Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Climate Change Question Time

This event in London later this month (arranged as part of the Isaac Newton Institute programme that I recently attended) seems to be open to the public and may be interesting for some of you:

Dissemination Event for Government and Finance Industry: "Climate Change Question Time"

But don't get too excited, it seems likely to be oversubscribed and you might not get a seat...

As noted in the comments, one Jonathan Leake (of Leakegate climate story fabrication fame) is listed on the poster as being the Chair of the first debate. I have emailed the organisers about this.

38 comments:

Nick Barnes said...

Leake?!

Belette said...

NB said it. Why isn't this a joke?

James Annan said...

I hadn't noticed that! I have emailed the following to the organisers:

"Could you not find anyone less suitable than Leake? Was Monckton not available perhaps?"

Steve Bloom said...

Maybe they don't know. Did you send a few relevant links along?

Shub said...

So,
What did Leake fabricate, Dr Annan?

EliRabett said...

For starters:

The Sunday Times and the IPCC: Correction

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 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 had, in error, not been referenced, but 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 Mr Rowell is an experienced environmental journalist and that Dr Moore is an expert in forest management, and apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.

The article also quoted criticism of the IPCC's use of the WWF report by Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. We accept that, in his quoted remarks, Dr Lewis was making the general point that both the IPCC and WWF should have cited the appropriate peer-reviewed scientific research literature. As he made clear to us at the time, including by sending us some of the research literature, Dr Lewis does not dispute the scientific basis for both the IPCC and the WWF reports' statements on the potential vulnerability of the Amazon rainforest to droughts caused by climate change.

In addition, the article stated that Dr Lewis' concern at the IPCC's use of reports by environmental campaign groups related to the prospect of those reports being biased in their conclusions. We accept that Dr Lewis holds no such view - rather, he was concerned that the use of non-peer-reviewed sources risks creating the perception of bias and unnecessary controversy, which is unhelpful in advancing the public's understanding of the science of climate change. A version of our article that had been checked with Dr Lewis underwent significant late editing and so did not give a fair or accurate account of his views on these points. We apologise for this.

The original article to which this correction refers has been removed

EliRabett said...

Well, it was worth saying a few times. (Actually the multiple posts only showed up after telling Eli that it had not gone through. Pologies. Please wipe out the paw prints.

James Annan said...

I've cleaned up your Rabbett droppings :-) But thanks for saving me from having to clean up after the troll.

It seems like the choice of Leake was foisted on them. Not sure who by, or why...anyway they do not seem unaware of the situation. No doubt the meeting will be featured in a forthcoming expose in an increasingly unread paywalled newspaper...

Shub said...

Protected from answering that question? :)

Let me precis the Sunday Times apology for you

Introduction,.blah blah. WWF statement 'based on research' by IPAM. Rowell is a journalist, Moore is a forest expert, Simon Lewis thinks WWF reports are great. Both WWF report and IPCC statement relate to climate change.

This, after Lewis said:
[1] I looked more closely – what a mess.

[2] "The Nepstad Nature paper is about the
interactions of logging damage, fire, and periodic droughts, all extremely important in understanding
the vulnerability of Amazon forest to drought, but is not related to the vulnerability of these forests
to reductions in rainfall.

[3]I don’t see how that can be the source of Rowell’s 40% claim. Its more likely
an unreferenced statement by Rowell.

[4]The IPCC would do well to just outlaw un-peer reviewed journal or book
chapters from being citable in its reports to stop this type of thing happening again.

Dear Dr Annan, My question is this. The Amazon issue in the IPCC is a complex one, no doubt. But why did you base your opinion about what happened with Leake and about Leake, based on what appeared at Realclimate, enough to write to emails to organizers, behind the scenes?

James Annan said...

I based my comment not merely on the RC blog post but also on the fact that the PCC upheld the complaint and the article was (belatedly) pulled with an apology from the Sunday Times.

Neven said...

And there is so much more.

Shub said...

Dear Dr Annan,
The UK Press Complaints Commission did not uphold Simon Lewis' complaint. - it brokered, or negotiated, an agreement between the involved parties. The matter never came up for adjudication.

The article in question closely matches in content, Simon Lewis' email communications with Leake.

The ST undertook the steps, in part because Leake did not give Andy Rowell, a fellow journalist, a chance to respond prior to publication - something unconnected to the content of the article.

I would request you to read the correspondence between Leake and Lewis with an open mind.

David B. Benson said...

But not so open your brains leake out.

David B. Benson said...

A Mr. Robin over @ Tamino's provided a link to Philosophy and the practice of Bayesian statistics
http://arxiv.org/abs/1006.3868
which, although I'm still reading, seems interesting enough to bring to your attention.

