Saturday, November 19, 2011

Peiser relies on deception

Benny Peiser, sadly, appears to be on the upswing in climate change denialism (and possibly wrong elsewhere, although I don't know the Easter Island issues well). My experience with him is that he made an incorrect factual assertion, stopped making it when caught by a knowledgeable audience, and then repeated the original assertion in front of different audiences that didn't know the truth and didn't know about his retraction. This is the person being quoted by news media today.

I laid out the sequence of events here. To summarize, he claimed in a comment thread at Deltoid to have repeated an analysis by climate historian Naomi Oreskes and found a different result. Other comments proved him wrong. Peiser continued to post in the comment thread without but stopped repeating his assertion that he had replicated Oreskes. Several days later he then repeated the original assertion on a different website where people don't know that he'd been refuted. I also found him repeating it in subsequent weeks, despite saying in email correspondence with me "I [Peiser] don't know" if he had done the same analysis.

I know the media has a problem trying to get accurate information on denialists because this type of deceptiveness is so common there, but they should communicate to the public that their sources like Benny Peiser make claims to the public that they refuse to defend in front of informed audiences. A far better approach would be to analyze the denialists, not for the credibility of their claims but for the politics that the denialists are manipulating.


rab said...

Found this gem of a Peiser quote on wikipedia: "Neither do I doubt that the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact. However, this majority consensus is far from unanimous."


J Bowers said...

Richard Black's article's interesting. I wonder what the press guidelines are in non-English speaking countries on "balance" in the press, as opposed to the UK and USA's guidelines where those with 2.5% of the most experts scientists behind them get an equal slice of the media pie as those who have 97.5% of the most expert scientists backing up what they say? But then, it's not as if every time there's a story on the International Space Station, the Flat Earth Society gets a quote in saying the videos are faked. Strange world.

Anonymous said...

Donald Oats says...

With regards to J. Bowers note on what could be called ``confected fairness'' in reporting on news issues (like climate scientists' results)...In Australia the so-called national newspaper ``The Australian'' vigorously applies the ``equal time to opposite claims'' approach to its favourite attack-issues, especially climate science. Trot out the befuddled, the loony, the incompetent, or the latest regular beach-goer with a story about how sea levels haven't risen here---or there. In the nether-world of ``The Australian,'' one poor soul and their anecdote trump a hundred years of careful measurement, geological evidence, statistical analysis---you name it.

Strangely enough though, several elections back ``The Greens'' were a minor party in the Australian political landscape, and far from giving them an equal due as one of several national parties, ``The Australian'' barely mentioned them. No rushing to them for their take on a current policy issue; nope, if they got anything at all it was barely disguised condacencion sprinkled with assinine commentary about ``watermelon greens,'' as in green on the outside, Red on the inside, ie Communists.

How the tide has turned: The Greens are an essential force in Australian politics now, as part of the coalition of parties forming the Labor minority government. Sufficiently many people shifted their votes towards the Greens to force Labor to work with them if they wanted to rule after the most recent election. Still, while the Greens get more air-time and print-space than before, the daily national just can't get the ``watermelon green'' jape out of its headspace.

Lars Karlsson said...

Benny Peiser is a specialist in natural disasters during the bronze age. Why wouldn't the media prefer to quite him on issues related to climate change?


Lionel A said...

Lynas actually quotes Peiser in his 'The Myth of Easter Island's Ecocide' piece. Strewth, and I used to have respect for Lynas and have his books, also Diamond's 'Collapse' and others. I'll take Diamond over the Peiser weasel any day.

Anonymous said...

When the BBC presented a news story on the report IPCC Climate Vulnerability Report, the sole scientist interviewed was ... Professor Mike Hulme of UEA, well known climate confusionist, who "does not believe" any extreme weather event can be ascribed to climate change.

In fairness, the overall tone of the report was against Hulme, but it another sign of the BBC sliding back into false balance. Hulme is about as representative as the Flat Earth Society.

It is also to be noted that few other news outlets bothered with denialist quotes. The Murdoch press probably did not mention it at all, just like it failed to report Richard Muller and BEST.


b5230294-91bd-11e0-a606-000bcdcb5194 said...

It is no surprise that a great number of abstracts would appear to support AGW in the Oreskes time period. After all, that period was dominated by the single bullet theory of CO2. It is also clear that Oreskes is a rabid (rabbit?) alarmist with pro-AGW, alarmist, US liberal leanings. Let someone do a study today, from, let's say November 2009 and see what the trend is in AGW thought. My guess...more doubt.

Hardy Cross

Anonymous said...

Hardy -- these kinds of studies aren't difficult. You don't need to guess, you can do it yourself. And in fact, that's probably the only way you'll accept the reality that doubt regarding occurrence of AGW in real scientific journals has been steady at a negligible level for a long time.
Steve Latham

Brian said...

Eli and I, and a bunch of other climate bloggers, did a similar analysis of abstracts for a slightly later time period than Oreskes, and got a fairly similar pattern of results. We found some disagreement with consensus, but not a whole lot. Coordinating results didn't get finished though, so we never did anything with it, and Eli's been pressing me to get it done.

J Bowers said...

Didn't Roger Pielke Sr. conducted a survey of climate scientists, with a James Annan, and got a consensus figure much greater than Oreskes (2004), and almost exactly the same as Doran (2009) and Anderegg (2010)?

James Annan said...

J Bowers,

What we found was:

"Almost all respondents (at least 97%) conclude that the human addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is an important component of the climate system and has contributed to some extent in recent observed global average warming."

Also of interest, non-negligible (and roughly equal) proportions of respondents thought the IPCC was overplaying versus underplaying things. Which seems to me to be overall a reasonable endorsement of the IPCC, though it must be noted that the respondents may not be very representative. But it certainly seems that denialists are virtually nonexistent among working scientists.

J Bowers said...

Thanks, James, and it's kind of you to directly link to a PDF.

Jeffrey Davis said...

Peiser's transparent shilly-shallying seems to be gaining traction among some in the right-wing. (The right-wing's wholesale irrationality appears to have found a small number who are made uneasy by becoming a party of loons.) They now preface their remarks with a brief statement which mimics rationality and may even include a true statement. (The daring among them will include 2 true statements.) Then, they follow that up with an avalanche of innuendo and irrelevance. Their policy statements hew to the party line, but that's -- don't you know? -- out of necessity and with great regret.

I blame Bush and torture. There's no way to endorse torture and not go crazy.

As for the poll James Annan links to, I find it interesting that there are people out there -- scientists! -- who don't know that IPCC documents represent the lowest common denominator of supported science. How many AGW-related phenomena have to exceed the worst of the IPCC's scenarios before that sinks in?

J Bowers said...

OT, but worth a read. 60 Minutes - The Pledge: Grover Norquist's hold on the GOP

J Bowers said...


Chris Huhne blasts Lord Lawson's climate sceptic thinktank

"Huhne says influential Global Warming Policy Foundation is 'misinformed', 'wrong' and 'perverse' following GWPF report
The GWPF has repeatedly called for more openness from scientists on research into climate change. But the Guardian has also discovered that Peiser has refused several freedom of information requests himself, leading to accusations against the foundation of double standards and secrecy about the thinktank's mystery funders."