We don’t seem to hear much from that teflon-coated IPCC supremo Rajendra Pachauri these days, which is rather strange. Not very long ago he seemed to be so keen to strut on the world stage that one could hardly pick up a paper or watch a news bulletin without being assailed by yet another pronouncement from the media’s favourite prophet of doom. Perhaps he’s just turned all shy and modest over the last eighteen months. Or maybe there are other, far less creditable, reasons for his apparent invisibility, like giving the public time to forget the appalling failings of the organisation he heads which have been inescapably laid at his door.

Anyway, while continuing the seemingly endless process of indexing and filing the mountains of documents in my workroom, I came across a report on the Watts Up With That blog from November 2008, and fell to thinking about the strange tricks that the chronological march of history can play. This was the title:

Below the headline, Michael Duffy, a retired Australian politician (if politicians ever do retire), refers to a talk given by Dr Pachauri at the University of New South Wales that he had attended during the previous month. This occasion was to mark the award of an honorary science degree to the IPCC chairman, so one might expect that he would be particularly careful about anything he might say that related to scientific research. Indeed, being a railway engineer by trade and not a scientist, that he would be very, very cautious.

Apparently, Dr Pachauri’s message to the audience that ‘warming is taking place at a faster rate’ was made as commentary on a graph he was showing as the highpoint of his talk. According to Michael Duff’s eye witness account the graph did indeed show average temperatures rising. He says that he was shocked by this apparently cynical and cold-blooded piece of misrepresentation, and who could blame him. Of course anyone who might claim that temperatures are presently rising rapidly should expect it to be greeted with howls of derision, although that does not prevent this canard escaping the lips of some of the more unreliable advocates of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) from time to time. But even back in 2008 the standstill in temperatures was clear to anyone who was familiar with the data. Is it possible that the chairman of the IPCC did not know something so crucial to any pronouncement about AGW? Is it possible that he did know and nevertheless chose to mislead his audience in order to sex-up his presentation.

All this took place about a year before the fury of the combined storms of Climategate, Himalayagate and a few other gates where to break over Dr Pachuari’s head, and Michael Duffy’s report seems to have been completely forgotten by then. Had it not been, then the effect would have been immensely damaging as it shows that the IPCC chairman is, at best, ignorant of crucial scientific observations,  or at worst, prepared to misinform an audience for the sake of dramatic effect.

Such is the way in which the rich pageant of history marches ever onwards, with important precursors of events being subsumed in the wealth of trivia that is an essential part of an endlessly fascinating chronology.

Site Maintenance

Posted by TonyN on 02/06/2011 at 3:01 pm Uncategorized 3 Responses »
Jun 022011


I’m trying to track down the bug reported by TonyB and Peter Geany which prevents the widgets (Recent Comments etc) showing in the right hand sidebar for those using some versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Things may look a bit odd for an hour or two as I remove element of the page to try and isolate the culprit.


Update 02/06/2011 15:30

That seems to have fixed the  problem for me except that the categories drop-down is not sized correctly. I would be grateful for feedback from someone using Internet Explorer. Can you see items like Recent comment and Categories in the right hand sidebar now?



When Chris Huhne announced the carbon budget for the period 2023-27 recently, as required by law under the terms of the Climate Change Act, the Department of Energy and Climate Change had this to say in a press release:

The carbon budget will place the British economy at the leading edge of a new global industrial transformation, and ensure low carbon energy security and decarbonisation is achieved at least cost to the consumer.

Well, I suppose he would say that, wouldn’t he. But what will the cost actually be?

According to a BBC report published the same day, which predictably makes an enthusiastic attempt to sell this absurd piece of economic self-destruction to the public, this is what is in store for us:

The Committee on Climate Change has forecast that to meet emissions targets the average household fuel bill will go up by £1 a week until 2020 when it will plateau out with no major rises after that.

… and just what is that supposed to mean?

