PCC verdict

From: robin russell-jones
Date: 19 September 2012 17:04:52 GMT+01:00
To: Sean Goldstein
Subject: Re: Our reference: 122487

Dear Mr Goldstein The PCC’s decision was hugely disappointing but utterly predictable. Their basic position is neatly encapsulated by the statement:

 “The Commission is conscious that there exist sharply differing and conflicting views on the topic of global warming, which is a contentious area of political and scientific debate.”
There is of course a political debate which is deliberately manufactured by those with a vested interst in the outcome, but there is no scientific disagreement about the basic facts of global warming. The failure of the PCC to distinguish between peer-reviewed scientific papers, and propaganda from climate change contrarians  is a serious indictment of their judgement . Similairly their decision to give equal weight to publications by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and unscientific reports by privately funded think tanks such as the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) indicates that they are in serious need of advice from qualified scientists. The PCC has come in for considerable criticism in recent months, not least because of their abysmal failure to discover the nefarious practices of the Murdoch Press.

Yours Sincerely Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath

On 19 Sep 2012, at 16:17, Sean Goldstein wrote:
Dear Dr Russell-Jones
Further to our previous correspondence, the Commission has now made its assessment of your complaint under the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The Commission members have asked me to thank you for giving them the opportunity to consider the points you raised. However, their decision is that there has been no breach of the Code in this case. A full explanation of the Commission’s decision is below.
If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled – as opposed to the Commission’s decision itself – you should write within one month to the Independent Reviewer, whose details can be found in our How to Complain leaflet or on the PCC website at the following link:
Thank you for taking this matter up with us.
With best wishes
Yours sincerely
Sean Goldstein


