Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Russell review and New Scientist

'All this, plus the failure to investigate whether emails were deleted to prevent their release under freedom of information laws, makes it harder to accept Russell's conclusion that the "rigour and honesty" of the scientists concerned "are not in doubt"'.
Thus read the New Scientist editorial  last week under the heading:
'Without candour, we can't trust climate science.'
The editorial came in the wake of the Independent Climate Change Email Review which was published on 7th July.   This second review into the release of over 1000 emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia was very much an Edinburgh based affair.  The address of the ICCER was in Rose Street and two of the five members are professors at Edinburgh University.  Although led by Sir Muir Russell, the ICCER was masterminded by Professor Geoffrey Boulton who is also the General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

So why should New Scientist express doubts about the candour of the ICCER?  The editorial is particularly striking as it represents the adoption of a critical stance in contrasting with previous staunch support of what has become the establishment orthodoxy on climate science practice.

The editorial gives several reasons for questioning the candour of the report.

But another reason is the review's preposterous claim to be independent.  My call at the outset for the influential Professor Boulton to resign from the enquiry, (he worked at the University of East Anglia for 18 years and had expressed strong partisan views about climate change and the scientists he was investigating), was ignored as were many other such calls.

The difficulty is not just that the biases, omissions and errors of this most recent review (as well as the Oxburgh review which preceded it) 'make it difficult for public trust in climate science to be restored' - as New Scientist rightly laments.

The difficulty is also that the reputation of Edinburgh University and the Royal Society will suffer collateral suspicion.

And much public policy which is based on that trust in climate science will be undermined.