IPSO rulings: Decision of the Complaints Committee: 04762-15 Wadhams v The Times

Oh dear. Last summer, Peter Wadhams, in an interview with a reporter for The Times, rather incautiously expressed concern that several scientists researching the impact of global warming on Arctic ice may have been assassinated, in the words of the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s response to his complaint.

The Graun reports PW as saying he had been “inaccurately quoted”. IPSO say “The Committee had listened to a recording of the complainant’s interview with the journalist, provided by the newspaper, in which he made the statements attributed to him in the article. The article had accurately reported his position as he had explained it to the journalist. There was no breach of Clause 1” (“Accuracy”).

Incidentally, the Graun truely lives up to its reputation for crap copyediting; IPSO is called “Independent Press Standards Organissation” and Wadhams at one point becomes Wadmams.

PW had also complained under Clause 2 (“Opportunity to reply”); but since that’s actually “A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for” it becomes irrelevant due to the ruling on accuracy.

He’d also complained under Clause 14 (“Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information”). The ruling on this is a bit more complex – but not long; read it yourself if you like – and boils down to “The complainant had requested that one section of his interview, from which no details were published, take place “off the record”. This demonstrated his awareness that the rest of the conversation had taken place “on the record”, and that any comments he had made might be published”.

And therefore: “The complaint was not upheld”.

For myself, I think what I thought before: it was unwise of PW to say any of this (though I may have been too generous to PW in assuming he had been misinterpreted). Having done so, complaining wasn’t sensible either. In their response, The Times says “the complainant was practiced at dealing with the media” which I’ve said too; this isn’t some wet-behind-the-ears postgrad being mugged by the press. It also said “and had spoken freely and at length to the reporter, and that the complainant had introduced to the conversation his concern that fellow scientists may have been assassinated”. Surprisingly to me, IPSO say “The Committee noted that, of the approximately 30-minute “on the record” interview, about 20 minutes focused on the complainant’s suspicions about the deaths of fellow scientists”. I’d have hoped that it would have been a throwaway few lines at the end, not the bulk of the interview.

Not mentioned is this rather interesting comment from 2014 by someone who signs themselves – but may not be, there is no way to tell – Peter Wadhams: “you may be interested in a parallel with a sudden swath of deaths associated with climate change scientists in the UK, specifically those working on the thinning and disappearance of sea ice”.

Refs

* Climate Professor Peter Wadhams Says He Does Not Think Colleagues Were Murdered

Huge jump in use of carbon pricing

Says some PR from the CDP (formerly, as they say, the Carbon Disclosure Project; I hate people who do that). As picked up by, e.g., the FT. The FT does no analysis, so you may as well read the CDP report instead. Here’s the executive summary:

The number of corporations disclosing they use an internal price on carbon has tripled since last year. Corporations use internal carbon pricing to offset the costs and risks of greenhouse gas production, and to finance the transition to secure sources of low carbon energy. This dramatic increase demonstrates the ongoing mainstreaming of carbon pricing as a high priority for business and an essential component of the corporate strategy toolkit.

carbon-price The word “internal” didn’t make it into the PR headline, but its important. Companies are trying to guess how much carbon should cost, not an easy thing to do as the Drax indicates (though strictly that was subsidies, not directly costs). Exxon does the same. Companies want to know if they’re going to make money; carbon taxes – or a range of inferior alternatives – cost them money, so they need to include that in their planning.

I’m not sure how reliable the numbers are. Exxon for example is shown at a flat $80 (per tonne, one assumes). However Exxon’s own words, which they quote, are …which in some geographies may approach $80 per ton by 2040. Perhaps they use $80 because its the only number they could find. $80 seems to be a Stern-ish number. For comparison, the extremely stupid ETS was at about 6 Euros.

