Monday, December 27, 2010

Met Office, Mormons and myth

'Must read'
Boxing Day in Scotland on Sunday supplied a dose of well deserved, if gentle, mockery of the druidical illogicality and gnosticism of the AGW movement.  In it Gerald Warner poked a bit of fun at Anthropogenic Global Warming devotees, using outlandish religious imagery to underline his pitch that the global warming movement is not based on empirical or theoretical evidence.

Now whilst you can take the religious metaphors too far (some of 'religion' is based on excellent evidence), he makes some very good points.  Last week I highlighted evidence of a distinct bias in the Met Office, showing that they had over predicted the mean global temperature in ten out of eleven years.  Warner lampoons them for other failed predictions:
These are challenging times for climate jihadists. Last week the Met Office was forced to issue a press release stating it "categorically denies forecasting a 'mild winter' ". In fact, in October, its long-range probability map predicted an 80 per cent probability of warmer than average temperatures from November to January in Scotland. It claimed Scotland, along with Northern Ireland, the eastern half of England and Cornwall, would experience temperatures above the 3.7°C average, more than 2°C higher than last winter.
The failure of the probability map to give the anxious nation the right steer for the forthcoming winter might be more forgivable were it not for that other forecasters in October were forecasting a cold winter. Add to that the previous predictions starkly falsified (barbecue summer and last year's predicted 'mild winter' come to mind).  And the brazen denial - without addressing the issue - is an echo of the outright denial of anything significant amiss which has accompanied the refutation of the basis of some key planks of 'climate science'.  These matter as our public policy is driven by a belief in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming which is not supported by the evidence.

The partisan (yet bizarrely labelled 'independent') public enquiries into the Climatic Research Unit are an example of conduct which undermines CAGW credibility.  The conduct of the Hockey Stick team, now surely discredited, in denial and obfuscating for all they are worth, is another example.

Which brings me to a book recommendation.  If you have not read the 'The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science' by Andrew Montford, don't allow yourself to proceed far into 2011 without reading it.  Warner labels the Scottish Parliament
. . . that tabernacle of AGW piety . . .
I agree.  Our Scottish legislaters, who in 2009 passed the (then) world leading Climate Change Act, might have done better due diligence if they had been aware of these and similar issues which were open for any diligent scrutineer.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Official bias

The last few days has witnessed much consideration on the blogs of whether the Met Office is institutionally biased in favour of warmism.

How about this for a quote as regards UK winters:
"The famously cold winter of 1962/63 is now expected to occur about once every 1,000 years or more, compared with approximately every 100 to 200 years before 1850."
That was Peter Stott, a Met Office Scientist on 25th February 2009.  Although we have a bit to go before this winter's temperatures are available (Dec, Jan, Feb), Peter Stott's comment is looking a bit thin.

I recall a comparison of Met Office/CRU predictions for global temperatures against the outcomes.  I have dug back to the post on the Air Vent and compared the predictions since 1998 against the outcomes as contained in this entry on the Met office website.  The comparison seems to show that the Met Office/CRU global surface temperature prediction overshot the actual result in ten out of eleven years. Here are the figures shown as the temperature anomaly above the 1961-90 average:
1999 ..…0.38…………0.26
2010……0.58…………(0.52 Jan - Oct)
It looks from those figures that the Met Office has over predicted the temperature by 0.07degrees centigrade  on average each year.  They undershot only once in 11 years.  That will almost certainly be once in twelve years at the end of this month.

So why the persistent over shoot when you might expect less of a pattern.  I suggest the answer is warmist bias in the models and the mindset.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wikileaks and Climategate

There is a fascinating strand of Wikileaks where Julian Assange, the founder, claims the credit for the release of emails from CRU on 17th November 2009. People familiar with the Climategate chronology are not impressed. For example, Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit contrasts the real time line with that given by Assange.  

Ross McKitrick says this of the video:
"They evidently like leaks that embarrass their political opponents, but in this case they found themselves tagged with a leak that had damaged the side they like; and since it seems to be more about political warfare against governments they dislike than some impartial ideal of transparency and freedom of information, they were stuck scrambling to make up a story about how it really served some nobler purpose. Of course they should simply have said that they weren’t the source of the leak, that it was in full circulation long before anyone looked to them for a copy and they didn’t know much about the details of what followed. But that would have been too humble, especially in front of a room full of simpering hero-worshippers. So they pretended to be insiders and proceeded to deliver a few minutes of sheer drivel."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Climate Change minister resigns - the irony

Climate change 'pleasure'
This evening Stewart Stevenson MSP, Scottish Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change resigned.

Two weeks of record snowfalls and record low temperatures, particularly across the heavily populated central belt of Scotland, when the motorway between Edinburgh and Glasgow was closed in one direction for almost 2 days, led to the resignation.

