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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)

Peter O'Neil - thanks for sharing that. Extraordinary.

So, the meeting with senior people from the RS was in their private capacity? It just so happened that they were all high-ranking members of the RS, but it has nothing to do with the RS? What an extraordinary coincidence. Why, Bill the dentist from next door or Sue the vet from up the road could equally have been there - but they weren't, for some reason.

This kind of sophistry is usually the modus operandi of politicians and bureaucrats, not of scientists.

Oh, wait ...

Nov 30, 2013 at 1:44 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Most of you are missing the point about the RS. Its dominant raison d'être is the creation, distribution and enjoyment of privilege.
Science is a vehicle for the structure, a minor distraction that is present because a tangible vehicle is needed to frame a wants list at budget time.
The RS, not being a net generator of income (correct me if I am wrong), relies on your taxes to allow its distribution of largesse to others.
Logically, it would have about zero interest in facilitating or publicising a meeting with people who are not on its privileges list.
Our Head of State, Her Majesty, has done a remarkably good job over many decades. She has the ability to recognise that she acts in a similar capacity, a figurehead for the allocation of privileges, but she is better advised on when to observe silence. (To her credit, she does also mix with the unwashed, thereby setting an example that we hope her successors will note).
In the modern era, the RS has an antiquated purpose that could be partially cured if it was corporatized, required to live from its skills and endeavours and not from your public purse. This suggestion arises because the RS has acted in recent times like it was a corporation. It is no more an appropriate body to pontificate on specific science (as opposed to generalities about the proper conduct of science) than Her Majesty is, but she refrains.
Sadly, I do not.

Nov 30, 2013 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

This behaviour on the part of the RS is consistent with the attitude of the IPCC's disclaimers in its Movies i.e. "We can have it both ways."

I find it somewhat ironic that Richard Betts, who a few years ago had bent over backwards to find some excuse for the involvement of (far too many for comfort) IPCC lead authors in the WWF's Science Advisory Panel (SAP), now resorts to a rather decidedly lacking in nuance and context depiction of the RS vs GWPF meeting.

Here's the full relevant excerpt from Lawson:

It was held behind closed doors in a committee room at the House of Lords, the secrecy — no press present — at the insistence of the Royal Society Fellows, an insistence I find puzzling given the clear public interest in the issue of climate change in general and climate change policy in particular. [emphasis added -hro]

Considering the the topic and the outcome, my interpretation of the above would be that this "insistence" on the part of Nurse and/or the RS was in effect, "no prior publicity ("behind closed doors") and no press present - i.e. no witnesses". Perhaps even an insistence on Chatham House rules (to protect those guilty of inadequate arguments, i.e. those of the RS).

Betts' perhaps diversionary but definitely context-free - and emphasis-free - "revisionist" summary: [Nov 28, 2013 at 8:02 PM] was:

AndyL is correct that Lawson's Spectator article doesn't actually say he was "prevented from telling more by a demand for secrecy imposed by the Royal Society fellows themselves". It just says the press were not present.

One can only hope that in his role as a Lead Author of AR5 WGII, Betts' "assessment" skills are far superior to those he has chosen to demonstrate with such a facile and misleading comment.

Nov 30, 2013 at 9:27 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Geoff: Very profound, thank you.

Hilary: You're right to go back to Lawson. Add to that what the GWPF mailing said later in the day and its stance is clear: for openness of content and participants. The Royal Society's stance by now seems equally clear: against both. Richard Betts is for me interesting in that he's definitely implied on this thread that some openness would be good. I choose to see him as our ally therefore.

One of the most profound contributions on this thread for me was this from SayNoToFearmongers:

So the once respected RS now needs a vacuous troll from Truro to do its bidding and cover up for its spineless duplicity. Who needs Ratner when you can get brand damage on this scale?

ZDB's vacuous defence has, as usual, been deleted by the host but the point is an extremely important one. This is the only way that 'official science' RS-style deigns to interact with the unwashed like you and me (to borrow Geoff's potent term). Richard Betts, for all his faults, does better than this. But we should be clear that the preferred mode is to ignore sceptics completely, as if they didn't exist. Lawson and his Labour friends like Lord Donoughue have brilliantly upset that applecart with this set-piece.

Nov 30, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


Thanks Richard! :-)

Nov 30, 2013 at 1:10 PM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Until only a few years ago I was a big supporter of the RS. Requesting that this meeting be held in secret is deeply disturbing. This is truly heartbreaking for me.

Nov 30, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterklem

The late and unlamented Trofim Lysenko created a consensus, with the backing of Stalin and Andrei Zhdanov, , to justify Marxist ideology at the expense of millions of people..
The damage caused was limited to the USSR, by the inability of Soviet thought controllers to dictate to the correctly named "Free World".
We do not have to wonder what the effect of an imposed Green Consensus of Orthodoxy on matters of Climate could achieve. Remember Lysenko, and even more dramatically, Mao Zedong's ideologically driven Great Leap Forward.
Those who do not know History are condemned to repeat it.
Lack of Candour can only compound such ignorance.

