At least do a little bit of background research!

The Sun appears to have some kind of competition called The Great British Sound Off which aims to find a great Sun columnist. One of the finalists is a 19 year old called George Harrison who’s piece is called give climate hotheads the (ice) cold shoulder which seems to indicate that what the Sun is looking for is someone with the strength of their convictions, but little else. You’d like to think that the authors of such pieces would at least do a little bit of background research. It wouldn’t even take very long, which I will illustrate by writing this post in a matter of minutes.

George’s article kicks off with the witty (not really) comment

THE US climate change fanatic Al Bore once famously predicted sea ice would be all but gone by now.

A very quick google search would reveal that what Al Gore actually said was

One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Thats not a prediction that it would be all gone by now. It’s pointing out that some researchers have warned that summer Arctic sea ice could be gone by now, but not a prediction that it actually would be.

Next we have

But news just received from the European Space Agency has revealed an inconvenient truth for the climate alarmists.

The volume of polar sea ice actually increased by a third in 2013.

This is actually only about Arctic sea ice, and is from this paper, the abstract of which actually says

Despite a well-documented decline in summer Arctic sea ice extent by about 40% since the late 1970s….

Between autumn 2010 and 2012, there was a 14% reduction in Arctic sea ice volume, in keeping with the long-term decline in extent. However, we observe 33% and 25% more ice in autumn 2013 and 2014, respectively, relative to the 2010–2012 seasonal mean, which offset earlier losses.

The figure on the right should also put it into context. The sea ice volumes in September 2010, 2011, and 2012 were particularly low; well below the long-term trend. The increases in 2013 and 2014 might seem substantial relative to these low values, but the values are still within one standard deviation of the long-term trend. This is not indicative of some kind of recovery and is not some kind of inconvenent truth. Such variability is to be expected.

We then get

And now the scientific community is bickering while our supposedly endangered planet is still doing just fine — surprise, surprise.

Hmmm, the scientific community isn’t really bickering and what’s being suggested is that continuing to increase our emissions may lead to some very severe consequences in the future.

Followed by

Why do we place so much trust in the climate scientists and their Doomsday predictions? TV’s Mythbusters would do a better job of getting the global warming facts straight.

Maybe George should avoid getting his information from climate denial sites, and should realise that Mythbusters is a TV show.

Anyway, that’s been about 15 minutes and is pretty much all I can be bothered doing. It wasn’t hard, but maybe simply making stuff up is easier than actually doing some background research or talking to people. I’d recommend the latter if George is interested in presenting a reasonable representation of our actual scientific position. On the other hand, if he’s only interested in writing for the Sun, maybe he can simply carry on as he is.

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57 Responses to At least do a little bit of background research!

  1. Pete Best says:

    You know the score with the right wing media of any kind (Murdoch based is quite vocal on this type of thing) in that rational exercises in layman’s science arn’t what it is about but about some kind of ideological sound bite based piece which for some reason tickles the fancy of the average reader of said newspaper. It has never been about being rational and never will be, 6 million people read or look at the Sun and about 1000 will read this piece

  2. Gingerbaker says:

    Just finished watching Season Five of The Wire. Ironically, the season chronicles how The Sun retained a reporter who was a proven liar, in order to bolster its circulation numbers. Of course, The Wire is fiction. Right?

  3. andrew adams says:

    Wherever could he have picked up the art of spouting contrarian bollocks? Oh, he used to be an intern at Spiked!

  4. Pete,
    Indeed, the circulation isn’t small. The piece itself isn’t even very well written so it would seem to be the tone and topic that appeals, rather than anything else.

    Fiction mimicking life?

    Yes, I was aware of that and wondered if anyone would point it out. Would seem to explain quite a lot.

  5. BBD says:

    @ andrew adams

    Nuff said. Well spotted though.

  6. KarSteN says:

    Would the tabloids stop fearmongering and hate speech against immigrants today, I’d happily let them be as optimistic and ignorant about potential problems related to climate change as they want (which does not necessarily mean to spread blatant misinformation). But until that happens, I will call them out as the bigoted idiotic ideologists that they truly are, with double standards as gargantuan as the size of ten universes. A shame for the country, the democracy and all the decent journalists out there. And to be frank, quite scary if you think of the tabloids impact on the gullible.

    Disclaimer: My comment comes after having read a few tabloid articles these days which were extremely difficult to digest (in fact, I was shocked by the insane level of hatred in there). So apologies for sounding nasty and meandering off-topic. I promise I’m not gonna read any more tabloid rubbish.

  7. Karsten,
    That’s just an extension of the whole Climate debate. People going around accusing others of being alarmist doom-mongers while claiming that the world will end if we don’t burn all the coal (exaggerating – only slightly – for effect).

