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« Counting the cost | Main | One extreme to another »

A right royal showdown

The long-awaited meeting between representatives of GWPF and the Royal Society has at last taken place. Nigel Lawson has a brief report on the meeting at the Spectator, revealing little about the content, except for the fact that he is prevented from telling more by a demand for secrecy imposed by the Royal Society fellows themselves.

This is, to say the least, monumentally pathetic of them. Lawson sounds as though he found the experience slightly frustrating:

But what did emerge was that, if anyone needed educating, it was them. Despite the fact that they were headed by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, the Director of the Grantham Institute, which has pronounced views on climate policy, and a member of the Climate Change Committee, which is concerned with the implementation of the Climate Change Act, they were very reluctant to engage on the crucial issue of climate change policy at all.

I have heard a few other details on the grapevine and I gather that the Royal Society fellows are more inclined to believe computer models than empirical data. So I wonder if some revision on that whole "scientific method" thingy might be in order too.


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Reader Comments (168)

I have to say that I don't think many of thought it would be any different. The data doesn't support their thesis and they need it to be kept secret to avoid being utterly embarassed by their own stupiditity.

Nov 28, 2013 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Just Google "John Harrison" or "Longitude" and you will see the present Royal Society has changed little in its attitudes since it started. It still sees itself as the only possible source of information, and it will still deny the facts if "Not Invented here".

Nov 28, 2013 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterMikeHaseler

The last sentence shows their arrogance.

What was clear, however, was that they had no understanding of, or interest in, the massive human and economic costs involved in the policies they so glibly endorse.

There is no way that these arrogant bar stewards of the RS will change their religious belief in AGW. They don't care one jot for the scientific methodology. Are we allowed to know who else was there from the RS apart from the chinless wonder? I assume Nurse was also there, but that may be a false assumption, as we know he has no knowledge of the subject and could have just arranged the meeting.

Nov 28, 2013 at 8:45 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Lawson says that the Society insisted on no press being present, but he doesn't seem to say that the content of the meeting is secret, unless you have other information. I hope that there will be a longer article elsewhere covering the meeting in detail.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndyL

I predicted it would never happen. Well, it did, so I was wrong. But it was in secret, so I was kinda right. How does the RS reconcile their demand for secrecy with their mission to communicate? Or is the story from their side that they sorted the GWPF out good and proper? In secret?

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Lawson should invite Nurse round for a chat:

' is quite legitimate for both of us to talk about climate change policy, but before doing so we need to have access to the highest quality climate science. I am not sure you are receiving the best advice...'

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

I was there. I would add that the FRSs also demonstrated very little knowledge about the impacts of climate change.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

I'm reminded again of this quote on the discussion thread:

"but keep in mind any scientist worth his salt doesn't want you to believe him, he wants you to try to prove him wrong, while he looks on smugly watching you fail. "

Their preference for secrecy says all you need to know. Although I suppose they do the smug thing pretty well.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:22 AM | Registered CommenterSimonW

40+ years ago I used to dream of having the magic FRS appended to my name. Now I think I'd be ashamed to.
But at the time I was young and naive.

That phrase, incidentally, is the exact one used by the recent Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, when she was "excusing" her association with an alleged crook alleged to have defrauded his union of over a million dollars through a slush fund she allegedly helped him to set up. She was 34 years old and an experienced commercial lawyer at the time. Police investigations continue.
The same "lady", immediately after resignation, and after years of bashing our ears about global warming and rising sea levels (and costing us suffering suckers a fortune through the Carbon Tax) promptly bought herself a prime beachfront property in Adelaide for one and a half million dollars.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

This is the same Royal Society whose President declared that everything in Science had been discovered & very little remained for us to find out. This was announced around the time when Einstein published his first paper.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

The secrecy requirement is informative. Why would any evangelist seek such a thing? I guess these RS people are only secondary or tertiary followers of genuine evangelists and were concerned not to be seen weakening their cause in any way. The content may remain secret, but the impression given is of unimpressive people with unimpressive levels of knowledge, and a lack of concern over the consequences of their devotions.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:44 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Hopefully someone like David Rose, JD et al., can exploit the situation regarding the RS demand for secrecy. After all, what would have happened if the boot was on the other foot and it was NL, rather than the RS, who insisted on secrecy?

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterTC

Really beyond parody. For the sake of our future energy policies and the potential for blackouts etc., Lord Lawson should ignore the secrecy demands of the RS and reveal all.

Nov 28, 2013 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterG. Watkins

RS website, About Us:

The Society facilitates interaction and communication among scientists via its discussion meetings, and disseminates scientific advances through its journals. The Society also engages beyond the research community, through independent policy work, the promotion of high quality science education, and communication with the public.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:00 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Well done RS!

