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« Murdoch, media and the climate | Main | Quote of the day »

Another CSA moves on 

Hot on the heels of the announcement that Sir John Beddington is stepping down as government chief scientific adviser comes the news that Bob Watson is to depart from the CSA role at DEFRA.

His replacement is Professor Ian Boyd, who researches mammals at St Andrews and appears to be, well, a scientist rather than an activist.

This looks like some welcome depoliticisation of the top echelons of the scientific civil service to me.

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Reader Comments (33)

Two bad beards gone! Hoo - effin - Ray!

Sorry, that was childish.....

Apr 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

"Bad Beards" - fantastic.

Apr 24, 2012 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

clearing the stables?

Apr 24, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

I wrote to Caroline Spelman in June 2010 asking her to get rid of Watson. I got no reply. This action is a case of better late than never. Here are extracts from my letter.

Appearing on the BBC Panorama programme “What’s up with the weather?” on 28th June was Robert Watson, DEFRA Chief Scientific Adviser. I was frankly appalled by his statement that "We cannot explain the observed changes in the climate due to natural phenomena, therefore it's almost certain that we humans are changing the earth's climate". Such an Argument of Ignorance as used by Watson has no place in science.
Watson has been Chief Scientific Adviser since 2007 and so he has been in a position of great influence where he could have ensured that the Government carried out research into all possible natural phenomena affecting the climate. That he has not done so but is reliant on the Argument of Ignorance means that he has failed properly to carry out his duties as adviser and should be removed from his position as DEFRA Chief Scientific Adviser.
As Secretary of State, I urge you to use your position to remove Watson from his post and obtain a new adviser to DEFRA; a scientist with an open mind who is interested in the pursuit of knowledge, not promoting ignorance.

Apr 24, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Could one dare hope there is writing on the wall whispering abandon hype all ye who have entered here?
          with a
p.s. Seek cover! (aka hide).

Apr 24, 2012 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

My unpublished monograph entitled " The Role of the Bad Beard in Politically Active Climate Science" (Savage, Cutt, Mrs.Savage et al.2012) is presently undergoing beard review.

Bound in hand tooled polar bear hide , It is lavishly illustrated with full-colour art plates of Gleick, Mann, Schmidt, Serezze, Richard Black, the young Wm Connolley , Suzanne Goldenberg and countless others so it is not for the faint of heart.

Apr 24, 2012 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

They can leave with their heads hung low.

Apr 24, 2012 at 11:57 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Hmm, top end Civil Servants have smelt the Shale and are clearing decks for a new dash for gas.
Wonder when they'll tell the politicians :D:D

Apr 24, 2012 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandy

It has just occurred to me that we sceptics severely risk becoming popular!

What a conundrum. Do we then reject the "consensus", that we were right?

We've already seen the sport of warmist bating go the way of dodo cooking as the only dodos/warmists that are left are stuck behind bars getting fat for the entertainment of the crowds.

What happens when the crowd want to superglue us to a pedestal and pretend they wanted to put us there all along?

Apr 24, 2012 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

Great news, well spotted Bish. Roger Carr asks the important question:

Could one dare hope there is writing on the wall whispering abandon hype all ye who have entered here?

One has to allow for the possibility that our coalition government may just be boxing smart in not confronting the global warming science-policy nexus head on before first removing its most egregious acolytes. And Watson didn't have a bit part in the story. Here's Ian Castles on Collide-a-Scape in June 2010, six weeks before the great Australian economist died:

On 20 November 2000, some weeks before the launch of the WGI report of AR3 and presumably with knowledge of its contents, the Chair of the IPCC, Dr Robert Watson, told the 6th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC that it was ‘undisputed that the two last decades has (sic) been the warmest this century, indeed the warmest for the last 1000 years.” It’s reasonable to conclude that the IPCC “powers-that-be” had already decided to give this unqualified assertion and its graphic representation a central place in its promotion of AR3.

So a crucial cheerleader for the illusion that was the hockey stick. Two years later, in 2002, his reward was to be mixing with the Hollywood glitterati in the company of Stephen Schneider, as this hilarious picture and story show. John Shade's "They can leave with their heads hung low" is right.

Apr 24, 2012 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Mike Haseler: I believe dodos are now all behind glass, Mike, not bars, therefore to compare them to warmists... Ah! Yes, of course...

Apr 24, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

@Mike Haseler

Once the tide has turned we will have to try and make sure that the environmental baby is not thrown out with the climate catastrophe bathwater. They will be a huge danger that all concern for the environment will be tarred with the same brush in the backlash.

Not something anyone here would like, I am sure.

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Sixpence says one or both of them will be in the House of Lords within a year.

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Don't expect an outbreak of common sense at government level any time soon...

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid


It will be Lord John, Lord Bob and Sir Ian. A pound to a penny

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@ Jack Savage

"@Mike Haseler

Once the tide has turned we will have to try and make sure that the environmental baby is not thrown out with the climate catastrophe bathwater. They will be a huge danger that all concern for the environment will be tarred with the same brush in the backlash.

