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« HoL on BBC science coverage | Main | Comets, climate and admitting you are wrong »
Tuesday
May172011

Sir John B and the IPCC

As readers no doubt know, I have previously obtained a great deal of Sir John Beddington's correspondence around the Climategate affair. As evidence of Sir John's involvement in setting up the whitewashes grows, I started to wonder about the information that Sir John's office had said they had withheld for one reason or another. In particular I wondered what was covered by this:

* various internal advice from Government Office for Science and other officials to Sir John regarding the UEA incident and the establishment of the independent reviews, and advising on aspects of the handling of this from the viewpoint of the Government and his personal role.

Since there is a presumption in favour of disclosure, I decided to appeal the decision to withhold and I have now received some further information.

Among the interesting bits and pieces were the notes of a meeting between Sir John and Chris Field, the head of IPCC Working Group II. Although much of the conversation appears to be about procedures at the IPCC - more an area for Donna and Hilary than me - there is still much of interest and even a moment of high comedy. For example, I was interested in Sir John suggesting the publication of interim IPCC reports:

JB suggested that it might be good to have small update reports between the main IPCC reports. These would update the predictions made in the previous report and would be based on a pre-agreed approach. The process and any modelling used would be peer reviewed so the report would not need the same level of review as a full lPCC report, with key data such as on emissions and observed temperature rises updating the analysis. CF thought that this might be a useful way forward and would ensure that IPCC reports were stakeholder relevant. He commented that it would need governments to take an active, leadership role in proposing it and that there would be resistance in some quarters. He noted that [Redacted text] has already been a strong proposer of such an approach.

Who, we wonder, was the strong proposer of such an approach? I don't think the redaction is likely to be permissible under the legislation so I will have to try again if I am going to find out.

Conversation also touched on Working Group III, and here the minutes reveal an unhealthy desire for big business to get involved in the IPCC process.

JB felt that it was very important that the private sector were more involved. CF agreed; he felt that it was important to consider how the work was funded to encourage more private sector involvement. KE felt that the private sector was now much more interested in being involved. Industry representatives recently asked the WG III secretariat to be involved in the review process for a Special Report on renewables.

Hmm... I wonder what effect their input to the review had. Can anyone remind me if the Special Report on Renewables concluded that renewables were a good thing or not?

Then they moved on to the state of climate science:

CF and JB also discussed what can be done in the UK to restore faith in the science of climate change. JB informed CF of his planned climate science meeting where issues of uncertainty and understanding of climate change will be discussed with eminent scientists that have raised concerns. He also plans to write an article for Nature with the departmental Chief Scientific Advisers about uncertainty in climate science. There is also a possibility of writing an op-ed piece with John Holdren for the American press. CF and KE felt that WG III was now a potential target for sceptics looking to further discredit the IPCC (as WG II was) and they would appreciate support from JB, perhaps his article could also take WGIII issues into account?

I assume the meeting referred to was the Royal Society meeting on uncertainty that was much discussed at the time. If anyone can find the articles discussed that would be interesting too. But above all, isn't the interaction between IPCC and scientific bureaucracy fascinating to observe? Both men are straining themselves to shore up the tattered reputation of climate science, without even a flicker of interest in whether such a reputation is deserved. As I've said before, they don't work for you. You just pay for them.

Lastly, the two men discussed the Climategate affair and although there is little new information in the minutes, Sir John does at least enliven things by revealing a hitherto unrecognise talent for standup comedy (emphasis added):

JB updated CF about the enquiries following the leaking of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, that is the enquiry led by Sir Muir Russell and a review of the science being led by Lord Oxburgh. JB emphasised that Lord Oxburgh, as well as being a scientist, is a former chair of Shell so it should not be possible for people who may want to discredit the review suggest he is biased.

You couldn't make it up.

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Reader Comments (25)

Chairman of Falk Renewables not biased? A real comedian is JB!