Commission’s decision in the case of
Russell-Jones v The Sunday Telegraph
The newspaper had published three articles, on the subject of climate-change, which the complainant felt were inaccurate and misleading, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Under the terms of Clause 1 (i) of the Code, newspapers must take care not to publish inaccurate information, and the terms of Clause 1 (ii) make clear that a “significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected promptly, and with due prominence”.
Each of the articles under complaint were comment pieces, intended to allow the newspaper’s columnist, Christopher Booker, to express his views on, and contribute to, the global warming debate; as such, the Commission began by making clear that columnists are entitled to express their personal views and comments – however robust or controversial they might be – provided that they are clearly distinguished from fact.
The Commission turned, first, to address the complainant’s concerns about the article headlined, ‘In the eyes of ‘Nature’ global warming can’t be natural’. The complainant said that the article had misrepresented the content of an academic paper by Jeremy Shakun, published in ‘Nature’, entitled ‘Global warming preceded by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations during the last deglaciation’, by claiming that the paper demonstrated that when the earth was emerging from the last ice age, temperatures rose first, later followed by rises in C02.  The Commission acknowledged that Shakun’s study had argued that, over the course of the last de-glaciation, increased concentrations of C02 led to global warming; however, the report also noted an important exception which Shakun had conceded suggested that C02 was not the cause of initial warming. The Commission, therefore, considered that the columnist was entitled to express the view that Shakun’s paper, notwithstanding its title,  could be interpreted as demonstrating that temperatures rose first, followed by CO2.The article had not breached Clause 1 of the Code in relation to this issue.
The Commission turned to consider the complainant’s concerns about the article headlined ‘The ‘thought criminals’ were right after all’. The complainant objected to the columnist’s assertion that there was a divergence between the projected pace of global warming and the observed data of its progression, an assertion which had been made as part of the columnist’s overall narrative about the suppression of dissenting opinions, which challenged politically correct orthodoxies. The Commission is conscious that there exist sharply differing and conflicting views on the topic of global warming, which is a contentious area of political and scientific debate.  It is not the role of the Commission to reconcile the respective positions; rather, it can only come to a view, under the terms of the Code, as to whether published content is significantly inaccurate or misleading.
The newspaper provided the December 2009 monthly C02 report of the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) to support the columnist’s specific claims that neither temperatures nor sea levels have risen, as predicted. It was the complainant’s view that the statistics contained in the report had no significant meaning, principally because the relevant data had been derived over a relatively short time frame. While the complainant was entitled to challenge the statistics, the newspaper was entitled to rely upon the report in support of the columnist’s claims, and there was no breach of the Code.
It was also the complainant’s view that it was misleading for the columnist to have claimed that the ice caps were not melting, nor hurricane activity intensifying, as predicted. To support the former claim, the newspaper referred to an article entitled ‘Recent ice-sheet growth in the interior of Greenland’, by Ola Johannessen, which argued that while there was considerable evidence of melting on Greenland’s periphery, the much larger ice-sheet inland had in fact been thickening, a development not predicted by the established data sets.
In relation to hurricane activity, the newspaper referred to a 2010 article by Met Office scientist Les Hatton, which argued that observed data cast doubt on the IPCC’s prediction that global warming would result in a greater number of hurricanes, of a greater intensity. Hatton had concluded that there appears to be no significant difference in either the frequency or intensity of hurricanes globally.  The newspaper had, therefore, demonstrated a basis for the columnist’s claims and there was no breach of the Code on these points.
More generally, the newspaper referred to the 2007 IPCC report, which predicted that the areas of land affected by drought and the frequency of heat waves would increase.  The newspaper noted that, despite the prediction, the frequency of significant heat waves had not increased since 2003 and noted the findings of a U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association study, which attributed the cause of a heat wave in Western Russia, in mid-August 2010, to historical processes and not necessarily to climate change.
The newspaper also referred to another study, by Narisma et al, which suggested a decreased incidence of droughts in the latter half of the twentieth century, despite predictions that, as climate-change progressed, drought incidence would intensify. While the Commission acknowledged the complainant’s criticisms of the findings in these papers and his disagreement with the columnist’s argument, the newspaper had clearly demonstrated the existence of a body of thought which supported its columnist’s position. There was, therefore, no breach of the Code in relation to the complainant’s concerns about the article.
The complainant also raised concerns about the article headlined, ‘The green mystery we must ask out MPs to explain’; in particular, he noted that the columnist had failed to include biomass, geothermal and tide and wave power renewables, when he claimed that windmills and solar panels could only provide a fraction of the energy needed to replace the burning of fossil fuels. The Commission noted that the columnist had clearly stated which renewable energy sources he had been referring to, and he was entitled to note only the potential contribution of wind and solar power. It was not the case that readers had been misled and so there was no breach of the Code in relation to this aspect of the complaint.
The Commission was aware of the complainant’s concern about the newspaper’s failure to publish a letter which he had submitted, in response to the article; however, the publication of readers’ letters is a matter of editorial discretion, and so the Commission could not comment further in this regard.
Reference No. 122487

Press Complaints Commission – email of 4 Aug 12

From: robin russell-jones
Date: 4 August 2012 08:30:18 GMT+01:00
To: Sean Goldstein
Subject: Re: PCC Complaint 122487

Dear Mr Goldstein,
I was surprised to receive yet another communication from the Sunday Telegraph as you informed me that my complaint has now been referred to the PCC for a formal judgement.. Are you phoning them for clarification or are they contacting you because Chris Booker thinks he has found something to support his position.  I will take his contentious rubbish in turn:

“The great ‘heatwave scare’ originated with the European heatwave of 2003, which supposedly killed 35,000 people. Scaremongers immediately piled in to predict that such heatwaves would soon become commonplace, The number of deaths attributed to the heatwave were significantly fewer than can normally be expected in an abormally cold winter.”

Booker seems completely unaware of the paper by Robine JM et al. “Death toll exceeded 70,000 in Europe during the summer of 2003. Les Comptes Rendus/Série Biologies, 2008, 331:171–78”.

