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.

Greetings

Posted by TonyN on 24/12/2010 at 9:59 pm Uncategorized 2 Responses »
Dec 242010

A very Happy Christmas to everyone

 

pensarn.png

 

 … and this is something that my wife noticed in the kitchen right at the end of the growing season

cucumber.png

Perhaps the title should be either ‘When did I last see your father?” or “Surprise, Surprise!”

Notice

Posted by TonyN on 23/12/2010 at 10:16 am Uncategorized 4 Responses »
Dec 232010

At the moment we’re snowed up and carrying in supplies for Christmas is taking priority over blogging. I’ll catch up with comments this evening, but be warned, any moderation is likely to be summary and savage.

Update: A message from Manacker:

To one and all

I’ll be away from my computer for a few days, but would like to wish you all

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR

Max

I’ll begin by saying that I do not consider Professor Brian Cox to be an arrogant person, although I only have his TV persona to go by. The television programmes of his that I have watched have been entertaining, informative, full of the excitement of scientific discovery, and thoroughly enjoyable. So this post is not intended to point to a defect in the good professor’s character, but to the mindset that presently afflicts scientists worldwide, and climate scientists in particular. This is a pernicious example of groupthink rather than the hubris of individual scientists, although one might be able to think of a few candidates for exception. They seem to think that their views should be unchallengeable by anyone outside their own profession.

Brian Cox presented his Wheldon Lecture to the Royal Television Society on 26th November 2010 and it was broadcast on BBC2 late on the evening of the 1st December. Under the title of Science: A Challenge to TV Orthodoxy, he spent 40 minutes exploring the controversy that now surrounds the way in which science is packaged by broadcasters for easy assimilation by their mass audiences. By coincidence, perhaps, this thorny problem is also the subject of a review ordered by the BBC Trust, which I have referred to here and here.

Cox has had an interesting career as a pop musician, as a scientist studying particle physics and as a high profile TV presenter. His undoubted talents have recently been recognised by the award of an OBE for services to science.

The subject he chose for his lecture is an important one; our lives are increasingly affected by the outcomes of scientific research and Cox cites an option poll (MORI 2004) finding that 84% of adults receive the majority their information about science from television. It is unlikely, even with the growth of the internet, that this figure has changed very much since then. However the impact that science broadcasting can have on public policy has increased since 2004 because one particular area of research has become inseparable from public policy: global warming. Television is a major opinion former, and presumably this is why Professor Cox chose to focus his lecture on this topic.

The first part of the lecture is devoted to ground-clearing in preparation for the main thesis, and this is illuminating. Apparently Cox considers that the current impact of science on public policy - particularly global warming - places great responsibility on broadcasters who cover this subject. Strangely, he makes no mention of the infinitely greater responsibility that this places on the scientists who brief the media about their work.

He then reveals that he does not consider that there have been any ‘serious deficiencies’ in television coverage of science. This is a point of view that appears to be at odds with his patrons at the BBC in view of their decision to hold an investigation in the wake of the Climategate scandal and a welter of criticism from the general public and the blogoshere. And If he is unaware of any deficiencies, I wonder why he chose to devote most of his lecture to the problems that broadcasters face when dealing with this subject?

Turning to the influence that television science broadcasting had on his own choice of career, Cox holds up Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series as a glowing example, describing it as ‘thirteen hours of lyrically [and] emotionally engaging and accurate and polemical broadcasting’. Unfortunately, he is misusing the term polemic here, and that is important as this word occurs no less than ten times in his lecture as he sets out his arguments, and it’s usage is crucial to his conclusions. A polemic is a verbal attack and not, as Professor Cox seems to think, merely the expression of a point of view[1].

After worshipping at the feet of Sagan, the next item on Cox’s list is defining science; no mean task as an aside in a single lecture, and not surprisingly the effort is superficial and unsatisfactory. Having acknowledged that this task ‘is not easy in a historical context’, he suggests that ‘vast amounts of drivel have been written about the subject by armies of postmodernist philosophers and journalists.’ Sweeping such trivialities aside, Cox settles for a brief clip from a rather light-hearted lecture by physicist Richard Feynman in which he describes the scientific method. It is certainly an example of entertaining television, but comes nowhere near ‘defining science’. But this still leads to the following conclusion:

To my mind, science is very simple indeed. Science is the best framework we have for understanding the universe.

Of course when someone describes a complex subject as being ‘simple’, warning flags should always go up. Almost invariably the person who uses this term is being very selective in the way they are formulating their opinion. In this case it is not clear whether Cox is using the term ‘universe’ in a purely astronomical sense - as in the mechanics of the universe - or in a much broader sense to cover all aspects of existence.

