professor Tim Flannery. While the focus of the interview was not about the numbers of countries who had signed up to the Copenhagen Accord, both interviewees referred to this as part of their responses. The references were not precise:
‘We’ve got around eighty five percent of the world’s economies signed up’ (Minister Penny Wong)
‘We’ve got something like 80 countries now signed up..’ (Professor Tim Flannery)

Professor Flannery also referred to Mr Todd Stern, the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change who he said was predicting ‘we’ll be at 100 countries within the next few weeks’.
The complainant has provided this link to challenge the figures expressed, with an expectation that the interviewer would choose to pursue this issue:
The story heading was ‘Head of UN climate change team call it quits’ and the clear line of questioning concerned the impact of the resignation, the qualities required by a new chief negotiator and the likely impact of a new appointment.
While it was open to the interviewer to challenge the particular references, the particular angle and substance of the news story was the resignation of Mr Yvo de Boer, and what the change to such an important position would mean.
The resignation is the heart of the brief story, the essential news value. In previous determinations by the CRE regarding the interpretation of ‘factual content’ provided by third parties, it has been considered that the comments of contributors are not subject to the same requirements for accuracy as ABC staff who are required to meet the standards of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. In this case, the program’s decision to seek comment from two credible and recognised speakers was sufficient to satisfy the ABC’s requirement that every reasonable effort be made to ensure accuracy (Ed: Sir MarcACCURACY?-both "credible" speakers got their figures astoundingly wrong!).
Having assessed the content, considered the listener’s concerns and reviewed the ABC’s response, I consider that ABC editorial requirements were not breached. Therefore the complaint is not upheld.
19 April 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Butterfly study: a case study in confirmation bias

COMMENT: On March 18 we put up a brief post titled "Bide our time on butterfly" following extensive ABC coverage of an article in Biology Letters that claims that Early emergence in a butterfly causally linked to anthropogenic warming, namely increases in greenhouse gases. See  ABC reports "Butterflies 'fly early as planet warms'" ABC Science online 17/3/2010, and related reports on  News Online: "Climate change link to butterflies" , The World Today:  "Early butterflies linked to climate change"

The reason for biding our time was to await the results of peer review of a comment on the article MH submitted to   Biology Letters just 2 days after the original was posted online. This week the editor of Biology Letters rejected our submission for various reasons. We intend to re-submit the comment piece after we take reviewer's comments into account. 

To help address issues raised by the reviewers we have requested help from the extensive readership of Watts Up With That. Blog author Anthony Watts has graciously agreed to help and has posted our comments along with the reviewer comments on the WUWT blog. See Butterfly study: a case study in confirmation bias.

We have requested ABC provide some coverage!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Missing News: More Curry for IPCC

COMMENT: Professor Judith Curry elaborates on recent criticism of the IPCC in an email exchange with Keith Floor (HERE). We wonder if Tony Jones is brave enough to interview Prof Curry on Lateline? ...or would Prof. Curry's insights represent an unwelcome symphony, one capable of smashing ABC's climate change echo chamber?

From the interview...Prof Curry states:
Corruptions to the IPCC process that I have seen discussed include:
•    lead/contributing authors assessing their own work – (e.g. von Storch criticism in 2005), in some cases resulting in an overemphasis on their own papers written by themselves and their collaborators;
•    tailoring graphics and not adequately describing uncertainties ostensibly to simplify and not to “dilute the message” that IPCC wanted to send;
•    violations of publication (in press) deadlines for inclusions of papers in the IPCC report;
•    inadequacies in the review process whereby lead/contributing authors don’t respond fairly to adverse criticism; this inadequacy arises in part to the authors themselves having ultimate authority and in part to cursory performance by the Review Editors;
•    evasiveness and unresponsiveness by the IPCC regarding efforts to investigate alleged violations occurring in the review process;
•    IPCC Review Editors and authors using the IPCC to avoid accountability under national FOI legislation.

We have put a request to ABC for Prof Curry to be interviewed.

