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Everybody needs good neighbours

Long-term followers of the climate debate (and those who have read the Hockey Stick Illusion) will remember the NAS panel on the Hockey Stick, and how Bette Otto-Bliesner,  the scientist who occupied the office next door to Caspar Ammann, was appointed to the panel, a move that called into question the panel's independence.

We've already had questions raised about the independence of another of Sir Muir Russell's panellists, Geoffrey Boulton, the ex-UEA man who has spoken out in favour of the global warming consensus, but I'm grateful to a couple of readers for filling in some more details.

Cameron Rose makes this observation:

I note that Geoffrey Boulton is based at the University of Edinburgh, with an office at the Grant Institute at the King's Buildings in Edinburgh. Interestingly, Gabi Hegerl, who, I understand, is a member of the 'Hockey Team' and features in the CRU emails, and was a key author of AR4, has an office on the same floor in the same building 3 doors along.

Of course, that does not mean he's not independent, but it hardly inspires confidence.

Another reader points me to an article that Boulton wrote last year (Link- pay site - I'm trying to get a copy) entitled...

Just how much more evidence of climate change do you need?

...while Benny Pieser, writing in his CCNet newsletter, notes this quote from Boulton back in 2005 (I'm not sure of the source)

The argument regarding climate change is over.

I think it behoves me to point out to readers once more the declaration on the review's website:

Do any of the Review team members have a predetermined view on climate change and climate science?

No. Members of the research team come from a variety of scientific backgrounds. They were selected on the basis they have no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science and for the contribution they can make to the issues the Review is looking at.


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Reader Comments (41)

Why wash your dirty linen with strangers ?

Feb 12, 2010 at 10:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

So what's new? Ever seen Yes Primeminister? The experts are chosen because they know what the desired result should be.

Feb 12, 2010 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Yer Grace, I think a typo has given Benny Peiser a sex-change!

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

It's his sister ;-)

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:06 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Geoffrey Boulton appears to have predetermined views on climate change in the video to launch the RSE's enquiry "Facing up to climate change".

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterRSEobserver

It may be relevant that (according to "Oslo" on the WUWT blog) David Eyton (BP's group vice president, Research & Technology and another panel member) is reported as saying:

The challenge of climate change requires policy development at all levels: global, national and local. Our work with Princeton is an example of BP’s commitment to collaborative research, and has already provided a vital contribution to the pace of policy development. We trust that governments will be successful in reaching a consensus for significant action, and we are working to inform their actions based on our experience of low-carbon technologies and businesses.

It's also been suggested that BP has been funding the CRU since 1974.

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

I don't see why the fact that someone agrees with the AGW consensus should in itself preclude them from the panel. There are plenty of scientists and other who agree with the consensus and yet point to failings at UEA and/or within the IPCC.

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

This is recent Boulton:

House of Lords Select Committee on December 9, after Climategate had blown up:

"Some are pretty sure-fired bets: we need to think seriously about how we are going to accommodate our technologies, our industries and our society to climate change – that is a given."

That is a given.

In a presentation (November 2009) he states "Latest decadal prediction shows that global warming will reassert itself. Beyond 2010 at least half the years are expected to be warmer than 1998"

His graph shows global temperature anomaly estimate in 2016 as 0.45degC higher than 2009 level (when the presentation was done - November 2009).

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

The quote about the argument being over seems to come from the University of Edinburgh's annual review 2004/5:

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

@RichieRich: although I'm not sure what you mean by "the consensus", I'm inclined to agree with you. However, re the background of panel members, it's worth noting that the review's website asserts that "they have no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science". As there does appear to be evidence that this may be misleading, the credibility of the enquiry is bound to be questioned.

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

Richierich, I would sort of agree with you if you had said 'AGW probably exists', but I am not sure what the 'consensus' is - for example on speed, catastrophic effects, feed-back effects, greatest challenge facing man etc., let alone the consensus, as in IPPC AR's, that the warming we are experiencing is unprecedented, and very likely warmer than any time in 1,000 years, an issue rather relevant to the enquiry. I don't think there is a consensus, or shouldn't be one.

How do you define consensus, as you used it?

