Since my post about the BBC and its balance seems to be attracting comments about Lord Lawson’s and Brian Hoskins’ appearance on Radio 4 today, I thought it might be best to add a new post that was more explicitly about that topic.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation actually seems to be promoting the transcript of the interview. Honest of them, I guess, but a little strange given that it would appear to suggest that Lord Lawson – their Chairman – is rather lacking in an understanding of basic science. I thought maybe I (and those who comment) could give him some basic tips. It seems unlikely (sadly maybe) that the BBC will suddenly realise his lack of scientific expertise, so I would certainly like to help him do better in future.
For example, during the interview, the following exchange takes place
Lord Lawson: Everything. First of all, even if there is warming – and there’s been no recorded warming over the past 15, 16, 17 years.
Justin Webb: Well, there is a lot of controversy about that.
Lord Lawson: No there’s not, that’s a fact. That is accepted even by the IPCC.
No, it’s not a fact (firstly fact is a poor word to use in scientific discussion, unless it is suitably qualified). Depending on the dataset used, the surface warming trend since 1998 is between 0.05oC per decade and 0.12oC per decade with a 2σ uncertainty of about 0.14oC per decade. That means it’s possible that there’s been no surface warming, but it’s much more likely that there has been surface warming. Therefore, it’s entirely incorrect to say there’s been no recorded warming. Additionally, this statement fails to mention that warming continues in other parts of the climate system.
The interview ends with the following exchange in which Brian Hoskins explains where most of the excess energy associated with the energy imbalance has been going for the last 10 – 15 years
Sir Brian Hoskins: Oh yes, it’s there in the oceans.
Lord Lawson: That is pure speculation.
Sir Brian Hoskins: No, it’s a measurement.
Lord Lawson: No, it’s not. It’s speculation.
No, it really isn’t speculation. There really are measurements. There are satellite measurements of sea level rise and Argo floats that have been measuring ocean temperatures down to a depth of 2000m. You may not trust the measurements, or like what they’re suggesting, or may think the uncertainties are too large (they’re not) but the measurements exist and stating that the suggestion that the energy is going into the ocean is speculation is simply wrong.
So, that’s my quick comment. Given that Lord Lawson seems to be appearing on the radio and TV quite regularly, it would be very good if he could start getting these things right. Of course, you would hope that an organisation like the Global Warming Policy Foundation would have – as one of its goals – to correctly present the science associated with global warming and climate change. I did have a look their mission statement, and couldn’t actually find any statement like that, so maybe they don’t. If so, they’re doing a remarkably good job of not representing the science properly. Personally, I’d prefer that they did represent it properly and accurately but, if not, maybe they could add the following to their mission statement :
To say whatever we like about climate science and to do so with as much confidence as possible.