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« Scaring the proles | Main | Me and Richard B in the Guardian »

Reactions to Leo

A couple of Richard Betts' Twitter exchanges in response to Leo Hickman's article on climatologists talking to sceptics are interesting. Firstly this one with paleoclimatologist Kevin Anchukaitis, who tweets as ThirstyGecko.

Anchukaitis: Hopefully the Met Office had actual paleoclimatologists on hand for their 'conversation' with these folks?

Betts: Yes, Martin Juckes and Tamsin Edwards. Jonty Rougier also joined us.

Anchukaitis: I was thinking more along the lines of the people that develop the actual data

Betts: Apart from the obvious question of distance, would you have come?

Anchukaitis: Sure, not for the skeptics, but rather the statisticians ;) That is, always better to have both sides of the field there

Betts: Martin did a pretty good job!

Anchukaitis: I'm certain he did! My point is, always good to have the people that developed the data in the room too.

And then this one with Gareth Jones, who I think may be Met Office.

Jones: We had 2 interesting speakers this week @ed_hawkins and Alan Robock. Nice to hear scientists and not chartered accountants views on science.

Betts: Sure, but you could have explained to the chartered accountant why you disagreed - I think he rarely gets this!

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Reader Comments (131)

he blocks me...

Mar 30, 2012 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Gareth Jones has an attitude problem..

How many people in the UK with science degres and Phd's

How many are at work in academia...
How many are are work in the wider world, industry, business, develping products, etc

Science is not all in the universities..

Scientists seem to forget this, and prech to a dumb public with an o level in geography..

In IT, I've had teams with PhD's that you can stake a stick at cross diciplinary, and including a number of genuine rocket scientists.

I imagine practicing geologists that work in mining, oil, etc may feel that those that satyed in acadmia are the guys that couldn't cut it in the real world. and are behind the times...

I see that 'accelerated' IPCC global warming graph and see a sales tool. And instantly distrustthose that produced it.. The sort of graph that business/industry/finance profesional see all the time, and are deeply cysnical about.. I'm stunned that Tamsin, when I asked her about it, thought it was OK..

Paul Matthews explained why...

Mar 30, 2012 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Good answers Richard in both cases. Reading between lines in tweets is a dark art but this phrase

Sure, not for the skeptics, but rather the statisticians ;)

suggests that one statistician's agreement with Andrew over HSI didn't go unnoticed. But a statistician (or at least one internal to the Met Office) is I see quite distinct from a sceptic.

And what say such a statistician agrees with a sceptic who is also a chartered accountant? The mind boggles - matter meets anti-matter is the nearest analogy I can find to describe the catastrophe that would ensue, according to all the rules of science. But by all accounts it happened.

Mar 30, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Climate scientists behaving true to form.

Can you trust any of them?

Mar 30, 2012 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Jones is right that it is always nice to hear a scientist's views on science but only provided (a) he actually knows what he's talking about, and (b) he doesn't assume that chartered accountants (or retired journalists) are not entitled to an opinion.
Those of us not blessed with degrees in physics, chemistry, or engineering have to work twice (only twice?) as hard to understand but that doesn't mean we're stupid though I have met a large number of scientists who assume we are and start from the basis that there's no point in trying to answer our pathetic questions because we wouldn't understand.

Barry, I agree with you 100% about the graph. I've been on the receiving end and the supplying end of them often enough. Cynicism is the right approach!

Mar 30, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Part of Gareth Jones duties at the Met Office,"involves responding to queries about general climate issues, particularly so called "skeptical" or "contrarian" arguments and views." I kid ye not.

By his comments it is clear that Jones is not a fit person to carry out such a duty, or is this the Met Office just making a token effort and in doing so pissing everyone off?

It would appear the Met Office attempts at dialogue with sceptics are bogus.

Back to the trenches folks, the enemy have shown their true colours again by bursting the ball.

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Barry, I have to say I hadn't thought much about the trend acceleration plot when you asked me but did note it as something to look at again. Can you send me the link again please?