Feb 12, 2010 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterHotRod


Feb 12, 2010 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterHotRod

Interesting insight to the thinking of Geoffrey Boulton. This is a lecture given by Boulton to the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, Jan 2008, titled, "Learning to Live with an Angry Planet".,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,385/

Quotes from talk:

"The problem is that if we look at the emissions in the last two or three years – they’re plotted here on new data which has became available in the last few months – the actual emissions now are way outside the most pessimistic scenarios that we used in those previous slides which came from the International Panel on Climate Change. What’s happened is that the rates of emission of greenhouse gases have doubled since the year 2000. "

Is that correct????

"Calculations by glaciologists now suggest that by 2050 most of the Himalayan glaciers will have gone".

Now that is plain wrong!

"Just let me very briefly wind up. First to say that I find it really quite, I was going to say distasteful, not quite that, but I find it quite difficult to stand up in front of an audience like this and somehow give you what one could quite readily interpret as a scare story and am I right?

Yes I am."

Interesting insight on someone who we are told has no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science.

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

More details at CA from Bob Denton. Boulton's CV shows he was at UEA from 1968 -86, at the School of Environmental Sciences, which he gives as his affiliation on his papers from that period.

CRU, which was founded in 1972, is part of School of Environmental Sciences.
So the claim regarding panel members that "None have any links to the Climatic Research Unit" is untrue.

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

I would have thought signing this statement would preclude Prof. Boulting from sitting on the review panel...

There's no mention of the 18 years he spent at UEA on the official biography on the review's website, though it is mentioned here:

And here's a statement that seems to suggest a predetermined view on climate change:

Geoffrey Boulton, the vice principal of Edinburgh University, painted a similarly bleak picture. In his scenario, polar ice caps melted much fasted than expected, causing "the potential demise of the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Kuwait, flooding of large areas of the US Gulf of Mexico, Florida and east coasts, of Myanmar, Thailand and northeast China".

In the UK "large parts of south eastern England and in Scotland, the Forth, Clyde, Moray and Solway lowlands were at risk, with the prospect of major frequent inland flooding along most river valleys," he said. There would be a "massive impact on the populations and economies of most states".

Boulton predicted that food and water shortages would trigger riots in developing countries and Scotland would have "severe power failures" from 2013 because of "increasingly unreliable nuclear stations".

Governments were guilty of "misplaced optimism", he argued, and for being "too preoccupied by the credit crunch".

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered Commentermisty

@ Robin Guenier, HotRod

My use of the phrase "AGW consensus" followed the good Bishop's lead when he said

Geoffrey Boulton, the ex-UEA man who has spoken out in favour of the global warming consensus

By this I meant someone who belives the warming is happening, is significantly human-induced and poses a serious problem. If you can suggest an appropriate shorthand, please do.

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

Here's something that suggests Geoffrey Bouton couldn't answer "no" to the question "Do any of the Review team members have a predetermined view on climate change and climate science?"

He's a signatory to the petition organised by the Met Office's CEO in the aftermath of "cllimategate". You can see his name listed here:

This petition said:

"We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities.

"The evidence and the science are deep and extensive. They come from decades of painstaking and meticulous research, by many thousands of scientists across the world who adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity."

From The Scotsman

"The petition was e-mailed to scientists who work in climate- related fields at more than 100 universities and institutes across the UK. Within four days, more than 1,700 had signed – with about 300 from Scotland. They include Professor Geoffrey Boulton, general-secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh."

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurning Tide

Geoffrey Boulton speaks.

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Richie - thanks.

'Poses a serious problem' I guess is the part that's interesting, where the science drifts into advocacy. I've never been clear on where, for example, the need 'to get rid of the MWP' came from, if it wasn't the need to demonstrate unprecedented warming, I can't think of any good scientific reason for the whole Hockey Stick story otherwise. (just finished the Bishop's book yesterday).

And then it's a short step to 'the greatest threat facing humanity', and you run slap into Lomborg and adaptation. And the precautionary principle, which leads you back to alarmist forecasts.

But that's drifting away from the UAE enquiry brief a bit, but only a bit - why Yamal? Why?

