Peter Stott being economical with the truth

Yesterday, Nigel Lawson was allowed onto the Today programme in response to an earlier interview with Al Gore promoting his new alarmist film. The audio is here, Gore at about 1:09:00, Lawson at 2:33:30.  Gore had made the false claim that “The second big change is that the climate-related extreme weather events have grown far more numerous and far more destructive”, and Lawson corrected him on that, pointing out what the IPCC says about extreme events.  He also corrected Gore’s bogus claims about fossil fuel subsidies, saying that fossil fuels are taxed, not subsidised.  He also said that “during this past 10 years if anything mean global temperature has slightly declined,” which is not correct according the most commonly used indices (Lawson’s comment probably came from this graph of the global 2m temperature anomaly).

Needless to say, the usual suspects like Brian Cox and Jim Al-Khalili howled with indignation that Lawson was permitted to speak. Carbon Brief carried out a ‘fact check’, which I have fact-checked in their comments section. As far as I am aware, no climate scientist has yet spoken out about Gore’s false claim of “far more numerous” extreme events.

Even though yesterday’s programme featured one sceptic and two climate activists (alarmist film-maker Fisher Stevens was also interviewed), the BBC felt the need to balance this with two more climate activists this morning, their own Roger Harrabin and Peter Stott from the Met Office. Carbon Brief have put up the recording.

Harrabin tried to defend Gore’s claim about subsidies, but had to admit that as far as the UK is concerned, Lawson was correct, we don’t subsidise fossil fuels, we tax them,  and most subsidies go to renewables.

Peter Stott’s interview was quite shocking. John Humphrys asked him about extreme events, and specifically storms, but Stott responded by talking about heat waves. I was reminded of the interview where Theresa May was asked about Health Service funding and gave an answer about the economy. Is Peter Stott a scientist, or a politician? I think this interview answered that question.

Here is a transcript of that section:

JH:  Dramatic weather events, are we seeing more of them, more great storms, because of climate change specifically?

PS: We are indeed seeing more extreme weather as a result of climate change. In fact there was a big report came out only yesterday, compiled by over 450 scientists from more than 60 countries, and they looked at the latest data, and we know that 2016 was the warmest year on record, over a degree warmer than late 19th century levels, so this claim that we heard from Nigel Lawson that it’s been cooling is simply not true, and the other claim that was not true was to say that the IPCC had not found evidence for changes in extreme weather, well, we can look at what they found, and they state very clearly that we have seen changes in many extreme weather and climate events, since the late 1950s.

JH Such as?

PS: Well, for example if you look at heat waves, we did an analysis at the Met Office and looked at the UK actually, looked at temperature records, and you see that there’s been about ten times as many hot weather records as there have been cold weather records.

So here is a reminder of what the IPCC does say about storms, (see section 2.6.3 of the latest IPCC report) which might have provided Radio 4 listeners with a more honest answer to John Humphys’ question than the one Peter Stott gave:

Current data sets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century and it remains uncertain whether any reported long-term increases in tropical cyclone frequency are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.

No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.

In summary, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.

And here is the relevant figure, fig 2.34:

As well as storms, Lawson was correct with regard to floods, where the IPCC says

In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.

Again, Peter Stott failed to mention this in his interview.  You only have to watch the trailer for Al Gore’s film to see that the extreme weather he is talking about is things like floods and storms. Stott’s comments about heat records are tautologies: since the world has warmed over the last century, it’s hardly surprising that there are more hot records than cold records.

What we see here is another example of the self-destructive ‘circling the wagons’ policy. The sceptic has to be attacked, and the warmist defended, even when the IPCC report supports the sceptic.

See also Andrew Montford’s take on this story, also here and here.

33 thoughts on “Peter Stott being economical with the truth

  1. ‘Dramatic weather events’ versus heat records where some average creeps over the line by a tenth of a degree. That’s straight talking, climate scientist style.

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  2. It’s also important to note that ‘heat wave’ is a misnomer because record high temperatures might not be hot. Most are warm days in the winter, spring and autumn. Summer temperatures having shown little increase.

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  3. The report Stott mentioned must be the State of the Climate in 2016, described in this article as by ‘more than 450 scientists from more than 60 countries’.

    As far as I can see it provides no evidence to support the claims of Gore and Stott that extreme weather events are increasing. There’s a graph of rainfall on page S26 that shows no increase or decrease over 100 years. On page S38 there’s a graph showing that wind speeds have decreased since 1970. There are also several graphs of tropical cyclones, showing that nothing is happening, like the graph shown in the post.

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  4. “JH: Dramatic weather events, are we seeing more of them, more great storms, because of climate change specifically?”
    Stott clearly answered John Humphrey’s question – the first part of it (1) dispensing with the nestled second part (2) dispensing with that as a rider. Clearly he didn’t wish to answer anything to do with storms, knowing the evidence was against Gore and in Lawson’s favour..
    Somewhat surprising, because JH can be a well informed and relentless interviewer when he wishes to be, was his allowing Stott’s use of temperature records as a proxy for increasing heat waves. Heat waves incorporate duration as well as maximum temperature. The two needn’t be related at all.

