Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Daily Express lies about Climate Change (again)

Please ignored (if you can) the picture of Charlotte Church in a bikini, this is serious.

The beleaguered Phil Jones of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia is once again on the front pages, this time being trotted out by the Daily Express as a climate change denier.

This is what Prof Jones actually said

Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming

Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

C - Do you agree that from January 2002 to the present there has been statistically significant global cooling?
No. This period is even shorter than 1995-2009. The trend this time is negative (-0.12C per decade), but this trend is not statistically significant.

So the Proffessor has said it's getting warmer, not colder, but then said that as he wasn't 95% sure it was getting warmer he'd say nowt. He was also only referring to the data of his own department, not the more complete records of bodies such as the GISS which the IPCC use. So much though for the denier allegation that the CRU aren't suitably rigorous in their predictions.

Now I know "5% Chance Climate Change Isn't Happening" is not going to be a great headline for a paper, and I don't expect the same level of peer review in science writing for the Express as for, say, in Nature, but you'd at least hope they wouldn't publish lies that are too blatant.

Are the rightwing rags so in league with the deniers they'll print any old bollocks to get readers?

Or are they all edited by the type of Arts/Classics/Humanities graduates who regard all scientists as Geeky swots and who wouldn't understand a Baysian probability calculation if it was tattooed on Charlotte Church's bare midrife?

Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Shooting the Empire

This was meant to be a review of Avatar but as I can't be bothered to actually go and see the film it's going to be something else.

As a film Avatar's probably all right, but whilst I enjoyed FernGully and Aliens I'm not sure I want to see them both at the same time. As a teenager I had to endure watching the Ewoks destroy what credibility the Star Wars franchise ever had, so I don't want to go risk going through that again.

In reading the reviews I was interested to see the US Christian Post write
"If you can get a theater full of people in Kentucky to stand and applaud the defeat of their country in war, then you've got some amazing special effects."
No doubt they write that about ever film that doesn't have John Wayne in it, but it's an interesting comment.

The American Empire does get a regular thrashing in American cinemas for a variety of reasons, mainly though because they refuse to recognise that they actually are an empire.

300 was very popular amongst the sort of people who read Christian Post because it depicted macho Caucasian Spartans fighting off the vast multiracial Persian Empire. The invading Persians are portrayed as effeminate and materialistic whilst the stay-at-home Athenians are ribbed for being shirt lifting philosophers. When you consider all your country's virtues as vices are you really still a patriot?

It's more Hulk Hogan than Herodotus and it would be interesting to know what the Taliban made of it: clean living macho warriors taking on a wealthy, diverse and promiscuous empire? Hmm, I wonder which side they'd identify with?

We too had an Empire once though, and it survived long enough to make it into the age of cinema. Movies about Britain' colonial wars though were only ever second rate westerns, and never really managed the mythic quality that John Ford and Sergio Leone were eventually to bring to that genre. Many of them were actually made by the Americans, including Lives of a Bengal Lancer, apparently Hitler's favourite film. The best of the pre-war crop though is British through and through. The 1939 version of The Four Feathers (the third of five versions of the film) has Ralph Richardson invading the Sudan to depose a Muslim fundamentalist regime. However the film is keen not to make too many political points and just portrays the Brits as trying to nick someone else's country for the sake of it.

The most famous film of Britain's colonial wars though is undoubtedly Zulu. It's director probably wouldn't be too popular with the Christian Post either. Cy Endfield was a Yank who was called a Communist by the House Un-American Activities Committee and ended up living in Warwickshire.

The film features clean cut young soldiers in smart uniforms, led by a dashing young Michael Cane, driving off clean limbed young Zulus by singing Men of Harlech ("For God sake sing something they know" Max Wall once quipped).

In reality the Brits were a scruffy lot, only seven of whom were Welsh, who'd been in South Africa for long enough to grow considerable beards and to shed most of their regulation uniform. Cane's character wasn't young either and was still only a Lieutenant mainly on account of not being very clever. Being regarded as thick by the Victorian British Army must have been quite an achievement.

But if the Brits were rather more mature than portrayed the Zulus were positively ancient. The battle was fought by a veteran regiment made up of warriors who must have all been in their 40s or 50s. Considering the battle lasted 24 hours and the Zulus had to leap a 9 foot wall to get at the British they must have been tough old codgers.

Zulu came out though in 1963, by which time the British Empire was pretty much over bar the shouting. The next year a rather different version of Britain's Imperial situation could be seen in The Guns of Batasi. Set in an African nation on the cusp of independence it features a group of tough British NCOs beseiged by African rebels. The Brits, led by an utterly believable Richard Attenborough, invoke the Rorke's Drift spirit and prepare for an epic battle, but things are now more complicated. Everyone, African and British, is confused about their role and courage seems as misplaced as loyalty.

And so ended the British Empire on screen. Four years later Carry On...Up The Kyber came out and nobody could take it seriously ever again.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Climate Change Denier 'Proves' Climate Change.

Well I never thought I'd say it, but well done Anthony Watts.

For those who don't know of him, this great pundit for our time is a former US TV weatherman who in a divine flash of inspiration saw that the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming was so much hot air and so set up the sceptical blog Watts Up With That (witty, heh?).

If you've been on a discussion board and had someone turn up and most some super new 'hot off the press' proof that AGW is a con, then the chances are that they lifted it from his blog.

Of course the main problem Climate Change deniers have is the fact that it really is getting warmer. With 2010 looking like it might be a scorcher despite the cold start we might soon be able to say that the ten hottest years ever recorded have all occurred since 1995.

This irritating truth hasn't put Mr Watts off though and, with the help of some other sceptics and their computers he set out to prove that this temperature record was wrong. The result is, a systematic review of all the US weather stations. The team rated each station by how good it was, with top marks going to those in virgin countryside and bottom marks to those in KFC car parks, at the end of runways or next to air conditioning ducts (I'm not making this up - that's where some of them were).

This herculean task has proved very useful to climate scientists. The data can now be split into 'good' and 'bad' sites and the two sets compared to see if there is any bias. This, so Mr Watts and his army of volunteers hoped, would show that the rise in recorded temperature was down to the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect and other such bias and that with the 'bad' data removed the 'good' data would prove once and for all that Global Warming was a myth.

Unfortunately it didn't quite work out like that.

It turned out that climate scientists already knew about UHI effect and had been taking it into account, as they do various other changes in recording practise such as the weather station moving or the time of observations changing.

Not only did the 'bad' weather stations show the same warming trend as the 'good' ones, it seems there may have been an over correction of the UHI effect and that the temperature record should be adjusted upwards not downwards.

Alas if you look for Mr Watt's response on his blog you look in vain but never mind, you can read it here first.

So it's not really good news, we are heading for Armageddon and are probably going to get there a little sooner than we thought, but we can at least enjoy a little schadenfreude at the expense of Mr Watts, who now has to explain to his volunteers that they have just helped their deadly enemies in the AGW camp.