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« Lindzen broadcast | Main | The Krebs manoeuvre »

Lawson lays down law

The GWPF has issued a press release about the putative meeting with some climatologists nominated by Paul Nurse.

Lord Lawson, the chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has invited five Fellows of the Royal Society to meet him and his team in the House of Lords to discuss issues surrounding climate science and policy.

The five climate scientists, nominated by Sir Paul Nurse, the President of the Royal Society, refused an earlier invitation to meet with the Director of the GWPF, Dr Peiser, and a small group of experts nominated by the GWPF. Although they gave no reason for their unwillingness to engage, the Fellows stated they would be happy to ‘advise’ Lord Lawson personally.

Lord Lawson said he was willing to give the Royal Society a last chance to engage in a genuine dialogue, at which he would be personally present. “If this [invitation] is not acceptable, I can only conclude that, regrettably, you and your colleagues are unwilling to engage in genuine discussion and debate about this important issue.”

At the same time, the Foundation has published the correspondence between the two men, which is well worth a read. My report on the Royal Society is discussed.

See it all here.

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Reader Comments (127)

I seem to remember saying they would bottle it.

Jul 12, 2013 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Me too. And Lawson knew it too, which was why he asked.
If you can't get them to debate (and lose, which they would), calling them chicken is your only fun,

Jul 12, 2013 at 10:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

nurse knows he and his whole group would be handed their A$$.

Jul 12, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter

Standard tactic of 'Progressives' to shut down debate if it might be uncomfortable. Hence all the 'science is settled' bs of a few years ago. So no surprise that ex-Trot Nurse is not going to debate anything with Lawson.
Of course, their debate-killing mantra of 'science is settled' is looking increasingly unsustainable as warming is not running away after all (merely resting, in the deep ocean, ho ho).

Jul 12, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterbill

I like the way that the RS make it appear that Lord Lawson is seeking advice from them. These people know that much of their work does not hold up to proper scrutiny so why would they want to be humiliated by 'anti-scientists'?

Jul 12, 2013 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterScooper

I am reminded of this 4-year-old letter by Ruper Wyndham, that I titled Peradventure There Shall One Be Found There.

One (or ten) would have been enough for the Good Lord (Gen, 18:32). Perhaps he's still there.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Paul Nurse's signature is extraordinarily child-like. Scope for analysis there!

BTW, there's a typo at the bottom of the GWPF page: "see also earlier corrspondence"

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:03 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

For our younger readers, "ex-Trot" as used in an earlier comment means "ex-Trotskyite", a reference to one of the founders of the USSR who was assassinated by order of Stalin.

British Trotskyites are regarded as fundamentalist Communists, even fanatics. Calling someone an "ex-Trot" means they are no longer fanatical Communists, not faint praise.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterFred Colbourne

Sir Paul's rather petulant response suggests he realises he has got himself into a bind. He's a geneticist and can certainly get along in debate in his own field. Alas, this led him to think he could take on a professional politician - furthermore, someone who knew a lot than he did about the subject concerned. Sir Paul appears to know very little about climate science. You can deduce this from what he says and it raises the question as to why he involved himself. My conclusion is that he was, purely personally, attracted to the political / social changes that could well be enacted (enforced) in the name of environmentalism. You can deduce this from what he writes: politically, he leans to the left. Perhaps nobody has had the courage to tell him his political opinions are just that - opinions. He can't expect people to buy into them simply because he's President of The Royal Society.

Sir Paul seems late to notice there is an isomorphism between a person's political stance and their position in the "climate debate". This seems a pretty banal observation to me (albeit Professor Lewandowsy scrapes a living out of it). It is a political debate carried via the bizarre proxy of atmospheric physics. Sir Paul knows very little about either topic, but is having to discover that politics is a lot more malleable than physics. One worries that a Nobel prize winner was so slow to tumble to this fact. Obviously, he (or his nominees) can't engage - they are well aware that the science (really a constellation of sciences) is in a complete muddle. They would just end up talking about politics.

There is, however, one useful thing he could do before his period as President ends. He could find out what the Fellowship as a whole think on the matter. But I rather doubt he'll do that.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered Commenteralan kennedy

The problem with faithful followers of AGW like Sir Paul Nurse, is that they do not want a scientific debate as this would expose their weak arguments to public scrutiny. For better to stay aloof in the AGW temple and spit on the heretics. Accuse them of anti-science and use ad hominem statements, rather than argue.
The Royal Society reminds you of the consensus would defended the earth centric solar system. Perhaps Sir Paul believes the sun orbits the earth since that is the consenus.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

The Royal Society members are supposedly the most able and intelligent people on the planet. If they study this correspondence they must now see how wafer thin the "consensus" is. The Fellows and Members should rise up and restore the integrity of this once great institution that has been hijacked by unscientific extremists. (by unscientific I mean they do not look critically at the new evidence, especially emprical evidence e.g the current stand still in Global temperature annomalies which now stands at 17 year +, and do not accept debate by their peers).

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

The "faithful" remark is more apt this time. Just like nobody knows theology like a committed atheist, no scientist will know climatology as well as an activist skeptic.

Believers "accept", unbelievers want to know it all.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:35 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

As you probably know, apart from the ice pick episode, Trotsky gained fame in photographic circles after his disgrace. His image was systematically removed from group photos which would be embarrassing to show. Would this be an early form of "Hiding the decline?"

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

Ross Lea
I think you will find that the RS Fellows are the most able and intelligent scientists on the planet.
Unfortunately, this distinction does not necessarily endow them with common sense nor (though many think otherwise) does it endow them with superior knowledge of the world outside their speciality.
And given that they are now in the habit of awarding Fellowships to serial losers like Ehrlich even my first sentence is probably overstating matters.
I find the RS approach to be arrogant and insulting though not atypical (and not confined to scientists, of course). "We are the fount of all wisdom. Come here and be told advised by us."