  8. toby52 says:

    Let’s not confuse the British tabloid with the Baltimore Sun, Maryland’s biggest circulation newspaper.

    I would like to think that the Baltimore Sun would never let the likes of George Harrison spead confusion through its pages.

  9. izen says:

    The Mantra for tabloids is:-
    More CO2 good, migrants bad.

    So science that shows that the rise in one can result in a rise in the other is to be depreciated.

  10. Anders M says:

    Actually Mythbusters did a better job than George.

  11. Anders M.,
    Thanks. Maybe I should acknowledge that George was at least onto something; Mythbusters could potentially do a decent job of getting the global warming facts straight.

  12. JCH says:

    So the border fence will also hold in that beneficial anthropogenic CO2?

    I’m calling Donald Trump. With this new information in his CBA they’re will be no stopping’ him!

  13. JCH says:

    My gawd – too early. There will be…

    The pause has to be a test for humanity. There is a supreme being after all. Humanity is taking a pass-fail exam, and we’re flunking.

  14. dana1981 says:

    So for us non-Brits, the Sun is a tabloid on par (or worse than) the Daily Mail? Murdoch-owned?

  15. Pete Best says:

    Facts dont mean much to lay people who hold power in determining how to tackle ACC, or if to bother at all. The book and documentary “Merchants of Doubt” show us that delay is easy because power speaks volumes and power to the people is demonstrated through newspapers and media and not through the scientific process and peer review as much as we would like. Therefore ignorant is rife and its easy to delay action on tackling important issues best suited to scientific information in determining policy, unfortunately doubt means delay and that is what this is always about

  16. BBD says:

    +1 Karsten

  17. BBD says:

    Incidentally, it is a litmus test for contrarianism that this represents a subversion of democracy. But using the (right-wing) media to misinform the electorate eventually distorts public policy because people will not vote for policies they do not believe in. (Climate) contrarians will always deny this or try to wave it away, so revealing their true colours.

  18. andrew adams says:

    Yep, the tabloid coverage of immigration in general and the situation in Calais in particular is beyond appalling. All the ignorance of their climate change coverage with added racism and hatemongering.

  19. Sam taylor says:

    If he’d bothered doing any research he wouldn’t have reached the conclusions he wanted to.

  20. Radical Rodent says:

    Ah, “climate” – a catch-all word that specifies nothing. There is no global “climate”; climate tends to be more regional; thus the climate of the UK (for example) is different from the climate of France (indeed, even within the UK, there are definite regional climates); which of these is definitely changing? Indeed, given the vagaries of the British climate, is it possible to identify any change in it? Can anyone actually point out any particular region where the climate has demonstrably changed, and in what manner is that change?

  21. Magma says:

    The older contrarian twits are dying off. Perhaps the Sun is auditioning for their eventual replacements.

  22. Tits aren’t confined to Page 3 hohoho, etc.

  23. Joshua says:

    How does the The Sun compare to other British (English?) newspapers?

    What’s always amusing is that despite examples such as these, many “skeptics” are absolutely convinced that they are victims of the “mainstream media” that pushes a “warmist” agenda,

    BTW – anyone else notice that George Harrison and Pete Best have been mentioned in this thread?

  24. Joshua says:

    OK. I followed the link to the front page of The Sun. No explanation needed. Lol! There goes any illusions I had that Brits are more sophisticated than Americans.

  25. JCH says:

    Joshua – I became a Green Bay Packers fan when a Sports Illustrated article I read as a small boy mentioned two players named Jim Ringo and Bart Starr. I thought they were cool names. Nobody else noticed this… because it was before the Beatles even existed in the USA.

  26. BBD says:


    There goes any illusions I had that Brits are more sophisticated than Americans.

    You know I’m a Brit, I assume, so how any such illusion can have survived our years of online communication astonishes me 😉

  27. Joshua says:

    I just figured you’re an outlier, BBD. Little did I know…

  28. Phil says:

    Dana, Joshua

    The Sun is pretty lowbrow – more so than the Mail, its main content is gossip stories and sport. Because of this, it generally ignores “serious” news like climate change. Politically it is firmly to the right. Its frequently seen on the dashboard of builders vans.

    The Daily Mail and Daily Express are what you might call “middlebrow” tabloids. Their demographic might be middle managers (guessing somewhat).

    The Guardian, Times (Murdoch owned), Telegraph and (to a lesser extent today) the Independent are “serious” papers. The Guardian is left of centre, Times is traditionally the paper of the “establishment” (centre soft right) and Telegraph is firmly on the right. The Independent used to occupy similar ground to The Guardian, but it struggled for circulation and has, I *think*, moved rightward recently.

