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Sunday, August 02, 2009


A couple of years ago I was one of 4 bloggers worldwide who, for a few hours, was taken in by a "scientific paper" produced by, or actually downloaded by, a Guardian journalist David Thorpe. I put it up one evening & the next morning acknowledged it had been a hoax & kept reporting on the outcome.

I recently ran across an article(s) that Thorpe, whom it turns out is an ex-2000AD comic writer who now seems to make his living writing eco-scare stories for children which make their money not by sales but by being given grants to write them. This is not that unusual - Paul Ehrlich who has prophesied all sorts of catastrophes over the last 40 years, none of which have come true still gets $250,000 grants to write new books & James Hansen gets the same from the Heinz Foundation (Sen Kerry) despite being a government employee. I suspect Thorpe gets much less but you can see where the money is. Anyway his article is here & also here so due for a fisk in bold.

"The debate on whether modern climate change is caused by human behaviour or due to natural cycles is for some highly emotive, because a great deal of vested interest and money depends on the outcome. Indeed as pointed out above

The sceptics can be divided into two camps: those who base their arguments on a good and transparent understanding of the science and economics; and those who don’t, instead attacking the proponents on personal grounds. And they do get extremely vituperative. I would like to be able to say the same about alarmists but, as Thorpe ably demonstrates, fabrication & vituperation is all they bring to the debate

I recently collaborated in an elaborate hoax – called “a spoof that puts the fun back into lying about science” by desmogblog – that was intended to smoke out the latter sort. It was so successful it was syndicated across 600 radio stations in the US. Also on the Guardian, BBC etc indeed at the time I said that the fact that it was a hoax would greatly increase the chances of the BBC reporting it & was promptly proven right. Note however the disparity between 4 sceptical bloggers, & no newspapers (it was denounced within 30 minutes & papers have a much longer lead time) reporting the hoax & 600 radio stations plus papers & TV reporting the hoax from the alarmist side - I think this indicates the disproportionate media coverage on warming.

A client wrote a fake paper, purporting to ‘prove’ that rather than fossil fuel burning it was the previously undetected emissions from undersea bacteria which were responsible for the last 140 years’ increase in atmospheric concentrations. The term "client" suggests this was Thorpe's baby rather than him simply being a front man for somebody as prominent as, for example, fellow Guardian journalist George Moonbat, however he acknowledges he couldn't write it

We said it was from a fake ‘Journal of Geoclimatic Studies’, based at a fake Institute of Geoclimatic Studies at Okinawa University, in Japan. We had a fake Editorial Board, back issues, editorial and other papers.

The 4000 word paper itself, Carbon dioxide production by benthic bacteria: the death of manmade global warming theory? contained graphs and numerous references, and was launched on its own website late afternoon on 7 November. (It has since been taken down.)

Within a few hours, the blogosphere was ablaze with the news, and a number of bloggers fell for the scam. However, we had deliberately made it fairly transparent, and easy to see that it was not a genuine paper. After all, a simple ‘whois’ look-up revealed my name as the domain owner, and Googling the contributors or the institution drew a blank. "number of bloggers" is 4 worldwide which is less impressive than he implies, I doubt the "deliberately made it fairly transparent" since clearly (A) a lot of work went into it & (B) Thorpe acknowledges he wasn't up to doing it

I took several calls from Science magazine, Nature, and Reuters news agency. These were genuinely interested in the process and I passed on their contact details to the writer. who has nonetheless not outed himself or been officially outed

Well-known sceptic Benny Peiser posted the paper to his discussion group, but an hour later (to his credit) sent a second message saying that it appears he was duped. Neil Craig at ‘A Place to Stand’ said “this paper could not be more damaging to manmade global warming theory”. this is a killer because I didn't actually come up with that remark. Officially he did. I said on his blog "You quote me, Neil Craig at 'A Place to Stand "this paper could not be more damaging to manmade global warming theory" - now this comes from various newspaper articles which, in turn, are rewrites of the Reuters report in it which does indeed quote me as saying this. However a more careful reading of my post would have shown that I was not claiming this as my view but was instead taking it as a quote from your own article. You are therefore quoting the quote of the quote of myself republishing your quote, which you apparently didn't recognise." Despite this he has still requoted the quote of the quote .... which incidentally, since he clearly didn't recognise the words, suggests that he hadn't even read "his" hoax before downloading it

‘Reason Magazine’ posted the story and then tore it down, as did quite a few others.

More interesting were the personal emails we got, ranging from the congratulatory to the insulting, including this one from journalist and environmental health campaigner Theo Richel: “Usually we skeptics are accused of deliberately causing confusion, now we catch you doing it. Bit like what Michael Crichton predicted in his Climate of Fear, environmentalists would do. Great visionary skeptic that man. So I’ll gladly keep you as an example of the journalists who need fiction to prove their point. And then fail.”