Update: ABC reply to Chinese whispers complaint

COMMENT: ABC Complaints Review Executive have replied to our complaint about ABC reporting on comments made by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director, National Development and Reform Commission in the course of a group press conference held during the National People's Congress.
ABC's report conflicted with reports by other news agencies. The disparity in reporting was highlighted by The Australian's Cut and Paste section HERE.

In the reply (posted in full below) ABC contend that "It is not the responsibility of the ABC to examine the accuracy of other media organisations, their editorial processes or decisions."
Rather than take the complaint further with ABC Independent Complaints Review Panel we will endeavour to obtain comment from the Reuter's reporter whose piece contradicts the ABC article (see "China unsure on warming cause, to stick with CO2 cuts"). If that fails we shall then seek a translation of Xie Zhenhua's comments from the Chinese government. We will post results as they come to hand.

Excerpt from email sent to Reuters 22 April: I am wondering who is right? Reuters or the ABC. Is it possible to provide some proof of what was said at the press conference in question to help clarify how Reuter's reporter arrived at her translation that according to the ABC must be faulty? If so would it be possible to provide me with a copy.


A request for review was received on 6 April 2010. It was acknowledged on 6 April and the complainant was advised that the Complaints Review Executive would aim to complete the review by 4 May 2010.
On 11 March 2010 ‐ ABC News Online posted a report – Climate change is a fact, says China; AM included a report – China takes swipe at climate deniers; and Radio Australia’s Connect Asia included a report – Top Chinese official says climate change is a fact.
On 12 March 2010 the complainant wrote that ‘Reporting by the ABC appears to contradict coverage of the same event by Reuters’. He quoted a statement by the reporter –
‘I asked the panel what they thought of the view that climate change had nothing to do with human activity and was in fact a natural phenomenon.’
The complainant wrote that the ABC reported that Xie Zhenhua, Deputy Director, National Development and Reform Commission, stated – ‘Deputy Director Xie answered that he believed that manmade
climate change denial is, at best, a very marginal view.’ The complainant quoted from the Reuters report posted on 10 March ‐ ‘There are still two different viewpoints in the scientific field about
the cause of warming,ʺ Xie told a news conference on the sidelines of the annual session of Chinaʹs largely rubber‐stamp parliament.’
In addition, the complainant wrote that ‘Xie Zhenhua did not use the term “denial”. This term appears to
have been introduced into the report by the ABC reporter…. or at a later stage by ABC editorial staff.’
The complainant asked if the ABC correctly reported statements by Xie Zhenhua and if the reporter ‘selectively’ quoted Xie Zhenhua. He wrote that he believed that, if the Reuters report was correct, the ABC’s various headlines are ‘completely misleading’. Audience & Consumer Affairs (A&CA) responded on 1 April advising that the use of the phrase climate “denial” is not a direct quote, ‘but a paraphrasing of what Mr Xie went on to say – ‘that he believed that man‐made climate change denial is, at best a very marginal view.’ The complainant was advised that the reporter is a fluent Mandarin speaker and certainly had no trouble understanding what Mr Xie was saying. He was also advised that the ABC has no comment to make on the Reuters report as it is not ABC content. On 5 April the complainant requested a review by the CRE. He also emailed his request direct to the CRE.
Basis of Assessment
Stories appearing on ABC News Online, the AM Radio program and Radio Australia’s Connect Asia are categorised as News and Current Affairs content and must meet editorial standards set out in section 5 of the ABC’s Editorial Policies.
The complainant has particularly referred to section 5.2.2 (c), (d) and (e) in his correspondence regarding accuracy, impartiality and balance.
I have considered the relevant content and correspondence between the complainant and Audience and Consumer Affairs, including reference to the ABC’s Editorial Policies. Central to the complainant’s concern is a comparison of coverage with other news organisations The Atlantic, The Times of India, The Wall Street Journal and in particular Reuters:
‘Based on a comparison with the Reuters’ report, these three ABC articles apparently misrepresent statements by Xie Zhenhua.’ And ‘Can the ABC please explain the apparent difference in reporting this press conference between the two news agencies, Reuters and ABC?’
It is not the responsibility of the ABC to examine the accuracy of other media organisations, their editorial processes or decisions.

