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Speccy on Beddington

The Spectator has picked up on one of the aspects of Sir John Beddington's activities that has been bothering me.

Sir John Beddington’s job is to advise on science. Instead, he appears to have appointed himself minister for propaganda.

There is of course also his role as internal lobbyist to worry about, but it's good to see someone else noticing what's going wrong.

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Reader Comments (22)

This article appeared last week. I keep thinking I must write a letter to the relevant minister asking him to sack Beddington and appoint a scientist instead of an economist.

Jul 22, 2011 at 7:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

The minister is Willets I think.

Jul 22, 2011 at 7:17 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Or you could submit a letter to the House of Lords committee on science and technology, who are about to look into the role of departmental science advisors.

It will come as no surprise to you that these departmental science advisors (Beddington's big idea) are all just like him.

Elderly profs of chem eng or something who know a lot about a little who are delighted to get a new post and the knighthood that will come with it.

Except for one of them, who isn't a scientist, but an economist!

Jul 22, 2011 at 7:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterret

We could always ask the HoL to ask Beddington to produce the scientific evidence that Katrina was a result of GlobalnWarming, while pointing out to them that the "consensus" within the scientific community is that non single event can be ascribed to GW. Maybe they can then ask him how he, as Chief Scientific Adviser, is unaware of the scientific consensus, or if he is aware of it, why he is propogating stories that clearly run against the known science.

Jul 22, 2011 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Just had a look at the "feedback" on Beddington's BIS blog:

Two days after the blog started, comments stop on 15 July 2011.

40 comments: 1 in support, 39 critical.

Beddington has not responded to any of the adverse comments.

Why has only one supportive comment passed moderation?

Perhaps a scientific civil servant could help us to understand this weird outcome?


Jul 22, 2011 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

The problem with Beddington is becoming very clear. He hasn't a scientific clue and is basically a Stern/CP protege whoase job is to promote the new Lysemnkoism of 'climate change', the de facto state religion.

He must be really peeved that the Met Office which has to meet objective guidelines of accuracy otherwise it'll be dumped by its customers, has decided to go 50:50 solar/CO2.

Jul 22, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered Commenteralistair

I postted on the Beddington article, after the 40th comment. Perhaps their website is full to capacity

Jul 22, 2011 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley


I have been in dialogue with DECC via my local MP. I recieved a response back from Gregory Barker - Minister of State at DECC yesterday. Believe me it is not just Beddington, the response was laughable and based entirely around "concensus" and that we are all going to hell in a hand cart.

I ought to publish it !!

Jul 22, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterMactheknife

Jul 22, 2011 at 9:23 AM | golf charley

Perhaps their website is full to capacity

Perhaps the moderators were so horrified at the cruel comments that they collapsed and are now having free (taxpayer funded) R&R at Champneys.

Beddington probably does not know how to turn the comments computer thingy on in their absence.

Jul 22, 2011 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

Pathetic - the whole bloody thing is pathetic. I would dearly love to hear something positive from the CAGW lobby which said something other than CO2 is a greenhouse gas and is increasing, and "the consensus is ..." etc. Apart from that and negative remarks, we seem to hear nothing else.

Jul 22, 2011 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterPFM


Small comfort, but I think it's to Beddington's credit that that ratio was allowed to accrue.

Jul 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

PFM - You are right. There is absolutely no new story - no response to Curry, Pielke Sr, McIntyre. These people are fossilized in their days when they all they did was argue against sceptics who doubted the rise of temperature (coming out of the cold of the 70s, what would you think) and the instrumental record (not that there's anything sparkling there - one look at the GISS 'adjustments' is enough). No answer to the 'New Wave of British Heavy Sceptics'.

Jul 22, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Jul 22, 2011 at 1:34 PM | mrsean2k

Not convinced about giving Beddington any credit at all.

People were putting copies of their comments on BH, even screen shots, whilst waiting for the BIS blog to waken up the next day, so there was a bit of arm twisting going on.

What puzzles me is, why only 1 supporter?

Jul 22, 2011 at 1:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

Britain has no end of green pressure groups, but only one chief scientific adviser. He would better earn his £165,000 a year by sticking to his remit.


I'll be fully expecting Beddington to stand in line at the Press Complaints Commission. 'Don't take it lying down, mate. We are in a media streetfight, and this is climate change. You show them.'

Jul 22, 2011 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

The government's Chief Science Advisor has no science and appears to dislike learning any - one could not make this stuff up and have rational people believe it. Beddington behaves and speaks as if he is a bit player in a Carry-On film!
Years ago in NZ I knew a lecturer in English Lit and the History of Art, a Yorkshireman with a wicked wit, who made great money on the side writing drama and comedy scripts for TVNZ. He told me that the secret of writing good satire was to accurately report stuff that actually happens on the basis that most of human behaviour is both very funny and totally absurd If it is viewed dispassionately.

Jul 22, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate, with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

I do not know what the Spectator is wittering on about.

There is an Introduction to the CGSA, CSAa and the like at

It is 28 pages long and IMHO reads as if it were written by a management consultant.

