Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Forbes Magazine: Wrong is Right

with 8 comments

In my previous blog post Forbes Magazine Uses Astrologer for Financial Advice I showed how Forbes Magazine was allowing an architect, Larry Bell, to make false statements about climate science.  Even more disturbing, Forbes magazine is allowing Bell and others to smear well-respected scientists such as Drs. Ben Santer and Michael Mann by making demonstrably false statements.

A pattern has emerged over the past two months where Forbes.com publishes errors in fact, corrections to these errors are sent to Forbes, but Forbes chooses not to issue corrections.  Read below for a timeline of events that includes letters from Ben Santer and others along with replies by a senior editor at Forbes that you will just not believe!

 12/21/10: Larry Bell writes Hot Sensations Vs. Cold Facts

This article is filled with false and misleading statements with a heavy dose of cherry-picking.

12/30/10: I send this letter  to Forbes editors. 

I heard nothing back.

01/06/11: Michael Tobis and Scott Mandia with input from Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, and Kevin Trenberth correct Bell’s errors on a guest post at Realclimate called Forbes’ rich list of nonsense.

Nothing changes.

01/11/2011: Ray Weymann, Michael Tobis, Scott Mandia, Anja Kollmuss, Gary Yohe, and Dan Kammen send this rebuttal letter to the three managing editors of Forbes.

The letter was sent hard copy, overnight mail, and with signature required.  We did receive a response from Tom Post, Managing Editor, who thought it would be a good idea to have our letter appear alongside Larry Bell’s post so that a lively debate might develop and Forbes readers would become educated.  Tom Post passed the letter off to John Tamney, Opinions Editor.  Tamney wanted our letter to appear as a reader comment but we declined.  We believed that the only fair solution was to have our rebuttal appear as a separate op-ed or on the same page as Larry Bell’s article. 

To make this happen, Forbes created a blog account for Larry Bell and asked him to repost his original article.  The plan was to have our letter appear inside the Bell post after his words.  Tamney’s tech people told us that there were issues with inserting our text into Bell’s blog post but that if we posted our letter as a reader comment they would then “call out” the comment.  After being called out, our letter would appear on the front page of the Op-Ed section of Forbes.com

01/28/11: Larry Bell reposts Hot Sensations Vs. Cold Facts on his new blog.

01/31/11: I post the letter by Weymann, et al. as a reader comment and it is “called out” by Forbes staff.

After two weeks and numerous excuses it becomes clear that our letter will never appear on the Op-Ed page as promised.  We have been had.  No corrections to Bell’s article were made and Forbes just keeps letting Bell spout more and more nonsense.  DOES BELL RUN THE SHOW THERE?

02/09/11: Larry Bell posts Political Science Lessons From The U.N.’s IPCC

In this post Bell really crosses the line.   Bell, although never a part of the IPCC process, states “The Chapter 8 lead author, Ben Santor (sic), had excised denials of any scientific evidence of man-made warming, replacing them with statements asserting the opposite”  These claims have no basis in fact and are, in my opinion, grounds for a lawsuit.  Here is the real story from Dr. Santer: Close Encounters of the Absurd Kind

02/09/11: Dr. Ben Santer sends the following letter to Mr. Brett Nelson – Executive Editor:

Dear Mr. Nelson,

Earlier today, the online version of Forbes Magazine posted a commentary by Professor Larry Bell entitled “Political science lessons from the U.N.’s IPCC”. The link to this commentary is:

http://blogs.forbes.com/larrybell/2011/02/09/political-science-lessons-from-the-u-n-s-ipcc/_

Mr. Bell’s commentary contains serious factual errors. Many of these errors relate to my role as Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 of the 1995 Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). For example, Mr. Bell falsely asserts that the final conclusions of Chapter 8 were “politically edited”, that I “excised denials of any scientific evidence of man-made warming”, that I replaced such “denials” with “statements asserting the opposite”, and that revisions made to Chapter 8 were “illegitimate”.

These allegations are without substance. They have been rebutted by myself and by other scientists, on many different occasions and in many different fora – most recently in a detailed posting on “RealClimate”:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/close-encounters-of-the-absurd-kind/

Mr. Bell is not a climate scientist. He was not involved in the 1995 IPCC report. He did not participate in a key IPCC plenary meeting (held in Madrid in November 1995) during which changes to Chapter 8 of the 1995 IPCC Report were discussed and authorized. He is not knowledgeable about either the science of climate change or IPCC rules and procedures.

In order to make informed decisions on how to respond to the problem of human-induced climate change, readers of Forbes deserve the best-available scientific information. They do not deserve the misinformation they have received from Mr. Bell. It is unfortunate that Forbes magazine has provided Mr. Bell with a prominent platform to disseminate his inexpert opinions on climate science.