Feb 12, 2010 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterHotRod

In synopsis it works like this.
AGW and its so called causes have a massive potential for taxing the bejesus out of us.
Then get a load of free-loading scientists to 'sex it up' / tell barefaced porky pies and that the; ........
Wait for it, "the science is settled!"
Con all those tax-paying monkeys and we're as they (the powers that be) say "laughing".
Mmmmm...... sounds like the eco-fascists and green loonies of the WWF have been at it again.

Feb 12, 2010 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom J. Arnold


Thanks for your note

I think the following extract from a RealClimate post is instructive as to the significance or otherwise of the MWP.

Let us assume that medieval temperatures after all had been warmer than the present. Even that would tell us nothing about anthropogenic climate change. The famous conclusion of the IPCC, “The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate”, does not depend on any reconstruction for the past millennium. It depends on a detailed analysis of 20th Century data. In fact, this conclusion is from the 1995 IPCC report, and thus predates the existence of quantitative proxy reconstructions like the “hockey stick”.

Climate changes can have several different reasons, and the cause of any particular climate change needs to be investigated on a case by case basis. It cannot be found by looking at one temperature curve. Had medieval climate been warmer than the present, this would probably have been due to some natural cause – perhaps a peak in solar output. That would only tell us that in principle, natural causes can cause warming larger than what we’ve seen in the past decades. But we know that already – one need only go back far enough in time (e.g., fifty million years) to find examples of unquestionably warmer climates than today. However, it would be naive to conclude that the observed strong 20th Century warming therefore also must have a natural cause.

Investigating the cause of 20th Century warming is done in so-called detection and attribution studies, which analyze the various forcings (e.g., solar variations, greenhouse gases or volcanic activity) and the observed time and space patterns of climate change in detail. These studies, with a range of different techniques, have invariably concluded that the dominant cause of 20th Century warming is man-made greenhouse gases.

I'd be interested in the Bish's take on this.

I agree that warming is not the problem per se. The warming is a problem on if it is likely to cause harm. And how much harm a given amount of warming is likely to cause is clearly disputed. However, I don't fancy taking the risk of seeing whether 5C of warming turns out to be harmful or not. What about you?

Feb 12, 2010 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

I am mystified why Boulton is on the panel if indeed the claim is that members should have " prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science"
You don't have to do any real digging to find examples of where Prof Boulton has expressed strong views tending towards the upper end of alarmism.
It would only make sense having Boulton on this panel if there were someone with a more overt sceptical position to balance him out.

"I believe that we can currently say that the probability of severe climate change with massive impacts is uncomfortably high,” Professor Boulton said. “And there’s a high probability that these changes are driven by human action, by our emissions of greenhouse gases."

Feb 12, 2010 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

RichieRich, that Real Science piece pretty much sells the pass from under you. It's a classic of woffle, trying to disguise the fact that if the MWP was in fact warmer ( or just as warm)[or more importantly shows similar or greater amounts and rates of temperature change] then the claim of 'unprecedented' bites the dust. It matters not a jot then whether man, or (more likely) nature causes the changes, it means that the changes that result are not catastrophic, and are easily adapted to (so easily that adaptation has taken place in the past without populations being aware of what they are adapting to). In short, the MWP means that we can stop being panic stricken, reclaim our taxes, and start putting funds into fusion reactors so we can all stay toasty if/when the next ice age hits.

Feb 12, 2010 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

When do we expect the next resignation? Remind me, who, how and why were these guys selected again! Jeeezz

Feb 12, 2010 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Cumbrian Lad

If (a) detection and attribution show that AGW is occuring and (b) climate sensitivity is 3C, then irrespective of what did or didn't happen in Medieval times, if GHG concentrations treble from pre-industrial levels of 280ppmv to 740ppmv as a result of human activity then don't we get somthing like 6C hotter? And 6C hotter doesn't immediately strike me as being a cake walk.

Feb 12, 2010 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

As I suggested in a previous thread, there are close institutional links between Boulton, Crowley and Hegerl. In particular, they are all members of the Global Change Research Group (GC). Boulton lists his research work as including "the future evolution of glacier cover in the Himalayas". His claim to independence from the AGW line is, of course, made clear by his forceful criticisms of the "2035" claim. Just wait while I look ...