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

there seems to be a level of entrenched ignorance amonst the climate scientists - for example, the sneer at chartered accountants. I can only presume that the moron who made this sneer - Gareth Jones - is unaware that most chartered accountants have at least one university degree, which may be in a scientific subject. In fact, I have known chartered accountants with PhDs in Physics, Chemistry, Biology. Maybe Gareth Jones should interact with reality a little more often.

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I was once told that Vicky Pope pulled out of a debate about climate science because she said she doesnt debate 'contrarians.' Anyone have any more info?

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterContrarian

The thing is that we have a sneering and dismissive Met Office scientist in Gareth Jones whose job it is to respond to sceptical arguements. You can't do that without a proper dialogue with sceptics.

This also raises the question why did the Met Office give Jones this type of duty when it must have been pretty obvious to all and sundry what his response would be to sceptics.

On the matter of trust this is an O.G. for Richard Betts and the Met Office.

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Tamsin - the accelereat trend lines were put onto it.. AFTER the IPCC scientists had reviewed a different graph..

Can't you see wht is wrong with it, for yourself just by taking a critical look at it...

Clue - IF OK to put 25 year trend lines on it - Where are the OTHER ones...

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Maybe we should tell the Met Office to go *%$£ themselves, because that seems to be indicative of their private responses to sceptics.

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Reader of Mathematics - Paul Matthews thoughts...

Anybody that has very seen an sort of business graph will recognise the types of sales tricks....

oh look, it is also anomlay graph, strectched Y-axis. attempting to make somethink look big, out of what is effectively noise- 0.8C trend (even that was criticised) over a 100 plus years, of a very noisy signal..

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Gareth Jones - Tweet: "@richardabetts @ed_hawkins Reading @leohickman blog it is clear Montford thought he didn't get much disagreement. Waste of everyones time?"

Should we respond to the nice gentleman?

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Anchukaitis wanted said

'I was thinking more along the lines of the people that develop the actual data'

'Develop' the data? Surely the data isn't 'developed'. It could be collated, analysed, curated or studied. But not 'developed'. But maybe that's what they think needs to be done.

And I will spare Andrew's blushes by recounting that his first degree was in Chemistry from, I believe, St Andrews.

The thing to remember about Chemistry is that it is probably the most empirical of al the hard sciences. The experiment is everything, not the theory. And as a one-time Chemist myself that is why I find climatology such a big girl's blouse. Lots of theories and models and ideas...and an occasional partial differential equation to make it look good and 'sciency'.

But no actual practical work. No tests. No falsifiability. And a strong reluctance - with a lot of noisy but flimsy hand-waving arguments about how such things aren't possible/aren't desirable/are heretical/you are a Denier - to ever get invoved with anything so grubby as reality.

So if the choice is between the judgement of a Chartered Accountant with a degree in Chemistry, or a modelling jock with a degree in ecology studies, a taste for Fortran and no practical experience, I'll choose the accountant any day. Just like I'd take the Canadian statistician and maths whizz over the physics guy any time.

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Gareth Jones sounds like Peterson of Public Relations.

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:55 PM | Registered CommenterDreadnought

There was a doctor called Betts,
who thought he could persuade sceptics.
His colleagues just frowned,
Richard was clowning around.
They said, "don't talk just throw bricks"

Mar 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac


Could you calm down please.

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Hi Latimer - my first degree was Applied Chemistry, My MSc System Engineering (cybernetic) - thesis computer modelling.... I also spent quite a few years dealing with thermometer (electronic and otherwise) inc in industry.

accelereated global warming..

by 'Reader' (prof) Paul Matthews

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

BH did Gareth Jones introduce himself as the Met Office's one-man rebuttal team with regard scepticism? I mean, politeness demands an introduction.

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

...make that another Chemist. And I'm an Organic Chemist too [i.e. a 'Carbon chemist'].