Tim Lambert said...

Leake's article misrepresented Lewis. That's why Lewis made a complaint and the article was retracted. Leake blames his editor.

Shub said...

Dear Tim
From Simon Lewis' letter, made available via Joe Romm, the first thing that is obvious is that Leake read out his article, which Lewis liked. (because of the 'spin he was able to put on it', as per Simon Lewis' own words).

If you have reason to believe Professor Braynestorm was Leake - something which was easily suspected - you knew this fact as well.

How come you continued to trash Leake as though he were the sole originator of an article you did not like?

Moreover, looking at Simon Lewis' article in Nature, it is quite evident that Simon Lewis kicked up the ruckus, not so much because he felt the IPCC was scientifically correct, but because
1) his name was associated with strong criticism of the IPCC
2) because he needed to 'make a story of his complaint'

Sounds like an incredible celebrity tantrum to me. Especially given that Lewis' whole defense of the IPCC statement relies on literature he came up with, ex post facto.

The Nature article is here:
http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101103/full/468007a.html

JMurphy said...

Leake also fabricated an article with regard to global warming and the number and severity of natural disasters, as shown on Hot Topic.

dhogaza said...

"Moreover, looking at Simon Lewis' article in Nature, it is quite evident that Simon Lewis kicked up the ruckus, not so much because he felt the IPCC was scientifically correct, but because

1) his name was associated with strong criticism of the IPCC"

Criticism that he neither made, nor agreed with.

Oh, BTW, Shub has told me that Anthony Watts has not stopped beating his wife.

He will not, of course, complain about my making this statement ... just as Lewis should not have complained about his being incorrectly sourced for the headline he complained about.

"From Simon Lewis' letter, made available via Joe Romm, the first thing that is obvious is that Leake read out his article, which Lewis liked. (because of the 'spin he was able to put on it', as per Simon Lewis' own words)."

Yes, he liked the article that was read to him.

Which was not the article that appeared in print. Even Leake admits that this was the case (which is why he blames his editor). On the other hand, the Times attributes the rewrite to Leake.

Who to believe? Not shub, who argues that the rewrite never happened.

Simon Lewis said...

Somebody just diected me to this thread.

My reasons for complaining about the article were:

*there were two public and prominent versions of my views, one correct, one incorrect.

*the ST ignored my attempts to correct the misleading article. To be honest, deleting my comment on their website was shocking.

*I heard on the gravevine that Jonathan Leake told several people that my initial informal complaints (as reported on Deltoid) where unfounded, as he'd read the article to me. Not quite true, and this rumour was doing the journalist rounds, further lending suport to the idea that I a may be inconsistent.

*Everyone who heard the story of what happened was shocked.

*The idea that the Amazon was not under treat from climate-change induced droughts was being believed despite being untrue.

I made my complaint the story simply becasue I have little faith in the Press Complaints Commission, and wanted to get the correct science to be at the top of google searches.

I just wrote about this today in Nature,

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101103/full/468007a.html

In my case it seems that Jonathan Leake most likely didn't re-write the article. But he didnt explain what happened when I emailed him to complain after the re-written article was published and several weeks before my complaint.

Simon Lewis

Shub said...

Dear Dr Lewis,
Thanks for your comments. I read with interest your article in Nature.

The reasons/motivations you offered for seeking a correction from the Sunday Times, upon a careful reading of the retracted article, seem substantive to a third-party outside observer on one count alone. I'm setting it forth below.

In his first email, Leake asks you:

Q:Do you still support the conclusions of 13.4, as cited above? Do you believe the WWF report was a sufficiently reliable source to quote as support for your conclusions?

A second question is whether, in view of this and the glacier report, you still think it would be appropriate to use WWF campaign reports in the IPCC's fifth assessment process?

You answered:
On your question 2: The IPCC would do well to just outlaw un-peer reviewed journal or book chapters from being citable in its reports to stop this type of thing happening again.

The final article read:
Scientists such as Lewis are demanding that the IPCC ban the use of reports from pressure groups. They fear that environmental campaign groups are bound to cherry-pick the scientific literature that confirms their beliefs and ignore the rest.

Putting together all your email comments, it seems this is the only point, if at all, where the article oversteps your stated opinion, and draws a conclusion about environmental campaign groups. Even in this, it is clear that Leake put the issue of WWF reports to you, for which you gave your assent.

The rest of the reasons assigned by you, are of a media activist type, something which you actively advocate in the Nature article as well.

It seems strange to me that scientists can indulge in media activism freely, but science journalists and editors criticizing the IPCC have to walk the straight line, in an editorial straightjacket.