In his own words, here is the reason he gave for his resignation in his letter to Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister.
"Although we put in place significant efforts to tackle the event (the cold snap), I feel that I could have done much more to ensure that members of the public who were caught up in a difficult and frightening set of circumstances were better informed of the situation."
As is wont in resignation letters, he then reflects on his achievements:
"It was, however, a particular pleasure to be the minister who steered the climate change legislation through the Scottish Parliament."
The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 was groundbreaking (at the time) in setting targets for emissions reduction beyond any other country in the world.  This, of course, has been the source of considerable satisfaction amongst most of Scotland's politicians.

Now I'm not suggesting that a couple of record breaking cold spells in Scotland on their own tell us very much about whether the globe faces catastrophic warming.

I have no reason to doubt that  Stewart Stevenson is a thoroughly decent and honourable man. And it does seem that his hounding by the press and his opponents has been a bit harsh bearing in mind the length of time since we last had a year of such snow and cold.

Perhaps in the greater leisure time ahead of him, however, he might reflect on the ironic conjunction of his passionate expectation of catastrophic warming, and nature's demonstration of how cold Scotland still is.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Herald: "A hellish vision. . ."

Yesterday The Herald newspaper, based in Glasgow, trotted out the following drivel, slavishly following the alarmist line so beloved of the catastrophists (and the Met Office), as the Cancun charade reaches its climax.  Apparently, The Herald leader writer believes that an increase of two degrees in temperature by the end of the century will have us at a catastrophic tipping point:

"Above that a hellish vision opens up of widespread floods and droughts, with millions of refugees roaming the world in search of food as ecosystems collapse and forests die of drought."
The full lead article is here.

And lest they don't print my response sent to them today I include it below.  Meanwhile look at this letter to the Economist.   This time the drivel is called astrology and the reposte is from Matt Ridley the science writer.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sir Muir Russell's Enquiry: Crumbling

Sir Muir Russell
Last Friday I wrote to the Edinburgh Evening News alluding to the 'shambolic' enquiries which took place earlier this year into climate scientists.

Perhaps 'shambolic' is too generous a description of the Independent Climate Change Emails Review which reported in August. There are indications that the conduct of the enquiry was rather more ominous than shambolic.

After the release of the CRU emails Sir Muir Russell was brought in to investigate the CRU scientists and thus restore the credibility of the reliability of climate science generally.  After a bad start, the enquiry failed to improve. Perhaps restoring the credibility of the scientists was an impossible task.  The enquiry fell short on a number of fronts and at a variety of levels.

First, although it was called 'Independent', it was anything but.  For example, one of its key members, Professor Geoffrey Boulton of the University of Edinburgh had been employed at the University of East Anglia between 1970 and 1986.  Rather than declaring this up front the details had to be winkled out of the enquiry.  Professor Boulton was a partisan advocate of the catastrophic climate change position; other selected members were far from independent.

Indeed, Philip Campbell, editor in chief of Nature, party to disputes at the heart of concerns, was forced to resign as a member of the enquiry at the outset. Transparency and thoroughness might have dissipated concerns for the Review but it was not to be.

Only CRU scientists were interviewed and  the enquiry took no oral evidence from critics.

The scientists were not asked if they had deleted emails despite the 'delete all emails' request.

The final report averred that it had no evidence that the notorious request to delete emails had been made in the context of any Freedom of Information request.  The email in question had FOI in the title.   Mmm.  

And so the failings continue.  This week there is a further cloud over the reliability of assertions made in the Russell Review. It was expected that the Review would investigate the email records held by the UEA and, indeed the Review records attempts to do so.  But Russell claimed that in the opinion of the UEA's legal advisers
 "unconstrained access to the contents of the e-mails on the (UEA) server by the Review would raise potential privacy and data protection issues". 
It now appears there is no evidence of such a legal opinion from UEA's legal advisers.   You can read the details of this further murky strand of the sorry saga of the Russell Review here.

And then there is the astonishing account of the treatment of David Holland's submission to the Review.  You could hardly make it up.

As Fred Pearce of the Guardian said a propos the above FOI error in the Review:
As every week passes, Fred Pearce's 'hope' seems more like wishful thinking.

Perhaps Sir Muir Russell or Professor Boulton would like to clear the air.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodbye polar bears . . . .

Edinburgh is enjoying its heaviest November snowfalls for decades. Freezing temperatures and snow are forecast for another 10 days - though we await with interest to see how accurately those forecasts turn out!

The beautiful snow is an opportunity for a renaissance in snow art.  A Glasgow student sent me the picture below which I include for your enjoyment.
H/T Abi in Glasgow

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What if CO2 is not the warming catalyst?

Professor Richard Lindzen
Last week John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Scottish Government included this commitment in the foreword to his budget proposals:
And we will also continue to prioritise spending on action to combat climate change.
That action is focused on reducing carbon emissions.

Also last week, in testimony given to the House Subcommittee on Science and Technology, Professor Richard Lindzen made a remarkable presentation which deserves a wider audience in Scotland.  It challenges the assumptions on which John Swinney, (on behalf of the Scottish Government and people) is executing public policy.  The question arises as to whether that public policy has any basis in science.