This has all the hallmarks of The Streisand effect

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Secrecy (meetings, emails, data) doesn't jive with the claim that we're facing real jeopardy. Everything scientivists do in this regard continues to erode their credibility.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

How utterly, utterly pathetic.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterCeetee

Cambridge Dictionaries Online

Ivory Tower

" To live or be in an ivory tower is not to know about or to want to avoid the ordinary and unpleasant things that happen in people's lives:

Academics sitting in ivory towers have no understanding of what is important for ordinary people. "


Ivory Tower

" From the 19th century it has been used to designate a world or atmosphere where intellectuals engage in pursuits that are disconnected from the practical concerns of everyday life. As such, it usually carries pejorative connotations of a wilful disconnect from the everyday world; esoteric, over-specialized, or even useless research; and academic elitism, if not outright condescension. "

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:26 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

One of the primary aims in insisting on secrecy of any degree is the anxiety not ever to be held to account.


Nov 28, 2013 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage


Gilliard's beach-front is subject to the natural phenomena of sand drift which has been a constant battle fought by first carting and now pumping the sand from one end to the other to prevent erosion affecting the daftly sited properties. She must be the only CO2 worrier to emit the stuff just to stay still.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Perhaps we should all take up the RS invitation to contact them and let
them know exactly what we think about their policy of secrecy in this case.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia


Well, I hope her bloody house erodes right out to sea and insurance doesn't pay out because "catastrophic rising sea levels were well known at the time as well you know".

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

As others have said it is Nigel Lawson's closing sentence that is the most chilling. They neither know, nor care.

"You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

A quote usually attributed to the American politician Daniel Moynihan.

It was the constant bending of facts (and the total blindness to inconvenient ones) that first pointed me in the "sceptic" direction I suppose. Although it was obvious very early on that AGW was always a theory with models devised that assumed the theory was correct - surely circular thinking?

I guess most of you will have read this link, but it summarises the "Global Warming causes amnesia" problem nicely.

cAGW is a faith based pseudo-science which has morphed into massive vested interests. It is a mass hysteria event characterised by our Prime Minister announcing recently a position on tropical cyclones that is NOT supported by even the IPCC.

I suspect that many working in climate science know the theory is not working out well, but it is a true Emperor's garments situation, and too many sinecures would be threatened now by a full "coming out". Much respect is due to those who are acting as proper scientists and looking at the FACTS.

The tide is turning but it is ever so slow. When a whole generation has been taught by the likes of Brian Hoskins that the theory is settled science, it is coming as quite a shock to real scientists that it isn't settled at all.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

BH says of the RS: "monumentally pathetic".
Excellent quote, I love it.

Nov 28, 2013 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Renwable energy creating thousands of green jobs

BBC New buleting 1500 job redundcies at Npower.

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

I would have thought Mr Lawson might have some more pressing concerns!

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

The Bish said

"I have heard a few other details on the grapevine and I gather that the Royal Society fellows are more inclined to believe computer models than empirical data. So I wonder if some revision on that whole "scientific method" thingy might be in order too."

If only Richard Feynman could come back - I wonder what he would make of a science that when the data didn't fit the theory, questioned the data and made appeal to authority?

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM | Registered Commenterretireddave

One thing that always struck me about the CAGW debate was that even if they were right, they were right for the wrong reasons. The RS seems to epitomise this

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

I'm sure some of you have asked the RS press office why the meeting is secret. Maybe the reason is a secret too?

The Fellows are not doing their credibility much good. This latest nonsense rather supports the criticism written by Andrew and published by GWPF some time ago.

If the RS has become this useless, what are the more competent Fellows going to do about it?

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

This at the end.

Nigel Lawson was editor of The Spectator from 1966 to 1970. He then went into politics.

Now that's stylish.

Nov 28, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Bishop, you seem to be happy to believe models when they suit your purpose. Only the other day you were promoting a model of the economy that projects some improbably precise reduction in gas prices by 2050. An economic model for frack sake! But climate models, oh no!

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

It could be that some models are better than others. But I'm no expert.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:27 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"Only the other day you were promoting a model of the economy that projects some improbably precise reduction in gas prices by 2050."

That hasn't been shown to be wrong yet, it has a 50% chance of being right.

Unlike the climate models.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Chandra - there is very good reason to be sceptical of climate models:


Source page:

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

This reminded me of the mini quiz here.....

"You have made some observations and calculations, which show that humanity is doomed unless it changes its ways. You have total belief in the accuracy of your predictions. Do you:

(a) Announce your results, but keep your workings secret for fear that someone will criticise them.

(b) Announce your results, but set up a group of companies to make yourself mega-rich on the back of the scare you have created.

(c) Drop everything, including secrecy and profit, and devote yourself to saving the human race."

We can draw our own conclusions.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

- So we are not allowed to hear who the RS sent or what they said
why's that then ?
are they saying owt onTwitter ? No only 2 alarmists
" Lord Lawson and Royal Soc mtg? Where is Royal Soc's version of the meeting? He just diverts to Thatcher and free market."