Continue reading »

Apr 012011

Since the Christmas and New Year holidays, I’ve only put up a couple of posts at Harmless Sky, rather than my usual one a week. There’s is a reason or two or three  for this happening.

At the time when I started Harmless Sky, three years ago, I had already amassed and indexed quite a large quantity of research material concerning climate change and other related subjects. Being a bit of a traditionalist who likes the look and feel of sheets of printed-paper and who also finds underlining and scribbling in margins useful this task was not undertaken altogether in the spirit of the new information age; in other words digitally. Looking back it is easy to see that this was a mistake, but on the other hand the technology was rather different when I started. Document management systems were expensive and OCR, on which effective electronic searching of documents depends, was chancy, to say the least.

Over the last three years I have continued to download and print out whatever catches my eye, but the time spent running Harmless Sky has left little opportunity for routine and tedious tasks like indexing.  The result is a ‘piling’ system, which by the end of last year had covered every surface in my workroom to a significant depth and was beginning to occupy a steadily increasing area of the floor.

As it happens, I’ve never been too concerned about untidiness; in fact it’s my natural habitat, only mitigated by the influence of an extremely tidy wife. Fortunately for domestic peace and harmony she rarely visits my workroom, and when she does, wisely ignores what she sees.  But even I acknowledge that there is a point at which untidiness becomes squalor, and an impenetrable information storage system becomes a handicap.

In recent months, digging up references has become a major problem that a good memory born of a lifetime’s chaotic work practices is not entirely equal too. The volume of material is now just too great and the number and altitude of the ‘piles’ ever growing. But there is another issue that has become almost as unavoidable, and this has to do with the content that I post on this blog and the way in which I use my time.

When I set up Harmless Sky, I thought that the ideal length for a blog post was about 350-700 words. The immediacy and ephemeral nature of the new media, together with the short attention span this encourages, seems to require short punchy posts. This may explain why some blogs can seem curt and assertive if one is not used to the style. Where bloggers are concerned with being first with breaking news, of course, this is perfectly acceptable. The good Bishop Hill has become a master of this style, and in his hands it is supremely successful. However Harmless Sky has never really done news, or been that kind of blog.  I far prefer to stand back and wait awhile, and then take a more considered look at what lies behind the stories that appear in the MSM and blogoshere.  Of course both approaches have their place.

Really exploring the kind of complex issues raised by the climate change debate can seldom be satisfactorily accomplished in short pieces. So I haven’t often managed to wind up a post in less than 1200 words, and very often they have been considerably longer. Such posts take a good deal of time to write, or at least that is the way it is in my case.

Looking back over the three years I find that I have written well over  200 post; a total, probably, of about a quarter of a million words. That is enough to fill one rather long book or a couple of fairly short ones. Combine this with the fact that I write slowly, and like to worry away at an idea or an augment until it yields some kind of conclusion, this represents an enormous amount of time invested in a medium that is by nature ephemeral.

Around Christmas, I began to think about these statistics and the mighty piles of paper in my workroom, much of which relates to topics that I find fascinating but have never got round to blogging about.  The time had surely come to try and put two-and-two together.

There has to be at least one book in the research material that I have and the only hindrance to starting work is finding sufficient time and, crucially, being able to retrieve references quickly as and when I want them. In other words I have to tame the ‘piling system’, which now amounts to thousands of documents, some of them long and complex. This means finding a lot of time, and the obvious way to do this is to write fewer or less time-consuming blog posts.

On the other hand, I have no wish that activity at Harmless Sky should dry up altogether. I still have quite a few irons in the fire in the form of FOIA requests and a possible inquiry by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, and if any of these become interesting I want a forum in which to report what is happening.

Then there is something else that has been on my mind since the end of last year.

At the moment, I’m not too sure where the climate debate is going. The heady ‘back-against-the-wall’ days for sceptics seem to be well and truly over, but if there is to be a victory for rational inquiry into climate change over the dogmatic assertions of politicians , activists, and the climate science machine they rely on, then we still seem to be some way off this happening. Although the weight of evidence, and public opinion, is clearly piling up in the sceptics favour, there still appears to be a furtive, and very determined, finger on the scales that is preventing the balance shifting.