Anyway, the point is that the numbers being used vary wildly; from less-than-5 (which I would call extreme, were it not about what the ETS is at) to the frankly-implausible more-than-350. Some of this surely reflects the importance of carbon emissions in the product: NGK Spark Plug Co. probably survives its mad $350+ because that still represents a smallish cost for each sparkplug. If CDP have noticed this wild disparity, they don’t say so in that report. In some other stuff they do notice, but that’s all: they say there’s a variation from $1 to $357, but make no comment upon it. Which is odd; because it indicates that a lot of the companies using this pricing aren’t taking it seriously (errrm, so perhaps not so odd after all). Unless the prices used start to converge this won’t be a lot of use to anyone. Perhaps that’s part of the use of this report. And it does perhaps help pave the way for a carbon tax.

What if you gave a review and nobody came?

haha Per Moyhu it looks like the GWPF’s joke review is, errm, a joke. Who could have guessed? just to refresh your memory: submissions are invited, deadline 30th of June and will be published, here. Oh.

I see two obvious possibilities: (a) they got embarrassingly few submissions; (b) they got loadsasubmissions form the kind of idiots who believe there is no greenhouse effect. We do know they got at least one submission, because Moyhu published one, and indeed invited comments to improve it; and I did1.

And what about the bozos who agreed to serve on this one-ring circus? Petr Chylek, Richard McNider, Roman Mureika, meh. Terence Kealey, dunno, his bio is weird, in that it says “was Vice-Chancellor [of the University of Buckingham]” but then… what? He’s retired? Gone dolally? Its not clear. RP Sr? You’d have thought he’d have more sense of his own worth. William van Wijngaarden? There’s a talk abstract which is carefully non-commital about everything but irrelevancies. wvanwijngaarden.info.yorku.ca/research-projects/climatechangestudies/ is thin; too thin to justify the GWPF’s “he has published a substantial body of work in climatology”. But no-one expects truth from the GWPF so I shouldn’t complain too much.

In the spirit of inquiry I sent a nice email to terence.kealey@buckingham.ac.uk:

William Connolley to terence.kealey

Hi. I notice that you’re chair of this inquiry. You invited submissions – deadline 30th June – and promised to publish all submissions. Can you tell me

1. how many submissions you received
2. when you expect to publish them.

Thank you,

William

I then realised that the present-day “contact” page prefers admin@tempdatareview.org, so I sent it to that, too.

Update: I received a meaningless answer, pointing me at http://www.tempdatareview.org/news/2015/9/29/international-temperature-data-panel-status-update. Since that didn’t tell me what I’d asked, viz how many submissions they’d got, I asked again.

Notes

1. After writing this, I poked around for submissions. Apart from Moyhu, I found one via judithcurry.com/2015/05/02/week-in-review-science-edition-3/ from Ron Clutz. And that was it.

Refs

* Moyhu
* ATTP

A curiosity

Click to enlarge. The GWPF site has Andrew Montford‘s sticky fingerprints on it. First came to my attention from Leo Hickman on twitter.

am

UK energy policy under fire as Drax quits carbon-capture project?

Says the FT; and so did R4 this morning (update: and the Beeb now), which is why I noticed.

A £1bn UK climate-change plan has been thrown into turmoil after the Drax power company said it was pulling out because government green policy reversals made it too risky to proceed. Drax’s decision to abandon five years of planning for a carbon capture and storage system next to its huge North Yorkshire power station is the most visible sign yet of how green energy subsidy cutbacks are jolting investors. Several “critical reversals” in government support for renewable energy had made “a severe impact on our profitability”, said Peter Emery, the Drax board member chairing the group developing the White Rose carbon capture project… White Rose is one of more than a dozen carbon capture projects the UK has tried in vain to get under way in the past eight years. Such systems theoretically offer a way for fossil fuel companies to keep burning coal or gas in power stations without affecting the climate. They trap greenhouse gas pollution before it can warm the atmosphere, and store it deep underground. But efforts to build them have repeatedly foundered around the world because they are so expensive.

[Update: and there’s also We’ve also got concerns about the government’s future support for the low carbon agenda and that’s left us in a position where we are no longer confident we can persuade our shareholders that this is an attractive investment, given the obvious risks,” ]

From an energy policy point of view, this is all consistent: govt directing investment in carbon reduction via subsidies and ragtag policies is a bad idea. Instead we should put a market price on carbon via a carbon tax and let people get on with it (per lots of people, for example Exxon). From the view point of business, they want a stable environment for making decisions, not one where a sudden govt change of heart makes years of planning redundant.