May 17, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

[Redacted text] Just has to be Huhne!

May 17, 2011 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Unlikely to be Huhne since the meeting was March 2010 so before the last general election.

Perhaps it was Milibean.

May 17, 2011 at 9:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Bloggs

Lord Oxburgh made it clear he did not review the science , indeed its not clear what he did do apart from pocket a large amount of cash.

May 17, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

It looks like they've tried every "trick" in the book, in convincing the public of their "science".

When a proponent of a controversial idea writes articles in publications about the uncertainty of the science behind their idea, it smacks of pure pushing. They have not proven independent enough to be taken at face value. Yet they wonder why their hole keeps getting deeper.

May 17, 2011 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

"These would update the predictions made in the previous report and would be based on a pre-agreed approach. "

Lets write the conclusions first

"The process and any modelling used would be peer reviewed so the report would not need the same level of review as a full lPCC report,"

Hardly a great confidence booster then


"....with key data such as on emissions and observed temperature rises updating the analysis."

No hint of presumption


"CF thought that this might be a useful way forward and would ensure that IPCC reports were stakeholder relevant"

We must make sure that people shovelling money into this, in the hope of making a profit, dom't give up

May 17, 2011 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Christopher Field as the GCEP Research Theme Leader in the area of Bioenergy would of course understand JB’s logic about Oxburgh and Shell?

GCEP is Stanford University – Global Climate & Energy Project.

“The Project has four sponsors:

ExxonMobil
The world's largest publicly traded petroleum and petrochemical company, plans to invest up to $100 million.

General Electric
The world leader in power-generation technology and services, plans to invest up to $50 million.

Schlumberger
The world's leading oilfield services technology company, plans to invest up to $25 million.

Toyota
The world's second largest automobile manufacturer, plans to invest up to $50 million”

http://gcep.stanford.edu/about/sponsors.html

May 17, 2011 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

One can only trust that Russell's and OxMeister's parents are not caught up in Fuel Poverty.
Gawd bless our superiors.

May 18, 2011 at 12:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR|

CF and KE felt that WG III was now a potential target for sceptics looking to further discredit the IPCC (as WG II was) and they would appreciate support from JB, perhaps his article could also take WGIII issues into account?

Who is KE? Surely not Kerry Emanuel, that well know US Republican.

May 18, 2011 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

For the illumination of those unaware of the reality of what Fuel Poverty actually means, its alter ego is non-cooperative suicide, AKA non-consensual, sponsored homicide.
Gaw'd bless our masters. They mean well and have our best-interests at heart. It's the disinterest with our fate that puzzles me!
Not Evil, but not bothered either, but they make our sacrifice worthwhile.
As long as they get that feel-good factor then nothing else matters.

May 18, 2011 at 1:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR|

Sleep well Cameron and Clegg in the UK, Joolya in Oz Land, EPA meisters in the US and oodles elsewhere. Your kids, your bairns and weans will grow strong and healthy thanks to your actions. Ours will be ground down into abject poverty and hopeless misery because of your greed, stupidity and selfish grasp of a false and demonstrably untrue set of catechisms that reward stupidity and cupidity while punishing enquiry.
Muscular democracy is our only hope while sheepish acquiescence is our probable fate.
Time will tell. You may well succeed, in the short, you may write the history but, the truth is, you've failed badly.
I can forgive your honest failings but I can't accept the fact that you've ***ked us. In Trumps! And deliberately so.

May 18, 2011 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR|

Did my last comment get caught in the spam-filter?

May 18, 2011 at 2:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR|

oops, sorry. Should have refreshed

May 18, 2011 at 2:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR|

This might seem to be a bit off topic, but I wonder whether part of the problem we are having with climate scientists emanates from the apparently disproportionate degree of deference being paid to some of the "eminent scientists" referred to above.

