Technical problems

Posted by TonyN on 06/12/2013 at 9:49 pm Uncategorized No Responses »
Dec 062013

 

BurningComputerEd As a result of what I hope is a temporary glitch at the ISP, this site has been down since Tuesday morning.

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.

Greetings 2012

Posted by TonyN on 24/12/2012 at 11:11 pm Uncategorized 6 Responses »
Dec 242012

Snowdon 1 ED

A Very Happy Christmas to Everyone

Christmas Greetings

Posted by TonyN on 24/12/2011 at 9:57 am Uncategorized 6 Responses »
Dec 242011

MoelfreView from our garden gate, Christmastime last year

A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year to everyone

A question for Dr Joe Smith

Posted by TonyN on 19/11/2011 at 6:30 pm Uncategorized 14 Responses »
Nov 192011

BBCSponsorsReport 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.

Read Christopher Booker’s column in the Sunday Telegraph tomorrow.

and also David Rose in The Mail on Sunday. (See update below)

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.

 

CCCReport

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. Continue reading »

pachauri

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.

Site Maintenance

Posted by TonyN on 02/06/2011 at 3:01 pm Uncategorized 3 Responses »
Jun 022011

SiteMaintainence

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?

 

huhne

When Chris Huhne announced the carbon budget for the period 2023-27 recently, as required by law under the terms of the Climate Change Act, the Department of Energy and Climate Change had this to say in a press release:

The carbon budget will place the British economy at the leading edge of a new global industrial transformation, and ensure low carbon energy security and decarbonisation is achieved at least cost to the consumer.

http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_41/pn11_41.aspx

Well, I suppose he would say that, wouldn’t he. But what will the cost actually be?

According to a BBC report published the same day, which predictably makes an enthusiastic attempt to sell this absurd piece of economic self-destruction to the public, this is what is in store for us:

The Committee on Climate Change has forecast that to meet emissions targets the average household fuel bill will go up by £1 a week until 2020 when it will plateau out with no major rises after that.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13417997

… and just what is that supposed to mean?

Continue reading »

Apr 012011

Since the Christmas and New Year holidays, I’ve only put up a couple of posts at Harmless Sky, rather than my usual one a week. There’s is a reason - or two or three  - for this happening.

At the time when I started Harmless Sky, three years ago, I had already amassed and indexed quite a large quantity of research material concerning climate change and other related subjects. Being a bit of a traditionalist who likes the look and feel of sheets of printed-paper - and who also finds underlining and scribbling in margins useful - this task was not undertaken altogether in the spirit of the new information age; in other words digitally. Looking back it is easy to see that this was a mistake, but on the other hand the technology was rather different when I started. Document management systems were expensive and OCR, on which effective electronic searching of documents depends, was chancy, to say the least.

Over the last three years I have continued to download and print out whatever catches my eye, but the time spent running Harmless Sky has left little opportunity for routine and tedious tasks like indexing.  The result is a ‘piling’ system, which by the end of last year had covered every surface in my workroom to a significant depth and was beginning to occupy a steadily increasing area of the floor.

As it happens, I’ve never been too concerned about untidiness; in fact it’s my natural habitat, only mitigated by the influence of an extremely tidy wife. Fortunately for domestic peace and harmony she rarely visits my workroom, and when she does, wisely ignores what she sees.  But even I acknowledge that there is a point at which untidiness becomes squalor, and an impenetrable information storage system becomes a handicap.

In recent months, digging up references has become a major problem that a good memory born of a lifetime’s chaotic work practices is not entirely equal too. The volume of material is now just too great and the number and altitude of the ‘piles’ ever growing. But there is another issue that has become almost as unavoidable, and this has to do with the content that I post on this blog and the way in which I use my time.

When I set up Harmless Sky, I thought that the ideal length for a blog post was about 350-700 words. The immediacy and ephemeral nature of the new media, together with the short attention span this encourages, seems to require short punchy posts. This may explain why some blogs can seem curt and assertive if one is not used to the style. Where bloggers are concerned with being first with breaking news, of course, this is perfectly acceptable. The good Bishop Hill has become a master of this style, and in his hands it is supremely successful. However Harmless Sky has never really done news, or been that kind of blog.  I far prefer to stand back and wait awhile, and then take a more considered look at what lies behind the stories that appear in the MSM and blogoshere.  Of course both approaches have their place.