CCS isn’t all Drax is up to; according to the Beeb Drax is in the process of converting from coal to biomass, and by 2016 is expecting to generate half its power from wood pellets, though that seems either unlikely, or unlikely to be sensible.

Episode IV: The Evil Empire strikes back

http://oglaf.com/heel-empire/ Episode 1 and episode 3 refer. It turns out that Exxon cares enough to answer. Not to answer in any great detail, so I’m not sure they care enough to read the criticism, but never mind. They say stuff like

Our scientists have been involved in climate research and related policy analysis for more than 30 years… participated in the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change… We fund and partner with many universities on climate modeling and research into lower carbon fuel sources and other climate-related issues.

And so on. True enough, but not desperately meaningful, because an organisation as large as Exxon can afford to throw a few bucks that direction just to look good, if it feels like it. And of course it totally fails to address the kind of drivel that Lee Raymond used to spout: only four percent of the carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere is due to human activities… [that] it will affect climate defies common sense and lacks foundation in our current understanding of the climate system. And so on. So, just like ICN, they’re spinning.

But they do say something of interest to me: And since 20091, we’ve supported a revenue-neutral carbon tax as the most effective, transparent and efficient way for governments to send a signal to consumers and the economy to reduce the use of carbon-based fuels. Mmmm, nice. And they provide a link to ExxonMobil, Paris, and carbon policy which provides more details:

As I have stated here before, the risks of climate change are real and the risks warrant action…

We believe effective carbon policies should do the following:

Ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy;
Be global in application;
Allow market prices to drive the selection of solutions;
Minimize complexity and administrative costs;
Maximize transparency; and
Provide flexibility for future adjustments to react to developments in climate science and the economic impacts of climate policies.

For these reasons… we believe that market-based efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – like a revenue-neutral carbon tax – are more economically efficient policy options than regulations, mandates, or standards.

Um, well. I agree with almost all of that: carbon tax good, ETS stupid. I doubt I could find a single pol from either side of the USAian hopefuls who could say anything even half as sensible. The only one I’d quibble is Be global in application, because it can easily be a smokescreen for inaction since someone else hasn’t done it. If you replace it with Have the potential to be global in application, whilst able to be applied regionally in stages then I’d be happy with the lot. So, to some extent, you’d have to judge them on what they did with this. If all they’re doing is sitting back saying “nice weather we’ve been having recently; carbon tax come along yet? No? Oh well, lets have another beer and wait a bit longer” then that would be rather useless of them.

I think we’re entitled to regard this as official Exxon policy. The blog name suggests as much. The about makes it seem somewhat less official; but the constant use of “we” suggests official. Or if you prefer something more obviously official, there’s corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/current-issues/climate-policy/climate-policy-principles/overview which says much the same things, although interestingly it replaces “Be global in application” with the arguably better “Promote global participation; Consider priorities of the developing world”. And adds It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the policy alternatives under consideration, it is our judgment that a carbon tax is a preferred course of public policy action versus cap and trade approaches.

You might well say that all these fine words are all very well, but to say this whilst funding Heartland is somewhat two-faced, no? to which the obvious answer is yes indeed it is. I’d be interested to know what Exxon’s official answer is.

Update: Exxon, Chevron Say No Thanks to European Peers on Climate has Tillerson sounding more like Raymond: Climate models that seek to predict the outcome of rising temperatures “just aren’t that good,” Tillerson said, reiterating a position he has publicly advocated at least since his promotion to CEO in 2006. The company is wary of making efforts to reduce emissions that may not work or that will be deemed unnecessary if the modeling is flawed, Tillerson said. “Mankind has this enormous capacity to deal with adversity. Those solutions will present themselves as the realities become clear,” he said. I know that is a very unsatisfying answer for a lot of people, but it’s an answer that a scientist and an engineer would give you.’’