However this is typical of people who are trying to argue a scientific case but are themselves scientifically illiterate They only read what they want to read and ignore everything that doesn’t suit their case.

Booker also claims that “genuine experts pointed out that there was nothing un-natural about the heat-wave” but doesn’t say who these “genuine experts ” might be. Presumably other commentators who are as ignorant and deluded as he is !!

Booker then discusses the Russian heat-wave of 2010 and comes up with the following statement:

Among those who produced studies to confirm this were the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association which produced the paper linked to below, finding that, as in 2003,there was nothing to suggest that the 2010 heatwave was anything but a natural phenomenon,


It is worth comparing this conclusion with the actual link provided by Booker as this includes a summary of the WUWT (Bookers nutty fellow-sceptics) and what the US NOAA actually said:

NOAA finds”climate change” blameless in 2010 Russian heat wave
Posted on March 9, 2011 by Anthony Watts
We mentioned this previously on WUWT, now it is officially peer reviewed and accepted. Maybe this will be a lesson to those in the MSM and eco blogland who immediately jump on every newsworthy weather event, and with no supporting evidence, attribute it to “global warming”, “climate change”, or “climate disruption” or whatever the marketing phrase of the day is. The factual science is in, and the answer that we knew all along? To paraphrase James Carville; It’s the weather, not climate, stupid.

What the researchers actually concluded:
“The researchers cautioned that this extreme event provides a glimpse into the region’s future as greenhouse gases continue to increase, and the signal of a warming climate, even at this regional scale, begins to emerge more clearly from natural variability in coming decades. Climate models evaluated for the new study show a rapidly increasing risk of such heat waves in western Russia, from less than one percent in 2010, to 10 percent or more by the end of this century.”

Incidentally WUWT stands for “Whats Up With That” and claims to be the world’s most visited web-site on global warming. It is small wonder that annual emissions of CO2 have increased globally by 49% since 1990 as the lunatics appear to have taken over the asylum ! Anyway back to Booker:

Again, on droughts, despite excitable predictions, there is plenty of evidence to show that droughts have in recent decades become not more frequent but less common. I will merely here link to the paper by Narisma et al (2007) which shows that of the 20th century’s 30 major drought episodes, 22 were in the first six decades of the century, only five between 1061 and 1980, and in the last two decades of the century there were only two,

Again it is always worth looking at what the paper actually says rather than Bookers personal interpretation of it. I have taken extracts from the abstract, introduction and conclusion of the paper by Narisma et al :
Abrupt changes in rainfall during the twentieth century
Gemma T. Narisma,1 Jonathan A. Foley,1 Rachel Licker,1 and Navin Ramankutty1,2 Received 30 October 2006; revised 6 February 2007; accepted 26 February 2007; published 30 March 2007.

Complex interactions in the climate system can give rise to strong positive feedback mechanisms that may lead to sudden climatic changes. The prolonged Sahel drought and the Dust Bowl are examples of 20th century abrupt climatic changes that had serious effects on ecosystems and societies. Here we analyze global historical rainfall observations to detect regions that have undergone large, sudden decreases in rainfall. Our results show that in the 20th century about 30 regions in the world have experienced such changes. These events are statistically significant at the 99% level, are persistent for at least ten years, and most have magnitudes of change that are 10% lower than the climatological normal (1901 – 2000 rainfall average). This analysis illustrates the extent and magnitude of abrupt climate changes across the globe during the 20th century and may be used for studying the dynamics of and the mechanisms behind these abrupt changes.
Citation: Narisma, G. T., J. A. Foley, R. Licker, and N. Ramankutty (2007), Abrupt changes in rainfall during the twentieth century, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L06710, doi:10.1029/2006GL028628.

