Oh No, Not Another Unbiased BBC Documentary about ‘Climate Change’…

A distinguished institution falters

Little known fact: there was an era when the Royal Society represented something more than the official scientific spokesman for Greenpeace

Little known fact: there was an era when the Royal Society represented something more than the official scientific spokesman for Greenpeace

The new president of the Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse has been crowing to the Guardian’s environment pages about how he bested me in a documentary for the BBC on Climate Change. This isn’t how I remember it.

Nurse came to interview me at my home last summer, ostensibly – so his producer assured me – as a disinterested seeker-after-truth on a mission to discover why the public is losing its faith in scientists. “Not scientists,” I replied. “Just ‘climate scientists.'” But as is clear from the Horizon documentary Nurse had already made up his mind. That’s why about the only section he used out of at least three hours’ worth of footage is the one where he tosses what he clearly imagines is the killer question: Suppose you were ill with cancer would you wish to be treated by “consensus” medicine or something from the quack fringe?

As you’ll see in the programme, this took me rather by surprise. Nurse had come posing as an open-minded investigator eager to hear why Climategate had raised legitimate doubts about the reliability of the “consensus” on global warming. Instead, the man I met was a parti-pris bruiser so delighted with his own authority as a proper Nobel-prizewinning scientist that he knew what the truth was already. And to prove it, here was a brilliant analogy which would rubbish the evil climate deniers’ cause once and for all!

But Nurse’s analogy is shabby, dishonest and patently false. The “consensus” on Climate Change; and the “consensus” on medical care bear no similarity whatsoever.

In the field of medicine, treatments are tested in a semi-open market. Those with more favourable outcomes (the patient gets better) will quickly gain popularity over those with less favourable outcomes (the patient gets worse). Sure there are market distortions (eg the vast marketing budgets and rampant greed of the big drug companies; inefficiency and incompetence in the public healthcare sector), but generally in the field of medicine, the “consensus” on what constitutes good, bad or indeed “quack” treatment is a fair representation of the facts as they are currently known and empirically tested.

The “consensus” on ‘Climate Change’, by contrast, is a figment of Al Gore’s – and, I’m sorry to say, Sir Paul Nurse’s – imagination. It exaggerates the number of scientists who believe in Man Made Global Warming and it grotesquely underestimates the number who have many good reasons for suspecting that there is far, far more to “Climate Change” than anthropogenic CO2.

What’s more such “consensus” as there is is an artificial construct. It has not been subjected to the rigour of an open or even semi-open market. It is the creation, almost entirely, of politically-driven funding from US government, from various UN bodies, from the EU, from left-leaning charitable foundations on a scale unprecedented in the history of science. So far, in real terms, no less than five times the amount of the Manhattan Project has been squandered on research into AGW. For that kind of money you can buy an awful lot of scientists prepared to suspend any belief they might have that global warming is anything other than man-made. (I put this point to Nurse but he wasn’t having it. As a scientist he just “knew” that scientists didn’t behave like that.)

But you can’t say all that in a TV friendly sound bite. And even if I’d managed, it would no doubt have ended up with the rest of the three hours’ of reasonably cogent argument I made to Nurse – on the cutting room floor.

At the end of the programme, Nurse argues that it is vital that the quest for scientific truth should be divorced from politics. I don’t think he’ll find anyone in the ‘sceptic’ community who disagrees with him on that. What’s depressing is that he seems to have reached this conclusion in defiance of almost everything he has said in the previous hour.

In Nurse’s Weltanschauung, NASA’s temperature records must correct because, well just look at all those spiffy satellite charts this nice man from NASA is showing me and he’s a proper scientist so he should know; and Phil Jones is clearly a man more sinned against than sinning, because look here he is all broken and rueful (and he’s a proper scientist, you know, unlike all those deniers) telling me why Climategate was about how a few innocent emails were distorted by horrid deniers.

Meanwhile, according to Nurse and his execrable documentary, climate change “deniers” are on a par with people who don’t believe that AIDs is caused by the HIV virus and people who destroy GM crops (eh??? Since when did we have any truck with those eco-loons?). Is this really the level of intellectual sophistication we might have hoped for from the new president of the world’s most distinguished scientific association?

Or rather, of the world’s ex- most distinguished scientific association. As I’ve reported before, the Warmist bias of the Royal Society has become such a standing joke that last year 43 of its fellows wrote in to complain. Under its two previous presidents, Lord May and Lord Rees, it has tossed aside its traditions of lofty neutrality and eagerly embraced a new role as political activist for the green lobby.

