A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
to all those of you who are still passing by, and there still seem to be quite a few.
(Photo by JudyN)
Yesterday afternoon I received the very sad news from Tony Brown that the prolific commenter on climate sceptical blogs that we knew as ‘Max’ has died at the age of 82.
Reading each and every comment is one of the less well-recognised duties of a conscientious blogger, a task that can become very time-consuming and demanding. Moderation is of course one of the reasons for this, courtesy another, but also learning from others is a very important part of it, and Max’s comments always came under that heading. I must have read tens of thousands of words that he contributed from his home in Switzerland and always with interest and respect. I never needed to fear that moderation would be necessary because his tone was always courteous, even in face of the most severe provocation. His approach to any discussion, however heated and controversial, was calm, friendly, well informed, and utterly rational. One always knew that any argument or assertion that he put forward could be well supported with references and I do not remember any time when what he said was effectively overturned by others. Such characteristics as these must have done much to promote rational climate scepticism among those who had the good fortune to come into contact with Max.
As a blogger, I was always happy when a post passed muster with Max, and must admit that when drafting a new post it was not unusual to be assailed by the thought, ‘Max won’t let me get away with that’, and then settle down to further revision. It’s remarkable how the web can bring people into one’s life and allow them to become part of it to an extent that you would not think possible when you have never seen them, spoken to them, or come to know anything about their real lives.
At this sad time our thoughts and sympathy will be with Max’s wife. He will be remembered with respect and affection by many, and of course all those comments will live on as a very durable contribution to the great climate change debate.
UPDATE 08/06/2014 17:30
Robin Guenier has just reminded me of a time when two Harmless Shy contributors - with very different views on climate change and also very different blogging styles - decided that they should put their money where their mouths were. This is what Max told Robin, who had been involved in the discussion, in an email he received last year:
I recall our exchanges with P—- M—– (now tempterrain), and remember how certain he was that global warming would resume “with a vengeance after 2009″. We started off with a bet of $1,000 on whether or not the next 3 years (after 2009) would exceed the 1998 record temperature, using the HadCRUT3 surface temperature record. In our off-line exchanges, Peter then asked for the amount to be reduced to a token amount of $100, and we agreed that the loser would pay this amount to the charity selected by the winner.
I haven’t checked in a couple of days, but the last time I did the December 2012 figure still wasn’t published.
Robin tells me that a later update confirmed that $100 (Australian I suspect) was duly paid to the Salvation Army by the looser at Max’s request. In view of what I might be able to deduce about tempterrain’s views on organised religion from the many comments of his that I have read, I suspect that Max had a great big grin on his face when he chose that one.
I very much hope that it will now stay online for the foreseeable future as my quest for the oh! so illusive BBC climate change seminar information that started in July 2007 has come to an end. More – much, much more – about this next week, and then some distinctly unsettling tales about a litigant in person’s experiences with the General Regulatory Chamber that administers Information Tribunals.
For most of last week, over at Bishop Hill Andrew Montford has been unearthing increasingly disturbing evidence of the degree to which the BBC is in bed with environmental advocacy groups. This has resulted in an outburst from Dr Joe Smith, an environmental activist and lecturer at the Open University, on his citzen joe smith [sic] blog.
The cause of friction is Andrew’s discovery that Dr Smith acted as an adviser on some of the programmes that a recently published BBC Trust report identified as being sponsored by interested parties without the audience being made aware of the fact. It’s a bit like screening a programme that extols the health benefits of organic food without mentioning that the production costs were very kindly paid by the Soil Association and a leading supermarket chain that specialises in stocking organic products.
There is legislation in place - the Communications Act 2003 in particular - that makes deceiving audiences in this way illegal, and with very good reason.
Of course the BBC claim that they knew nothing of such things, and have been misled by the production companies, but Andrew’s digging increasingly calls this into question. He is also linking this scandal with the revelations that we have both worked on concerning the activities of Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s Envionment Analyst, and a very shadowy operation called the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme (CMEP). Regular readers of this blog will probably remember Dr Smith as one of the co-Directors of CMEP. The other co-Director is Roger Harrabin.
CMEP was set up by Smith and Harrabin for the purpose of organising seminars that would bring together environmentalists and broadcasters, no doubt for their mutual benefit.
Over the last several years, Andrew and I have pieced together quite a lot of information about CMEP, and in particular the extraordinary impact of a seminar that was held at Televison Centre in January 2006 . The BBC claim that this event mustered thirty of “the best scientific experts” to provide BBC executives with “an understanding of the existing state of knowledge on the issue of climate change”. Subsequently the BBC has refused to name “the best scientific experts” that Smith and Harrabin laid on for the occasion, but an eye-witness account from Richard D North states unequivocally that the experts present were actually environmental activists.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that this seminar led directly to an editorial decision to marginalise climate sceptics so far as BBC output was concerned. That decision has had a far reaching impact on the presentation of the climate debate, which becomes more and more evident.
So what has Dr Smith got to say now in response to Andrew’s latest probing?
Well with crass arrogance, he starts out like this:
An apology to my regular reader/s. This is going to be very dull, but I’m aware of some comments over at Bishop Hill blog that require correction.
Dr Smith then goes on to explain that the CMEP programme of seminars has ended after 15 years. Apparently the last of the annual events was in 2009. What Dr Smith does not do is say why they have ended, which seems rather strange when he spends the rest of his post claiming that his and Roger Harrabin’s activities in connection with CMEP have been beyond criticism.
For this purpose, he reprints some notes on the CMEP Real World Seminars he says he produced “in reply to a query from Tony Newbery in July 2009”. Actually I did not ‘query’ Dr Smith, but got a message from DEFRA, who were dealing with an Freedom of information request of mine, that he wanted to send me a document called Real World Seminars. I contacted him as requested and this led to a lively exchange of emails that I’ll put up in another post.
