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« Reactions to Leo | Main | Hulme's new climate course »

Me and Richard B in the Guardian

Leo Hickman has written an article about the Met Office's outreach to sceptics, covering my visit to Exeter in some detail.

Last June, I wrote a blog post in which I proposed that a "meeting of moderate minds" within the climate debate might be a productive way forward, even if it's just to see if any common ground could be identified. The idea wasn't exactly warmly received - not least by Montford's readers! - but I still hold firm that there is some sense to this idea. It is, therefore, refreshing to hear that the Met Office is now holding such "conversations" with its critics. The testimony of both Montford and Betts show that such efforts can produce positive, if tentative, steps forward.


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Reader Comments (145)

While the Met's bosses cannot be allowed to admit uncertainty in their public pronouncements, any meeting of minds behind closed doors is meaningless. The political effort cannot admit uncertainty. Or indeed let go of consensus. I can't see how a co-operative approach can work, so we are left with confrontation. That is just the way it is.

Mar 29, 2012 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

I agree with Rhoda. As long as there is "consensus" this is just a distraction from the fact that there has been no warming for 15 years. They are just prolonging the inevitable by insisting that people don't understand the science, or the science is being twisted and explained to the "scientifically illiterate". Very patronising.

Mar 29, 2012 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterslugmandrew

Trust leohickman to try and take credit.

However the GWPF visit was long before he wrote anything.

Mar 29, 2012 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDRWise

Richard, Richard, let down your hair, so that I may climb the golden stair.

Hickman just what planet do you live on, you...... plonker.

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:00 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

You only got the read the SkS thread to know how most warmists feel about rapprochement!

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"I specifically wanted Andrew to have the opportunity to learn more about weather and climate modelling, including the fact that they are actually the same thing!"

Really? So what happens when climate modelling and weather diverge, as they are doing now?

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

The BBC went down to Exeter for a little chat as well, and came up with this:

'Horizon say: “Something weird seems to be happening to our weather – it appears to be getting more extreme. In the past few years we have shivered through two record-breaking cold winters and parts of the country have experienced intense droughts and torrential floods. It is a pattern that appears to be playing out across the globe. Hurricane chasers are recording bigger storms and in Texas, record-breaking rain has been followed by record-breaking drought.

“Horizon follows the scientists who are trying to understand what’s been happening to our weather and investigates if these extremes are a taste of what’s to come.”

The producers of the programme visited the Met Office headquarters and Operations Centre in Exeter to film for the programme at the end of last year'

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

I see the eternal conflict police are out in force again, pseudonyms at the ready, just as they were on the June thread Leo Hickman refers to in his piece. The reality is, conciliation and confrontation are false alternatives in this game. We are going to need a lot of both for real and lasting change to take place. I continue to applaud Bish and Betts and a hat-tip to Hickman does no harm either. There'll be plenty else to disagree on before we're done.

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

There once was a doctor called Dick,
who ..........

............... you know where this heading.............

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Lady at PLanet under Pressure conf - said she went to the Met Office stand - Has a look at their PREDICTIONS and LOW unceratinties, as the message to take to th epublic, children and descision makers. COMPELLING evidence... she said

that said..

Overall - Good it happened - Better that it is seen to have happened publically @leohickman @ticobas @aDissentient @richardabetts

don't think enough credit to the huge effort and patience of a number of sceptic contributed to make the environment for this to take place in.

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Although "jaw jaw is better than war war", I thought the tone of Hickmans article was a bit sneering and patronising. He seem to assume that those who are skeptical were children who did not or could not understand the science and if they engaged with their superiors the little children could learn something. All a bit Skooby Doo " those pesky kids".

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMactheknife

Well all I can say is try having a conversation at CiF and you will find you will be moderated out of existence because of any sceptical views you hold. The Guardian openly censors sceptical voices.

Playing climate football in no man's land from time to time is all very well but you have to get back to the trenches in order spill the neccessary blood to win this war.

