Fred Pearce is *still* a rubbish journalist

Image courtesy of Flickr user urbangarden

When last we left Pearce, he was enthusiastically attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the vile, rotting corpse of He said; She said “journalism” that has long wreaked havoc on public understanding of climate.

Checking in, we now find Pearce has sunk to just making statements up and attributing them to people without their knowledge or consent. Specifically NASA GISS researcher (and RealClimate blogger) Gavin Schmidt. As Schmidt has written to New Scientist:

In the piece entitled “Climate sceptics and scientists attempt peace deal” Fred Pearce includes a statement about me that is patently untrue.

“But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.”

This is completely made up. My decision not to accept the invitation to this meeting was based entirely on the organiser’s initial diagnosis of the cause of the ‘conflict’ in the climate change debate. I quote from their introductory letter:

“At this stage we are planning to have a workshop where the main scientific issues can be discussed, so that some clarity on points of agreement and disagreement might be reached. We would try to stay off the policy issues, and will also exclude personal arguments.

The issues we have in mind are Medieval Warm Period, ice, climate sensitivity, and temperature data. We would hope to have smaller groups discussing these in some detail, hopefully with scientists who are very familiar with the technical issues to lead the discussion.”

Since, in my opinion, the causes of conflict in the climate change debate relate almost entirely to politics and not the MWP, climate sensitivity or ‘ice’, dismissing this from any discussion did not seem likely to be to help foster any reconciliation.

At no point did I declare that the ‘science was settled’ and that there was nothing to discuss. Indeed, I am on record as saying the exact opposite:

Pearce might well note that even I am included in the “spectrum” that “disagree[s] with Schmidt”!

Fred Pearce did not interview me for this piece. I should like to request that in future, if my views are of interest, that he (or anyone else) should actually ask me directly. I am not hard to contact.

Yours respectfully,

Gavin Schmidt

PS. I am not a ‘leader of mainstream climate science’ either.

I’d ask whether New Scientist wants this kind of indefensible behavior associated with their brand, but clearly they’ve given Pearce free reign to troll for page views however he sees fit.

Pearce should be ashamed of himself.


22 responses to “Fred Pearce is *still* a rubbish journalist

  1. “Pearce should be ashamed of himself.”

    Perfect summary of the situation.

    I would love to hear representatives of certain media outlets explain what would happen to a reporter or “consultant” who did such things in a political or business story, and why they apparently consider it more acceptable when covering science.

  2. Try this on. Pearce was simply quoting someone. Who are the likely suspects?

    • I don’t know Eli– it seems to have been a “wild party” that night in the restaurant, so perhaps McIntyre (in the loo). ….Moshpit (in the alley) ….Curry (in the kitchen)….

      Damn, could have been any one of those and other ‘skeptics’, contrarians or denialists……that is what they do.

      I’m surprised that they did not burn any effigy of Mann or Hansen in the street afterwards.

    • If he was “simply quoting someone”, I thought the journalistic rule-of-thumb was to, well, quote the source, rather than the person the source is talking about.

      I believe that getting in touch with the person involved and asking if that was an accurate reflection of their views is also considered good form.

  3. Tallbloke ‘fessed up (with pride), over on Curry’s blog. Details/links at Tamino’s and Deltoid.

  4. New Scientist’s editor is the Telegraph’s ex-science editor.

    “I have had two fantastic decades at the Daily Telegraph, where I have managed to do so much more than write news and feature articles,” Highfield said.

    “I will have the chance to lead a fantastically talented team to take New Scientist into new markets and to enhance its reputation as the best source of novel ideas and new thinking on the planet.”
    Jeremy Webb, the New Scientist editor-in-chief, said: “We are expanding in the US, into new markets in India and elsewhere, and improving our web offering.

    “The magazine is right at the centre of all these efforts and we need a strong, creative editor to lead it. I can’t wait to start working with Roger.” (2008)

    Might explain why I let my subscription lapse last year. There’s a bit of me now wondering whether the published version of Fred’s piece is the same as Fred’s original submitted version.

    You can’t predict the weather; or climate change — by Roger Highfield at the Telegraph (2000).

    Curiously, he’s listed as editor of New Scientist in that piece. Is this his second stint?

    • I just looked at a Roger Highfield’s past Telegraph articles and it seems he accepts the science. Just to be clear on that. Google… “roger highfield” “climate change”

    • That date on the telegraph article is clearly wrong (i’m guessing should be 2010) but ref to bbq summer prediction, MET abandoning seasonal forecasts and public confidence in climate science are much more recent things than 2000

  5. Schmidt’s response to the Lisbon conference invitation was:
    “I’m a little confused at what conflict you feel you are going to be addressing? The fundamental conflict is of what (if anything) we should do about greenhouse gas emissions (and other assorted pollutants), not what the weather was like 1000 years ago. Your proposed restriction against policy discussion removes the whole point. None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions. No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position.

    You would be much better off trying to find common ground on policy ideas via co-benefits (on air pollution, energy security, public health water resources etc), than trying to get involved in irrelevant scientific ‘controversies’.

