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Steve McIntyre at the GWPF - Cartoon notes by Josh


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    - Bishop Hill blog - Steve McIntyre at the GWPF - Cartoon notes by Josh

Reader Comments (32)

Let's note down the key points in text too. On the crops well done for capturing the 600% up since 1936 and the 6% down in the current drought (in Nebraska, which is typical). But in 1936 yields were down 80% (did I hear that right?) which was a genuine disaster. One of Steve's most simple but profound points was that extreme event does not automatically mean disaster. In Nebraska in 2012 it doesn't. In 1936 in the same place it did. In 2008 an Indian ocean cyclone caused devastation in Burma but not in Bangladesh, which took some basic precautionary measures, despite being a fairly poor country. Extreme events are something government can do something about - and of course dynamic private organisations and charities of genuine goodwill.

But there was so much here. I think it's true to say that I've never attended a talk on climate that was for me so helpful, so good. Lapogus has some reasonable criticisms on CA but they were all outweighed for me by the quality of Steve's research, his thinking and his good judgment.

Aug 16, 2012 at 9:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Josh can I have this on a poster it's brill!

Aug 16, 2012 at 9:27 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

Richard Drake, you did hear 80% right, though the numbers on his slide were more like 75% as far as I recall.

Aug 16, 2012 at 9:49 PM | Registered CommenterJonathan Jones

Lapogus has some reasonable criticisms on CA but they were all outweighed for me by the quality of Steve's research, his thinking and his good judgment.
Aug 16, 2012 at 9:25 PM | Richard Drake

Richard - I very rarely comment on CA, and haven't done on any recent thread, is someone else using my name?

Aug 16, 2012 at 10:23 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Mat, many thanks. I will add a link to a high res file on my site shortly. Or did you want a print? If so just email me.

Aug 16, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Registered CommenterJosh

Richard - okay, I think I have got it, you have got me mixed up with Latimer. -

Aug 16, 2012 at 10:47 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

@richard drake

I agree that Steve's content was excellent. He had some very cogent things to say and I enjoyed the meeting and the social evening immensely.

And if it had been a closed academic seminar the audio difficulties wouldn't have been a big problem. But it was a public meeting in SW1 with an 'international superstar' of the climate world.

Anyone attending who was not prediposed to Steve's message could be forgiven for leaving with the impression that the 'sceptical community' would 'have had difficulty in throwing a cocktail party in a brewery' And, rightly or wrongly, impressions like that do count.

Experience tells me that a big event like this needs somebody designated as the 'event manager', whose job it is to ensure the logistics get fixed smoothly and quickly. In the theatre they are called 'stage managers'. And IMO a meeting like yesterday is only 80% about the actual content. The remaining 20% is a dramatic performance. It fell short on the latter.

Aug 17, 2012 at 6:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

@Latimer Alder

I was also at SM's talk and agree that the content - not altogether surprising to readers of sceptic blogs - and his presentation was fine.

I also agree that the organisation was surprisingly poor. I've had doubts about the GWPF since its inception but I had thought that they'd be able to put on a reasonably competent presentation. As you imply, SM is a very significant figure over the past decade of climate science - but for his work and the reactions it provoked the "Climategate" emails would have been a lot less revealing - yet neither of the GWPF's most prominent figures - Nigel Lawson and Benny Peiser - was at the talk. We were told that this was unavoidable but, if to attend would have interfered with someone's holiday or other plans, an alternative date could have been found without I think defying the laws of logic.

Also, as you say, the audio system was appalling - mysterious clunks, abrupt volume changes and high-pitched feedback which must have alarmed dogs for miles around. Being generous to GWPF, perhaps it had been tested beforehand and then had suddenly malfunctioned as the presentation started but the caterwauling was allowed to continue throughout and no one from GWPF tried to do anything about it. Even asking whether someone in the audience might have been able to help would have been better than the pitiful failure to take responsibility.

I was left with the impression that the GWPF either couldn't be bothered to make proper arrangements or is incompetent. In either case they showed little respect for speaker or audience. It's depressing to think that they are the public face of scepticism towards AGW - or at any rate the policy response to it - in the UK.

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon Anthony

Latimer, Simon, I suggest that this is not such a bad thing. There is a wide-spread myth of a well organised, coordinated, lavishly funded sceptic network. We all know that there is no such thing, and the logistical problems you refer to help to make this point. In fact I think it's true that the sceptic community would have difficulty organising a party in a brewery!

The GWPF is indeed a bit of a shambles. For example, today, their site is back up after the hack, but there is no mention of Steve's talk!