So how to combine keeping Harmless Sky going with making enough time to research and write a book? As the next two or three months are likely to be spent organising my material so that I can find what I want in significantly less than a lifetime, there has to be a change in the way that this blog is run. In order to keep the kettle boiling, this is what I intend to do.

As I sift through, digitise, and classify the teetering escarpments of paper that greet me each morning, I’ll post links to some of the material that seems most interesting. Inevitably, as I’m dealing with archive material, not much of this is likely to be recent but, as a talented amateur historian is supposed to have said:


The further backward you can look,

                                   the further forward you are likely to see

And perhaps the most intriguing question in the climate debate today is not where are we headed, but rather how the hell did we get to where we are at the moment?

By the way, the talented amateur historian’s name was Winston Spencer Churchill, and I found this quote scribbled on a scrap of paper among a pile of stuff to do with palaeoclimatology.

Mar 312011


Ecologists in Wales have been warning about species migration caused by global warming for years now. In fact it’s become quite and industry.

Of course, there is an element of swings and roundabouts here, because as some species move north in search of cooler climes, and we loose old familiar species, fascinating refugees from further south will arrive to enrich our countryside.

I hear that computer models predict the imminent demise of the bluebell, there are fears that the Snowdon Lilley one of Britain’s rarest native alpine plants will be driven to the mountain tops and then tumble into oblivion. Numerous species of butterflies are expected to forsake their usual Home Counties habitats and head for the northern hills too.

Mitigation measures have, of course, been suggested some quite sensible, others more imaginative than practical, and a few pretty barmy.  In the latter category is the idea that we should create escape corridors of uninterrupted wilderness leading northwards, regardless of expense, disruption to anything that lies in their path, and the fact that only computer models of doubtful probity say that they will ever become necessary.

Anyway, does anyone know what these little critters that have turned up in our garden are? My wife is complaining that they keep nipping her ankles.


Posted by TonyN on 24/12/2010 at 9:59 pm Uncategorized 2 Responses »
Dec 242010

A very Happy Christmas to everyone




 … and this is something that my wife noticed in the kitchen right at the end of the growing season


Perhaps the title should be either ‘When did I last see your father?” or “Surprise, Surprise!”


Posted by TonyN on 23/12/2010 at 10:16 am Uncategorized 4 Responses »
Dec 232010

At the moment we’re snowed up and carrying in supplies for Christmas is taking priority over blogging. I’ll catch up with comments this evening, but be warned, any moderation is likely to be summary and savage.

Update: A message from Manacker:

To one and all

I’ll be away from my computer for a few days, but would like to wish you all



I’ll begin by saying that I do not consider Professor Brian Cox to be an arrogant person, although I only have his TV persona to go by. The television programmes of his that I have watched have been entertaining, informative, full of the excitement of scientific discovery, and thoroughly enjoyable. So this post is not intended to point to a defect in the good professor’s character, but to the mindset that presently afflicts scientists worldwide, and climate scientists in particular. This is a pernicious example of groupthink rather than the hubris of individual scientists, although one might be able to think of a few candidates for exception. They seem to think that their views should be unchallengeable by anyone outside their own profession.

Brian Cox presented his Wheldon Lecture to the Royal Television Society on 26th November 2010 and it was broadcast on BBC2 late on the evening of the 1st December. Under the title of Science: A Challenge to TV Orthodoxy, he spent 40 minutes exploring the controversy that now surrounds the way in which science is packaged by broadcasters for easy assimilation by their mass audiences. By coincidence, perhaps, this thorny problem is also the subject of a review ordered by the BBC Trust, which I have referred to here and here.

Cox has had an interesting career as a pop musician, as a scientist studying particle physics and as a high profile TV presenter. His undoubted talents have recently been recognised by the award of an OBE for services to science.

