Extracts from Ofcom Complaint, by Category
Frederick Seitz’s Allegations of
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Key to colour-coded commentary text
Bright red text: Actual falsification of data, and/or misrepresentation of the views of a contributor to the programme
Dark red text: Narration, or on-screen graphics, or an accumulation of consecutive interviewee statements that taken together amount to narration; which are either factually inaccurate, or apparently intentionally misleading, or are an attempt to give the impression that a contentious opinion is a fact.
Blue text: Interviewee is either factually inaccurate, apparently intentionally misleading, or expresses an opinion as if it were a fact without context being provided to make it clear that it’s an opinion.
[This section was considered by both the the Fairness and Standards Divisions of Ofcom.]
Extracts from Complete Transcript and Rebuttal
[Cut to zoomed in on-screen display of Wall Street Journal article.]
[Cut to on-screen display of IPCC reply to these allegations.]
[Comment 114: The documentary should have made clear that this refers to events that took place in 1996, surrounding the release of the Second Assessment Report, which has been superseded by two more recent assessments. It should also have disclosed that Frederick Seitz is a condensed matter physicist, and has never been a climate scientist or ever been involved with the IPCC. Moreover, it should have disclosed that at the time of writing the letter to the Wall Street Journal, Seitz was the Chair of the fossil-fuel industry–funded George C. Marshall Institute [see Appendix D below]), as well as being Chairman of the Science and Environmental Policy Project [see Appendix D below] and see also S. Fred Singer, Appendix C.10, page 135 [of the full complaint]).
Seitz has also worked as a consultant to the tobacco industry (http://tinyurl.com/j5dpp [Guardian]), and was described in an internal memo by Phillip Morris Co. in 1989 (7 years before the WSJ letter) as “quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice.” (http://tinyurl.com/ytymym [Tobaccodocuments]). He was later instrumental in organising a “petition project” of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine or OISM: a petition that has been heavily criticised for its misleading nature (see the entry about the OISM [in Appendix D below] for details).
Moreover, the revisions to a draft chapter of the IPCC report were made by the authors (i.e. the scientists) themselves, in response to review comments, as they are obliged to do under the normal peer review process. None of the authors complained about the changes, and forty signed a letter to the Wall Street Journal (see http://tinyurl.com/yr3ozf) stressing that the scientific content of the report was unchanged, and that uncertainties were still discussed in the final version.
They also noted that Seitz:
… was not involved in the process of putting together the 1995 IPCC report on the science of climate change. He did not attend the Madrid IPCC meeting on which he reports. He was not privy to the hundreds of review comments received by Chapter 8 Lead Authors. Most seriously, before writing his editorial, he did not contact any of the Lead Authors of Chapter 8 in order to obtain information as to how or why changes were made to Chapter 8 after Madrid.
An open letter of support for the IPCC was also written by the American Meteorological Society and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (see http://tinyurl.com/yr3ozf). See also Appendix G: [below] for further context provided by Bert Bolin, the IPCC Chairman at the time of this controversy.
By quoting selectively an article by someone who has never had any involvement with the IPCC, who is not a climate scientist, and whose article in the Wall Street Journal has been shown to be so highly misleading, the film maker was apparently setting out to mislead the audience and to misrepresent the facts.]
(In breach of the 2003 Communications Act Section 265, Ofcom 5.4, 5.5, 5.7, 5.11, 5.12)
The information in the table below was obtained from the websites that it cites and links to throughout. The authors of this complaint carried out this research with the help of many others, whose contributions are acknowledged in section 1.13, page 12 [of the full complaint].
I find this article exceedingly well and carefully written and cannot spot any inaccuracies. I wish here simply to add further factual information that I recall from my time as chairman for the IPCC, 1988 – 1997.
Comment 1. [Note: this is Comment 17 in the full complaint.] I have seen this comment that that “the conclusions of the IPCC are “politically driven”. I have never seen this statement elaborated to show by whom such political initiatives have been taken, nor have any aims of such political motives been specified.
Comment 2. [Comment 19 in the full complaint.] I fully endorse the analysis made. On the other hand, in 1998 Professor Seitz, in his capacity of being President of the George Marshall Institute initiated a pubic appeal in the form of a Petition that was circulated widely across the US, in which case reference was made to 15 000 experts in the field that clearly was a fallacy, see further Comments 9.
Comment 7. [Comment 73 in the full complaint.] A somewhat longer quote from the Summary for Policy Makers seems most appropriate. ‘The size of the warming [so far] is broadly consistent with predictions of climate models, but it is also of the same magnitude as natural climate variability. Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability; alternatively this variability and other human factors could have offset a still larger human-induced greenhouse gas warming. The unequivocal detection of the enhanced greenhouse effect from observations is not likely for a decade or more.’This statement describes very well the state of knowledge in 1990 and research during the fifteen years since then shows that this conclusion was indeed well expressed and largely correct.
Comment 8. [Comment 74 in the full complaint.] This is a very common criticism that still appears for example on the Internet. The last IPCC Assessment Report again shows the lack of credibility of such views, but of course recognises that variations of solar radiation probably plays some minor role
Comment 9. [Comment 114 in the current document.] The incident that is referred to occurred in 1996 in the aftermath of the appearance of the Second IPCC Assessment Report, SAR. I had been present at the Working Group 1 Plenary session in November 1995 in Madrid, when the conclusions referred to by Professor Seitz were agreed by representatives from about 90 countries. It is most appropriate to cite the key paragraph that repeatedly came up for discussion during the year and also on many occasions later:
Our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited because the signal is still emerging from the noise of natural variability, and because there are uncertainties in key factors. These include the magnitude and patterns of long term variability and the time-evolving pattern of forcing by, and response to, changes in concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols, and land surface change. Nevertheless, the balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernable influence on global climate.
This carefully worded paragraph expresses very well the scientific uncertainty that at the time still prevailed about human induced climate change. No catastrophes were described. It was also agreed by the Working Group that the outcome of the discussions, in particular the statements made by the Principle Lead Authors of the chapter at the session, should be reflected in the modifications of the report to include the gist of the discussions at the session and in order to ascertain consistency between the Summary for Policy Makers and the bulk report presented to the session by the Lead Authors’ team. It was also agreed that any objections that might arise before the IPCC Plenary Session in Rome (three weeks later) should be brought forward at that later time. No such later requests for change were made and the Summary for Policy Makers had therefore been unanimously agreed.
I readily verify that the description of the course of events in 1996 is correct but wishes also to draw the attention to another initiative taken by Professor Seitz in April 1998 in the form of a Petition that was circulated widely across the US with the aim to prevent the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. The project was supported by an eight pages review of the “global warming” issue that had been prepared by four researchers at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, and it was claimed that the petition had been signed by about 15,000 scientists. None of the authors had previously published anything dealing with the climate change issue, nor had the article appeared in any peer-reviewed journal. It was, however, printed with a lay-out that was identical to the one used in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), presumably with the intension to enhance its credibility amongst potential supporters. The Academy took, however, the extraordinary step of disassociating itself from the initiative of one of its former presidents, expressing the view that the article “does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy”. A closer look at the endless list of names also revealed that few of those that had signed were working in the field of climatology and hardly anyone, as far as I know, was a leading scientist in the field. Actually, a large majority was laymen and had very little knowledge about the issue at stake. This indeed shows the lack of trustworthiness of the George Marshall Institute and its head Professor Fredrick Seitz.