Lindzen is an impeccably qualified scientist.  He is professor of the Programme of  Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate at Massachusett Institute of Technology.  Yet he is airily dismissed by such Edinburgh climate scientists as Professor Gabi Hegerl who considers his scientific views are trumped by accepted climate models

Here are his conclusions to the House:
Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.
In the meantime, while I avoid making forecasts for tenths of a degree change in globally averaged temperature anomaly, I am quite willing to state that unprecedented climate catastrophes are not on the horizon though in several thousand years we may return to an ice age.
 Here are his salient points extracted from Lindzen's presentation.  :

Hello and welcome, Phoebe

Phoebe was born yesterday. She is my granddaughter.  We are very grateful for her and for the joy she brings and the future promise she represents.

How will she look back on how we have discharged our responsibilities concerning the great issue of global warming?  All around, people are saying the danger is that we pollute and wreck the planet with carbon. I rather think that the danger for Phoebe lies elsewhere.

Perhaps it is that we allow observational science to be overwhelmed by what might be.  Perhaps we have allowed the predicted worst case scenario to dominate what we deduce from what we have observed.

In the absence of certainty, have we allowed our fear of the unknown to drive us to false certainties?  Have we been too ready to embrace a catastrophic future in the hope that at least we then know what we have to do?

Do we believe that, in the face of uncertainty, doing something is better than doing nothing?

Have we defended 'science' at all costs, even when the evidence shows it to be flawed?  Have we trashed the reputations of others who doubt and cavil because we believe we have a noble cause?

Have we created public policy because of our desire to be seen to lead decisively in the face of a possible serious threat?  Have we clung to that policy in the face of assaults and enemies when the original evidence has begun to look more uncertain?

If the answers to all these question is found to be in the positive - and increasingly I believe they are - then there is real cause to fear for the future for Phoebe.

If we have been sloppy with observations and called it settled science; if we have appealed to the authority of the consensus and not the authority of facts; if we have allowed soothsayers murmuring 'Catastrophe!' to prompt us to run like headless chickens; if we have sullied the public realm with failing and baseless policy which leads future citizens to lose trust in government and public service - if we have done all these things then there is real cause to fear for the future for Phoebe.

The anchors of rational life and conduct will have been turned upside down.

But in the face of all these dangers, my dear Phoebe, there is one thing which gives me reason for confidence.

Your parents will not easily succumb to these false allures afflicting our present time or future times.  I believe your tender and formative years - and your future - are in good hands.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kumbaya to the great green God

The Holyrood Parliament was the venue for the chief executive of Aggreko to describe the Scottish Government's wishful thinking on renewables in the terms above.  Aggreko is a Glasgow based FTSE 100 company operating in 29 countries.  Aggreko's Rupert Soames also expressed his view that
Mr Salmond’s policies fail to recognise “the cold realities” of financing and engineering expensive new forms of green technology.
The Telegraph version of the encounter is here and the Scotsman version here.

16.11.10: The full 21 minute speech can be found here.

Tomorrow: One year since Climategate

An early account of Climategate
On 17th November 2009 the Climategate files were released.  I have written three posts to mark the occasion.  Yesterday I recalled the reception of the now rather tattered An Inconvenient Truth with an extraordinary side story of the lengths to which Ofcom have gone to defend it.

Later today I will post on the view of the Chief Executive of a large Scottish based energy company.

And here, for your information, is one of the first indications of the revealing emails which were released from the Climatic Research Unit.

Look at the 5:24am comment on 17th November on this article at Climate Audit which  simply states 'A miracle just happened'.   The Climate Audit post was examining alleged independent IPCC reconstructions of temperature purporting to compare modern and medieval warm period temperatures - an issue which has been at the heart of the false IPCC narrative.  The 5:24am comment, through a series of links, announced the publication of the revealing emails.

If you wish to recall this significant event here is a good place to start.

Of course, we still only know part of the story behind that event.  One year later, East Anglia Police are still investigating the alleged crime (it may have been a legitimate whistle blowing action) and no one has yet come forward.  I have little doubt that the identity of that person will in future be known.  However soon or long that revelation will be, there is doubtless more significant information to come out.   

Perhaps that information, currently not in the public domain, is what has prompted Michael Mann, the key player, to regard attack as the best form of defence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Inconvenient Truth revisited

David Milliband: Science settled
I recall David Milliband visiting Currie Community High School in February 2007.  This was in the days before I was an elected councillor.  "The debate on climate change is well and truly over," he told the children and the media who duly reported the speech.

The words were echoed by the leader of Edinburgh Council Ewan Aitken - and by many others who, for whatever reason, tried to portray those who doubted as the lunatic fringe.   I recall writing to the local paper (no longer online) and challenging that view only to be put down in a response by Aitken.

We now know that not only was the debate not over but that there were even doubts amongst the small coterie of scientists who were particularly influential in the policy making process

I recall in 2007 challenging the proposal to instruct the showing of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth to all schoolchildren in Edinburgh. The challenge was on the grounds that it was propagandist and that assertion was evidenced by the findings of judge in England that on at least 9 points it factually departed from the mainstream scientific consensus.  

