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« Climate disinterest | Main | American Spectator on McIntyre »

The idea of Oxburgh

One of the most troubling aspects of the scientific inquiry into the Climatic Research Unit was the appointment of Lord Oxburgh as chairman. Oxburgh's many links to the renewables industry and to green campaigning organisations (disclosed or otherwise) are now common knowledge among followers of the climate debate.

How Oxburgh came to be chairman of the panel is an interesting question that has been bothering me since his appointment was announced. It was clear from newspaper reports that Oxburgh recognised that he had a conflict of interest, but he was apparently prevailed upon to take up the position regardless. As Ben Webster reported at the time, there was no doubt in Oxburgh's mind that his independence would be questioned.

Lord Oxburgh says he told the university, when it approached him, that people might question his independence.

“I said undoubtedly people will point at this and their answer was, after they consulted, that I was the best person to do it.”

Having been looking into this question for a few weeks, I am now able to reveal who it was that suggested Oxburgh as panel chairman. The answer comes in the response to an FoI request I made to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. It reveals that Oxburgh's name was put forward by John Beddington, the government's chief scientist.

The appointment process and selection conducted by UEA was informed by advice from the Royal Society, to ensure appropriate rigour, expertise and objectivity. As part of proper practice, in putting together a high quality panel the UEA leadership also took soundings on potential members, including candidates for the role of chair, from senior figures in the scientific community.

As the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Beddington was one of those consulted. Professor Beddington offered two names of possible candidates to lead the Review, one of which was Lord Oxburgh.

I note in passing that Oxburgh and Beddington used to be colleagues at Imperial College, London, although I don't think this this signifies anything more than some "old school tie" networking. It does all become rather amusing when one considers the other name proposed by Professor Beddington:

He also proposed the inclusion of Prof David Hands [sic], President of the Royal Statistical Society, as someone well qualified to contribute

And where does Professor Hand work? Yup, Imperial.

But this is by the by. Here's something more interesting. It looks as if Professor Beddington may also have been responsible for overcoming Oxburgh's concerns at his conflict of interest - there is at least a hint that this may have been the case later on in the response:

In addition, at UEA's subsequent request, Prof Beddington provided his good offices to encourage these candidates to give positive consideration to an approach by UEA.

(Minor update:12/6/10 to remove a spurious "Sir" from JB. He wasn't knighted at the time.)


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Reader Comments (58)

Apart from the turgid stature (sir, lordship, professorship) they exhale, these characters seem all to be intellectual lightweights. It is good to see more of them "communicate" now, make speeches outside the jacket and tie circuit and see how they behave from FOI responses etc.

Otherwise we would only know them from a BBC or a The Guardian "unbiased report" on them.

Oxburgh was a Shell chairman? don't think he has ever seen a barrel of oil .

May 19, 2010 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterphinniethewoo

Interesting they had selected a list of the papers to be examined before they had selected the panel. I don’t suppose they had written the report prior to panel selection as well, just to save time.

May 19, 2010 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

I wonder whether Prof. Hand declined, or Oxburgh was chosen by the UEA in preference? Can't think of any possible reason why the UEA would prefer someone like Oxburgh over a stats guy with far fewer real or percieved conflicts of interest.

May 19, 2010 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Apart from the turgid stature (sir, lordship, professorship) they exhale, these characters seem all to be intellectual lightweights.

Must be due to inbreeding, don't you think?

Bit off topic

Looks like we had the hookstick upside down. Breaking news from Conference on Climate Change.

Global Cooling Is Coming -- and Beware the Big Chill, Scientist Warns!


May 19, 2010 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

According to the second attachment, the UEA Vice Chancellor told John Beddington what papers the panel was supposed to be reviewing???

May 19, 2010 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterSuramantine



Aren't late editions fun to read :)

May 19, 2010 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra


Yes, this now seems pretty clear.

May 19, 2010 at 8:41 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

(sorry about the screwed up "/a". Hard to see them even with preview )



Aren't late editions fun to read :)

May 19, 2010 at 8:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

May 19, 2010 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Screw technology -- this the URL

May 19, 2010 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

A bit like 'hide the decline'...

poor choices of words perhaps...