Nov 30, 2013 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Martin-Smith

What is the justification for your claim that Lawson or Spencer or Lintzen are prevented from revealing what was discussed. The only claim Lawson makes is the Royal Society fellows required that press not be present during the discussions: "It was held behind closed doors in a committee room at the House of Lords, the secrecy — no press present — at the insistence of the Royal Society Fellows"

Nov 30, 2013 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Shehan

Philip, this is how Christopher Booker describes the situation in the Telegraph:

The society insisted that the meeting be shrouded in secrecy; not even the names of those present were to be revealed. What might have surprised it was the calibre of the scientific team the GWPF was able to muster, including three fellows of the Royal Society itself, and Dr Richard Lindzen, the world’s most distinguished atmospheric physicist. Although the GWPF has in general scrupulously observed the “Chatham House rule” that the society imposed on the meeting, we can piece together something of how it went.

It seems quite clear by now what the Society insisted upon. Whether Lawson, Lindzen, Tol and the others should have accepted these conditions is another matter. I said earlier that was fine if it was the only way to have the meeting; others have disagreed. But surely by now we know that what Booker says, or something very like it, applies. And, let's be clear, given the importance to society of the debate, it's a disgrace that this is the only way that the meeting could take place.

Dec 1, 2013 at 12:10 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

More will be revealed, as happened 400 years ago when frightened world leaders tried to hide evidence that Earth is not the center of the universe but moves in orbit about the Sun. Acceptance of that reality gave rise to the scientific revolution

The deceptively convincing model of nuclear binding energy proposed by the late German theoretical nuclear physicist, Dr. Carl F. Von Weizsacker, probably prevented

1. Germany from building an atomic bomb during the Second World War, and

2. Post-WWII society from knowing that neutron-repulsion in the Sun's pulsar core

_ a.) Made our elements,
_ b.) Birthed the solar system,
_ c.) Sustained the origin and evolution of life, and
_ d.) Controls Earth's changing climate and our destiny.

Acceptance of that new reality will ultimately benefit society by again reducing false illusions of human control.

Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

Dec 1, 2013 at 4:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

Correction: 470 years ago: 2013 -1543 = 470 yrs

Dec 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterOliver K. Manuel

Richard Drake, it wasn't the "Society" that insisted on secrecy, the Royal Society have stated it was not their meeting.

Dec 1, 2013 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterclimatebeagle

The Eocene Age saw marked variations in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere; down to levels as LOW as 750 parts per million, with peaks of up to 4,000 parts per million lasting for thousands of years.
While some biota disappeared and others arose, there is NO suggestion that this massive variation , including also possible rises in atmospheric methane ( another Greenhouse gas, 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide) , endangered "The Planet" or even the continuance of Life in all its diversity. Quite a lot of vegetation , notably grasses and the ancestors of cereals, fared well enough.

The deliberate impoverishment and worse of billions of humans to "Save the Planet" from a carbon dioxide level knocking at 400 parts per million would appear to be a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

This is even more criminal when it is a distinct possibility that the emergence of humane civilisation now seems at the very least an unusual phase change in cosmic evolution.

Until it is known beyond doubt that our science based civilisation with its potential for cosmic development and growth evolution is not alone, we have an absolute ethical imperative to treat Humanity as bearing a new and cosmic significance and responsibility.
We already know of over 1,000 planets, some of which are in Goldilocks zones. Within a decade, we are likely to find life bearing planets.

It is at least arguable that Humanity is more worthy of development and worth than "The Planet" which is in any event not in danger.

The "Friends of the Earth" are NOT the Friends of humane civilisation- or they would campaign for the colonisation of Space.
This can only mean that they are modern day descendants of the opponents of Oswald Cabal prefigured in HG Wells' "Things to Come!". Th is classic debate will become very intense if and when( in about 10 years?) the costs of spaceflight fall to meaningfully low levels ( ie x 50-100 from present levels)

Anti-humans will have to come clean and admit that Humanity itself (not the Jews nor the Kulaks) are the new scapegoats for the perceived vagaries of the World.
There are many more humans than there were Jews or Kulaks- but the task of mass elimination masked as incompetence will not deter the Zealots ...

Dec 1, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Martin-Smith

The Royal Society itself did not insist on operating the meeting under the Chatham House Rule.

It was the Fellows representing the pro-AGW side that insisted on it.

Dec 1, 2013 at 8:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Richard Drake, it wasn't the "Society" that insisted on secrecy, the Royal Society have stated it was not their meeting.
Dec 1, 2013 at 5:29 PM climatebeagle

Hold on. The fact that the RS has said it was not its meeting does not mean it was nothing to do with them. My recollection is that the meeting was set up as a result of the President of The Royal Society offering provide some of his experts for a meeting.

Dec 1, 2013 at 8:55 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A: The Fellows and the Royal Society may have been in collusion. I don't that. You may surmise what you wish of course.

Dec 2, 2013 at 3:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Delingpole vs Nurse must have been the most unequal fight in history.

Nov 29, 2013 at 2:06 AM | esmiff

Only if you think punching below the belt is OK.


The RS is a charity. That doesn't mean that they don't get taxpayer funding - all sorts of quangos masked as charities do now ( but it does mean that we are now their main source of funding. Am poking around on the RS website to see if their accounts are published there.

Dec 2, 2013 at 3:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton



2011-12 : Funding. 47.8% Dept. of Business, Innovation & Skills (and what do WE get back for that?). Total income was £38 million, so we dummies are being stuffed to the tune of c£18 million pa. This money is apparently passed on in grant format - so a charity gets to decide how our money is best spent.


Similar figures for the preceding year.

Dec 2, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

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