Jul 152010

(Here is another take on last night’s proceedings, this time from Alex Cull. He confirms some of Robin’s impressions, but with some very perceptive comments on the impression made by some of thevspeakers too. I’ve posted it at the top of the page as it’s newer, but things are getting a bit chaotic I’m afraid. Both accounts are well worth reading.)

I found the debate fascinating in its way, and wouldn’t have missed it – £12 well-spent, in my opinion. I would agree, however, with Robin’s assessment of the discussions and QA session as being disjointed – there was no particular depth to the discussions and it would have been nice to have had some of the important points well and truly thrashed out between the panellists.

I have a sound recording of the whole thing (hopefully!) but it will take a while to extract some worthwhile quotes – my device was very good at picking up coughs and throat-clearing from the next row, not so good with sounds from further off. In the meantime, some impressions:

  • George Monbiot came across as personable and articulate, and I think he handled the proceedings well; while he was in no way a neutral party, I think he gave Steve McIntyre and Doug Keenan as much airtime as the others; it wasn’t a Guardian stitch-up, in other words. I found the selection of who got to ask the questions reasonably fair, although it could be argued that with a minority of women in the audience, his rule of man-woman-man-woman was a little unfair to the blokes. And yes, fellow journalists Roger Harrabin and Jonathan Leake got to ask questions, but then so did the rather eccentric-looking chap who brought an actual hockey stick, and so did the acerbic Piers Corbyn (rather mischievous on George’s part, as he would have known what sort of mayhem might ensue!) So it could have been managed far worse. The audience was lively, with some shouting a commentary (“No!” “Shame!” “Answer the question!”) but there was no danger of  things actually getting out of hand.
  • Steve McIntyre was polite, soft-spoken, not a natural public speaker but came across as a gentleman. At times he appeared rather diffident, and I’m sure that someone who was unacquainted with ClimateAudit or the Hockey Stick controversy might have been forgiven for wondering exactly what all the fuss was about and why this man was so central to the whole business. He also floundered a bit when asked as to how he would account for the warming since 1980; yes, he could have quite easily parried this question in a number of ways, but I know from my (thankfully limited) public speaking experiences what it is like being put on the spot, and how easy it is to prepare the perfect answer, with hindsight.  Ironically, his answer was all about the uncertainties, and acknowledging the uncertainties was one of the evening’s big themes; another questioner from the audience had asserted that sceptics were full of a sense of certainty about climate change themselves, and here was, in a way, an appropriate response. I thought Steve McIntyre shone, though, when it came to the question of who actually questioned Phil Jones during the Muir Russell inquiry, and made the point that Sir Muir Russell had not interviewed Dr Jones after the introductory meeting in January (this was the point in the debate where Professor Trevor Davies came somewhat unstuck.) He demonstrated an excellent memory and an attention to detail that was lacking in the UEA administrator.
  • Prof. Trevor Davies, I thought was the least convincing of the panellists.  About the one thing in his favour was that he said he avoided using the “denier” epithet. Although he insisted that the inquiries were truly independent, listening to him it was difficult to escape the impression that they had been carefully set up to absolve the UEA of blame and to not probe too deeply into that which should not be probed. I actually felt a bit sorry for him when he was put on the spot re the Phil Jones interviews and had to riffle hurriedly through his notes. During the whole Climategate affair, people have often said it showed that scientists were “only human” – the same can also be said for administrators. Mind you, he should really have been a lot better prepared.
  • *Fred Pearce was a good speaker and made basically similar points to the ones he makes in his book, i.e., that he found some of the e-mails unsettling, that he is entirely convinced that the way climate science is carried out needs to be overhauled, but at the same time certain that the case for AGW remains absolutely unchanged. His message was not essentially different to that of Bob Watson, except that he has been openly critical of the UEA administration – in his book, for instance, he describes Prof. Edward Acton as being “smooth and slippery.”
  • Bob Watson was also an effective speaker, as he was in last week’s Newsnight programme. But there was no attempt to get into the details, really – mainly authoritative, big-picture statements about human influences on the climate.  Curiously he revealed that he had not read many of the e-mails (vocal incredulity from the audience!) Also he praised the IPCC as an institution and asserted that it was indeed the best that it could be in the circumstances (I’ll have to check the actual wording, but that’s basically what I seem to recall him saying.) Fine rhetoric indeed, but little or no analysis or reasoning to lay out in support of it – the perfect argument from authority.
  • Doug Keenan was very interesting; he came across as intense and slightly nervous, causing a stir when accusing Phil Jones of outright fraud and standing by his statement when asked by George Monbiot whether he would reconsider. One point that he made – that climate science needs to have the same kind of procedures of due diligence that the business world already has in place – was right on the mark, I think. Another interesting thing that he said was that scientists now appear to be using private e-mail (Gmail) rather than the university’s e-mail system, in order to avoid having to comply with FOI requests; Bob Watson said he knew nothing of this.