Mr. Bell’s allegations regarding my conduct as Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 are harmful to my professional reputation. I respectfully request that you allow me to publish a response to these allegations.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ben Santer

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow; Recipient, E.O. Lawrence Award; Recipient, Distinguished Scientist Fellowship, U.S. Dept. of Energy (Office of Biological and Environmental Research); Recipient, Norbert-Gerbier/Mumm Award

(P.S.: Mr. Bell was unable to spell my name correctly. It is “Santer”, not “Santor”.)

02/10/11: Dr. John Abraham sends the following letter to Brett Nelson – Executive Editor, Dan Bigman – Executive Editor for Business News, and Michael Noer – Executive Editor + Opinion Writer:

Dear Mrs. Nelson, Bigman, and Noel:

It is with reluctance that I call your attention to a recent article (February 9) in your online magazine, written by Professor Bell. That article contained a number of demonstrably-false statements and Professor Bell certain knew his statements were not correct when he wrote the article. I wish to draw your attention to a few of the issues and I respectfully ask that this article be reviewed by your editorial staff.

First, Professor Bell made false statements about the role of Dr. Ben Santer as a Convening Lead Author of the eighth chapter in the 1995 IPCC report. His allegations related to Dr. Santer’s editing activities have been rebutted many times by both Dr. Santer, and his colleagues who worked with him on the document. The statements of Professor Bell are provided without evidential support and are injurious to Dr. Santer’s reputation. You should also note that not only is Professor Bell not a climate scientist, but he did not participate in the IPCC plenary meeting in 1995 when the supposed editorial changes were made.

On another occasion, Professor Bell takes aim at Dr. Phil Jones and Dr Mike Mann. He states,

“Among more than three thousand documents is an e-mail from its director, Phillip Jones, regarding a way to fudge data to hide evidence of recently falling global temperature”

This statement about Drs. Mann and Jones is wholly without merit. The claim that they hid “falling global temperatures” has been repeatedly shown to be false. That statement was about the well-known “divergence problem” with respect to recent tree ring data, it did not refer to temperatures directly. Professor Bell must know that Drs. Mann and Jones have already been cleared by five independent investigations. I would be happy to send the rulings of those investigations to you for your review.

While I could discuss other false statements made in the article, for sake of brevity, I will defer. If you wish to further discuss other fallacious statements in this article, please feel free to contact me directly.

An institution like yours is based on a level of trust between the Forbes staff and Forbes readers. Your venue is an important mechanism by which readers are exposed to important and complicated topics. I firmly believe we as a society need accurate information about climate change if we are to make the best decisions. I also believe that civility and decorum are lacking in the public discussion. Professor Bell had an opportunity to provide accurate information and to contribute to a civil, respectful discussion. Unfortunately, he not succeed in either of these endeavors.

02/10/11: Ben Santer receives the following reply from another senior editor whose name I will not use to protect privacy:

Dear Professor Santer:

We’re happy to hyperlink a rebuttal from you into Larry’s piece; that or just paste your comments into the comment section. So please fire away.

But to be fair, Larry is fully backed in his assertions by Fred Singer, and Fred is preparing his own response to what you and Professor Abraham have written to us. That way readers can have both sides.

02/10/11: Ben Santer replies to this completely unfair offer by the Forbes editor:

Dear Mr. X,

Your understanding of fairness and mine seem to be quite different.

Rather than giving me the opportunity to write a “stand alone” response to Larry Bell, your “fair” solution gives me the option of either 1) linking a rebuttal document to Mr. Bell’s flawed assessment of climate science and climate scientists; or 2) pasting comments in the comments section of Mr. Bell’s flawed assessment. Either way, more visitors to your website read Mr. Bell’s fairy tales, and Mr. Bell wins.

Just because Fred Singer fully backs Larry Bell’s false allegations doesn’t make the allegations true. Please read “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.

I had hoped that you would provide me with a reasonable opportunity to defend myself against very serious – and false – allegations of professional misconduct. You have not done so. Your primary concern appears to be the protection of Mr. Bell’s ability to continue disseminating erroneous information. I don’t think that any useful purpose is served by further engagement with you or Mr. Bell.

Perhaps some of the responses you have received to Mr. Bell’s “reporting” will give you pause for thought. Is it really a wise course of action for Forbes Magazine and its readers to rely on an architect for credible information on the nature and causes of climate change?

As the signal of human-caused climate change emerges ever more clearly from the noise of natural climate variability, I very much doubt whether your readers will be content with the feel-good, “there is no problem”, “business as usual is fine” assessments offered by Mr. Bell and S. Fred Singer.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ben Santer

02/10/11: The Forbes editor responds with:

Dear Professor Santer:

With all due respect, my version of fair is far more fair than what any other media outlet would offer. People write letters to the editor to correct misrepresentations, and if they’re lucky, they’re printed.

