The Sound of Bob Ward Clapping

The latest IPCC report has provoked the inevitable articles, and the inevitable articles have been as predictable as they have been inevitable.

Bob Ward, at the Guardian tells us that:

The dangers if governments ignore efforts to limit warming to 1.5C are more grave than the summary makes out.. There is no mention in the report’s summary of important thresholds that might, for example, cause shifts in the occurrence of the monsoons in Africa or Asia.

The report’s summary for policymakers paints a sobering picture.. Incredibly, the stark summary is still a relatively conservative assessment of the consequences we might face if global warming does exceed 1.5C. The report is a comprehensive review of the published evidence painstakingly compiled by hundreds of authors and reviewers… but it omits some of the biggest risks of climate change, which are described in the full text.

For instance, the summary indicates that warming of 2C would have very damaging impacts on many parts of the world. But it does not mention the potential for human populations to migrate and be displaced as a result, leading to the possibility of war.

It is not clear why such crucial information has been left out of the summary. Perhaps the authors felt that there are too many uncertainties in our knowledge to be definitive. But the danger is that policymakers will assume the absence of these very significant risks from the summary means that researchers have assessed them to be unimportant or impossible.

Yes. The danger is that if Chicken Licken is not warned that, not only is the sky likely to fall on his head, but that the earth is likely to explode under his bum, he might be lulled into a sense of false security. Hence the necessity of Bob Ward and his salaried position at one of Britain’s most prestigious universities, financed by one of the worlds most prominent climate experts hedge fund managers..

Thanks to the like of Bob Ward, the importance of the IPCC report has come to the notice of our most venerated media. Alex Cull, in a comment at

refers us to a sequence on BBC’s Newsnight where the important journalist interviews an important climate political player, and then tells him to shut up because he clearly doesn’t know anything, because he disagrees with the scientists. The journalist, one of the BBC’s finest, clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. Does it matter that one of the BBC’s most respected journalists behaves like a Radio Moscow stooge circa 1930 faced with the evidence that Lysenkoism doesn’t work? Perhaps not, since no-one but Alex seems to have noticed.

I’ve rather neglected climate catastrophe during the past few months, since I’ve been concentrating on blogs about the coming global economic catastrophe. Apologies to my grandchildren and all that, but the coming economic crisis is going to affect me far more than a predicted temperature rise of 0.1°C over my predicted remaining years. Not that I have any shares or anything, but the coming economic crisis is going to result in drastic measures by desperate governments, which will have us all out in the streets throwing stuff at each other, while the climate crisis is entirely one sided, and therefore boring. Who can the 97% throw stuff at?

There’s a significant similarity between the journalism reporting on the global economy and that reporting of global climate change: both are unhealthily obsessed with a single graph indicating the change over time of a single statistic: in the one case, of share prices; in the other, of the global temperature anomaly. Both record chaotic non-linear phenomena; both are stochastic in spades; and in both cases, no-one has the foggiest idea what’s going on.

There, the similarity ends. Success as a financial journalist depends on finding a hundred different synonyms for “going up” and “going down,” like some autistic lift (US: elevator) attendant. The environmental journalist doesn’t need that linguistic facility; it’s always up. His trick is to find ways to link the upward movement in temperature, sea level etc. to environmental catastrophe / disaster / weirding /end of life as we know it.

And here’s a funny thing: financial journalists love showing us their graphs with variation over decades or years or weeks or even hours. While climate catastrophists never do. Have you ever tried discussing global temperature anomalies with one of the 97% of your acquaintances who believe fervently that the end of the world is nigh? Are they basing their belief on GISSTEMP, HADCRUT, UAH or RSS? No, not one of those. Because the sources of their information, the New York Times or the Guardian, would soil their nappies (US: diapers) before they would publish a graph which supported their thesis. Guardian Environment does climate catastrophe, not graphs. Would you ask a virgin to publish a photo of her hymen? Exactly.

It’s no coincidence that the stock market’s Big Bang coincided to within a year or two with the onset of climate hysteria:

[The phrase Big Bang, used in reference to the sudden deregulation of financial markets, was coined to describe measures, including …change … to electronic, screen-based trading, effected by Margaret Thatcher in 1986: Wikipaedia]

The same computer technology that enables traders to access share price data instantaneously in visual form permitted the climate crunchers to transform data from far flung thermometers and ships’ logs into temperature graphs in the twinkling of an eye, and to adjust their curves with a flick of the wrist model, just as the oscillations in a child’s skipping rope can be adjusted, accompanied by the appropriate skipping rhyme scientific explanation:

Charlie Chaplin went to France

To teach the ladies how to dance.

First the heel, then the toe,

Then the splits, and around you go!

Salute to the Captain, bow to the Queen,

And turn your back on the Nazi submarine!