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  5. Stott rebuts Lawson’s claim that it has slightly cooled over the last decade by ‘angrily’ saying that it has warmed by 1C since the late 19th century, according to the BBC. Eh? How does that work? Focusing on what Lawson actually said, it may have cooled slightly since 2007, or it may not have, but it definitely hasn’t warmed because of climate change, at least not according to Peter Stott himself and the Met Office’s own dataset, Hadcrut 4. How so? Because the Met Office admit that, up until 2015, no single year in the 21st century could definitely be ascribed as THE warmest (within the margin of error of the data) on record. Then 2015/16 came along and the warming in the Pacific delivered two hot years which stood head and shoulders above the rest and which differed only marginally. But Peter Stott says the El Nino of 2014-16 was responsible for 0.2C of the annual record in 2016 (but not 2015, oddly), so ALL of the record breaking warmth in 2016 was due to the El Nino, because 2014, which was the last year not affected by El Nino, was 0.2C cooler than 2016. Hence, there has been NO warming in the 21st century which the Met Office and Peter Stott can reliably attribute to man-made climate change..

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  6. Peter Stott has always been economical with the truth. I tried to engage constructively with him about eight years ago, but he refused to continue the debate after a while and he wasn’t prepared to defend his statements.

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  7. Haven’t read the article yet, but the Figure (b) is complete BS as far as recent land-fall hurricanes in the US. There has been only ONE in the past 12 years. ONE!! But the curve looks to be at a high level. WTF!!

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  8. The only way one can honestly say that”extreme weather” is increasing is to point out that the term “extreme weather” is being used more frequently and has nothing to do with weather events, but is rather a marketing term.

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  9. The GWPF has reprinted Paul’”s article at

    http://www.thegwpf.com/met-office-accused-of-misleading-bbc-audience-over-extreme-weather-claims/

    They’d already had a go yesterday here

    http://www.thegwpf.com/bbc-defends-lord-lawson-climate-change-interview/

    quoting Brian Cox’s tweet in which he said that it was “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science”.

    In a sense Cox is right of course. There is no debate, at least in the media where voters might read it. Because Brian Cox and many others are always on hand with a tweet to prevent it happening.

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  10. The graphic of landfalling storms (from IPCC AR5 WG1 2.6.2.4 Severe Local Weather Events) is quite interesting in that it only goes up to 2005. With respect to the USA, this was the year of Hurricane Katrina. Since 2005 no category 3 or higher hurricane has made landfall in the US.
    For Eastern Australia and China there is more recent data, as the caption reproduced below clearly states. Yet the US data is more easily accessible.

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  11. manicbeancounter, lying by omission has been the warmist stock in trade from the start. Being under oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth would be problematic for them.

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  12. “Since 2005 no category 3 or higher hurricane has made landfall in the US.”

    What a good thing that category 2 hurricanes (liker Sandy, 2012) don’t do any damage.

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  13. Len says at 11:22 am

    What a good thing that category 2 hurricanes (liker Sandy, 2012) don’t do any damage.

    Actually Sandy may not have qualified as a hurricane at all, let alone category 2. There are two reasons that it caused so much damage. First such violent storms are quite rare in New York State, but not unknown. There was a similar one in the late 1950s. Second, the storm hit centres of population and low lying coastal communities. If a similar storm hit Florida, the costs would be much smaller, as people have adapted to even worse events. To understand trends in terms of costs you need to use normalized damage costs, like Pielke Jr et al 2005..

    Pielke, Jr., R.A., J. Gratz, C.W. Landsea, D. Collins, M. Saunders, and R. Musulin (2008), Normalized Hurricane Damages in the United States: 1900-2005. Natural Hazards Review 9:29-42. And is updated to 2014 values by ICAT.

    The worst season by far was in 1926 when there were a number of major hurricanes. The two largest had normalized damage costs greater that of Katrina in 2005.

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  14. Cox: “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science”

    Not as irresponsible as trying to suppress/ignore the one that’s going on behind the media scenes.

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  15. Manic, that is not a very useful graph, in that it is not at all clear what it really means.

    Also, note that Paul managed to omit the following from the IPCC text he quoted:

    “Evidence, however, is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in [the North Atlantic basin]”.

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  16. Len. Do we understand the same language? You quoted “Evidence, however, is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in [the North Atlantic basin]” as if it meant something significant (about climate change). If the quote were indeed correct (which I somehow doubt) all it means is the cyclone activity would return to conditions in the 1970s when CO2 levels (and thus any presumed climatic impact) were so much lower.

    What did you understand your quote to mean?

