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Posted by on Jan 11, 2010 in Science & Technology | 45 comments

Global Warming Reporting Is Basically Libel

I just saw a piece in The Daily Mail that talked about how an expert “predicts” up to three decades of global cooling. At first I was surprised, but then I saw the name and it all made sense. I’d been debating about whether to write about it, I mean The Daily Mail is just a tabloid, but on the other hand George Will and others have had similar pieces based on the same research. Then Pete had to go and have a post about it which forces my hand.

Personally I think that Dr. Latif should sue for libel. I’m not sure that this is anywhere close to it, but it should be. The opinions ascribed to him are in complete disagreement with his own, and pieces like this are damaging not only to his reputation but more importantly, it helps invalidate his work — which personally would hurt my emotional and mental well being, an aspect of libel laws.

What am I talking about? Well read this interview with him.

It’s nuanced enough that I don’t want to quote too much from it because you really should read it yourself. The two points though are (quoted from the piece with my comments in brackets):

The work of Dr. Latif and Dr. Keenlyside in Nature “does not allow one to make any inferences about anthropogenic global warming,” as Dr. Latif put it to me. [Dr. Keenlyside said, “Given the uncertainties that exist in such kinds of preliminary studies, I believe it is more useful to point out that climate on decadal timescales may be quite different from that expected only considering external radiative forcing (as in the IPCC). This is actually an obvious, but I believe mostly overlooked fact. Our results highlight this.”]

Their work has no forecasting skill after 2015. Indeed, Latif told me “we don’t trust our forecast beyond 2015.” [The paper says that the mean of 2005-2015 will be similar as that of 2000-2010.]

Obviously people should be able to criticize whatever work they please, and come up with alternative explanations for data. However that’s not what this reporting is. This reporting (and similar opinion pieces) use cherry picked Dr. Latif quotes as an argument to authority while misrepresenting him completely. If I were him I wouldn’t stand it, and as readers we shouldn’t either.

Update: A commenter had some fair criticism about the writing style of the Climate Progress post and said he wasn’t convinced it was an accurate reflection of Latif’s work. I dug up this NPR interview: “If my name was not Mojib Latif, my name would be Global Warming.”

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