Watching the shennanigans of some of the titled gentlemen as reported on this blog by His Grace and others here and elsewhere over the last couple of years or so, I am constantly finding myself jarred by seeing evident rogues and shonky operators being referred to as Sir This or Lord That. Not being a Brit, I find the whole title thing a bit ridiculous in this day and age, but it becomes even more so when such people's blatantly perverse, if not actually criminal behaviour tends to bring not only themselves but science itself into disrepute.

Could we please drop the titles when discussing these people? A simple surname or, at most, an earned professional title, eg Doctor or Professor, ought to be more than enough and might encourage us to at least mentally place them closer to their proper place in society.

May 18, 2011 at 2:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterMique

"JB updated CF about the enquiries following the leaking of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit,"

- So they think they were leaked after all, not "hacked" or "stolen". We can start talking now.

May 18, 2011 at 2:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

Don't fall for it - this is clearly a conspiracy designed to make Pachauri appear astute and competent.

May 18, 2011 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Actually by pointing to Lord Oxburgh as a former chair of Shell, as a way to keep sceptics from pointing out his conflict of interest, shows that Sir John Beddington did not read the Climategate emails or the documents. For if he had read them he would have known that CRU and the Tyndall Center both turned to Shell for funding. Not only that Mick Kelly explicitly stated that they would let Shell set some of the research agenda because of that funding.

Shell International would give serious consideration to what I referred to in the meeting as a ‘strategic partnership’ with the TC, broadly equivalent to a ‘flagship alliance’ in the TC proposal. A strategic partnership would involve not only the provision of funding but some (limited but genuine) role in setting the research agenda etc.

Shell’s interest is not in basic science. Any work they support must have a clear and immediate relevance to ‘real-world’ activities. They are particularly interested in emissions trading and CDM.[Clean Development Mechanism]


http://magicjava.blogspot.com/2009/11/setting-research-agenda.html

Heck not only were they hitting up Shell for money they looked to Exxon and BP as well:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/04/climategate-cru-looks-to-big-oil-for-support/

May 18, 2011 at 5:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterboballab

@ John M.

Who is KE?

KE (according to the document) = "Dr. Kristie Ebi, Executive Director, Working Group II Technical Support Unit"

This document is fascinating, Your Grace. (and thanks for the honourable links you've bestowed on me, this week!)

I haven't yet come across anything in the "rules" or "procedures" of the IPCC which would suggest that such meetings are part of the IPCC "process". But, Beddington certainly seems to have his fingers in an awful lot of pies ... whenever I see his name, I'm reminded of Little Jack Horner ... who sticks in his thumb/ Pulls out a plum/ And says what a good boy am I" But I digress ...

When I read this, the first thing that struck me was that, considering the "formality" of the two pages, I thought it ended rather abruptly ... almost as though there might be a page missing?!

Anyway, here's (part of) one of the paragraphs that boggled my mind:

CF plans to move to a more managemen/risk based approach to projections for the WGII reports rather than trying to use specific numbers wherever possible, as in AR4. [Redacted text] The IPCC is effectively in a transition from building the evidence that climate change is happening to considering the impacts and (importantly) the impacts of delaying action.[emphasis added -hro]

From my reading, I was under the impression that the direction of a WG report is determined by that which the Panel "accepts/approves" from the "scoping" meeting. Although the above would suggest that I must be mistaken ;-)

Bottom line here, though, seems to be that there are more scary stories on the way (without any quantification if Field's new, improved approach is adopted!)

It's difficult to know whether the above "[Redacted text]" is an actual sentence that was redacted or simply someone's initials. If the latter, this would seem to indicate that one of the two unknown persons (not an IPCC rep, unless s/he was wearing a different hat for the purpose of this meeting) is remarkably knowledgeable about the ... uh ... "framing" we can expect to see in AR5.