'warm up'

".....Ron is keen that they are “warmed up” by influential people rather than us inviting them cold. Martin Rees is asking Ralph Cicerone (President NAS) to approach the Americans, Brian Hoskins will approach Huw Davies, Ron himself is talking to Kelly and Huppert.

I wonder if you would be prepared to “warm up” David Hand – on the basis that you know him and you suggested him!

We are most keen, if at all possible, that we can hit the April 6/7/8 window and I’m sure you will be very persuasive in convincing him that this is an important job for science, etc......"

May 19, 2010 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

Don Pablo de la Sierra, good link, good article. I guess Big Insurance is the new gold standard for AGW. The old boy network is alive and well. Too bad for them that Big Al invented the internet.

May 19, 2010 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank Brown

"But environmental attorney Catriona MacGregor told she does not buy the idea that environmental catastrophes aren’t in the offing due to global climate change.

“The insurance industry, an industry that has significant expertise in measuring and calculating risk, was one of the first to link manmade emissions with mounting warming and catastrophes,” she said."

Now there was me thinking that the insurance industry, eg Catlin funds pro-AGW scare stories so it can increase premiums selling policies to gullible people that think the sky is falling.

May 19, 2010 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Okay - here is the real reason:

Someone had real (and I mean real) concern about the effect this level of world interest and scrutiny could have on the mental health of individuals under the spotlight. Remember the tragic outcome on David Kelly over the matter of the sexed-up security brief? This could not be allowed to happen again.

So the investigation had to be kept short and as uncontraversial as possible. If it had to be uncontraversial - you couldn't have a statistician in charge. That left Lord O.

He was charged with the very limited remit of determining the integrity of the leading people involved at CRU - no more, no less - and someone had already made a judgement call to keep the inquiry as short as possible.

The email inquiry is taking longer and will no doubt make several critical but fairly general conclusions about peer review processes and proper handling of FOI requests - but no individuals will be singled out for blame.

With luck, there will be no tragic outcome.

May 19, 2010 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

“The insurance industry, an industry that has significant expertise in measuring and calculating risk, was one of the first to link manmade emissions with mounting warming and catastrophes,” she said."

Another insurance industry bailout in the works.

May 19, 2010 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

My Lord! Hope you're not impugning ALL those with a DIC!

May 19, 2010 at 11:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

3 pages of utter drivel:

19 May: New Scientist: Debora MacKenzie: Living in denial: Why sensible people reject the truth
Similarly, global warming, evolution and the link between tobacco and cancer must be taken on trust, usually on the word of scientists, doctors and other technical experts who many non-scientists see as arrogant and alien.
Many people see this as a threat to important aspects of their lives...
If science is the best way to understand the world and its dangers, and acting on that understanding requires popular support, then denial movements threaten us all.

May 19, 2010 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Re: MacGregor quote in May 19, 2010 | Atomic Hairdryer


How would this sound?

“The oil industry, an industry that has significant expertise in measuring and calculating risk, was quick to assure that they understood how to deal with deepwater drilling and potential catastrophes,”

Somehow don't think that one would have flown with Ms. MacGregor. I guess "Big" money is only bad when it's on the "wrong" side.

May 20, 2010 at 1:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

Email from Beddington to Davies

“As it happens, I met Ron Oxburgh last night and he duly moaned about putting his name into the frame, but my distinct impression was that he was rather pleased. Knowing him, he will certainly make it work”.

There are a number of comments over at CA regarding the meaning of “warming up”.
My attention would be drawn more to the phrase “make it work”. Is that how scientific inquiries operate, they “make it work” combined with “warming up”. Make what work?
Me thinks not good.

May 20, 2010 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

The New Scientist story - Living in Denial is just a re-hash of the stuff that Monbiot has been writing for years now. The interesting bit is the total lack of self-awareness and reflection. They just cannot see that you could turn the whole thing round and describe their own side of the aisle in the same psycho-babble.

For example their checklist of "denialism"

1. Allege there is a conspiracy. Check. The story alleges that there is an organised and secretly-funded denial movement. A denial conspiracy in fact.

2. Use fake experts. Check. There's even a list at the bottom.

3. Cherry-pick the evidence Check. This is not a comprehensive assessment of everything that has ever been claimed by some and challenged by others. So - yes it's a cherry-picker.

4. Create impossible standards. Check. I turned the heating down last year and they are asking me to turn it down again. It's already on -272 degrees C and it won't go any lower.