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

All the weather conditions being blamed on global warming can be explained by the earth’s 23.4 degrees tilt on its axis. Because of the sun’s and the moon’s gravitational pulls on the earth, this tilt is not stable and fluctuates between aproximately 22 degrees to 24.5 degrees, in 41,000 year Milankovitch cycles, creating our seasons and other climate/weather phenomena including monsoon rains and tornadoes. As earth’s current axial tilt phase decreases, we are going to encounter another ice age in about 15,000 years time regardless of how much CO2 is in the atmosphere.

This is basic planetary science, so I cannot understand how climate scientists can continue to bang on the bogus AGW drum and blame CO2 for bad weather/climate catastrophy. When we look at the earth’s historical temperature record, it has been much warmer many times in the past so AGW theory cannot be correct.

Climate scientists would make more valuable contributions to society by studying how the earth’s orbit and tilt create everything from the jet stream to thermal columns to clouds, rather than continue their misguided demonizing of CO2. By better understanding these natural processes, we could possibly one day create technology sufficient to accurately predict the onset of climate/weather changes.

I agree that we need to look after our planet and cut down on pollution, but it boggles the mind how scientists can blame CO2 for AGW and believe that a tax on CO2 will do anything to change earth’s cyclical climate.

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon

I was at the lecture and found it very useful , though like Latimer Adler I felt that Steve McIntyre was rather let down by the lack of technical support as he struggled with an errant microphone and a constant feedback problem.

The one dissonance (apart from the microphone) was, in answering a question from the floor, his apparent acceptance of the alarmist view that anthropogenic carbon emissions were the main cause of recent warming, that there was a positive feedback loop from the inevitable increase in water vapour and that the consequences of ignoring this could lead to a "tipping point" and all its much heralded consequences.

He had just spent the previous hour demonstrating ,with wry humour, the sloppy practices and, on occasions, dishonesty of those who propound the alarmist position. Having waded through all that demolition work he turns round to say , in effect, that despite all their sins the likes of Mann and Hansen are fighting the right cause. Does it not occur to him that if these people indulge in grubby practices it is a consequence of adhering to a weak and increasingly unpersuasive hypothesis?

It could be that Steve McIntyre misunderstood the thrust of the question from the floor or that I misunderstood his answer. It could be that he is being canny and will not venture further than his undisputed expertise. He is, after all, putting himself forward as an able statistician not as a climate scientist. It just left me with the feeling that the trumpet was giving an uncertain sound at that point.

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Petch

David, if you read through all of the CA website you will not find a single reference from Steve where he dissagrees with the basic 'CO2 causes warming', we know it does because you can demostrate it in a bottle.

The question is whether this single point of knowledge,

1. Carries across into a earth like climate (our atmosphere is not in a bottle but open to space)

2. Is reinforced by higher water vapour and maginfied or is reduced by cloudcover.

Despite all the money flung at AGW I have yet to see this basic question answered with a proper experiment.

Steve takes the view that precaution should be taken until this is answered, based on the costs we are incurring I take the opposite.

Steve is an auditor supreme, if the Climate Scientists had listened to him earlier on they would now be in a much better postion to advise albeit with less certainty in the data.

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:36 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Steve is not the messiah of scepticism. I think we ought to be grateful for that. Steve would be a pretty good messiah for rigour. He insists on it from all sides. His efforts are all directed to this end and he still does not take sides in the ideological/political battle some of the rest of us think we are engaged in. He reminds me of a cloud condensation nucleus. Just going along, minding his own business in a rather over-steamy environment, and a load of molecules of an entirely different nature come along and form around him and drag him along with them on their own mission. How's that for a metaphor.

Oh, I went too. Seated near Latimer I could hear him muttering about the poor preparation. Turns out he and I learned presentation basics at the same multi-national corporation, same time, same building, never met. Or forgotten in the intervening thirty years. Steve's talk was as I expected in terms of delivery albeit on the subject of extremes which is not his usual territory. Afterwards at the pub I was pleased to chat with Latimer, Jonathan Jones, Richard Betts and others whose names I failed to catch, all equally appreciated. I don't know whether I will be able to be mean to Richard in future, such a nice chap.

I tried to explain to Jonathan that, in my visualisation, photons are tiny shotgun pellets, so why don't they carry on in roughly the same direction. It turns out that they are actually tiny boxes each containing a cat, and the cat determines where they go next. The engineer in me wonders why they don't put a little window in the box, but anyway, I'm now sure I have a grasp of radiative theory I didn't have before.