The complainant sought answers to six questions. Three of these (1, 5 and 6) specifically sought a comparison with Reuters’ coverage. One of the questions quoted from a Reuters’ report (4). These four questions regarding content of another media organisation do not fall under the provisions of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. In examining the other two questions (2 and 3) which referred specifically to ABC content, the complaint’s concerns were about accuracy of reporting and the possibility of selective quoting. Question 2: A&CA have already noted the reporter Stephen McDonnell is a fluent Mandarin speaker and able to accurately translate. Question 3: The first part of this question was ‘did the ABC reporter…. selectively quote the reply to his question?’ It is clear the reporter’s introduction to the reply is not a quote at all, rather a summary to precede the translation. The summary is a consistent and accurate interpretation of the
translation. Regarding the second part of the question, the ABC is not required to investigate what was or wasn’t provided to the Reuters’ correspondent and their subsequent coverage. The complainant has also identified his personal interest in coverage of ABC climate change issues:‐picking‐season‐was-chinese.html
While all ABC coverage may not always accord with his personal perspective this does not necessarily mean this coverage breaches the ABC’s Editorial Policies. (Sir Marc-ed:  It's not my personal perspective that matters-what matters is the unexplained differences between ABC's coverage and that of Reuters. Both can't be right).
Having assessed the content, considered the complainant’s concerns and reviewed the ABC’s response, I consider that ABC editorial requirements were not breached. Therefore the complaint is not upheld.

Date: 19 April 2010

Update: Facts Toasted in reporting Rio Roast

COMMENT: Our upheld complaint now posted to ABC's Website. The original story apparently so bad it has been purged.

ABC News Online, 11 February 2010

Summary published: Wednesday 21, April 2010

Complaint:  An online reader complained that a report “32 killed as heatwave roasts Rio” contained inaccuracies.

Audience and Consumer Affairs response:  The ABC acknowledged that the headline of the story inaccurately implied that the thirty two deaths occurred in Rio de Janeiro. As was stated in the story, the deaths occurred in Santos, a city 350 kilometres south of Rio. Further, temperature data for Rio cited in the story was incorrect. The report was removed from the ABC website.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

oaks "useless as a temperature proxy" yet used in Mann's temperature reconstruction

COMMENT: New Scientist report that "A leading British university has been told it must release data on tree rings dating back more than 7000 years to an amateur climate analyst and climate sceptic - Doug KeenanThe decision has been covered by the Times, and the Guardian.

From the New Scientist story: "Keenan says he believes the Irish data could bolster the sceptics' case that a thousand years ago there was a widespread medieval warm period on Earth not unlike current warming. But last year Baillie and his colleague Ana Garcia-Suárez published a study showing that Irish oak growth rings are a good proxy for summer rainfall, but not for temperature.

From the Times article  "Dr Rob Wilson, who runs the University of St Andrews tree ring laboratory, agreed that oaks were virtually useless as a temperature proxy, but said that scientists must now be vigilant about making data available."

Climate Audit's Steve McIntyre however indicates in his post Mann of Oak "Notwithstanding the considered opinion of Baillie and Wilson that oaks are “virtually useless as a temperature proxy” and “dangerous” to use in a temperature reconstruction, no fewer than 119 oak chronologies were used in  Mann et al 2008. Among Mann’s oak chronologies were three Baillie chronologies"

We have requested ABC provide some coverage and wonder what angle they take. Will they cover Steve McIntyre's pertinent observations?

Update: Oil spill-PM the winner

COMMENT: ABC have replied to our complaint about the amount of oil split by the Shen Neng 1.
It turns out it was a typo! Perhaps a case of fat finger syndrome?

Received 21 April 2010

Thank you for your email regarding the PM report Oil from stranded Chinese coal carrier to be transferred to a barge.
The broadcast accurately stated that the 950 tonnes of oil on board the Chinese carrier would be transferred into a barge bunker.  When transcribing the report for the website, it was incorrectly typed in as 950, 000 tonnes.
An editor’s note has been attached to the transcript alerting the audience to this fact.