No prisoners, no prisoners!

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Who's going to break the news to Leo? The Bishop's trip to the Met Office obviously worked out fine ALSO BECAUSE a certain Leo H was not there...

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

This is from the Guardian so conceivably more spin than truth.

Some years ago Andrew Thorpe the boss of NERC (a quango most people have never heard of that exists to raise awareness of CAGW & get£450m a year to do so) appeared in the Guardian to challenge sceptics to a public debate. A number of them immediately accepted the thrown down gauntlet and he immediately stopped even answering emails.

The Guardian, astonishingly, never reported his change of heart.

I would love to see a serious and honest dialogue but will believe it only when it happens.

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

I love the idea that Hickman invented the idea of debate between climate scientists and their critics. The shrill alarmism epitomised by the Guardian has been the biggest impediment to a sensible exchange of views about the science and politics of climate change. It has speculated about the motivations, ideology, and mental capacity of not just sceptics, but the wider public. It has created the idea of the debate being one divided between 'scientists' and 'deniers'. Good for Betts, however.

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Any peace talks would have to have preconditions. Mine are quite simple. Massive and on par funding of skeptical scientists for research and the opening up of the peer-reviewed journals for general access to the results. And putting a gag on the NY Times, WaPo and the Guardian, of course.


Mar 29, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterpointman

Richard Drake, how can we move on to something else if the warmists cannot let go of consensus and certainty? It is part of their MO. To them, admitting uncertainty is tantamount to allowing delay while time is of the essence if we are to save the planet. We can't wait to see whether the planet needs saving. That is the political argument. On the science side, we could all agree that nobody has the absolute truth, nobody has the killer argument and we must gather more data, take more observations. I am willing to do that. But on the warmist side, that amounts to defeat. Because we must do something now. They can't put politics aside. That means we are in the arena of confrontation whether we like it or not. You really have a thing with pseudonyms, don't you? Get over it. This is a blog, and plenty of people don't want to reveal their identities for their own reasons. Oh, I go by Rhoda Klapp over at the Spectator, if anyone wondered about the similar fat-fingered typos.

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

the main things are:

it happened

and the media has reported it.. (thanks Leo)

This is ultimately positive..

Reactions will be interesting, elsewhere... lets hope commentors everywhere don't let the spirit of civility down.

(criticism is not bein uncivil.. it just the way you say it - )

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The big players in this are so enamoured with their 'part' in this, that they think they ARE the news (RB at the Beeb is prone to this) - the fame goes to their heads. They see this thign crumbling, so are desperate to be set their precedent as 'inventor of the new consensus' (whatever it is, hopefully that GW is small and manageable within our usual adaptation bahaviour we've been doing for thousands of years, dyke building, not living on sea marshes, etc)

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

[Snip. Raise the tone please]

Mar 29, 2012 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Stun: "Do you have the book by Andrew Montford?"

Waterstone's assistant: "Sorry. Sold out"

Stun: "Yeah, I know. But do you have a copy?"

* Sorry, Bish. Only jestin'

Mar 29, 2012 at 3:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterstun

I'm with Barry Woods in this area. I've learned my lesson on that :) One of the many things that bothers me about the culture of pseudonymity (not the individual choice but the emergent effects as practiced here and elsewhere) is that Hickman can (smugly or otherwise) report:

The idea wasn't exactly warmly received - not least by Montford's readers! [pointing to a June thread here] - but I still hold firm that there is some sense to this idea.

He makes no distinction there between the two types of reader. But if one did filter out the pseudonymous I'm quite sure one would find a good deal more warmth to the idea. So the pseudonymous - including an unknown number of sockpuppets who are not really different people at all - are skewing the dialogue in what is for me a very important way. And they pay no reputation price for this. And I pay a reputation price for even mentioning this.