I happen to think Theo is a reasonable man. He, like me, believes, that we need sound scientific evidence on which to base policy. He, like me, is sceptical of some of the claims of the environmental movement, who do often exaggerate and scare. I have personal experience of this having been at the heart of the MMR vaccine debate, where I presented the balanced viewpoint on the Department of health’s immunisation website as its editor. He, like me, thinks that policy should be made on the basis of proper risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis (return on investment), if we are to deal with real-world economic choices. "as its editor" - again we see the money trail. Does anybody think he would have had this government job, or the Guardian job (a fakenewspaper funded by government advertising) let alone the grants grants for scaring kids, had he been a sceptic?

We’ll have to agree to differ on our attitude to Michael Crichton. who made a living without grants

But I’m a satirist, and a fiction writer by trade as well as a journalist. (And, yes, I can tell the difference.) Sometimes fiction and satire can reach places facts alone can’t – in the right context. Whether we can be said to have failed depends on what we set out to achieve.

For me, the point is that entrenched opinions lead to trading insults and a lack of self-critical rigour when it comes to examining the facts – the basis of the argument. a hoax not tending to make serious discussion of facts more difficult?

What the hoax showed is that there are many people willing to jump on anything that supports their argument, whether it’s true or not. quite the opposite - it showed that despite the very best efforts of whatever senior & scientifically literate people he was fronting for only 4 bloggers "jumped on the bandwagon" & I for one went to great lengths to hold up my hands that I had been hoaxed - for a few hours. Compare & contrast with the Hockey Stick fraud which was adopted for years by the IPCC & supported by Nature & other publishers & for which they have not held up their hands even long after it was it was rumbled

What we wanted to emphasise is that it’s necessary to achieve scientific validity using the peer-review model. Proper climate science makes every attempt to do this, and is a constantly evolving and self-refining process, as all science is. Nature used the peer review process to suppress publication of the proof the Hockey stick was a fraud. What Thorpe means is that the hoax was deliberately perpetrated for the purpose of enforcing eco-fascist control over publication

So, when commentator posted on my blog – sarcastically – “….And we do all have to go with the “scientific consensus” don’t we?” – I can only say, if we haven’t got the scientific consensus then what have we got? Indeed, a need to lie & fabricate perhaps?

I regret to say that though he got asked to write various articles & presumably got paid for them, not a single one of the 600 radio stations, newspapers, BBC etc even talked to me, the single most prominent blogger in the entire world :-) to fall for it. Strangely, though his article mentions me by name my blog is not among those his article links to. In further reporting on this I said "I just heard somebody on BBC Radio Scotland talking about the supermodel who demands to be paid in Euros not realising that it has already been proven a hoax so I guess I can be pleased to have been able to match their journalistic standards" Since the BBC have yet to acknowledge that piece of stupidity I was clearly being hard on myself saying my error in any way matched their journalistic standards.

Incidentally the grant Thorpe gets for writing eco-scare books to frightenn kids comes from Powys Arts Forum which lists itself as "an independent organisation and registered charity working to enhance arts activity across the county of Powys"
& that "It is wholly independent though it enjoys a close working relationship with the Arts & Culture department of Powys County Council and the Arts Council of Wales" which screams government funded fakecharity. Thus we see 3 separate lines of funding all of which descend from the taxpayer. While I am sure Mr Thorpe would deny being employed by the government to front for eco-fascist lies but that is clearly exactly the case.

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I am David Thorpe.

Get your facts right. I got paid £60 for one piece on the Guardian online. I am not a Guardian journalist. I write for the online version only maybe three times a year.

I do not subsist on grants. I have only just received my first grant in many years to write a children's book.

I am News Editor of Energy and Environmental Management magazine and have been for ten years. This is how I get my balanced facts on global warming. See

I have not written comics for many years.

I also have just begin to write practical environmental books such as a guide to eco-refurb to be published next year.

Half my income is from web design.

So you're almost completely wrong. If you can't be arsed to get your facts right here, believing just what confirms your prejudices, why on earth should anyone believe anything else you say?
The Guardian list you as one of their freelance journalists

The magazine is listed as "an official publication of DEFRA which certainly suggests they are paying for it. Since our government has committed itself to the destruction of 80% of our economy to support the global warming story I would require some evidence that their publications are "balanced". I stand by my opinion that had you published a lie designed to harm the government's favourite scare story it would have refelected adversely on your employment prospects in government (official & unofficial) service.

I did not say you were still writing comics. I trust you will accept my assurance that I regard your previous job as considerably more worthy of respect.

I trust the eco-refurb, whatever that is, book sells well.

Does your web design job involve any contracts with government organisations. I know that for ordinary people such contracts are largely unavailable to those without a disability lift?

So not that wrong then. Not as wrong as when you said I had said the line that you hadn't noticed came from your hoax. Nonetheless my thanks since I am always willing to improve accuracy.
I am most amused to learn that Neil Craig was one of the bloggers who fell for this hoax. Hilarious.
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