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« Data in the Raw - Josh 217 | Main | Away »
Wednesday
Apr242013

Another MP develops an interest in statistics

Further questions about just what statistical analysis supports the Met Office's claims about warming have been tabled.

Mr Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (1) whether the claim that every year since 1998 has been significantly warmer than the temperatures to be expected if there was no warming made by the Met Office in a climate science briefing sent to the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser on 8 February 2010 was supported by any statistical time-series analysis; [151411]

(2) whether the claim that for the last three decades the rate of temperature increase is significant which was made by the Met Office in a climate science briefing sent to the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser on 8 February 2010 was supported by any statistical time-series analysis. [151412]

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Reader Comments (28)

Good old Peter Lilley, he plugs away....

How many times can he be told to go away and not bother them and that they are not going to answer any of his bothersome questions or take any notice of the glaring inconsistencies they highlight?

Before he either stabs someone in the neck or gives up?

Apr 24, 2013 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

There is also the Answer to Peter Lilley: “I refer my right hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 15 April 2013, Official Report, column 261W, to the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer)”.

The cited Answer to Graham Stringer was discussed in the recent post “Not answering the question”.

Apr 24, 2013 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

That answer is worth reproducing here.

Michael Fallon: The full statements sent by the Met Office to the chief scientific adviser on 8 February 2010 are (a) every year since 1998 has been significantly warmer than the temperatures you would expect if there was no warming (baseline of 1861-1900) and (b) for the last three decades, the rate of temperature increase is significant even when uncertainties in the observations are factored in.

These statements are based on analysis of HadCRUT3, the global temperature dataset compiled by the Met Office and the university of East Anglia’s climatic research unit.

So, one might reasonably conclude that the answer to Lilley's question is 'No, there has not been any such analysis.'

But I think there may also be a subtext: 'Believe me, they have everyone they can find on-side beavering away to come up with something to help save face around here if these questions continue.'

Apr 24, 2013 at 9:01 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

If you look at the comments to a piece about 20 items earlier:

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2013/4/17/not-answering-the-question.html#comments

you will see that I said:

"Of course they will always provide an answer somehow - simply cast the decision about the appropriate statistical technique to use as an internal technical one, and say that the Met Office used their teams of statisticians to apply numerous analyses, some of which would have been time-series, and that the final advice which came out was the sum of their best technical judgement."

I see no reason to alter my comment from then. They can easily stonewall by saying that this is an internal and technical matter. If the question persists, they can give the questioner a vast mass of technical notes and say "We said it was technical - look at the maths yourself". If it ends up as proven that there was no time-series analysis and the maths is wrong, then it is easily explained as a simple mistake by a junior researcher on a complex subject, and NO BLAME attaches to any of the senior politicians or bureaucrats who spent all this time misleading Parliament.

That's the way it will go.

Apr 24, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Good for Peter!
The point I made about Stringer's question was that it was too convoluted and open to misinterpretation (deliberate or otherwise).
These questions are absolutely clear that the questioner is not interested in what information the Met Office said in its briefing but in whether or not that information was underpinned by a time-series analysis.
Peter has one other advantage over Stringer, namely that he is of the same party as Fallon (though whether they get on I couldn't say) which puts him in a better position to buy Fallon a pint and say, "look, Michael, that answer was rubbish, etc. etc."
Fallon is supposed to be one of those with his head screwed on.

Apr 24, 2013 at 9:28 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

There is still wriggle room in the question because the answer can be a simple "yes". It needs to be asked exactly which time series analysis was used.

Apr 24, 2013 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chappell

One sentence in Michael Fallon's answer started with the words:

These statements are based on analysis of HadCRUT3, ... .

The obvious follow up question is "will you specify exactly what statistical techniques were used so that the working can be checked by independent experts?"

In fact the Met Office should volunteer the information in order to lay to bed suspicions that have been created by the government's reluctance to give a straight answer to the question.

Apr 24, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Perhaps the MET are going through changes and are a little disjointed at present:
Questions for a “jewel in the crown” of U.K. (and global) science

Apr 24, 2013 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

The issue of significance is not sufficiently complex to defeat the combined intelligence of parliament. If they took the time to consider Doug Keenan's excellent primer, I should think that there are many MPs and certainly many Lords who are quite capable of grasping the crucial points that the level of significance depends on the underlying model, and that the significance of recent warming has not been demonstrated for any plausible model.

Apr 24, 2013 at 10:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

It's all too polite.

Mr. Lilley should ask, "Since the 1975-1998 warming period is now a distant memory, will the government reverse the ruinous policies foisted upon it by green activists and the vested interests supporting the busted global warming myth?"

Apr 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

Thanks for that link, Lord B (10:06 AM).