In our case we’re offering you the chance to rebut Larry. If you don’t want to that’s your choice.

As for my views on the subject, you don’t know them, so I’d appreciate it if you’d cease putting words in my mouth. Indeed, how ironic that the very person claiming to have been misrepresented would do the same to others.

Oh well, do as you like. Just know that we’ve vetted his piece with more than a few climate scientists, and we’ve yet to find anyone with problems concerning Larry’s characterization, which was merely a parrot of what’s in Fred Singer’s book.

Sorry this didn’t work out for us.

02/14/11: Larry Bell posts John Abraham’s letter as a reader comment and allows Fred Singer to respond:

Response to Dr. Abraham’s letter:

The response that follows was prepared for this purpose by Dr. S. Fred Singer, an internationally-recognized climate physicist and former Distinguished Research professor at George Mason University. Dr. Singer served as the first director of the

U.S. Weather Satellite Service and also as vice chairman of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmospheres.

Dr. Singer notes:

1. Dr. Santer was Lead Author of Chapter 8 (“Detection and Attribution”), the crucial chapter of the IPCC-SAR (Second Assessment) report. I was present in Madrid in 1995 when he presented an oral summary. He violated IPCC procedures when he based the conclusions on two papers (of his own) that had not been published at the time.

2. Subsequently, he altered the text of the Chapter, including the deletion of crucial phrases after the final draft had been approved–changing the basic conclusion in the printed version to imply anthropogeric [man-made] causes of global warming. There is no evidence that he obtained the permission of the Chapter coauthors.

3. The text changes were discovered only after the printed version was examined. Chapter 8 formed the basis of the IPCC’s “Summary for Policymakers”, which claimed that ‘the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.’ This document formed the basis for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

4. Dr Patrick Michaels later discovered that a ctucial graph in Chapter 8 of the IPCC report had been misrepresented by Santer (through selective use of the data) to make it appear that observed temperature trends agreed with those calculated from climate models. Michaels’ letter was published in Nature 1996.

5. Upon reading Chapter 8 of the IPCC report [Dr. Singer} discovered that another crucial graph had been altered (from its original form in a published paper) to make it appear that observed temperature patterns increasingly correlated with those calculated from climate models. This finding was published [by Singer] in Eos 1999.

Additional clatification:

Readers may also note a clarification regarding the “hiding the decline” reference that has now been added to the article in response to Dr. Abraham’s comments associated with Drs. Mann and Jones.

02/14/11: Ben Santer sets the record straight again for the nth time!

In Ben’s own words:

Singer’s allegations are not true and are not new.

Here are the five allegations Singer has now resurrected in Forbes Magazine. My responses (in blue) follow each allegation.

1. Dr. Santer was Lead Author of Chapter 8 (“Detection and Attribution”), the crucial chapter of the IPCC-SAR (Second Assessment) report. I was present in Madrid in 1995 when he presented an oral summary. He violated IPCC procedures when he based the conclusions on two papers (of his own) that had not been published at the time.

RESPONSE: Not true. IPCC procedures were not violated. See letter of July 23, 1996 to Wall Street Journal by Bert Bolin, John Houghton, and Luis Gylvan Meira Filho (appended). And it is not true that the conclusions of Chapter 8 were based on two unpublished papers by myself and my colleagues (see appended email dated July 25, 1996; see also: B.D. Santer and T.M.L. Wigley, 2000: Reply to S. Fred Singer. EOS, Vol.81, No. 4, pages 35, 40).

“2. Subsequently, he altered the text of the Chapter, including the deletion of crucial phrases after the final draft had been approved–changing the basic conclusion in the printed version to imply anthropogeric [man-made] causes of global warming. There is no evidence that he obtained the permission of the Chapter coauthors”.

RESPONSE: Not true. As pointed out by Bert Bolin, John Houghton, and Luis Gylvan Meira Filho (letter to WSJ, July 23, 1996):

“The changes made (to chapter 8 ) followed the clear decision at Madrid to accept the draft chapter subject to its modification to improve its presentation, clarity and consistency in accordance with the views both of scientists and delegates expressed at length during the meeting. The rules of procedure were strictly followed and none of the 96 countries represented at Madrid have challenged either the changes or the procedures”.

Furthermore, it is not true that the basic conclusions of Chapter 8 were changed. See my posting on “RealClimate”: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/close-encounters-of-the-absurd-kind/

It is also untrue that I failed to obtain “the permission of the Chapter coauthors” prior to making changes to Chapter 8. Please see the appended letter to “Energy Daily” dated June 3, 1996. The Energy Daily letter is signed by the other Lead Authors of Chapter 8 (Tom Wigley, Tim Barnett, and Ebby Anyamba).

