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The amazing meeting

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has taken Paul Nurse up on his suggestion that they get together with some top climatologists to discuss climate science, and has issued formal invititations (press release and further details here). The proposed agenda looks interesting too:

1. The science of global warming, with special reference to (a) the climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide and (b) the extent of natural variability;

2. The conduct and professional standards of those involved in the relevant scientific inquiry and official advisory process.

Pass the popcorn.

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Reader Comments (72)

Bet they bottle it.

May 22, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Or if that is too colloquial, I would wager that the RS responds negatively to the invitation.

May 22, 2013 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Batting for the evil deniers:

Prof Vincent Courtillot
Prof Mike Kelly
Nic Lewis
Prof Richard Lindzen
Viscount Ridley
Prof Richard Tol

Let the games begin!

May 22, 2013 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Can we hope it would be captured on film?

May 22, 2013 at 9:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

There once were fellows from the RS,
Who were taunted for having a guess,
They responded in kind,
With the scientific mind,
That was at once all confused and a mess

May 22, 2013 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterLear's bastard offspring

There are only two things that can happen from here:

1. They won't respond;

2. They'll try to change the agenda to a didactic discourse from the climate scientists;

3. They'll refuse the offer because of diary dates for the five invitees.

May 22, 2013 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


You didn't have anything to do with the Spanish Inquisition, did you?

May 22, 2013 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

I should of course have said "three things".


You didn't have anything to do with the Spanish Inquisition, did you?"

RR I most certainly did not, but I had a distant ancestor who made his fortune selling enchaladas to the spectators at the executions.

May 22, 2013 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo


Come the next inquisition make sure you have plenty bean fillings available if you are to cash in.

May 22, 2013 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Location: How about the Met Office.

May 22, 2013 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

Another strategy which the Royal Society might do well to consider is to field a robot programmed along the lines of the PARRY* model. It can just keep talking and talking, with the pretence of responding and of reasoning, with frequent references to the outputs of that other class of software known as GCMs as if they too deserved to be taken seriously. In view of the short time available, it may be easier to brief a human or two to do the same. That's a lot riskier though since they can get emotional, suddenly realising at some point that they have not got much of a leg to stand on and stomp off with it anyway, declaring victory in lieu of further discussion if things get difficult for them.

* “In 1972, at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Colby built upon the idea of ELIZA to create a natural language program called PARRY that simulated the thinking of a paranoid individual. This thinking entails the consistent misinterpretation of others' motives – others must be up to no good, they must have concealed motives that are dangerous, or their inquiries into certain areas must be deflected - which PARRY achieved via a complex system of assumptions, attributions, and “emotional responses” triggered by shifting weights assigned to verbal inputs.”

May 22, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

I hope the meeting will be open to the public, but I doubt it.
I see the GWPF are fielding an 'independent' climate researcher and a science writer. I am puzzled why Dr David Whitehouse who has done so much superb science writing for the GWPF, is not included.

May 22, 2013 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterDland

I wonder if the RS has thought this through? One of the most interesting claims by 'the team' is that if you take out the CO2 and aerosols from GISS-E, over 25 computed years, the Earth goes to the ice ball state, -18 °C average surface temperature radiating directly to Space: Lacis A.A., Schmidt. G.A, Rind D. and Ruedy R.A., Science 15 October 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6002 pp. 356-359 DOI: 10.1126/science.1190653

The only way this can happen is if they have calibrated the model to give exactly the same albedo from the ice in the ice-ball state as that from present clouds and ice! I don't believe that can be true.

You show this by computing average Earth temperature without present cloud and ice. 3% albedo and an emissivity of 0.98 gives 4.75 °C average surface temperature, a GHE relative to the non ghg atmosphere of 10.25 K!

May 22, 2013 at 10:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Well done to the GWPF, I hope the Royal Society don't make excuses. Yes, I would like to see Whitehouse involved. Nigel Calder for Svensmark too. Our host also - given the second subject area the GWPF have proposed for discussion:

1. The science of global warming, with special reference to (a) the climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide and (b) the extent of natural variability;

2. The conduct and professional standards of those involved in the relevant scientific inquiry and official advisory process.