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  17. Alan, the text I quoted follows immediately after that from Paul. The complete para:

    “In summary, this assessment does not revise the SREX conclusion of low confidence that any reported long-term (centennial) increases in tropical cyclone activity are robust, after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities. More recent assessments indicate that it is unlikely that annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have increased over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin. Evidence, however, is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in that region. “

    It took me a few readings to understand that this is not contradictory. The *total number* of storms has not increased but the frequency and intensity of the *strongest* tropical cyclones has.

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  18. This is a double cherry pick, choosing the time and the location. Look at the graph to see how misleading it is.
    Effectively it’s p-hacking as someone said on twitter yesterday.

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  19. Alan, meaning the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones has increased since the 70’s (when satellite measurement started).

    Paul, satellite data starts in the 70’s. Perhaps that is why it is chosen. You already cherry-picked the North Atlantic with this sentence that you perhaps chopped from the middle of a paragraph:

    “No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

    (see http://ipcc.wikia.com/wiki/152.6.3_Tropical_Storms)

    There’s a longer discussion of Pielke’s past record here: https://skepticalscience.com/fivethirtyeight-pielke-downplay-climate-damages.html

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  20. FWIW, my understanding is that we don’t expect to see an increase in the frequency of TCs, but do expect an increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest TCs (as is observed in some ocean basins). Also, there is an indication (Elsner et al. 2008) that the maximum wind speed increases with increasing sea surface temperature (SST) – in other words (at least, I think I have this right) there is an indication that the intensity and frequency increases with increasing SST.

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  21. Len you may be correct in concluding that “Evidence, however, is for a virtually certain increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in that region “ does indeed mean since “since satellite measurements started”,but it is extremely ambiguous and a bad piece of writing in my book.
    Given the huge variation in hurricane frequency and intensity in the Gulf of Mexico region over the past few thousand years, do you pay much attention to any trend of less than 50 years?

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  22. Alan, I don’t know, but it is not really at issue here, is it?

    Paul, they were definitely your cherries. You quoted maybe 10% of section 2.6.3 of the IPCC report and made sure to include the bit that says there is no trend in the number of tropical storms, etc, over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin, but strangely missed out the bit in the same section that reports an increase in frequency/intensity of the strongest tropical cyclones since the 1970s in the same basin.

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  23. ATTP at 11.58am is partially correct. The most recent reference of TCs in a major report is on page 375 of the final draft of the U.S. GLOBAL CHANGE RESEARCH PROGRAM – CLIMATE SCIENCE SPECIAL REPORT (CSSR). This is the report that the New York Times “leaked” last week.

    2. Both theory and numerical modeling simulations (in general) indicate an increase in tropical cyclone (TC) intensity in a warmer world, and the models generally show an increase in the number of very intense TCs. For Atlantic and eastern North Pacific hurricanes and western North Pacific typhoons, increases are projected in precipitation rates (high confidence) and intensity (medium confidence). The frequency of the most intense of these storms is projected to increase in the Atlantic and western North Pacific (low confidence) and in the eastern North Pacific (medium confidence).

    Note that the increase in the frequency of the most intense of these storms is only medium confidence for one of three areas. (It misses out the South China Sea / Australia area of the Pacific, as this is a report for the US.) Figure 2 on page 10 (in line with IPCC AR5) defines
    Medium confidence as “Suggestive evidence (a few sources, limited consistency, models incomplete, methods emerging etc.), competing schools of thought.
    Low confidence is “Inconclusive evidence (limited sources, extrapolations, inconsistent findings, poor documentation, and/or methods not tested, etc.), disagreement or lack of opinions among experts.”
    So after 30 years or more of research into TCs, the climate community are a long way from any consensus expectation from “theory and numerical modeling simulations” in any US-related area. For the major region of Atlantic / Caribbean, there is much less than that.
    What I find interesting is that the following two sections are on tornados and snowstorms. For these sections, rather than “theory and numerical modeling simulations”, the report refers to empirical evidence from the US. Maybe that is because, like for global warming trends, the real world evidence from the US does not support the models for TCs in showing some worsening trend, however that might be defined.

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  24. When will a journalist have the wits and the nutz to call out these climate hustlers?

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  25. There is no increasing trend of any aspect of tropical cyclones.
    The overall frequency is down.
    The strength of storms is unchanged.
    The frequency of intense storms as part of the overall mix is not changing in any significant way.
    All we see are faux scientists grinding data until they can contrive a result that fits their desired outcome.
    And the climate true believers echo the contrivance endlessly.
    And of course government uses the contrivance to justify implementing stupid green policy demands or simple negligence
    of infrastructure.

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  26. The whole hurricane controversy illustrates the dangers of trying to extract the signal of a very very small change in temperatures and energy available. If there is any signal, its very weak. The real story here is the attempt to scare people about extreme events.

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  27. ” The real story here is the attempt to scare people about extreme events”

    Precisely.

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