Hiding the Decline and Bob Ward’s overactive imagination corner

Andrew Montford’s History of the Climategate affair

I am currently engrossed in reading Andrew Montford’s latest book: Hiding the Decline: A history of the Climategate affair (HTD) which is – as promised on the cover – a sequel to Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion. As I have previously noted, this earlier work by Montford prompted climatologist, Judith Curry to write:

I give Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusiona full 5 stars. Montford’s book will stand the test of time in terms of a history of science book about this episode, and it is being cited in scholarly papers (check google scholar).

Like its predecessor, I’m finding that HTD is definitely a page-turner; and while I do have a few quibbles (mostly of the techno-virtual kind and on which I shall elaborate in a future post – when I’ve completed my reading), I would urge all who haven’t done so to buy your copy now!

My Kindle version (which, for the most part, I’m reading via Kindle for iPad … just love the ability to instantly magnify the graphs!) tells me that I’m now 67% of the way through – having reached location 3981.

So I found it somewhat surprising to encounter in Adam Corner’s corner of the twitterverse [see below, for explanation regarding the divergent path of my mouse to such terrain], the following from CAGW promoter par excellence, Bob <fast fingers> Ward:

He hasn’t read HTD, but he knows it’s a “conspiracy yarn”. Amazing, eh?!

I certainly recalled from my reading of HTD to date that Ward was mentioned a few times; and my search for “Bob Ward” confirmed this. His illustrious name can be found at Kindle locations: 1476, 2896, and 2952. But – unless he has conveniently redefined “featuring” – Ward’s self-declared billing is as far from warranting the adverb “featuring” as his “conspiracy yarn” is from being an accurate depiction of a book he admits he has not read. Even the fourth – and last – mention of “Bob Ward” [Kindle location 4356] is not an account of which (IMHO) he has any reason to be proud.

UDATE 11/27/2012: Paul Matthews advises that when he saw the above Ward-tweet, he responded:

Paul Matthews @etzpcm
@ret_ward So you didn’t listen to the radio programme featuring you and @aDissentient where he said it definitely wasn’t a conspiracy?

Paul Matthews @etzpcm
@ret_ward @aDissentient “Andrew Montford: I think there’s absolutely no doubt that there was no conspiracy” @AJCorner

The latter is from a transcript of this recent BBC radio program in which Ward’s voice was also heard. Yet the cat seems to have gotten Ward’s tweeting-tongue (and/or his fast fingers), because all Matthews has heard in response is … you guessed it … “Sounds of silence”. The “expertise” these activists have developed when it comes to ignoring inconvenient questions is something to behold, is it not?! [end Update]

So what made my mouse meander into Corner’s corner, you might be wondering. Adam Corner (not unlike Bob Ward) unabashedly wears his deep-green advocacy heart on his sleeve; but he is neither “featured” nor mentioned in HTD. Corner’s unconscionable flogging of Lewandowsky’s pseudo-academic “findings” last July did little, if anything, to convey an impression of one who does his homework before posting.

More recently, Corner posted his take on a November 15 seminar on “Communicating Risk and Uncertainty”. One of the scheduled presenters was Myles Allen (who makes two cameo appearances in Montford’s HTD, one of which happens to be a platform he shared with Bob Ward on the heels of the infamous Oxburgh Report pursuant to Climategate). Allen’s presentation topic was “The IPCC’s communication of risk and uncertainty”. For the record, Ward’s role in this seminar was to chair an earlier session entitled, “Public Understanding of Risk and Uncertainty”.

Here’s how Corner had described Allen’s presentation:

In a sen­ti­ment that seemed to be widely shared by the cli­mate sci­ent­ists present, Myles Allen argued that the forth­coming 5th Assessment Report should be the IPCC’s last. Allen’s view was that a mono­lithic state­ment of cli­mate sci­ence know­ledge every five years was no longer the most helpful way to com­mu­nicate cli­mate change. Instead, smaller, more focused reports aimed at spe­cific target audi­ences would make not only a more useful state­ment of cur­rent know­ledge, but a less vul­ner­able target for cli­mate sceptic attacks. One mis­take in the entire doc­u­ment can cur­rently provide a reason for some to doubt the vera­city of the whole cannon of cli­mate know­ledge. If it were not designed to be one, single, defin­itive state­ment, this situ­ation could be avoided.[emphasis added -hro]

I had commented on this in a Discussion hosted at Montford’s blog, Bishop Hill [Nov 16, 2012 at 10:13 PM]. At that time, there were no comments on Corner’s post. In the interim, only three comments have been posted (one of which was from Corner). But a few days ago, Tom Nelson had alerted his readers to a Nov. 22 report of this same seminar by SciDev’s David Dickson, which I found to be far more informative than Corner’s, so I added it to the Discussion thread at Bishop Hill [Nov 23, 2012 at 3:10 PM].

Yesterday (which was already today in Corner-blog time: November 25, 2012 at 12:33 am) I had posted the following comment on Corner’s blog:

Speaking from the audi­ence, the IPCC’s com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ector, Jonathan Lynn, defended the struc­ture of the organ­isa­tion, and argued against more par­ti­cip­ative forms of engage­ment like blog­ging.