I see that Prof Eric Wolff is a possible for the Royal Soc. I wonder if he ever read the HSI? (as a few of us on here suggested he should when he popped in back in 2011): e.g.

Regardless, lets hope this meeting happens and instils some science and rational thinking in Nurse and the Royal Society.

May 22, 2013 at 10:49 AM | Registered Commenterlapogus

I am very puzzled why Whitehouse for science and Montford for ethics are not on the list, they should be. Ridley and Lewis must be nice people but W and M would have been the top team. Why have the been left out?

May 22, 2013 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterCDW

With all due respect, how is Tol the economist's skill applicable to the two questions? We are not even discussing policy here, nor should we before the first two questions ARE RESOLVED.

May 22, 2013 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

There is, of course, not the slightest chance that this will happen.

May 22, 2013 at 11:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Rhoda, I was thinking that. Richard Tol is brilliant, but being an economist not ideally matched to the questions on the table. I think the GWPF have made a rare mistake. They have gone for status and respectability rather than effectiveness. What will the RS say? They might say that Lindzen's views are well known and have been debated many times. Lewis is an 'independent' researcher, the RS could say he has no qualifications. Ridley, the RS could be low enough to mention Northern Rock or Otto's comments about the climate sensitivity paper of the past few days. Could it be that Bish and Whitehouse were not included because they are not professors or sit in the House of Lords?

May 22, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterCDW

Lawson has made an uncharacteristic tactical mistake in setting out the discussion points - climate sensitivity - natural variation - ethics and conduct. The RS will be easily be able to bat these away with reference to the consensus, and the GWPF will come away looking deliberately anti-consensus which I don't think is what they want. The GWPF panel is not the best I could come up with either, being too loaded with honours.

May 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPoppy

They could find enough to talk about for a day just ripping in to Nurse's pitiful performance on the Horizon programme.

May 22, 2013 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Bad move by the GWPF.

The Royal S will say yes, they have to to save face. The meeting will be in private and the Royal S will come away saying that they sent their best climate scientists to talk some sense into the GWPF but that the GWPF was not listening and has other reasons for not agreeing with the consensus. they will be able to deal very easily with questions of climate sensitivity and natural variability, perhaps by handing over Met Office briefings. The whole thing will look like the kind and benevolent Royal S trying to help the obstinate GWPF, and Lawson Peiser will look foolish. What other outcome can there be?

The GWPF team isn't the best one either.

May 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonM

I wonder if the RS panel could find the time, after they dispose of the GWPF team, to answer my long-standing set of naif questions? I find the potential in the present setup to have a lot of type A personalities talking past each other. As well as betting it won't happen, I further bet that when it does, not much will be resolved. I

May 22, 2013 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Who will the sainted Greens put up in opposition, along with Nurse?

Suzanne Goldenberg? Naomi Oreskes? Bill McKibben? Fiona Harvey? Tim Flannery? Franny Armstrong, perhaps?

I second the suggesstion -- they'll bottle it.

May 22, 2013 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

They are trying to untie what is for them the Gordian Knot. It cannot be done, especially by thoroughly deluded academics--it can only be cut, by adhering fiercely to the definitive evidence, rather than to ill-conceived models enshrining bad physics and two generations of degeneration in "climate science". In other words, no debate between alarmists and lukewarmers can come to any long-term good--unless they are converted by the exercise into deniers.

May 22, 2013 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

I'm surprised that there is no comment yet on the blatant misrepresentation of Andrew's position by Nurse.
Commenting on the Nullius in Verba document, Nurse quotes a statement about intelligent design (which does not appear anywhere in NiV) and then says "What is the GWPF doing publishing something that gives support to such absurd anti-science views".

May 22, 2013 at 12:52 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Personally, I would have liked one of the topics to be: "Consensus, or the Scientific Method?"