Feb 12, 2010 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr Slop

Richie, in science terms of course you're right (AGW not dependent on absence of MWP), but having followed the Hockey Stick saga, and read through Bish's book, I feel clear that the IPCC (of which we can deem UAE/CRU a critical subset) did have an interest in 'unprecedented', which makes it both important (because they seem to have deemed it so), whether because the case for AGW, however fallaciously scientifically, is strengthened, or simply to demonstrate urgency.

Dominant, I just don't know. It seems to me that C19th century warming was of the same order as C20th, it seems sea level rises ditto, an indicator of temperature. I also have issues with detection, I'm writing a piece right now on temperature records. In terms of attribution, gosh. I was watching a BBC programme on ice cores the other day, and the ice core man said there was evidence of temperatures moving several degrees in under ten years, also beetle records seemed to indicate the same, so you would need an awful lot of confidence in climate models to be comfortable.

Precautionary principle - I don't like it much. Just to be difficult, here's a snippet from another blog:

"The idea that we should do something just in case it might warm enough to cause major problems brings up the counter point that we should actually do something in case it cools significantly instead. The reason the choice should favor the precaution for cooling is due to the fact that cooling may have much larger negative effects than warming (at realistic levels). Crop loss due to cooling would cause mass starvation. Warming would possibly cause some groups to relocate from very low-lying areas, or need to build water barriers, but this is far less likely to occur on a short time scale. Increasing glaciers would threaten land, where retreating glaciers would make land available. Human history has indicated that warm periods were generally productive times, and cold times much worse. Since the temperature is presently tending to dropping, and since we are in fact near the end of the present interglacial period (as compared to the several previous ones), worrying about cooling is potentially the far larger problem, especially with a growing population."

Feb 12, 2010 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterHotRod


Thanks for the note.

If the IPCC knew that the Hockey Stick was statistically dodgy but, anyhow, went ahead and trumpeted 20th century warming as "unprecedented" for political reasons, then this was very naughty.

Is the alternative hypothesis that the IPCC genuinely believed that the Hockey Stick was sound and that the warming genuinly was "unprecedented" i.e. that they were, so to speak, fools rather than knaves?

Feb 12, 2010 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich


You seem to think there is a consensus (majority opinion) that "the warming is happening, is significantly human-induced and poses a serious problem". Yet a recent opinion poll found that only 26% of respondents agreed. So how did you come to your view?

You ask for "an appropriate shorthand". Well, I'm not keen on labels but would suggest "alarmist".

Feb 12, 2010 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

Richie, detection and attribution again. I am comfortable with the idea that the Hockey Stick was flawed - I'd be interested what you think after reading Bish's book, the Hockey Stick Illusion. He clearly comes from the sceptic/McIntyre camp, but it's a good read. Now, once I've detected that, to what do I attribute it?

I think they did trumpet it, in AR2001. Why I am not sure, but again have the feeling that in some way it served the interests of the IPCC, and the AGW fraternity. They may have believed it, that belief may have been convenient rather than strongly felt. Certainly there must have been more than a few who didn't trust it, but kept quiet - knaves by omission maybe.

It's difficult to separate the irritation the community felt at having their work aggressively (they felt) targeted by McIntyre, in a way that I think was new to them, and by an outsider too, not in any way a climatologist or even close, from a more general, less personal, desire that AGW is to some extent or other, real and dangerous and important, requiring policy.

Their careers have been based on that presumption of course, the growth of grants, universities, the IPCC and so on - rather as my City career has been based on deregulation, derivatives, large bonuses and all that, so I find it difficult to stand back and judge clearly what effect a bonus tax, or heavy regulation, would have - I am implicitly biased, and I think they must be too.

Pachauri is not a scientist, but Hansen is - they may be extreme examples of alarmism, but the relentless escalation of claims of imminent danger, with limited uncertainty, come from somewhere. The demonisation of Lomborg when he writes about adaptation on a cost/benefit basis, or, earlier, the reception of A Skeptical Environmentalist, also tell a story.

I had an interesting lunch with Sonja B-C - the editor who published Mc and Mc's attack on MBH - and she was telling me how grants and funding pre-judge results subtly, in the titles of the brief - a cheap example would be 'Examine the effects of Climate Change on the corals in xxx'. It's easier then to detect some effects and attribute them to AGW than not.