Browsing other stuff

* ExxonMobil on carbon policy and business planning (2013) Policies related to GHG emissions, and carbon emissions in particular, remain uncertain. But, for purposes of the outlook to 2040, ExxonMobil assumes a cost of carbon as a proxy for a wide variety of potential policies that might be adopted by governments over time to help stem GHG emissions such as carbon emissions standards, renewable portfolio standards and others.

Notes

1. Appears to be true: Exxon chief backs carbon tax, Andrew Clark, Saturday 10 January 2009: The world’s biggest oil company, Exxon Mobil, has softened its hardline position on climate change by throwing its weight behind a tax on carbon emissions. Speech by Tillerson, 2009.

What Exxon Knew and When, round three?

12039355_10153631174427350_5677412059475476462_n If you’re feeling cheated out of round 2, its because it didn’t seem terribly exciting. Round 1 refers, naturally.

Round 3 is called Exxon Confirmed Global Warming Consensus in 1982 with In-House Climate Models to which the obvious answer is “so what?” Confirming publically available information with other publically information available is hardly the stuff of deep dark secrets.

There’s an attempt right at the start to establish that Exxon “knew” what was going on: “The potential problem is great and urgent,” Knisely wrote. Sounds serious? But Knisely was a summer intern. I mention this because putting a summer intern so prominently into the article makes me think that insideclimatenews are not being straight forward: they are spinning this. You have to read not just what they say, but the documents that back up what they say. Another example: the title …with In-House Climate Models appears to be an attempt to create a false impression that Exxon were hiding stuff; as far as I can tell, the “In-House” models weren’t.

The next bit is odd (my bold):

The report… reflected Exxon’s growing need to understand when the climate implications of increased CO2 emissions would begin to spur policy changes. So Exxon (now ExxonMobil) shelved an ambitious but costly program that sampled carbon dioxide in the oceans—the centerpiece of its climate research in the 1970s—as it created its own computerized climate models.

That bit isn’t important, but it is weird. Round 2 was about the tanker work (note that many people have misunderstood that stuff). Why would Knisely’s report lead Exxon to shelve the tanker stuff? If ICN know something that justifies the “So”, I’d like to know what it is. For now, I’ll treat it as a mere oddity. Next.

Through much of the 1980s, Exxon researchers worked alongside university and government scientists to generate objective climate models that yielded papers published in peer-reviewed journals. Their work confirmed the emerging scientific consensus on global warming’s risks.

Damn! There’s those sneaky Exxon people again: hiding things in plain sight in the last place anyone would think to look: the peer-reviewed literature. How cunning is that? And yes, people have been accusing Exxon of burying this stuff – evidently, without actually thinking.

The article contrasts the science with Exxon exec’s behaviour:

Yet starting in 1989, Exxon leaders went down a different road. They repeatedly argued that the uncertainty inherent in computer models makes them useless for important policy decisions.

How unreasonable was that? The 1990 IPCC report SPM says

Our judgement is that: Global – mean surface air temperature has increased by 0 3°C to 0 6°C over the last 100 years… The size of this warming is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability, alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect from observations is not likely for a decade or more

Well, OK, no: the IPCC didn’t say that made them useless for policy decisions. But then again, neither did Exxon(or at least, ICN don’t quote them saying so); don’t mistake ICN’s words for Exxon’s. Exxon did, IMO to an unreasonable degree, emphasise uncertainty (as I’ve said before: under Lee Raymond Exxon really were naughty and Lee Raymond really was doing his best to mislead people, probably without actively lying. I think that about 2005 they switched to preferring silence).

The kind of models ICN are talking about Exxon using are things like a latitude-resolved, steady-state energy balance model. That can be a useful research tool; but it wasn’t state of the art even in 1983.

Climate ‘Catastrophe’ Foreseen?

