Matt Ridley doesn’t understand free speech

Matt Ridley is, once again, complaining that the climate change lobby wants to kill free speech (you can read it here). What it mainly seems to illustrate is that Matt Ridley doesn’t really understand the concept of free speech.

One example that Matt Ridley provides is a letter from some scientists in the House of Lords, to the editor of the Times. Matt Ridley says that this letter

denounced the two articles about studies by mainstream academics in the scientific literature, which provided less than alarming assessments of climate change.

One of the articles discussed this report which was so ridiculous, it was mocked on Twitter. Describing it as providing a less than alarming assesment of climate change is either wilfully disingenuous, or illustrates how clueless Matt Ridley really is (one should note that the report in question was funded by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, of which Matt Ridley is an Academic Advisor). It has also never appeared in the scientific literature; well, not what I would regard as the scientific literature.

He then goes on to promote the, apparently poorly funded, Global Warming Policy Foundation, saying

The GWPF often draws attention to the many studies ignored by greens that suggest climate change is not so dangerous, and to the economic and environmental harm done by climate policies.

adding

When I cover this topic I am vilified as on no other subject,

Well, maybe what he said earlier illustrates why. If he wants to argue that reducing poverty and dealing with other issues in the developing world should be done by using cheap fossil fuels (as he does) he really should do so in light of all the available evidence. Cherry-picking evidence that appears to support his policy preference is something that – IMO – should be criticised. That the changes that could occur due to our continued emission of CO2 might produce less severe impacts than we currently think, is not really an argument for ignoring that the impacts may well be severe and that we should really consider doing something to address this.

You might argue that those who support climate action are essentially doing the same by focusing on the evidence that suggests that the impacts could be severe and damaging. Well, this seems pretty understandable; if there is a chance of bad things happening, the tendency will be to consider the probability of these outcomes, and whether or not we should do anything to minimise the chances of them happening. It’s not typical to argue that these bad things might not happen and that we should therefore base our actions on this possibility. There is only one actual future and the evidence suggests that the changes that do occur will likely be irreversible on human timescales; we don’t easily get to reverse them if the decisions we do make turn out to be less than optimal.

The rest of his article is just a repeat of pretty standard “skeptic” themes. People who criticise Ridley, and other “skeptics”, are apparently bullies who want to close down the debate. Considering that maybe what he’s promoting is, at best, a cherry-pick and, at worst, wrong, doesn’t seem to cross his mind. You really get the impression that he thinks that free speech means that he should get to promote his views without criticism; don’t those who disagree with him have the right to speak too? This is maybe the most irritating thing about his whole article. By arguing that those critical of what “skeptics” promote in public are trying to kill free speech, he’s essentially trying to deligitimise their arguments on the basis of them violating something that we regard as a fundamental part of our democracies. This seems to be much more of an attempt to kill free speech than anything those he’s criticising have done.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Climate change, ClimateBall, Global warming, Science and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

153 Responses to Matt Ridley doesn’t understand free speech

  1. rconnor says:

    Relevant XKCD comic:

    https://xkcd.com/1357/

  2. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Do you consider yourself to be part of the “Climate Change Lobby”? Do you recieive any monetary compensation for maintaing this blog site and commenting on other blog sites?

  3. Tim Roberts says:

    @rconnor. Thanks, that’s a classic!

  4. JH,
    Not quite sure why you’re asking, but the answer is no.

  5. I suspect what Matt Ridley is getting worked up about is not so much ‘free speech’ but that people are trying to prevent him from having his opinions published without question in ‘The Times’. If so he’s right—though wrong to complain. I’m guessing he’s had some awkward discussions with the editor in the last week. Of course the editor might well have a policy to promote climate change denial—which Ridley was fulfilling—but if so the letter from the scientists will have made them realise the GWPF influence was rather too blatant. Either way clearly it’s getting to Ridley.

  6. john,
    Yes, I did wonder if he’s partly just trying to protect himself. Clearly he is one of those who is regarded as publishing articles in the Times that may bring it into disrepute.

  7. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: A feeble attempt at humor.

  8. I’ve noticed that the denialist tactic seems to be to make a ludicrous allegation first and hope the mud sticks. I notice something similar in another debate that’s exercising British minds at the moment- even down to the accusations of fearmongering. It hides the poverty of the intellectual argument. Ridley must realise how hollow the climate science denialist arguments actually are. He is an intelligent man pursuing a dim witted path.

  9. jsam says:

    The culprit playing the victim is an old Murdoch trick.

  10. He is an intelligent man pursuing a dim witted path.

    Indeed, this is why his argument seems so odd as he must realise how weak it is.

    In fact, I’ve just finished reading Bill Bryson’s most recent book. He talked about Matt Ridley being one of his friends and how intelligent and insightful he was. I found it a bit irritating till I realised that it’s probably true.

  11. jsam,
    Indeed. Attack being the best form of defense.

  12. Joshua says:

    Matt must actially be a liberal college student at an American University. The telltale signs of a member of the victimhood culture are completely evident. Someone call Jonathan Haidt, stat

  13. In the good old days of Free Speech the peasants would bow their heads when a Lord like Ridley was speaking.

  14. Joshua,
    Clearly he wants The Times to be his own personal “safe space”.

  15. Victor,
    Oddly, this is what I thought of when I read Ridley’s article. However, his role would seem to be that of the peasant, rather than the lord.

  16. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Perhaps you should add an update with a trigger warning.

  17. Magma says:

    He is an intelligent man pursuing a dim witted path. — fragmeister12

    I suspect there’s a positive correlation between between intelligence and ethical behaviour, but that it is not a very strong one and can readily be overridden by self-interest or ideology.

  18. Joshua,
    Something like “not suitable for overly sensitive Viscounts”?

  19. Joshua says:

    Using “Viscounts” would be a micro aggression. You had better go with science journalists

  20. Magma says:

    Quite remarkable to see Ridley paint himself and his peers as defenseless little Davids up against the well-funded Goliaths of “Big Green”. Not a mention of the hundreds of millions of dollars poured over thirty years into systematic disinformation and Astroturf campaigns by fossil fuel companies and their owners, or Murdoch-owned news organizations shoveling climate science denial tripe as fast as they can buy it, or cheaply-bought politicians happy to put a spoke in the wheels of emissions reductions and climate change mitigation.

    Recall Ridley’s testimony regarding the failure of Northern Rock, and extrapolate his recklessness and after-the-fact excuses to the far greater impact of unchecked climate change.

    Mr Fallon: But it was your duty as Chairman and as a Board to ensure that your bank was liquid.
    Dr Ridley: We reviewed liquidity regularly and we reviewed our policy on liquidity and our policy on funding regularly.
    Mr Fallon: But you were wrong?
    Dr Ridley: We were hit by an unexpected and unpredictable concatenation of events.

    The last remark would serve well as his epitaph.

  21. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Would you say that Matt Ridley is cut out of the same cloth as Donald Trump?

  22. JH,
    Not really. I’d never really thought of them being, in some way, similar.

  23. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: You failed to point out that today’s world, the first thing would-be-dictators do is clamp down on free speech and freedom of the press.

  24. John Hartz says:

    Both Ridley and Trump seem to be extremely thinned-skin with respect to criticism.

  25. JH,
    In that sense maybe, but that’s a common human failing 😉

  26. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Trump has a pathological need to destroy his critics. Does Ridley?

  27. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Both Trump and Ridley view climate science with great disdain.

  28. Trump shows no signs of being clever; in fact in some ways he appears stupid. Ridley, OTOH, is clever. It’s just he has this blind spot. Clearly there’s something going on in his head that makes him susceptible to denial, because it has now occurred twice: once when he couldn’t see what was happening with the banks and the same now with climate. He’s also has a reckless streak which might, or might not, also be linked to the denial—and his self-declared optimism.