Yours sincerely
Audience and Consumer Affairs

Scoreboard +1

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update: Sir Bob Okay at Auntie

COMMENT: ABC have replied to our complaint about the incorrect use of the term "Sir" for Bob Geldof. Reading the reply it seems ABC is happy to suspend its editorial policies concerning facts and accuracy in this matter (where will it end?). Hence from here on in corresponding with Auntie we shall preface our name with the appropriate title, afterall it's almost a nickname.
Sir Marc.
PS We have forwarded this complaint on to the Complaint Review Executive for further action.

Received 21 April 2010

I am advised by ABC News that they recognise that Bob Geldof is not officially ‘Sir Bob’, however, the use of ‘Sir Bob’ has become common across the media, almost as a nickname. ABC News has reminded staff that ‘Sir Bob Geldof’ is not officially correct, but they accept that stories and programs will occasionally use ‘Sir’ and most audience members would be familiar with this usage.   ABC News have changed a few recent cases online from ‘Sir Bob Geldof’ to ‘Bob Geldof’, but the division does not plan to go back and change all online references as you suggest.

On review, and while noting your point that Audience and Consumer Affairs upheld a complaint on this issue some five years ago, on further consideration we are satisfied that the approach by ABC News is not in contravention of ABC editorial standards for accuracy.  We do not believe that the overall accuracy of the stories is compromised by using the title “Sir” in relation to Bob Geldof.

Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments are noted and have been raised with ABC News management.

Yours sincerely
Audience & Consumer Affairs

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Where's the science? Activists hijack climate change.

COMMENT: ABC report "Eco-activists mass for alternative climate summit" 20 April, 2010.
"Environmental activists, indigenous leaders and Hollywood celebrities are gathering in Bolivia ahead of a self-styled global people's conference on climate change.Thousands of attendees intend to highlight the plight of the world's poorest who they argue were largely ignored at the official United Nations-sponsored summit in Copenhagen last December."

Meanwhile ...Climate Science found in Chicago in May. 
While ABC gives prominent coverage to climate activism one wonders whether ABC will mention the Fourth International Conference on Climate Change, to be held in Chicago, Illinois on May 16-18, 2010.This years theme is "Reconsidering the Science and Economics".

Monday, April 19, 2010

Missing News: Climate Science: Giving the IPCC Curry

Climate Research: "
The charges of “groupthink,” “cargo cult science,” and “tribalism” have some validity in my opinion." -Prof. Judith Curry.

COMMENT: Nothing so far on the ABC about recent comments by prominent Climate Scientist Professor Judith Curry. Prof. Curry posted the following provocative comments regarding the recent investigation (or was that Whitewash) into the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia by Lord Oxburgh on Roger Pielke Jnr's blog and also on Real Climate.
Comments at ROGER PIELKE JNR BLOG post Squeaky Clean
The primary frustration with these investigations is that they are dancing around the principal issue that people care about: the IPCC and its implications for policy. Focusing only on CRU activities (which was the charge of the Oxbourgh panel) is of interest mainly to UEA and possibly the politics of UK research funding (it will be interesting to see if the U.S. DOE sends any more $$ to CRU). Given their selection of CRU research publications to investigate (see Bishop Hill), the Oxbourgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion. However, I still think it unlikely that actual scientific malfeasance is present in any of these papers: there is no malfeasance associated with sloppy record keeping, making shaky assumptions, and using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.
The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative. I don't see much hope for improving the IPCC process under its current leadership.
The historical temperature record and the paleoclimate record over the last millennium are important in many many aspects of climate research and in the communication of climate change to the public; both of these data sets are at the heart of the CRU email controversy. In my opinion, there needs to be a new independent effort to produce a global historical surface temperature dataset that is transparent and that includes expertise in statistics and computational science. Once "best" methods have been developed and assessed for assembling such a dataset including uncertainty estimates, a paleoclimate reconstruction should be attempted (regional, hemispheric, and possibly global) with the appropriate uncertainty estimates. The public has lost confidence in the data sets produced by CRU, NASA, Penn State, etc. While such an independent effort may confirm the previous analysies, it is very likely that improvements will be made and more credible uncertainty estimates can be determined. And the possibility remains that there are significant problems with these datasets; this simply needs to be sorted out. Unfortunately, the who and how of actually sorting all this out is not obvious. Some efforts are underway in the blogosphere to examine the historical land surface data (e.g. such as GHCN), but even the GHCN data base has numerous inadequacies. Addressing the issues associated with the historical and paleo temperature records shou
ld be paramount.