I think Hickman's foolish to write the way he does here - but I also think that others (pseudonymous or not) have played into his hand and helped him to once cast dissenters in an unfavourable light. You may say he would have done that anyway. But if your approach was truly scientific you would have acted differently, run the experiment and found out the answer. Pseudonymity doesn't help with the discipline and self-control required, to put it mildly.

I reiterate that I don't have a problem with the individual choice to write pseudonymously. My issues are with the resulting culture. I don't expect instant change on this, any more that in the climate debate - on which Rhoda Klapp makes some good points by the way. I'm with Barry Wood all the same.

Mar 29, 2012 at 3:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

SkS out, BH in. :D

Mar 29, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Registered CommentersHx

OK Mac, you started it.............

There once was a doctor called Dick
Who fell for the Mannian trick
To hide the decline
He Betts on a crime
That produces a hockey stick

Apologies to RB - please feel free to retaliate.

Mar 29, 2012 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Didn't notice Leo at Lindzen's HoC presentation. Perhaps his idea of "outreach" by scientists only works one way?

Mar 29, 2012 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip R

There once was a scientist called Tasmin,
a confessed green-minded woman.
Who thought deniers were fools
but realises sceptics are cool;
with alarmists now doing their heads in

Mar 29, 2012 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I'm not sure, just on this sample of comments, that you see how this moderate sceptic blog can come across. It seems entirely natural that Hickman might refer to it - I thought he was quite polite.

Richard Drake proposes some credit to Hickman for writing on this in the Guardian, and is told that the only language these warmists and smug hacks understand is the point of a gun, or suchlike.

Take a look at Tamsin Edwards' latest post titled, appropriately, 'how to be engaging'!

Mar 29, 2012 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

Tamsin Edwards, "I went to an interesting conference session yesterday on communicating climate science, convened by Asher Minns (Tyndall Centre), Joe Smith (Open University), and Lorraine Whitmarsh (Cardiff University). "

A climate communicator named Joe,
met a fellow called Roger so-and-so.
With pots of money from UEA,
they held climate seminars at the BBC.
All above board don't you know!

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Thanks for the mention Roddy.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

If Leo Hickman has any scientific education, he must understand that a so-called scientific discipline which insists on claiming that the Earth's surface, on average, emits IR at the rate for a black body in a vacuum, plus convection and evaporation, is a pseudo-science.

And the justification it claims for this lunatic science is that it has seriously misinterpreted the readings purported by pyrgeometrs. This is a basic error of experimental analysis that no professional should ever have made.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

No worries. Here's the link direct

It's extremely good. We can all learn from Tamsin's style.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

I'm sorry Roddy but this is a fight to the finish. No quarter given. No prisoners. There will be casualties. Leo Hickman is the enemy, he deserves a good verbal lambast.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Are the last two comments (not mine) parodies? :)

Apropos of nothing I had a polite exchange with Michael Mann on Twitter - I suggested he should redact the names of people from whom he received crazy emails before publishing them (the example he posted was in fact very funny, you couldn't blame him) as an act of charity, and he said 'good point, will do in future'.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

Hengist shows his true colours at the Guardian:

"But how do these *skeptics* answer their own critics ? Andrew Montford has blocked my IP from seeing his blog. He believes in scrutiny of arguments he opposes but not of those arguments he favours. Scientists at the Met Office have a job to do, they should get on with that rather than entertaining pseudoscience crackpots"


Rather oddly Hengist is one of the very few people actually on topic!!!

No one seems too mention much the actual article.

I was following Hengist on twitter,but I have blocked now him, as I felt he crossed the twitter informal chat line (and wrote a blog post about me) then tweeting about it.. Not what I want from twitter, getting to know people, not 'fight' them..

I'm surprised ANdrew put up with his trolling for so long - saying the host lies (on a private individuals blog ) is good reason to get thrown out of my 'house' or blog.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

@Roddy - " It seems entirely natural that Hickman might refer to it - I thought he was quite polite."