  29. wheelism says:

    (And Hegel appears to discover time travel – but WHEN?)

  30. wheelism says:

    Forgive me:

    …and Then This is the first headline on my Google News feed:

    iPhone sales fall to 51.2M, Apple earns $50.6B in revenue in disappointing March quarter

    I cannot in good conscience condemn Ridley for being what he is.

  31. John Hartz says:

    John Russel: I disagree. Trump is the modern-day version of a snake-oil salesman. For eample, he has manipulated the broadcast media to convey his message to voters at very little expense to himself. It takes an extremely clever man to do that.

  32. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Sorry to have peppered with questions about Ridley’s behaviour patterns. As a Yank, I am not as familiar with what motivates him to do what he does as you and other commenters on this thread are. As I Yank, I am more focused on what American politicians say and do than I am on what UK politiicans say and do.

  33. anoilman says:

    Anders… that’s not a peasant… his name is Dennis!

  34. Vinny Burgoo says:

    ATTP: ‘a letter from some scientists in the House of Lords’

    No, it was a letter from some people in the House of Lords, about half of whom have a background in science, about half of which subset have some professional scientific expertise relevant to climate change. The rest of them? Celebrities, quangocrats, bishops… The usual.

    (At least one of the signatories thinks that climate change threatens mankind’s survival. Scientific? This is the Bishop of London. A frequent flyer, he thinks that flying is a sin; worried about overpopulation, he has four children. Oh, what it is to be a bishop in the C of E! Unlimited hand-wringing sans consequence.)

    (Another signatory is an earl whose leafy estate in Hampshire receives £300,000 each and every year from the Common Agricultural Policy. I can’t at the moment see any scientific relevance in that factoid but, as Einstein once said to Gandhi, science is about reporting all of your results.)

    (Then there’s Lord Deben – another C of E bod – who, when he was Environment Secretary as plain old John Selwyn Gummer, was teased by John Vidal for confusing the ozone hole with global warming. Which he did.)

  35. anoilman says:

    Oh and Magma… Some advice is best gotten from reputable experts.

  36. wheelism says:

    …and concatenation is a perfectly cromulent word.

  37. John Hartz says:

    Speaking of Donald Trump…

    On Tuesday, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the ongoing lawsuit against Republican front-runner Donald Trump and his elaborate scam known as “Trump University” will proceed to trial. Students at the “university” – which was forced by a New York court to rename themselves to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative because it was too misleading to call themselves an institute of learning – are suing Trump to the tune of $40 million for taking their money for a useless “diploma” that has absolutely no value.

    Trump Panics As NY Supreme Court Sends $40 Million Trump University Lawsuit To Trial, by Colin Taylor, Occupy Democrats, Apr 26, 2016

  38. wheelism says:

    “Then we’ll close with the ethnic comedy of Dugan and Dershowitz.”

    “Sensational!”

    (Apologies to JH)

  39. On Tuesday, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the ongoing lawsuit against Republican front-runner Donald Trump and his elaborate scam known as “Trump University” will proceed to trial. Students at the “university” – which was forced by a New York court to rename themselves to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative because it was too misleading to call themselves an institute of learning – are suing Trump to the tune of $40 million for taking their money for a useless “diploma” that has absolutely no value.

    Would the same laws apply to the “Prager University”?

  40. John Hartz says:

    Victor:

    Is Prager University headquartered in New York State?

  41. Matt Ridley has written about many things in his long career, and he often takes controversial positions on sensitive subjects. So, when Ridley says that the debate on climate change and policy is less tolerant than any other debate he’s been in, you should give him a fair hearing.

    My experience is less wide, but if I compare my stories to those of colleagues who hold controversial positions on wages, education, pensions, housing, gender, health … then I too conclude that the grass is greener elsewhere.

    The letter by the 17 Lords is of course an attempt to shut Ridley up or at least damage him. As is the opening post.

  42. Marco says:

    Prager U does not require payment, so no student can be claimed to have been scammed into a useless diploma.

  43. Richard,

    So, when Ridley says that the debate on climate change and policy is less tolerant than any other debate he’s been in, you should give him a fair hearing.

    Yes, it isn’t very tolerant. I’m not, however, sure why Ridley (or yourself for that matter) are really in a position to criticise the lack of tolerance. IMO, you both contribute to it.

    The letter by the 17 Lords is of course an attempt to shut Ridley up or at least damage him. As is the opening post.

    Any form of criticism could have a negative impact on someone. That’s not an argument against making it, though. Again, it seems that you’re confirming my impression that Ridley’s view of free speech is that he should be free promote his views without criticism. That really is not what free speech is about.

  44. Lars Karlsson says:

    I have one objection to the letter to the Times from scientists in the House of Lords, and it is that it doesn’t properly convey how deceptive the Times article was. The GWPF report by Terence Mills that the Times refers to actually only includes “predictions” to the end of 2020, but the Times shows a graph where one of those “predictions” is extended to 2100. So the 80 last years of that “prediction” shown by the Times was essentially made up.

    If this letter to the Times is one of Ridley’s major pieces of “evidence” for that the “climate change lobby wants to kill free speech”, then he has a very weak case indeed.

    I would rather say that this whole incident follows a very typical pattern for climate denialists: write or say something really stupid and wrong, and when you get criticized for it, play the victim card.

  45. write or say something really stupid and wrong, and when you get criticized for it, play the victim card.

    Exactly. I still maintain that the GWPF has a handbook on how to whine like a 7-year old when criticised.

  46. @wotts
    I’d be interested to see where Ridley disputed someone’s right to criticize him.

    If something’s wrong with a particular article in a certain publication, you would write to the editor of that publication setting out what’s incorrect. The argument is on merit so you would not typically invite many colleagues to sign the letter.

    In Krebs’ case, there are 17 signatories, the letter was about editorial policy rather than a specific article, and the letter was simultaneously sent to a competing newspaper.

  47. Richard,

    I’d be interested to see where Ridley disputed someone’s right to criticize him.

    I’d be willing to try and illustrate this if I thought you really were interested.

    If something’s wrong with a particular article in a certain publication, you would write to the editor of that publication setting out what’s incorrect.

    They did.

    The argument is on merit so you would not typically invite many colleagues to sign the letter.

    No reason why you wouldn’t if all your colleagues agree.

    In Krebs’ case, there are 17 signatories, the letter was about editorial policy rather than a specific article, and the letter was simultaneously sent to a competing newspaper.

    Indeed, but they did so by highlighting two articles that had promoted material that was clearly nonsense. Sending it to a competing newspaper was clearly intended to promote their letter. I realise that you object to self-promotion …..oh, hold on……????

  48. andrew adams says:

    Obviously one has to feel sympathy for Ridley, a mere member of the House of Lords, Times columnist and TV pundit under attack from a mighty blogger. Seriously though, it does get me how people who are fortunate enough to have a platform for their views which any of us would give our eye teeth for winge and whine at the suggestion that they they exercise some kind of responsibility when using it.

    The fact is that newspapers and journalists have a significant position in our polity. People rely on them for information and to help understand events around us – maybe less so in today’s internet age than in the past, but still to an extent. I don’t have a problem with journalists expressing personal views, journalism shouldn’t just be a dry recital of facts, but it’s important that where journalists do make a claim to factual analysis they don’t mislead their readers, either deliberately or accidentally. It is also important that newspapers make some attempt to ensure the integrity of the stuff they print. And it’s entirely right that where people feel journalists and/or newspapers are not meeting these responsibilities they should complain. Ridley of course is perfectly to entitled to defend his articles and argue his case, but resorting to wingeing about imaginary threats to his freedom of speech is pathetic.

