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An attack that confirms the accuracy of my lecture

I have sent the following letter to the president of the Royal Society and the Chairman and director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation in response to a highly misleading letter to me that was copied to them.


To Sir Venki Ramakrishnan FRS, Lord Lawson and Dr Benny Peiser




Dear Sir Venki, Lord Lawson and Dr Peiser,

You have been sent a letter by Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics complaining about what I said about Dr Ranga Myneni in my lecture at the Royal Sociey.

Dr Ranga Myneni has already responded to my lecture and does not make the same complaints about misrepresentation made by Mr Ward.

Dr Myneni does, however, in his response, make two entirely false accusations against me, saying that I go “on to ignore 30+ years of IPCC assessments!”, when in fact I discussed several such assessments and quoted verbatim from two, one in 1990 and one in 2014; and that I “argue that thousands and thousands of scientists are somehow in cahoots to push the global warming hoax on innocent people of the world …”, when I made no such argument and specifically detailed how my position was different from those who think global warming is a hoax.

Turning to Mr Ward’s own complaints, he correctly notes that I explained that I became aware of Dr Myneni’s work from a 2012 talk, but that I quote from one delivered in 2013. I may not have made this fact very clear in my spoken remarks, but everything I said was properly sourced (including on my slides) and correctly quoted, and in any case the use of the later talk is entirely appropriate since, as Mr Ward also notes, Dr Myneni’s estimates of the amount and attribution of greening changed between late 2012 and mid 2013. This is something I was well aware of, but the change in no way contradicts anything I said. Indeed, it reinforces it. The 2012 version of the talk was based on data suggesting a greening of 20.5% of the land, which Mr Ward quotes; while the equivalent slides in the 2013 version, one of which I reproduced, supports a greening of 30.87% of the land area, which was the estimate to which I referred.

Mr Ward’s letter specifically confirms the accuracy of my claim that at various times Dr Myneni said 31% of the land area has greened, the planet had greened by 14%, and that 70% of the greening can be attributed to carbon dioxide fertilization. Dr Myneni has not claimed he was misquoted on these points.

As I stated in my lecture, Dr Myneni stated in 2015 that “[Ridley] falsely claims that CO2 fertilisation is responsible for the greening of the earth”. Yet a few months later he himself published evidence that “CO2 fertilisation explains 70% of the greening trend”.

I used the word “might” in my suggestion that the publication of these results might have been delayed lest they give sceptics a field day, so there was no accusation, as Mr Ward claims. Dr Myneni says the delay was mainly due to the senior author on the paper returning to China. I remain doubtful that these data would have taken so long to publish if they had shown bad news.

As for Mr Ward’s complaint that I misrepresented Dr Richard Betts, he destroys his own case by quoting another part of the IPCC assessment report where greening is very briefly mentioned, and which I confess I missed because it was so brief and dismissive:

“Warming (and possibly the CO2 fertilisation effect) has also been correlated with global trends in satellite greenness observations, which resulted in an estimated 6% increase of global NPP, or the accumulation of 3.4 PgC on land over the period 1982–1999 (Nemani et al., 2003).”

Since published data (Donohue et al 2013) already pointed to a larger greening over a longer period, and my point was that the mentions of global greening were brief, doubtful and downplayed the effect, this extra quote beautifully illustrates my point. As I put it,

“If that’s a clear and prominent statement that carbon dioxide emissions have increased green vegetation on the planet by 14% and are significantly reducing the water requirements of agriculture, then I’m the Queen of Sheba.”

I will happily add this extra quotation to the written version of my lecture on line since it illustrates my point even better.

I stand by my lecture. Mr Ward is confirming the accuracy of my work while continuing to try to smear my name.

In my lecture I stated that “These days there is a legion of well paid climate spin doctors. Their job is to keep the debate binary: either you believe climate change is real and dangerous or you’re a denier who thinks it’s a hoax. But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous.”

With best wishes

Yours sincerely

Matt Ridley

By Matt Ridley | Tagged:  rational-optimist