5. Use logical fallacies. Check. The article itself is a convoluted appeal to authority stirred in with psychobable and then half-baked.

6. Manufacture doubt. Check. My worldview is that the planet is fine and will take care of itself - and here they are crying wolf.

May 20, 2010 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Insurances and Climate Change: here is what SwissRe has to say about Climate Change.

They seem to have redisigned the website recently because I had kept another URL:

Is there a way to dig up the old text/website on a web-archive?
It might be interesting to see if the texts have changed and if so in what way.

May 20, 2010 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeerke

Two things seem pretty clear. Neither the members of the panel, nor the papers the panel examined, were selected on a truly independent basis. The outcome of the inquiry was a foregone conclusion.

May 20, 2010 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Doesn't Edward Acton's (Vice Chancellor, UEA) verbal statement say it all: "I shall be announcing later this week the chair of scientific appraisal panel to take a look at the key work of CRU and reaffirm the sure-fire quality of the science"?

From 0:32 at

Not a panel dispassionately and critically to "investigate the quality of the science", but a panel to "reaffirm the sure-fire quality" of the "key work of CRU".

These are Acton's own words. What you see is what you get. Acton is a specialist on Soviet communism. He well knows how to rig things.

May 20, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

So it transpires that that US National Academy of Sciences President Ralph Cicerone was charged with contacting ("warming up") the American panelists and UK National Academy of Sciences President Martin Rees with contacting("warming up") the UK panelists of the Oxburgh review.

That "warming up" correspondence would of interest to read.

FOIA request anyone?

May 20, 2010 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Re; Theo Goodwin

Another insurance industry bailout in the works.

Maybe, and my bad for forgetting Prof Hand was on the panel. But then maybe that's why the reports have been whitewashes because AGW is too big to fail. Billions have been invested in anticipation of Thermageddon and legislation allowing rent-seeking behaviour.

Insurance has of course been one of the 'gates', ie Pielke Jnr's criticism of the way risks of natural disaster have been exagerated. That's more a hand-out for insurers writing cover for events that aren't happening and easy money. Or possibly fraud, but that could be hard to prove and the insurers can just blame the scientists who made dire predictions about hurricanes, floods, sea level rises, plague, famine, pestilence etc.

With so much money involved, along with scientific and political reputations, we can't just expect this to go quietly into the night and go back to natural variability or force majeure.

May 20, 2010 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Sorry, a little O/T

Political Reputations Intact and Environmental Groups appeased. :(

May 20, 2010 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Hartshorn

Oh dear: the new Coalition government's programme for government just published: here are some extracts with regard to climate change and energy policy. Appalling. Given the amount of money (yours and mine) the government is going to be throwing around and wasting on pathetic schemes, there will be every incentive for the leeches and charlatans to be getting in on the act. Who is going to listen to the voice of reason when the government is committed as never before to insanity?

The Government believes that climate change is one of the gravest threats we face, and that urgent action at home and abroad is required. We need to use a wide range of levers to cut carbon emissions, decarbonise the economy and support the creation of new green jobs and technologies. We will implement a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy.

We will push for the EU to demonstrate leadership in tackling international climate change, including by supporting an increase in the EU emission reduction target to 30% by 2020.

We will seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

We will continue public sector investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology for four coal-fired power stations.

We will establish a full system of feed-in tariffs in electricity – as well as the maintenance of banded Renewables Obligation Certificates.

We will establish an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient carbon capture and storage to meet the emissions performance standard.

We will introduce a floor price for carbon, and make efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.

We will deliver an offshore electricity grid in order to support the development of a new generation of offshore wind power.

We will work towards an ambitious global climate deal that will limit emissions and explore the creation of new international sources of funding for the purpose of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

May 20, 2010 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth

With the EURO in freefall and all of the EURO based economies now at extreme risk the chances of the UK government pushing the EU for more action on climate change is nil. All of the EURO countries will now be acting in their own economic self interest. No European politician is going to risk the additional wrath of voters by cutting jobs to save the planet.

May 20, 2010 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I'm still intrigued by the "warming up" of Oxburgh panelists by Ralph Cicerone and Martin Rees. It does dispel any notion that these panelists were independent and free from conflict of interests. It seems that you can take an Oxburgh horse to water and make it drink.