  49. verytallguy says:

    you should give him a fair hearing.

    Oh my. This really takes the biscuit. Even for Tol.

    Here we have someone, with a column in a national newspaper, who’s “not getting a fair hearing”?

    Tol is so far beyond irony it’s positively hilarious.

    The Matt Ridley who was nepotistically appointed to chair a bank which became the poster child for how not to run a financial institution?
    The “Viscount” Ridley nepotistically “elected” to our Parliament and given a platform on the Science and Technology committee?
    The Matt Ridley who uses his platform to push the views of the GWPF, an organisation so nakedly political rather than scientific it was stripped of its charitable status?

    Isn’t getting a fair hearing?

    Good grief. In any rational world he’d be embarrassed to be seen in public.

  50. verytallguy says:

    Actually, on reflection, I assume this is just a wind up from Tol, as usual. I’m a bit embarrassed to have responded.

  51. vtg,
    Even you cannot violate Tol’s law! 😉

  52. @vtg
    Sorry for being unclear: I meant “a fair hearing” on THIS PARTICULAR SUBJECT. Ridley indeed has a big megaphone.

  53. Lars Karlsson says:

    There is a difference between something being wrong with a particular article, and a particular article being pure garbage. The Times article is a case of the latter.

  54. BBD says:

    Richard

    In Krebs’ case, there are 17 signatories, the letter was about editorial policy rather than a specific article

    You want specifics about the tripe in The Times? Here’s a synoptic debunk of 10 misleading articles.

    Stop defending the indefensible. As VTG points out, it’s somewhere between risible and hilarious. You’ve done more than enough damage to yourself recently.

  55. verytallguy says:

    Tol,

    sorry for being unclear. I meant that he has a (more than) fair hearing on this and every other subject. That he whines like a spoiled child because others point out his errors is his problem.

    Oh, and full caps? Rude. Perhaps a reaction to realising even you are going to struggle to continue defending this one?

  56. BBD says:

    Vinny

    Defending the indefensible by attempting to delegitimise (some of the) authors and so the entire content of the letter:

    No, it was a letter from some people in the House of Lords, about half of whom have a background in science, about half of which subset have some professional scientific expertise relevant to climate change. The rest of them? Celebrities, quangocrats, bishops… The usual.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    We are writing because we are concerned that some of your recent coverage of man-made climate change and energy risks bringing discredit on your paper. The Times occupies a special place in the history of British journalism, with the best claim of any to having been the nation’s newspaper of record. Accordingly, a respected Times is an essential ingredient of a healthy national discourse.

    The particular article that stimulated this letter appeared on 23rd February, entitled “Planet is not overheating, says Professor”, by your environment editor Ben Webster. It concerned a “study” purporting to show that there is no statistically valid evidence for man-made climate change, and therefore the planet will not warm significantly by the end of the century.

    That a paper of The Times’ standing chose to report on this study at all is astonishing, given its poor quality. Since your article appeared, scientists have commented, for example, that the method used involves ignoring everything that science has discovered about atmospheric physics since the discovery of greenhouse warming by John Tyndall more than 150 years ago. They have shown that already global warming has proceeded more rapidly than the upper bound of the study’s projections. It was performed by someone who is not a climate scientist, used methods that are unverified in the climate change context, was not peer-reviewed, and was commissioned and paid for by an NGO pressure group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

    On social media it has, literally, been a laughing stock.

    Were this article an isolated example of poor quality and/or distorted coverage, it would merit no comment. However, it is but one example, albeit a particularly egregious one, in a sequence that appears designed systematically to undermine the credibility of climate science and the institutions that carry it out, and the validity of programmes aimed at reducing emissions.

    Where are the errors, untruths or half-truths?

    I argue that there are none and that this is a fair, accurate and correct statement. Yet you have attempted to undermine it. Where does that leave you?

  57. izen says:

    It is disingenuous to claim that Ridley is only receiving criticism for his factual inaccuracies. There is an element to the attacks on climate science contrarians that does seek to censor the open discussion of their position.

    It has happened before when contrarian views to a field of mainstream science were considered to be motivated by personal bias and so damaging to society that they became unacceptable in public discussion. Even subject to that real removal of free speech, government regulation and legal penalty. Views like those of Shockley or Jensen are no longer acceptable for reasons other than the simply scientific.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_race_and_intelligence_controversy

    I suspect there is an element in the responses to Ridley that thinks a similar constraint on contrarian opinions on mainstream climate science is justified.

  58. izen,

    There is an element to the attacks on climate science contrarians that does seek to censor the open discussion of their position.

    Except I’ve seen no real evidence that anyone is trying to legislate. That’s not to say that there aren’t extreme cases, but even all the examples he gives in his article don’t really seem to qualify. There’s the letter to the Times, something about a BBC decision, that Bengtsson left the GWPF, Roger Pielke Jr and 538. None of these appear to be examples of anyone doing anything extreme; people were openly critical of various things and, in some cases, it caused something to happen.

    My own view is that it would be good to see someone like Ridley make their arguments in light of all the evidence. What I see him criticised for most is the fact that he cherry-picks his evidence, and doesn’t acknowledge any caveats.

  59. BBD says:

    izen

    It is disingenuous to claim that Ridley is only receiving criticism for his factual inaccuracies. There is an element to the attacks on climate science contrarians that does seek to censor the open discussion of their position.

    An argument for false balance if there ever was.

  60. @Izen

    That might or might not be true. But until such time as Ridley stops using his platform to disseminate blatant GWPF propaganda—including many lies—it will be difficult to separate out any bias. The ball on that one is very much in Ridley’s court.

  61. izen says:

    @-BBD
    “An argument for false balance if there ever was.”

    Is the true balance achieved by excluding the genetic-IQ (minor beneficial warming) arguments from policy discussions?

  62. Is the true balance achieved by excluding the genetic-IQ (minor beneficial warming) arguments from policy discussions?

    No, but I don’t really think that is the argument. The argument is that they are cherry-picking their evidence to suit their policy preferences and therefore the way in which one can argue against their policy views is to highlight how they’re not presenting a balanced view of the scientific evidence.

  63. BBD says:

    izen

    This is about vested interest misinforming the public via a compliant right-wing press that sets an internal political agenda ahead of editorial integrity (emphasis added):

    As Editor, you are of course entitled to take whatever editorial line you feel is appropriate. Are you aware, however, how seriously you may be compromising The Times’ reputation by pursuing a line that cleaves so tightly to a particular agenda, and which is based on such flimsy evidence? The implications for your credibility extend beyond your energy and climate change coverage. Why should any reader who knows about energy and climate change respect your political analysis, your business commentary, even your sports reports, when in this one important areayou are prepared to prioritise the marginal over the mainstream?

    Two aspects are particularly concerning. The first is that neither the quality bar that broadsheet newspapers regularly apply to scientific evidence, nor the simple concept of balance, appear to exist in all of your paper’s reporting on climate change (although we note, for example, that your coverage at the close of the Paris climate summit was both balanced and comprehensive). The second concern is that many of the sub-standard news stories and opinion pieces appear to concern, in some way, GWPF. Whether any newspaper should involve itself repeatedly with any pressure group is a matter for debate; it would be deeply perturbing to find that a paper as eminent as The Times could allow a small NGO, particularly one whose sources of financing are unknown, a high degree of influence.

    Please do not mistake our comments as an attack on press freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy, vibrant, inquisitive press is a vital component of a mature democracy, and neither science nor “green” business should be exempt from proper scrutiny. But trust is also essential for any newspaper, particularly one as distinguished as The Times. If you lose trust, you lose everything; and on this issue, you are losing trust.