The wrath and emotions my challenge raised was an eye opener to me.  Wrath and emotions, but not evidence.

The following account is remarkable.  It chronicles the Orwellian  efforts of Ofcom to maintain that An Inconvenient Truth is and is not a documentary in order to protect an assumption that it is gospel.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Love your sceptics! Postscript

Kent Andersson
The most interesting quote from the Sustainable Scotland Network annual conference came from Kent Andersson, Deputy Mayor of Malmo in Sweden.  With humour and an engaging frankness he spoke of the transformation of the city since its crisis of the early 1980s.  The city has regenerated parts of the dockland, created a bridge to Denmark, become notable for its sustainability and carbon saving measures, attracting world wide attention and admiration.

At the end of his presentation a member of the audience asked if there has been sociological transformation as well as of the built environment.  His answer was:
And lest he was misunderstood he went on to note that there were, for example, still significant gaps between rich and poor, a high deprived immigrant population and that a commission had been set up to address the issues.

Love your sceptic! Part 3

The Sustainable Scotland  Network annual conference yesterday began on a controversial note with Jan Bebbington claiming that our ground breaking Climate Change Scotland Act 2009 was dictated by science.  In previous posts (here and here) I have reflected on comments by two of the key speakers.   What about the seminar I attended?

Although not all bad the low point came from a social anthropologist in the seminar on engaging with communities.  Just to get us fired up Dr Justin Kenrick gave us these quotes:
"Even if all the current promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions are honoured, the world will still see global temperatures rise by an average of 4 degrees C by the end of the century. . . This is hot enough to make most of the world uninhabitable."
"We are stuffed, according to the science."
"What has got us into this mess?"  (I could be wrong but he seemed to be saying it was the market system - or perhaps just capitalism!)
If I recall correctly the IPCC's most extreme scenario was +4 degrees by the end of the century - yet here it is confidently predicted.

There was much, much more doom and gloom with a particular anti market and anti prosperity streak.  Now I know Dr Kenrick was trying to modify our behaviour for what he considers a noble cause, but I do think we deserve a bit more rigour in the output from our publicly funded Universities.

Finally, I had a reasonably in depth conversation with five different people at this conference.  Whilst two were convinced the scientific evidence was for a catastrophic future, there were three who were more sceptical about it.

Final part to follow.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Love your sceptics! Part 2

A regular figure at the Sustainable Scotland Network conference, Cllr Alison Hay is from Mid Argyle and is a Lib Dem councillor who is also the COSLA spokesperson for Regeneration and Sustainability. (COSLA is the body which represents the 32 Scottish local authorities.)

Cllr Alison Hay
I know Alison is a regular figure in these circles because I have been to this conference before. I recall her as being passionate in her belief in the catastrophic global warming message and the urgent need to change behaviours.

Her speech indicated she still believes there is a scientific imperative for action.  But today the passion was gone.  Her comments were tempered by the recognition that she needed to respect the disinterest of many of the public.  In fact, in responding to the policy imperatives of our ground breaking Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, her tone of response was that of pragmatism and flexibility (not unlike that of Jim Mather).  She showed a respect for public opinion.  I hope I encouraged her to reconsider her deference to the so called consensus science.

Part 1 is here.  Part 3 follows.

Love your sceptics! Part 1

Jim Mather, Minister
I promised a report on the Sustainable Scotland Network (SSN) annual conference held today at Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh - which is in my ward.

The conference began badly. The chair was Professor Jan Bebbington from St Andrews University.   Reflecting on the need for leadership she celebrated Scotland's groundbreaking 'leadership' in adopting the most stringent CO2 reduction targets in the world in the form of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.  Then she said this:
"The science dictates what we are doing"
An increasing number of people might disagree with that.

The keynote speaker was Jim Mather, the Scottish Government minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism.

His speech, whilst in thrall to the catastrophic global warming meme, was strong on being flexible and pragmatic in response to circumstances.   As you would expect from a Scottish Government minister, he was euphoric about the opportunities for renewable energy in Scotland.

I asked him how his flexibility and pragmatism would cope if the current crumbling of respect for science, upon which so much of our policy is based, were to continue.

His lengthy reply was notable for two quotations he used.  The first is the title of this post.  I think it is from Tom Peters, management consultant.  (Jim Mather loves to recount aphorisms from a wide range of gurus.)
"Love your sceptics."
The second was from Ken Cloke (conflict resolution guru this time):
"Make space for uncomfortable truths"
I must say I was encouraged that this "reach out" tone of response (remind you of Judith Curry?) was so different from some of his fellow believers at the heart of the scientific establishment.

All in all, Jim Mather was modestly encouraging.  It was the Scottish Sustainability Network Conference, after all.

Part 2 to follow.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Another week, another president, another world

Yesterday I attended a fascinating conference in the Scottish Parliament on NATO and nuclear disarmament.  Organised by the Edinburgh Branch of the United Nations Association (once in its death throws, now innovative and leading the way amongst UNA branches) there was an excellent cast of experienced and quality speakers.