"Lord Lawson of @TheGWPF shows he managed to learn nothing in his tutorial on climate science from the Royal Society" Bob Ward (head of propaganda at Grantham BigGreenHedgeFunds)
- commenting even 1 hour before the GWPF tweeted ..he's a quick reader !

nothing on the RS twitter feed or RS FB page although they commented on octopus suckers this morning (Their press release page passworded)

I guess we'll have to wait for the rhetoric Harrabin comes up with (if Ward has OKed it)

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:43 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Hi Richard (Tol):

I wonder whether you, as an acknowledged attendee at the meeting, might be able to shed any light on why the meeting needed to be kept secret. Am I right in suspecting that any agreement for the meeting to remain secret was reached long before the actual meeting and there was no justification presented at the meeting why this should be so?

Would you be prepared to put forward any justification why meetings such as this should remain secret?

Were you personally asked to sign any confidentiality agreement or were you given anything in writing justifying why the proceedings should be kept secret at the time of your being invited to attend and did you personally support the argument in favour of keeping the proceedings secret?

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:47 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Nial: Precautionary principle in both directions. What say your predictions are wrong? Best make a killing while you can. Pun indefensible.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:48 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Chandra, can you suggest any legitimate reasons for the RS wanting the minutes/content of the meeting to be kept secret? It might be more useful that your repetitive, off-topic, snide remarks.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteveW

matthu and others: This was an excellent publicity stunt by Lord Lawson, on the back of a badly-worded but haughty response from Paul Nurse, as many of us pointed out at the time of the original exchange. To avoid loss of face and minimise the damage the RS insisted on secrecy. I think Lawson, Lindzen and co were right to accept because at least one FRS (not counting Freeman Dyson, who already is one!) could have been influenced to take a more rational view. And news of the secrecy is itself another own goal for the Society.

The next step in the PR war is I assume for some of the more open-minded FRSes who weren't present to ask if they can please be advised what was said in their name.

It should have been livestreamed on the Internet of course, with textual/blog follow ups. And one day, I believe, this debate, of such import to the public worldwide, will be that open. I hope all on the GWPF team live to see the day.

Nov 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Ha ha I just checked Grantham Research Twitter feed the one for Imperial (they have LSE aswell)
2 of the last 3 tweets

Great talk last night from Thomas Stocker at the @Grantham_IC annual lecture. Here's our summary of his latest
James Hubbard ‏@JamesRPH 26 Nov
Prof Stocker is asked "Reasoned evidence isn't breaking through -- is it time to become unreasonable?" @Grantham_IC #granthropocene
The paper they link to Features the standard "Harrabin black" power station photo.
... Proves for that GreenTeam it's all about the PR & not about the science.

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Some aspects of this Climate Science stuff is hard to understand. Let me see if I have got this straight.

The science is settled, well-known and has been known since the days of Arrhenius.
The science community understands all this and is failing only on communicating it.
The premier scientific organisation in the country has the opportunity to blow the premier sceptic organisation out of the water with its choice of first rate academics and in the full blaze of publicity.

So the meeting is secret?

I can only conclude that some of the assumptions implicit in the above are not valid.

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

ah that paper shows the Grantham associated Scientists do have opinions on policy :

"No time for delay in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, say IPCC scientists
22 Nov 2013,Roz Pidcock
As the end of the second week of climate talks draws nigh in Warsaw, a group of high profile scientists have laid out what needs to happen to stay below two degrees of global warming. The answer? Deep greenhouse gas cuts, and no more excuses for delay.
....A matter of urgency"

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Way back in 1990 I had a paper read to the R.S.
I was right chuffed.

No longer- they have jumped on the AGW gravytrain.
Nothing to do with science and all to do with political favours and money..

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Question for Thomas Stocker: "Is it time to become unreasonable?" Isn't it a bit late for that?

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

TC - plus one!

Calling David Rose - please can you make journalistic enquiries to the RS about the reasons for and the nature of their conditions of secrecy and report back? I suspect there is an article in this story!!

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:26 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

'In keeping with our role as the UK's national academy of science, The Royal Society is committed to the widest possible dissemination of research outputs. Consequently, our own publishing operation is one of the most open access of all science publishers.'

And here's another!
Science as an open enterprise- Final Report:
Six key areas for action are highlighted in the report:
■Scientists need to be more open among themselves and with the public and media
■Greater recognition needs to be given to the value of data gathering, analysis and communication
■Common standards for sharing information are required to make it widely usable
■Publishing data in a reusable form to support findings must be mandatory
■More experts in managing and supporting the use of digital data are required
■New software tools need to be developed to analyse the growing amount of data being gathered

Note the first bullet point!

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

It reminds me of the Met Office and "28gate". The truth will always get out and the it never does the ones demanding secrecy much good.

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

matthu, I am also curious about the protocols for this meeting. Did the RS demand secrecy in advance? Why? Why haven't they told us what the reasons and protocols are?

A new low. Science under a shroud.

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:41 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I wonder if the Barbara Streisand effect will kick in now?

Nov 28, 2013 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

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