But apparently my thoughts about carbon in the atmosphere, the oceans and the lithosphere are not worth the paper my PhD was written on. And all because I never chose to call myself a "climate scientist".

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

irony in - Gareth Jones bio:

"being part of a team examining the possible reasons for the lack of substantial warming for the 10 years after 1998"

NOT the impression you get from Met Office press Release, is it!!!

ie when i saythinhs like that publically, greenpeace style activist pile on with 'denier' ....

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Thank you Latimer, I had a memory that Andrew has a chemistry degree, and you've confirmed it. I have always thought that the type of people who 'dumb down' their speech so that the plebs can understand it are patronising, and often wrong. In my local town I frequently meet people from widely distributed backgrounds and levels of education that can debate on very complex issues. I also remember an suprisingly interesting conversation with the last-but-one Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle who turned out to have had an Oxbridge first in Chemistry.

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Mac, as well as calming down (a sentiment I fully endorse) lumping Betts together with Jones is a clanger of the first order from my reading of the twitter evidence. Once again the Bishop Hill comment view of very sensitive interrelations of real, named people - Montford, Betts and Jones for starters - are contaminated by cocksure, simplistic insults from someone risking nothing in the reputation stakes. The Met Office isn't the enemy. Untruth in all its forms is.

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

@michael hart

'But apparently my thoughts about carbon in the atmosphere, the oceans and the lithosphere are not worth the paper my PhD was written on. And all because I never chose to call myself a "climate scientist".'

Given that there doesn't appear to be any universally agreed upon qualification to be climatologits. I have often wondered exactly what it is that distinguishes One of the Chosen, whose views are to be respected and heard, from the Rest..who are completely incapable of understanding anything and must be schooled in the Right Path by rote for The Chosen.

Is there n reality a Secret Guild of Water Rats, Polar Bears and Climate Scientists who gather every second Friday in the Masonic Hall to practice their cryptic hand (or paw) shakes and roll up their trouser legs in imitation of the expected paddling that we all have to do?

Or is it a more subtle form of member ship. An elder taps you discreetly on the shoulder and says something like

'The Team have viewed your doings with favour young Alder, and you have been blessed with their patronage. Present yourself at the gates of UEA at 8pm next Thursday, and you will learn something to your advantage. The Passcode is 'Hockey Stick'.

So if a young guy dreamed of becoming a real climatologist (poor bastard), how would he go about it?

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

So, whence comes this concept that you can't explain something or answer a question from someone if the questioner is not one of the anointed? Or indeed if he uses a pseudonym for any of a number of valid reasons. If I had some radical observation about back radiation or negative feeedback, what is the problem with dealing with the text rather than trying to disqualify me becuase I am a..whatever, just not a qualified climate scientist? As it is, I usually ask questions. Soemtimes ones I think I know the answer to, sometimes not. In the issue of engagement with the Met, my questions are :

Do they stick to the idea of consensus as a reason to support a theory?

Do they admit uncertainty in any of their assertions?

Not too much to ask, is it? They don't need to know if I use a pseudonym or that I have a relevant degree to answer, do they?

In the case of modelling, I never got final answers to 'So they publish every result?' or 'Has anybody modelled a small area against observation and got a good model?'

Not too much to ask, is it?

(Yes, I understand that nobody is required to answer questions just because they are asked.)

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

These stupid cosmologists just don't get how proper science is done:

So essentially these losers have decided Einstein's postulations have been borne out by making actual measurements against predictions. FFS, what planet are these guys on? Everyone knows that measurement data are meaningless and that what they should have done was model the distance they were "measuring" and fit the data to the frickin' model!

Jeeez!! This totally vindicates the decision to exclude these bozos from the count that time we polled 3,000 scientists about CAGW and processed 2,923 of them out for being irrelevant buffoons. how these idiots ever reach a consensus on anything I have no idea.