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda Klapp

"The engineer in me wonders why they don't put a little window in the box"

I think I've pulled a muscle from laughing!

Aug 17, 2012 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

I was there. And at the end of the session discovered that, by an odd coincidence, I was sitting next to Mike Post, with whom I’d been exchanging views on the “Wind: a zero-sum industry” thread only the previous afternoon.

SM is not a CAGW sceptic – although possibly an agnostic. Which, I suggest, greatly strengthens his hand. I believe he summarised his position at the end. Having noted that China’s GHG emissions will be double US emissions in 2012 (is this correct?), that the trend in US emissions over the past 20 years is negligible (now maybe close to 1990 levels), that Western policymakers are simply ignoring the real consequence of what’s happening in China (and India etc.) – namely that GHG emissions will not be curtailed – he observed that “we must hope the sceptics are right”. The truth, he said, is that nobody really knows what to do – although building resistance to extremes is one obvious action. Then, having noted that “acts of petty virtue” (great phrase) have no point, he suggested that another useful focus might be on developing/discovering Bill Gates’s “miracle technology” (i.e. viable energy without CO2 emission).

I agree that the presentation technology (the microphone, the microphone stand, the fact that SM had to wave his hand to change a slide …) was embarrassing – and a discourtesy to SM. Surely the GWPF can do better?

Aug 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier


WRT The Box

Maybe...or Perhaps Maybe Not?

Aug 17, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterERJA Schroedniger

NT: Schroedinger, I wonder whether quantum physicists don't curse the day you thought of that image, it has subjected them to so many attempts at humour over the years. So many that of all the ones which are springing into my brain right now, I am going to refrain from any of them. Perhaps.

Aug 17, 2012 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda Klapp

Steve was on his way to another conference and happened to be in London so the talk was, I understand, a fairly last minute idea (and which  is why Benny and Lord Lawson could not be there I imagine), plus I know Steve was in a rush yesterday so didn't get a chance to prep the room. 

And now I realise there were lots more folk  there I could have met yesterday! Sadly I had to be elsewhere afterwards. Next time, I hope.

Rhonda, quantum windows, what a lovely image. I wonder what the weather is like.

Aug 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM | Registered CommenterJosh

Josh - "I wonder what the weather is like.!

You won't know until you look, and then it will have changed!

Aug 17, 2012 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

There's a good report on Steve McInyre at the GWPF here

Aug 17, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterVftS

I've posted an account of the talk here, at El Reg:

It was nice to put some faces to names. (Or should that be the other way around?)

- Andrew

Aug 17, 2012 at 3:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Orlowski

Excellent write-up by Andrew Orlowski.

I was there too :-)

Aug 17, 2012 at 5:17 PM | Registered CommenterDR

Yes, thank you Andrew, excellent write up. I wasn't there, but now have a very good grasp of proceedings. Wonder what comments Richard Betts might have?

Aug 17, 2012 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad


It was great to meet you and all the others like Jonathan Jones, Richard Betts, Andrew Orlowksi and Rhoda

Next time perhaps we should have name badges? It might make conversation that little bit easier. Not that it was hard...the hubbub outside the pub was a testament to the liveliness of the discourse.

Aug 17, 2012 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

First, profuse apologies for getting lapogus and Latimer mixed up.

Second, I was going to make the point Josh has - that this was arranged very last minute. I checked with David Henderson before things started. Knowing this no doubt affected my assessment of what exactly the GWPF could, given fair warning, put on in a brewery. I remain immensely grateful that they did what they could to give this platform to the man. It was last minute and Steve came out with something of this breadth and depth and humanity. That really hit me.

I have thought much about the response to a question when Steve said that he tended to go more easy on politicians that make mistakes than some "because I too have made mistakes". It was quite something to think of all those present who hadn't :) But that answer convinced me even more than before that Steve has a very special place in this debate. Cometh the complex, multi-faceted global challenge, cometh the man.

Aug 17, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

I'm going to bang on about this one more time because I think it is important and then I'll shut up about it.

Both Richard and Josh say that the lecture was arranged 'at the last minute'.


I had a very nice confirmation e-mail from Benny on 8 August - over a week beforehand. This does not seem like 'last minute to me'. The meeting room exists, it is in the GWPF's home building and is available for external hire. It is fully equipped (according to the blurb) with full AV equipment and support.

IMO 'last minute' is no excuse for the poor quality sound throughout the two hour meeting. If it had been at ten minutes notice..perhaps. But not nearly ten days.