  64. BBD says:

    Now, Izen, you might be sanguine about front groups for vested interest colluding with the right-wing media to misinform the electorate and derail public policy but I am not. So, when I say this is about false balance, you may take me directly at my word.

  65. izen says:

    I do not dispute that Ridley presents cherry-picked data and makes egregiously false assumptions and states conclusions that are unsupported by credible evidence. That was a trait in his popularist biology books for which he seems to get credit as a ‘serious’ scientific commentator.

    Nor can I take seriously his self-portrayal as a contrarian David attacked and oppressed on all sides by the Goliath Liberal Establishment. Being an aristocrat member of the establishment, owning a coal mine and part of a multi-million dollar per day media and political lobbying campaign by a major global industry are not usually features of the repressed minority.

    It does not harm either to have a set of major media businesses that are owned and directed by individuals with an interest in supporting the Ridley position against mainstream science, as with Murdoch, Barclays, Rothermere etc.

    Ridley is using the Rovian tactic of claiming victim-hood, of being the prey, in a media ecology in which he usually plays the predator. But just because he exhibits ludicrous paranoia in his latest article does not mean that ‘they’ are NOT out to get him!

  66. But just because he exhibits ludicrous paranoia in his latest article does not mean that ‘they’ are NOT out to get him!

    Yes, but if they are out to get him and are doing so in some kind of manner than violates something we hold fundamental (free speech) then the examples in his article are rather pathetic. Maybe the Attorney Generals in the US going after CEI is overreach (and I don’t know if it is, I haven’t looked into it) but the rest appear to be examples of people doing something stupid and then being justifiably criticised. If those are the best examples he can find, they’re pretty weak.

  67. BBD says:

    izen

    Again, what ATTP said. Ridley is making (yet another) false claim. There is not one single shred of evidence that his right to free speech has been compromised. Not one. So why you suggest otherwise is mystifying.

  68. verytallguy says:

    Arguing that a prominent platform used to disseminate falsehoods should be removed from someone is not the same as arguing for violating their right to free speech.

  69. izen says:

    I know Ridley is making a specious argument that his (or the denial lobby) are really at risk of being denied their ‘free speech’.

    To be less cryptic than my first post; does anyone here think it is morally justified to regard climate science rejection as socially unacceptable as a subject of public discourse and an input to policy making as claims about the genetic inferiority of darker skinned peoples is today? Is there an argument for the ethical equivalence with other scientific controversies that have been suppressed as toxic to rational discourse.

    I have ‘concerns’ (grin)

  70. does anyone here think it is morally justified to regard climate science rejection as socially unacceptable as a subject of public discourse

    No, I don’t. My own view is that the evidence is available and in a quite accessible form. If we choose to be swayed by those promoting science denial, then that’s utimately our fault, not those who promote it. By “we” and “our” I largely mean those who represent us. However, that does not mean that we should avoid speaking out when people do promote what is essentially nonsense.

  71. Sam taylor says:

    “He is an intelligent man pursuing a dim witted path.”

    Intelligence and rationality often do not go hand in hand, as the good viscount has repeatedly demonstrated. As for Tol,

    “The letter by the 17 Lords is of course an attempt to shut Ridley up or at least damage him”

    I can’t imagine that the letter is anywhere near as damaging to Ridley’s credibility as the tripe he spews on this issue (the same goes for Tol, of course). However, seeing how Ridley (and Tol) play this game, as far as I’m concerned seeking to damage their reptations (what’s left of them) is entirely legitimate, and I applaud any direct hits.

  72. Vinny Burgoo says:

    BBD: ‘Defending the indefensible by attempting to delegitimise (some of the) authors and so the entire content of the letter… Where does that leave you?’

    Unmoved. I said nothing about the letter’s contents. I was taking a poke at ATTP’s habitual scientism, that’s all.

    (I poked from memory. In fact rather more than half of the signatories have a background in science. I could say that bishops and luvvies should count double when quantifying a group’s scientific credentials, but I won’t.)

  73. In fact rather more than half

    So, almost all 😉

  74. BBD says:

    Vinny

    I said nothing about the letter’s contents.

    Don’t be so appallingly disingenuous. You did what I said you did and you have now made matters even worse.

  75. Pingback: Top ten - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  76. T0kodave says:

    I haven’t read all (!) the comments above so if someone else noticed this, my apologies. The Washington Post had not one but two editorials on this last weekend, predictably by George Will and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. It looks like a concerted attempt to make this a “free speech” issue.
    This isn’t really about “free” speech. What these people want is essentially a license to lie and obfuscate. If they want to make their case they are free to publish in the relevant scientific journals and make presentations at scientific conferences. They can’t and they won’t because they don’t have any science that backs up their lies.

  77. Tokodave,
    That’s roughly my impression. It’s an attempt to deligitimise their critics at some fundamental level by trying to argue that their critics are trying to kill something that we regard as a fundamental freedom – free speech. The irony of their position might be beyond them, but it’s quite possible that they’re doing this in the full knowledge that their argument is more an attempt to kill free speech that that of their critics.

  78. Lars Karlsson says:

    ATTP,
    Yes, it is obvious that their “oppression” narrative serves to delegitimise their critics. It is also a convenient tool for avoiding answering their critics – what could Ridley possible say to defend that abysmal Times article? Finally, the narrative is important to explain away the fact that they have so few scientists on their side.

    I see this happening over and over again.

  79. semyorka says:

    The dead cat strategy.
    http://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2013/11/24/the-dead-cat-strategy-how-the-tories-hope-to-win-the-next-el

    We are no longer talking about how poor Ridley’s contributions are but about how silly his opinions on his free speech are. Ridley is not trying to win a scientific argument, but to manufacture a politicized division in which it becomes a part of a political identity to be against climate science.

  80. I don’t know if anyone saw these 9 questions for The Times about Matt Ridley. Here’s his reply which basically says “I’m right about everything, etc.”

  81. BBD says:

    My peer review claim was correct. The GWPF has confirmed that the paper in question was subject to peer review very similar to that employed by journals.

    Ha ha ha.

  82. Yes, I laughed at that one too.

  83. I have to admit, though, that I’ve yet to submit a paper to a journal at which the peer-review rules include “most of the reviewers must be economists”.

  84. verytallguy says:

    My peer review claim was correct. The GWPF has confirmed that the paper in question was subject to peer review very similar to that employed by journals.

    Just incredible. Literally beyond belief. He is utterly without shame. To paraphrase:

    My claim to be an Olympic champion was correct. I asked my mates down the Red Lion and they confirmed that my pub skittles win was very similar to Bradley Wiggins’ achievements in London”

    I really don’t understand how it’s possible to live with that degree of dishonesty. I couldn’t look in the mirror next morning.

  85. semyorka says:

    Imagine you woke up every morning, looked in the mirror and believed you were saving your country from a colossal blunder, decarbonising when the impacts of climate warming would not be as great as people feared, that a 450ppm atmosphere would see minor disruptions to British life and that by telling those lies you were able to gain enough traction in the 35% of the UK that the tories need to form a majority to make climate action in the tory party difficult. Politicize the issue and delay the action.

  86. anoilman says:

    verytallguy: The ‘r’ is silent in Richard’s last name.

  87. By crying “an attack on the freedom of speech” when you are merely being criticized, you undermine real cases where this important freedom is attacked. Next time the right cries “FREEDOM OF SPEECH” it will be hard convince people to look at the evidence after having seen so many times that is was all just smoke and mirrors.