From it, we learn ....

It is true that Para 3 states the GCSA’s role is primarily to give advice. However under the heading ‘Providing … … advice’, Para 37 says that ‘departments … should … explain publicly the reasons for policy decisions….’ and in Annex C ‘Developing a Science and Innovation Strategy’ Para C18 declares ‘If policy is to succeed it needs to have sufficient support from the public. It is therefore important that …. The strategy contains a statement on how the department will engage the public….’

Firstly, and by the way, I think it safe to guess that neither PM or Cabinet have ever asked for advice from the GCSA that might jeopardize their faith in the green policy they espouse. If he were to offer it, he would soon be shown the door.

Then, we do not know exactly what the GCSA’s job description says apart that is, from the strong presumption that it includes giving advice to the PM and Cabinet. However, if I were writing it, it would contain something like ‘do anything you can we tell you to’ and they may have told him to go off and act the polemicist.

If that’s not the case, then it could be claimed that the GCSA provides polemics under his Para 19 role of leading Departmental CSAs in their Para 21 duty to develop a science and innovation strategy described in Annex C, which includes, of course, Para C18 activities. The only question that then arises would be can ‘leadership’ be held to include shouting the government’s message from the rooftops.

(I said the document read as if it were written by management consultants!)

Would it not be more sensible for the Spectator to object to the whole daft green policy? Or is this a case of ‘softly softly catchee monkey?’


Objections to CSAs because the experience required to achieve the eminence required for consideration for the job will mean they are old and specialized seems awry. Where are you going to find someone who knows about all the science likely to crop up from day to day? If a scientist is required for the job, they would want is a PhD (This), PhD (that), PhD (the other), or even someone with only multiple BSc’s, so as to cover the diverse range of expected topics, and there are not many of those about. But do they want a scientist? What’s a lifetime’s distinguished service analyzing snail shells in a lab or the field got to do with advising on agricultural policy, for instance, let alone nuclear energy policy, to a load of bureaucrats or politicians? Maybe an economist is better suited to that sort of work.

Maybe the whole idea of CSAs is stupid and they should institute a system to consult outside the government.

Jul 23, 2011 at 5:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

Slightly O/T but related ... When Beddington testified before the HoC SciTech Committee on Oct. 27, 2010, in response to one of Graham Stringer's questions he replied (inter alia):

You may be aware that, on the Government Office of Science’s website I have set up a whole series of pieces of scientific information which go to the global warming issue. We’ve put this out for comment. It’s very much John Beddington’s review of the science, having talked to the climate scientists in its compilation. We have not had anyone as yet write in and say, "This is nonsense", which I would not claim won’t happen, and possibly me making that statement will virtually guarantee that I will be getting such commentary. I think the general picture is this. [emphasis added -hro]

Apart from asking who knew that such a website even existed, what is one to make of Beddinton's more recent deafening silence in light of the many responses he has received to his "invitation" regarding the Foresight "Preparing for the Future" report?

Amongst these responses to which he surely should by now have given some reply is the July 13 comment of Dr. Angela Montford which she had concluded with:

May I suggest that you now read and listen to a wider spectrum of opinion than you appear to have done so far

Jul 23, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterhro001

Jul 23, 2011 at 9:50 AM | hro001

deafening silence from Beddington

Surely many scientific civil servants have been beavering away (9am to 5pm, less tweeting time) to provide SJB with responses?

Perhaps one of them will give as progress report?

Jul 23, 2011 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

I thought that Chief Scientific Adviser carried the subsiduary title of Minister for Propoganda - or is that the function of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change..?
Any day now - wait for it - 'Exceptionally high temperatures in North America are evidence of climate change...'
...while we shiver in April-like temperatures here in lil' ol' Europe - but obviously this would be ignored....

Jul 23, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

The Spectator criticizes Beddington for his suggestion that individual extreme weather events can focus public attention on climate change. I do recall during the height of the Pakistan flooding emergency of 2010 one Andrew Montford appearing on BBC Newsnight focussing attention on climate skepticism. Pot, Kettle, Black.

Jul 24, 2011 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone


I also have recall: the Bish stated "I've been invited to appear on Newsnight tonight to talk about the Pakistani floods and climate change. Should be interesting."

The agenda was set by the BBC: "Our Science editor Susan Watts examines the claims by senior climate scientists that global warming is a "major contributing factor.''

Jul 24, 2011 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

On BBC Newsnight, 23rd August 2010, the Bish focussed, if anything, simply on the uncertainties of attributing extreme weather events to climate change.

Susan Watts: "Most climate scientists say it's not possible to say any single extreme weather event is caused by climate change."

Andrew Montford: "I think, as Susan Watts said in her original piece, there is a very widespread agreement on this - you cannot point the finger at individual weather events and say they are due to climate change, which is a long-term thing."

One participant did say: "I certainly believe that what we're seeing at the moment is within the scale of natural variability", but that was Robert Bradnock, who used to be Head of Geography at SOAS.

Full transcript is here:

Jul 24, 2011 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

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