Secondly, the ST article clearly attributes to yous, stating that a "...section of Rowell and Moore’s report predicting the potential destruction of large swathes of rainforest as “a mess”, and not "the whole WWF report", as you potrayed, in your complaint. The section in the WWF report, is indeed a mess as it copies material from the IPAM website and attributes it to Nepstad 1999. This error is mirrored, so to speak, by the WWF - which was noted primarily by you in your emails.

Thirdly, You state that an exposure of errors in the IPCC process - something Leake explicitly consulted you about, will lead to public disbelief in danger to the Amazon. Why do you think this should be so? This assumption may have distorted public debate, since as you note in your Nature article, environmentalists have employed a newspaper retraction to claim that 'the IPCC is vindicated', when that is clearly not the case.

Steve Bloom said...

Shub, I couldn't quite make sense of that last comment of yours, as much of it seemed to be obscured by brain drippings.

As therapy, try repeating after me the central point:

"A scientifically correct claim is still correct even if its attribution is somehow inappropriate."

There, isn't that better?

As for the rest, the IPCC has already said that steps will be taken so the AR5 report is fact- and attribution-checked much more carefully, so why are you still unhappy?

Tim Lambert said...

And note that it was clear that Leake's story was dishonest even before we heard from Simon Lewis.

I don't see why we should believe Leake's story that an editor did it, since he only came up with this after the Sunday Times was forced to retract his article.

Rocco said...

Dr. Lewis deserves praise for resisting despicable attempts to misrepresent his views to fit the anti-science narrative.

This technique, pioneered by professional disinformers like Marc Morano, is one of the most effective tools in the propaganda arsenal.

I hope more scientists will follow his example.

Shub said...

Dear Dr Annan,
A comment of mine has not appeared. Could you please help?

Since Lewis himself seems to be of the opinion that Leake was probably not the source of changes to the ST article, does that affect your initial opinion regarding 'fabrication'?

Steve Bloom says:
"A scientifically correct claim is still correct even if its attribution is somehow inappropriate."

He is right. But for that, the IPCC claim has to be 'scientifically correct', and attribution can only refer back to literature the claim originated from.

Tim,
The basic premise of your entire series of Leakegate articles and the article by Gavin Schmidt at Realclimate, titled 'Leakegate' as well, consists of saying Leake was given expert opinion about the Amazon, solicited or otherwise, but he failed to take it.

This is not called 'dishonesty', it is just a evaluation of opinion, especially since Nepstad's addressal of concerns about the IPCC 'process' vs 'content' does support Leake.

The ST article would have been guilty of fabrication if it had printed that the 'Amazon was in no danger whatsoever', something that relates to the science of the matter. The focus of Leake article was the IPCC process, a matter that journalists and editors are qualified and well within their grounds to assess, especially given that the experts Lewis and Nepstad agreed with Leake on that.

James Annan said...

Shub, the below reached me by email but doesn't seem to be here. I'll post a longer reply (to you and others) as a separate article when I have time...



Shub has left a new comment on your post "Climate Change Question Time":

Hello Steve,
Your comments are always very informative. ;)

You say:
"A scientifically correct claim is still correct even if its attribution is somehow inappropriate."

We know a claim is 'scientifically correct' if it originates from, and is grounded in a substantive source, and the reference cited for the claim directly refers to that source.

The IPCC claim is "bizarrely worded", significantly altering its meaning from the source it was copied from, introducing vague unspecified generalizations ('drastic change') and exaggerations. The source text relates to a theoretical risk for fire, derived from modeling. The final IPCC version does not talk about fire risk. It has become a thing unto itself.

Due to the above, the IPCC statement does not qualify for a 'scientifically correct claim' for us to worry about attribution.

It is precisely for this reason that researchers have had such a hard time, coming up with the one single reference that can actually be cited in its support.

You don't take claims originating from one area of research (leaf-loss mediated fire risk) and substantiate it with references from another area - models predicting savannization - just because both fall in the general category of 'bad things that could happen to the Amazon'.

Finally, the "we did our homework, but somehow put in the wrong ref" excuse is a myth and a canard. The entire passage in the IPCC report is almost verbatim to that in the WWF report. It was so in the FOD, SOD and the final and referred to the WWF report throughout. It is clearly not a case where the IPCC assessed the savannization papers or other literature, but goofed up by quoting a WWF report.

Marco said...

Shub, in the article, as you wuote, it says:
"They fear that environmental campaign groups are bound to cherry-pick the scientific literature that confirms their beliefs and ignore the rest."

