Friederike Otto
On September 14th the Daily Sceptic published an article reporting that four leading Italian scientists had undertaken a major review of historical climate trends and concluded that declaring a 'climate emergency' was not supported by the data. They suggested that children should not be burdened with anxiety about the climate. The Daily Sceptic story was retweeted around 9,000 times, read by at least 24,000 people and was widely seen across social media. It was picked up by print media such as the Australian and broadcast on a widely-distributed Sky News Australia clip. Mention was made of the impressive credentials of the authors, who included two physics professors, an adjunct professor of physics and an agricultural meteorologist, and the wide variety of sources they had referenced.

The story sent shockwaves through the ranks of the 'settled' climate science community that takes a more alarmist approach to the prospects of humanity and the Earth's climate. As always with heretical stories like this, the mere suggestion that the climate is not breaking down runs the risk of destroying the need for a command-and-control Net Zero solution. Something had to be done.

State-owned Agence France-Presse (AFP) is rapidly becoming the 'fact-checker' of choice for those seeking to enforce the strict 'settled' science narrative. On Monday, the Daily Sceptic published details of a rather muddled 'fact-check' written by Roland Lloyd Parry in which it was stated that we had misled over the recent growth in Arctic summer ice. To present his case, Lloyd Parry compared one fact - summer sea ice in 2022 - to a 30-year average ending 12 years ago. Now Lloyd Parry is joined on an AFP fact-check of the Italian scientists by senior editor Marlowe Hood, who was recently given €100,000 (£88,000) by the Foundation arm of a large Spanish bank heavily involved in financing green technology. Hood describes himself as the Herald of the Anthropocene, the latter a political renaming of the current Holocene era that puts the alleged dominant role of human activity on the climate at the centre.

The claim that there is no evidence of a climate emergency is said to be "misleading". AFP reports that "top climate experts" say the paper "cherry-picked" data. Of course scientists often debate each other's findings in a robust fashion, but what they don't - or shouldn't - do is call for the other side to be cancelled. One of the experts quoted by AFP was Friederike Otto, an academic whose doctoral work was in philosophy of science, who works at the Imperial College-based Grantham Institute for Climate Change, a body partly funded by the green billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham. She said that "of course" the authors were not writing this article in good faith. "If the journal cares about science they should withdraw it loudly and publicly, saying that it should have never been published."

AFP author Marlowe Hood tweeted:
Marlowe Hood, tweet screenshot
Their anti-free speech pressure bore fruit and on September 30th the publisher Springer Nature highlighted the following announcement at the top of the Italians' paper: "Readers are alerted that the conclusions reported in this manuscript are currently under dispute. The journal is investigating the issue."

All science, of course, should be in dispute. Will Springer bow to future pressure to place a similar statement against work on particle physics or molecular chemistry if a government-owned news agency 'fact-checks' its conclusions?

Other experts quoted by AFP included Professor Richard Betts, Head of Climate Impacts at the U.K. Met Office. He felt the scope of the paper was much too limited for it to inform a high level-level statement on whether the climate crisis is evident or not. Betts of course is often quoting the high authority of the IPCC, and goes on to note that the 'attribution' of human influences to extreme weather events has strengthened of late. Others point out that this type of work is the product of climate models and is unproveable.

Betts went on to suggest the scientists ignored results which showed some "extremes" were increasing. According to Betts, it was noted "in passing" that "global trends in heatwave intensity are not significant". Inexplicably, AFP and Betts failed to quote the beginning of the sentence in which the rigorous Italians drew attention to studies that had shown for the period 1951-2017, "a significant increase in yearly values of heatwave days, maximum heatwave duration and cumulative heat".

Friederike Otto commented on hurricanes and droughts, noting:
"Nobody said they are increasing globally - the IPCC is very clear on that - but that doesn't mean the trends that occur are not hugely problematic for the regions where they are already occurring."
With the best will in the world, it is difficult to see what Otto is writing about here.

Another scientist calling for the work to be cancelled was Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth Systems at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He told AFP that he did not know of the Springer journal, "but if it is a self-respecting one it should withdraw the article".

Citizen journalist Paul Homewood also covered the story and noted:
"To simply demand that the journal withdraws the paper is the worst sort of censorship, and reminds us all of the dark days of Climategate, when such practices were rife whenever anybody dared to challenge the climate establishment's agenda." Homewood looked at a number of the Italian paper's statements and concluded the study was "actually a pretty level-headed, uncontroversial assessment of the actual data".
It is difficult to see how AFPcan call its work a 'fact-check'. It has not checked any facts on its own account, and just reproduced opinions from four people it describes as "experts". Yet in its headline it says the Italian scientists "cherry-picked" data. The claim there is no evidence of a climate emergency is said to be "misleading", but AFP's evidence to the contrary is just what others have told it. Nevertheless it has spearheaded a campaign to cancel the work, and potentially harm the reputations of four distinguished and highly credentialled Italian scientists.