So, all of the above is pretty Meh. I think ICN sense this, because they mix in catastrophe forseen to make things more exciting:

company researchers had concluded that rising CO2 levels could create catastrophic impacts within the first half of the 21st century…

Well, maybe. There are people who will tell you exactly the same thing today. We’re ignoring them, largely. Ignoring such people 30 years ago was more defensible.

One scientist, Werner Glass, wrote an analysis in 1981 for a senior vice president that said the rise in global temperatures would begin to be noticed in a few decades. But Glass hedged his bet, saying the magnitude of the change would be “well short of catastrophic” in the early years. Exxon manager Roger Cohen saw things differently. “I think that this statement may be too reassuring,” Cohen, director of the Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences Laboratory at Exxon Research, wrote in an August 18, 1981 memo to Glass.

Exactly. People disagreed. Which, for the times, was hardly surprising.

I sense that I’m the only person in my in-group who finds this stuff less than overwhelming. Everyone else seems to hate Exxon so much that they want to lynch them now and worry about exactly why later. So you’ll have to forgive me if, in reaction, I’ve erred over-much on the side of finding the anti-Exxon case unconvincing.

[Update: financial disclosure: I’m sure I’ve said this somewhere years ago, but I can’t find it and I doubt anyone else can: I don’t own any Exxon shares or have any direct financial interest but my parents in law worked for them, and I have received proceeds from Exxon shares. AFAIK Exxon themselves haven’t read this post, and certainly aren’t paying me for it.]

Refs

* Shitty Exxon “FUD” advert from 2000. And another from 2004.
* http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-arctic/

The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale?

11951739_10153586149577350_1851664902435380323_o Lelieveld et al., Nature 525, 367–371 (17 September 2015) doi:10.1038/nature15371: The contribution of outdoor air pollution sources to premature mortality on a global scale.

Here’s the abstract:

Assessment of the global burden of disease is based on epidemiological cohort studies that connect premature mortality to a wide range of causes1, 2, 3, 4, 5, including the long-term health impacts of ozone and fine particulate matter with a diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM2.5)3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. It has proved difficult to quantify premature mortality related to air pollution, notably in regions where air quality is not monitored, and also because the toxicity of particles from various sources may vary10. Here we use a global atmospheric chemistry model to investigate the link between premature mortality and seven emission source categories in urban and rural environments. In accord with the global burden of disease for 2010 (ref. 5), we calculate that outdoor air pollution, mostly by PM2.5, leads to 3.3 (95 per cent confidence interval 1.61–4.81) million premature deaths per year worldwide, predominantly in Asia. We primarily assume that all particles are equally toxic5, but also include a sensitivity study that accounts for differential toxicity. We find that emissions from residential energy use such as heating and cooking, prevalent in India and China, have the largest impact on premature mortality globally, being even more dominant if carbonaceous particles are assumed to be most toxic. Whereas in much of the USA and in a few other countries emissions from traffic and power generation are important, in eastern USA, Europe, Russia and East Asia agricultural emissions make the largest relative contribution to PM2.5, with the estimate of overall health impact depending on assumptions regarding particle toxicity. Model projections based on a business-as-usual emission scenario indicate that the contribution of outdoor air pollution to premature mortality could double by 2050.

There’s also a press release: More deaths due to air pollution: Air pollution could claim 6.6 million lives by 2050. What I want to complain about1 is the last sentence of the abstact, and the subheading of the press release. Otherwise, it all seems fair enough. The press release sets the scene for the error with Surprisingly, the largest sources of air pollution are not industry and transport but small domestic fires and agriculture. That’s not a surprise to anyone who has been following such things; the high mortality from terrible indoor pollution from cooking fires is well known. I assume they’re talking about indoor cooking fires, but I don’t knowhow they reconcile that with the “outdoor” word in their title.

So the error is the obvious one: you don’t expect such deaths to scale with BAU emissions scenarios. Quite the reverse: as people get richer under BAU you expect less indoor cooking fires, and hence fewer deaths.

The finding noted in the press release, Vehicle emissions cause twice as many deaths as traffic accidents in Germany, is interesting too.

Notes

1. As long term readers will have realised some time ago, this blog is primarily for complaining about things.