A general observation – the debate seemed to be divided into those who wanted to focus on the detail (McIntyre and Keenan) and those who wanted to look at the big picture (Watson and Pearce.) Some of the audience who asked questions seemed to be more concerned with the big picture, and the message from Watson and Pearce was that the picture (the science underpinning the theory of man-made global warming) has not fundamentally been affected by Climategate (although they allow that public perception has changed, and trust has to be restored,  etc.) But in my opinion, what those who talk of “overwhelming evidence” might not appreciate is that whenever the detail people (McIntyre and Keenan) start getting close up and inspecting the nuts and bolts, they start to find errors.  In a way, I think the venue was appropriate (RIBA, the The Royal Institute of British Architects) – if people with architectural knowledge started to examine the foundations of a grand building and consistently found problems, serious questions would need to be asked about the safety of the entire edifice.

Another observation (and this is something that Robin and I discussed yesterday)  – listening to the various speakers, it would be very good if there had been a sceptic who had both the science background and the debating ability and rhetorical skills to hold his/her own against the relative eloquence of the AGW proponent side. Despite the (on the whole) courteous and even-handed tone of yesterday’s debate, this was something that we both felt was lacking.

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The Guardian has posted an audio recording of the debate here and some video here

h/t  to Alex for the links.

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(Since putting up this post early this morning, I have received an excellent report of the proceedings from Robin Guenier. I have therefore changed the layout considerably in order to accommodate what he has to say. I will be updating this post as more information emerges. It may be worth checking the bottom of the page from time-to-time to see if anything new has been added.)


Guardian Debate

Climategate: The greatest scandal to hit climate science or a storm in a teacup?”

The debate, hosted by the Guardian, was held in the RIBA, London, on Wednesday, 14th July 2010. It was described on the Guardian website as a discussion about “what the affair has – and has not – revealed about the study of global warming”. Did it achieve that? Yes, I think so – and the mood of the meeting (it wasn’t a debate as such and much of the discussion was disjointed, inconclusive and bitty) was that the study of global warming would never be the same again. More openness and communication of uncertainty were essential and would happen in future. There was agreement that none of the recent enquiries had done an adequate job.

The event was well attended – several hundred people. George Monbiot, Guardian columnist, was chair and did a good job: fair, clear and amusing. The Panel (mutually friendly and respectful) consisted of Professor Trevor Davies, pro-vice-chancellor (research), UEA and former director of the CRU; Professor Bob Watson, chief scientific advisor, Defra, visiting professor at the UEA and former head of the IPCC; Fred Pearce, environment journalist and author of “The Climate Files”; Steve McIntyre, proprietor of climateaudit.org; and Doug Keenan, blogger and independent researcher.

Hardly a balanced Panel – and it showed. This was especially so as Bob Watson, who spoke strongly and well, used the event as an opportunity to emphasise several times that Climategate had done nothing to undermine what he was clear was the basic problem: that man-made climate change was real and a huge challenge for the mankind. Fred Pearce, who also spoke well, was more subtle – and engaging – but implied that that was obviously his view also. Unfortunately, neither Steve McIntyre nor Doug Keenan seemed really interested in addressing that wider issue, keeping instead to a narrow focus on the CRU’s failures (where they were very convincing). Steve even refused to answer when challenged (by a member of the audience) to say whether or not he believed that man-made global warming was happening. That looked bad. Trevor Davies was surprisingly poor – he spoke badly and seemed, to me, not really to have a sound grasp of the facts or issues.

A few other observations:

Davies, Watson and Pearce agreed that scientists needed to explain uncertainty better than they had. Davies and Watson, however, stressed that, although there was uncertainty, that didn’t mean there was anything wrong with the basic science. Watson said that, although he accepted the need for more balance in public discussion, that didn’t mean that a sceptical view should be given an equal hearing to what he regarded as the established scientific view, based on a 90/95% majority of scientific opinion. He wasn’t challenged on this.

Steve McIntyre assumed that the audience was familiar with the nuances of the CRU affair – and concentrated (very well) on specific issues such as the hockey-stick affair, the “Nature trick”, the absurdity of Russell not being present when evidence was taken from Phil Jones (where McIntyre had a clear grasp of the facts and Davies looked rather foolish by not seeming to know what really happened) and how data released to one researcher was denied to him because of alleged confidentiality. His conclusion that none of the enquiries had done an adequate job went unchallenged.

Bob Watson’s slipped up when he said that he hadn’t read many of the emails. But he rejected claims such as the suggestion that CRU had interfered with peer review and stressed that the integrity of the CRU’s temperature data could not be in doubt as two independent data sets showed the same trends. He insisted that much of the data that was said to be hidden was, in fact, publicly available; there had been multiple reviews of these data and no errors had been found. He gave credit to UEA for initiating the CRU reviews and stated that, yes, mistakes had been made and lessons had been learned. He praised the IPCC for dealing with the Himalayan glacier mistake quickly and professionally. No one challenged him on these issues. He said that there would always be uncertainties in science (McIntyre agreed) and politicians in his experience had no difficulty in handling that. So it was inevitable that the IPCC would adopt a position, bringing together “thousands of the world’s best climate scientists” to do so. We had, he said, to balance “the cost of action against the cost of inaction”. It was a classic case of risk management. But the basic point was that the magnitude of what was happening to climate now was essentially unprecedented and could be explained only by human activity. Certainly he wouldn’t trust any one paper – but he would certainly do so when the same message emerges (as it does) from a range of papers. He didn’t, however, seem able to answer a questioner who couldn’t see how any degree of certainty was possible when economists seemed to have no part to play in IPCC deliberations.

Doug Keenan was scathing. He insisted (after Monbiot’s probing) that Jones was guilty of fraud (over the Chinese weather station affair), speaking of “widespread bogus research” and a failure to report problems he knew to exist. He said that, when challenged, Jones simply didn’t reply. The basic problem in his view was a lack of systemic accountability in climate science. None of the reviews should have happened – instead a system to ensure proper accountability should have been established. He claimed that much of the mathematics done (by the IPCC) was erroneous – if, he said, government policy was based on mathematical error, how many poor people in the world were going to die? (This was a rare flash of genuine sceptic anger.) Trevor Davies commented that the Chinese weather stations represented a tiny aspect of an overall issue and, in any case, it had been shown that what Keenan had identified made no practical difference to the global picture as weather station changes “cancelled each other out”. This wasn’t very convincing – as Keenan made plain.

Fred Pearce said a problem with reviews was that they simply accepted the science and were concerned only with process. He was disturbed by the emails when he read them – and he still is. (Monbiot agreed that he felt, and feels, betrayed.) Some of it was “grubby” but, although climate science had been damaged, there wasn’t, he insisted, a conspiracy. No, it was a tragedy: the researchers, adopting a siege mentality in the belief that they were assailed by financially and politically motivated “enemies”, made bad mistakes. They overlooked the reality that some of their critics (such as Steve and Doug) were honourably motivated. As a result, the whole affair became an unnecessary war. Nonetheless, the way, for example, FOI was ignored was unacceptable – although he felt there was a danger that FOI, though well intentioned, could “have a chilling effect on science”. (He observed that science was asleep when FOI was “coming down the track”.) Although none of the reviews got properly to grips with all this, none was a whitewash. Looking to the future, he said, we needed to let people with different views argue it out openly and without rancour although he agree with Bob that it wasn’t possible or sensible to expect the IPCC to reconcile all viewpoints and the public needs to be more “grown up” about uncertainty. He accepted, however, that there were real issues with feedbacks – a point Steve McIntyre strongly endorsed.

Trevor Davies totally rejected Steve’s implication that the reviews were set up to get a predetermined outcome and insisted they were “wholly independent”. He insisted also that the science was addressed. All this sounded hollow. As did his assertion that, although the engagement of sceptics sounded desirable, it was difficult in practice as they represented such a wide range of opinion and many were poorly informed and, although he wouldn’t use the term himself, “deniers” of the essential facts.

Overall the evening was entertaining, not very informative (participants’ views being well known) and, as Monbiot said, totally inconclusive. Nonetheless, I’m inclined to think it indicated that Climategate will have a beneficial effect on climate science in the long run. Time will tell.

RWG: 15vii.2010

Geoff Chambers has also provided a couple of useful links:

Trevor Davies, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of UEA who was closely involved in organising the Oxburgh and Russell inquiries has this take on Climategate in today’s Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/15/uea-hacked-emails-climat
e-change

And here is a pretty fair sketch of the event from what appears to be a warmist blogger:

http://merryenvironmentalist.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/the-guardian-climate
gate-debate-verdict-panel-–-exellent-audience-–-childish…/

One of the points he reports  from Fred Pearce’s presentation caught my eye.

 The reviews were done with relatively little grasp of the context

This criticism could easily have been averted if sceptics had been allowed to play a full part in the inquiry process, and I have posted about this problem here.

This site is run by Jim Durdin, a post grad. who is studying sustainability and climate change.  I wonder how it feels when the foundations of the subject that you have chosen to put a hell of a lot of work into studying, and presumably hope to build a career on, begin to look wobbly? This is not a snark in any way, just an observation.

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(For completeness, and because I adhere to the convention that once a post is put up there should be no substantial changes (other than correction of spelling, typo’s, grammar etc) which are not notified to readers, I have copied the text that was originally at the top of this post below.)

Here is a brief summary of what happened at the debate last night which Latimer Adler posted at Bishop Hill. I hope that neither he nor the Bishop will mind me using it.  Transcripts of some of the highlights may be available later today and I will be updating this post as more information emerges. It may be worth checking the bottom of this post from time-to-time to see if anything new has been added.

Just back from the Climategate debate run by the Guardian tonight. We’re assured that the Guardian website will have a full video of the whole proceeding sometime tomorrow. So just some very sketchy impressions.

Steve Mc obviously read the remarks from last night’s meeting and insisted on speaking from a lectern. This was a good move as it gave him more ‘authority’. And he was (mostly) crisper…making his points more directly. The others spoke while seated.

George Monbiot chaired the meeting and I think he did a fair job of it. He tried hard to be unbiased, and only once or twice strayed into partisan territory. And he managed to keep the speeches and questions mostly to time and to the point

Fred Pearce took a longer perspective than the others. He spoke well and described Climategate as a tragedy rather than a conspiracy…the tragedy being that the CRU guys had adopted siege mentality. Climategate has certainly widened his perspective.

Trevor Davies representing UEA/CRU was appallingly bad. He mouthed platitudes by the shedload, but was unfamiliar with the details of any of the subjects likely to be raised. And was several times embarrassed by doing so. Apart from the fact that he had a sharp suit. I can find nothing positive to say about him. Struck me as a devious smooth cove.

Bob Watson opening remark was that he hadn’t read the e-mails in question. This was a bad mistake – many in the audience were very familiar with them, and not happy to be lectured by somebody who wasn’t. IPCC was imperfect but the best that could be devised 95% of scientists agree…it is now just a risk management exercise. Errors corrected quickly…As good as having Ravendra, but no need for the extra slot at Heathrow for him to land his jet. Very much the Scientific Establishment figure.

Keenan was interested in research fraud and the lack of accountability in science as a whole. He accused Jones of committing fraud, even after being given a chance to withdraw the remark. Davies tried to defend Jones but had no details. Keenan showed a more street-savvy business approach than any of the other participants. I’d like to have heard him at greater length.

Overall conclusion: there was no conclusion. Everybody agreed that openness and transparency were good, that debate should be with all parties and that uncertainties should be made more clear.

But my own view is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This one still has legs and will run and run.

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/10/hsi-in-the-national-post.html?currentPage=2#comments

29 Responses to “Guardian Debate: no conclusion to Climategate”

  1. 1
    geoffchambers Says:

    Looking forward to reading Robin’s and Alex’s views on the Guardian debate. There are interesting comments to Alder’s account at
    http://omniclimate.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/report-from-climategate-guardian-debate-with-monbiot-mcintyre-pearce-watson-keenan-and-some-uea-guy/
    and at
    http://climateaudit.org/2010/07/14/report-from-the-climategate-guardian-debate/
    The Guardian’s own one-sided account is here (video to follow).
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/15/uea-hacked-emails-climate-change
    and a fairminded account by a warmist blogger is here
    http://merryenvironmentalist.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/the-guardian-climategate-debate-verdict-panel-–-exellent-audience-–-childish…/

  2. 2
    Jim Durdin Says:

    Good coverage, and thankyou for your positive comments on my blog.

    I very much agree with your take on the failure of the inquiry process to include sceptics. Inquiries open themselves up to accusations of whitewash by not doing so.

    In response to your comment on me, I do want to work in this field but I don’t get the impression all of the climate science surrounding anthropogenic global warming is collapsing around everyone’s ears just yet!

    Ask me again in five years, especially if you see me on the street or, indeed, working for Shell…

  3. 3
    peter geany Says:

    I get the impression that the whole talk was a bit disjointed with Keenan and McIntyre talking detail and the others talking generalisations, with perhaps Davis talking complete nonsense. You have to be concerned when people of such authority have so little grasp of the reality, and simply will not accept any responsibility for what has happened with Climategate, and continue to brush aside any idea that the science is flawed. And they then wonder why we are so sceptical of them.

    There is a truism in management, that they, who wield great authority without the responsibility, will be despised and not followed. It works in all walks of life. Part of accepting responsibility for these scientists is ensuring that their science stands up to scrutiny, which is not what has happened. No amount of posturing by Bob Watson and others can change this situation, and they will not be followed until they accept responsibility.

    Another observation; Steve McIntyre has been one of the stalwarts of the sceptical movement, but he is not very good as a front man trying to counter the so called consensus. He is excellent at explaining his findings, but when asked about the wider picture is reluctant to offer an opinion. There is nothing wrong in that, but it can confuse the public if he is in a public area where he may be expected to offer opinions on the wider issue.

    It seems that an opportunity was lost here to directly challenge Davis, Watson and Pearce.

  4. 4
    TonyN Says:

    Jim Durdin, #2:

    Thanks for your comment. One of the advantages of Climategate that no one can deny is that people from both sides of the debate seem to be more willing to talk amiably to each other. A strange irony when you think of the bitterness of many of the emails.

    The comment you mention really wasn’t ‘on’ you, but about the circumstances that a lot of people must be in. It was just visiting your site that made me think about it this morning.

    Over the last few years university courses relating to climate change concerns have mushroomed, and with them the expectation that growing concern will provide a commensurate increase in jobs that will utilise the qualifications these lead to. In the medium term, with growing scepticism among the public and severe restrictions on public finances, one wonders whether these can be delivered. The brightest students will always find jobs, even if that really does mean working for Shell. It’s the ones for whom the only prospect may be the street that worries me. There is a hell of lot riding on the IPCC plenary in October and then Cancun I think.

  5. 5
    HaroldW Says:

    Thanks for the reports, I enjoyed reading the various accounts of the evening.

    Robin mentions that Davies “insisted also that the science was addressed” by the reviews. I am gobsmacked that Davies would make such an assertion. Each panel specifically stated that it did not investigate the science.
    Any readers who doubt that position can consult this post which contains citations taken directly from the reports to prove the point.

  6. 6
    Alex Cull Says:

    Just to add that the Guardian have put a high-quality audio recording of the debate here (which is downloadable and is far better than mine!) and a video of some of it here, which will give you a flavour of what went on.

  7. 7
    Alex Cull Says:

    HaroldW, I think you’re quite correct – none of the reviews properly addressed the science, although many people assume that the Oxburgh report did just that, including the BBC’s Susan Watts (“Three enquiries focussed on the team at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, CRU. One by MPs, one on the science and today’s on how the scientists handled data…”) There’s some more very good discussion – and dissection – of the Oxburgh results here. But I think many will still assume from the headlines that the science itself has been investigated and vindicated. As one person wrote to me: “So now that five investigations confirm the science was right, what do you say?”

    Just to add – many thanks for TonyN for having the time, energy and commitment to run this blog, and for putting up with a less than prompt contributor like myself!

  8. 8
    Jim Durdin Says:

    Thanks for the clarification Tony

    I agree completely on the advantages of such communication between “sceptics” and “warmists” and the many, often overlooked shades in between. As you say, ironic given some of the e-mails and some of the response (like the death threats sent to Phil Jones).

    I get the impression that mostly the courses you refer to have a wider brief than just climate change, certainly mine does, so I expect most students will be able to find jobs relating to other environmental issues. I take sceptic Peter Taylor’s point, however, that if climate change were to lose credibility then it risks dragging other forms of environmentalism down with it. We shall see. My instinct is that in the (in my view unlikely) even of climate change science being discredited it would be a wind-down rather than a crash, involving panel after panel, investigation after investigation etc.

    An interesting one to watch.

    I’m sorry not to be more active in the detailed discussion of the post-game analysis on comment boards like this: I’m a little swamped with work at the moment.

    Thankyou also for picking me up on your excellent blog – it’s generated a lot of traffic. By last night my hits graph looks uncannily like a familiar hockey-stick.

    Jim

  9. 9
    TonyN Says:

    Is it surprising that climate sceptics become a little paranoid in their attitude to the media. Looking at the Guardian’s video clip of the debate we see a platform party of six, of which there is a example of all but one’s presentation. Who was missing? Well McIntyre of course, yet without his blog, his critiques of the Hockey Stick and his requests for information to CRU there would have been no Climategate and no debate. Was the Guardian editor tactless, stupid, incompetent, or prejudiced? Who knows?

    Incidentally, although Roger Harrabin was there I don’t see a report on the BBC website. I’d be interested if anyone else spots one.

  10. 10
    TonyN Says:

    Jim Durdin, #8:

    Drop by when you have time. We’re a reasonably peaceable lot here and at the moment I really do believe that dialogue between the two sides can be helpful.

    Just one last point. Peter Taylor has commented extensively here in the past and, as I am sure you know, his whole career has been in the environmental movement. One of the things that he finds disturbing, and I share his concern, is that if AGW continues to fade from the political limelight the whole environmental movement will suffer too. I’m a climate sceptic to the tips of my fingers, but I certainly don’t want to see environmentalism become a dirty word. There is a very real danger of that happening at the moment.

  11. 11
    tempterrain Says:

    TonyN,

    You’re now concerned that the “environmental movement will suffer”?

    I don’t remember you speaking out against this sort of sentiment expressed by your allies on your blog:

    “Global Warming Alarmism and ‘Environmentalism’ is the elitist, rich man’s cause celeb….. perfectly tailored for snobs and arrogant, pompous egotists with too much time on their hands….that’s the bottom line”

    I’m sure I can find plenty more quotes along similar lines. Who’s side are you on?

  12. 12
    tempterrain Says:

    TonyN,

    The last quote wasn’t one of yours, but this is:

    “If an astronomer who is engaged in research has, let us say, extreme racialist views, then it is unlikely to affect their work. This would not be true of a geneticist, anthropologist or historian. There is an obvious political bias towards environmentalism among climate scientists and it seems unrealistic to expect that this will not compromise their objectivity, however conscious they may be of this danger. I am not equating racialism with environmentalism…..”

    It good to know that you aren’t “equating environmentalism with racialism”, of course, but you don’t sound particularly Green either!

    Of course anyone can be an ‘environmentalist’ when a new road encroaches their back yard and threatens to lower the value of their property. Is that a fair comment as far as you’re concerned?

  13. 13
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    To clear something up for you (sources: Wiki).

    Environmentalism

    1. Advocacy for or work toward protecting the natural environment from destruction or pollution.
    2. The theory that environment rather than heredity is the primary influence on intellectual growth and cultural development.

    (Global Warming) Alarmism

    1. (Global Warming) Alarmism is the production of needless warnings, often with the objective of influencing public opinion through inducing mass hysteria. The term as an adjective is usually used in a negative manner, to express disapproval of alarmed opinion or in an otherwise dismissive context.

    2. Climate change alarmism or global warming alarmism is a rhetorical style, which stresses the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming (without mentioning any of the potential benefits) as a technique for motivating public action.

    Sadly, a major portion of the “environmentalism” movement has been hijacked by the (largely politically and economically motivated) multi-billion dollar “global warming alarmism” movement.

    Max

  14. 14
    James P Says:

    “Climategate: The greatest scandal to hit climate science or a storm in a teacup?”

    I take it that this question was not officially answered? I gather that Monbiot did not ask for a vote or show of hands, presumably in fear of the result!

  15. 15
    Alex Cull Says:

    James P, a show of hands at the beginning and again at the end might have been a good idea actually, i.e., to find out what proportion of those present tended towards the “greatest scandal” or the “storm in a teacup” ends of the spectrum.

    My impression was that a good number of those attending were pretty much decided in their views, but of course there might have been some who weren’t – it would have been nice to have had some sort of instant straw poll to find out, though.

  16. 16
    Robin Guenier Says:

    Alex (#6):

    I agree with your comments and thanks for the links. Re the Guardian’s audio recording, Doug Keenan’s opening statement was omitted, seemingly “for legal reasons”. Doug has published a transcript. It’s here and is worth reading.

    PS: I enjoyed our discussion. A reminder – you were going to email me some detail of that Y2K matter.

  17. 17
    Alex Cull Says:

    Robin, Doug’s transcript is strong stuff, and interesting; just been looking at examples of research fraud cited in online articles to get a sense of how prevalent it is; various sources seem to be asserting it’s more common than many people think.
    Re the e-mail; I’ve just sent it!

  18. 18
    tempterrain Says:

    TonyN,

    You say “I’m a climate sceptic to the tips of my fingers”

    The tips of your fingers might be good for typing contrarian blogs, but what were your thought processes which led you to your ‘sceptic’ viewpoint?

  19. 19
    PaulM Says:

    18 Peter, this is an good question.
    There is a fascinating thread at Jeff Id’s Air vent blog (click on the ‘reader background’ tab at the top) where people give their answers. Some were always sceptical, but many (self included) were initially believers or agnostic but were moved to the sceptic side by the exaggeration of AGW and the clear bias of people like Jones, Hansen and the RC crowd.
    I’m guessing that Tony comes into this second category (see ‘About’) but it will be interesting to hear his answer.

  20. 20
    TonyN Says:

    PeterM, # 18:

    Try two of the first posts I put up on this blog:

    http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=5

    and

    http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=6

    PaulM:

    Your guess is a pretty good one.

  21. 21
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    You ask TonyN what made him become an AGW skeptic, and he has given you a clear response based on earlier blogs.

    I know you have a hard time accepting this, but I was also not skeptical of the AGW hypothesis at the beginning (around 2004, when I first took an interest in “global warming”). The GH theory made sense. CO2 (along with H2O) had been established as a GHG. There had been a fraction of a degree global warming since the modern record started in 1850, sea levels had risen a few centimeters since tide gauge records started in the 19th century, Alpine glaciers (in Switzerland, where I live) had shrunk since reaching their highest extent around 1850 and Arctic sea ice had retreated a bit since 1979, when satellite records started. At the same time atmospheric CO2 levels had increased at a fairly steady compounded growth rate since readings started at Mauna Loa in 1958 and earlier ice core data seemed to show a slower rate of increase from pre-industrial days to the end of WWII, when the rate accelerated. Human CO2 emissions were also increasing as the world’s economies were industrializing and global GDP plus affluence was growing as a result.

    The first seed of doubt came with the first Mann et al. “hockeystick” and the subsequent follow-up studies. Here was a single study, based on bristlecone pine tree ring data, that negated all that was previous common knowledge based on many well-documented historical records as well as scientific studies about a warmer Medieval Warm Period centered around 1000 AD and a colder Little Ice Age from the 16th through the 19th century. Instead, temperatures were purported to have remained essentially flat prior to the 20th century, when they increased sharply. It seemed strange to me that IPCC jumped on this single questionable study as a center-point of its Third Assessment Report (particularly once the Mann study itself had been comprehensively discredited).

    Then came IPCC SPM 2007 (February 2007) and all the media ballyhoo connected with it.

    This all did not sound very scientific to me, in particular the alarming “projections” all the way to 2100 (and even beyond!) so I started becoming rationally skeptical of all the claims being made and the bases for these claims.

    I was astounded to find that the (supposedly “gold standard”) IPCC report was full of errors and exaggerations, and that there were important omissions, all of which went into the direction of making AGW appear more serious.

    So I became rational skeptical of the IPCC as an unbiased and objective scientific body and of the IPCC premise a) that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of the 20th century warming and b) that AGW represents a serious threat.

    As a rational skeptic, I am still looking for empirical data to support this premise, but no one has been able to provide this. At the same time recent cooling of both the atmosphere and ocean despite record CO2 levels tend to falsify the “dangerous AGW” hypothesis, instead.

    That’s how I became a skeptic, Peter. PaulM’s post (19) points out that many other skeptics followed a similar path.

    As a secondary point, I also reject the “mitigation” proposals being made as expensive and painful “non-solutions” to a “non-problem”.

    Now I am really curious, Peter, how you became a “believer” in the “dangerous AGW” premise.

    Max

  22. 22
    tempterrain Says:

    TonyN,

    You do see to be motivated by environmental considerations yourself. Even though you have described environmentalists as being on the ‘outer fringes’ of society. You didn’t answer my earlier points about certain contradictions I noticed in your various statements about “environmentalism.”

    My opinion is that we should all be concerned about the state of the environment both globally and locally. Australian aborigines always had the idea that they belonged to the land rather than the other way around. That’s just as valid a view now as it ever was. That doesn’t mean to say that nothing should ever change but I would say that it does make sense to look at where we are going.

    You may me right that some people , who you do refer to as environmentalists, (these are the bad environmentalists?) don’t want things to ever change. Like no wind turbines in the countryside? It could well be that they misuse science too. But, it doesn’t mean that all environmentalists are therefore wrong or that the scientific community is wrong about the dangers of unlimited accumulation of GHG’s in the atmosphere.

    You say you are not a scientist, and if so, I’d like to ask you how you know that science is wrong? There is no University or scientific body in the UK, or the USA or Switzerland for that matter, which in any way endorses the view that there is no Greenhouse effect. Or endorses the view that it is safe to allow GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to rise out of all control. Its been known since the middle of the 19th century that there is a natural GH effect and it’s not that hard to see, even for a non -scientist, that the more GH gases there are in the atmosphere, the warmer it will become.

  23. 23
    manacker Says:


    PeterM

    You wrote (22):

    there is a natural GH effect and it’s not that hard to see, even for a non -scientist, that the more GH gases there are in the atmosphere, the warmer it will become.

    All other things being equal, this statement may theoretically be correct.

    But, as the past decade has shown. “all other things are NOT equal”.

    There are more GHGs (primarily CO2) in the atmosphere today than there were at the end of 2000 (390 vs. 369 ppmv). Using IPCC’s model-derived estimate of climate sensitivity, this increase should have caused a temperature increase of 0.25C. Instead we saw a decrease of around 0.06C, so the “theory” was off by 0.3C in less than 10 years (compared to an observed warming of just twice this amount over the past 160 years).

    In addition, the upper ocean has also cooled most recently.

    So the prediction “the more GH gases there are in the atmosphere, the warmer it will become” did not occur.

    We now hear (from Met Office) that “natural variability” is the culprit, or (from Kevin Trenberth) that “clouds” may be acting as a “natural thermostat” by “reflecting energy into space”.

    So “it’s not that hard to see, even for a non-scientist”, that we do not really know what causes our climate to change, so, by definition, we cannot make any reliable predictions.

    Max

  24. 24
    PaulM Says:

    Tony,
    Thanks for the link to your interesting post number 1, which shows a similar story to mine and Max’s. I see that a certain Peter Martin responded with a very well-argued case for nuclear power!

    Peter,
    Tony may not be a scientist but he is clearly a thoughtful and intelligent chap, and you don’t have to be a scientist to see the exaggerations and misleading spin that Tony talks about. If you want the opinion of scientists, there are plenty on the Air vent Reader Background thread, about 40 science Phds.

  25. 25
    tempterrain Says:

    Paul M,

    You say “if you want the opinion of scientists…”

    Well yes I do! That’s why I take my information from organisations like the (American) National Academy of Sciences. I doubt Al Gore has much of an input or that they are part of some UN inspired New World Order/Communist movement!

    You may not believe me or James Hansen! But how about listening to what they say?

    “Choices made now about carbon dioxide emissions reductions will affect climate change impacts experienced not just over the next few decades but also in coming centuries and millennia, says a new report. Because CO2 in the atmosphere is long lived, it can effectively lock the Earth and future generations into a range of impacts, some of which could become very severe. “

    http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer

  26. 26
    tempterrain Says:

    The link in the previous post doesn’t seem to work. Try this instead:
    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12877

  27. 27
    tempterrain Says:

    Max

    You ask “Now I am really curious, Peter, how you became a believer in the dangerous AGW premise.”

    I’m sure I’ve answered this one before. I just tend to ignore what’s written in papers like the Australian, The Watchtower, The Spectator, Intelligent Design Weekly, the Daily Mail, Flat Earth Society Gazzette, and the Sun and take my information or at least check it, no not from Al Gore, but what is often referred to the scientific consensus or a website like the NAS or Royal Society.

    And, yes, I do know that the scientific consensus could be wrong, and if I knew enough about a particular subject to know it was I’d certainly speak up. Of course, we can reject the consensus. We can claim that AIDs isn’t caused by HIV, or that Homeopathy really does work. But that’s what I would refer to as a “belief”. Is having faith in science just another belief. Well, yes, according to some it is. What do you think?

    Tony N,

    You’ve still not answered my question of, if you are not a scientist, how you know that the NAS and RS have got it wrong? And how you know the Daily Mail have got it right?

    I hope you don’t give me another feeble answer along the lines of re-reading a particular post. If you can’t answer the question then just say so.

  28. 28
    manacker Says:

    PeterM

    Thanks very much for explaining how you became a believer in the “dangerous AGW” premise.

    Like you, I also do not place much faith in rehashes of the data with pre-conceived conclusions drawn in order to “sell” a particular viewpoint, be it from the journals you have listed, from scientific or non-scientific journals or blogsites promoting the “dangerous AGW” premise or from political outfits like IPCC, who have a particular message to sell.

    The AIDS (or smoking) analogy to AGW is weak, as we have also discussed repeatedly. People are dying daily from the effects of AIDS and from lung cancer and smoking related coronary and vascular diseases. AIDS has been shown to be related to the HIV virus as have the other mentioned diseases to smoking (while there is a bit more uncertainty regarding the threat from “second hand smoke” exposure).

    No one can be shown conclusively to have died from AGW, total climate related deaths have diminished sharply over the 20th century and the past warming cannot conclusively be shown to have been caused principally by AGW (as we have discussed ad nauseam on this and the NS thread), so these are the key differences.

    But, leaving possible political differences aside (which, in my opinion, play only a secondary role here), I believe the key differences in our approach is that I tend to be more rationally skeptical of claims made until they can be validated by empirical data, even if these claims are made by a majority of scientific experts or the leaders of venerable societies, such as those you have mentioned.

    I prefer to analyse the empirical data that are available and see if I can relate these to the claims being made, rather than simply accepting these claims out of hand, even if they come from “good authority”.

    You ask:

    Is having faith in science just another belief?

    It could be, if the “faith” is unconditional and unquestioned. But, whether or not one classifies it as a “belief”, you and I both “have faith in science”, Peter. That is not the issue.

    It is just that I am apparently more rationally skeptical (in the scientific sense) than you are when it regards the “dangerous AGW” premise and, therefore, more demanding of those who make climate prophesies for the future based on scientific deliberations and model simulations to back up these prophesies with empirical data.

    So we now know where we both stand and how we got there.

    A good start for (maybe) understanding one another a bit better.

    Max

  29. 29
    tempterrain Says:

    Max,

    When you say you are “…more demanding of those who make climate prophesies for the future based on scientific deliberations” you really mean you want to set bar just out of reach. Just beyond what is possible.

    And, of course that phrase sounds quite a lot more reasonable than “use your common sense its all a hoax!” I notice you don’t use that one quite so often now.

    More generally speaking, if you feel that scientific study is likely to be the best guide, you shouldn’t pick and choose which areas of science you’re prepared to accept and which you aren’t. Its obvious why those who dislike the idea of international co-operation, dislike the idea of not having complete freedom to pollute the atmosphere, dislike the idea that taxes may have to be used as part of a general solution, in fact dislike being told they should have a more responsible environmental attitude don’t like the implications of scientific findings on AGW.

    But it still doesn’t make any sort of logical sense to reject them, scientifically, on that basis. At least admit the possibility that bodies like the NAS and RS are right and you are wrong.

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