As we meander towards the end of the month and the end of Pure Poison we thought we’d drag a few of our favourite articles from the archives and give them a second airing. It’s instructive to look at how the things we cover here have, or haven’t, changed over the past three years.

This post originally appeared in February 2010 and was followed a few days later by my personal favourite First Dog on the Moon cartoon

Is it possible that News Limited’s own Piers Akerman is the source of an alarmist climate change quote that has for years been attributed to the first head of the IPCC, Sir John Houghton? That’s certainly what is being suggested in the UK by the Independent.


The quote in question has been rolled out time and again as an example of climate change scientists’ propensity to exaggerate their case and was claimed to have been taken from Sir John’s 1994 book ‘Global Warming, The Complete Briefing’

Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen,

The problem is, that quote doesn’t appear in his book. Not the current editions, not the first editions, and furthermore Sir John denies ever making a statement of that type;

It’s not the sort of thing I would ever say. It’s quite the opposite of what I think and it pains me to see this quote being used repeatedly in this way. I would never say we should hype up the risk of climate disasters in order to get noticed

So if Sir John Houghton never published, or said, that phrase then where did it come from? According to The Independent:

the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006 when it appeared in a newspaper column written by the journalist Piers Akerman in the Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph. Akerman, a controversial right-wing columnist and global warming sceptic, appears to be the first person to use the quote verbatim

Could it be that Piers decided to indulge in a little bit of alarmism to enhance his rhetoric? Now Sir John is contemplating legal action;

he is considering taking legal action because he feels that the continued recycling of the misquotation is doing him and his science a huge disfavour.

As Darryl Mason points out:

If Houghton does take legal action, it will be the latest in a long line of defamation suits against Akerman, who must have cost Rupert Murdoch at least $2 million in payouts, payoffs and legal fees in the past few years alone

Amazingly, climate change deniers who have been using the quote as part of their campaign against science weren’t particularly transparent when the Independent asked them to substantiate the source of the quote. Perhaps when they’ve finished poring over the CRU East Anglia emails they can start searching for the origin of this quote.

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