The Times they aren't a changin.

Posted by Graham Thompson — 16 May 2014 at 3:02pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: The Times
The Times, edited by John Witherow, owned by Rupert Murdoch

The front page of the Times today spashes on a terrible conspiracy to suppress ground-breaking new climate science which could overturn the alleged ‘consensus’ on climate sensitivity and expose highly suspicious inconsistencies in the work of the IPCC.

Except, of course, it doesn’t.

The research was ‘suppressed’ in the sense that it wasn’t published by the Institute of Physics because, to put it bluntly, it wasn’t good enough. Below are some excerpts from the reviewers' report which was sent to the authors. The half a sentence I’ve highlighted is the only part of the report the Times decided to quote in their story, despite presumably having the full text (which IOP have now made publically available here) – 

The Times heavily implies that the paper was rejected because it was ‘less than helpful’ to some sort of political cause. The full text makes it very clear that the paper was rejected because it was ‘less than helpful’ to advancing scientific understanding of the climate, which is, or at least should have been, the paper’s raison d’etre.

The Times has a new editor, John Witherow, who when editor of the Sunday Times was responsible for the reporting debacle known as ‘Amazongate’ – where research scientist Dr Simon Lewis successfully demonstrated that the newspaper wildly misrepresented both his research findings and his opinions. On that occasion Mr Witherow apologized and withdrew his newspaper’s report. Would a similar outcome be appropriate after today’s front page?

Judge for yourself...


The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low, as the calculations made to compare the three studies are already available within each of the sources, most directly in Otto et al. 


The paper does not make any significant attempt at explaining or understanding the differences, it rather puts out a very simplistic negative message giving at least the implicit impression of "errors" being made within and between these assessments, e.g. by emphasising the overlap of authors on two of the three studies.

What a paper with this message should have done instead is recognising and explaining a series of "reasons" and "causes" for the differences.

The IPCC estimates of different quantities are not based on single data sources, nor on a fixed set of models, but by construction are expert based assessments based on a multitude of sources. Hence the expectation that all expert estimates are completely consistent within a simple energy balance model is unfounded from the beginning.

Summarising, the simplistic comparison of ranges from AR4, AR5, and Otto et al, combined with the statement they they are inconsistent is less then helpful, actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of "errors" and worse from the climate sceptics media side.

A careful, constructive, and comprehensive analysis of what these ranges mean, and how they come to be different, and what underlying problems these comparisons bring would indeed be a valuable contribution to the debate.

I have rated the potential impact in the field as high, but I have to emphasise that this would be a strongly negative impact, as it does not clarify anything but puts up the (false) claim of some big inconsistency, where no consistency was to be expected in the first place.
And I can't see an honest attempt of constructive explanation in the manuscript.

UPDATE (19/05/14):

The IOP have now published a second reviewer's report, whch includes claims such as :

'the authors have inexplicably used the wrong equation'


'they have substantially underestimated the committed warming'

It is appended to the same statement linked to above.

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