Monday, September 10, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: BBC Freezes Out Climate Sceptics

Science As We Know It Is Dying — And So Is Academic Freedom

In this newsletter:

1) BBC Freezes Out Climate Sceptics
Ben Webster, The Times, 8 September 2018
2) Business As Usual: UN Climate Meeting Deadlocked
AFP, 8 September 2018

3) Paris Pack Of Cards Face Collapse
Clark Cross, The Conservative Woman, 8 September 2018
4) Climate & Climate Scepticism To Be A Key Voter Issue For First Time In Europe As Swedes Head To Polls
Euronews, 4 September 2018
5) Science As We Know It Is Dying — And So Is Academic Freedom
Theodore P. Hill, Quilette, 7 September 2018

Full details:

1) BBC Freezes Out Climate Sceptics
Ben Webster, The Times, 8 September 2018

The BBC has told staff they no longer need to invite climate-change deniers on to its programmes, suggesting that allowing them to speak was like letting someone deny last week’s football scores.

It has also asked all editorial staff to take a course on how to report on climate change and said that its coverage of the topic “is wrong too often”.

New BBC editorial policy on climate change states: “To achieve impartiality you do not need to include outright deniers of climate change in BBC coverage, in the same way you would not have someone denying that Manchester United won 2-0 last Saturday. The referee has spoken.”

In April Ofcom ruled that the Today programme on Radio 4 had breached broadcasting rules by “not sufficiently challenging” Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Conservative chancellor of the exchequer and a climate-change sceptic, over claims he made in an interview.

Lord Lawson is the founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a “climate sceptic” think tank. The director of the foundation said that the new BBC policy was “basically telling editors: ‘Don’t touch the GWPF.’”

Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, emailed its journalists this week asking them to book a place on a one-hour course that “covers the latest science, policy, research and misconceptions to challenge, giving you confidence to cover [climate change] accurately and knowledgeably”.

The email — leaked to the website Carbon Brief, which seeks to raise awareness of the threat of climate change — referred staff to a “crib sheet” that includes the new policy.

The policy says: “Climate change has been a difficult subject for the BBC, and we get coverage of it wrong too often. The climate science community is clear that humans have changed the climate, but specifically how is more difficult to evidence.” A section entitled “What’s the BBC’s position” says that “man-made climate change exists: if the science proves it we should report it.”

It instructs staff: “Be aware of ‘false balance’: as climate change is accepted as happening, you do not need a ‘denier’ to balance the debate.”

The policy adds that “there may be occasions to hear from a denier” but only “with appropriate challenge from a knowledgeable interviewer”.

It also tells staff to be careful even when interviewing people who accept that climate change is happening but believe that it is occurring much more slowly than many scientists state.

The document says that BBC journalists “need to be aware of the guest’s viewpoint and how to challenge it effectively” and should also say which organisation he or she represents and “potentially how that group is funded”.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation does not disclose who funds it.

Benny Peiser, the foundation’s director, said that Lord Lawson had been invited on to the Today programme only twice in the past five years and on both occasions complaints from campaigners had resulted in the BBC apologising.

He added: “This memo puts in writing what most people have known for the past ten years, which is that anyone sceptical of climate alarmism isn’t allowed on the BBC. They cherry-pick the people who make claims. No one is allowed to counter their own bias.

“The BBC is taking a position on a very controversial issue. Climate change is real and humans are contributing to it but it is not as alarming as the BBC very often makes out.”

2) Business As Usual: UN Climate Meeting Deadlocked
AFP, 8 September 2018

At the UN climate meeting in Bangkok, discussions are deadlocked over a number of contentious issues.

Thai fishermen and labourers whose livelihoods are threatened by rising sea levels kicked off an international day of protests in Bangkok Saturday, where key UN talks are attempting to breathe life into the Paris Agreement on climate change.

As global warming races ahead of efforts to contain it, the discussions are deadlocked over a number of contentious issues, with activists demanding immediate action to prevent irreparable damage to the planet. […]

The talks aim to create a draft legal framework for limiting global temperature rises that can be presented to ministers and heads of state at a final round of discussions in Poland in December.

The delegates have been meeting since Tuesday, but have made little progress, according to multiple sources close to the negotiations.