This is NOT what Lewis said. It is an outright lie that Lewis made that claim, and Lewis noted that in his criticism. We thus have one truthism followed by an unproven assertion, which due to the writing style suggests WAS a direct claim made by "scientists like Lewis".

Shub said...

Marco, you are basically correct - that particular statement in the Sunday Times article appears to indirectly ascribe views to Simon Lewis, which he did not explicitly state.

But then, Leake did ask Lewis in his email about the very same thing ('can WWF reports be biased, in virtue of it being an environmental campaign group'), a point to which Lewis lent his support, in passing.

If you want a good summary of 'Amazongate', I would refer you to this thread. ( http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/07/deep-into-amazonian-mud.html). I have an inkling that RPJr may not a particular favorite around these parts, but he sums up the issue well and the comments are interesting.

If you want to look at the genealogy of the IPCC statement on the Amazon (http://nigguraths.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/amazongate-ipcc/).

Personally, I support both Lewis and Leake - unlike many others, who simply want to bash Leake down, but I am not at all sure about the media activism bit too. It is the IPCC which is at fault here.

Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

Tim Lambert said...

Regular readers will not be surprised to find that RPJr's summary is misleading. I find that Nepstad and Lewis's summaries of their own work are more accurate that RPJr's version. (Yes, I did read the papers myself.)

The PBL review also agreed with Lewis and Nepstad:

For example, the statement
that up to 40% of the Amazon Rainforest could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation was underpinned by a reference to a peer-reviewed WWF/IUCN report of 2000 on forest fires, while – in this case – also more relevant high profile peer-reviewed journal articles had been published by Cox et al. (2000; 2004). In our opinion, this issue deserves more attention from IPCC authors in the future. We consider it a minor comment.

Marco said...

Shub, he did not lend support to that statement, not even in passing. He lend support to the statement that these reports may be *perceived* as biased by some of the public. That's not a minor difference.

Shub said...

The somewhat superficial assessment by PBL is well evident when they call Rowell and Moore's WWF report - "peer-reviewed". The document is not peer-reviewed, as understood in scientific circles. The WWF method of 'peer-review' consists of sending their comissioned articles to their self-selected experts.

Secondly, Tim seems to have omitted that the PBL report go on to write the following in their report (p.74),(quoting relevant passage, in full):

"We have a minor comment to make on this statement, which originates from Section 13.4.1 of Chapter 13 (page 596). The statement was based on Rowell and Moore (2000), which is a peer-reviewed report by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (WWF/IUCN) on a global review of forest fires, and not a study on changes in vegetation due to climate change. That report, in turn, was mainly based on Nepstad et al. (1999) (in Nature). In our opinion, both documents were not the most obvious choice of reference in this case, as their focus is on forest fires (and logging). More adequate peer-reviewed, scientific journal literature would have been available to support this statement, such as Cox et al. (2000; 2004) (C6). This minor comment has no consequences for the IPCC conclusions in the various Summaries for Policymakers."

This passage is damaging to any support for the IPCC for two reasons. Firstly, the PBL clearly identifies that the claim and its referencing are erroneous, as pointed out in a post above.

Secondly, the PBL argues here that the error is of low significance since it did not make it to the SPM (!!).

And of course, it is quite logical that Tim would find Lewis' and Nepstad version of what the IPCC error is, to be favorable. His entire so-called Leakegate series of posts are based on Nepstad's press release and his opinion based off the release, at a time when Roger Pielke had not even written his post. Pielke Jr wrote his account after a lot of claims and counterclaims had flown back and forth, between Richard North and George Monbiot and others.

Marco,
In his emails, Simon Lewis never really says anything for or against WWF reports in general. Leake asks him a question to that end, which Lewis answers from an persective of such reports being used in the IPCC.

Shub said...

The somewhat superficial assessment by PBL is well evident when they call Rowell and Moore's WWF report - "peer-reviewed". The document is not peer-reviewed, as understood in scientific circles. The WWF method of 'peer-review' consists of sending their comissioned articles to their self-selected experts.

Secondly, Tim seems to have omitted that the PBL report go on to write the following in their report (p.74),(quoting relevant passage, in full):

"We have a minor comment to make on this statement, which originates from Section 13.4.1 of Chapter 13 (page 596). The statement was based on Rowell and Moore (2000), which is a peer-reviewed report by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (WWF/IUCN) on a global review of forest fires, and not a study on changes in vegetation due to climate change. That report, in turn, was mainly based on Nepstad et al. (1999) (in Nature). In our opinion, both documents were not the most obvious choice of reference in this case, as their focus is on forest fires (and logging). More adequate peer-reviewed, scientific journal literature would have been available to support this statement, such as Cox et al. (2000; 2004) (C6). This minor comment has no consequences for the IPCC conclusions in the various Summaries for Policymakers."

