Calling out bad science (UK jewel in the crown edition)

UPDATE 02-Apr-2015: Please note my comment below in which I provide documentation and links to some recent evidence of Betts’ choice of posting patterns. Of equal interest, IMHO, is dennisambler’s comment in which he highlights some of Betts’ earlier history.

I disagree with much of what the environmental movement do – I disagree with them on GMOs for example – but as an objective scientist I’m not going to hide my results just because someone I disagree with likes them. If you see me on Twitter you’ll see me call out bad science whenever I see it, no matter which side it comes from. [Richard Betts – Sep 24, 2013 at 9:18 AM via Bishop Hill Discussion: Writing and reviewing IPCC AR5]

Let’s watch Betts, a distingushed representative of the UK’s jewel in the crown, as he “calls out” some very bad science from Rahmstorf, Mann et al. Notice the deafening sounds of silence from Betts on that thread, folks?!

But wait … here he is “calling out” this bad science via twitter where, evidently, one is supposed to look:

A representative of the "jewel in the crown" calling out "bad science"

A representative of the “jewel in the crown” calling out “bad science”

YMMV, but such tepid (and somewhat ambiguous) “calling out” doesn’t exactly meet my definition of criticism. In my view, Betts’ tweet is much closer to Goodall’s “stubbornly silent” than to any approximation of “criticism” (robust or otherwise!)

Nor, for that matter, was I particularly impressed with (or, considering his past performances, surprised by) his recent choice to launch his Caspar Milquetoast imitation at the blog of one who’s always struck me as a perennial attention-seeking (and/or traffic-seeking?!) bore. See, for example, Tom Fuller’s assessment of the bore, aka ATTP, in action.

But back to Betts … For some (IMHO) unfathomable reason, Betts chose the blog of ATTP, in order to share his views on the blindingly obvious problems inherent in the words of those who choose to label their opponents as “deniers“.

Over the years, I have observed Betts opting to scatter his umbrage at the least important (if not completely irrelevant) thing. His tweet above – combined with his chosen failure to engage with the meat of McIntyre’s post – has given me no reason whatsoever to change my opinion. [More evidence available on request!]

Then again, it is not entirely beyond the realm of possibility that Betts might have privately chastized Rahmstorf, Mann et al for their latest exercise in error-riddled recycling.

Notwithstanding any and/or all of the above, the view from here is that Betts would have far more credibility – and respect – if he were to publicly post his objections, as he so readily does at the drop of a virtual byte, whenever he thinks he’s spotted an error (however irrelevant to the major point of the post in question) on which he can pounce and pontificate to his little tweeting-heart’s content.

Amazing, eh?!

12 thoughts on “Calling out bad science (UK jewel in the crown edition)

  1. Our Dick has a family to feed Hilary. He knows that to criticise AGW royalty is likely to lead to a diminution of his government income stream.

    Steve’s destruction of the Rahmstorf, Mann product was pretty comprehensive as was his take on the old Hockey Stick. Unfortunately, as we have seen, this will not shake the faith of the faithful. Time and nature will surely do so though.

    • Keitho, my experience has been that many bureaucrats have families to feed; but this does not preclude their acknowledging errors in a more honest and straightforward fashion than we are ever likely to see from Betts; cf. his tweeted – and, as far as I have been able to ascertain, his only public – “response” in my post above!

      Also, consider, for example, as Donna Laframboise had noted a few years ago:

      I, too, have been publicly and falsely accused of being wrong by Richard Betts. That was in late 2011, but evidently some lessons are not easily learned.

      When the IPCC makes an error, is it the journalist’s fault?

      In that case, I believe Bett’s eventually brought the error to the attention of the IPCC, and the record was quietly corrected. Because the IPCC gives no indication that the page in question contained an error for four long years, ironically it now appears that I was hallucinating and that Betts was correct

      If Betts lacks the gumption (as he certainly appears to) to publicly and clearly express his disdain for the games being played by the likes of Rahmstorf, Mann et al, then why should he be accorded any respect whatsoever, eh?!

  2. His engagement isn’t genuine. He likely sees it as crisis managment. Certain warmists accept they can’t shut sceptics up but perhaps they can control our message. He’s certainly not learnt anything about rebuilding integrity.

