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Sunday 23 October 2011

Del Boy And A Mardy Strop

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study (BEST) is, as its website tells, aiming “to resolve current criticism of the former temperature analyses”. It’s going over the data, checking and re-checking, and looking at frequent criticisms such as the alleged reliance on information from sources within urban heat islands. And its preliminary findings have just been released.

These show that the BEST analysis comes to more or less the same conclusions as before, give or take a very small percentage. For the climate change denial lobby, this is the wrong answer, and as a result, BEST’s scientific director Richard Muller has been subjected to a tsunami of invective and abuse. Typical is the contribution of James “saviour of Western civilisation” Delingpole.

Del Boy states at the outset that “I’m not a climate scientist”, thus for once setting a tone of understatement. But then he tells that “the planet did warm in the Twentieth Century. But only by 0.7 degrees C, which is hardly a major threat”. As he isn’t a climate scientist – or indeed any kind of scientist – how would he know what constitutes “a major threat”?

Likewise Delingpole’s assertion that “since the mid-19th Century, the planet has been on a warming trend – emerging, as it has been, from a widely known phenomenon known as the Little Ice Age. A period which in turn was preceded by the even better known Medieval Warm Period”. Let’s take those assertions one at a time.

The instrumented temperature record does not support the idea of a warming trend until well into the 20th Century, and even then, the rate of warming has not shown such a steep and consistent rise until the mid 1970s. Both the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period may not have been global events, with the latter achieving less warm temperatures than, say, the 1961 to 1990 average.

This, though, does not deter Del Boy, who claims support from one Marc Morano. Who he? The man behind denialist website Climate Depot, Morano is a veteran of the “Swift Boat” smearing of John Kerry, and is otherwise known as the “drum major of the denial parade”. Kert Davies of Greenpeace has called Morano “relentless at pushing out misinformation”.

Delingpole’s rant is in turn quoted by Morano to suggest he has the Telegraph’s endorsement, as the two attempt to re-heat their story in the style of Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). But the reality is that both lean heavily on name calling rather than allowing science to get a look in. And, having seen how easy it is to debunk Del Boy’s arguments, that’s not so surprising.

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