The subject he chose for his lecture is an important one; our lives are increasingly affected by the outcomes of scientific research and Cox cites an option poll (MORI 2004) finding that 84% of adults receive the majority their information about science from television. It is unlikely, even with the growth of the internet, that this figure has changed very much since then. However the impact that science broadcasting can have on public policy has increased since 2004 because one particular area of research has become inseparable from public policy: global warming. Television is a major opinion former, and presumably this is why Professor Cox chose to focus his lecture on this topic.

The first part of the lecture is devoted to ground-clearing in preparation for the main thesis, and this is illuminating. Apparently Cox considers that the current impact of science on public policy particularly global warming places great responsibility on broadcasters who cover this subject. Strangely, he makes no mention of the infinitely greater responsibility that this places on the scientists who brief the media about their work.

He then reveals that he does not consider that there have been any ‘serious deficiencies’ in television coverage of science. This is a point of view that appears to be at odds with his patrons at the BBC in view of their decision to hold an investigation in the wake of the Climategate scandal and a welter of criticism from the general public and the blogoshere. And If he is unaware of any deficiencies, I wonder why he chose to devote most of his lecture to the problems that broadcasters face when dealing with this subject?

Turning to the influence that television science broadcasting had on his own choice of career, Cox holds up Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series as a glowing example, describing it as ‘thirteen hours of lyrically [and] emotionally engaging and accurate and polemical broadcasting’. Unfortunately, he is misusing the term polemic here, and that is important as this word occurs no less than ten times in his lecture as he sets out his arguments, and it’s usage is crucial to his conclusions. A polemic is a verbal attack and not, as Professor Cox seems to think, merely the expression of a point of view[1].

After worshipping at the feet of Sagan, the next item on Cox’s list is defining science; no mean task as an aside in a single lecture, and not surprisingly the effort is superficial and unsatisfactory. Having acknowledged that this task ‘is not easy in a historical context’, he suggests that ‘vast amounts of drivel have been written about the subject by armies of postmodernist philosophers and journalists.’ Sweeping such trivialities aside, Cox settles for a brief clip from a rather light-hearted lecture by physicist Richard Feynman in which he describes the scientific method. It is certainly an example of entertaining television, but comes nowhere near ‘defining science’. But this still leads to the following conclusion:

To my mind, science is very simple indeed. Science is the best framework we have for understanding the universe.

Of course when someone describes a complex subject as being ‘simple’, warning flags should always go up. Almost invariably the person who uses this term is being very selective in the way they are formulating their opinion. In this case it is not clear whether Cox is using the term ‘universe’ in a purely astronomical sense as in the mechanics of the universe or in a much broader sense to cover all aspects of existence.

Since The Enlightenment, science has certainly gone some way towards replacing superstition, religious belief, and fatalism as a means of explaining the phenomena that surround us, but it is still a long way from doing so completely. On a worldwide scale, atheism remains a minority point of view, and scientists would do well to humbly acknowledge this fact rather than claim a position of supremacy and infallibility for their profession that many would dispute.

In the film clip Feynman stresses that, if a scientific proposition is not supported by observation and experiment then it is wrong regardless, as he says, of how ‘beautiful, the idea may be’, or how eminent its author may be. Cox amplifies this by saying,

Authority, or for that matter, the number of people who believe something to be true, counts for nothing.


… when it comes to the practice of science, the scientists must never have an eye on the audience. For that would be to fatally compromise the process.

This is a hostage to fortune, for without the notion of consensus and claims by eNGOs and politicians for the authority of the IPCC, promotion of anthropogenic global warming would never have cleared the launch pad. The most startling ‘findings’ in recent IPCC reports are not based on the scientific method at all, but on expert judgement by the authors, and the Climategate emails have revealed an obsessive concern among climate scientists with the response of their audience.