  88. I’ve always thought there was something slightly odd about Ridley’s reaction to things. He was reckless in his high-risk helmsmanship of the bank, Northern Rock (not my opinion: that of the Treasury Select Committee). He’s clearly a clever man; but denies man-made climate change. Now he apparently interprets carefully-evidenced criticism of his cherry-picking obfuscation of climate science as attacking ‘free speech’.

    But the thing I’ve long found strange is the title of his book, ‘The Rational Optimist’. It’s almost as if he is fearful his optimism is excessive—indeed ‘reckless’—so he’s at pains to stress he really is rational. It’s as if he’s on the defensive from the outset. Surely any mentally-uncomplicated person would just have called it, for instance, ‘The Eternal Optimist’?

  89. Marco says:

    “The GWPF has confirmed that the paper in question was subject to peer review very similar to that employed by journals.”

    https://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/

  90. I think I’m saying that ‘rational’—like ‘intelligent’ or ‘handsome’—is a word you leave for other people to attribute to you, not a word you apply to yourself (unless of course you’re irrational 🙂

  91. John Hartz says:

    Vinny Burgoo: You wrote:

    Unmoved. I said nothing about the letter’s contents. I was taking a poke at ATTP’s habitual scientism, that’s all.

    What the heck is “habitual scientism”?

    Why the heck do you habitually poke at ATTP?

  92. JH,
    It’s just what he does. I wouldn’t worry about it too much 🙂

  93. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Joshua & ATTP nailed this up-thread…

    Ridley imagines the whole world to be his personal “safe space” where he can be free from the self-esteem-crushing aspects of facts and logic.

    Suggesting that Ridley could be in a massive conflict of interest would be untoward.
    Supposing that Ridley’s past is evidence that he doesn’t have a good grasp of risk-management would be unkind.
    Scrutinizing Ridley’s notion that climate policies cause economic and environmental harm would be unfair.

    Vilified!
    It is so very sad and unjust that being wrong on a subject in which one has no training or expertise has actual consequences.

    Actually – I love it when highly-visible much-published public “charity” spin-meisters such as Ridley and Tol and Montfort and Essex, etc., loudly complain in public venues about not getting a fair public hearing.

    It smells like… victory.

  94. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: I’m not “worried” about Burgoo’s repetitive poking of you. Rather, I’m trying to get a handle on why he gets his jollies doing so. Generally speaking, his posts are “Full of sound and fury, and sgnify nothing.”

  95. John Hartz says:

    From my side of the pond, why all the kerfuffle over members of a political body quarreling with each other in public? U.S. Senators do it all the time. Is there a code of conduct for the House of Lords?

  96. BBD says:

    John Hartz

    Vinny just hates ‘environmentalism’ and – despite endlessly being hauled up for it – relentlessly conflates physical climatology with ‘the greens’. It’s just a sorry mess of false equivalence and at heart, a bit of a shame, really.

  97. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    BBD:

    … relentlessly conflates physical climatology with ‘the greens’.

    As does Ridley. As does the GWPF.

    It must be a David versus Goliath thing.

  98. BBD says:

    It’s a political thing.

    The right has always hated ‘the greens’.

  99. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Have you been assimilated into the evil Green Borg controlling the government of the UK?

  100. Mal Adapted says:

    Vinny’s model for predicting someone’s full range of political opinions from their position on a single issue lacks skill, but has the advantage (for him) of simplicity.

  101. John Mashey says:

    See
    http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2015/12/08/exposed-academics-for-hire/
    And follow link to Happer emails,
    Look for section on peer review and GWPF.

  102. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Thanks for that, John.


    Happer explained that this process had consisted of members of the Advisory Council and other selected scientists reviewing the work, rather than presenting it to an academic journal.

    Who needs academic journals when you have Times columnists?


    GWPF’s “peer review” process was used for a recent GWPF report on the benefits of carbon dioxide. According to Dr Indur Goklany, the author of the report, he was initially encouraged to write it by the journalist Matt Ridley, who is also a GWPF academic advisor. That report was then promoted by Ridley, who claimed in his Times column that the paper had been “thoroughly peer reviewed”.

    Vaguely familiar ring to all that…

    He should have capitalized “Peer” – or spelled it ‘p’ ‘a’ ‘l’.


    Professor Happer also noted that submitting a report on the benefits of carbon dioxide to a peer-reviewed scientific journal would be problematic.
    “That might greatly delay publication and might require such major changes in response to referees and the journal editor that the article would no longer make the case that CO2 is a benefit, not a pollutant, as strongly as I would like, and presumably as strongly [as] your client would also like,” he said.

    No shit, Will.

    If only these GWPF people could get a fair hearing.

  103. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Snore. Boring but necessary rejoinders.

    BBD: ‘Vinny just hates “environmentalism” and – despite endlessly being hauled up for it – relentlessly conflates physical climatology with “the greens”.’

    Your ‘they conflate physics with’ shtick is getting old. Please provide an example of me conflating physical climatology with ‘the greens’. Or of anyone else doing it. I’m not convinced that this thing of yours even exists.

    BBD: ‘The right has always hated “the greens”.’

    Er, no. Greenitude was invented by the right and many of today’s supposedly leftie greens express views that, in another era, would have been deemed damnably right-wing.

    And I don’t hate any individual or group involved in this discussion, left, right, green or whatever. (Although I do think that some of you are a bit dim.)

  104. anoilman says:

    Vinny Burgoo says:
    “Greenitude was invented by the right and many of today’s supposedly leftie greens express views that, in another era, would have been deemed damnably right-wing.”

    The Conservatives in Canada decided that maybe they should dust off old man conservation because they were getting tarred and sanding in public. Harper didn’t listen, he lost.
    http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/03/11/Manning-Conference/

    Current right wing hates green though. I think it comes from those crazy 70’s when all kinds of weird stuff was happening.

    Of course conflating the crazy 70’s with modern climate science is nutty to say the least.

  105. John Mashey says:

    And for more, see FOIA Facts 5 – Finds Friends of GWPF. Updated notes connection with UK’s IEA.

  106. Harry Twinotter says:

    Professional victimhood strikes again.

    Matt Ridley’s argument is absurd. People criticizing the quality of the GWPF articles is just as much free-speech as the GWPF writing the articles in the first place.

  107. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” ~Evelyn Beatrice Hall, original

    “You do not agree with what I have to say, and I’ll defend to your death my right to say it.” ~Evelyn Beatrice Hall, interpreted

  108. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse,

    It smells like… victory.

    It will smell like victory with me when our politicians start making deals with the other side to get some real legislation going.

    Sorry to be a wet blanket. I’ve been learning luckwarmer the past two weeks. It has the smell of the pit and tastes like horse piss.

    Do NOT ask me how I know this.

  109. BBD says:

    Vinny

    Your ‘they conflate physics with’ shtick is getting old. Please provide an example of me conflating physical climatology with ‘the greens’. Or of anyone else doing it. I’m not convinced that this thing of yours even exists.

    Oh dear. You do it all the time in comments on this blog. Brazenly denying it when challenged makes you look ridiculous as well as dishonest and cornered. And next time you do it I am going to have some fun at your expense. Be warned.

    BBD: ‘The right has always hated “the greens”.’

    Er, no.

    Oh come on Vinny. Seriously. It’s clear that I’ve really hit the nail on the head judging by the absurd denials you are throwing out today.

    The right hates environmentalism because the right represents vested interest, which is its main sponsor. Vested interest hates environmentalism because it has been instrumental in forcing environmental regulation into existence. Business loathes this because it seeks always to externalise costs in order to maximise profits and environmental regulation curbs this – to an extent.