I don't think it was a particularly polite article. But more to the point, if it was 'polite', it was so, only in the same way that uber-wealthy environmentalists complain about over-consumption are 'polite'. There's a bit more to it than him deciding one day to say 'I think we should all talk about this like grown-ups'. I find that not simply a bit hypocritical, it's also phenomenally condescending, which I find a bit... rude.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Are we engaged with anybody on the warmist side who does not agree with the position that consensus counts? Is there anyone there who thinks we can wait for the answers? Is it not the case that those on the other side who introduce such concepts are ejected with prejudice? I'm thinking of Landsea or Curry, but perhaps I am not aware of others who are expressing doubts about the certainty? Are there any? Only too willing to change my own prejudices if they are shown to be wrong, and quite happy to see the Bish engage with the other side. I wish these efforts well. But I don't expect success.

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Fair enough, I've had minimal interaction with him, so can't comment.

How about being a bit more duplicitous, and pretend you find it not rude, as that might encourage him to do more along those lines? What's that quote about Heaven rejoicing over one sinner that repenteth? :)

Mar 29, 2012 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

Whilst I don't discount the possibility that invitation from the Met Office to the Bishop was a cynical ploy to discover how they could better angle their message, I believe it was worthwhile.

Scepticism has come a long way over the last few years. Most scientifically aware sceptics now accept that CO2 can warm the atmosphere, that the increase in CO2 is sufficient to increase temperatures and that most of the increase in CO2 is due to human activities. The debate is now over is not over global warming, per se, but how much. Given the stasis in global temperatures I suspect that many ‘warmists’ are wondering if they may have overestimated the degree of warming. They might even be looking for an exit strategy.

It is possible that the recent Horizon programme was an attempt to keep climate change alive in the face of the last decade’s temperatures. It’s probably a coincidence but the BBC programme, a posting on RealClimate and a new document released by the IPCC on Extreme Events and Disasters all deal with the same theme; it’s not the warming that matters it’s the floods and droughts and tornadoes and a few more of the biblical (sorry to trespass on your domain, your Grace) plagues.

Mar 29, 2012 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon

I agree with with Richard D and Barry and Roddy. I can see very little to object to in Hickman's article. It's mostly a factual account of what happened, plus substantial quotes from Andrew and Richard B. And it even mentions HSI! Yet some of the responses here come across as angry and irrational.

Mar 29, 2012 at 6:34 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

@Ron "It’s probably a coincidence but the BBC programme, a posting on RealClimate and a new document released by the IPCC on Extreme Events and Disasters all deal with the same theme"

Guess what the latest playbook is advocating ...


Mar 29, 2012 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterpointman

Paul Matthews, what angry responses? What irrationality? Serious question, not a gotcha, I just can't see it.

Mar 29, 2012 at 6:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

@Roddy - 'What's that quote about Heaven rejoicing over one sinner that repenteth?'

He's not repenting. That's the point. There's no self-reflection about his sudden-found faith in dialogue; indeed, he's not even changed his tune, framing the putative debate in terms of 'scientists' vs people who are 'hostile to climate science'. ANd this, only days after he's written innuendo about a possible funder of the GWPF, etc. As such, then, he's not really calling for 'debate', or discussion; he's just putting a caveat on who is allowed to speak.

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

I'm sure you're right, I'm sure you have had a lot more to do with him - I didn't mean he had repented, I meant that it would be good if he did, the heavens would be pleased.

I read that innuendo, he also linked today to a reasonable carbon brief article on Hintze/GWPF on Twitter, and we agreed that Hintze's GWPF motive was certainly libertarian rather than directly self-interested rich Tory.

btw your Gleick piece on Spiked was a blast, brilliant.

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoddy Campbell

Roger Longstaff, Mac,

"I present you with a simple choice! Either die in the vacuum of space, or..... tell me how good you thought my poem was!"

"Actually I quite liked it"

"Oh good....."