How very predictable of Lynn – and how very typical of the IPCC’s control the message modus operandi. But here’s another perspective on this seminar, offered by SciDev’s David Dickson [h/t Tom Nelson], which includes:

Jonathan Lynn, head of communications for the IPCC, points out that it is up to the 195 member government of the intergovernmental panel to decide on the type of reports it should produce, and that it already publishes reports on specific topics, in addition to its synthesis reports.

One can well imagine that Lynn would have been none too thrilled with the following comments Dickson attributes to Myles Allen:

as a result of criticisms of earlier reports “IPCC statements are becoming so legalistic that their value as a communication tool is diminishing”.

“We should give up on the ‘Stalinist’ notion of a single information vehicle,” Allen told the meeting, organised by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford.

Allen suggested that the IPCC process was partly motivated by a desire “to make a big media splash,” as a way of getting key messages through to policymakers.

But this could backfire when it came to conveying the uncertainties contained in climate change predictions.

It is interesting to compare Dickson’s take with that of Corner. Kinda makes one wonder if Corner’s summary of Allen’s observations – in which he depicts (and seems to attribute to Allen) skeptic views as “attacks” – is not heavily weighted by Corner’s own preconceptions and enviro-activist views.

As of 11/25/2012 10:14 PM PST, this comment is still “awaiting moderation”. Which is why my mouse and I had earlier today gone off in search of any cyber-activity on Corner’s part elsewhere on the ‘net. For the record, Corner’s last tweet appears to have been:

Perhaps Corner has “taken a powder”, or perhaps the Apple Crumble Cocktail proved to be too much for him. Or perhaps he had anticipated the advice I gave at the beginning of this post … and he’s decided to curl up with a good book by Andrew Montford, Hiding the Decline: A history of the Climategate affair ;-)

UPDATE: 11/27/2012 Corner has released my post from moderation. But he did not deign to respond to my observations. From his sparse responses to those who’ve asked about the involvement of “the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, part of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford”, my guess would be that the imprimateur was granted by virtue of the fact that the convenor, James Painter, is a member of the Institute’s staff. Although any journalist (except perhaps Adam Corner) might wonder why the Institute’s site makes no mention of this event. Perhaps it was really arranged by the BBC’s (now formerly) favoured secret seminar organizer, IBT;-)

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11 thoughts on “Hiding the Decline and Bob Ward’s overactive imagination corner

  1. Talking Climate is PUBLICALLY funded, always worth reminding Adam about that, if comments are ‘slow’ to appear.

    Adam Corner AND Myles allen also spoke at the Royal Institution several months after climategate, explaining why it didn’t account for very much..

    Royal Institution: The Climate Files; The battle for the truth about global warming

    At the Royal Institution, DR Adam Corner with Prof Myles Allen, why climategate was a storm in a teacup

    http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=1010

    ====
    Hilary: Audio doesn’t seem to work for me. I wonder if there’s a transcript available. I would like to have heard it, because Fred Pearce was also involved. As I’ve noted, in December 2009, Pearce had written:

    I have been speaking to a PR operator for one of the world’s leading environmental organizations. Most unusually, he didn’t want to be quoted. But his message is clear. The facts of the e-mails barely matter any more. It has always been hard to persuade the public that invisible gases could somehow warm the planet, and that they had to make sacrifices to prevent that from happening. It seemed, on the verge of Copenhagen, as if that might be about to be achieved.

    But he says all that ended on Nov. 20. “The e-mails represented a seminal moment in the climate debate of the last five years, and it was a moment that broke decisively against us. I think the CRU leak is nothing less than catastrophic.”

    It would be interesting to know if his views had changed between then and the time of this Lecture.

    ====

    Adam does not seem to understand tha many people are sceptical of scientists turned activists, and are concerned that their motivated reasoning and ideology blinds them from taking a look at the science (thatthey think settled)

    Here’s Why I think Adam suffers from this.

    Hilary: Sorry, Barry, I’m snipping the rest of this, even though it is very useful information! But I don’t see how it relates to Andrew’s book – or Ward’s Gleickish “summary” – which are the focus of my post, rather than Corner – whom I would not even have bothered mentioning here had he not been on my “provenance” trail for Ward’s tweet!

    Perhaps you’d like to think about putting the rest into a post on your blog, and I will be glad to edit this comment again to include the link.

    Thanks.

    • Just trying to demonstrate Adam’s motivated reasoning! ;-)

      Myles Allen is worth listening to, he describes the BBC’s reporting of ‘Hide the decline’ as libelous! And gets quite irate, Roger Harrabin is in the audience getting quite defensive. If only Prof Muller had been speaking.

      I’ll try and email you the audio, Damian Carrington, Guardian was the chair……..

      • Well, I agree that Adam is probably quite “motivated”; however – maybe I missed it, but – I haven’t seen much from him that I would call “reasoning” ;-)

        But I see that he has released my comment from moderation, and I shall update my post accordingly.

        Allen called it “libellous”?! This I’ve got to hear with my own ears!! Pls do E-mail me the audio, if you can (or perhaps post it to dropbox, where I can grab it).