But the details are not for this post.  Last week I posted on the views of President Vaclav Klaus. At the Holyrood event I found the current edition of New World, the quarterly house magazine of the UK UNA.

It had an opinion piece by Mary Robinson former President of the Irish Republic (1990-1997) in which she passionately presents views antithetical to those of President Klaus.  Here are a few quotes:
  1. For too long climate change discussions have stagnated in the realms of science.
  2. Misconceptions 1. Negative effects of climate change are a possibility rather than a certainty.
  3. Misconception 2. Negative effects of climate change are a threat to the future not the present.
  4. Misconception 3. Negative effects of climate change will affect plants and animals more than humans.
  5. The image of a polar bear stranded on a shrinking ice flow . . . only begins to capture the real picture.
  6. The entire community (of the Pacific Carteret Islands) has been forced to move to another country.
  7. What we need is a climate justice approach.
Her quest for a simple narrative leaves question about the basis, logic and reason or her position. I assume (though she does not say so) that by climate change she means human induced change.

1.  For too long climate change discussions have stagnated in the realms of science.  We can't ignore what science tells us.
2.  Misconceptions 1. Negative effects of climate change are a possibility rather than a certainty. The reverse is true.
3.  Misconception 2. Negative effects of climate change are a threat to the future not the present. The IPCC AR4 indicates that warming well beyond the current level will be beneficial to agricultural production. It is questionable if there strong is empirical evidence for this in any other field.
4. Misconception 3. Negative effects of climate change will affect plants and animals more than humans.   Interesting debating point.
5. The image of a polar bear stranded on a shrinking ice flow . . . only begins to capture the real picture.  Actually, it distorts the true picture. Polar bear populations are generally stable of increasing.
6. The entire community (of the Pacific Carteret Islands) has been forced to move to another country.  Pacific islands are rising as well as falling.  There is lively debate as to whether there is any human climate change element. 
7. What we need is a climate justice approach.  Karl Popper indicated an assertion requires to be falsifiable to be credible.  Climate undergoes natural change.  Unless you can measure that, human induced climate change is not falsifiable.  Mary Robinson's arguments are based on - well, nothing.
 I am afraid the UNA needs a bit more rigour!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What the President said about stupid

Last week the President gave a talk.  He is a real president of a real country, albeit the country has a population of just twice that of Scotland.  

He is President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic.  'Doing nothing is better than doing something stupid' is an aphorism he quotes approvingly in regard to current climate policy.

Here is his lecture delivered in London last week.  It repays a careful read.  And if you haven't time here are a few excerpts.

  •  It seems to me that the widespread acceptance of the global warming dogma has become one of the main, most costly and most undemocratic public policy mistakes in generations. 
  • What belongs here is our insisting upon the indisputable fact that there are respectable but highly conflicting scientific hypotheses concerning this subject. 
  • What also belongs here is our resolute opposition to the attempts to shut down such a crucial public debate concerning us and our way of life on the pretext that the overwhelming scientific consensus is there and that we have to act now. 
  • Yet the global warming alarmism and especially the public policy measures connected with it have been triumphally marching on. Even the recent worldwide financial and economic crisis and the enormous confusion, fear, as well as indebtedness it created did not stop this victorious “long march.”
  • The original ambition probably used to be saving the Planet for human beings but we see now that this target has gradually become less and less important. Many environmentalists do not pay attention to the fate of the people. They want to save the Planet, not mankind. They speak about Nature, not about men.
Emissions trading to emissions tax.  In August I described the version of cap and trade coming to

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stupid sceptic questions

Gabi Hegerl
At a recent lecture Gabi Hegerl, University of Edinburgh climate scientist and co-ordinating lead author for the 2007 IPCC AR4, was misheard and misquoted by blogger Bishop Hill.  The mistake was duly acknowledged by the Bishop and he posted Professor Hegerl's exact words from a video which was subsequently made available. 
"What is frustrating to me as a scientist is that the objections raised by the skeptics groups are scientifically so stupid would be really much more fun to fight really interesting assertions.  But it's often things that often ring reasonable to people who have not background in this but that are scientifically totally with out value. I would find it more interesting to discuss if the sceptics would raise better questions."  Professor Gabi Hegerl, 5.10.10

Doubtless Professor Hegerl is right that some of the arguments made by sceptics are stupid.  But I don't think the fundamental position of many of those who are skeptical of the establishment can be dismissed so lightly.  It may repay Professor Hegerl to consider the position articulated in this blogpost by Warren Meyer.  

And I am still puzzling over her extraordinary dismissal of a sceptic with impeccable scientific credentials when I asked her a question a few weeks ago.  I repeat the excerpt from my post below.
"A few weeks back at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh I asked our Edinburgh climate science expert Gabi Hegerl why she claimed there was a consensus about man made global warming when there were people like Professor Lindzen expressing such a sharply contrasting view.  Her reply was that generally accepted models did not bear out his views."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Resignation, repudiation, rhetoric

Prof Hal Lewis
One of the reasons I find the 'there is a consensus, the science is settled' mantra so hollow is that there are very distinguished scientists who don't agree that the science is settled.  (There are other reasons - like the science!)