May 22, 2013 at 12:56 PM | Unregistered Commentersnotrocket

I was sure this headline was a reference to James Randi's The Amaz!ng Meeting where Michael Mann is (reluctantly and accidentally, and probably lucratively) scheduled to speak.

I don't know if you guys remember Randi's treatment when he questioned CAGW? It was pretty shameful, and I've not been back to, for example, PZ Myers, site since then. You can read about some of the aftermath here.

I'm really surprised that they're inviting Mann for his amazing meeting considering how divisive the subject is to skeptics. Maybe he's being sidelined in his own organisation and/or being battered by the voices of authority. These explanations seem out of character but he is 84 with health problems. Or maybe he's a convert(?!). I can't make sense of it. At least it will make a change from everyone agreeing that witchcraft/homoeopathy/Christianity is bad and considering themselves sophisticated for thinking so.

Here is a thread discussing his invitation if anyone (You especially Bish) wants to chime in:

Keep a copy of your comments in case they are censored.

May 22, 2013 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered Commentergenemachine

The GWPF has now invited the five climate scientists to a meeting with a team of members of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council and independent scientists

I wonder who from the GWPF Advisory Council will be in attendance. Those CLimate Scientists might find themselvs serious outgunned.

What odds Nic Lewis as an "independent expert" on the topic of climate senstivity?

Popcorn? Popcorn futures!

May 22, 2013 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko


I can't see where the GWPF has agreed to this meeting be confidential.

May 22, 2013 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Bish, I hope you lobby to have this streamed live. The world wants to watch.

May 22, 2013 at 2:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Watts

Six hugely talented people on the GWPF team. It would be a shame not to hear from them if no one turns up for the RS.

Perhaps tubs of lard could be deployed as markers, and the event could go ahead with video recording of a few summary remarks from each of the six?

A scan across the tubs at the start and finish would add a touch of pathos as the voiceover noted the original invitation, and lamented that no one could be found to deliver on it.

May 22, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Anthony Watts: with you all the way on that!

Various BH moaners: I think the GWPF has chosen a great team. I would love to see, and would expect to learn much from, the combination of Lindzen and Lewis. If they're going to have a writer Ridley is the outstanding choice. Tol is needed because RS scientists have so often strayed into the economics.

May 22, 2013 at 2:30 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

John Shade, good idea - with Angus Deayton chairing the debate?

May 22, 2013 at 2:54 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

For those in the dark on this, the first 20 seconds or so of this clip will show you the event to which Paul alludes and which I had in mind: HIGNFY

May 22, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Well, this is a fascinating prospect. With regard to the possibility of 'empty chairs' at the debate, I've just blogged about a couple of recent examples where there has been an empty chair where scientists should have been sitting:

Not sure about the likelihood in this case, though. Surely, these invites wouldn't have been sent unless they already knew they would be accepted?

May 22, 2013 at 3:09 PM | Registered Commenter@warrenpearce

Including Tol is fine. For one thing, the GPWF's agenda is only a suggested agenda, and there's no telling what topics the RS people might want on the list or what the discussion might touch on or deviate into on the day (in the unlikely event the meeting ever takes place). Second, the most obvious response to claims that average climate sensitivity estimates are low is to gesture at uncertainty and tail risks, and the question of whether x% risk of y°C of warming justifies $z bn in mitigation costs is straight away an economic one.

May 22, 2013 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

anonym: exactly. Very well put.

May 22, 2013 at 3:50 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I imagine the outcome will be presented as a victory by both sides.

If it helps put paid to the "the science is settled" myth, it will have been well worth while.

May 22, 2013 at 4:13 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Yes, but Economics isn't really an RS strength , is it? This is about the RS teaching the GWPF some science. That needs to be resolved before policy questions are tackled, or the whole thing will just go down the road so often travelled before. I want them to do real science, not policy, not the willing suspension of disbelief that is economic forecasting.

However, when I try to recall some occasion on which some great question of science was agreed by putting the leading protagonists of each side in a room together, nothing comes to mind.