    • Tiny, as one who has done her time (in the very distant past!) as a government bureaucrat – of both the “community development” and “policy development” kind – I appreciate that Betts may well be somewhat constrained in his public pronouncements (however bland, inane and/or decidedly lacking in honesty and/or accuracy they might be). Consequently, I cannot disagree with your succint assessment that integrity does not appear to be Betts’ most important product:-)

      As Steve McIntyre had observed a few years ago when he attempted to engage Betts in an honest discussion, one is left with the impression that Betts was being “weasely and inadequate”.

      I long ago came to the conclusion that one can learn far more about Betts from that to which he chooses not to respond – than from that to which he does! And nothing I’ve seen from him in the interim (including his childish, fact-free jibes via twitter, i.e. his preferred platform for reasons perhaps best known only to himself) has provided me with any reason to reconsider.

  3. Richard was also noticeably silent when I challenged Mark Maslin about using ‘CC deniers’ in a tweet in reply to the Met man on 1st March 2015. Even if we think the issue is unimportant (I don’t) we might ask what made him break his silence strongly in favour of something a sceptic was saying in that case, leading to a change of heart from the UCL man as well. Hilary may not have picked up that Richard’s use of ATTP was followed by a sanctioned republish by Barry Woods, to enable sceptics to feel more able to comment freely, as clearly helped DGH:

    Would someone please nominate Richard Betts for AGU’s Climate Communicator Award?

    With Gavin and Michael stepping down at RealClimate they are looking for new contributors. How refreshing it would be to replace their snark with Richard’s patience and even tone. He may disagree but he’s never disagreeable. Here’s a fellow who enjoys the respect of both the climate science establishment and the skeptic blogosphere. Thanks Richard.

    As for the term “denier” the Danas of the world use it to marginalize their opponents. The bar they set is very high – if you dare question the economics of wind power or if you argue that climate sensitivity is at the lower end of the IPCC range – then you’re a denier. Cold snaps are weather and heat waves are climate change. Question that dogma and you’re a denier. There’s no better example of the attempts to marginalize critics than Lewandowsky/Cook placing Richard Betts in the Recursive Fury Climate Science Conspiracy Theorist camp. (No, Cook’s post-hoc excuse wasn’t compelling.)

    Barry – Thanks for posting this. Since he entered the scene as a unabashed Watts troll I’ve avoided commenting at ATTP’s blog.

    This was the version I was bound to point to in a comment on the major post on the subject by Science fo Doom, which gives further context from my perspective, as does this.

    Going back to TinyCO2 I wouldn’t call Richard’s engagement non-genuine. The word I’d use is limited. When almost the whole world of climate science ignores so many examples of appalling non-scholarship, this time from Rahmstorf and Mann, it’s tempting to berate one of the few guys who has put his head above the parapet on a few issues. What about those who have said nothing about anything? But let’s say Ostrov is right that Betts is highly overrated and that this matters. (I don’t even see why it matters. Did what DGH say above do drastic harm?) Would Hilary say the same about Tamsin Edwards? Where is Tamsin’s denouncement of Rahmstorf and Mann? Same hypocrisy, surely the same damning verdict is called for? And thus we eat the few mewling babies that do emerge from the Climate Borg in any form.

    Not least because of the important things Christopher Essex says about the fragmentary nature of this immature field I still think we’re wisest to go easy on both UK mini-pundits. And those like them. The view from here, so to speak.

    • Richard, I’m not entirely sure what the point of your comment above might have been. Nor how it relates to anything I had actually written in my post. Beginning with your:

      Hilary may not have picked up that Richard’s use of ATTP was followed by a sanctioned republish by Barry Woods

      And – setting aside the fact that I have better things to do with my time than run around the web looking for duplicate blog-postings – how exactly does this change Betts’ initial decision to post at ATTP?! Not my problem if he lacks the judgement (and/or “assessment” skills) to make a more appropriate choice of posting venue in the first place.

      From the tone (and content) of your comments, Richard, I’m also sorry to see that you appear to be lapsing back into a posting pattern I had observed and documented a few years ago – whereby you chose to put words into my mouth that I had definitely not uttered.

      Not only that, folks, but – believe it or not – Drake presumed to tell me which posts I should (or should not) be responding to/commenting on! It was quite amazing!

      Interestingly, neither Drake nor Betts has a record of doing particularly well when challenged to substantiate their respective self-glorifying and/or false claims while they are doing their little dances of self-deception and/or mis-direction. Examples of which they had both obligingly (albeit perhaps inadvertently) provided in that particular thread at BH.