Not something anyone here would like, I am sure.

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:02 PM | Jack Savage


How right you are Jack. This is by far the biggest possible danger and fallout from "alarmism".

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

@Philip Bratby

As Secretary of State, I urge you to use your position..

You consistently make excellent points, so please don't let your grammar undermine them.

You are not Secretary of State -- she is.

You must write "As you are Secretary of State, I urge you to use your position.."

Apr 24, 2012 at 1:47 PM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

"I urge you to use your position.." would have done. I'm sure she knew what it was. :-)

Apr 24, 2012 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

James P -
Seated, surely, when reading her mail. ;-)

Apr 24, 2012 at 2:52 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

"Another CSA moves on"

How many have we got?

How many do we want?

Apr 24, 2012 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

No doubt that Watson will be rewarded on his departure with yet another gong to add to his collection.

Apr 24, 2012 at 3:48 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Watson turned up at the Guardian's public Climategate debate and started by breezily stating that it was all a storm in a teacup, nothing to see here, move along please. But was quickly forced to admit that he hadn't read them and was relying on what his chums at UEA had told him.

Had I had any respect for him initially it would have evaporated at that point. He clearly though that his 'status' and 'authority' would allow him to wing it. He had a rude awakening in front of a highly informed audience.

Banker! (sp)

Apr 24, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

I presume Watson is leaving to chair the new UN scaremongering outfit IPBES. Probably many more air miles available to exotic locations than provided by DEFRA.

Apr 24, 2012 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Could this be related to this interesting bit of news about a Green speech that David Cameron isn't going to make after all! I really hope so - I might even vote Tory next time if this is true!

Apr 24, 2012 at 4:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Bailey

David: the Tories want your vote and the sceptic vote generally, no doubt about that. But they want the warmist vote too, hence the facing two opposite directions. But I think they're realising the sceptic vote matters more, in terms of numbers and commitment to the issue, hency the general trend we've been seeing for a little while now.

That's a real-politik view. A more charitable view is that Steve Hilton really was convinced by sceptic arguments before jetting off to California and he persuaded Cameron and Osborne to think again, with Nigel Lawson's help. It's a principled move.

Take your choice: cynical or principled. Either way, the departures of Beddington and Watson are very good news.

Apr 24, 2012 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake


The Guardian audio didn't catch it (ref Watson saying he had only read a few emails.)

Audience member shouted out. 'do you often forget to do your homework'..
Big laugh from most people there..

Apr 24, 2012 at 5:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods


If politicians start doing things that the majority wish for, it will be a big step forward! I find most ordinary people have a gut feeling that AGW was hype! I'll vote for any party that will keep the lights on!

Apr 24, 2012 at 5:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Bailey

Mammals, eh? Did anyone mention Tim Flannery?

Apr 24, 2012 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDr K.A. Rodgers

James P and HaroldW, surely her position was missionary as she is clearly an evangelist for CAGW.

Apr 24, 2012 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRayG

David, it was always going to be a hard sell, given that most people, like you, are pretty keen for the lights to stay on. Then came Climategate, which convinced many ordinary voters there was something dodgy in the science. (They weren't wrong, as growing numbers of readers of HSI have found out.) Then came shale gas, promising both cheap energy and energy security, with a lower carbon footprint to boot, for the dwindling numbers caring. In this way so-called climate policy has become a monumentally hard sell in a democracy - which is why the EU has to be the main driver of it around here and some activists have proposed forms of totalitarianism to 'save the planet' from man himself. There'll still be a battle but the enlightened majority will I believe win out. Exciting days.

Apr 24, 2012 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Jack Savage sorry to late for that , the silence over the actions of 'the Team ' etc from those that should have acted as gatekeepers has probable condemn the lot . Once you abuse the peoples trust on such a scale and worse you seen very public to have done it , you little chance of getting it back .

Indeed I consider that is why some in science protect 'the cause ' , their like a gambler that has gone all in so they either win or lose the lot .

Apr 24, 2012 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

We at Farmers Weekly are going to take full credit for the Great Sir John's sudden departure. Although that's not quite fair: I blame many of you lot who went over to his article on the Farmers Weely webpage , and blew his arguments out of the water!

Good work.

Apr 25, 2012 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Flindt

Billy Liar: re IPBES and Watson, I fear you may be right.

Watson is Al Gore's favourite scientist, (after Hansen), having worked for him in the White House in charge of the "Mission to Planet Earth." and he was upset at Watson being replaced by Pachauri as head of IPCC. Founder of the Tyndall Centre, Mike Hulme, supported Pachauri, because he had secured support from Pacahuri's Teri organisation for his new Social Studies and Climate Centre. (It's in the e-mails).

Gore was visiting Gordon Brown and selling his Inconvenient Truth around the country, only a couple of months before Watson got his jobs at Defra and Tyndall. Presumably Watson will still be Director of Strategy at Tyndall?

Apr 26, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

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