Perhaps there was a time when this made some kind of warped sense. But with no ‘global warming’ since 1998, a succession of bitter winters, scandals cropping up every day about everything from Met Office incompetence to skullduggery in the EU carbon trading business, growing doubts in the scientific community about the validity of climate models, demands in the US for law suits against dodgy client scientists, and increasing public scepticism, it is only a matter of time before the AGW industry collapses and all those people who associated themselves with it suddenly look very foolish.

With his new documentary Nurse has sent out a signal that, bright boy though he thinks he is, he is happy to be taken for one of those fools. If he wants to join the Warmist lemmings on their final dash, that’s his look out. But what a pity for the rest of us that he’ll be taking the credibility of the Royal Society over the cliff with him.

Related posts:

  1. Sir Paul Nurse’s big boo boo
  2. Sir Paul Nurse – saviour of the universe!
  3. I’d rather stick my hand in a bag of amphetamine-injected rattlesnakes than put my trust in tonight’s BBC Panorama documentary on ‘Global Warming’
  4. Why the BBC cannot be trusted on ‘Climate Change’: the full story

12 thoughts on “Oh no, not another unbiased BBC documentary about ‘Climate Change’…”

  1. R.N. Quayle says:26th January 2011 at 3:15 amNurse was a coward.

    He should have taken on the MMR-deniers.

    ie. the thousands of mothers of U.S. & UK children,
    who developed autism & chronic bowell disease,
    within hours/days of being MMRd.

    Pure coincidence of course.

  2. Steve Win says:26th January 2011 at 11:40 pmOh Mr Delingpole, how utterly and completely wrong you are.

    Sir Paul Nurse made you look EXACTLY as you are. A complete and total ass. Clearly you don’t remember it because most of the time you were so interested in the only subject that interests you. I refer to you of course. Arrogant, self centred but best of all, ill informed which came across very clearly.

  3. Groper says:27th January 2011 at 8:04 amHey Jimbo, no point in sour grapes. I think it’s the fault of BBC Horizon for using a mickey mouse denialist instead of an informed sceptic. Still, Jimbo, at least you provided a great comedy moment for the world to see… keep it up bon3head.
  4. Ratty says:27th January 2011 at 1:22 pmJames, I thought that Nurse was far too easy on you. Perhaps that expression on his face was one of sad resignation, like you’d find when dealing with a child who just can’t grasp a basic idea.

    Just because a whole range of people disagree with your point of view, doesn’t make it a conspiracy or a biased presentation. It just means you’re wrong! Maybe you should take stock of the things you write and see if you are really aiding the debate on climate science or just promoting a half-baked and ill-informed view of the world that you’ve formed for yourself without really understanding the bigger picture, or how to disseminate the information you trawl through. I can’t imagine you having the character to admit to your shortcomings or admit where you don’t know enough to make a valid comment. Please do the world a favour and either quietly slip away or brand all your output with the health warning “not qualified to comment”.

    If that all sounds very patronising, it’s meant to be.

  5. Keith Gale says:27th January 2011 at 5:57 pmUnfortunately James you’ve fallen into the trap of dignifying one of these intellectually challenged myopics with a response. The Dawkins method is more efficient. Treat them as lunatics and let them rant. I have no doubt that within a few years most of them will have disappeared back into the woodwork denying they ever said anything. Exactly like the eugenics fans. Monbiot seems to be heading that way.
    It’s very sad that most people get all their information from the media and never question any of it. I’m including scientists in “most people”. We tend to think of them as brilliant academics who go around discovering wonderful things and indeed some of them are but the other 99% are very dull, unimaginative, quite thick and desperately trying to come up with an original thought. “Science”, our knowledge of the universe, is massive and populated by specialists. Experts in one small field with just a basic knowledge of the rest of it and no hope of ever catching up.
    This Nursey chap seems to be a scientist on his mothers side. In fact to call yourself a scientist and deride the opinions of others is a form of fraud.
    A debate exists if you look and looking objectively at both sides it becomes painfully obvious that we don’t have a clue what the climate will do. The statistics and numbers thrown around by the IPCC are desperate guesstimates to keep the funds coming and the pollies going. Just like the scientists there are very few of these who are aware of anything outside their own little worlds.
  6. Nige Cook says:27th January 2011 at 10:09 pmHi James,