Since The Enlightenment, science has certainly gone some way towards replacing superstition, religious belief, and fatalism as a means of explaining the phenomena that surround us, but it is still a long way from doing so completely. On a worldwide scale, atheism remains a minority point of view, and scientists would do well to humbly acknowledge this fact rather than claim a position of supremacy and infallibility for their profession that many would dispute.

In the film clip Feynman stresses that, if a scientific proposition is not supported by observation and experiment then it is wrong regardless, as he says, of how ‘beautiful, the idea may be’, or how eminent its author may be. Cox amplifies this by saying,

Authority, or for that matter, the number of people who believe something to be true, counts for nothing.

[and]

… when it comes to the practice of science, the scientists must never have an eye on the audience. For that would be to fatally compromise the process.

This is a hostage to fortune, for without the notion of consensus and claims by eNGOs and politicians for the authority of the IPCC, promotion of anthropogenic global warming would never have cleared the launch pad. The most startling ‘findings’ in recent IPCC reports are not based on the scientific method at all, but on expert judgement by the authors, and the Climategate emails have revealed an obsessive concern among climate scientists with the response of their audience.

Having started to dig himself into a hole, Cox then redoubles his efforts recounting an incident in which he made a dismissive on-screen reference to astrology as being ‘a load of rubbish’, which resulted in complaints to the BBC from ‘all over the web’. The BBC issued a cautious statement that almost amounted to an apology, saying the views expressed in the programme were not those of the BBC, but of the presenter, a response that Cox considers to be inadequate:

Now, that’s a perfectly reasonable response on the surface. In fact, you could argue that it’s correct. Because a broadcaster shouldn’t have a view about a faith issue which is essentially what astrology is. The presenter can have a view, and I was allowed to have a view. What I did was present the scientific consensus.

But he goes on:

I think, however, that there are potential problems with broadcasters assuming a totally neutral position in matters such as this.

Cox then moves on to use a clip from a news item about concern over the use of the MMR vaccine.  In this Ben Goldacre (of Bad Science fame) gives his views on this controversy citing a Danish study showing that there has been no increase in autism among children who have received the jab, saying:

You’ve not heard about research like this, because the media chose not to cover the evidence that goes against their scare story.

This message, and its relevance to media coverage of anthropogenic global warming (AGW), seems to have passed Cox by. Instead he castigates the broadcaster for concluding the piece with a caveat that these are Dr Goldacre’s views only, in spite of his being a qualified doctor and having based his opinion on peer reviewed and published research. In support of this criticism he cites a US news anchor, Keith Olbermann, as follows:

… obsessive preoccupation with perceived balance or impartiality [is] worshipping before the false god of utter objectivity. His point was that by aspiring to be utterly neutral, it is easy to obscure the truth. And the BBC’s editorial guidelines state that impartiality is at the heart of public service and is at the core of its commitment to its audience. I’m sure that very few broadcasters would disagree with that.

This reference is striking because I have seen precisely the some argument used by the BBC to justify its anything-but-neutral position on anthropogenic global warming (AGW). There is a certain irony too in using the opinion of a US broadcaster in this way given that so many North Americans seem to envy the standards applied to public service broadcasting in the UK.

On the specific point that Olbermann makes, being ‘utterly neutral’ is obviously far less of a threat to impartiality than not being neutral. And the suggestion that being neutral may obscure the truth - which is the crux of Professor Cox’s lecture - implies that the broadcaster will necessarily be able to determine what the truth is. This conjecture becomes even more problematic when the means by which this feat might be accomplished are considered.

In Cox’s view, reporting science should hold no such dilemmas for the broadcaster: all that is necessary is for complete reliance to be placed on the peer review process. That which is peer reviewed should be the sole reference point for reporting science, and any contrary views should be disregarded.  This position is arrived at by having implicit faith in the peer review process, which may for all I know be justified if, like Professor Cox, you are a particle physicist, but it is unlikely to impress anyone who has cast a critical eye on climate science, where political and ethical considerations seem to carry at least as much weight as robust findings. But this is not the place for a detailed discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the peer review process. Instead, here are some of the propositions which Cox uses to back up his argument:

In science, we have a well-defined process for deciding what is mainstream and what is controversial. And it has nothing whatsoever to do with how many people believe something to be true or not. It’s called peer-review.

Peer-review is a very simple and quite often brutal process by which any claim that is submitted for publication in a scientific journal is scrutinised by independent experts whose job it is to find the flaws.