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Can I just add that Richard Betts and Tamsin being here, no matter what their personal motivations, or the motivations of their employers or supporters, is a very good thing for this blog, and anything we can do make them stay / help others come should be done - even if it does mean curtailing the "high-spirits" that happen on the discussions from time to time.

At the same time, current and would-be climate scientists here have to respect that we have to rail slightly against the totalitarian "snip all who defy" regimes that ruin and discredit other blogs. If one or two commentators get a bit out of hand, I think the mods and other commentators here do pull them up for it and do a good job at maintaining a mix of civility and free speech.

We don't speak 'as one' here - if someone says something stupid or rude, then because we don't clutter the thread with multiple refutations and chastisements doesn't mean we agree with them! This seems to be a common mistake.. on both 'sides'... we try a conversational gambit, some loony responds.. so we assume tacit group-agreement, and write the whole argument off as manned by swivel-eyed loons.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Rhoda, it all depends if you view science as a human activity. If it is, real names, and the reputations that come with them, greatly help. As for the wider debate, not least the tensions between confrontation and conciliation as we try to roll back some policy directions disastrous to the world's poorest I'd say the human element is paramount. Once again real names help a great deal as we seek agreement with real people in other camps with whom we need to form alliances - over the EU policy of biofuels, for example, where James Lovelock and many others are strongly on our side, if only we can make effective links.

It's fine if people cannot take the pressure of using their real name - but if they choose to cause division between real people forming tentative alliances it's a very different matter. Nobody's saying this area is trivial to summarise but these are some of the factors I think you should take into account.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


Well it would appear that Richard Betts is doing Gareth Jones job for him in trying to create a dialogue with sceptics in order to formulate an informal response within the Met Office.

If someone who represents a body such as the Met Office is tasked to, "responding to queries about general climate issues, particularly so called "skeptical" or "contrarian" arguments and views", counters by saying meeting and having a diaglogue with sceptics is a "waste of everyone's time" then that must represent the official view of the Met Office, and people like Betts must know this.

So who is Richard Betts trying to convince that diaglogue with sceptics is the right thing to do? It can't be us, we are a walkover, so it must be his colleagues at the Met Office and beyond, and he must know now he is fighting a losing battle. These people can never be convinced. So the only people being fooled in this process are those sceptics who believe pursuing a dialogue on this basis is actually making a difference. It is not.

In reality if the Met Office wanted to pursue a truthful and meaningful debate with sceptics then someone like Gareth Jones would have not been tasked with this repsonsibility. I am in no doubt that removing Gareth Jones would undoubtly improve matters, but could you honestly see the Met Office giving up one of their own to us?

I have no doubt Richard Betts means well but when push comes to shove he will side with the likes of Gareth Jones. He has to. On that basis they all should be treated in the same manner.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Mac, please take this the right way but the implication of my previous post is that there are limits to which your opinion should be taken seriously by the rest of us on this - unless and until, like Richard Betts and Gareth Jones, whom you see fit to judge, you emerge from pseudonymity. I'm using you as an example. You may have spotted that I could have chosen others.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


Are RB and TE really listening to what we have to say, and how well we may say it? Or are they trying to reframe the debate on their terms, not ours, by using contact to pull us one-by-one over? Do they think we can be won over by a few postings and show in the process to their masters how it is done?

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Mac, that's a very naive view of how organisations work. They never have, and never do, speak with a single voice on any issue, ESPECIALLY when there's internal conflict or they are trying to change tack but keep their existing stakeholders happy. The Met office have to play all balls.

Expecting the Met office to suddenly 'side with skeptics' is as ludicrous as expecting Nuremburg style trials for the Team. Aint gonna happen! But slowly slowly....

And even if RB is 'wasting his time' here, as you imply, surely he is as welcome here for his personal views, and not just as a tool for us to change the establishment. They way you're speaking, we should beat him up, just because we can't make him change the Met office overnight.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


I will not bow to Monbiot-like arguements on anonymity.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Mac, I've emailed Richard Betts briefly a few times, and my gut feeling is that he's genuinely trying to engage. I have no opinion on whether this is on behalf of, or sponsored by his employer, I don't really care. We'll win this one heart and mind at a time, not by demanding corporate u-turns.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Barry Woods said:

Scientists seem to forget this, and preach to a dumb public with an O level in geography..