Comments by Prof Judith Curry at REAL CLIMATE

Several RC readers have emailed me, and after a quick perusal of the comments regarding my post at Bishop Hill, I have a few comments to make.

I haven’t come across any posts in the blogosphere with my name on that were not written by me. I haven’t posted anything on RC in several years, although I did invite RC (gavin) to post something on my “Part II: Towards rebuilding trust” essay. Gavin declined, although he did email comments to me on the essay. I have not made any public statement regarding my not posting at RC. I post mainly on sites where I feel there is an opportunity to provoke people to think and challenge their own prejudices on a particular topic. I have posted on blogs ranging from climateprogress to wuwt, and I have received a broad range of responses, with highly negative responses coming from across the spectrum. I don’t stay away from blogs that aren’t “friendly” to me, and I rarely spend time trying to preach to the converted.
So what am I up to? I am trying to provoke people to have open minds and think critically about climate research. The charges of “groupthink,” “cargo cult science,” and “tribalism” have some validity in my opinion. The field of climate research faces some unique challenges owing to the extremely high relevance of our science for policy, and the scientists and the institutions that support the science have not yet adapted to dealing effectively in this highly charged and politicized arena. We need to have a broad discussion on how to improve this situation.
As to whether I have gone over to the “dark side.” First, I’m not sure why we are talking about “sides” (that tribalism thing); we should be talking about science and how to improve the integrity of science. With regards to the “dark side,” there are people making politically motivated attacks against climate research (Marc Morano and Myron Ebell come immediately to mind). And then there are people questioning many aspects of climate research and the IPCC process and making arguments based upon evidence (e.g. Steve McIntyre, Andrew Montford). To dismiss all criticisms of the climate establishment (e.g. IPCC, RC, etc) as the “dark side” and to be dismissed is hampering scientific progress and diminishing the credibility of climate science. So yes, I talk to people that many RC readers would classify as the “dark side”: the skeptical bloggers, “mainstream” skeptical scientists, and even some people from the libertarian think tanks. Regarding my personal opinion on where I stand regarding climate science as presented by the IPCC. I place little confidence in the WG2 and WG3 reports; these fields are in their infancy. With regards to the WG1 report, I think that some of the confidence levels are too high. During the period Feb 2007 – Nov 2009, when I gave a presentation on climate change I would say “don’t believe what one scientist says, listen to what the IPCC has to say” and then went on to defend the IPCC process and recite the IPCC conclusions. I am no longer substituting the IPCC’s judgment for my own judgment on this matter. So if the readers here assess that this constitutes going over to the “dark side” then so be it; my conclusion will be that the minds seem to be more open on the “dark side”.
Gavin’s statement “-especially in the light of the tsunami of baseless accusations against scientists that have been hitting the internet in the last few months-“ makes the mistake of dismissing all accusations/criticisms. I agree, it is difficult to sort through all the crazy statements and identify the substantive arguments. So I will help you out. I have seen no mention on RC of Andrew Montford’s (Bishop Hill) book “The Hockey Stick Illusion.” If Montford’s arguments and evidence are baseless, then you should refute them. They deserve an answer, whether or not his arguments are valid. And stating that you have refuted these issues before isn’t adequate; the critical arguments have not hitherto been assembled into a complete narrative. And attacking Montford’s motives, past statements or actions, etc. won’t serve as a credible dismissal. Attack the arguments and the evidence that he presents. I for one would very much like to see what RC has to say about this book.

We have requested ABC provide some coverage.

Missing News: Homeopathy-no effects beyond placebo

COMMENT: Homeopathy: what does the "best" evidence tell us?

Study Conclusion: The findings of currently available Cochrane reviews of studies of homeopathy do not show that homeopathic medicines have effects beyond placebo.

Edzard Ernst. Med J Aust 2010; 192 (8): 458-460.