This is the method [peer review] that has delivered the modern world. It’s good. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the current scientific consensus is of course correct. But it does in general mean that the consensus in the scientific literature is the best that can be done given the available data.

Now you may see there that I’m redefining what impartiality means. But the peer-reviewed consensus is by definition impartial. To leave the audience with this particular kind of impartial view is desperately important. We’re dealing with the issues of the life and death of our children and the future of our climate. And the way to deal with this is not to be fair and balanced, to borrow a phrase from a famous news outlet, but to report and explain the peer-reviewed scientific consensus accurately.

So for me the challenge for the science reporter in scientific news is easily met. Report the peer-reviewed consensus and avoid the maverick, eccentric at all costs.

Such faith in the reliability, independence, and impartiality of peer review may be justified in the field of particle physics where, I assume, political and ethical considerations have a very minor role. So far as climate science is concerned, it flies in the face of what has been learned from the Climategate emails, and much else that has happened in this discipline during the last decade. How many news stories have we seen citing sensational ‘new research’ that has swiftly been discarded?  Predictions of massive sea level rise by the end of the century, an 11o C rise in global average temperature over the same period, the vanishing snows of Mount Kilimanjaro and the drying-up of Lake Chad, the imminent demise of the Himalayan Glaciers, slowing of the Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC) with the onset of a new ice age for Northern Europe, and of course that poster-child of the third IPCC Assessment report, the Hockey Stick graph. One could go on and on.

There can be little doubt that Cox is indeed redefining impartiality, and in a way that brings us back to the sub-title of this post - an exercise in arrogance. He seems to be telling us that journalists and programme makers who report science should be guided entirely by the scientific community, and leave any critical faculties they may have at home. If this is to be the new standard for impartiality in broadcasting about science, or even a new world order, then who scrutinises the world of science? And lets not forget the Feynman clip that Cox used in his superficial attempt to ‘define science’ at the beginning of his lecture. The great physicist makes no mention of peer review, but there are strictures in both what he says and Cox’s interpretation of it that rule out authority and consensus as being relevant to the scientific method.

Having cleared the ground, the professor now moves on to the red meat of the lecture; climate change.

This is heralded by a clip from The Great Global Warming Swindle (TGGWS), which Cox dismisses as ‘bollocks’, which does him little credit either as a scientist or a TV presenter. On the other hand he accepts that such programmes should be allowed to be broadcast - one gets the impression that he thinks he is being rather daring here - so long as they are suitably labelled, not as ‘bollocks’ as one might expect, but as polemics rather than documentaries, which Cox seems to think amounts to something similar, but with a warning that it’s probably all rubbish.

In the case of TGGWS, the description ‘polemic’ may be justified. Durkin’s film was undoubtedly a vehement attack on contemporary climate research, but apparently Cox would like any factual broadcasts that do not adhere to mainstream views approved by the scientific community to be branded in this way. Presumably this would mean that a programme about the views of Michael Mann could be promoted as a documentary, while one about the views of Richard Lindzen would be a mere polemic, thereby undermining the credibility of that  eminent scientist before the audience even become aware of what he has to say.  And this raises a new problem, which Cox steers well clear of.

Climate scientists, and particularly the IPCC, have failed to acknowledge the massive uncertainties that are attached to much climate research. This, of course, feeds through into broadcasts where journalists and program makers are unwilling to acknowledge uncertainly for the reason that Ben Goldacre identified. Why water down an eye-catching  prediction by saying that it may never happen when there is no danger of the scientists concerned complaining? But under reporting uncertainty is as misleading as misreporting conclusions.

Even Cox expresses some concern that his approach may be Orwellian, but quickly backs off by saying that he doesn’t really know whether it is Orwellian or not, which makes one wonder why he raised the issue in the first place. Unsurprisingly, he quotes a passage from Nineteen Eighty-Four about history constantly being re-written so that nothing remains on record that cast doubt on the infallibility of The Party.  He may have chosen the right author, but the wrong book. In Animal Farm, the precursor of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the dim but compliant sheep are portrayed as the ruling pig’s most effective weapon in stifling opposing views and awkward questions. They can be drilled to bleat any slogan persistently enough to drown out dissent. I hesitate to draw any parallels between the arrogant culture that pervades climate science and the pigs, or between broadcasters and the sheep, but the temptation is great. Cox’s plea that broadcasters should retail only what scientists tell them is acceptable makes it very, very tempting indeed.