Last week I quoted Professor Richard Lindzen.  This week I will quote the resignation letter of Professor Hal Lewis from the American Physical Society(APS).  Both are very distinguished scientists.  You can find Professor Lewis' devastating letter here but if your time is short please read the following excerpts:

  • It (the global warming scam) is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist
  • APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of climate change claims  
  • I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation
That was the resignation.  Here is the repudiation.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Great pain - no gain: No pressure

Professor Richard Lindzen
"Great pain for no gain" is how Nobel prize-winner Professor Richard Lindzen described current proposals to prevent catastrophic global warming.  He was speaking on the BBC radio programme One Planet last week.   It is well worth listening to what he has to say.  He is interviewed from 5:30mins and again at 21:30 in this 28 min programme.  And if you haven't time to listen through, here are a few highlights:
  • I do believe it (man made climate change) is real.  I just believe it is very small and has very little potential to grow to compete with the normal scales of variability
  • to be sceptical assumes there is a strong presumptive case, but you have your doubts.  I think we are dealing with a situation where there is not a strong presumptive case
  • the IPCC has a bias towards the existence of a problem (catastrophic global warming)
  • the precautionary principle is an absurdity - because eventually it feeds back to all the actions you would take in precaution are themselves subject to the precautionary principle - a formula for collective stasis
  • Most of the suggested policies (to combat global warming) are great pain for no gain
A few weeks back at a meeting of the Royal Society of Edinburgh I asked our Edinburgh climate science expert Professor Gabi Hegerl why she claimed there was a consensus about man made global warming when there were people like Professor Lindzen expressing such a sharply contrasting view.  Her reply was that generally accepted models did not bear out his views.

No pressure

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Changing Climate

Stephen McIntyre
People that matter is a list of the top 50 people who matter in 2010 according to the New Statesman.  Reaching the list for the first time is Stephen McIntyre who, with his blog Climate Audit, has probably done more than anyone else to challenge shoddy science in the IPCC.  Not unexpectedly, the New Statesman suggests his influence might not be positive, but I suspect the time is not far off when Universities will be offering him honorary degrees.  

(Whilst on the subject of of honorary degrees, I understand McIntyre's co-author Ross McKitrick was proposed for just such an honorary degree at one of the Edinburgh Universities. Perhaps the climate has not changed quite that much yet.)

The Financial Times carried an opinion piece last week-end by Andrew Turnbull, UK Cabinet Secretary from 2002-2005.   I doubt if they would have carried such an article a year ago.   Here is an extract - the whole article is well worth reading.

To restore trust, it was essential that the government, parliament, the University of East Anglia and the Royal Society should respond quickly to get to the truth. They set up three inquiries but did those inquiries resolve the issues? A report by Andrew Montford for the Global Warming Policy Foundation shows serious flaws in the inquiries, which it says were marred by the failure to ensure independence in the panel members; by the refusal to take account of critical views; and by the failure to probe some serious allegations.
Stephan Budiansky is a science commentator.  He suggests the current climate change catastrophists come

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

". . . The rigour and honesty of the scientists are not in doubt. . ."

The title of this post is the view of the Department of Energy and Climate Change - and therefore the Government - in considering the three reviews into the events and fallout after the release of emails from the University of East Anglia in November last year.   It is expressed in a letter from Chris Huhne of that Department, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne on 31st July after the following three enquiries had reported:

  • The Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons - report here
  • The Independent Scientific Appraisal Panel - known as the Oxburgh Report
  • The Independent Climate Change Email Review chaired by Sir Muir Russell - report here
Last Tuesday I reported the publication of a non independent review of the three enquiries by Andrew Montford.  The author had previously been critical of the climate scientists under investigation.

There is another non-independent review of the reports.   It is by Ross McKitrick, a Canadian economist who has published papers challenging the quality of key climate science papers from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.  You can read his analysis of the three reports here.

There is a divergence between the Government conclusions and those of  McKitrick and Montford.  In fact the conclusions are mutually exclusive in key respects.  

I have read the reports and the reviews of the reports virtually in their entirety.  McKitrick and Montford come from a partisan position and rely on evidence and argument to make their case challenging many of the conclusions of the reports.  In contrast, the Oxburgh and Russell reports, (the Parliamentary Committee was curtailed owing to the election), make spurious claims to independence.

Chris Huhne and George Osbourne need sound evidence to undergird public policy.  

Later today the Transport Committee of Edinburgh Council will decide whether to proceed with a proposal to link parking permit costs to CO2 emissions. 

It is important to understand that this, and a wide range of other far reaching  public policy decisions, are now being made as a consequence of the issues over which the Department of the Energy and Climate Change disagrees with McKitrick and Montford.  The rigour and honesty of the scientists is critical to the formation and prosecution of public policy.