      And here Drake is, once again! Playing the same silly – and intellectually dishonest – game with his totally unsubstantiated:

      But let’s say Ostrov is right that Betts is highly overrated and that this matters.

      Anyone care to cite which of the actual words in my post might have led Drake to make such a preposterously untrue claim?!

    • Hilary, only just read this, sorry. I don’t really have anything to add. I think my post and its purpose was clear enough first time around. I saw Richard imply on Twitter since that you never agree with him about anything and I did retweet something where he seemed to be defending himself against a criticism in an amusing way. In neither case did I find the interaction interesting enough to pursue for more than a few seconds. All I will say is that I deeply value Richard’s contribution to the den1er debate in February. I did want to tell that story. I’m sure you’ll help to keep him honest in other areas.

    • PS On the mischaracterisation that you thought Betts is highly overrated I am glad to learn that this is preposterously untrue. I was I admit partly going on earlier writings of yours there. I apologise for reading you wrongly. Can I take from the ‘preposterously’ that you don’t think Betts is overrated at all? :)

  4. Maybe Richard Betts would like to call out his own false science from this document in 2005, it can still be found here for download. I have added a few comments in brackets.

    http://www.consciousclimate.com/pdfs/Dangerous%20Climate%20Change%201.pdf

    Prepared by Geoff Jenkins, Richard Betts, Mat Collins, Dave Griggs, Jason Lowe, Richard Wood

    “What constitutes ‘dangerous’ climate change, in the context of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, remains open to debate.”

    (I thought it had been settled science for years prior to 2005, after all, they were by then working on AR4!)

    “The physical (chemical and biological) climate system — or components of it — are capable of changing rapidly, and the trigger point for such abrupt changes could provide one of the ways of defining ‘dangerous’

    We can also investigate the impacts of relatively gradual change — and their associated costs — to seek ways of defining a dangerous change

    The inertia of the climate system means that we could be committed to dangerous change, many decades before we reach the dangerous level.

    Once we decide what degree of (for example) temperature rise the world can tolerate, we then have to estimate what greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere should be limited to, and how quickly they should be allowed to change. (How would they know? Once WE decide??? Supreme hubris).

    These are very uncertain because we do not know exactly how the climate system responds to greenhouse gases. (Really, so all those years they were claiming they knew, they were lying?)

    The next stage is to calculate what emissions of greenhouse gases would be allowable, in order to keep below the limit of greenhouse gas concentrations. (More hubris)

    This is even more uncertain, thanks to our imperfect understanding of the carbon cycle (and chemical cycles) and how this feeds back into the climate system.” (So they didn’t understand the carbon cycle, they didn’t know much about feedback, yet that is what their models depend on, but they still came up with all those mountains of documents saying they did?)

    One of the modelling concepts they were looking at in this booklet was the possible switch off of the Gulf Stream. How co-incidental, that this is being revived again at the moment by Mann and Rahmstorff….

    They make me so angry.

    • Many thanks, Dennis. Not that this surprises me. Rather, it reminds me of a discussion a few years ago when Betts was challenged by Marion (either here, or at BH … possibly both!) regarding wrongful claims on the part of the Met Office in one of their annual much circulated pre-COP/MOP brochures.

      Betts seemed to think that simply because it was subsequently withdrawn, then no one should pay any further attention to it. His implication was that because they did get around to belatedly (and very quietly – if not silently) withdrawing the propaganda piece, then the Met Office should neither be reminded of nor held accountable for their initial propagation thereof!

      Amazing, eh?!

      You also wrote:

      One of the modelling concepts they were looking at in this booklet was the possible switch off of the Gulf Stream. How co-incidental, that this is being revived again at the moment by Mann and Rahmstorff….

      Thanks for providing more evidence for the strength of my hypothesis that “recycling” is about the only “environmentally conscious” act which these so-called scientists (who should probably be more properly and accurately dubbed “computer game players”!) are capable of practising with any measure of credibility or proficiency;-)

  5. In my post, I had written:

    Over the years, I have observed Betts opting to scatter his umbrage at the least important (if not completely irrelevant) thing. His tweet above – combined with his chosen failure to engage with the meat of McIntyre’s post – has given me no reason whatsoever to change my opinion. [More evidence available on request!]

    and I had concluded by noting:

    Notwithstanding any and/or all of the above, the view from here is that Betts would have far more credibility – and respect – if he were to publicly post his objections, as he so readily does at the drop of a virtual byte, whenever he thinks he’s spotted an error (however irrelevant to the major point of the post in question) on which he can pounce and pontificate to his little tweeting-heart’s content.