    So the right wages a constant war on ‘the greens’. See eg. Jaques et al. (2008): The organisation of denial: Conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism

    Environmental scepticism denies the seriousness of environmental problems, and self-professed ‘sceptics’ claim to be unbiased analysts combating ‘junk science’. This study quantitatively analyses 141 English-language environmentally sceptical books published between 1972 and 2005. We find that over 92 per cent of these books, most published in the US since 1992, are linked to conservative think tanks (CTTs). Further, we analyse CTTs involved with environmental issues and find that 90 per cent of them espouse environmental scepticism. We conclude that scepticism is a tactic of an elite- driven counter-movement designed to combat environmentalism, and that the successful use of this tactic has contributed to the weakening of US commitment to environmental protection.

  110. Kestrel27 says:

    I don’t think Ridley was protesting about being criticised; rather he was objecting to the H of L letter seeking to influence the Times editorial policy so that it accepted fewer contrarian articles. I think he was OTT on this since the letter was based on an appeal that the Times should maintain its editorial standards. A harmless kind of persuasion on most subjects one would have thought but not, it seems, this one.

    On freedom of expression, there is a comment that it does not include a right to lie and obfuscate. Well, fortunately for all of us it does, and again fortunately, at least in the West, most people seem to know this instinctively. Consider the claim that wind power is cost competitive with fossil fuel power. One has to jump through so many obfuscatory hoops to reach that conclusion that it is, in my view, demonstrably false. I would respect the wind lobby more if it simply admitted that wind power was more expensive but was nevertheless necessary. But do I want to prevent that claim from being made? Of course not.

    There are of course groups of people who are so certain they are right that people with opposing views shouldn’t be allowed to express them. I have a few concerns about the way some recent developments have affected the right to freedom of expression but am largely optimistic that those who believe in that freedom will continue to win the day. We should never forget that the suppression of freedom of expression is the first refuge of tyrants. A trite observation I know, but it’s right.

  111. Kestrel,

    I don’t think Ridley was protesting about being criticised; rather he was objecting to the H of L letter seeking to influence the Times editorial policy so that it accepted fewer contrarian articles.

    Except he writes for the times, so the distinction seems rather small.

    We should never forget that the suppression of freedom of expression is the first refuge of tyrants.

    Sure, but that’s why invoking free speech itself seems, implicitly, an attempt to shut down debate by implying that your opponents are violating something fundamental. That’s why – IMO – Ridley’s framing of this is closer to an attempt to kill free speech than those he’s criticising.

  112. semyorka says:

    “I don’t think Ridley was protesting about being criticised; rather he was objecting to the H of L letter seeking to influence the Times editorial policy”

    http://creation.com/the-geological-society-of-london-again-moves-to-silence-debate-on-creation-science

    So any time someone said to the Daily Mail that it was publishing nonsense on the MMR vaccine and it should stop, you would argue that that was an attempt to silence the debate on vaccines.

    In essence one should never question the right, nay duty, of the media to promote every psuedoscience on the go.

  113. Kestrel27 says:

    aTTP: I’ve seen you make the point in your second paragraph before and I simply don’t understand it. Why is someone who says that someone else is attempting shut down free speech himself doing the same thing? He isn’t denying the right of the second person to say what he did but objecting to the nature of what he said. In fact it seems to me that both are exercising their right to free speech and neither is attempting to prevent the other from expressing their view. Do you want a society in which it is unacceptable to criticise another on the ground that what he has said or done is an attack on freedom of expression. I wouldn’t imagine so.

    semyorka: Newspapers have contained nonsense and lies on every conceivable subject since the day the first one was published. Some of the nonsense and lies have had awful consequences but it is a matter of balance. Western society rightly assumes that it is better to allow the publication of nonsense and lies than to require the media to run what they intend to say past a state run nonsense and lies authority.

    I have no problem with people saying that nonsense and lies should not be published; freedom of expression covers that too of course. It is then up to the publisher of the nonsense or lies whether to pay any attention.

    Of course it isn’t a duty to publish nonsense or lies and I didn’t suggest it was.

  114. Kestrel,

    Why is someone who says that someone else is attempting shut down free speech himself doing the same thing?

    Well, because we regard free speech as somehow a fundamental right (as it should be, with some exceptions). By arguing that your opponent is trying to kill free speech, rather than actually arguing directly against what they’ve said, you’re essentially trying to simply deligitimise their view. In a sense, you’re trying to get them to stop saying what they’re saying, and – hence – seems to be closer to killing free speech than anything your opponents have said. Of course, given the existence of free speech, you’re entitled to make this argument, but that doesn’t make it not hypocritical. [Edited to add “not” before “hypocritical”]

  115. Marco says:

    While we are talking about the media and MMR…:
    http://www.badscience.net/2008/08/the-medias-mmr-hoax/

    I guess Ben Goldacre is a bad, bad man, too.

  116. Marco says:

    “you’re entitled to make this argument, but that doesn’t make it hypocritical.”

    Less hypocritical, I guess?

  117. Marco,
    Indeed. Meant to say “not hypocritical”.

  118. I do not write for the Times. Is that an infringement of my freedom of speech?

  119. Victor,
    You’ve reminded me that in his response to the 9 questions, Ridley says

    The letters editor may have tired of his rants for all I know. It appears that it is Mr Ward’s job description to get letters into newspapers attacking sceptics but not alarmists. It is not newspapers’ job to publish them.

    I, of course, agree with this, but it does seem slightly at odds with his position on free speech.

  120. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> …seems to be closer to killing free speech than anything your opponents have said.

    I’m beginning to think that Kestrel is making a good point.

    Indeed, Ridley and other politically correct self-victimizers are asking to be coddled, and so doing they are effectively doing what they are complaining about from their putative victimizers…but in neither case is anyone actually, effectively, killing free speech.

    But there is a subjectivity in your “closer to” argument that kind of bothers me.

    Consider that Rodley’s selective application of criteria and exploitation of free speech are quite apparent, but perhaps in pointing out that Ridley is “closer” to killing free speech you are effectively exploiting the notion of free speech in a similar fashion as he?

  121. but perhaps in pointing out that Ridley is “closer” to killing free speech you are effectively exploiting the notion of free speech in a similar fashion as he?

    Yes, I did kind of think of this irony. Point taken. A problem, though, is that he introduced the “free speech gambit” so it’s hard to avoid mentioning it in a response, and it’s hard to argue directly against what he’s saying, because he’s basically just using various past examples to highlight his perception of some kind of attempt to shut down the debate. In most cases, they really don’t seem that way. Mostly, people got criticised for what they were saying, or doing. Sounds like free speech in action, to me.

  122. Joshua says:

    Consider, also, that Ridley’s equating his self-defense with defense of “free speech” is bogus, as free speech isn’t under attack. So his argument is invalid. It’s exploitative. But his hypocrisy doesn’t speak to the validity of his argument.

  123. Joshua says:

    ==> Sounds like free speech in action, to me.

    I agree. And it’s hard to disconnect Ridley’s exploitation of “defending free speech” from the cross-over to rightwing exploitation of “defending free speech” in the whole reactionary, anti-political correctness campaign. But it’s probably important to consider potential tu quoquness. Willard might be lurking about.

  124. Kestrel27 says:

    aTTP: I’m not sure how far we are disagreeing. I was thinking about a simple case where one person says about another that an article he wrote or published was nonsense and should not have been published. There are two elements, first it’s nonsense and secondly, because of that, shouldn’t have been published. If the first person responds by saying that the assertion that the article shouldn’t have been published is an attack on freedom of expression that seems to me entirely factual. The second person could have written explaining why the article was nonsense without saying it shouldn’t be published.

  125. Joshua says:

    Kestrel –

    ==> If the first person responds by saying that the assertion that the article shouldn’t have been published is an attack on freedom of expression that seems to me entirely factual.