By this stage in the lecture, one might begin to wonder how much serious thought Cox has given to his subject, or whether he has been influenced by the views of the BBC in reaching his conclusions. As a scientist, surely he should not attempt to draw an analogy between the way in which broadcasters should treat climate scepticism and the way they should treat those who believe in astrology or question evolution. This is another line of argument of which the BBC is fond, but it makes no sense; the issues are quite different. No institution such as the IPCC is involved in debates about astrology or evolution. Tens of thousands of delegates do not flock to Copenhagen or Cancún to discus these matters and formulate a world policy, neither astrology nor evolution are new ideas, and scientists are not being funded to the tune of countless billions to conduct research in these fields.

Cox’s peroration begins with these words:

So what are my conclusions about the challenges of presenting science on television?

Well, firstly, scientific peer-review is all-important. It’s not possible for a broadcaster to run a parallel peer-review structure, but it is possible for the broadcaster to seek out the consensus view of the scientific community. This is the best that can be done and appropriate weight should be given to it in news reporting.

Documentary is different because polemic is a valid and necessary form of filmmaking. But having said that, the audience needs to know whether they’re watching opinion, or a presentation of the scientific consensus. And whilst I acknowledge that this is extremely difficult to achieve in practice, it is something that filmmakers and broadcasters must strive to do.

Cox’s final message to broadcasters is clear: they should do what scientists tell them to do and not trouble their pretty little heads with anything that might be too difficult for them to grasp properly. As to listening to ‘mavericks and eccentrics’ who question the scientific consensus established by a supposedly interdependent and reliable peer review process, that would be foolish in the extreme, like listening to astrologers or creationists. And screening the views of people who scientists might consider to be reprehensible in such a way that audiences would be allowed to make their own mind about the credibility of what they are being told would be a betrayal of the broadcasters duty to comply with a re-defined kind of impartiality; a kind of impartiality in which the broadcasters determine where the truth lies on the basis of the majority view of those who are being challenged.

This is, of course, a supremely arrogant point of view, but the scientific community seem to have convinced each other, and themselves, that society should confer such authority on them. One can hardly blame Professor Cox for falling into line.


[1]   A strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. (Oxford Dictionary of English)

monbiot.png

The career of George Monbiot has been meteoric – coming down to earth in a shower of sparks, and leaving a charred hole where the Guardian’s top investigative journalist used to be. From Paul Foot to William Boot in a few carbon-shedding steps.

(For non-Brits: Foot was a campaigning journalist at Private Eye and the Guardian. William Boot is the journalist hero of Evelyn Waugh’s novel “Scoop”, who, after a disastrous episode in which he is sent to Africa to cover a revolution, ends up back in the office writing Nature Notes).

In February 2009 Monbiot initiated a new format blog at Guardian Environment with an attack on Telegraph journalist Christopher Booker. In the article, entitled « Booker’s work of clanger-dropping fiction » he accused his colleague of writing “complete trash, and provided a list of seven claims in an article by Booker which Monbiot attempted to refute.

A second article, two days later, entitled “Pure rubbish: Christopher Booker prize” featured  a photo captioned “Christopher Booker prize 2009 offered for producing clap-trap about climate change”. Readers were invited to nominate articles, and George explained:

“The award will go to whoever in my opinion and assisted by climate scientists and specialists manages, in the course of 2009, to cram as many misrepresentations, distortions and falsehoods into a single article, statement, lecture, film or interview about climate change”.

(Note that Monbiot hadn’t managed to finish his sentence coherently. As many as what?)

There is a note at the bottom of the first article saying “this blog has been amended”. What has been altered is the word “Bullshit” which featured in the original article, and is still visible in the photo of the “award” in the second article.

Of the supposed errors by Booker: Continue reading »

Back from holiday

Posted by TonyN on 29/09/2010 at 6:34 pm Uncategorized 7 Responses »
Sep 292010

I’ve been away since 13th Sept and have only looked at the blog once during that time. Apologies to those who have aimed comments at me. The recent posts (and the next one) were drafted before I left and scheduled to appear automatically.

It will be tomorrow before I even begin to catch up, but here’s a useful piece of advice: don’t start a holiday on the 13th of anything. The month old ignition coil on the car blew on a Sunday afternoon on a Spanish motorway while we were heading for the ferry port and I’ve got back to one dead computer and an AGA that won’t light. At the moment I’m trying to pluck up enough to courage  to download my email!

pachauri.jpg

 

On the evening after the IAC’s critical report on the processes and procedures used by the IPCC was published, Roger Harrabin of the BBC made no secret of the precarious position that the organisation’s chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, is now in. Describing him as ‘putting a brave face on it’ the BBC’s Environment Analyst introduced this outburst from the IPCC chairman:

Honest scientific discourse wilts under gross distortions and ideologically driven posturing. Sadly, such tactics have been a prominent feature of climate science for many years and they show no sign of letting up. My hope is that the accumulation of so many investigations into climate science will strengthen public trust so that we can move forward.