    For the record, I’m providing links to some posts of mine – from the not too distant past, over at BH (since he rarely deigns to comment here!) – which, if followed, provide ample evidence of my claims.

    The first is in a thread about (believe it or not!) snails: Well, one particular snail to be precise! Betts was whining about – and making much ado of – a few words that former UK Cabinet Minister (but still an MP) Owen Paterson had included as part of an October 2014 presentation he had made at the GWPF.

    Here’s the para Betts had pounced on (with its full context, something for which the frequently twittering Betts has demonstrated very little appreciation):

    [Begin extract from http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/10/20/the-snail-paper.html Oct 22, 2014 at 3:55 AM]:

    ‘twould be a far, far better thing that you do (now) than your repeated attempts to cast aspersions on Paterson (and/or the GWPF), via your still unexplained (and, IMHO, inexplicable) emphasis on your repeated, embellished – and totally unsubstantiated – claim that (in context, as noted in my comment to which you are now responding) Paterson’s:

    For example the Aldabra Banded Snail which one of the Royal Society’s journals pronounced extinct in 2007 has recently reappeared, yet the editors are still refusing to retract the original paper.

    is deserving of your (IMHO) dismissive and doubt-casting original and subsequent tweets; and, in particular, your earlier “assessment” and unwarranted comment here, to the effect that the above paragraph is “merely a strawman”.

    Clearly, if there is any “blame”, doubt or aspersion to be cast in this sorry saga, it lies squarely at the feet of the U.K. Royal Society, not at those of either Paterson or the GWPF. Wouldn’t you agree?!

    If so, perhaps you could apologize to Paterson and the GWPF – and redirect your twitter-followers’ attention to where it more appropriately and rightfully belongs. [End extract]

    Sorry, I cannot report whether Betts agreed or not. But, I do know that – at least to date – he did not respond to the above. Perhaps he attended the “silence is acquiescence” school of debate and discussion!

    And here’s the second example. This derives from a much longer thread at Bishop Hill on the heels of Betts’ childish and completely unwarranted smear of scientist and GWPF Academic Advisory Council member and member of the UK’s House of Lords), Dr. Matt Ridley.

    In this instance, Betts – who seemed to have no problem publicly criticizing a former Cabinet minister and MP (as I had noted above) – decided it was quite appropriate for him to holler out to his little corner of the twitter-verse that Ridley was:

    “paranoid and rude” and [Betts] made a series of assertions about what [Ridley] had written that were either inaccurate or stretched interpretations to say the least. He then advanced the doctrine that politicians should not criticize civil servants.

    So, it would seem that in Betts’ Book of Belligerence and Bellicosity, it’s perfectly OK for a civil servant to engage in the act of publicly smearing an MP and/or Member of the UK House of Lords; but criticism (and – in particular – irrationally perceived criticism) of a civl servant is verboten.

    I was quite late to that particular December, 2014 party. But, for the record, here’s the relevant part of my response [Dec 13, 2014 at 10:04 AM]:

    My own experiences of attempting to engage Richard Betts in dialogue have been considerably less than salutary.

    Most recently on the heels of his totally unjustified (and unjustifiable) attack (for want of a better word!) following Owen Paterson’s presentation to the GWPF – during which Paterson had introduced the (IMHO, right on the mark) concept of “the Green Blob” [See my comments of Oct 21, 2014 at 5:24 AM and Oct 22, 2014 at 3:55 AM in The snail paper and Betts’ “responses” and/or lack thereof]

    So, in light of the above, in which Betts quite freely engaged in (unjustifiably) criticizing an MP – and former member of the U.K. Cabinet – I’m desperately seeking a phrase other than sheer hyprocrisy (and/or double standard) by which Betts can justify his claim to the effect that a member of the HoL should not be criticizing a climate scientist who happens to be a public servant – notwithstanding the simple fact that Ridley had not done so!

    Suffice it to say that the above two instances are far from the only examples of Betts’ concocted and/or convoluted criticisms directed at the GWPF (and/or others from the skeptical side of the great divide).

    But my general impression is that Betts tends to direct far too many of his unjustifiable whines ‘n smears in that direction – whenever he can find some little snippet on which to build an unwarranted and feeble “case” to broadcast to his corner of twitterverse.

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