[Wikipaedia again]

The language of financial journalism is binary. The trick is to get your positive article (going up) published just before the market soars / surges / leaps, and contrariwise your pessimistic article out just before it dips / plunges. There are two kinds of financial journalists – bulls and bears. This means that some are right and some are wrong; there are winners and losers. while in environmental journalism there are only winners, and they’re bears (of the polar kind of course) and they’re threatened. Binarity (duality, duplicity, disagreement?) is out. Consensus rules. It’s strictly monotone, monotonous, or possibly monotreme (one hole to expel them all..) like the duck billed platypus, or the IPCC, which dispatches all its business via the one orifice.

And this is climate journalism’s fundamental weakness. Climate change is a spectator sport where the same team always wins. And, as it’s been noted with respect to reaction to the latest IPCC report on this site at


and at

and also by Anthony Watts at

the message is not having the desired effect.

Maybe in the run up to the World Cup you read a few dozens of those millions of predictions of the likely result. Imagine if the thousands of experts involved had all had their predictions compiled into one report by FIFA, edited by the matches’ referees as lead authors. Would you have read it? Well, you might have, since it was guaranteed to give you the correct result. But would you have read it with the same interest? Possibly not.

No one likes the inevitable. It’s boring. My advice to the BBC is to inject a little doubt into their reporting. Because when there’s no alternative but to believe, no one gives a toss.

What is the sound of one hand clapping?” ask the Zen masters. “Who cares?” reply the science-minded. When only one hand claps, the other is no doubt otherwise occupied.

15 thoughts on “The Sound of Bob Ward Clapping

  1. Concerning Alex Cull’s comment on the Evan Davis’ confrontations on Newsnight over the latest IPCC report, one might also wonder why the BBC chose Myron Ebell, of all people, to represent climate scepticism.


  2. Grantham has set up a good gig to protect his “renewables” investments.
    Stern to cook the numbers, Ward to push alarmist hype.


  3. @ Tony, Myron Ebell is the kind of boo-hiss character (his name even sounds a bit like “evil”, just imagine if he had a PhD) that the BBC and Channel 4 love to have on – they know he probably won’t resist saying something about the science and then they can scoff as much as they want.

    Like Nigel Lawson, I think he’s a bit of a climate-change Aunt Sally for the media. It’s a bit of a safe option for them. If they spoke to Judith Curry or Roy Spencer, on the other hand, they might hear something uncomfortable about the science from a scientist, and it would give altogether the wrong kind of impression.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. “The dangers if governments ignore efforts to limit warming to 1.5C are more grave than the summary makes out..”

    It’s already happened, now what do we do, we really are doomed, OMG!

    “Over land, we have already blown through the 1.5C threshold if measured since 1890. Temperatures around 1820 were more than 2C cooler.”


  5. Alex,

    As usual, every point a winner, partricularly the one about Judith Curry. In Nigel Lawson’s case I think it’s a pity, but if you can give the impression that only octogenarian high Tories are sceptical about climate change why would a BBC news setup run by Fran Unsworth not like it?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. TONYN
    Alex’s transcript of the Myron Ebell interview deserves a post of its own, since it raises a whole load of questions about the competence and objectivity of BBC journalists. I hope he will write it, but if he doesn’t I may do so myself.

    BBC interviews with climate deniers are rare events. They’re meant to be, by edict. The general BBC policy is to interview only experts or policy makers. Myron Ebell, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is evidently the latter. (You or I, who know more than either Myron or anyone at the BBC are evidently neither.) So you’d think that the interviewer would be keyed up with the facts to counter any false assertions. But Evans isn’t.

    But my article was only partly about silly things said by the BBC and other mainstream media. Part of the reason for the rise of climate hysteria is sociological, as I’ve been arguing since the early heady days at Harmless Sky. But another part is technological. When you have apps that can produce bar charts that can demonstrate anything in a thousandth of a second, you have every incentive to demonstrate anything. (I think G.K. Chesterton said that.) This almost inevitably means that trusted purveyors of the truth like peer reviewed scientific articles and BBC interviewers become serial liars. (I think I said that.)


  7. I was serious when I said in the article that I spend more time now on stock market blogs than climate blogs, not because I’m any more vulnerable to movements in the Standard and Poor’s index than to the global temperature anomaly, but simply because they’re more racy and better written. This is from

    And as stocks dead-cat-bounce for the umpteenth time in this October onslaught, Bloomberg’s Smart Money Flow Index (which aggregate opening and closing price trends) has collapsed to its weakest since Lehman… As Bloomberg notes, regardless of its predictive value, the index is useful for its reflective value: it paints a picture of how the U.S. stock market has tended to be much stronger at the open than the close this year. Perhaps that lends credence to the theories that the return of volatility in 2018 has created de-risking by market makers and systematic quant strategies that react to price swings, rather than discretionary bearish selling.

    Do you see the difference from your average article at Carbon Brief? These people are reacting to events in the real world in real time, and are therefore ready to change their opinion in a second if they are proved to be wrong. Because what’s at stake is the value of their readers’ portfolios in the here and now, and not the quality of life of their grandchildren in fifty years’ time.