Having read the three reports, it is difficult not to have doubts about that rigour and honesty. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Climategate Inquiries

Published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, The Climategate Enquiries is a 54 page survey by Andrew Montford, author if the Bishop Hill blog.  Montford is the author of The Hockey Stick Illusion and came to prominence with an earlier survey of evidence Caspar and the Jesus Paper, a remarkable account in layman's language of a key skirmish in the climate wars.

Another week: selection from the blogs

Here is a selection of links to climate blogs in the past week.  Later I will link to the report on the various reports which have been carried out this year following the release of emails from the Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia.
  1. IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) 2007:  Richard Tol, Professor of the Economics of climate Change in Amsterdam, pointed out yet more flaws in the 'climate bible' - this time in Chapter 11 dealing models to show the costs of reducing emissions using technology.  His post at Die Klimazwiebel is well worth reading.  Tol concludes his article: "Review comments on both drafts pointed out that Chapter 11 misrepresents the literature."  
  2. The University of East Anglia's claim in a press release, repeating an egregious error in the Muir Russell report, is shown to be false in another forensic analysis of the evidence by Steve McIntyre at ClimateAudit.  His post relates to the email from Professor Jones in which he wrote on 29th May 2008 "Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4."     The Muir Russell report glossed this with ". . . we have seen no evidence of any attempt to delete information in respect of a request already made."  It turns out the Jones email was written after Freedom of Information requests and the Russell report was mistaken.    Here is the fascinating and sorry tale with the key background post here.  This really is an extraordinary account.
  3. Lord Oxburgh appeared before the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons last week.  McIntyre begins a post with this assertion: "Almost none of Oxburgh's testimony . . . can be taken at face value" and then proceeds to evidence his opening statement.  Lord Oxburgh is the man who was called in by the University of East Anglia to lead a Science Appraisal Panel after the emails were released to 'appraise the science of the CRU'.  He later said "the science was not the subject of the study".   And Lord Oxburgh was  not independent.  He is president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association, Chairman of the wind energy firm Falck Renewables and a member of the Green Fiscal Commission.  Another independent 'official' report which is not all it is supposed to be.  Until the enquiries have credibility there will always be good reason for doubt about the conduct of climate science.
  4. For a number of years polar bears have been a poster child for the alleged catastrophic nature of global warming.  The evidence for the demise of polar bears, however, is not as the posters would have you believe.  See here for more.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Climate: Making sense of the debate

To date there has been at least six enquiries spawned by the release of emails from the CRU at east Anglia. The result of a police enquiry into the release of the emails from CRU is still awaited.

Later this month an enquiry into the enquiries will be released.  Andrew Montford, author of the Hockey Stick Illusion and the Bishop Hill blog, has been commissioned by the Global Warming Policy Foundation to review the enquiries.  His report is due to be published on 15th September.

The reports themselves are part of the problem and illustrate the words of Matt Ridley which I quoted last week:
 "One of the most shocking things for those who champion science, as I do, has been the sight of the science Establishment reacting to each scandal in climate science with indifference or contempt."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The climate debate shifts - a little

Rajenda Pachauri, Chair of IPCC
Another fascinating seven days.  I have four items to report.  What they show is how the ground of the debate is shifting.  In short the public debate is no longer quite so one sided.

First, there was a debate at the Edinburgh Book Festival last Tuesday entitled Powering the Planet.  Panelists were Duncan McLaren of Friends of the Earth, Susan Deacon, former politician and Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.  Whilst many of the contributions assumed imminent 'dangerous climate change'  (a presupposition which particularly underpinned Duncan McLaren's arguments), the subtle change was the very presence of Benny Peiser.   I very much doubt that a year or two back a sceptic would have been included at an event of this nature.

Secondly, well known Scottish former politician Jim Sillars weighed into the debate with a charge of 'self-righteous zealotry' against those who elevate doubtful science to the level of a religious belief - see here for details.

Third, the first of a two part series titled Uncertain Climate was aired on Radio 4 last night.  It was in part a personal journey of Roger Harrabin, BBC science correspondent who has been reporting on climate for the last 20 years.  Much was depressingly familiar with partisans such as Sir Crispin Tickell and Dr Robert Watson given considerable prominence.  But it does seem to represent a repositioning of Roger Harrabin (and the BBC?) who emphasises he always had some doubts (they have certainly not been very obvious).  It seems he now accepts there is a debate and the science is not settled and the second programme may develop that theme.  Again we have discussion which is not as one sided as it would have been from an organ like the BBC a year or two back.