“3. The text changes were discovered only after the printed version was examined. Chapter 8 formed the basis of the IPCC’s “Summary for Policymakers”, which claimed that ‘the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.’ This document formed the basis for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol”.

RESPONSE: Not true. The text changes to Chapter 8 were discussed at length in Madrid. They were not “discovered only after the printed version was examined”. And it is not true that the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report formed “the basis for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol”.

“4. Dr Patrick Michaels later discovered that a crucial graph in Chapter 8 of the IPCC report had been misrepresented by Santer (through selective use of the data) to make it appear that observed temperature trends agreed with those calculated from climate models. Michaels’ letter was published in Nature 1996″.

RESPONSE: Not true. There was no selective use of data or misrepresentation of data in Chapter 8. See http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/02/close-encounters-of-the-absurd-kind/ and references therein. I note that Fred Singer cites Pat Michaels’ criticism of the 1996 Santer et al. Nature paper, but not our published response to that criticism.

“5. Upon reading Chapter 8 of the IPCC report [Dr. Singer} discovered that another crucial graph had been altered (from its original form in a published paper) to make it appear that observed temperature patterns increasingly correlated with those calculated from climate models. This finding was published [by Singer] in Eos 1999″.

RESPONSE: Not true. There was no sinister alteration of a “crucial graph”. Singer’s criticism in EOS was rebutted by myself and Tom Wigley (B.D. Santer and T.M.L. Wigley, 2000: Reply to S. Fred Singer. EOS, Vol.81, No. 4, pages 35, 40). As in point #4 above, Singer cites criticism of Chapter 8 without mentioning the published response to the criticism.

Citing the criticism but not the published response is intellectually dishonest behavior.

It is very troubling – but not surprising – that Professor Singer continues to misrepresent my actions as Convening Lead Author of Chapter 8 of the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report. Rebuttals of his misrepresentations seem to be of no consequence. Professor Singer has ignored these rebuttals in the past, and will continue to ignore them in the future.

Back in 1996, in the middle of my difficulties with Fred Singer, Fred Seitz, Pat Michaels, and the Global Climate Coalition, Klaus Hasselmann gave me the following advice: “The best defense is to continue doing good science”. In the intervening 15 years, I’ve tried hard to follow Klaus’s advice. I’ll continue to focus on that advice, even on the bad days…

With best regards,

Ben

Summary:  Larry Bell appears to be running the show at Forbes.  Bell has consistently published false information that has been immediately pointed out by experts.  Upon receiving the corrections, Forbes, instead of making corrections, calls on Fred Singer, a well-documented climate denier, to defend Bell’s smear campaign. 

S. Fred Singer has been on the wrong side of the scientific consensus on important issues such as:

1) Smoking and cancer
2) DDT
3) Acid rain
4) Ozone depletion
5) Manmade climate change

It is truly absurd that ANYBODY listens to this guy because his position is usually wrong.  He is the George Costanza of scienceWhatever Singer says, believe the opposite and it is probably correct. 

Forbes needs to understand that Bell is wrong, Singer is wrong, and therefore Forbes readers are getting wrong information on an issue that has serious financial implications.  Why does Forbes think giving wrong information is going to help its readers? 

When is wrong ever right?

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Written by Scott Mandia

February 16, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. Documenting these interchanges is important. Thanks for taking the time.

    Byron Smith

    February 16, 2011 at 5:15 pm

  2. [...] [...]

  3. [...] In my previous blog post Forbes Magazine Uses Astrologer for Financial Advice I showed how Forbes Magazine was allowing an architect, Larry Bell, to make false statements about climate science.  Even more disturbing, Forbes magazine is allowing Bell and others to smear well-respected scientists such as Drs. Ben Santer and Michael Mann by making demonstrably false statements. A pattern has emerged over the past two months where Forbes.com publish … Read More [...]

  4. At Forbes wrong is right when it helps sell advertising and attract readers.

    mspelto

    February 18, 2011 at 8:34 am

  5. British Government Chief Scientific Adviser John Beddington goes on the offensive against pseudo-science, calling for it to be tolerated as much as racism is.

    http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1032320

    Dellingpole’s upset, so Beddington must be doing something right ;)

    J Bowers

    February 20, 2011 at 4:08 pm

  6. Stunning indictment of what’s wrong with some media outlets. I read the Bell piece when first published and couldn’t believe any reputable outlet would let (pay?) someone who has no expertise to pontificate on a technical subject. Why doesn’t Forbes let me give stock advice? I can throw around finance terms and could round up a couple of ‘experts’ to back me.

    Forbes is taking an ideological position on climate. That is the definition of propaganda.

    Stephen

    February 22, 2011 at 12:48 am

  7. [...] Forbes Magazine: Wrong is Right [...]

  8. [...] Larry Bell who routinely misrepresents science and attacks scientists at Forbes.com. [...]


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