    Marx understood the vitality of capitalist “thought” (as did Keynes, who is regarded by many on the American right as a Marxist stooge.) When socialism existed, it was a live intellectual dialogue with the real world, backed up by the morally justified demands of the vast majority of the world’s population for a better deal. The current demand for the rights of transsexuals to use the toilets of their choice is not in the same league. The current exhortation that their electors should stop using their petrol driven vehicles in twenty years’ time is electoral suicide. But the left is in favour of assisted suicide in the case of incurable illness, so that’s alright.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Geoff:

    “Myron Ebell, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency” Quick correction, he isn’t EPA head, he is at the Competitive Enterprise Institute,

    “Myron Ebell is director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Ebell also chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition, which comprises representatives from more than two dozen non-profit organizations based in the United States and abroad that challenge global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies.”

    Acting EPA head since Scott Pruitt is Andrew Wheeler:

    A quick look at your BBC interview link, which I didn’t see, shows how disingenuous the BBC has become. Bryoni Worthington is described thus:

    “Baroness Bryony Worthington: British environmental campaigner and Labour life peer in the House of Lords” What a pale description of what she really is. She is now the European Director for the massive
    and well funded US NGO, Environmental Defense:

    Guess what? Mr Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense is on the LSE and Imperial Grantham Institute Advisory Board, giving this highly activist and influential US NGO direct input into our legislature.

    Also on the Grantham Board are the CEO of WWF-US, Carter Page and the Co-Director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, plus Ed Davey, John Schellnhuber, Nick Stern, along with some finance guys, including Sir Evelyn Rothschild.

    Add in Brian Hoskins, a member of the Climate Change Committee, Sam Fankhauser, former member of the CCC and now on the advisory board of the Carbon Trust, Jim Skea from Imperial on the CCC and our climate policy is being run by Grantham and his vested interest advisory board. He funds both WWF and EDF in the states.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Forgot to mention that the Chairman of the Carbon Trust is on the Grantham Board, with former CCC member Fankhauser, who is now, as I mentioned on the advisory board at the Carbon Trust. Another economist, has worked with Stern for years.


  10. Geoff:

    In no way have I lost interest in the BBC’s climate change coverage (wrong term for a main player isn’t it really?) since Harmless Sky went on ice.

    Although what happened on Newsnight is irritating (do write it up Alex!) overall I found SR15 the most encouraging event in the climate debate since I first got involved. It’s so obviously hysterical that it looks like the straw that will break the camel’s back to me, and that is borne out by the reaction of the usual suspects. Do you remember the days when the BBC dedicated most of their flagship news output to any new edict from the IPCC? This one made it into the BBC1 10pm new about half way down the programme: a shrug reflected all over the media. And it’s come at a time when politicians world wide are preparing to take some hard decisions about the Paris agreement with opinion polls on both sides of the Atlantic showing that AGW just isn’t something that people are really worried about.

    If the tide hasn’t acutually turned yet, it certainly feels like slack water to me?


  11. Geoff:

    ‘Part of the reason for the rise of climate hysteria is sociological, as I’ve been arguing since the early heady days at Harmless Sky.’


    ‘But another part is technological.’

    I think only in a peripheral sense. The behaviours that give rise to the social phenomenon of CAGW existed long before that technology. And indeed long before the last big technology wave to impact such things, i.e. printing. And long before even the other biggy before that, i.e. writing. These technological innovations do indeed impact the game as they appear and mature and ripple outwards from their early deployment. For instance increasing the reach of any cultural transmissions (but then there are also far more people in the world needing to be reached, if a culture is to rise above the crowd). Yet they also help anti-cultural processes (both reasoned and innate) as much as the cultural ones. After a period of instability, equilibrium should theoretically be re-established; the playing field should be back to the long-term trend again (whatever that is, it may not be flat). Science is helped by the very same technology innovations (e.g. for the latest such, co-operative citizen science on the Internet). And the complete absence of PCs and instant bar-charts did not for instance stop eugenics from becoming a key element underwriting a major hysterical negative culture in 1930s Europe. Ditto various other cultural distortions of science / reason stretching back millennia. With or without computers, people have always been able to propagate the arbitrary untruths of cultural consensuses in ways that are ‘powerful enough’ for the era.

    ‘you have every incentive to demonstrate anything’

    I think the raw incentive does not come from this. It comes from the cultural values that folks want to express. Technology merely lowers the threshold at which they might make that expression look far less amateur, and also increases their reach. But bear in mind that everyone’s reach and presentation quality is increased, so not only from competing cultures, but from the enterprise of science too.


  12. ‘These people are reacting to events in the real world in real time, and are therefore ready to change their opinion in a second if they are proved to be wrong.’

    All the more reason to concentrate on folks / domains that seem unable to do this 😉


  13. I think Myron Ebell was Trump’s original EPA transition team leader when his administration first came in, and therefore presumably contributed to the hiring of Scott Pruitt some months later.


  14. Myron Ebell was on the transition team. I well remember a press conference held by the GWPF where he reduced Damien Carrington of the Guardian to astonished disbelief by saying that he thought Trump might withdraw from the Paris Agreement


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