The submission that Andrew and I made to Professor Steve Jones’ ludicrously partisan review of the BBC’s scientific output takes a very different view of events from that set out in Dr Smith’s Real World Seminars. Anyone who is not familiar with the very disturbing evidence that we presented might like to have a quick look here
Although our submission to the review was not made until October 2010, we had made it clear to the BBC Trust in April of that year that we wanted to provide some input. The BBC could not have failed to be aware of what was in store, given the material that had appeared on both our blogs and the various requests that we had made to the BBC Trust for information under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act.
It really would be very interesting to know why the seminar programme, and presumably CMEP too, hit the buffers at this particular time. Could it possibly be related in any way to the fact that around the same time Roger Harrabin more or less disappeared from BBC broadcast output?
Life is full of little mysteries, but I know that I will be wasting my time if I ask the BBC about all this. Perhaps Dr Smith will provide an answer.
In the meantime, the cavalry might be about to charge to the rescue.
Just when the mandarins who control the BBC’s factual output - news and documentaries - probably thought that they had engineered themselves into an new era when they could relax, it looks as though the world is about to fall on their heads.
If they expected the Jones report would herald a period of cosy complacency, when they could ignore those pesky critics in the blogosphere who ask awkward questions and dig out horribly embarrassing snippets of information, they were mistaken.
The story of CMEP, and the new information that Andrew seems to be adding almost daily about sponsored programmes broadcast by the BBC, has a long way to go yet.
UPDATE 21/11/2011 08:45: Dr Joe Smith has contributed a long comment in response to this post here
UPDATE 21/11/2011 12:45: Andrew Montford informs me that David Rose’s article in the Sunday Mail about CMEP has been taken down from their website because of a complaint from Roger Harrabin.
UPDATE 22/11/2011 09:30 David Rose’s Harrabin story in the The Mail on Sunday is back on their website.
In the post HEL P! Huhne and £1 per week cost of decarbonisation TonyN mentions an important 360-page document from the Committee on Climate Change: “The Fourth Carbon Budget: Reducing emissions through the 2020s.” After a well-publicised internal struggle between the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change - which even the BBC could not ignore, see here - the government accepted the CCC report and agreed to tighten up carbon emissions policy until 2027, with unknown, and probably unknowable effects on the economy for decades to come.
TonyN reports with amazement that the official estimate of the cost of their new targets is nowhere to be found in the document upon which the decision was based. Alex Cull found the probable source of the government’s vague estimates of cost in another document from the same body: “The Renewable Energy Review“. See here.
Both these documents, and much else, can be found on the Committee’s website at http://www.theccc.org.uk . It is also worth looking at the DECC press release dealing with Chris Huhne’s announcement of the new carbon budget in parliament.
We don’t seem to hear much from that teflon-coated IPCC supremo Rajendra Pachauri these days, which is rather strange. Not very long ago he seemed to be so keen to strut on the world stage that one could hardly pick up a paper or watch a news bulletin without being assailed by yet another pronouncement from the media’s favourite prophet of doom. Perhaps he’s just turned all shy and modest over the last eighteen months. Or maybe there are other, far less creditable, reasons for his apparent invisibility, like giving the public time to forget the appalling failings of the organisation he heads which have been inescapably laid at his door.
Anyway, while continuing the seemingly endless process of indexing and filing the mountains of documents in my workroom, I came across a report on the Watts Up With That blog from November 2008, and fell to thinking about the strange tricks that the chronological march of history can play. This was the title:
Below the headline, Michael Duffy, a retired Australian politician (if politicians ever do retire), refers to a talk given by Dr Pachauri at the University of New South Wales that he had attended during the previous month. This occasion was to mark the award of an honorary science degree to the IPCC chairman, so one might expect that he would be particularly careful about anything he might say that related to scientific research. Indeed, being a railway engineer by trade and not a scientist, that he would be very, very cautious.
Apparently, Dr Pachauri’s message to the audience that ‘warming is taking place at a faster rate’ was made as commentary on a graph he was showing as the highpoint of his talk. According to Michael Duff’s eye witness account the graph did indeed show average temperatures rising. He says that he was shocked by this apparently cynical and cold-blooded piece of misrepresentation, and who could blame him. Of course anyone who might claim that temperatures are presently rising rapidly should expect it to be greeted with howls of derision, although that does not prevent this canard escaping the lips of some of the more unreliable advocates of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) from time to time. But even back in 2008 the standstill in temperatures was clear to anyone who was familiar with the data. Is it possible that the chairman of the IPCC did not know something so crucial to any pronouncement about AGW? Is it possible that he did know and nevertheless chose to mislead his audience in order to sex-up his presentation.
All this took place about a year before the fury of the combined storms of Climategate, Himalayagate and a few other gates where to break over Dr Pachuari’s head, and Michael Duffy’s report seems to have been completely forgotten by then. Had it not been, then the effect would have been immensely damaging as it shows that the IPCC chairman is, at best, ignorant of crucial scientific observations, or at worst, prepared to misinform an audience for the sake of dramatic effect.
Such is the way in which the rich pageant of history marches ever onwards, with important precursors of events being subsumed in the wealth of trivia that is an essential part of an endlessly fascinating chronology.
I’m trying to track down the bug reported by TonyB and Peter Geany which prevents the widgets (Recent Comments etc) showing in the right hand sidebar for those using some versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Things may look a bit odd for an hour or two as I remove element of the page to try and isolate the culprit.
Update 02/06/2011 15:30
That seems to have fixed the problem for me except that the categories drop-down is not sized correctly. I would be grateful for feedback from someone using Internet Explorer. Can you see items like Recent comment and Categories in the right hand sidebar now?