This passage is damaging to any support for the IPCC for two reasons. Firstly, the PBL clearly identifies that the claim and its referencing are erroneous, as pointed out in a post above.

Secondly, the PBL argues here that the error is of low significance since it did not make it to the SPM (!!).

And of course, it is quite logical that Tim would find Lewis' and Nepstad version of what the IPCC error is, to be favorable. His entire so-called Leakegate series of posts are based on Nepstad's press release and his opinion based off the release, at a time when Roger Pielke had not even written his post. Pielke Jr wrote his account after a lot of claims and counterclaims had flown back and forth, between Richard North and George Monbiot and others.

Marco,
In his emails, Simon Lewis never really says anything for or against WWF reports in general. Leake asks him a question to that end, which Lewis answers from an persective of such reports being used in the IPCC.

Vinny Burgoo said...

Dr Lewis, does your decision to comment publicly again on 'Amazongate' after such a very long gap have anything to do with an imminent court case? To be more direct: is your column in _Nature_ the start of a managed press campaign to turn the 'Aeroscope 26' trial into a front-page show-trial like Kingsnorth?

Or perhaps you decided to comment now, after so many months of silence, for some other reason?

Marco said...

Shub, you state:
"Firstly, the PBL clearly identifies that the claim and its referencing are erroneous,"

in the same post where you quote the PBL as saying:
"More adequate peer-reviewed, scientific journal literature would have been available to support this statement, such as Cox et al. (2000; 2004) (C6)."

You are, thus, wrong: the PBL does not state the claim is erroneous, but rather refers to scientific publications that SUPPORT the claim.

(I'm seeing a pattern developing here: you make a claim, but your evidence contradicts that same claim; same with the Lewis supposedly supporting that WWF reports are biased)

Shub said...

Marco,
Stop seeing patterns. :) They are pretty useful when you want to smear someone and not see their point.

I have previously stated that making a claim and propping it up with references from a different area of work is bad science and shoddy scholarship, and in this instance plain disingenious. If the IPCC were to make a claim arising from Cox 2004, it would look different from what it is now. Neither is the IPCC statement a broad generalized pablum of the kind found in introductory paragraphs in papers, where one makes a statement and dumps ten different references supporting it - it is a science assessment, making a specific tri-layered claim. The disingenuous nature of the defence, in this case with the PBL and the others as well, lies in pulling out these references, ex post facto. It looks like getting caught and throwing the cat and furniture in the way.

With Lewis' WWF issue - I would reiterate - firstly, I am not entirely defending the ST on this point - I've said this about twice already. Secondly, read the first email from Leake - it can be argued by an editor that Lewis did lend some support to the WWF-report-potential-bias conclusion and I would agree. Even Lewis recognizes this - read his Nature article. I quote:

"Anticipate that every sentence you say or write may be dissected and interpreted in the least charitable manner possible."

So, what the ST did was perhaps uncharitable, but it is not something unexpected. A good journalist/editor is not your buddy or pal - there is always a invisible barrier between a journalist and his sources, including experts.

Of course, I am sure you'd agree that Simon Lewis, or even you and I, should not waste time defending junk science coming from the WWF.

Marco said...

Shub, you are trying to wriggle out of the way of accepting the PBL does NOT say the claim was erroneous.

Moreover, we honest people don't expect journalists and editors to be so dishonest as the Sunday Times (and/or specifically Jonathan Leake, we don't know who put that sentence in). You do fit in with the people who take something someone says, and try to twist and turn that sentence as much as possible, so that it fits in your narrative. All for the cause, eh?

Shub said...

Marco
You try to say nothing much about what I said, but a lot about me.

My evaluation of the PBL report is quite clear. The PBL does not state the IPCC Amazon claim is erroneous. But, unfortunately for the IPCC, in their assessment, they do identify a central problem with its statement.

Marco said...

Shub, there is little to say about your argument than that it is wrong. Which you now admit...why did it take so long?

JMurphy said...

It's quite funny how some people are still obsessing over trying to find fault with the last IPCC Report, even though it's a very small and bare bone to chew on, so to speak.

It's the same with the original 'hockey-stick' (now 12 years old or so). But, in the same way that the 'hockey-stick' has been repeatedly confirmed, the IPCC have produced, and will continue to produce, scientific reports of the highest quality, with an error-rate the envy of any body which produces scientific reports of any description.

Why can't some people move on ? Is there so little else for them to argue over in the present, that they have to keep gnawing at old bones ?