    Now I’m a bit confused, because here I disagree with you. As a point of fact, it isn’t an attack on free speech, but an attack on publishing that article. It isn’t “censorship” or a call for censorship.

  126. Kestrel,

    I was thinking about a simple case where one person says about another that an article he wrote or published was nonsense and should not have been published.

    I might agree with you if the first person meant shouldn’t be published anywhere, ever. If, however, he meant that it shouldn’t be published in something specific (like The Times, or a scientific journal) because it didn’t satisfy the standards of that publication, then that’s a judgement, rather than an argument against free speech.

  127. Joshua says:

    It isn’t saying that he shouldn’t be allowed to self-publish, or write his opinions on a blog. That would be an attack on free speech. It is criticism of publishing his views in a newspaper, which the publishers can choose to reject.

    Consider the real problem where free speech rights are actually limited. This is cynical exploitation of that real problem.

  128. BBD says:

    kestrel27

    The second person could have written explaining why the article was nonsense without saying it shouldn’t be published.

    That’s been done over and over again, and *still* Ridley et al. repeat the rubbish and *still* The Times (and others) keep on publishing it.

    If look at the actual criticism expressed in the letter to John Witherow (and previously, by Bob Ward) it is aimed at editorial shortcomings not at Ridley himself (emphasis added):

    As Editor, you are of course entitled to take whatever editorial line you feel is appropriate. Are you aware, however, how seriously you may be compromising The Times’ reputation by pursuing a line that cleaves so tightly to a particular agenda, and which is based on such flimsy evidence? The implications for your credibility extend beyond your energy and climate change coverage. Why should any reader who knows about energy and climate change respect your political analysis, your business commentary, even your sports reports, when in this one important areayou are prepared to prioritise the marginal over the mainstream?

    Two aspects are particularly concerning. The first is that neither the quality bar that broadsheet newspapers regularly apply to scientific evidence, nor the simple concept of balance, appear to exist in all of your paper’s reporting on climate change (although we note, for example, that your coverage at the close of the Paris climate summit was both balanced and comprehensive). The second concern is that many of the sub-standard news stories and opinion pieces appear to concern, in some way, GWPF. Whether any newspaper should involve itself repeatedly with any pressure group is a matter for debate; it would be deeply perturbing to find that a paper as eminent as The Times could allow a small NGO, particularly one whose sources of financing are unknown, a high degree of influence.

    Please do not mistake our comments as an attack on press freedom. Nothing could be further from the truth. A healthy, vibrant, inquisitive press is a vital component of a mature democracy, and neither science nor “green” business should be exempt from proper scrutiny. But trust is also essential for any newspaper, particularly one as distinguished as The Times. If you lose trust, you lose everything; and on this issue, you are losing trust.

    And:

    These are the sorts of untruths which would normally be picked up in basic fact checking. And as Carbon Brief demonstrated in December, when they got a group of climate scientists to go through the transcript of one of Ridley’s most comprehensive interviews and point out his errors, his statements are absolutely littered with them. In any other context, a notable newspaper publishing scientific claims which are simply untrue or deeply misleading would be considered extraordinary. Does the paper fact-check Viscount Ridley’s columns? If so, why does it let him write things which are demonstrably untrue?

    2) Why has the paper repeatedly failed to publish letters from the Grantham Institute’s Communications Director, correcting Ridley’s inaccuracies on the matter?

    In the article above, Bob Ward makes another surprising claim. He outlined two occasions on which he had written to the paper correcting Ridley’s mistakes. Both times, the paper refused to publish. As Ward says: “the newspaper would not agree to publish any letters that drew attention to Ridley’s mistakes”.

    I spoke to Ward for this article. After outlining his frustration on the phone, he sent me the following statement:

    “The regular rants by Viscount Ridley about climate change in ‘The Times’ usually contain inaccurate and misleading statements, which breach the Editors’ Code of Practice. The newspaper rarely publishes letters from me or other members of the climate research community which point out these errors. By censoring dissent from the research community in order to shield Viscount Ridley’s daft columns from ridicule, ‘The Times’ is harming both its readers and the public interest.”

    The Times has no obligation to publish any letter. But it does have an obligation to ensure it reports facts accurately, and corrects any errors. The LSE Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment is a significant scientific institution with notable expertise on the subject. When its communications director alleges that a national newspaper is in breach of the editors’ code, it has serious questions to answer.

  129. BBD says:

    Sorry for the long quotes above, but I hope everyone will take a moment to read them carefully. Let’s not fall for Ridley’s strawmanning.

  130. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

    – A. J. Liebling

  131. Joshua says:

    Kestrel,

    There’s another level of irony here, I think.

    It seems to me that you are arguing that attacking the publication of Ridley’s views in a newspaper is an attack on Ridley’s freedom of expression, but that Ridley’s attack on the expression of the view that his opinions shouldn’t be published in a newspaper isn’t an attack on freedom of expression.

    It occurs to me that irony is a kind of energy force where once generated, it never dissipates but in fact only grows and spins off into infinite forms. Maybe someone who understands physics can explain it to me.

  132. If you see a newspaper publishing nonsense on a topic you are knowledgeable about, you naturally start to wonder whether the rest is of similar quality and you only lack the expertise on those topics to see it.

    If I buy a newspaper it is not to read nonsense (may be different for readers of other publications), thus as a reader I can naturally call on the editor of my newspaper to stop publishing nonsense. That is more fair than no longer buying the newspaper without warning and there is unfortunately only limited choice.

    (And nothing in this argument has anything whatsoever to do with freedom of speech.)

  133. verytallguy says:

    Victor,

    you have missed the fact that Matt “Viscount” Ridley is entitled to be heard and respected.

    Remember that he was entitled to his appointment both to chair a bank and to vote on our laws in Parliament as a result of who his father was.

    His education may have added further to this sense of entitlement- remember he went to the same school as the prime minister!

    It is perhaps not surprising that he is affronted at being challenged as to his entitlement to write whatever he sees fit in a national newspaper. And to genuinely believe that his amateur climate speculations are better than expert scientific views.

  134. John Hartz says:

    Do we spend time jawboning about rather trivial matters like Ridley’s temper tantrum as a way to avoid thinking about the enormity of the negative consequences of manmade climate clhange?

    The damage to the Earth’s biosphere caused by mankind’s burning of fossil fuels and engaging in other activites such as deforestation are staggering to say the least.

    An example of just one category of such damage is the focus of the following indepth article…

    What happens if marine life in the oceans can’t pull in enough oxygen from the oceans to live? We may be about to find out.

    A startling new study led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (the federal research arm of the National Science Foundation) published Wednesday found a disturbing trend – a warming planet could overwhelm natural variability and start to significantly affect oxygen levels in the oceans in just 10-15 years.

    The study confirmed what scientists have long observed – that climate change is causing a drop in the amount of oxygen dissolved in oceans in some parts of the world. But the study’s central conclusion is what is so alarming – the effects of this drop in the amount of oxygen all marine life require will start to become evident in just 15 years or so. At some point, the drop in the ocean’s oxygen levels will leave marine life struggling to breathe.

    Climate scientists have predicted for some time that the planet’s rapidly warming climate (2014 and 2015 were the hottest years in civilized history and 2016 may eclipse the record as well) would start to affect oxygen levels in the oceans.

    But what they haven’t been able to show, until now, is just how noticeable the drop in oxygen levels actually was – and how to separate what was caused by natural variability (like the el Nino cycle) and what was caused by climate change.

    Now we know.