Well worth a read to learn more about a Met Office described in the recent Ashton Morale Booster for a Failing Organisation as a 'jewel in the crown'. Hilary suggests the following instead:

And in the meantime … “a jewel in the crown, of British science and global science”?! Really, Mr. Ashton! In light of the above, freebie papier maché ring at the bottom of a very expensive CrackerJack box strikes me as being somewhat closer to an appropriate metaphor for the U.K. Met Office;-)

Well, perhaps we shall soon learn what a papier-maché ring can conjure up to deal with the political interference of such as Peter Lilley. Who knows, it may have magic properties that a careful rub can bring forth. That would certainly help explain how come it has survived so well since taking on the burden of promoting alarm about rising carbon dioxide for its political masters at the same time as the climate system has been acting as if more of that gas doesn't really matter very much.

Apr 24, 2013 at 10:33 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Perhaps the MET are going through changes and are a little disjointed at present:
Questions for a “jewel in the crown” of U.K. (and global) science
Apr 24, 2013 at 10:06 AM Lord Beaverbrook

There can be no doubt that the Met Office is/are "disjointed" at present. The rapidly changing tone of their output and the disappearing of older climate change publications confirms that.

It's not hard to imagine the state of bewilderment and muted panic that would be evident behind the closed doors of high-level meetings....

- "should we come clean and say that global warming is much less certain than we had thought?"

- "Absolutely not. It's a certainty. And we'd look really stupid too if we said that"

- "Yes, but we already look really stupid when we say that the Global Warming is continuing as usual even though the temperature has not changed for 15 plus years"

- "Just tell them that the ten hottest years on record occurred since 1998. That always shuts them up"

- "We are being asked awkward questions about why we did not forecast a cold march and why it turned out to be so cold. How are we going to respond to that? If we say that our models showed it would be one of the ten warmest Marches on record, they'll just laugh at us"

- "Get the forecasting team to brainstorm all the possible reasons that might explain it. We'll collate all their ideas and Julia can publish it as a Met Office report - much better than simply saying 'we're buggered if we know why it's been so sodding cold' and no-one's going to plow through through sixteen pages of meteo bollocks ".

- "We are getting all these questions about time series analysis. What's a time series? Anyone know? They want to know how it was we said warming was statistically significant without having a statistical model to analyse - what are we going to say to that?".

- "Just tell them that we used all sorts of analysis too complicated to explain but it's all in the literature. Meanwhile I'll get the stats guys to come up with something."

- "The latest HR moral survey shows another downturn in staff morale, even though we've upped the bonus payments yet again - the Fortran programmers are even saying they can't test models without realistic corner cases. Never bothered them before It's a problem."

- "I know. Let's get someone inspiring to give a Pep talk to the staff- that should turn the moral issue around. Who can we get - Jeremy Grantham? I know, wotsisname, Ashton. Just the man. After a morale-boost from him, they'll be raring to get back to their GCM's"

Apr 24, 2013 at 11:49 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

The problem is, of course, that the statement is so bland that I would expect it to hold up statistically. (a) The last 15 years are significantly warmer than 1861-1900. In HadCrut4, those years averaged -0.3 K, relative to HadCrut4's baseline period of 1961-1990. The last 15 years average ~0.4 K, so about 0.7K increase. Over 125 years. (b) The last 30 years have shown a significant increase. An ordinary-least-squares estimate of warming rate (again using HadCrut4) gives around 0.15 K/decade. I for one would concede significance here, although it depends on the statistical model used.

But the key question is, is the warming rate comparable to that of the GCMs on which the predictions of dangerous warming are based? The mean rate of the model runs cited in AR4 WG1 was, if I remember correctly, 0.22 K/decade. The HadCrut4 OLS warming rate since 2000 (nominally the start of the forecast part of those AR4 models) is 0.03 K/decade. It may well be that a natural oceanic cycle has been counteracting greenhouse gas warming -- at least that's my take -- but the important question isn't whether some warming has occurred since 1900(!) or whether warming has occurred over the last 30 years, but whether said warming is large enough to warrant the actions taken allegedly to combat it. Those mild statements in Parliament are nowhere near alarming enough to justify the extraordinary measures of the UK (and EU, Australia, &c). [I omit claims of dangerous precipitation change; my impression is that GCMs are less accurate in predicting precipitation than temperature.]

Alarming claims aren't substantiated; and the substantiated claims aren't alarming. [Where I may differ from some of the congregation here is that I think the substantiated claims are a cause for concern, just not a we've-got-to-do-something-to-save-the-world-right-now concern.]

Apr 24, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Martin A (11:49 AM) - that sounds plausible to me.

I wonder what kind of minutes they keep on such discussions? Not so detailed I suspect.

I wonder what are the prospects of getting an MO whisteblower along the lines of FOIA who could give us the flavour of them, and such chapter and verse as may be recorded?

Apr 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Perhaps Peter Lilley could ask the PM or our beloved 'Energy' Minister the following: 'Can the hon member explain why Germany is opening six new lignite-burning power stations in 2013 - none of which has carbon capture and storage - while we are closing ours without a thought to replacing their capacity..?'

Apr 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

As Sherlock points out; there are many questions that could be asked of the government about its policies that in any reasonable world would produce an admission of error.

The world is not warming so why are we spending billions on preventing it?

