Regular readers of our so far somewhat surreal reporting from up here in the penthouse suite at the summit of the Great White Con ivory towers will no doubt have noticed that we like to concentrate on the facts about the Arctic, whilst occasionally naively exploring assorted psychological aspects of journeying through the “denialosphere”.
Today, however, we’re branching out in a different direction with the aid of our first ever guest post. It has been carefully crafted by Sou Bundanga of the HotWhopper blog, on the topic of the “journalistic tricks that professional disinformers use”. It covers some of the same ground as a recent post of our own, albeit from a rather different angle. If you would like view the original version on Sou’s blog please click here. Alternatively, please continue below the fold:
This is just a short article to show the journalistic tricks that professional disinformers use. It consists of excerpts from an article by David Rose, who is paid to write rubbish for the Mail on Sunday, a UK tabloid of the sensationalist kind. He’d probably claim that he’s just “doing his job”. His job being to create sensationalist headlines and not bother too much about accuracy, but to try to do it in such a way as to stop the paper ending up in court on the wrong end of a lawsuit. Just. (The paper probably doesn’t mind so much getting taken to the Press Complaints Commission. )
Here is what David Rose wrote last weekend:
The Nasa climate scientists who claimed 2014 set a new record for global warmth last night admitted they were only 38 per cent sure this was true.
First of all notice the use of the word “admitted” – as if it was something that the scientists were forced into, whereas in fact they provided all the information in their press briefing. Notice also that David has taken one number and used it out of context. The 38% number is the probability that 2014 is the hottest year compared to the probability that 2010 and other hot years are the hottest. 2010, the next hottest year, only got a 23% probability by comparison. Here is the table showing out of 100%, what the different probabilities are:
You can see how David misused the 38% number. In fact the odds of it being the hottest year on record are the highest of the lot.
What is David’s next atrocity:
In a press release on Friday, Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) claimed its analysis of world temperatures showed ‘2014 was the warmest year on record’.
The claim made headlines around the world, but yesterday it emerged that GISS’s analysis – based on readings from more than 3,000 measuring stations worldwide – is subject to a margin of error. Nasa admits this means it is far from certain that 2014 set a record at all.
See how David Rose distorts things. How he uses rhetoric, abusing words like “emerged” and “claim” and “admits”. He is also being “economical with the truth” about the “far from certain”. He just made that one up. It may not be “certain”, but it is much more certain than “far from”. And it is more “certain” that 2014 was the hottest year than that any other year was the hottest year.
If David Rose were arguing that you beat your wife, even though you don’t, he’d probably write it up as:
The so-called scientist claims that he doesn’t beat his wife. He admits that he cannot prove he doesn’t beat his wife. However this journalist can show that it has emerged that his claim is subject to a margin of error. 95% of wife-beaters deny beating their wives.
And I doubt he’d add the confidence limits to the 95% number!
David Rose continues his deception writing:
Yet the Nasa press release failed to mention this, as well as the fact that the alleged ‘record’ amounted to an increase over 2010, the previous ‘warmest year’, of just two-hundredths of a degree – or 0.02C. The margin of error is said by scientists to be approximately 0.1C – several times as much.
That section by David Rose contains the same journalistic tricks of rhetoric, as well as an error of fact. The margin of error of the annual averaged global surface temperature is described in the GISS FAQ as ±0.05°C:
Assuming that the other inaccuracies might about double that estimate yielded the error bars for global annual means drawn in this graph, i.e., for recent years the error bar for global annual means is about ±0.05°C, for years around 1900 it is about ±0.1°C. The error bars are about twice as big for seasonal means and three times as big for monthly means. Error bars for regional means vary wildly depending on the station density in that region. Error estimates related to homogenization or other factors have been assessed by CRU and the Hadley Centre (among others).
If the press release didn’t include any confidence limits, then where did David Rose get his numbers from you may ask? That’s a very good question. It turns out that NOAA and NASA held a press conference, during which they showed some slides and explained the confidence limits, among other things. So David Rose was being very deceitful, wasn’t he. Which isn’t a surprise.
What bit of deception does he swing to next? Well here it is. You be the judge:
As a result, GISS’s director Gavin Schmidt has now admitted Nasa thinks the likelihood that 2014 was the warmest year since 1880 is just 38 per cent. However, when asked by this newspaper whether he regretted that the news release did not mention this, he did not respond. Another analysis, from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, drawn from ten times as many measuring stations as GISS, concluded that if 2014 was a record year, it was by an even tinier amount.
More rhetorical tricks using words like “admitted”. More deception by David Rose. When and how and where did David Rose ask Gavin Schmidt the question? I don’t know. It looks as if it was via an accusatory tweet of the type “have you stopped beating your wife”, like this one on January 17th:
@ClimateOfGavin why didn’t you mention the size of the 2014 “record” and the uncertainty in the GISS press release? Do you regret this?
— David Rose (@DavidRoseUK) January 17, 2015
Yet Gavin Schmidt had already responded to David Rose’s tweets about “uncertainties” on January 16th:
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) January 16, 2015
That’s about it. I’ll leave it to you to decide who is the grand deceiver.
I’d not trust David Rose, denier journo, with a single fact. It is alleged that he is a master of deception. He’d probably try to claim he is just doing his job.
Thanks very much for that article Sou, and by way of conclusion here’s yet another tweet from Gavin Schmidt, this time from January 24th:
— Gavin Schmidt (@ClimateOfGavin) January 24, 2015