    I’ve made a You Tube video pointing out the deceptions in Sir Paul Nurse’s climate documentary documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Un7u2AZnjw

    (It’s also embedded at the top of my latest blog post about the lies on the physics of the effects of nuclear weapons: http://glasstone.blogspot.com/ )

    Kind regards,

    Nige Cook

  7. Marco says:28th January 2011 at 9:36 pmJames I just saw the bbc horizon documentary. Do you really think that you need to tell a Nobel Laureate where science is going, as if you know more about these things than you? It makes you look like a total and utter muppet.
  8. Nige Cook says:29th January 2011 at 6:02 pmMarco,

    I think that the situation is actually the other way around.

    If you watch the video carefully, it seems that the Nobel Laureate and Royal Society president, Sir Paul Nurse, was the one who visited James for a chat and asked his opinion.

    The whole problem with the video is that he chose to visit critics and persuade them to change their mind by arguing that cancer is analogous to the question of whether humanity can adapt to climate change.

    He ignores all of facts, and falsely claims that nobody knows why tree ring data fails to match air temperatures since 1960. Actually, tree ring growth is not directly related to air temperature alone, but depends on rainfall, humidity, smog (absorbing sunlight), cloud cover, etc., etc. You can verify this by looking at trees in the shade (on the northern slopes of hills) and trees in parched areas. The tree ring sizes only correlate to air temperature if all other factors are constant, which they never are (outside the lab).

    Why did Sir Paul Nurse interview a journalist to find out about climate change? You must ask yourself that! Answer: it was a hatchet job, with pre-planned silly questions about consensus being science. Nurse goes wrong in defending status quo by showing off Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s Origin of Species in the library scene: these were revolutionary works which emerged not from “groupthink” consensus, but from individuals refuting groupthink consensus!

    Evolution and the laws of motion were not the result of “stamp collecting” by a team effort, they were essentially the work of individuals, fighting against authority (Aristotle’s authority in Newton’s case, the Bible in Darwin’s).

    All tree ring temperature data is false because it 1. fails to fit the records since 1960, 2. ignores cloud cover and shade variations over the years, 3. ignores dust and chemical smog, 4. ignores variations in rainfall rates, and 5. ignores variations in wind patterns over the years.

    Dr Phil Jones can’t seriously believe tree ring data, and nor can Sir Paul Nurse. Similarly, cloud cover blocks reliable surface air temperature global averaging by satellite measurements, while weather station data can be affected by local sources of heat pollution (unrelated to global CO2 effects). If we look at the actual sea rise rate, it is 20 cm over the past century (0.20 cm/year) compared to 120 m over the past 18,000 years (0.67 cm/year average). This is misleading, because the a lot of the 120 m rise occurred over a shorter period of time, at an even faster rate than 0.67 cm/year.

    Therefore, the current rate of global warming sea level rise is trivial compared to natural rates. We can adapt to it. The “big lie” of eco-evangelism is that we must try to fight global warming, not adapt to it. Physicist Dr John Baez points out that many simple solutions exist, like nuclear power. Some of the propaganda from New Scientist is neatly exposed by Dr Helene Guldberg (an Open University lecturer) in her 2001 article Eco-evangelism, http://www.spiked-online.com/Printable/00000002D081.htm , states:

    “Jeremy Webb, editor of the New Scientist, started by emphasising that human beings have ‘as much destructive potential’ as that which brought about former mass extinctions – where up to 90 percent of species were wiped out. Just look at BSE (What? How many bovine species have gone extinct as a result of BSE?), HIV (Again, what does this tell us about the human destructive potential?) and global warming (But, Jeremy, the history of the planet has been one of far greater temperature fluctuations than those predicted for the coming century). …

    “When I pointed out that none of the speakers had presented any of the scientific evidence that challenged their doomsday scenarios, Webb just threw back at me, ‘But why take the risk?’ What did he mean: ‘Why take the risk of living?’ You could equally say ‘Why take the risk of not experimenting? Why take the risk of not allowing optimum economic development?’ But had I been able to ask these questions, I suppose I would have been accused of being in bed with Dubya.

    “One of the speakers responded to my point, that there is evidence that the air is cleaner today than several decades ago (rather than ‘being turned into a sewer’). Yes, she said, that may be true, but clean air can also be a problem.”