Having started to dig himself into a hole, Cox then redoubles his efforts recounting an incident in which he made a dismissive on-screen reference to astrology as being ‘a load of rubbish’, which resulted in complaints to the BBC from ‘all over the web’. The BBC issued a cautious statement that almost amounted to an apology, saying the views expressed in the programme were not those of the BBC, but of the presenter, a response that Cox considers to be inadequate:

Now, that’s a perfectly reasonable response on the surface. In fact, you could argue that it’s correct. Because a broadcaster shouldn’t have a view about a faith issue which is essentially what astrology is. The presenter can have a view, and I was allowed to have a view. What I did was present the scientific consensus.

But he goes on:

I think, however, that there are potential problems with broadcasters assuming a totally neutral position in matters such as this.

Cox then moves on to use a clip from a news item about concern over the use of the MMR vaccine.  In this Ben Goldacre (of Bad Science fame) gives his views on this controversy citing a Danish study showing that there has been no increase in autism among children who have received the jab, saying:

You’ve not heard about research like this, because the media chose not to cover the evidence that goes against their scare story.

This message, and its relevance to media coverage of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), seems to have passed Cox by. Instead he castigates the broadcaster for concluding the piece with a caveat that these are Dr Goldacre’s views only, in spite of his being a qualified doctor and having based his opinion on peer reviewed and published research. In support of this criticism he cites a US news anchor, Keith Olbermann, as follows:

… obsessive preoccupation with perceived balance or impartiality [is] worshipping before the false god of utter objectivity. His point was that by aspiring to be utterly neutral, it is easy to obscure the truth. And the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that impartiality is at the heart of public service and is at the core of its commitment to its audience. I’m sure that very few broadcasters would disagree with that.

This reference is striking because I have seen precisely the some argument used by the BBC to justify its anything-but-neutral position on anthropogenic global warming (AGW). There is a certain irony too in using the opinion of a US broadcaster in this way given that so many North Americans seem to envy the standards applied to public service broadcasting in the UK.

On the specific point that Olbermann makes, being ‘utterly neutral’ is obviously far less of a threat to impartiality than not being neutral. And the suggestion that being neutral may obscure the truth which is the crux of Professor Cox’s lecture implies that the broadcaster will necessarily be able to determine what the truth is. This conjecture becomes even more problematic when the means by which this feat might be accomplished are considered.

In Cox’s view, reporting science should hold no such dilemmas for the broadcaster: all that is necessary is for complete reliance to be placed on the peer review process. That which is peer reviewed should be the sole reference point for reporting science, and any contrary views should be disregarded.  This position is arrived at by having implicit faith in the peer review process, which may for all I know be justified if, like Professor Cox, you are a particle physicist, but it is unlikely to impress anyone who has cast a critical eye on climate science, where political and ethical considerations seem to carry at least as much weight as robust findings. But this is not the place for a detailed discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the peer review process. Instead, here are some of the propositions which Cox uses to back up his argument:

In science, we have a well-defined process for deciding what is mainstream and what is controversial. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with how many people believe something to be true or not. It’s called peer-review.

Peer-review is a very simple and quite often brutal process by which any claim that is submitted for publication in a scientific journal is scrutinised by independent experts whose job it is to find the flaws.

This is the method [peer review] that has delivered the modern world. It’s good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the current scientific consensus is of course correct. But it does in general mean that the consensus in the scientific literature is the best that can be done given the available data.

Now you may see there that I’m redefining what impartiality means. But the peer-reviewed consensus is by definition impartial. To leave the audience with this particular kind of impartial view is desperately important. We’re dealing with the issues of the life and death of our children and the future of our climate. And the way to deal with this is not to be fair and balanced, to borrow a phrase from a famous news outlet, but to report and explain the peer-reviewed scientific consensus accurately.

So for me the challenge for the science reporter in scientific news is easily met. Report the peer-reviewed consensus and avoid the maverick, eccentric at all costs.