May 20, 2010 at 3:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I don't see anything suspicious about the warming up statement. As someone else noted the "make it work" comment is far more interesting.

May 20, 2010 at 5:23 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"I shall be announcing later this week the chair of scientific appraisal panel to take a look at the key work of CRU and reaffirm the sure-fire quality of the science"

Look. He's the VC of UEA. The CRU was the jewel in the crown of UEA. His job is to minimise the damage to the UAE resulting from Climategate.

He has the choice - push Jones, Briffa and co under a passing bus or appoint a prestigious gang of warmists to apply the whitewash. He's just doing his job.

May 20, 2010 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

Scientisr for Truth

" We will deliver an offshore electricity grid in order to support the development of a new generation of offshore wind power."

This report is getting some press coverage:

May 20, 2010 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Climate change is 'distraction' on malaria spread

on the BBC and Richard Black!!!!!

"...researchers calculate that control measures have at least 10 times more impact than climate factors..."

Climate change is 'distraction' on malaria spread
Page last updated at 4:09 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 5:09 UK
E-mail this to a friend Printable version By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News

Mosquito nets are proving effective - where they are available Climate change will have a tiny impact on malaria compared with our capacity to control the disease, a study finds.

Noting that malaria incidence fell over the last century, researchers calculate that control measures have at least 10 times more impact than climate factors.

Research leader Peter Gething from Oxford University described the climate link as an "unwelcome distraction" from the main issues of tackling malaria.

The paper, by scientists in the UK, US and Kenya, is published in Nature.

"We were looking to quantify something that perhaps we already knew with regard to the interaction of climate and malaria," Dr Gething told BBC News.

"A lot of the studies proposing there would be a dramatic increase in a warmer world have been met with guarded criticism, and often what's been said about them surpasses what the actual science indicates.

"So this redresses the balance a bit."

"Climate change is, in our view, an unwelcome distraction from the main issues."

Finishes with:

"I don't doubt climate change is happening, but..."

Ie expect a lot more scientists to say this, ie I think it is rubbish really, but I must say this less I get called a deniar and all my funding dries up...

Serioulsy, how much damage has the AGW 'alarmist' delusion allready caused...
Funds directed away from real issues...

May 20, 2010 at 6:55 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

Scientist for Truth:
You are aware that electric cars will be allowed to 'sell power' to the grid.

Charge your car at night. Drive to work. Sell power during day for a higher price - that is the smart grid working for you.

If there was ever a scam...this is it.

You must be aware of the UK plan to harvest energy from people's footsteps, right?

That's right - you put these things in pavements and such and every time someone steps on them, it charges a battery from the kinetic energy of the impact.

All third-rate motels will probably put one in their beds. ;)


May 20, 2010 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

"Too bad for them that Big Al invented the internet."

I believe Al Gore actually refers to the "Interweb thingy" when he speaks of his invention.

May 20, 2010 at 8:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

Oxburgh is also on the climate advisory board of Deutsche Bank, along with Pachauri and Schellnhuber, Töpfer, Lord Browne and others:

The chairman of the IAC panel reviewing the IPCC was chairman of the Alfred P Sloan Foundation that granted Pachauri $45,000 for Teri-NA in 2001. (Page 21). He is still on the board and the foundation still sponsor Teri-NA,

May 20, 2010 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

That should have been "chairman of Alfred P Sloan Foundation Board of Trustees"

May 20, 2010 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

Yes, Barry,...I looked at the Nature paper yesterday.

They write:

During a century in which global temperatures increases have been unequivocal, we have documented a marked, global decrease in the range and intensity of malaria transmission.

Last line:
It suggests that the success or failure of our efforts against the parasite in the coming century are likely to be determined by factors other than climate change.

May 20, 2010 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Oxbourgh is one of the newest "gates" I've added to my list. Talk about a joke. But they aren't simply going to just roll over and go away.
As long as the economic crsis continues, capping and trading Co2 will become an increasingly unpopular propositíon.

May 20, 2010 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterP Gosselin

"Oxburgh is also on the climate advisory board of Deutsche Bank, along with Pachauri" ... Speaking of Pachauri and his many hats (including that of member of the "External Advisory Board" of the Chicago Carbon Exchange) the weight of which sems to have imbued him with a very short memory for his very own words.