Of course, if they've finished "building" the evidence, one wonders why the IPCC even needs WGI. Not to mention that I didn't realize that the IPCC was in the "construction" business; I always thought it was in the "assessment" business ;-)

May 18, 2011 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

That he should think that Shell innoculated Ox (while obviously stupid) is not so hard to understand. In 2004, Democrats in the US seriously thought that John Kerry having served in Vietnam for 4 months of his one year tour would innoculate him from any criticism during the Iraq war. Kerry's Congressional testimony slandering all his fellow officers as war criminals, his cooperation with the enemy, his fantasy tales about his medals, and his presidency of a group that plotted to murder 5 senators in the halls of Congress were not consider relevant to the question of innoculation.

These establishment folks (on both sides of the pond) think the voting public is stupid. And they think that they can use a compliant news media to pitch any kind of crap they choose to serve and the public will eat it up.

No wonder they hate this internet thingy.

May 18, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan

Bish, the stuff you have brought out into the light in this latest request for information fills me with disgust for Beddington and his ilk. What especially disgusts me is the arrogance that this man and his apalling cronies all exhibit with regard to anything they feel is within their mandate to manipulate for their own benefit.
If anyone wanted a clear example of why honest, sensible, well educated men and women left this country in disgust and founded colonies as far away as possible from Whitehall, this is a good one. As a New Zealander who grew up in a reasonably egalitarian and relatively classless society, I once struggled to understand the concept of class warfare in the 'old country'. After almost a decade living and working here, I now fully understand why so many in the UK have an abiding distrust of the ruling elites and claim membership of the working classes, despite many of them enjoying a university education and successful professional careers. Beddington and his despicable cronies are indulging in blatantly criminal behaviour of the kind that has severe consequences for others, particularly the respectable elderly without substantial private means, who are now sliding into fuel poverty and facing the horrible prospect of succumbing to hypothermia in their own homes.

May 18, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

So you are still surprised to find that the meme of AGW is embedded so deeply that those so infected do not even realize when they are falling to noble cause corruption?

May 18, 2011 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

@Hunter: ... do not even realize when they are falling to noble cause corruption?

Given the blatant financial and careerist motives of many AGW proponents, especially The Great and Good, that's way too charitable a view for my tastes. Had they no such stake in whether the AGW argument succeeds or fails, their ongoing, and messy, divorce from reason could indeed be described as noble cause corruption. As it is, corruption alone is perfectly sufficient to characterise their actions and intent.

May 18, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterdread0

It came to my attention watching 'Operation Crossbow' documentary that Churchill's CSO, Lord Cherwell, seemed a forerunner of the current crop. He it was who told Churchill that the Germans couldn't possibly have developed rockets - because the British couldn't make them. Advice that was heeded too long, despite urgent info. coming from photo-reconnaissance. Many lives lost.

Lord King was the one who told us that the only habitable continent in 2100 would Antarctica - because of global warming.
Now Beddington... I fear many lives will be lost among the vulnerable and elderly this coming winter.

May 18, 2011 at 11:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

An amusing story that illustrates long-held Brit Establishment attitudes.
Many years ago, a Kiwi ethnographer, well known and respected in academic circles, was visiting the Greenwich museum which holds many relics of colonial-era battles around the old Empire, including many fine watercolours made by officers trained to use drawings and watercolours as a means of making vivual records of battle sites before the general availability of photography. The ethnographer became involved in a discussion about trench warfare, which he maintained was invented by the NZ Maori cheif, Titokowaru, to defend his forces from bombardment from the sea by British naval gunnery. The elderly army officer he was discussing this with retorted;
"The British army would have invented this had they needed it. The Maori were not trained soldiers or engineers, so what they built was not a credible invention."
Fortunately, most Brits are not members of their Establishment and have rather more enlightened attitudes.

May 19, 2011 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

The metals have been linked to neurological disorders, cancer, respiratory ailments, depression and heart disease, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Researchers believe the metals occur both naturally and as a byproduct of pollution.

Aug 6, 2011 at 11:09 AM | Unregistered Commenterplumbing

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