        Carrington is not exactly one of my favourite people. Nor, I suspect, am I one of his! I seem to have landed myself into “pre-moderation purgatory” at the Guardian, presumably because I had the chutzpah to ask when Carrington intended to correct an error of fact in one of his articles. See:

        In defence of the IPCC, “journalist” ignores the real scandal

        In which I had identified his dubious claim … and:

        I stand corrected … WG III participants are “listed” in IPCC 33 report [11/28/2012 link fixed -hro] … and provide evidence (the IPCC’s own numbers) which show that Carrington – and IPCC-nik Richard Klein, Carrington’s noble defender in chief was wrong!

  2. The Royal Institution seem to have removed it!

    Luckily, and a huge thank you to Alex Cull, who I asked if he could transcribe it, he did it before it was disappeared:

    an extract:

    Myles Allen: There was nothing – nothing obliged the BBC to flash up those words as this subliminal advertising. I think that was tantamount to libel. Because they knew that the words were going to be misinterpreted. So what you did – whenever you ran a story on Climategate, you flashed up the email with “hide the decline” in it, and you highlighted “trick” and “hide the decline”. Okay? And you knew – BBC editors knew, David Shukman knew, that the word “trick” and the word [sic] “hide the decline” was going to be misinterpreted by anybody who happened to be not tripping over the dog and seeing the television at that time.

    Now, I don’t know the law of libel. But it seems to me that flashing up – you know, “Roger Harrabin is a” whatever, quickly on the screen and in a way that people might interpret it as negative to you is potentially libellous

    https://sites.google.com/site/mytranscriptbox/home/20100614_ri

    • Alex’s transcriptbox is a wonderful resource … although when I noticed that I couldn’t get the audio, I went to his site in hope of finding a transcript, but couldn’t locate it. So, I’m glad you found it … it’s making for some fascinating reading!

      But these disappearances of late are getting to be a little too common for comfort, methinks!

      The other thing I find striking about this transcript (with the benefit of hindsight!) is Carrington’s (and to some extent Pearce’s) “framing” (my bold):

      [Carrington:]

      Very quickly after that, those blogs which are sceptical about climate change leaped upon them, took out words and phrases like “trick” and “hide the decline”, swore that they found the smoking gun which revealed the conspiracy that anthropogenic global warming was.

      Now that doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, [...]

      [Pearce:]

      [...] the bloggers who first alerted the world to the files were certainly spinning them from the start with their own interpretations.

      They said the emails revealed a global conspiracy to dupe the world about man-made climate change. And they had their quotes from the emails ready. Their interpretations were often highly misleading, to anybody who, kind of, knew the field at all.

      Except that neither of them named any bloggers who had actually done this – let alone any of the big names!

      Pearce subsequently named Palin and Inhofe but (as he himself had noted) they’re politicians, just like Al Gore and the greenest Kennedy of ‘em all! So why blame the bloggers?!

      This fact-free framing reminds me of the MSM’s knee-jerk response every time something goes wrong somewhere in the Arab world: Eventually, they’ll find some way of making sure the rest of the world knows that it’s “Israel’s fault”!

  3. The Guardian were VERY influential in framing the debate to the media and the establishment.. and it worked!!

    Look at Paerce and ‘Hide the Decline’ in that transcript – imagine if Muller had been there, explaining the implications of it (ie past temp reconstuctions), or Prof J Jones. or Prof J Curry explaining it to that audience, which was packed with journalists, establishment science types.

    But no, we had Myles (someone who was in the emails!) and Adam Corner (rather motivated activist, don’t you think, both utterly compromised as partisan

    Maybe if that and other audiences had seen Muller graphic, things would have been very different with the enquiries.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/25/currys-2000-comment-question-can-anyone-defend-%e2%80%9chide-the-decline%e2%80%9d/

    The Guardian really has a lot to answer for.
    Another event below (Feb 2010) – Guardian’s James Randerson Chair, & Bob Ward!
    http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=1000

  4. According to Corner, Myles Allen commented “One mis­take in the entire doc­u­ment [IPCC Assessment Report] can cur­rently provide a reason for some to doubt the vera­city of the whole cannon [sic] of cli­mate know­ledge.”

    One can invert this — the truths in the ARs currently provide a reason for some to accept the veracity of the entire document. Especially the confidence in its conclusions, as expressed in the summaries for policy makers. While the average of multiple measurements is (with caveats) a better estimate, the product of multiple uncertainties is greater uncertainty.

  5. Pingback: New Book: Hiding The Decline | The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF)

  6. I’m also reading – and enjoying – Hiding the Decline (epub edition on my trusty Kobo) and also hope to review it in due course.

    Thanks to all for your feedback re the transcript of the RIGB Climategate debate. It looks as though they’ve taken all their audio archives offline (only have the Climategate audio because I downloaded the mp3 a year ago and it was sitting in my hard drive.) I’ve now emailed the RIGB to ask what has become of their archives!

    Just a general (and probably very obvious!) point about the internet – sometimes it’s easy, I think, to be lulled into the assumption that what’s there is permanent. A good habit to get into is to assume it isn’t, and to make personal stashes of things you want saved, just in case…

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