Finally, yesterday also brought the publication of the sixth* enquiry into climate science in as many months.  It is the review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC published by the Inter Academy Council (IAC).  The first paragraph of the conclusions reads like a eulogy with a small caveat at the end:

“The Committee concludes that the IPCC assessment process has been successful overall and has served society well. The commitment of many thousands of the world’s leading scientists and other experts to the assessment process and to the communication of the nature of our understanding of the changing climate, its impacts, and possible adaptation and mitigation strategies is a considerable achievement in its own right. Similarly, the sustained commitment of governments to the process and their buy-in to the results is a mark of a successful assessment. Through its unique partnership between scientists and governments, the IPCC has heightened public awareness of climate change, raised the level of scientific debate, and influenced the science agendas of many nations. However, despite these successes, some fundamental changes to the process and the management structure are essential, as discussed in this report and summarized below.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Aussie election - tide turning?

Three Tuesdays ago I considered cap and trade - both in relation to Edinburgh and international governments. 

In particular, it was noted that in Australia, both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition had been replaced with unusual speed within the space of 9 months. 

What happened is worth a closer look. 

Malcolm Turnbull was leader of the oppostition coalition having been a minister in the Howard government which was defeated in 2007.  He was closely associated with the introduction of proposals for an emissions trading scheme (ETS).

On 1st December 2009 he was challenged for the leadership by Tony Abbot and defeated by 42-41.  Abbot is a sceptic and opposed to the ETS.  A fuller account can be found here.

With disarray in the Coalition camp, at that time is was considered the Labor government would be a safe bet for the next election - with the country almost always going for two or more terms of the same government.

But Abbot seemed to be striking a chord with the Australian people and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pulled back from implementing ETS in its original form.  In doing so he took criticism from within his party and this was one of a number of reasons behind his deposition on June 24th 2010.  He was replaced by his deputy, Julia Gilliard, herself in favour of taking strong action on climate change.

Even at that time, the Labor Party looked almost certain to win an early election which was duly set for 21st August.  

In the event, Australia now has a hung parliament with both Tony Abbot and Julia Gilliard failing to get a majority in the 150 seat House of Representatives.

Of course there were other issues in the election - the proposed mining tax and immigration being the major ones.  But the results, when taken with the stalling of ETS in Japan and the US, seem to represent the beginnings of the reversal of the Gadarene rush in the developed world to do something in response to global warming.  

Whether right or wrong, the electors in the free world do have influence.  I wonder if the issue will be a factor in the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2011.

More cartoons by Josh here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Defending fairy dust

'Hypothetical thing thought to have special powers'
Last week this blog briefly described the involvement of local scientists in support of evidence for human influence on global warming.  Paleoclimate studies have played a key role in persuading policymakers that global warming is a serious threat.  There are many other arguments which have been used but none has been quite so emblematic as the hockey stick, a product of the paleoclimate community.

Launched by Michael Mann and two co-authors in papers in 1998 and 1999, the work purported to show that temperature had been more or less flat for the past 1,000 years until the second half of the twentieth century when there was an alarming spike - the (ice) hockey stick.

Criticisms of the quality of the work centred on two issues.  Some of the data, it was alleged, had been cherry picked to create a hockey stick, and the statistical methods used in analysing the data were flawed.

The response of Michael Mann and the paleoclimate community was to defend the 1998 (MBH98) and 1999 (MBH99) papers with a plethora of further peer reviewed papers which endorsed the original claims usually claiming to be independent.

I have been looking the Wegman Report, a five year old publication for a US Congressional Committee. Compiled by Edward Wegman, a respected academic expert in statistics. The report was devastating:

"In general we found MBH98 and MBH99 to be somewhat obscure and incomplete and the criticisms of MM03/05a/05b (the critics) to be valid and compelling. . . Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus 'independent studies' may not be as independent as they might appear on the surface.. . . In this case we judge that there was too much reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. . . Overall, our committee believes that Mann's assessments that the decade of the 1990's was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium, cannot be supported by his analysis."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Climate wars: the Edinburgh connection

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relies substantially on three areas of evidence to show that humans are having a significant influence on climate (global warming).
Professor Gabi Hegerl
  1. Models.  These simulations, or illustrations, based on what we know, show a possible trend of global warming.  As time passes, there is the potential to check these illustrations against what actually happens to the global temperature - though it is necessary to bear in mind that the background climate is liable to fluctuate from causes quite unrelated to human activity.  It should also be said that the climate system is incredibly complex and many scientists consider climate science in its infancy.  The reliability of models in such a complex environment requires rigorously validation.
  2. Eliminating natural processes. Climatologists seek to show that the increases in temperature cannot be accounted for by any other known natural process.  The complexity referred to above, and the unknowns to which it gives rise, to are also relevant in this line of argument.
  3. Prof Geoffrey Boulton
  4. Paleoclimate studies.  Studies of tree rings and other 'proxies', indicators of temperatures have been used to show that the current warming is unprecedented.  The implication is that current warming is not only more likely to be largely human in origin, but that the consequences, taking us into unprecedented territory, are potentially dangerous to the planet and humanity and requiring drastic changes in public policy.
This last argument has been one feature of recent controversies, including 'Climategate'.  Scientists in Edinburgh have featured in the debate which has raged in peer reviewed papers, the blogs and in the enquiries into 'Climategate'.