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Sunday 19 December 2010

Booker Makes It Up

Today it is cold outside. What does this tell me? Well, the conclusion may be that it is cold outside, but for the climate change denial lobby, transient weather patterns are the meat and drink from which smears are generated and conspiracy theories bolstered.

And so it is in the denialist echo chamber inhabited by Maily Telegraph hanger on Christopher Booker, who has such difficulty with his sums that he has asserted that this is the “fourth unusually cold winter in a row”. Except, of course, that 2007-8 brought a relatively mild winter, so Booker is misleading his readership. This is at least consistent: he made the same error last winter.

But this is a mere taster for Booker’s attempted smear of James Hansen, who has the temerity to be head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). As NASA is a US Government body, this allows Booker to call it “state-sponsored”, which means it is A Very Bad Thing.

Booker’s evidence in support of his smear of Hansen rests on two posts on a blog called Real Science, run by one Steve Goddard. Sad to say, though, Goddard’s reputation took a severe hit in 2008 when he spread misinformation about Arctic ice melting, and was caught out.

And both Booker and Goddard misinterpret their data: from this graph, both talk of temperatures rising or falling, although the data presented is of temperature anomalies, that is, a departure from a long-term average. All the data in the graph shows an anomaly higher than that average. Booker and Goddard’s talk of series other than that of GISS showing “temperatures plummeting” is drivel.

It doesn’t get any better when Booker tries another smear of GISS’ integrity, by telling that figures had been revised when it was found that the agency had been “revising older temperatures downwards and post-2000 figures upwards”. This, too, is drivel: some September records for 2008 were wrongly copied over into the October figures, particularly data from stations in Russia.

In that case, the error was rectified within 24 hours. If only the whoppers spouted by Booker were so speedily remedied. And, by the way, is the Maily Telegraph paying for this copy?

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