“The negotiators are not taking any action,” Ruchi Tripathi, head of climate justice at charity ActionAid, said.

In particular, the issue of how the fight against climate change will be funded – and how that funding is made available to developing nations – remains a key sticking point.

Full story

See also UN Climate Talks: The Annual Ritual


3) Paris Pack Of Cards Face Collapse
Clark Cross, The Conservative Woman, 8 September 2018

The usual mantra of the climate-change alarmists is ‘time is running out to save the planet’. Well, I am pleased to adapt this to ‘time is running out to save the Paris Agreement’. The cosy consensus, if there ever was one, on reducing greenhouse gases is falling apart.

Australia’s new energy minister, Angus Taylor, has made it clear that he is not remotely interested in reducing carbon emissions. His priority is to end all wind farm and solar subsidies and use Australia’s vast coal reserves to provide cheap reliable electricity.

European carmakers have openly questioned the EU’s 2021 car emission goals, rejecting tougher reduction targets planned for 2030.

Germany’s states, where 65,000 jobs depend on coal-fired power generation and lignite mining, are pressurising Angela Merkel to keep coal power for as long as 30 years.

The only reason that developing countries signed up to the Paris Agreement was the promise to give them a share of $100billion annually from 2020. Donald Trump has said that America will not contribute.

Just watch the Paris pack of cards collapse.

Full post

4) Climate & Climate Scepticism To Be A Key Voter Issue For First Time In Europe As Swedes Head To Polls
Euronews, 4 September 2018

Climate change is set to play a key role in a European election for the first time on Sunday, it’s been claimed.

Sweden’s scorching summer and subsequent forest fires have given unprecedented prominence to global warming.

The country will hold a nationwide election on Sunday.

“The only example I know of climate having played a role in elections is in Australia in 2007,” said Wendel Trio, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

“So it’s the first in Europe at a national level and the reason for the climate coming up so strongly in the Swedish election are two-fold.

“First, the summer heat and the forest fires made climate change and its impact much more visible and concrete in people’s minds.

“Secondly I think the fact the right-wing Sweden Democrats positioned themselves as sceptical to the need for climate policy has actually helped to stimulate the debate.”

The leader of the right-wing Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Akesson, claimed in mid-August the government was trying to score cheap political points by talking about the climate after “one summer” of hot weather.

Akesson’s decision to take on the controversial topic has boosted the Green Party in the polls, claimed Trio, who, as junior coalition partners in the current government, faced not even reaching the 4% vote share threshold needed to get into parliament.

Voter surveys have also indicated the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats fortunes have weakened over recent weeks, although it is unclear whether this is linked to the party’s comments on global warming.

Full story

5) Science As We Know It Is Dying — And So Is Academic Freedom
Theodore P. Hill, Quilette, 7 September 2018

Half his [editorial] board, he explained unhappily, had told him that unless he pulled the article, they would all resign and “harass the journal” he had founded 25 years earlier “until it died.” Faced with the loss of his own scientific legacy, he had capitulated.

In the highly controversial area of human intelligence, the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’ (GMVH) asserts that there are more idiots and more geniuses among men than among women. Darwin’s research on evolution in the nineteenth century found that, although there are many exceptions for specific traits and species, there is generally more variability in males than in females of the same species throughout the animal kingdom.

Evidence for this hypothesis is fairly robust and has been reported in species ranging from adders and sockeye salmon to wasps and orangutans, as well as humans. Multiple studies have found that boys and men are over-represented at both the high and low ends of the distributions in categories ranging from birth weight and brain structures and 60-meter dash times to reading and mathematics test scores. There are significantly more men than women, for example, among Nobel laureates, music composers, and chess champions—and also among homeless people, suicide victims, and federal prison inmates.

Darwin had also raised the question of why males in many species might have evolved to be more variable than females, and when I learned that the answer to his question remained elusive, I set out to look for a scientific explanation. My aim was not to prove or disprove that the hypothesis applies to human intelligence or to any other specific traits or species, but simply to discover a logical reason that could help explain how gender differences in variability might naturally arise in the same species.