I must be one of the very rare people with 2 O-levels in Geography.

Does that get me above the dumb public level?

P.S. For someone who sees fit to insult most of the UK population, it would be wise to try proof reading your posts - I don't think I've ever read anything from you that wasn't full of grammatical and spelling errors - did you get an O-level in English Language? (N.B. Even the snippet I quoted above had to be corrected).

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:42 PM | Registered Commentersteve ta


I have no doubts that RB posting here is damaging his professional reputation. He is taking risks. But I do express doubts about what he is trying to achieve. I doubt he can be an honest broker, he simply can't.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Richard Drake,
I'm not so certain that anonymity diminishes the weight of a comment here. I offer my own case. My name is meaningless. I'm retired, and before that, spent my career in the sticks and stones industry (construction). So if there is to be any value in one of my comments, it has to be intrinsic.

I submit that MDGNN's repetitive assertions inserted in threads where they are not pertinent are annoying, but not because of his anonymity, which maybe isn't. Is there a culture out there where someone could have a name like this?

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:44 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

I don't believe RB is damaging his reputation, except amongst those who wish they could do it, or are so far gone off the scale that their approval will historically be irrelevant. Why are you trying to discourage others?

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

jferguson: it's not any old comment I'm talking about but one that seeks to influence others on the reputations of those without the same protection, especially in a simplistic, intemperate way likely to cause unnecessary division. The question of what constitutes a 'real name' is a different matter. Some quick connection to how you're known in the room with the big blue ceiling helps (as old computer nerds used to characterise the 'real world'.) If you for example use jferguson for all your public comments online - and others know you by something very similar - I think that's pretty much there.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Mar 30, 2012 at 1:54 PM | Justice4Rinka

The alarmists have made a pact with the devil and only time will reveal how well they can carry that burden. They must avoid all talk of scientific method and they must educate the newer generation accordingly. Eventually, they will write Einstein out of history.

Mar 30, 2012 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Why are you trying to discourage others?

Very good question.

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake,
I guess I don't intentionally attack anyone. I'd like to think that I didn't understand them.

But then i can comment from a position of incredible strength. I know I don't know much.

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:02 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson


Mar 30, 2012 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Ithink you misunderstand me..

Ie the look down from an ivory tower..

As someone with an O level with geography, I can laugh when Ed Miiliband appears in a video in Bangladesh, talking about climste change..

She he starts with, I'm standing on a sandbank......

Which is according to him going to be flooded dye to climate change..

When O level says. Hang about, he us standing on a sandbank, in a huge river delta, where the population has tripled in 50 years. And Bangladesh is increasing its landmass.

Geography O level was good, I imagine gcse is full of agw nonsense now, with little thinking allowed.

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

typing on a smartphone in bright sunlight.. typos!!

Ed Milliband (supporting the 10:10 campaign! ) in Bangladesh..(just prior to Copenhagen)

"I'm visiting a sandbank....... "

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Does having a science degree automatically prevent one from being a complete idiot?

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

Martin Juckes has some history at ClimateAudit. The saga starts on Oct 26, 2006, at

Things get rather heated through early November 2006. An interesting trip down memory lane - who could ever forget such old-time favourites as

Potential Academic Misconduct by the Euro Team
The Juckes Omnibus
Juckes and 99.98% Significance

And plenty more.

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaleC

I hope Prof Betts and Ms Edwards continue to engage here and are given credit for that, and are in my opinion due a certain civility given that they are professionals publishing comments in their own names. Gareth Jones may be part of the same organisation but having worked in large corporates, the idea that everyone is part of the same team is a laugh.

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterC Gilbert

Enjoy :-)

Mar 30, 2012 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered

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