You'll remember the other day that Richard Littlejohn explained that the difference between weather and climate was just 'semantics', and that I said it was a bit more complicated than that.
It's tempting to imagine that Littlejohn is just a squawking buffoon who either doesn't understand things properly, or a crafty weasel who wilfully ignores things and misrepresents things in order to get the facts to fit his prejudices. But there's another option as well: it may just be that his newspaper has decided that it holds its readers in such contempt that they must have everything slightly scientific presented in such simplistic terms that it doesn't represent what people have actually said. There may be no agenda at work here, no plan to make man-made climate change out to be bunkum; it may just be that, in a quest to make things so straightforward that anyone can understand them, not only do people not understand them but people end up understanding the opposite to what they might otherwise understand, when presented with the more complex data or ideas.
Maybe. Whether or not that's the case could be answered by what the Mail's response is to a complaint by Mojib Latif about the Mail on Sunday (and subsequently the repeating and reheating of that article by the Daily Mail and Telegraph) and how they represented his research. The Guardian reports:
He told the Guardian: "It comes as a surprise to me that people would try to use my statements to try to dispute the nature of global warming. I believe in manmade global warming. I have said that if my name was not Mojib Latif it would be global warming."
He added: "There is no doubt within the scientific community that we are affecting the climate, that the climate is changing and responding to our emissions of greenhouse gases."
That seems fairly unequivocal by him, doesn't it? Then how did his research get used like this?
Latif explains that's not what he meant at all, and not what he believes to be the case:
It said: "The BBC assured viewers that the big chill was was merely short-term 'weather' that had nothing to do with 'climate', which was still warming. The work of Prof Latif and the other scientists refutes that view."
Not according to Latif. "They are not related at all," he said. "What we are experiencing now is a weather phenomenon, while we talked about the mean temperature over the next 10 years. You can't compare the two."
It's what happens next that will determine whether it's a simple mistake of oversimplification, and more weather/climate confusion; or whether the Mail really believes, despite a refutation by the scientist it quotes in the story, that his research proves something other than what he claims it does; or whether there might be an agenda at work. Will the Mail let Latif explain, in their pages, and let him clarify and explain the complex issue so that readers might not be misled? Just on the off-chance that they don't:
The recent articles are not the first to misrepresent his research, Latif said. "There are numerous newspapers, radio stations and television channels all trying to get our attention. Some overstate and some want to downplay the problem as a way to get that attention," he said. "We are trying to discuss in the media a highly complex issue. Nobody would discuss the problem of [Einstein's theory of] relativity in the media. But because we all experience the weather, we all believe that we can assess the global warming problem."