    Which tallbloke paraphrased as “Basically, the science is settled so there is nothing to discuss”, which is a fair translation of the above.

    Schmidt’s response was dripping with myopic hubris. He has not been misquoted. The spirit of his response was not misrepresented. Therefore your contention that Fred Pearce completely made it up is rejected.

    • I do love that Pearce’s claim has been deemed acceptable by the denialosphere. It of course wasn’t what Schmidt actually said. But they think it’s a fair representation of his beliefs. So Pearce’s conclusion is “correct” even though the method at which it was arrived (his spin on Gavin’s declining email) was neither transparent nor what it purported to be.

      In other words, the same thing they villify Mann et al.’s earlier multiproxy reconstructions for.

      • It was made transparent by Tallbloke immediately Schmidt cried foul. (Unlike Mann et al).

        As I read Schmidt’s declining email, he is saying that looking at 1000 year old data is not required (“the science is settled”) so we must work on the policy (politics) now.

        So Tallbloke’s off-the-cuff remark to Pearce is substantiated, even if you prefer to call it spin. It was not “completely made up” as you state in your article. It had substance. You effectively call Pearce a liar. This is not the case.

      • As I read Schmidt’s declining email, he is saying that looking at 1000 year old data is not required (“the science is settled”)

        He didn’t say “the science is settled”. He said that while there is a lot of noise being made in the denialosphere about issues like the MCA, there isn’t a corresponding level of disagreement about it in the scientific community. That doesn’t mean it’s “settled”, it means that it’s just not a huge source of disagreement/acrimony even if there still remains significant uncertainty.

        And this is completely correct. While there still exists uncertainty about the temporal and spatial coherence of the MCA, it is not a controversial problem in the context of anthropogenic warming because it has little bearing on questions of attribution and/or future warming. It is indeed used as a proxy argument against policy questions like carbon pricing, but it has basically nothing to do with the main issues of the problem.

        He has not been misquoted.

        Apparently New Scientist disagrees.

        The spirit of his response was not misrepresented. Therefore your contention that Fred Pearce completely made it up is rejected.

        As I said, this is an amusing line to take. It’s okay because the conclusion is correct even if the underlying facts aren’t what they were purported to be- exactly the opposite of the McIntyre/Wegman cabal spin on Mann et al.’s earlier work.

      • To reiterate my point, which you have yet to address: It was not “completely made up” as you state in your article. It had substance. You effectively call Pearce a liar. This is not the case.

      • It was not “completely made up” as you state in your article.

        It was not something that Schmidt “said”. Fred Pearce attributed to him a claim that he did not make. Pearce made that claim up.

        If Pearce had phrased things differently, e.g. that it was Pearce’s personal opinion that Schmidt did not attend because he believed “the science is settled”, then he wouldn’t be guilty of making anything up.

      • Then we will have to agree to differ in this matter. You may call it sloppy journalism that Pearce didn’t corroborate the hearsay directly with Schmidt. You may call it spin. But you go a wee bit over the line (imho) when you say he completely made it up. He was reporting what a trusted source told him was the guts of Schmidt’s reason for not attending. I happen to broadly agree with that summary, having read the email.

        Anyhoo, thanks for the discussion.

  6. Having just read Schmidt’s response declining the invitation, it is very hard to disagree with anything he said.

    As for the idea that the conference would sort out what both sides agreed on, that is a very ambitious goal. Skeptics are remarkably tolerant and kind people, and no matter what they decided was actually true, they would never ever stop people from saying things that aren’t true (you know, it might hurt their feelings). You see, only elitists bent on world control are so mean as to tell people on their own side that they are speaking rubbish.

  7. Hey, at least the deniers didn’t “hide the decline” :-)

  8. Dear Fred Pearce, Eli Rabett and Colleagues:

    Please comment on the recently presented slideshow regarding the Comprehensive Demographic Transition Model.

    Thank you,
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC

  9. [This is off-topic and unsubstantiated. -TB]

  10. What we know thanks to well-established scientific knowledge about biological evolution as well as the finite and frangible physical world we are blessed to inhabit would lead sensible people, I suppose, to conclude that there is nothing or precious little that can be done to change the ‘trajectory’ of human civilization. So powerful is the force of evolution that we will “do what comes naturally” by continuing to overpopulate the planet and await the next phase of the evolutionary process. So colossal, reckless and relentless, too, is the unbridled expansion of the global political economy now overspreading the surface of Earth. Even so, still hope resides within that somehow humankind will make use of its singular intelligence and other unique attributes so as to escape the fate that appears ‘as if through a glass darkly’ in the offing, the seemingly certain fate evolution appears to have in store for us. Come what may. In the face of all the global ecological challenges that we can see now and here, I continue to believe and to hope that we find adequate ways of consciously, deliberately and effectively doing the right things, according the lights and the science we possess, the things that serve to confront and overcome the evolutionary trend which seems so irresistible. Perhaps others would comment on human agency, human population dynamics, endless economic growth and the potentially catastrophic consequences of the unrestricted overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species on our watch.

  11. Pingback: Fred Pearce continues to be rubbish | The Way Things Break

  12. Pingback: Rubbish Reporting | Planet3.0

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