    Its perhaps intriguing that the Murdoch papers in the UK are *not* the most vociferous climate change deniers. Nearly all the daily papers are owned by wealthy individuals (the Guardian being an exception) and this seems to colour their politics which, in turn appears to colour their views on climate change. The situation in the UK is also curious that no major political party has climate change denial as an official policy. UKIP is the only one, although the ruling Conserative party has spawned a few deniers in the past (Lord Lawson, Peter Lilley of GWPF) and recent announcements suggest a worrying “lukewarming” tendency in their actions (but not their words). Especially worrying since the opposition parties appear to be falling apart. Somewhat worrying too, is the fact that the main opposition party looks like choosing a new leader who is the brother of UK Climate change denier Piers Corbyn, although he (Jeremy Corbyn) claims not to concur with his brothers views.

  29. toby52 says:

    Still priceless after all these years … Prime Minister Jim Hacker classifies British newspapers by their readership … wait for the Sun to the very end.

  30. Sam,
    Yes, that’s the inconvenient bit about doing research.

    I’d thought something similar 🙂

  31. Radical,
    I’ll post your comment, but I’m not planning to bother answering it. Unless I’m mistaken, you dispute the existence of the Greenhouse effect, which – if true – just means that there isn’t much point me responding.

  32. Richard says:

    ATTP … I am just in awe at your stamina (or is it stomach for wading through the brown stuff) … reading the Sun now? That probably deserves a medal for services at anti-contrarianism!

  33. Richard,
    To be fair, Leo Hickman highlighted this particular article on Twitter and it was such obvious bollocks that it didn’t take much effort to write something pointing that out.

  34. claimsguy says:

    Hey, give the kid credit. He’s smart enough to know that writing a piece on climate that’s accurate means he loses the contest. He gave the suckers what they wanted.

  35. claimsguy,
    Hmm, I hadn’t considered that. As a strategy, it’s actually quite clever. Is that actually possibly what he’s actually done, though? Call me dubious.

  36. From ‘Yes, Minister’…

    “The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; The Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; And The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
    Sir Humphrey: Oh and Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
    Bernard: Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits.”

    There’s a joke that’s rather similar but goes something like…

    The Times, Telegraph and Guardian are bought by people who can think;
    The Express and Mail are bought by people who need to be told what to think;
    The Sun and Mirror are bought by people who can’t read.

    I might have got this last one a little wrong but I’m sure you get the gist.

  37. claimsguy says:

    aTTP: I don’t blame you for being dubious. But if the kid is smart enough to to get into the LSE he has to have SOME smarts, doesn’t he?

  38. BBD says:


    Regrettably, smarts ≠ climate literacy.

  39. BBD says:

    I should be clearer on this point. Nobody who understands enough about what is actually happening is likely to lie about it. There are two bins: the confused and the (much rarer) damned who have a clue but lie anyway.

    Although on reflection, there is bin 3, in which we find Nic Lewis, who is convinced that he is right despite ~65Ma of evidence to the contrary.

  40. claimsguy says:

    BBD: I respectfully disagree. I think many of the folks who shill for the fossil fuel industries know better. I think they’re doing what they need to do to get paid.

  41. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Ignorant, stupid, insane, or just plain evil?

  42. anoilman says:

    Actually it speaks volumes about those who believe that stuff. Every bit of it bad.

  43. Let’s at least consider the possibility that someone who is still quite young is just a bit clueless, rather than dishonest.

  44. There’s another category and that’s those who are genuinely ‘in denial’. It’s a well known mental condition that we can all exhibit from time to time. Anyone who has left a bill unopened on the sideboard for a day or more because they don’t want to look at what they know is written in it, has suffered from this condition. Any one who’s had an accident when their first words are “oh no!” has suffered from it. Some people can carry on for a long time not wanting to believe what in their heart of hearts they know is probably true. It’s what it is to be human.

  45. Richard says:

    JohnRussell – exactly! Until about 18 months ago I had a mild form of this vis a via AGW. Not to the point of not saying its happening (i wrote letters to the BBC about false balance etc.), but to the extent of not doing enough to educate myself.

    This is a kind of emotional denial (there is too much to cope with at work, family, etc. to get involved in something I just know will be overwhelming, maybe next month, blah blah).

    I don’t know if the knowledge then of upcoming grand-fatherhood (now fulfilled) or approaching retirement flipped me, or the fact that after a few glasses of wine I suggested I give a talk on AGW to a local group (thinking this would force me to do my research, and I like to set myself difficult challenges).

    Maybe after this, hearing Naomi Klein talk at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and then reading her book gave me a good kick up the backside.

    In any case, thankfully, I gave myself a year. I need it.