Feb 12, 2010 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterHotRod


The detection and attribution papers are about the weakest of a range of weak science. IF, IF, is a strange way to put your argument. What IF water vapour is a large component of the atmosphere? Perhaps there's an interaction there! The available data show that nothing like a 6C rise is likely to happen, even at current rates of rise it's going to be 1.2C in a century.

To get back on topic - Do any of the Review team members have a predetermined view on climate change and climate science? Now the data on that one is pretty strong, and near unimpeachable :)

Feb 12, 2010 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

I see that Professor Boulton, in a lecture on Tuesday 29 January 2008, said this:

"Calculations by glaciologists now suggest that by 2050 most of the Himalayan glaciers will have gone ".,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,385/

Is this the man to play honest broker between alarmists and their critics?

Feb 12, 2010 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Cumbrian Lad

My if...then statement was at least an argument. Your response

The detection and attribution papers are about the weakest of a range of weak science

is instead mere assertion!

I'll briefly rephrase my position. I believe there is merit in the detection and attribution claims that the observed warming in 20th century is caused signifcantly by human activity. I have also not come across what I regard as strong arguments as to why the most likely value of climate sensitivity is in the 1-1.5C range rather than the consensus value of 3C.

Feb 12, 2010 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich


As I noted earlier, my use of "consensus" followed that of senior clergy. And when commentators speak of a consensus, they are generally referring to a consensus amongst climate scientists/researchers rather than amongst the general public. So your 26% point is not relevant to the consensus issue as generally understood (though, nevertheless, interesting ).

Feb 12, 2010 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich


Even senior clergy can be wrong: see this. But I'd be interested to see your evidence for the assertion that there is a consensus of climate scientists/researchers who think that "the warming is happening, is significantly human-induced and poses a serious problem".

Feb 12, 2010 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier


From my reading of the Bish and others, I believe that MBH98 was statistically flawed. It's also clear that IPCC trumpeted MBH's Hockey Stick. Perhaps it was convenient "belief" rather than deep-seated belief: who knows? But I find it hard to believe that it was knowingly mis-sold by John Houghton.

Hansen is alarmed because he believes and has argued in the peer-reviewed literature that the most likely value of climate sensitivity is around 6C. If I believed this, I too would be pretty alarmed!

On the risk of significant cooling see


Feb 12, 2010 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich


Perhaps you misunderstand me: the senior clergyman in question was none other than this blog's owner. He used the word "consensus" and I simply followed. But for some interesting research on consensus, see this post on the work Naomi Oreskes and its related links.

Feb 12, 2010 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich


Yes, I know you were referring to our genial and respected host. But I humbly suggest that even he can be wrong. (BTW I thought you might be interested in that link I provided - especially it's reference to Mike Hulme's comment and the reference back to the extraordinary "post-normal science" Ravetz essay in WUWT.)

Anyway, you must surely know that the Oreskes study is long past it's sell by date (as well as being undermined by Benny Peiser). But, in any case, so much has happened recently that the game has changed (the public's view is evidence of this) - so where's your current evidence (re climate scientists/researchers)?

Feb 12, 2010 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier


I was gently trying to hint to you that we were trespassing rather heavily on His Lordship's good will by wandering off topic more than tangenially. If we're not careful we'll be feeling the sharp end of his crozier. Now, if you wish to address the issue of evidence for independence of the review panel...?

Feb 12, 2010 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Cumbrian Lad

Take your point about about off-topic posting. It was HotRod's mention of the MWP that set me off...but I'll rein myself back in!


I don't want to make too much of the consensus point. I think what the Bish was getting at was that the majority of academic/researchers are what you might term "warmers" or "alarmists". I'd agree with that.

And, yes, thanks for the link to Mike Hulme's quote. From my perspective, not a lot to disagree with there. Have yet to read the Ravetz piece but is seems essential.

(1) Peiser in no way underminded Oreskes' work and (2) I agree with you that much has changed recently - but better not pursue either of these points or Cumbrian Lad will be after me!

Feb 12, 2010 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichieRich

Is it true that the "enquiry" will be carried on behind closed doors?

Feb 16, 2010 at 3:54 AM | Unregistered Commentergallopingcamel

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