[ UPDATE : MARTIN ROBBINS, WRITING IN THE GUARDIAN, SUMS UP THE PARLOUS STATE OF SCIENCE JOURNALISM BRILLIANTLY…BY PARODY : http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/the-lay-scientist/2010/sep/24/1?showallcomments=true : “This is a news website article about a scientific paper” ]
Predictably, sadly, Niall Firth writing for the Daily Mail, appears to have read a press briefing from Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, and proceeds to repeat errors :-
“Royal Society issues new climate change guide that admits there are ‘uncertainties’ about the science : By NIALL FIRTH : 30th September 2010…”
First up, the reporter documents the false claim that the Royal Society was “forced” to make changes to its public guidance on Climate Change science because of the views of the sceptic-deniers. Nothing could be more flimsy an assertion :-
“…The UK’s leading scientific body has been forced to rewrite its guide on climate change and admit that it is not known how much warmer the Earth will become. The Royal Society has updated its guide after 43 of its members complained that the previous version failed to take into account the opinion of climate change sceptics…”
Well, actually, the reason the Royal Society has been persuaded to issue new Climate Change guidance is because people (including Niall Firth, apparently) do not appear to have understood the science of Climate Change, as they have been listening to the inaccuracies put forward by the sceptic-deniers.
The aim of this new guidance is to try to make the bare bones of Climate Change science more readable, more accessible for people like Niall Firth, who seem to find it hard to listen to warnings of real dangers.
Another reason why the Royal Society have put out new guidance on Climate Change is that they were accused of seeking to dictate governmental policy in their previous publications.
The accusation of “activists” from the sceptic-deniers appears to have stuck, and so the Royal Society have tried to separate science from policy recommendations and advocacy of particular courses of action with this new publication.
Niall Firth makes much of the “admission” of uncertainty, even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, has repeatedly pointed out the areas of uncertainty in the science.
And Niall Firth seems to completely fail to understand that the most significant parts of the science are broadly settled :-
“The UK’s leading scientific body has been forced […] admit that it is not known how much warmer the Earth will become….Now the new guide, called ‘Climate change: a summary of the science’, admits that there are some ‘uncertainties’ regarding the science behind climate change. And it says that it impossible to know for sure how the Earth’s climate will change in the future nor what the possible effects may be. The 19-page guide says: ’It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future, but careful estimates of potential changes and associated uncertainties have been made. Scientists continue to work to narrow these areas of uncertainty. Uncertainty can work both ways, since the changes and their impacts may be either smaller or larger than those projected.’…”
If you read the Royal Society guidance, which I guess Niall Firth has not, you can see that there is a general acceptance that the most likely outcome is more warming, although it is not clear how much more warming is coming our way.
It’s already bad. It’s going to get worse. We just don’t know exactly how much worse that worse is. Partly because we don’t know when humankind is going to stop excess Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
The Royal Society guidance allows for possible cooling influences from known and unknown sources, but its main message is that there will be increasing warmth.
Niall Firth regurgitates the views of Benny Peiser, social anthropologist, employee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, without a trace of doubt :-
“…Benny Peiser, Director of The Global Warming Policy Foundation also welcomed the Royal Society’s decision to revise….’The Royal Society now also agrees with the GWPF that the warming trend of
the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years.’…”
I beg your pardon ?
I’ve read the Royal Society guidance twice, and I find no mention that backs up Benny Peiser’s claim that “the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years”.
That, I’m afraid, is utter fabrication.
What the guidance does say in paragraph 22 is :-
“When […] surface temperatures are averaged over periods of a decade, to remove some of the year-to-year variability, each decade since the 1970s has been clearly warmer (given known uncertainties) than the one immediately preceding it. The decade 2000-2009 was, globally, around 0.15 degrees C warmer than the decade 1990-1999.”
Niall Firth needs to make corrections, in my view.