Such faith in the reliability, independence, and impartiality of peer review may be justified in the field of particle physics where, I assume, political and ethical considerations have a very minor role. So far as climate science is concerned, it flies in the face of what has been learned from the Climategate emails, and much else that has happened in this discipline during the last decade. How many news stories have we seen citing sensational ‘new research’ that has swiftly been discarded?  Predictions of massive sea level rise by the end of the century, an 11o C rise in global average temperature over the same period, the vanishing snows of Mount Kilimanjaro and the drying-up of Lake Chad, the imminent demise of the Himalayan Glaciers, slowing of the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) with the onset of a new ice age for Northern Europe, and of course that poster-child of the third IPCC Assessment report, the Hockey Stick graph. One could go on and on.

There can be little doubt that Cox is indeed redefining impartiality, and in a way that brings us back to the sub-title of this post an exercise in arrogance. He seems to be telling us that journalists and programme makers who report science should be guided entirely by the scientific community, and leave any critical faculties they may have at home. If this is to be the new standard for impartiality in broadcasting about science, or even a new world order, then who scrutinises the world of science? And lets not forget the Feynman clip that Cox used in his superficial attempt to ‘define science’ at the beginning of his lecture. The great physicist makes no mention of peer review, but there are strictures in both what he says and Cox’s interpretation of it that rule out authority and consensus as being relevant to the scientific method.

Having cleared the ground, the professor now moves on to the red meat of the lecture; climate change.

This is heralded by a clip from The Great Global Warming Swindle (TGGWS), which Cox dismisses as ‘bollocks’, which does him little credit either as a scientist or a TV presenter. On the other hand he accepts that such programmes should be allowed to be broadcast one gets the impression that he thinks he is being rather daring here so long as they are suitably labelled, not as ‘bollocks’ as one might expect, but as polemics rather than documentaries, which Cox seems to think amounts to something similar, but with a warning that it’s probably all rubbish.

In the case of TGGWS, the description ‘polemic’ may be justified. Durkin’s film was undoubtedly a vehement attack on contemporary climate research, but apparently Cox would like any factual broadcasts that do not adhere to mainstream views approved by the scientific community to be branded in this way. Presumably this would mean that a programme about the views of Michael Mann could be promoted as a documentary, while one about the views of Richard Lindzen would be a mere polemic, thereby undermining the credibility of that  eminent scientist before the audience even become aware of what he has to say.  And this raises a new problem, which Cox steers well clear of.

Climate scientists, and particularly the IPCC, have failed to acknowledge the massive uncertainties that are attached to much climate research. This, of course, feeds through into broadcasts where journalists and program makers are unwilling to acknowledge uncertainly for the reason that Ben Goldacre identified. Why water down an eye-catching  prediction by saying that it may never happen when there is no danger of the scientists concerned complaining? But under reporting uncertainty is as misleading as misreporting conclusions.

Even Cox expresses some concern that his approach may be Orwellian, but quickly backs off by saying that he doesn’t really know whether it is Orwellian or not, which makes one wonder why he raised the issue in the first place. Unsurprisingly, he quotes a passage from Nineteen Eighty-Four about history constantly being re-written so that nothing remains on record that cast doubt on the infallibility of The Party.  He may have chosen the right author, but the wrong book. In Animal Farm, the precursor of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the dim but compliant sheep are portrayed as the ruling pig’s most effective weapon in stifling opposing views and awkward questions. They can be drilled to bleat any slogan persistently enough to drown out dissent. I hesitate to draw any parallels between the arrogant culture that pervades climate science and the pigs, or between broadcasters and the sheep, but the temptation is great. Cox’s plea that broadcasters should retail only what scientists tell them is acceptable makes it very, very tempting indeed.

By this stage in the lecture, one might begin to wonder how much serious thought Cox has given to his subject, or whether he has been influenced by the views of the BBC in reaching his conclusions. As a scientist, surely he should not attempt to draw an analogy between the way in which broadcasters should treat climate scepticism and the way they should treat those who believe in astrology or question evolution. This is another line of argument of which the BBC is fond, but it makes no sense; the issues are quite different. No institution such as the IPCC is involved in debates about astrology or evolution. Tens of thousands of delegates do not flock to Copenhagen or Cancún to discus these matters and formulate a world policy, neither astrology nor evolution are new ideas, and scientists are not being funded to the tune of countless billions to conduct research in these fields.