Sensationalist headline for CSIRO study on ocean salinity

ABC HEADLINE: "Ocean's saltiness reaching extremes" ABC Science 16 April 2010
ABC REPORTED: ABC post a news report by Larry O'Hanlon of Discovery News dealing with a recent study published online in the Journal of Climate by CSIRO scientists Paul Durack and Dr Susan Wijffels titled "FIFTY-YEAR TRENDS IN GLOBAL OCEAN SALINITIES AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP TO BROAD-SCALE WARMING" (doi: 10.1175/2010JCLI3377.1)
The introductory sentence of the news report reads: "The supercharging of Earth's water cycle by global warming is making some parts of our oceans saltier, while others parts are getting fresher, according to a new study." The ABC version is slightly modified from the version on Discovery News (HERE).
The report appears to be based on a CSIRO Press Release of the 14 April ( which does not indicate that salinity is reaching extreme levels, merely that the water cycle has intensified. 

THE COMPLAINT: The headline misrepresents the contents of the report. No where in the article is there an indication that Ocean saltiness is "reaching extremes". Indeed no where in the actual study is there a suggestion that Ocean saltiness is reaching extremes. Please amend the headline.Suggest: "CSIRO Study finds water cycle intensity has increased".
The link to the Journal of Climate referred to in the article does not work.

OUTCOME: Pending
COMMENT: Sensationalism is not justified by the facts. Perhaps more troubling is that the authors of the study appear to have let the media get away with misrepresenting their findings. We trust they are complaining as loudly as we are.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Contrasting headlines on the same day-don't count your chickens too early

COMMENT: Contrasting headlines on the same day:
A touch of frostbite won't stop Aussie explorer Updated Fri Apr 16, 2010 1:55am AEST
A Perth adventurer attempting to become the first Australian to reach the North Pole unassisted says he is mentally strong, but his body is starting to struggle. Mr Smitheringale has told ABC local radio he is about 300 kilometres from the pole and anticipates it should take him another few weeks to reach it.
Ice man recounts brush with death Updated Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:38pm AEST
Tom Smitheringale had to be rescued by the Canadian military about 300 kilometres short of his destination.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lateline: unsceptical journalism in action?

Update 2 Just in case we didn't hear it the first time ABC have responded again. reply 2 received 7 June 2010.
Update ABC reply received 21 April, 2010-see below
COMMENT: The current issue of The Spectator Australia, contains a article by John Styles titled "Maurice Newman is dead right about the ABC."
The report indicates that Lateline host Tony Jones claims to have interviewed all the main scientific sceptics.  "From around the year 2001 on Lateline, we began interviewing everybody we could about this subject; and we interviewed all the main scientific sceptics." Tony Jones - 6 April 2008.
However Styles report that for in-depth one on one interviews:
"A trawl through the archive netted more than 20 one-on-one interviews in the same period with experts on the true-believer side of the debate. It is a scandalous scorecard: believers 20+, heretics 1."
This suggests a  lack of balance on reporting climate change at the ABC. We have forwarded this on the ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs for comment.
Read the rest of the article HERE.

Outcome: ABC reply received 21 April, 2010
Thank  you for your email of 17 April.
Audience and Consumer Affairs investigates complaints raising editorial issues from the ABC audience on specific broadcasts.  We require that complainants provide reference to particular ABC broadcasts to support their complaint, including the date of broadcast and name of the program or content in question.  We do not investigate matters raised in stories by other media outlets.
Nonetheless, please be assured that your email, and The Spectator article you refer to, are noted by the ABC.  For your reference, the ABC's Code of Practice is available at:

Yours sincerely
Audience and Consumer Affairs

Reply Received 7 June 2010
Thank  you for your email.  I apologise for the delay in responding.

Please be assured that your comments are noted and a copy of The Spectator article has been conveyed to ABC News.  However, I should explain that Audience and Consumer Affairs can only engage in detail with your concerns to the extent that they raise specific issues about particular items of ABC content, and their compliance with the ABC's Editorial Policies and Code of Practice.  If you have concerns about a specific ABC broadcast, we will review your concerns and respond as appropriate.  Audience and Consumer Affairs does not investigate the claims made in magazine stories about ABC programs.

