I see that our ex-pat climate change deniers, John Coutts and John Tulloch, have recently been bombarding the local press with more of their rubbish. And in particular, they have been objecting to the label “deniers” which has been applied to them. Well, gentlemen, if you continue to deny reality, then that is exactly what you are going to be called.
Now, I don’t have the time or the patience to go through all of the John’s claims and debunk them individually, so I’m going to pick just one from the most recent letter from John Tulloch, namely that Professor Phil Jones from the Climate Research Unit, said before Parliament that: “[T]here has been no statistically significant warming since 1995.”
First, it has to be said that that’s not what Professor Jones said, and that’s not where he said it. The so called quote comes, instead, from an interview with Professor Jones conducted by the BBC. The actual question and answer were as follows:
BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming.
Phil Jones: 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 per cent 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.
BBC: How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?
Phil Jones: I’m 100 per cent confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.
So, what does Professor Jones mean by “not significant at the 95 per cent significance level”?
Well, here’s an analogy which will hopefully illuminate the meaning:
Imagine that you went to the doctor with chest pains, and the doctor carried out every test known to modern science and then sent the results of these tests to not one, but to 20 cardiac specialists. And when the results came back, 19 of the specialists said: “You need triple heart bypass surgery yesterday, get thee to an operating theatre, now!” and one specialist said “It’s only heartburn, nothing to worry about”. Would you have the operation? I know I certainly would. That’s 95 per cent significant.
But how statistically significant was the warming between 1995 and 2009?
Well, if I recall correctly, it was around 93.5 per cent. This is equivalent to 18 of the heart specialists saying “Get thee to an operating theatre, now”, one saying “Tests inconclusive, we’ll have to wait and see”, and one saying “Don’t worry, it’s only heartburn”. I don’t know about you, but I would still have the operation.
The ironic thing is that since this interview was published, the statistical significance of the warming trend since 1995 has easily passed the 95 per cent confidence level, so if Professor Jones were to be asked the same question today, the answer would be an emphatic “No”.
So, now that we know the truth, I issue the following challenge to John Tulloch:
John, will you now admit, in print that, you either: a) Didn’t bother to gain a full understanding of the detail and context of the quote you have been repeating ad nauseum, and apologise to the people of Shetland for inadvertently misleading them, or b) Admit that you did understand the meaning and context of the quote, but chose to deliberately obscure this meaning in order to mislead the people of Shetland, and issue an apology and a retraction of all your misleading claims.
In addition, if anyone wants to read the whole interview the BBC did with Professor Jones, you can find it here:
And, if you would like to have a go at debunking all of John’s other misleading claims, there is an excellent website called “Skepticalscience.com” which has a complete guide to all of the so-called sceptic claims and a comprehensive debunking of all of them.