Given the potential cost of these abrupt changes to both the environment and society [Alley et al., 2003; Hulme, 2003; NRC, 2002], the need for investigating historical records for evidence of other sudden climatic changes in the more recent past in different regions of the world has been highlighted in recent literature [Alley et al., 2003; Foley et al., 2003; Hulme, 2003; Stocker, 1999]. Here we examine global climate records for large, sudden decreases in rainfall during the 20th century. In this study, we define abrupt climate changes as large, sudden, rainfall decreases that are persistent and deviate significantly from the normal historical level (defined here as the average over 1901–2000). These abrupt changes may be indicative of a transition into another climatic/rainfall regime because of the sudden and persistent nature of these drought events [Alley et al., 2003; Higgins et al., 2002; Scheffer et al., 2001].

We have identified large and abrupt rainfall decreases in different regions of the world by analyzing historical precipitation data from the 20th century. The Sahelian droughts and the North American Dust Bowl are two abrupt changes in climate during the last century that have been analyzed in depth [Schubert et al., 2004; Wang et al., 2004; Foley et al., 2003; Taylor et al., 2002; Nicholson et al., 1998]. However, despite the large impacts of these events, there has been no systematic survey of recent climate history to determine the prevalence of abrupt climatic changes. This study shows that, in addition to these two events, large and sudden changes in rainfall have occurred in about 30 other regions of the world (Table 1). This includes persistent droughts in Mexico and southwest United States, southern Africa, the former Soviet Union, east India and Bangladesh, northeast China, and eastern Europe. Our analysis also indicates that these sudden decreases in rainfall are most likely to occur in arid and semi-arid regions, a result that is consistent with climate modeling studies [Scheffer et al., 2005; Foley et al., 2003; Kleidon et al., 2000; Claussen, 1998]. The susceptibility of dry regions to abrupt climate changes has been linked to a strong positive feedback between vegetation and climate interactions [Wang and Eltahir, 2000a; Wang and Eltahir, 2000b; Zeng et al., 1999; Claussen, 1998].
[12] We recognize that the significance of these events may be dependent on geographical characteristics and location. A three to five year decrease in rainfall, although sudden, may not affect Southern Africa as much as it would affect the central region of the United States. We also note that semi-arid and arid regions are areas of high rainfall variability and hence are naturally prone to large fluctuations. The average persistence, however, of the detected abrupt drought events is at least ten years. This can be seen in Table 1 and in Figure S4 where we show the regions of abrupt rainfall changes at different persistence cutoffs. Further, Table 1 also shows that the magnitude of change in rainfall in most regions is about 10% lower than the normal. The decrease in precipitation in these regions is abrupt, persistent, and significant. Our analysis depicts the extent and magnitude of sudden climate changes across the globe in the 20th century and is indicative of what could also happen in the future. Further analysis is needed to understand the mechanisms behind these changes, their predictability, as well as their impacts on the Earth system and human societies.
Of particular relevance are the quotes from the introduction and conclusion highlighted:

“These abrupt changes may be indicative of a transition into another climatic/rainfall regime because of the sudden and persistent nature of these drought events” AND “Our analysis also indicates that these sudden decreases in rainfall are most likely to occur in arid and semi-arid regions, a result that is consistent with climate modeling studies” AND ” Our analysis depicts the extent and magnitude of sudden climate changes across the globe in the 20th century and is indicative of what could also happen in the future.”

So essentially what Booker has done is to extract one fact from the paper that he thinks supports his case whilst ignoring the rest of the paper and thereby misrepresents the paper the authors and the scientific case that underpins climate change.
Finally Liz Allen repeats the same fatuous argument used in previous correspondence by the Deputy Editor of the Sunday Telegraph; namely that ” When Mr Booker became interested in the global warming issue, he spent several years reading through thousands of scientific papers on all sides of the argument, to come to a considered view.”
The problem is that Mr Booker is not a scientist He holds no scientific qualifications of any sort and has never had anything published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The world is full of people who claim to be self-taught experts but are completely deluded and C Booker is a prime example. Yours Sincerely
Dr Robin Russell-Jones MA FRCP FRCPath