I came up with a simple intuitive mathematical argument based on biological and evolutionary principles and enlisted Sergei Tabachnikov, a Professor of Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University, to help me flesh out the model. When I posted a preprint on the open-access mathematics archives in May of last year, a variability researcher at Durham University in the UK got in touch by email. He described our joint paper as “an excellent summary of the research to date in this field,” adding that “it certainly underpins my earlier work on impulsivity, aggression and general evolutionary theory and it is nice to see an actual theoretical model that can be drawn upon in discussion (which I think the literature, particularly in education, has lacked to date). I think this is a welcome addition to the field.”

So far, so good.

Once we had written up our findings, Sergei and I decided to try for publication in the Mathematical Intelligencer, the ‘Viewpoint’ section of which specifically welcomes articles on contentious topics. The Intelligencer’s editor-in-chief is Marjorie Wikler Senechal, Professor Emerita of Mathematics and the History of Science at Smith College. She liked our draft, and declared herself to be untroubled by the prospect of controversy. “In principle,” she told Sergei in an email, “I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one. After the Middlebury fracas, in which none of the protestors had read the book they were protesting, we could make a real contribution here by insisting that all views be heard, and providing links to them.”

Professor Senechal suggested that we might enliven our paper by mentioning Harvard President Larry Summers, who was swiftly defenestrated in 2005 for saying that the GMVH might be a contributing factor to the dearth of women in physics and mathematics departments at top universities. With her editorial guidance, our paper underwent several further revisions until, on April 3, 2017, our manuscript was officially accepted for publication. The paper was typeset in India, and proofread by an assistant editor who is also a mathematics professor in Kansas. It was scheduled to appear in the international journal’s first issue of 2018, with an acknowledgement of funding support to my co-author from the National Science Foundation. All normal academic procedure.

*     *     *

Coincidentally, at about the same time, anxiety about gender-parity erupted in Silicon Valley. The same anti-variability argument used to justify the sacking of President Summers resurfaced when Google engineer James Damore suggested that several innate biological factors, including gender differences in variability, might help explain gender disparities in Silicon Valley hi-tech jobs. For sending out an internal memo to that effect, he too was summarily fired.

No sooner had Sergei posted a preprint of our accepted article on his website than we began to encounter problems. On August 16, a representative of the Women In Mathematics (WIM) chapter in his department at Penn State contacted him to warn that the paper might be damaging to the aspirations of impressionable young women. “As a matter of principle,” she wrote, “I support people discussing controversial matters openly … At the same time, I think it’s good to be aware of the effects.”

While she was obviously able to debate the merits of our paper, she worried that other, presumably less sophisticated, readers “will just see someone wielding the authority of mathematics to support a very controversial, and potentially sexist, set of ideas…”

A few days later, she again contacted Sergei on behalf of WIM and invited him to attend a lunch that had been organized for a “frank and open discussion” about our paper. He would be allowed 15 minutes to describe and explain our results, and this short presentation would be followed by readings of prepared statements by WIM members and then an open discussion. “We promise to be friendly,” she announced, “but you should know in advance that many (most?) of us have strong disagreements with what you did.”

On September 4, Sergei sent me a weary email. “The scandal at our department,” he wrote, “shows no signs of receding.” At a faculty meeting the week before, the Department Head had explained that sometimes values such as academic freedom and free speech come into conflict with other values to which Penn State was committed. A female colleague had then instructed Sergei that he needed to admit and fight bias, adding that the belief that “women have a lesser chance to succeed in mathematics at the very top end is bias.” Sergei said he had spent “endless hours” talking to people who explained that the paper was “bad and harmful” and tried to convince him to “withdraw my name to restore peace at the department and to avoid losing whatever political capital I may still have.” Ominously, “analogies with scientific racism were made by some; I am afraid, we are likely to hear more of it in the future.”

The following day, I wrote to the three organisers of the WIM lunch and offered to address any concrete concerns they might have with our logic or conclusions or any other content. I explained that, since I was the paper’s lead author, it was not fair that my colleague should be expected to take all the heat for our findings. I added that it would still be possible to revise our article before publication. I never received a response.

Instead, on September 8, Sergei and I were ambushed by two unexpected developments.

First, the National Science Foundation wrote to Sergei requesting that acknowledgment of NSF funding be removed from our paper with immediate effect. I was astonished. I had never before heard of the NSF requesting removal of acknowledgement of funding for any reason. On the contrary, they are usually delighted to have public recognition of their support for science. ...

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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