Why am I being such a curmudgeon and complaining about some problems that others were happy to ignore in the general and deserved praise for McSteve's appearance? Because not getting simple stuff right (and a bad sound system is simple stuff in today's world) only reinforces ideas that sceptics are just a bunch of amateurs. Paul Maynard argues that this is a good my mind it is potentially disastrous.

This was a public meeting and advertised as such. It is entirely possible that among the audience were those who were not well disposed to the sceptical case. One might observe that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is only about 1/4 mile away from Carlton House Terrace. And its not impossible that a senior guy from there might have just have decided to attend to see what was going on. They would not necessarily have been impressed. However good Steve's talk, it is IMO folly to allow little simple things to get in the way of anyone's full attention. You only get one chance to make a first impression.

This is emphatically not a criticism of Steve, who struggled manfully and patiently to overcome the difficulty. His pitch was thoughtful and thought-provoking. It deserved a better stage.

And that is that. The end.

Aug 17, 2012 at 7:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Latimer: I said at the top your criticisms were reasonable (through wrongly ascribing them!) I think if you pushed me I'd add to last minute 'holiday season' and the fact the senior man left in charge, the great Professor Henderson, has probably not made his name globally from event management :)

The one time David as chairman interjected to correct a questioner it was on the significant difference between the Club of Rome and the IPCC. This was totally in line with Steve's position and helped to set my own thinking on the history straight(er). This kind of thing was the meat and drink for me.

But I always felt you also had a point and a very important one. How do we self-organise much better? I think that's the right way to frame it. Technology can help more than it did on this occasion.

Aug 17, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

For about six years I attended Rotary meetings at a hotel with a built-in and supposedly state-of-the-art sound system. At a guess I would say that over that time our speakers needed to make use of this system around 150 times. Also at a guess I would reckon it functioned properly about 30 to 40!
I understand your concerns about this and fully agree with them but the abilities of inanimate objects to **** up mankind's life are legion. Don't be too hard on the GWPF.

Aug 17, 2012 at 10:57 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If the venue was at IMMM as on Steve's blog (Climate Audit) then the functioning of the facilities (audio etc) is not under the control of GWPF. Some seem to want to put the blame on the wrong party. Institutes are known to be slow to upgrade facilities. They have to spend their members funds wisely and many of the volunteer committee people have no expertise outside their field. At least they allowed GWPF to have this forum. They would not have got a hearing with the CAWG believers and incompetent leadership of Royal Society.

Aug 18, 2012 at 5:26 AM | Unregistered Commentercementafriend

@mike jackson

Check GWPF's address. 1 Carlton House Terrace. Check IMMM's address: 1 Carlton House Terrace. It was their home building..maybe they have an office share or something. It is a great venue, just about next door to the Royal Society and round the corner from the Institute of Directors. It is not a huge place. There is only one meeting room big enough to hold 120, and (if I recall correctly) there were some audio problems when I was last there two years ago also.

And with no disrespect to the Rotary Club, this was a slightly more important meeting than your local monthly lunch. It may be the only time that Steve McIntyre will be in UK again for an extended period. And one of the rare occasions for a get together for those probably of a more sceptical disposition.

I'm very familiar with the vagaries of electronic aids, having organised many similar meetings in the commercial world. And the key to it is to be test the kit beforehand, to react to things as they happen, to have a contingency plan, to have the right people with the right jobs at the right time. The ideal is that the logistics are seamless so that the audience doesn't even know they are there. They can concentrate on the show not the equipment.

To be taken seriously by the 'big players' - senior politicians, senior policy makers, authoritative journalists and the like, the 'sceptical community' has to show that it can do everything right...and get away from the image of a bunch of slightly bonkers impractical men who gave up on train-spotting.

We need to be up there with the 'best'. Anthony's superb book and Steve's excellent work shows that it can be done. But it has to be done all the time, every time.

Aug 18, 2012 at 8:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder


I am mortified to see so much of this thread focused on the cockup that was the audio. I am not a member of the GWPF and do not speak for them but as, in marginal sense, I was involved in the meeting let me offer you an apology and make a couple of comments.

First, the post mortem began almost immediately afterwards and the same cockup is unlikely to happen again. Secondly the cockup, as is usually the case, was the confluence of a number of unforeseen matters which I will happily discuss with you or anyone that wants to know more. My email is my initial dot my surname at that big supermarket beginning with t dot net (for a few more days only)

My feeling from the pub afterwards was that no one there wished the meeting had never been set up or that it had done as much damage as you seem to suggest.

Aug 18, 2012 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Latimer- do you mean Andrew's superb book?

Aug 18, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

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