On the whole I’ve been fairly sceptical of the whole global warming thing and have tended to side with those who suggested that either:

  • Too little was known to be as conclusive as some are and want us to be
  • A mountain was being made out of a molehill in terms of actual temperature change, or
  • We didn’t know for sure what was causing rising temperatures and so attacking one cause might be a big waste of time and money.

I haven’t changed my views on this, and so I at first read this article in Investors’ Business Daily with interest. However, something about it didn’t ring true, and I eventually realised that it cited several people without actually quoting any of them. I figured the two people actually mentioned in the article shouldn’t be too hard to find, and sure enough I quickly dug up email addresses for both. I sent them each an email asking whether their views had been accurately represented and whether they agreed with the gist of the article.

Dr Ken Tapping, who is cited in the article as follows:

Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity.

wrote back to my email. His first line is:

The article is rubbish.

An inauspicious start, to say the least. He goes on to say:

I believe that global climate change is the biggest problem facing us today. As yet we have no idea of exactly how serious it can get or where the tipping point may be.

The lateness of the start of the solar activity cycle is not yet enough to be something to worry about. However, even if we were to go into another minimum, and the Sun dims for a few decades, as it did during the Maunder Minimum, it could reduce the problem for a while, but things will come back worse when the cycle starts again.

So, in short, his views have been completely misrepresented (or, since he hasn’t actually been quoted and no views have explicitly been ascribed to him) he has technically only had his name used in a misleading way. Needless to say, he’s frustrated about this.

I note that the original article has no forum for comments of feedback so there’s no way to attach caveats to the article in a public place. In addition, it’s been picked up in other places across the web by global warming sceptics so it’s like any bad rumour and at this point very hard to rein in.

Since I’m largely sympathetic towards the thrust of the article, I find this all the more frustrating. Either there really are scientists out there who hold the views cited in the article, in which case they should have been the ones quoted, or there aren’t and therefore the article should not have been written. Either way, it’s extremely dishonest journalism. And it simply provides more ammunition for the global warming enthusiasts since it fits nicely with their narrative about scientific consensus.

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12 Responses to “Dishonest journalism”

  1. Deltoid Says:

    Don’t trust anything you read in the Investors Business Daily…

    The latest story doing the rounds of the global warming deniers (Drudge, Instapundit, Andrew Bolt, etc), is this one from the Investors Business Daily: Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council, is…

  2. Steve Bloom Says:

    Actually the editorial’s central thesis was ascribed directly to Tapping:

    “Tapping reports no change in the sun’s magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.”

    Of course he gave no such warning.

    Tracing this back a little farther, it appears that the IBD got their material on Tapping from this poorly-written article.

  3. kim Says:

    Joe Pappalardo in Popular Mechanics actually does quote Tapping.

    Tapping’s thesis is the same as mine. We both suspect long term cooling. He’s seems to believe the CO2 problem will just be worse at the other end when we warm up. I’m convinced we’ll have developed better energy sources, and in the meantime, extra CO2 will feed and warm our billions.

    You pays your money and you takes your chances.

  4. kim Says:

    Moderator, if you want to know what’s going on about solar climate connections read the three Svalgaard threads at Climateaudit.org. That’s a lot of comments, now, and they are often very dense. For the Cliff’s Noters, especially examine Pete’s graph in comment #454 of the Svalgaard #2 thread, and surrounding commentary.

  5. Tilo Reber Says:

    You said that you sent emails off to 2 people that were used in the article. I assume that the other one was R. Timothy Patterson. What did he say? While Tapping seems to be cited, Patterson is quoted.

  6. Steve Bloom Says:

    kim, Pappalardo does indeed quote Tapping, but if you read carefully you’ll see the passages anticpating short-tern and/or major solar cooling are not attributed to Tapping. Of course Svalgaard has approximately the same position as Tapping, as he has made entirely clear on the CA threads.

  7. kim Says:

    Read more, Steve. Or better.

  8. Jan Dawson Says:

    Thanks for the various comments. The other was indeed Tim Patterson, who hasn’t responded as yet (though from what I’ve read about him elsewhere it appears he’s more likely to support the thesis of the article).

  9. rightsideup blog » Blog Archive » Dishonest journalism - part 2 Says:

    […] previous post took the IBD to task for misrepresenting the views of one scientist – Ken Tapping – in its article […]

  10. Jan Dawson Says:

    Update – Tim Patterson has just replied and confirmed – as suspected – that his views were accurately represented. See separate post here.

  11. kim Says:

    Anyone for brewing coffee and making jokes?

  12. kim Says:

    You can take the son out of Kent, but you kent take the sun out of climate.