It is also perhaps pertinent to note that the ABC is not obliged to respond to a complaint about a program which is made to the ABC more than six months after the broadcast to which it refers; this is in keeping with section 7.1 of our Code of Practice.  Rather, we consider such complaints on a case by case basis, taking into account such matters as the availability of the program itself, and other related material required to properly investigate the concerns raised.

For your reference, the ABC's Code of Practice is available at:

Yours sincerely
Audience & Consumer Affairs

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whitewashing the whitewash

Update: Reply received 9 June 2010 -see below
ABC HEADLINE:  "Second inquiry clears Climategate scientists" ABC online 15 April,2010
ABC REPORTED: ABC post a Reuters report ("Inquiry clears climate scientists in email row") about results of the Oxburgh Inquiry into British Climate Scientists from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. The first sentence is changed to begin with "Another inquiry..."
THE COMPLAINT: Section 5.2.2 (f) of ABC's Editorial Policy states: Be questioning. Serve the public interest by investigating issues affecting society and individuals.
ABC has failed in its duty to serve the public interest in its coverage of the Oxburgh Inquiry by not reporting on:
1. Affiliations of members of the Assessment Panel that are indicative of strong conflict of interest.
Chair: Prof Ron Oxburgh FRS (Lord Oxburgh of Liverpool): Honorary President of the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Association  and member of Climate Change Capitals advisory board. Lord Oxburgh has stated: "You can't slip a piece of paper between David King [the government's chief science adviser who said climate change was a bigger threat than terrorism] and me on this position.Guardian 17 June, 2004.
Prof Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Co-author on a paper with Climategate scientist Michael Mann.
Prof Lisa Graumlich, University of Arizona. Co-author of a paper with Malcolm Hughes published in the proceedings of a NATO workshop – edited by Phil Jones, whose scientific output was the subject of the panel's inquiry. Malcolm Hughes has published with Michael Mann and Phil Jones (Mann, M.E.,Raymond S. Bradley, Malcolm K. Hughes, and Philip D. Jones (1998). "Global Temperature Patterns". Science 280: 2027.)

2. Content of the report compared to the aims of the inquiry, which were to provide "an independent assessment of CRU's key publications in the areas which have been most subject to comment." (CRU press release 22 March, 2010). The list of references is just 11 CRU papers, five on tree rings, six on CRUTEM. Notably missing from the “sample” are key papers on 1000-year reconstructions: for instance:
Jones, P. D., K. R. Briffa, T. P. Barnett, and S. F. B. Tett, High-resolution palaeclimatic records for the last millennium: Interpretation, integration and camparison with General Circulation Model control-run temperatures, The Holocene, 8, 455– 471, 1998. 
Mann M. E. and Jones, P. D., 2003. Global surface temperatures over the past two millennia GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 30, NO. 15, 1820, doi:10.1029/2003GL017814, 2003 
Jones and Mann 2004.
Mann M. E. and Jones, P. D., 2004.CLIMATE OVER PAST MILLENNIA. Reviews of Geophysics, 42

As Steve McIntyre indicates:
Update 9.40 am.
The Daily Telegraph reports:
"Professor Hand did say that “inappropriate methods” were used by a separate university to draw up the infamous “hockey stick” graph showing the rise in global temperatures over more than 1,000 years."
Uh, memo to Oxburgh. CRU produced its own hockey stick graphs in Jones et al 1998, Mann and Jones 2003, for example. For some reason, Oxburgh and his associates regrettably neglected to consider these articles.

3. No analysis of the reports brevity (5 pages) or speed of production: 3 weeks from announcement to report; and whether this constitutes an appropriate response to the serious allegations raised by the Climategate emails or a "Whitewash".

4. Failure to elaborate on criticism in the report about the Unit's handling of statistics made by Prof David Hand,for instance as reported by New Scientist.

The report fails to live up to ABC's commitment for quality journalism.