  9. David A says:29th January 2011 at 10:13 pmJames: I tried to post this on your Daily Telegraph blog, but without success:

    Here is a short excerpt from the Horizon programme. I would be interested to learn how much editorial control Sir Paul had on the final programme. I can state categorically that I don’t trust the integrity of the BBC on any issue whatsoever and on any subject whatsoever, especially the biased so-called News.

    Sir Paul Nurse:
    “As a scientist, I find Tony’s [HIV does not CAUSE AIDS] views hard to understand.”

    The following is slightly edited. He brilliantly (in my opinion) explains why correlation on its own is not the same as proof of causation and unwittingly (in my opinion) makes the case for the skeptics. Essentially, he is arguing against himself.

    Sir Paul Nurse:
    “However, there may be a link between how he approaches the evidence for the causes of AIDS, and how some climate skeptics may look at the causes of Global Warming. Problems arise when you are studying complex data and trying to distinguish cause from effect. Understanding what causes what in complex systems like biology that I study, or climate, can be really difficult. Let me illustrate that, here. Imagine that each of these poles [shows three poles] are different events ; events “A” “B” and “C” . . .
    Event “A” causes event “B”. Event “A” also causes event “C”. But if you are a scientist [and] you don’t know anything about event “A” and you are simply studying “B” and “C”, then what you will see is that after a certain period of time you will see “B” and always (or nearly always) you will see “C” a certain time afterwards. It would be a natural consequence to think that “B” might CAUSE “C” when that is absolutely not the case. Here is a concrete example ; smoking and lung cancer. Let’s imagine that event “A” here [the cause] is smoking; let’s imagine that event “B” is yellow teeth that occurs after a certain amount of time and let’s imagine that event “C” is lung cancer. You could, perhaps, imagine, as a scientist, that you observe yellow teeth and then you observe lung cancer and maybe [conclude that] yellow teeth causes lung cancer. That’s obviously nonsense but if you didn’t know about smoking, then you could perhaps be led into that erroneous conclusion. So that’s the problem with complexity; that’s the problem with working out what causes what.”

    “There’s an overwhelming body of evidence that says WE are warming our planet. But complexity allows for confusion and for alternative theories to develop. The only solution is to look at all the evidence as a whole. I think some extreme skeptics decide what to think first and then cherry-pick the data to support their case. We scientists have to acknowledge we now operate in a world where point-of-view, not peer review holds sway.”

    The following is a GROSS simplification of the mechanism of CAGW. Sir Paul did NOT say the following but it follows his general argument about separating cause and correlation:

    “Here is a concrete example ; the Sun and global temperature rise. Let’s imagine that event “A” here [the heat engine] is primarily the Sun; let’s imagine that event “B” is the increase in carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere after the consequent heating of the oceans by the increasing heat output from the Sun after a certain amount of time and let’s imagine that event “C” is the global atmospheric temperature rise caused by the Sun. You could, perhaps, imagine, as a scientist, that you observe increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere [increasing carbon dioxide is released from a warming ocean] and then you observe an increase in global temperatures and maybe [conclude that] carbon dioxide directly causes [large] temperature increases rather than the Sun. That’s obviously nonsense, but if you didn’t know that the heat from the Sun warms the oceans and indirectly increases the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, then you could perhaps be led into that erroneous conclusion.”

    It seems to me that Sir Paul is arguing that, if a consensus of scientists shows a good correlation between HIV and AIDS or else a good correlation between carbon dioxide and global temperature rise, then that correlation is proof of causation – a consensus of correlation is equivalent to proof of causation.

    Again: the above analogy is a GROSS simplification of climate science as it is known by both believers and skeptics.

  10. David A says:30th January 2011 at 10:38 amIn the event that any reader is interested, here are some links to articles describing “HIV is not the CAUSE of AIDS” skepticism.

    The first is by Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Kary Mullis:
    Book Excerpt By Kary Mullis

    The second is an interview with prominent HIV=AIDS ‘denialist’, Peter Duesberg:
    Interview with Peter Duesberg
    By Bob Guccione, Jr.
    Spin Sept. 1993

    The third is the opposite point of view, by Nicoli Nattrass. Notice how similar is the language she uses compared with the language used by warmists when denigrating climate change ‘deniers’. Just mentally change “AIDS” to “climate change” and “HIV” to “CO2” and “denier and denialist” to “denier and denialist” and you would be hard pressed to tell any difference.
    AIDS Denialism vs. Science
    Nicoli Nattrass

  11. Nige Cook says:30th January 2011 at 10:43 amDavid:

    George Bernard Shaw opposed immunization statistical evidence, and distrusted the statistics purporting to show a fall in communicable diseases as immunization increased:

    “He hired somebody to count up the telegraph poles erected in various years … and it turned out that telegraph poles were being increased in number. He said, ‘Therefore, this is clear evidence that the way to eliminate communicable diseases is to build a lot more telegraph poles’.