Cox’s peroration begins with these words:

So what are my conclusions about the challenges of presenting science on television?

Well, firstly, scientific peer-review is all-important. It’s not possible for a broadcaster to run a parallel peer-review structure, but it is possible for the broadcaster to seek out the consensus view of the scientific community. This is the best that can be done and appropriate weight should be given to it in news reporting.

Documentary is different because polemic is a valid and necessary form of filmmaking. But having said that, the audience needs to know whether they’re watching opinion, or a presentation of the scientific consensus. And whilst I acknowledge that this is extremely difficult to achieve in practice, it is something that filmmakers and broadcasters must strive to do.

Cox’s final message to broadcasters is clear: they should do what scientists tell them to do and not trouble their pretty little heads with anything that might be too difficult for them to grasp properly. As to listening to ‘mavericks and eccentrics’ who question the scientific consensus established by a supposedly interdependent and reliable peer review process, that would be foolish in the extreme, like listening to astrologers or creationists. And screening the views of people who scientists might consider to be reprehensible in such a way that audiences would be allowed to make their own mind about the credibility of what they are being told would be a betrayal of the broadcasters duty to comply with a re-defined kind of impartiality; a kind of impartiality in which the broadcasters determine where the truth lies on the basis of the majority view of those who are being challenged.

This is, of course, a supremely arrogant point of view, but the scientific community seem to have convinced each other, and themselves, that society should confer such authority on them. One can hardly blame Professor Cox for falling into line.

[1]   A strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. (Oxford Dictionary of English)


The career of George Monbiot has been meteoric – coming down to earth in a shower of sparks, and leaving a charred hole where the Guardian’s top investigative journalist used to be. From Paul Foot to William Boot in a few carbon-shedding steps.

(For non-Brits: Foot was a campaigning journalist at Private Eye and the Guardian. William Boot is the journalist hero of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Scoop”, who, after a disastrous episode in which he is sent to Africa to cover a revolution, ends up back in the office writing Nature Notes).

In February 2009 Monbiot initiated a new format blog at Guardian Environment with an attack on Telegraph journalist Christopher Booker. In the article, entitled « Booker’s work of clanger-dropping fiction » he accused his colleague of writing “complete trash, and provided a list of seven claims in an article by Booker which Monbiot attempted to refute.

A second article, two days later, entitled “Pure rubbish: Christopher Booker prize” featured  a photo captioned “Christopher Booker prize 2009 offered for producing clap-trap about climate change”. Readers were invited to nominate articles, and George explained:

“The award will go to whoever in my opinion and assisted by climate scientists and specialists manages, in the course of 2009, to cram as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change”.

(Note that Monbiot hadn’t managed to finish his sentence coherently. As many as what?)

There is a note at the bottom of the first article saying “this blog has been amended”. What has been altered is the word “Bullshit” which featured in the original article, and is still visible in the photo of the “award” in the second article.

Of the supposed errors by Booker: Continue reading »

Back from holiday

Posted by TonyN on 29/09/2010 at 6:34 pm Uncategorized 7 Responses »
Sep 292010

I’ve been away since 13th Sept and have only looked at the blog once during that time. Apologies to those who have aimed comments at me. The recent posts (and the next one) were drafted before I left and scheduled to appear automatically.

It will be tomorrow before I even begin to catch up, but here’s a useful piece of advice: don’t start a holiday on the 13th of anything. The month old ignition coil on the car blew on a Sunday afternoon on a Spanish motorway while we were heading for the ferry port and I’ve got back to one dead computer and an AGA that won’t light. At the moment I’m trying to pluck up enough to courage  to download my email!

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