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!