Here's how the UK Telegraph covered the same story:  'Hockey stick' graph was exaggerated
with commentary by Gerard Warner "Climategate: CRU whiter than – er – whitewash, as world laughs at AGW scam apologists"

OUTCOME:reply received 9 June 2010

Thank you for your email of 15 April concerning the ABC News Online story “Second inquiry clears Climategate scientists”, published that day. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

In keeping with ABC complaint handling procedures, your concerns have been considered by Audience and Consumer Affairs, a unit separate to and independent from ABC program areas. In light of your concerns, we have assessed the story against provision 5.2.2(f) of the ABC’s Editorial Policies, which requires staff be questioning in news and current affairs content and serve the public interest by investigating issues affecting society and individuals. In the interests of procedural fairness, we have also sought and considered material from ABC News.

The story in question highlighted the fact that the inquiry set up by University of East Anglia to investigate the methods used by the Climatic Research Unit had cleared the Unit of wrongdoing, finding no evidence of any deliberate scientific malpractice. The story also reported that the inquiry had been critical of the way the Unit had handled statistics and recommended that it work with professional statisticians in future. Criticism of the inquiry was also cited, with the inclusion of comments from the Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Dr Benny Peiser, who described the inquiry as “rushed and superficial” and suggested the panel had not done a proper job.

ABC News have advised that they considered the focus of the story, which was from wire agency partner Reuters, to be newsworthy and in the public interest. They note that one of the main allegations made against the Climatic Research Unit was the dishonest use of scientific data; accordingly, ABC News consider it was reasonable for this aspect to be highlighted in a story that focussed on the inquiry panel’s findings. This matter was itself highlighted in both the introduction and conclusion of the panel’s report:

ABC News does acknowledge that the story could have provided some details about the credentials of those appointed to the panel, and the range of reports and publications considered by the inquiry. However, they do not consider that, in the context of a story that focussed on the report’s findings, this was absolutely necessary or constituted a serious omission. Instead, ABC News believe the story presented a fair account of the panel’s findings, as outlined in its report dated 12 April, and some of the criticisms of the inquiry made by others.

In respect to the other coverage of the story to which you refer, ABC News acknowledges that the UK’s Telegraph newspaper chose to highlight a different aspect of the story, concentrating on the panel’s criticism of the Unit’s use of statistical tools and methods. ABC News appreciate that this is also a legitimate line of coverage, and believes this demonstrates that different journalists will focus on different news points in the same story. As noted above, the panel’s criticisms of the Unit’s statistical methodology was mentioned in the story published by the ABC.

You also refer to articles published online by the Telegraph newspaper and New Scientist magazine that reported on criticisms expressed by Professor David Hand about papers by other parties, including a 1998 paper by Professor Mann of Pennsylvania State University that included the “hockey stick” graph. This was not part of the inquiry or panel report about the Climatic Research Unit to which the ABC story pertained. Accordingly, ABC News do not consider it was necessary or relevant to mention in the story.

The other articles to which you refer, by Telegraph commentator Gerald Warner and the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Stephen McIntyre, were online blog entries providing commentary and opinion on the story rather than news reportage. Again, we note that the ABC’s online news story in question included comments critical of the inquiry, including those of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Director, Dr Peiser.

On review, Audience and Consumer Affairs are satisfied that the ABC News Online story, “Second inquiry clears Climategate scientists”, was in keeping with the relevant ABC editorial standards. We believe the story was newsworthy and provided a fair and accurate account of the inquiry panel’s findings, which was the focus of the story. While we note you believe other aspects of the story, or related matters covered by other media outlets, should have been included, we cannot agree that their omission constituted a breach of provision 5.2.2(f) of the ABC’s Editorial Policies. Nonetheless, please be assured that your comments have been noted by ABC News.

Finally, it is worth noting that ABC News Online is not a dedicated climate change journal, but a general news services. While ABC News Online endeavours to provide coverage of climate change on a newsworthy basis, this does not mean, nor require, that all stories or perspectives will be reported. As you may appreciate, coverage and publications presented by other outlets and organisations, particularly those with specialist interests and audiences such as New Scientist and the Global Warming Policy Foundation, would no doubt reflect their editorial scope and focus.

Thank you again for taking the time to write. For your reference, copies of the ABC’s Code of Practice and Editorial Policies are available at:

Yours sincerely
Audience & Consumer Affairs

COMMENT: Lack of questioning by the media assists in whitewashing the whitewash.