May 22, 2013 at 5:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

"1. The science of global warming, with special reference to (a) the climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide and (b) the extent of natural variability;

2. The conduct and professional standards of those involved in the relevant scientific inquiry and official advisory process."

I think that the second question is a mistake - it gives the RS an excuse to decline the invitation.

If it ever happens I think that the science issues should be debated in two key areas:

i) Is there any empirical evidence to support the (C)AGW hypothesis?

ii) Is it even remotely possible to numerically simulate a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system decades into the future?

As the answer to both is clearly no, IMHO the RS would regard such a debate as suicidal. They will not show.

May 22, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff


Check out the Solvay conference. Noiw that was just a weird moment in the history of science imo.

May 22, 2013 at 5:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDMC

Is Danny Weston available?

May 22, 2013 at 5:40 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

I think the whole thing is brilliant and hilarious. I don't think there's the slightest chance that the meeting will take place. The whole thing has been a rather witty manoeuvre by Lawson, deliberately misunderstanding Nurse in order to try and force a debate. But I find it hard to believe they'll fall for it.

May 22, 2013 at 5:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Perhaps the Royal Society should send their newest fellow, Prince Andrew. According to the methodology used in Cook et al. (2013), Prince Andrew was elected to the RS with a consensus of 100%.

May 22, 2013 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

Assuming they do turn up, can anybody give an assessment of the quality of the opposition?

And who would be a good idea for 'moderator'?


Schmidt - who will only appear if the GWPF guys withdraw from the room

Gleick - who will strangely come by the minutes in advance showing extremely implausible dirty deeds from somewhere

Jones - as long as no spreadsheets are involved,,he doesn't understand them

The World's Leading Climate Scientist, Much Persecuted and Thoroughly Wonderful Human Being (signed copies of his book still available) - Michael Mann

Outside bets : Muir Russell would no doubt play a blinder. Ed Acton and Trevor Davies together would 'oil the wheels' with a sticky oleaginous slimy goo. Chris Monckton might not prove to be acceptable to both sides. McSteve too courteous, and His Grace too involved.

Fred Pearce? Or Paxman?

May 22, 2013 at 6:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

In the unlikely event that this meeting takes place, I think that the following statements should be agreed by both sides.
1) the term "DENIERS" should not be used to describe sceptics of CAGW.
2) Consensus is not science,
3) In the absence of replication (due to non divulgence of methods and codes etc) scientific papers should not be considered as contributing to our knowledge of how the climate functions.

I could of course go on but that would be a great basis from which to proceed.

May 22, 2013 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Latimer Alder,

"Fred Pearce? Or Paxman?"

I really like Fred Pearce. I think he might be the only truly non-biased environmental journo I've yet come across.

I think Paxman is odious. The way he talks to people - I've been trying to think if I would ever talk to anyone that way, and I think I might under the following circumstances:

1) The person was a proven fraud and liar.
2) The person was also a known paedophile.
3) The person had also raped several of my pets.
4) The person had become President of The World by illegal and fraudulent means, and was demonstrably making utterly appalling self-serving decisions.
5) He had also walked dog poo all over the floor, and reeked of it.

Then I might talk to someone the way that Paxman routinely relates to his fellow human beings.

May 22, 2013 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

It's the terms of the debate that will dictate the outcome.

May 22, 2013 at 7:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Paul M
I saw that letter from Nurse. ...seems to be a bottomless pit of rhetorical trickery.

The Myles Allen response to Ridley and the Nurse insinuations against Montford fall roughly in the same bracket: mildly pathetic, wildly hand-wavy, and quite the 'straw-clutchy'.

May 22, 2013 at 7:25 PM | Registered Commentershub

Being a naïve and pollyannaish layman, it seems to me that this could - just could - be a productive discussion. There are five fellows from the RS with specialisms in various fields of climate science facing generalists from the GWPF. If it is treated as a genuine debate, not with winners and losers, but an attempt to convey to each other their points of view something positive could result. Is that too much to hope for?

May 22, 2013 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

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