Germany is building new dirty coal power stations so why does the EU tell us to close our own cleaner ones?

China currently burns 50% of the total global output of coal in its power stations and so what is the point of the UK doing anything at all about climate?

After a long exchange of emails with my MP Dan Byles (DECC select committee) he ended up saying I should attack the climate change act because unless that is repealed the government can not change course.

Apr 24, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Slightly O/T, but dealing with MPs raising questions.

Today during PMQs, one MP (I did not see who it was) asked the Prime Minister why UK industry was being penalised with the Carbon Tax (minimum floor price of £16 per ton introduced on 1st April) when the European carbon credit market had bombed?

The Prime Minister did not answer the question, and side tracked it by saying that some dispensation has been given to industries with high energy usage.

At least questions are beginning to be asked as to the financial consequences of the government's green policies and pointing out the adverse effect that this is having on industry. Hopefully, more and more MPs will follow suit and see the madness of the present policy.

Apr 24, 2013 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Apr 24, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Dung
"...China currently burns 50% of the total global output of coal in its power stations and so what is the point of the UK doing anything at all about climate?..."
///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

And building 2 new coal fired stations every week!

In the developing world about 1300 new coal powered stations are plannned or under construction.

Dung, you are right to point out that whatever the UK does to reduce emissions this will be more than cancelled out by the increase in CO2 emissions that developing countries will be emitting. The UK is going alone, even Europe is not following our example. The developing countries are no doubt laughing at us.

Apr 24, 2013 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

I wonder what are the prospects of getting an MO whisteblower along the lines of FOIA who could give us the flavour of them, and such chapter and verse as may be recorded?
Apr 24, 2013 at 12:29 PM John Shade

Unlikely - they are all in it together.

Take a leaf from Peter Gleick's book.

Use a car-boot mobile phone with a 99p supermarket pay as you go sim card and old car boot laptop via MacDonalds wifi. I'm sure you'll soon get some interesting stuff in your new hotmail account.

Apr 24, 2013 at 4:30 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Dung: If you read the Climate Change Act, it doesn't have to be repealed for the target to be changed. If the scientific knowledge changes, than the target for 2050 can be changed to whatever the Secretary of State wishes. We just need a sensible Secretary of State, say Peter Lilley.

(1)The Secretary of State may by order—
(a)amend the percentage specified in section 1(1);
(b)amend section 1 to provide for a different year to be the baseline year.
(2)The power in subsection (1)(a) may only be exercised—
(a)if it appears to the Secretary of State that there have been significant developments in—
(i)scientific knowledge about climate change, or

Apr 24, 2013 at 5:06 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Martin & John Shade:

The UK has a reasonably robust FOI act - could you not make inquiry through that process? A refusal to answer would, itself, be telling.

Cheers.

Apr 24, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan

Richard verney: I read somewhere recently that there was an anticipated 25% increase in energy prices because of the CCA, but that was OK because the average costs to business for energy were only 3% of their total costs. As most businesses would be delighted with a 5% net profit in the current climate, and probably less, they would be hit by around 0.75% in profitability, which they would, of course pass on to the consumers. Also, if no one else has joined the suicide pact that is the CCA by 2020 they're going to review the targets. So they're going to continue to try to bring the country to its feet for a further 7 years. We should be able to impeach them all.

Apr 24, 2013 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Forgot to include the link to Hilary's quote as given in my 10:33 AM comment. Here it is now:

http://hro001.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/questions-for-a-jewel-in-the-crown-of-u-k-and-global-science/

Well worth a read, with some interesting comments below it as well.

Apr 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Phillip Bratby "Dung: If you read the Climate Change Act, it doesn't have to be repealed for the target to be changed. If the scientific knowledge changes, than the target for 2050 can be changed to whatever the Secretary of State wishes. "

No, they cannot. The targets are set by EU diktat. Unless we leave the EU, the Secretary of State can wish whatever they like, but they cannot change the EU diktat which tells them what the UK target must be.

Apr 25, 2013 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

I see from Guido that Peter Lilley has been appointed to the No 10 policy unit. Interesting.

Apr 25, 2013 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Oh, you are such cynics...
Can't you see that by closing our coal-fired power stations, and relying on fairy breath and peek-a-boo sunbeams, the carbon dioxide levels over the UK will be SOOOOO much lower than anywhere else on earth..?
That is how it works, isn't it..?

Apr 25, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Richard Verney

Would you believe that the question about the damage to UK Industry done by the carbon pricing scheme was actually asked by TIM YEO ^.^

Apr 25, 2013 at 5:27 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Thanks, Lord Beaverbrook and John Shade for linking (and kind comments!) on my post.

You might be interested in the latest and greatest development from the papier-maché ring in the CrackerJack box. They've succeeded in "disappearing" any hint of problems with Marcott et al - unless one reads the comments after this particular exercise in passive promotion of alarmist propaganda:

BREAKING: No comment will be heard from “jewel in the crown” … alarmist headline intact

Apr 27, 2013 at 8:08 AM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

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