    Now, I have a first class hons in chemistry and PhD in computational theoretical chemistry, and think I am reasonable literate scientifically and otherwise. I read a lot.

    But I was unprepared for the amount of work I needed to do. I rehearsed my understanding by using my wife and friends as guinea pigs. Teaching is a great way to reveal gaps in one’s knowledge. ‘Oh, that isn’t so obvious is it’ experience.

    15 books later and with the help of good people like Weart, TED talks, Science of Doom, a subscription to Nature Climate Change, Oh, and him of this Parish 🙂 … and I felt ready. But it is NOT SIMPLE and to accuse the man or woman in the street, of ignorance or worse because they struggle with it does not help; when they are genuinely curious and seeking help.

    I was not satisfied with a lot of the material available – it if often too technical (talk of forcing etc.) or too hand wavvy. The latter often in the form of statements, which is fine, but curious people (and most people are curious in my experience) like a more pedagogic approach and do not have the time to read those books, or go through the excellent on-line Lectures by David Archer from Chicago University.

    I wrote an essay that represented for me, a (not ‘the’) golden thread of argument, that demonstrates why we know, after 150 odd years of science, that AGW is real and is happening, and will get very serious on our current course. Then distilled it down for the talk. Minimal technical terms and aimed at the (wo)man in the street; not those who shout at each other in the Twittersphere/ Blogosphere. Here is the essay.

    I am sure it could be improved upon (and no doubt someone will point me to their favourite), but the audience in Malmesbury at least were very appreciative of my efforts to make this difficult subject accessible to them. If nothing else, it helped me!

    I think more generosity to those who don’t understand is no bad thing, especially if it helps grow the tent. It is a complex subject, and pretending it is simple is not a smart way to communicate.

    That does not reduce my contempt for those national media outlets and people in authority, whose obdurate refusal to engage with the science (and their tendency to want, like naughty school kids, to piss into the tent), does them and their followers a huge disservice.

    I, for one, am no longer in any form of denial, emotional or otherwise.

    And yes, my fear were correct. Bloody AGW is taking over my life 🙂

  46. Pete Best says:

    According to an article I saw yesterday on 45% feel that climate change is an urgent and pressing issue so I would conclude that the deniers still have traction and via the messy political sphere os the media feel that action should be delayed indefinitely.

  47. BBD says:


    Let’s at least consider the possibility that someone who is still quite young is just a bit clueless, rather than dishonest.

    Apologies if unclear – George Harrison goes in bin 1 ‘confused’.

    * * *


    Sure, see bin 2, where we find:

    the (much rarer) damned who have a clue but lie anyway.

    Use the long tongs for that one.

  48. Victor Petri says:

    It’s quite impressive how he has managed to cram this much errors in such a short piece.

  49. BBD says:

    Oh, I’ve seen worse on the Internet, Victor 😉

  50. I’ve actually been trying to work out on Twitter if maybe this was just some kind of elaborate joke. Poe’s law makes it quite tricky to work this out sometimes. It appears that it is not.

  51. BBD says:

    The Sun is a kind of meta-joke, ATTP.

  52. Joshua says:

    I’m impressed that none of the resident “skeptics” have shown up to comment on the article.

    I wonder if perhaps any “skeptics” might be re-evaluating their belief that they’re victims of a “warmist” media after reading the article?

  53. Eli Rabett says:

    Kristen Byrnes act II

    Old bunnies have seen this before where the young genius appears to save the world and gets the facts wrong.

  54. izen says:

    @-…and Then There’s Physics
    “I’ve actually been trying to work out on Twitter if maybe this was just some kind of elaborate joke. Poe’s law makes it quite tricky to work this out sometimes. It appears that it is not.”

    It is a Poe, but of that transcendent type where the perpetrator does not (yet) realise they are indulging in exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Otherwise known as hyPOEbole.
    (bad spelling can create bad puns)

  55. Mal Adapted says:

    John Russell:

    There’s another category and that’s those who are genuinely ‘in denial’. It’s a well known mental condition that we can all exhibit from time to time.

    Spot on! From your link:

    …We may use denial in varying degrees:
    [attempting a bullet list here – Mal]

    First degree: Denial that the problem, symptom, feeling or need exists.
    Second degree: Minimization or rationalization.
    Third degree: Admitting it, but denying the consequences.
    Fourth degree: Unwilling to seek help for it.

    As adults, we deny the truth when it might mean we’d have to take action we don’t want to. We might not look at how much debt we’ve accumulated because that would require us to lower our spending or standard of living, creating inner conflict.

    Substitute “climate change” for “debt” and it’s 100% apropos. There’s not the faintest allusion to the Holocaust in that article, either.

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