Let's watch his mouth (on the subject of non-peer-reviewed literature) - as his feet march right into it:

Nov. 9, 2009:

“Let someone publish the data in a decent credible publication. I am sure IPCC would then accept it, otherwise we can just throw it into the dustbin.

Apr. 20, 2010:

"AR4 cited approximately 18,000 peer-reviewed publications. It also included a limited amount of gray (or non-peer-reviewed) literature."

May 14, 2010:

He said the media and other sections of society had misunderstood the role of such information, labelling it grey literature, “as if it was some form of grey muddied water flowing down the drains”.

May 20, 2010 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

I see the malaria study by Peter Gething in Nature has caused quite a stir.

In particular, it has upset Matthew Thomas, researcher at Pennsylvania State University.

You may ask who is Matthew Thomas?

Well he is Professor of Entomology, at Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics, who explores explores the ecology and evolution of "enemy-victim" interactions (malaria).

In 2009 he published a paper; Paaijmans, KP, Read, AF & Thomas, MB (2009). Understanding the link between malaria risk and climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106:13844-13849.

The Nature study by Peter Gething clearly debunks any serious link between malaria risk and climate. No wonder Matthew Thomas is angry. Gething has attacked his academic credentials, he could put Thomas out of the climate change business.

Now you may argue that is not really important.

Well it is really important to Thomas, Penn State and others. For you see Thomas was awarded a very large grant last year; “2009-2013 Quantifying the influence of environmental temperature on transmission of vector-borne diseases, NSF-EF [Principal Investigator: M. Thomas; Co-Investigators: R.G. Crane, M.E. Mann, A. Read, T. Scott (Penn State Univ.)] $1,884,991"

$1,884,991 is a lot of money to be investigating the influence of environmental temperature on malaria when such influence has now been shown to be of little consequence. It is interesting to note that you could buy a lot medicine and nets with $1.8 million.

More intriguingly is the name of one of the co-investigators - M.E. Mann.

Now that couldn't be Michael E Mann of Hockey Stick fame, could it? Oh yes it is!

Now you see why it is so important for Penn State to discredit Gething's study.

Mann provides the temperatures, Thomas provides the link with malaria and Penn pockets the money.

May 21, 2010 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Fred from Canuckistan

"Too bad for them that Big Al invented the internet."

I believe Al Gore actually refers to the "Interweb thingy" when he speaks of his invention.

Sorry, but I was actually in an audience in Silicon Valley when he visited in the late 1990's -- during the Dot Com bubble -- when he claimed he was the driving force behind it. Left us all speechless.

May 21, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Wasn’t Gore known as an Atari Democrat about that time? I think he would have been wise to stick to the video games. But thinking about it, he’s still playing games.

May 21, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

geo engineering scary stuff!!!

May 21, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

link went wrong..

May 21, 2010 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

I don't know why we are so surprised. The whole saga of AGW has revealed a panoply of corrupted science and behind that is a small number of corrupted scientists. Titles are no respecter of honour or integrity - as they once were. They are yet another symptom of the influence of socialism on people holding hardly earned positions.

May 21, 2010 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTony

Did you see Andy 'Andy' Revkin's headline on the malaria thing?

"Cooling fear of a something, something, something,...malaria warming"

May 21, 2010 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

We don't need no stinking statistics!!

May 22, 2010 at 12:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterTW in the USA


Wasn’t Gore known as an Atari Democrat about that time?

Not that I remember, but he was serious about his claim. He was clearly on the make back then and has since then accumulated several hundred millions dollars (I heard estimates ranging from 100 million to 500 million -- but that could be just him making claims to build his ego.)

Clearly the man has a problem with the truth. At least he has been smart enough disappear from the Global Warming scene. I haven't heard "boo" from him since Climategate broke.

BTW, Atari was probably history by that time (1996-1998 -- I don't remember when exactly). That was pretty much due to the good works of Ray Kassar. He was fired from Atari in 1983 for stock manipulation, as I remember.

May 22, 2010 at 4:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Maybe your recollection is better than mine Don P. My memory isn’t as good as it once was, well it does go back to when Churchill was PM for the second time and my transistor radio was the size of a car battery;-)

May 22, 2010 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

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