"Oh yes, I thought some of the metaphysical imagery was really particularly effective"

"Yes, do continue..."

"Oh.... and er.... interesting rhythmic devices too, which seemed to counterpoint"

"....counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of the ... er.... "

"...humanity of the...."


"Ah, yes, Vogonity (sorry!) of the poet's compassionate soul, which contrives through the medium of the verse structure to sublimate this, transcend that, and come to terms with the fundamental dichotomies of the other, and one is left with a profound and vivid insight into ... into ... er ...."

"...into whatever it was the poem was about!"

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Betts

This is who we're dealing with:"

The document entitled "2012 Climate Strategy" (pdf) is also already getting lots of attention. It shows that Heartland will "increase climate project fundraising" by "pursuing additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation" who "returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000". It adds: "Other contributions will be pursued for this [climate] work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies." The funding of climate sceptic thinktanks in the US by corporate vested interests such as the Koch brothers has almost become a cliché, but here we have cast-iron proof of its influence, intent and extent.

Perhaps more unsettling is the document's revelation that Heartland is actively developing a "Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms":

Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. To counter this we are considering launching an effort to develop alternative materials for K-12 classrooms. We are pursuing a proposal from Dr. David Wojick to produce a global warming curriculum for K-12 schools. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science. We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $100,000 for 20 modules in 2012, with funding pledged by the Anonymous Donor.

The co-ordinated effort to undermine the teaching of climate science in US classrooms has been noted before, but this still takes the breath away. Let's just repeat that sentence so it can be fully digested: "His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain - two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science." "

Still no retraction from Leo the conciliator, no admittance that his article was based on document written by an alarmist in an attempt to blacken those who, quite rightly, challenge the flimsy science being put forward as evidence that humans are going to destroy the earth. Just because he's softened his stance to show the reasonableness of the Met Office, in talking to the evil deniers, doesn't mean he's looking for a truce, he's not, he isn't a scientist, or an engineer, he's a green journalist who is infected with the mass hysteria that swept the world in the late 20th century, he has been uncompromising in his attacks on deniers, and has no empathy with the scientific challenges to the hysteria. And clearly he hasn't retracted [snip - too strong] told about Heartland in his article, so why would anyone welcome his intervention in the BH, Met Office meeting.

I don't think Leo is a very nice person, certainly not one I'd trust, nor is he a player in all this, he's a follower who wants to stifle criticism of the alarmist meme.

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Oh freddled gruntbuggly thy micturations are to me
As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
Groop I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes.
And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don't!

How is that for Vogonity?

Mar 29, 2012 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Think of Leo’s position. He was hired by the Graun as their Green Agony Aunt (Ben Pile’s description) on the strength of “Will Jellyfish Rule the World?”(“Hickman informs but never patronises his young readers on everything they'd need to know about carbon emissions, the Greenhouse Effect, melting ice caps, and much, much more.”- The Bookbag).
Now, as CAGW falls apart about his ears, he’s left holding the baby. Carrington is incapable of reading a graph. Vidal is swanning round the third world interviewing peasants in Rio. Monbiot has sworn to leave climate alone and has gone back to simpler subjects like banker-culling and badger-baiting. Goldenberg’s journalistic career is probably over after her performance over Gleick and Heartland.
I’ve lost more than one life at CiF from being rude to Leo. He wants to be nice. Let’s see how it plays out.
Perhaps it’ll give him a subject for another book - Saying Sorry isn’t Easy - even for Jellyfish.

Mar 29, 2012 at 8:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Mac, Richard,

What are you guys smoking, and where can I get some?

Mar 29, 2012 at 8:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Mac, I lost my Vogonity many years ago and have made no attempt to find it again. I suggest you do the same.

Mar 29, 2012 at 8:12 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

@Roger. Well, it certainly isn't a peace pipe and good for them. LOL.


Mar 29, 2012 at 8:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterpointman

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