    “All I would like to say here is that the important point is that if you really want to understand it, you have to look at the mechanism of the occurrence. I think this is where the emphasis should lie.”

    – Dr H. L. Friedell, testimony to the Special Subcommittee on Radiation, Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, The Nature of Radioactive Fallout and Its Effects on Man, June 1959, page 1001.

    Dr Phil Jones shies away from provable mechanisms in climatic science, such as homeostasis.

    ct like Venus?

    Dr Zagoni and Dr Miskolczi have proved that substantial further global warming may be prevented by a remarkably simple and provable mechanism: the existing temperature rise in the oceans has increased evaporation and thus cloud cover, reflecting back more sunlight into space, so that on balance evaporated water has an anti-greenhouse effect.

    “Since the Earth’s atmosphere is not lacking in greenhouse gases [water vapor], if the system could have increased its surface temperature it would have done so long before our emissions. It need not have waited for us to add CO2: another greenhouse gas, H2O, was already to hand in practically unlimited reservoirs in the oceans. …” – Dr. Miklos Zagoni.

    Unlike certain other planets in the solar system, our planet is uniquely UNLIKE a greenhouse because 70% of it’s surface is covered in oceans, seas and lakes, so any initial rise in temperature (once the deep water heats up, which takes years due to the high specific heat capacity of water) increases the evaporation rate, forming more cloud which thus reflects back a larger percentage of the incoming solar radiation, thereby regulating the Earth’s temperature like a thermostat!

    If you actually make a greenhouse with an ocean and clouds in it, then you have a model for the earth. Without the ocean and clouds, sorry, the greenhouse is not a model for the earth.

    “During the 61-year period [since 1948] … the global average absolute humidity diminished about 1 per cent.” (Dr. M. Zagoni.)

    Hence, the increased evaporation has not turned into infrared-absorbing humid air, instead it has turned into increased cloud cover, which reflects back sunlight into space and keeps the temperature under control. This is why Dr Jones had to keep his data secret and fiddle it under orders from the World Meteorological Organization for their report. “Complicated” is the WMO euphemism for “politically correct”. Dr Jones made his data uncomplicated, and thus politically correct, on WMO orders. James should really go after the WMO bigots.

  12. David A says:30th January 2011 at 4:41 pmJames: You might wish to remove the last one or possibly two paragraphs of this comment post if you consider them “over the top”. Please remove these first two sentences.

    To Nige Cook:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to reply to my post and for the interesting information you have included in your reply.

    Before I had posted my comments, I had taken an inordinate amount of time in transcribing Sir Paul’s remarks about the relationships between cause, effect and correlation. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave much time for the rest of my post. In my defence, I did mention (twice) that my description of climate science was grossly simplified. As it happens, I don’t think that a heating (or cooling) of the atmosphere is directly or solely caused by the actual heating (or cooling) of the Sun, but I do think that the Sun is the main driver of both weather and climate and not the minor greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. The point that I was trying to make was that Sir Paul’s remarks could be turned around – the case for the prosecution (warmists) could be turned around to make a good case for the defence (skeptics), as it were.

    I don’t think anyone would deny that climate science is complicated. The warmists magnify any heating effect (from multiple causes) by stressing the positive feedback effects whilst (in the main) ignoring the self-correcting (negative) feedback effects.
    From the information that you have included in your post, it would seem that the negative feedback mechanisms of water vapour/ evaporation etc. can cope admirably in regulating the Earth’s atmospheric temperature.

    Don’t get me started on that odious Fabian Socialist, George Bernard Shaw!
    In addition to being a Leftist eugenicist, he was also an Holodomor (murder by starvation) denier. As most people know, the International Socialists under Josef Stalin intentionally and systematically starved to death millions of Ukrainians even though there had been a good harvest that year. Details can be found on Edvins Snore’s documentary, “The Soviet Story”.

    When warmists imply that global warming skeptics are “deniers”, I rather resent the implication that skeptics are Holodomor deniers. I take it that that is the kind of Holocaust that they are referring to and not the one by the National Socialists?


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