BBC Six o’Clock News, Radio 4, 30th August 2010

There is an extraordinary, and ironic, ambiguity in the first two sentences. Pachauri is, no doubt, talking about the IPCC’s critics, but surely precisely the same accusations could apply to that organisation under his leadership. Be that as it may, Harrabin’s verdict on Pachauri’s future prospects was that, ‘the full climate panel meet in a few weeks time in Korea. It will be a major surprise if Professor Pachauri is still running it after that.’  Harrabin usually seems to be well informed about what the warmist movement is thinking, so he may well be right in anticipating an attempt to oust Pachauri.

The chairman of the IPCC is elected by the governments that are signatories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and at present there  are nearly 200 of them. In order to get rid of Dr Pachauri - if he chooses not to go quietly - would presumably require that process to be reversed in the form of a motion of no confidence. There would seem to be some indications that Pachauri will not go quietly, and that the meeting in October will be a very lively affair indeed.

The BBC website carried a report on 25th January 2010, when the Himalayagate scandal had just broken, which was headlined, ‘I will not go, says climate chief’. This included a brief, but very interesting, video interview with Dr Pachauri. Here is part of what he had to say, apparently in response to being asked whether he intended to resign: Continue reading »

Since the Russell Report was published I have put up three posts posing questions that Sir Muir Russell should be compelled to answer about his inquiry. These have also appeared on the Global Warming Policy Foundation website:

The question now arises, who should ask these questions and can Sir Muir Russell be compelled to answer.

The good news is that before the ink on the Russell Inquiry was really dry, the Daily Express reported that the Labour MP Graham Stringer was calling for a re-assessment of Climategate:

He said it [the Russell Inquiry] fell short because it was unable to access thousands of other emails to establish whether there was a conspiracy among climate scientists at the CRU.

Mr Stringer said: “To make sense of whether there was a conspiracy, whether they really tried to subvert the peer review process, you would have had to look at these emails. It’s an inadequate report that doesn’t do the job. It’s not going to allay anybody’s fears.

“I certainly believe the matter should return to the House of Commons to be debated because this is the basis of spending billions of dollars worldwide.”

http://www.thegwpf.org/climategate/1208-labour-mp-calls-for-new-climategate-inquiry.html

You may remember the redoubtable Mr Stringer as being the only MP on the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee who was well enough briefed on Climategate to ask consistently searching questions at their somewhat rushed oral hearing of evidence. His PhD in Chemistry and a career as an analytical chemist before entering parliament would have helped him here.

In an interview with Andrew Orlowski of The Register, Graham Stringer has set out more of his reservations about the credibility of the inquiries and his concern that the university misled the parliamentary committee. Lord Willis, who was chairman of he committee at that time, has also accused the university of “sleight of hand”.

During the Select Committee hearings Graham Stringer made no secret of his suspicion that Professor Acton  (Vice Chancellor of UEA) was more concerned by the perceived injury to the university’s reputation caused by the publication of the Climategate emails than discovering what they revealed about the activities of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), and that this could prejudice both the independence and impartiality of any inquiries that the University of East Anglia (UEA) might instigate. The transcript of the Select Committee’s hearings of oral evidence is well worth looking at in the light of all the criticisms that have been levelled at the Russell and Oxburgh enquiries since then (here).  Questions 127 – 134 from Stringer to Acton, the chairman’s intervention with question 152, and questions 176 – 179 from Stringer to Sir Muir Russell make the Committee’s grave concern that Professor Acton was intent on apportioning blame for the scandal to the leaker or hacker rather than getting to the bottom of what had been going on at the CRU very clear. Also their unease that Sir Muir Russell’s inquiry might attract criticism unless he was very careful to ensure that its procedures were beyond reproach.

Graham Stringer’s contribution did not finish with his energetic contributions to questioning the witnesses. If you look carefully at the end of the Committee’s report, you will find Formal Minutes of the meeting that approved the text prior to publication.  Attendance on this occasion was rather sparse.

At the oral hearing, the following members were present in addition to the chairman,  Phil Willis: Graham Stringer, Tim Boswell, Dr Brian Iddon, Ian Stewart, Doug Naysmith and Dr Evan Harris, who arrived late. However when the text was approved, Stewart and Naysmith were not present. Eight propositions were put and voted on, and on every occasion Stringer was a minority of one in the face of votes by all the other three members of the committee except the chairman who did not use his vote. Here is a summary of what happened: Continue reading »

© 2011 Harmless Sky Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha