(I’m very grateful to Geoff Chambers for this post. He seems to have spotted something that others haven’t: TonyN)


You’re a group of top scientists, showered with funding and honours – even a small share in the Nobel Peace Prize – and engaged in a “Cause” (that’s how you describe it) which you are convinced is of vital importance for the future of the planet.

But there are people opposed to your Cause – other scientists who disagree with your findings. They are to be the subject of a major TV documentary film. The film-makers ask you to reply, defending your Cause. What do you do?

Now read on:

Continue reading »

Nov 222011

(I’ve been waiting to post this since mid-afternoon, but the site has been down. Very frustrating)

There is a very big story breaking at WUWT and JefId’s.

Apparently another 5000 Climategate emails have been released on the net, with 220,000 more (yep! I counted the noughts) being withheld meantime.

From what I can see of the snippets that are floating around already, they look genuine, but these excerpts are very short and obviously lacking context, so it would be a mistake to read too much into them.

Since the last time this happened, a scandal over telephone hacking by Rupert Murdoch owned newspapers has broken in the UK. The establishment had little trouble whipping up a full-scale judge-led inquiry complete with a barrister to ask witness giving evidence under oath difficult questions in next to no time. Could this have been in order to ensure that the focus of attention remains on telephone hacking rather than on awkward questions about how political parties have courted, and curried favour with, the Murdochs for decades?.

If this really is Climategate2, then the blogosphere should do whatever is necessary to ensure that the same the establishment cannot avoid exerting the same degree of diligence in establishing just what is happening in the climate science community. That includes legal direct action.

This time there has to be a proper judicial enquiry, and it has to have access to everything on UK bases mail servers that could possibly be relevant to the way climate science, and the IPCC process, is being practiced this country.

Last month, the BBC’s Richard Black posted a story that looks very much like an attempt to rehabilitate Phil Jones, the University of East Anglia scientist at the centre of the Climategate scandal. The report’s rather surprising headline was Global warming since 1995 ‘now significant’, and looking at the context of this claim is quite revealing.

To begin with, any pretence that this might be an impartial take on a science story is immediately dispelled by using an obviously photoshoped propaganda image at the top of the page:


Evidently climate sceptics are the kind of vandals who scrawl slogans on pristine whitewashed walls, which quite soon are obliterated by rising sea levels or floods caused by global warming of course and symbolising the relentless march of victorious scientific research. (The more observant among us may notice that the water level is, in fact, falling not rising, but this is a climate story so that probably doesn’t matter.)

With sceptics firmly in the BBC’s sights, the caption to the image reads: Phil Jones’s comments last year have become a touchstone for climate “sceptics”. This of course omits to mention that “sceptics” were pointing out that the global warming trend had run out of steam long before Jones’ admission, or to consider why a supposed expert on such things should have preferred to avoid public endorsement of this important, but very inconvenient, piece of information prior to the Climategate scandal.

In fact it was an article posing the question Has Global Warming Stopped? written by Dr David Whitehouse for the New Statesman that probably first put the matter on the public agenda.

The substance of Richard Black’s story is simple enough, and he sets it out in the first paragraph:

Climate warming since 1995 is now statistically significant, according to Phil Jones, the UK scientist targeted in the “ClimateGate” affair.

This claim is surprising in two ways. The lack of warming in recent years has become common ground between warmists and sceptics, and Black blatantly attempts to win sympathy for the man at the centre of a major scientific scandal by portraying him as a victim who has been ‘targeted’.

The BBC report continues:


Last year, he [Phil Jones] told BBC News that post-1995 warming was not significant a statement still seen on blogs critical of the idea of man-made climate change.

And later in the report, just in case the message hadn’t got through:

Professor Jones’ previous comment, from a BBC interview in February 2010, is routinely quoted – erroneously – as demonstration that the Earth’s surface temperature is not rising.

So blogs are to be condemned for not anticipating that Jones would amend his opinion in June 2011? How very strange!

Jones’ new claim is that by taking into account the data for 2010, a warming trend can now be found that meets the 95% confidence threshold indicating that it is not down to chance. But so far as I can see, he has not published this claim in a peer-reviewed journal, but has simply told the BBC who, presumably, can be relied on to headline it without giving any consideration to whether the information is reliable.

Dr David Whitehouse, a one time BBC science correspondent and editor, has an excellent analysis of the rather tendentious reasoning that underlies Jones claim at the Global Warming Policy Foundation in which he says:

I look forward to another BBC News item, dated mid January 2012, based on data to 2011, whose headline is, Global Warming since 1995 ‘now not significant (again).’


He also points out that a recent paper by Kaufman et al (2011), published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirms yet again what many peer reviewed papers have already said, that there has been a warming standstill since 1998, something that Black’s article failed to mention, preferring to dwelling on the lack of warming if the reference date is three years earlier. It would be interesting to know whether he and Jones discussed this.

If we look at the Climategate correspondence, we find that the climate research community is very concerned about the global warming standstill, and particularly about the public finding out what is happening.

Back in October 2009 there is an email from Narasimha D. Rao of Stanford University to Stephen Schneider headed BBC U-Turn on climate.


You may be aware of this already. Paul Hudson, BBC’s reporter on climate change, on Friday wrote that there’s been no warming since 1998, and that pacific oscillations will force cooling for the next 20-30 years. It is not outrageously biased in presentation as are other skeptics’ views.



BBC has significant influence on public opinion outside the US.

Do you think this merits an op-ed response in the BBC from a scientist?



Evidently in the strangely distorted world of climate science, reporting something that is true, but inconvenient, is enough to get the reporter lumped in with ‘other sceptics’. It’s true that the prediction about 20-30 years of cooling came from Professor Don Easterbrook, who is openly sceptical about AGW but, as we shall see, the temperature standstill since the 1990’s did not come as news to the Climategate scientists. It is also rather startling that Rao is under the impression that if climate researchers choose to debunk a report at the BBC they have only to ask for space in which to do so.

Schneider was not slow to alert the rest of the climate community to Hudson’s heresy with a supremely arrogant sneer:

Hi all. Any of you want to explain decadal natural variability and signal to noise and sampling errors to this new “IPCC Lead Author” from the BBC?


And presently, Michael Mann added his take on the situation:

Michael Mann wrote:

extremely disappointing to see something like this appear on BBC. its particularly odd, since climate is usually Richard Black’s beat at BBC (and he does a great job). from what I can tell, this guy was formerly a weather person at the Met Office.

We may do something about this on RealClimate, but meanwhile it might be appropriate for the Met Office to have a say about this, I might ask Richard Black what’s up here?



There is also Kevin Trenberth’s dramatic, and now infamous, contribution:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.

Then Tom Wigley, Jones predecessor as director of the CRU, suggests some ideas for damage limitation:

At the risk of overload, here are some notes of mine on the recent lack of warming. I look at this in two ways. The first is to look at the difference between the observed and expected anthropogenic trend relative to the pdf for unforced variability. The second is to remove ENSO, volcanoes and TSI variations from the observed data.

Both methods show that what we are seeing is not unusual. The second method leaves a significant warming over the past decade.

These sums complement Kevin’s energy work.

Kevin says … “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t”. I do not agree with this.


Phil Jones seems not to have contributed to the discussion at all, although he was copied in on it, and he was clearly aware that there had indeed been a global warming standstill for some time.

In July 2005 he had written to John Christy:

This is from an Australian at BMRC (not Neville Nicholls). It began from the attached article. What an idiot. The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.


This email ends:

As you know, I’m not political. If anything, I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn’t being political, it is being selfish.


Of course there can be arguments as to whether there has been a global warming standstill since 1995 or 1998, but there can be no argument that there has been a global warming standstill, although Blacks report gives no hint of this. Nor can there be any doubt that the most influential researchers on the climate scene were well aware of the fact long before Hudson dropped his bombshell just before the Climategate story broke or Jones came clean in his 2010 BBC interview during the aftermath.

Towards the end of the report, Black says:

Shortly before the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Phil Jones found himself at the centre of the affair that came to be known as “ClimateGate”, which saw the release of more than 1,000 emails taken from a CRU server.

Critics alleged the emails showed CRU scientists and others attempting to subvert the usual processes of science, and of manipulating data in order to paint an unfounded picture of globally rising temperatures.

Subsequent enquiries found the scientists and their institutions did fall short of best practice in areas such as routine use of professional statisticians and response to Freedom of Information requests, but found no case to answer on the charges of manipulation.

Since then, nothing has emerged through mainstream science to challenge the IPCC’s basic picture of a world warming through greenhouse gas emissions.

Global warming since 1995 ‘now significant’


There are two points here. Black acknowledges that Jones and his colleagues were criticised for not involving professional statisticians in their work, which of course depends heavily on statistical analysis. Therefore isn’t it rather strange that the BBC should be prepared to give Jones’ claim about a statistically significant rise in temperature when this research has apparently not even been peer reviewed let alone signed off by a professional statistician. And is it really fair-minded to say that nothing has emerged since Climategate to challenge the mainstream on global warming as exemplified by the IPCC? The window that the Climategate emails has provided on the characters, ethics, state of mind, competence and behaviour of top climate scientists should be enough to make anyone cautious about what they are telling the rest of us.


As if deconstructing the Codebatemmittee on Climate Change (CCC) singlehanded wasn’t enough to keep us busy, Alex Cull and I have just completed the transcription of the 98-minute Guardian Climategate Debate held on July 14th last year. It can be found here.

There were many detailed and interesting accounts of the debate on the net, including those by Alex and Robin Guenier here, Maurizio Morabito here, and Atomic Hairdryer here.

In addition to the audio recording of the debate, the Guardian put up a five minute video extract, and an report by  Damian Carrington here, in which he said:

Something remarkable happened last night in the polarised world of "warmists" versus "sceptics": a candid but not rancorous public debate… to my knowledge, never before have all sides of this frequently poisonous debate shared a stage. The outcome was illuminating.

and asked:

Will the friendliness that broke out at the Guardian debate prove a mere holiday romance? Or will it be the start of a new way of conducting and communicating the science, especially online, that will shape how the world lives for centuries, as demanded by many? I’m cautiously optimistic.

A year on, it’s safe to say that the cautious optimism of the Guardian’s environment editor was misplaced. While a small number of scientists, led by Judith Curry, have accepted discussion with sceptics, the mainstream media haven’t budged an inch, while the government moves to ever more extreme positions, egged on by the Greenpeace/IPCC complex of government-financed non-governmental organisations, paid to lobby governments to persuade them to do what governments want to do anyway.

I don’t intend to analyse the debate. The point of our transcription is to enable everyone to make up their own mind. The main impression I took away from the transcription was that no true debate took place, which makes me wonder whether a debate is even possible, or could ever have the desired result of opening up discussion of the numerous weaknesses in the warmist case – weaknesses which are currently known only to a tiny number of sceptics, and to a slightly larger number of warmist activists who monitor sceptic activity.

I do invite anyone who is interested in the question of how to “win” the argument to read the transcript, looking at the structure of the debate, as well as the content, and ask themselves, how could the debate have been “won”? How could anyone make a well-constructed case, given the constraints of time and circumstance?

To show what I mean, here is just one example of the way the argument was never engaged:

Continue reading »

Jul 082011

judge At lunchtime today, the government announced that there will be a full judge-led inquiry into the News of the World scandal and witnesses will give evidence on oath.

This tale of telephone tapping and copper bribing is huge in the UK at the moment, and seems likely to remain so for some time to come partly, or even mainly I suspect, because there is nothing the media like better than writing about themselves. Looking at the affair objectively, it is very difficult to see what makes this story quite so important.

Yes, there are people like the Dowlers, and the families of servicemen who have died on active service, who have suffered appallingly and quite unnecessarily at the hands of unscrupulous journalists, but although I have the utmost sympathy for them, what’s new about that? Most of those who have had their phones hacked are celebrities who have put themselves in harm’s way by courting publicity in the course of realising their ambitions. I find the sight of the ludicrous Lord ‘Two Jags’ Prescott huffing and and puffing and quivering and whingeing about his privacy being invaded quite revolting.

Now that the acceptance – as though we have not always known it – that our politicians, of all political parties, have been grovelling to a ruthless press baron for decades in order to gain his support is adding spice and legs to this story. The Andy Coulson connection has brought the scandal to the doors of Downing Street itself, and no doubt David Cameron’s prestige will suffer some damage as a result, but in a month or two it is not likely to merit more than a footnote.

No one has been killed. International relations have not been thrown into chaos. If the reputation of British tabloid journalists and politicians will be somewhat dented, then they were pretty battered already. Public policy, and the decisions that affect all our lives, have not been and will not be impacted in any way.

In the long term there may be, for a while, some improvement in the conduct of the press. It may even be that News International will, briefly, have rather less influence on political life here, but so long as the opportunities and the rewards for hacks and politicians remain the same, there will be those who will continue to behave disreputably, and it is most unlikely that any kind of inquiry, however rigorous,  will come up with a reliable way of preventing this.

Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned from this whole grubby affair lies in the alacrity with which a quasi-judicial investigation has been set up when politicians are seeking to protect their own interests. All those involved face being dragged before a judge and cross-examined under oath about their motivation and behaviour. There will no doubt be further casualties among the foot soldiers, but those at the top who are just far enough removed from the action will be able to posture and boast, ‘We called for an enquiry and have got to the bottom of this’.

Contrast all that is dominating the headlines at the moment with what happened in November 2009. Then, prima face evidence came to light that scientists, on both sides of the Atlantic, and with truly global influence on public policy, had been behaving over the whole of the last decade.in ways that gave grave cause for the gravest concern. Was any serious consideration given to a judge led inquiry with those involved giving evidence under oath? Oh dear me no! But then it wasn’t in the interests of politicians or the press to really find out what had been going on, was it?

Last Monday evening, BBC2 broadcast a Horizon programme with the title Science Under Attack. Both the title and the content of the programme were deeply misleading but, no doubt unintentionally, it may reveal far more about the scientific establishments confused and panic-stricken reaction to the onslaught of criticism that it has witnessed since the Climategate scandal broke just over a year ago than either its illustrious presenter or the programme makers realise or intended.

The white knight who galloped to the rescue of our beleaguered ‘community of climate scientists’ (the presenter’s words) was Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel Prize winning geneticist and the newly appointed president of the Royal Society. His rather blokeish, seemingly modest, but relentlessly confident and avuncular style in front of the camera, together with a gift for appearing to explain complex issues in a fair-minded and easily digestible way, were more than enough to lull any audience into a complacent acceptance of anything he might have to say. So what went wrong? Continue reading »

Back in March, I put up a post, Phil Jones and the ‘expert judgement’ of the IPCC. This raised questions about one of the most important tables in the Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of Working Group I (WGI) in the  IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). This table assigns levels of ‘likelihood’ to evidence of observed trends in extreme weather events, the possibility that there is a human contribution to these trends, and predictions that the trends will continue during the 21st century.

According to this table, the authors of the IPCC report have greater confidence in the predictions than either the observations they are derived from or the hypotheses that they are based on, which seems to turn logic on its head. So when I started ploughing through the InterAcademy Council’s Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC I was interested to see that the same table turns up on page 31 in a very critical chapter headed IPCC’s Evaluation of Evidence and Treatment of Uncertainty.


So far as I can see, the IAC have not addressed the precise point that I was making, but it is quite clear that they are very concerned about the way in which the last assessment report represented confidence and uncertainty, and that they have chosen to highlight this table as an example of the impact that expert judgement of confidence in research findings has.

Before going any further, lets bear a couple of points in mind. The phenomena listed in the table droughts, storms, heatwaves, sea level rise, tropical storms (hurricanes and cyclones) and heavy precipitation (floods) are the stuff of which anthropogenic climate change nightmares are made. The media, politicians, and environmental activists have used evidence that these are probably increasing in frequency and severity, and are likely to continue to do so, as the main plank in their justification of action on climate change. The credibility of their assertions depends on one authority only: the IPCC reports.

Here is what the IAC report has to say in the introduction to the chapter on The IPCC’s Evaluation of Evidence and the Treatment of Uncertainty. Continue reading »

Sep 092010



Yesterday I watched the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee questioning Lord Oxburgh. Once the official transcript becomes available I expect that this will cause quite a stir. If there was any doubt before that his inquiry was a fiasco, then there can be none now.

What follows are a few notes based on listening to a recording rather carefully last night.

At the outset, Oxburgh made it very clear that he had been most unwilling to take on the job of chairing the review panel when the University of East Anglia (UEA) asked him, however he had eventually been persuaded.  Why the university had been so persistent in their overtures, rather than just looking elsewhere, was not explored, but perhaps it will be at some point in the future.

In the early stages of the committee session it was quickly established that, although the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Acton, had told the previous Science and Technology Select Committee that he was about to announce a review that would ‘reassess the science [at CRU] and make sure that there is nothing wrong’, Oxburgh was given no such instructions. Instead he was asked merely to consider the honesty and integrity of the scientists.

Nevertheless, the review panel was provided with a list of eleven papers published by CRU scientists on which to base their judgement. Graham Stringer attempted to find out how these papers had been chosen and by whom, which is rather important. Sceptics have pointed out that whoever did choose them steered well clear of the research findings that awkward questions have been asked about.

This is what happened: Continue reading »

(Sublime: producing an overwhelming sense of awe or other high emotion through being vast or grand)

Commenters on this blog have posed the question: why are social scientists not taking more interest in the climate science community and the mechanisms by which its activities over the last decade have come to influence public opinion and public policy? What follows may give a clue as to why they would be inclined to steer very well clear of this area of research.

Myanna Lahsen is an anthropologist who has studied a new tribe that has emerged as part of the wider community of climate scientists: climate modellers. Over a period of 6 years (1994-2000), while she was based at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado), a major base for modellers, she travelled widely to conduct over 100 interviews with atmospheric scientists, 15 of whom were climate modellers. Her findings were published in Social Studies of Science as Seductive Simulations? Uncertainty Distribution Around Climate Models in 2005.

The purpose of Lahsen’s paper was to consider the distribution of certainty around General Circulation Models (GSMs), with particular reference to Donald MacKenzie’s concept of the ‘certainty trough’, and propose a more multidimensional and dynamic conceptualisation of how certainty is distributed around technology. That, thankfully, is not the subject of this post, interesting though it is once you work out what she is talking about.

At the heart of her research is the question of whether modellers are just too close to what they are doing to assess the accuracy of their simulations of Earth’s climate  that they create. She suggests that atmospheric scientists who are at some distance from this field of research may be better able to do so, which is not so surprising, but she also reveals a darker side of the culture that climate modellers are part of which is much more disturbing.

It is the ethnographic observations that emerged from her extensive fieldwork that I want to concentrate on here, and I’m going to quote from her paper without adding much by way of comment. In light of the Climategate emails, these extracts speak for themselves.

At the end of the introductory section of the paper, and under the heading The Epistemology1of Models we find two quotations that give a hint of what is in store:

The biggest problem with models is the fact that they are made by humans who tend to shape or use their models in ways that mirror their own notion of what a desirable outcome would be. (John Firor [1998], Senior Research Associate and former Director of NCAR, Boulder, CO,


In climate modeling, nearly everybody cheats a little. (Kerr, 1994) [Writing in Scinece]

Page 898

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.”


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 »

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