Oh, you know the Press. It’s “statistically significant” to claim that they are always trying to set light to a story and make a conflagration of enormous preposterous proportions.
They’ve been at it again this weekend. You know, just when I thought we might have crawled our way through the burning embers of Climategate’s hellish hatred and made it out to the true sunshine of love and admiration for Phil Jones, back bounce the Daily Maul and the Daily Terrorgraph with apparent “misinterpretations of the facts”.
I’d call it “lies”, to create a one word shorthand, but I don’t have a good enough lawyer. Let’s just say that these particular offices of Media employ people who appear not to be able to understand basic Statistics, or who don’t seem to understand subtleties in lines of argument. They give a good impression of being paid to deliberately misrepresent plain English, but I can’t vouch for that.
The BBC’s Roger Harrabin fed questions, (some) from Climate Change sceptic-deniers to Phil Jones. “Sceptic-deniers” because some of them are genuinely sceptical, but others are outright deniers. It is unfortunate that the deniers have committed their thoughts to print and the sceptics have believed them, in my view.
Professor Phil Jones explains that four periods of recent Global Warming in the last 200 years show roughly the same rate of temperature increase per decade, and have statistical significance.
He gives a summary of how “natural” causes cannot be the main underlying causes of observed temperatures in recent times : “When considering changes over this period we need to consider all possible factors…Combining only these two natural influences [volcanic and solar], therefore, we might have expected some cooling over this period.”
He then goes on to write : “…the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level….[the] period [from January 2002 to the present]…The trend this time is negative (-0.12C per decade), but this trend is not statistically significant…”
Now a student of entry level Statistics could conclude that since 1995 to the present there may not have been enough data to make an informed summary on Global Warming trends.
Not so the journalists at the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph, it seems. They give a good impression of forming concrete conclusions based on the professor’s statistical assessment :-
“…He admitted that there has been no “statistically significant” global warming since 1995, but said this was a blip in a general trend of rising temperatures…”
“…he also sounds much less ebullient about the basic theory, admitting that there is little difference between global warming rates in the Nineties and in two previous periods since 1860 and accepting that from 1995 to now there has been no statistically significant warming…”
So, despite the careful, considered language of the Scientist, it seems that the national newspapers cannot bring themselves to treat it accurately.
To me, this doesn’t sound like “Free Speech” or genuine scepticism. It looks like deliberate propaganda – twisting the facts.
Professor Phil Jones took pains to answer the questions from the BBC accurately and evenhandedly, but the Daily Maul and the Daily Terrorgraph seem to want to walk all over it with studded boots, trying to make impressions with their own pre-formed arguments. This kind of treatment of Phil Jones’ Question and Answer exchange with the BBC isn’t reporting – it’s clodhopping, in my view.
My demand : either get some proper Science journalists in the national press with a fair editorial line, or politely request the best-selling newspapers to stop covering the subject.
It’s not helping.