Really exploring the kind of complex issues raised by the climate change debate can seldom be satisfactorily accomplished in short pieces. So I haven’t often managed to wind up a post in less than 1200 words, and very often they have been considerably longer. Such posts take a good deal of time to write, or at least that is the way it is in my case.

Looking back over the three years I find that I have written well over  200 post; a total, probably, of about a quarter of a million words. That is enough to fill one rather long book or a couple of fairly short ones. Combine this with the fact that I write slowly, and like to worry away at an idea or an augment until it yields some kind of conclusion, this represents an enormous amount of time invested in a medium that is by nature ephemeral.

Around Christmas, I began to think about these statistics and the mighty piles of paper in my workroom, much of which relates to topics that I find fascinating but have never got round to blogging about.  The time had surely come to try and put two-and-two together.

There has to be at least one book in the research material that I have and the only hindrance to starting work is finding sufficient time and, crucially, being able to retrieve references quickly as and when I want them. In other words I have to tame the ‘piling system’, which now amounts to thousands of documents, some of them long and complex. This means finding a lot of time, and the obvious way to do this is to write fewer or less time-consuming blog posts.

On the other hand, I have no wish that activity at Harmless Sky should dry up altogether. I still have quite a few irons in the fire in the form of FOIA requests and a possible inquiry by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, and if any of these become interesting I want a forum in which to report what is happening.

Then there is something else that has been on my mind since the end of last year.

At the moment, I’m not too sure where the climate debate is going. The heady ‘back-against-the-wall’ days for sceptics seem to be well and truly over, but if there is to be a victory for rational inquiry into climate change over the dogmatic assertions of politicians , activists, and the climate science machine they rely on, then we still seem to be some way off this happening. Although the weight of evidence, and public opinion, is clearly piling up in the sceptics favour, there still appears to be a furtive, and very determined, finger on the scales that is preventing the balance shifting.

So how to combine keeping Harmless Sky going with making enough time to research and write a book? As the next two or three months are likely to be spent organising my material so that I can find what I want in significantly less than a lifetime, there has to be a change in the way that this blog is run. In order to keep the kettle boiling, this is what I intend to do.

As I sift through, digitise, and classify the teetering escarpments of paper that greet me each morning, I’ll post links to some of the material that seems most interesting. Inevitably, as I’m dealing with archive material, not much of this is likely to be recent but, as a talented amateur historian is supposed to have said:

 

The further backward you can look,

                                   the further forward you are likely to see

And perhaps the most intriguing question in the climate debate today is not where are we headed, but rather how the hell did we get to where we are at the moment?

By the way, the talented amateur historian’s name was Winston Spencer Churchill, and I found this quote scribbled on a scrap of paper among a pile of stuff to do with palaeoclimatology.

Mar 312011

aprilfool2011.png

Ecologists in Wales have been warning about species migration caused by global warming for years now. In fact it’s become quite and industry.

Of course, there is an element of swings and roundabouts here, because as some species move north in search of cooler climes, and we loose old familiar species, fascinating refugees from further south will arrive to enrich our countryside.

I hear that computer models predict the imminent demise of the bluebell, there are fears that the Snowdon Lilley - one of Britain’s rarest native alpine plants - will be driven to the mountain tops and then tumble into oblivion. Numerous species of butterflies are expected to forsake their usual Home Counties habitats and head for the northern hills too.

Mitigation measures have, of course, been suggested some quite sensible, others more imaginative than practical, and a few pretty barmy.  In the latter category is the idea that we should create escape corridors of uninterrupted wilderness leading northwards, regardless of expense, disruption to anything that lies in their path, and the fact that only computer models of doubtful probity say that they will ever become necessary.

Anyway, does anyone know what these little critters that have turned up in our garden are? My wife is complaining that they keep nipping her ankles.

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