    It May Soon Be Too Late to Save the Seas by Jeff Nesbit, Climate Nexus/US News & World Report, Apr 27, 2016

  135. John Hartz says:

    Here’s some background info on Jeff Nesbit, the author of the article I cited in myprior post:

    Jeff Nesbit was the National Science Foundation’s director of legislative and public affairs in the Bush and Obama administrations; former Vice President Dan Quayle’s communications director; the FDA’s public affairs chief; and a national journalist with Knight-Ridder and others. He’s the executive director of Climate Nexus and the author of more than 24 books. His next book, “Poison Tea” with Thomas Dunne Books at Macmillan (April 5), chronicles the secretive, 20-year alliance between the world’s largest private oil company and the planet’s largest tobacco companies to systematically build the Tea Party movement. He may be reached at jeffnesbit@comcast.net.

  136. Lars Karlsson says:

    JH, that sounds similar to what might have happened towards the end of the Permian. That was not a good time…

  137. Vinny Burgoo says:

    BBD: ‘And next time you do it I am going to have some fun at your expense. Be warned.’

    Ooooh noooz!

    But can I have that example first, please? It’d be nice to know exactly what I am being accused of.

    Jacques 2008? That’s America. They do things differently there. (For one thing, I’d be counted as a leftie in America, and closer to Sanders than Clinton.)

    Plus that paper says nothing about the early days of environmentalism/nature-worship, which were on the right, moving from individualist romanticism (and perhaps opposition to the Enlightenment – I haven’t read much about it for decades) through nudism, bicycles and various German youth movements to the aristocratic first incarnation of the World Wildlife Fund. It wasn’t until later – perhaps, as an oilman suggested, in the wacky 1970s, perhaps after the fall of the Berlin Wall – that environmentalism became a predominantly leftie thing. Hence my objection to your ‘The right has always hated “the greens”‘.

    (Jacques 2008 could be said to support the notion that it was after the fall of the Berlin Wall because they found few leftie-bashing ‘environmentally sceptical’ books before the 1990s, but that might be down to their definition of ‘environmentally sceptical’, which was dominated by opposition to issues that didn’t become important until the 1990s.)

    *

    Irrelevant football factoid of the day: Arthur Conan Doyle played in goal for Portsmouth and had a sister called Bryan.

  138. Kestrel27 says:

    I largely agree with Joshua. I think I’ve confused matters by making two separate points in my first post. On Ridley I said that his reaction had been OTT and that the H of L letter was best seen as a harmless attempt at persuasion. I’m not sure though that this has nothing to do with free expression. While I accept that Ridley is free to express his views in a blog or elsewhere, the Times is one of a very limited number of generally respected national outlets for the widespread dissemination of news and opinion. They include the Times itself, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the BBC, other television channels and . . . well that’s about it. Ridley’s concern is, I suggest, that one of those outlets may no longer be available to contrarians and that other outlets might follow. No doubt that would delight many who comment here but not me. I would prefer to see diverse views on climate change being expressed in these important national media outlets. I await the brickbats!

  139. Kestrel,

    I would prefer to see diverse views on climate change being expressed in these important national media outlets.

    Yes, I think diverse views are good, but we’re talking about how these outlets present the science, not how they present people’s opinions, or policy preferences. The problem with Ridley and some of the others, is that they either think they themselves can interpret the evidence, or base their views on a tiny minority of scientists who hold dissenting views. There’s nothing wrong with presenting these views, but doing so without at least making clear that these views are a minority position, and that most scientists don’t agree, is not ideal. Also, one of the examples in the letter was an exceptionally poor report, written for the GWPF (and paid for) which was claimed to have been peer-reviewed. This is – IMO – exceptionally misleading as peer-review is typically understood to be review by other experts in the same field for a scientific journal, not review by other academics who happen to sit on the advisory council of a policy think tank.

  140. BBD says:

    Vinny

    Jacques 2008? That’s America. They do things differently there.

    No, the right in the UK is as anti-‘environmentalism’ as it is in the USA. And thanks for another painfully obvious dodge to add to the total for the thread.

    It all helps keep clear the distinction between who is and who isn’t dissimulating, since you were asking for examples.

  141. BBD says:

    Kestrel27

    I’m not sure though that this has nothing to do with free expression.

    It has nothing to do with freedom of expression. That was made clear, at length, with extensive quotation, above. In a comment which you pointedly ignored.

    Thanks for clarifying where you are coming from.

  142. Kestrel27 says:

    BBD

    I apologise if you think I was ignoring what you said but it is difficult to respond to everything. I have already said twice, three times now, that Ridley’s reaction went too far given that the H of L letter was an appeal to the Times to maintain its editorial standards. I also explained in my last comment why I think the matter does have something to do with freedom of expression. On that we simply disagree.

    You clearly think the Times has treated Bob Ward badly and you’re probably right. No worse though than the way in which the BBC habitually treats those with contrarian views.

  143. No worse though than the way in which the BBC habitually treats those with contrarian views.

    I find this an odd thing to say. Until quite recently, the BBC would regularly include a contrarian, invariably someone who had no relevant scientific expertise and – often – someone associated with the GWPF. It once even went so far as to get someone from Australia because – IIRC – they couldn’t find any scientist in the UK willing to take a contrarian stance. In what way has the BBC treated those with contrarian views badly?

  144. John Mashey says:

    Shortly after the Pope’s announcements last year, the BBC gave a few uncontested minutes to Steve Milloy.

    See this tweet.

    Later. they interviewed Marc Morano on the Clean Power Plan.

  145. Joshua says:

    Kestrel –

    ==> I would prefer to see diverse views on climate change being expressed in these important national media outlets.

    FWIW, I don’t have any particular problem with “skeptical” views being published. I mean yes, there is always the question of “false balance,” but I understand that the media will inherently meet what the public wants and a significant chunk of the public wants to hear from “experts” who align with their own views. In the end, I view that situation as less sub-optimal than the alternatives.

    The issue that I have about what’s going on here is that Ridley is exploiting real problems with freedom of expression to advance a partisan agenda in the context of specific issues.

    ==> .I’m not sure though that this has nothing to do with free expression.

    Perhaps I should walk back what I said earlier. Yes, it has something to do with free expression, but it is exploitative, IMO, to equate what has happened with an “attack on free speech.” Just as the following is not merely OTT, IMO:

    Yet here he seems to be saying that The Times should censor inconvenient stories.

    I consider that to be cynical exploitation of those whose free speech is actually infringed.

    Everyone loves a slippery slope because it allows them to exploit serious issues in order to play personality politics.

  146. “Until quite recently, the BBC would regularly include a contrarian”

    I saw Judith Curry interviewed on a BBC news programme once, to give the contrary point of view. So they did give undue weight to opposing views to the scientifically demonstrated line.

  147. BBD says:

    Joshua

    FWIW, I don’t have any particular problem with “skeptical” views being published. […] In the end, I view that situation as less sub-optimal than the alternatives.

    I disagree strongly.

    Newspaper editors are under an obligation *not* to publish misleading nonsense. They are supposed to fact-check and reject material that is inaccurate. This is not censorship and has nothing to do with free speech. False balance is avoided.

    When editorial standards are correctly applied, then contrarian views – if published at all – must be clearly caveated along the lines of ‘these claims have been shown to be incorrect’. There is still no infringement of free speech and false balance is avoided.

    The only thing that is suboptimal is editors not doing their jobs properly.

  148. John Hartz says:

    BBD & Joshua:

    Also keep in mind that the MSM derives a substantial amount of advertising revenue from the fossil fuel industry. I suspect that many editors allow “false balance” because of orders from above.

  149. John Hartz says:

    Recommended supplemental reading:

    Lord Krebs: scientists must challenge poor media reporting on climate change by John Krebs, The Conversation UK, May 3, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s