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Calling someone an 'ex-trot' also highlights the degree to which they are capable (all right 'have been capable' ) of making utterly crazed decisions. Signing-up for that intellectual claptrap, at whatever age, is not the hallmark of a great mind.

I must admit, I wasn't aware Nurse had been in that camp. If true, it explains a lot.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

If the nominated Fellows wish to "Advise" Lord Lawson I think they should start by advising Sir Paul Nurse (they must know the consensous is on very thin ice).

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

The degree of petulant arrogance displayed in both letters is breathtaking. The idea that Lord Lawson requires "information and advice" from the Fellows is beyond derision, especially as they claim all to have contributed to the lamentable Climate Change "summary of the science", which they have the gobsmacking gall to suggest should be the basis of discussions. This is not a qualification to be proud of!

The idea that their expertise and impartiality could be questioned does not appear to occur to them - they, after all, are the anointed ones, qualified above all others to "advise" and "inform" we ignorant plebs.

On the word of no one. Yeah right.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Wilson

I don't think there was one sceptic who thought this was anything other than ' an opportunity to be advised ' and that my friends, says it all. These scumbags are scared stiff to debate andthat can only be that they know they are cheating.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

I do not understand what the hell Nigel Lawson or Matt Ridley have to do with anything, never mind global warming. Their opinions are completely worthless to me and 95% of Britain. Both of them are a laughing stock which is no doubt why they have been elected by the media to oppose global warming.

Ridley is the idiot who ran Northern Rock without money and had to be bailed out. He was involved in a recent debate with an (even more repulsive) American liberal called Phil Plait. Plait is a scientist and ridiculed Ridley.

Plait starts with the usual 'deniers are pathetic' schtick. The standard emotional trigger for fanboys.

'Arguing with deniers of any stripe gets tiresome quickly. They trot out old, already-debunked points, misuse known science, or sow confusion where none exists. Countering their nonsense is like trying to dig a hole in water.'

I refer to anyone who argues about the science of global warming as a geekwit.The reason is that real scientists fundamentally disagree about the basics of the subject, yet half wits are cheerfully prepared to engage in public mud wrestling bouts.

Roger Pielke Snr and Gavin Schmidt wildly differing on basic issues. See comment 18

The GWPF is there to make serious sceptics look like clowns. None more than Monckton. Monckton is more than happy to behave like one at the sight of a Yankee dollar.

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff


Their opinions are completely worthless to me and 95% of Britain.

I'm sure they are worthless to you and thus to at least 0.000001% of Britain. Thank you for speaking for this important percentage.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:04 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Here is the debate between Ridley and Plait.

Whatever you think about Ridley, Plait treats him like a clown and so do the Guardian, especially their nasty sub tabloid hit boy George Monbiot.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Richard Drake

The vast majority of Britain today will have never heard of either of those men, never mind respect them.

Everything nowadays is framed as a left right debate. May Alan Rusbridger burn in newspaper hell for twelve eternities for turning the Guardian into an American tabloid.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

eSmiff - care to explain why would anybody pay attention to the opinion of Plait, the Guardian or Monbiot either?

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

(especially after reading Plait's complete misunderstanding of the "20th century" part of Marcott et al)

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:14 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Please go easy on the "ex-Trot" invective. I'm an "ex-Trot" myself. I've now reached a maturer understanding of the need for an open society, the intoxicating danger of ideology, the power of markets as self organising systems and so on. I believe that my youthful Marxism has given me some useful insights into the toxic Green ideologies that are infecting Academia. BTW I'd rather have an ex-Trot than an ex-Stalinist!

Marx and Trotsky remain rewarding thinkers to read and ironically would have demolished the AGW brigade and Greenpeace as infantile bourgeois intellectuals. Marx opposed the theories of Malthus and gave short shrift to various embryonic "back to nature" and agrarian socialist movements that have an uncanny resonance today.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRecovering Leftist

eSmiff: Take Lawson's piece on fracking in The Sun on Tuesday, which would have been read with genuine interest by many who are very interested in where jobs are going to come from in the future, even if they'd never dream of voting Tory. The ex-chancellor's opinion is not "completely worthless to 95% of Britain" and I was calling you on that. But perhaps you're projecting.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

That Paul Nurse - he's a nice enough bloke - but you wouldn't want to breed from him.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Recovering Leftist: completely agree. Some of the most valuable contributions to political thought in the late 20th/early 21st century have been from ex-Trots or ex-Marxists. Thomas Sowell is easily my favourite living example but many of those who advised Margaret Thatcher in 70s and 80s originally came from the far-left, including Brian Griffiths, who led her Downing Street think tank in later years. Someone I know personally in the Christian scene once told me that Brian Griffiths was his biggest hero at university, as he was the only person he knew more left-wing than himself! A bit like Thatcher herself, for some reason I never had the slightest temptation to flirt with socialist theory, of any kind, at any age, but I recognise and value the contribution of those that did. And then learned better. :)

So it's no argument or even an insult to me that Paul Nurse is an ex-Trot. His reply of 4th June was however ill-tempered, as Lawson said. That's good. He's getting rattled. Next step he gets clued up about what's really going on. The one is I'm sure a necessary (but not sufficient) prelude to the other.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I'n not sure about Paul Nurse getting "clued up" to fight the fight, it's clear he's not going to debate with anyone, so he's not going to get clued up about anything.

I find this attitude a lot with very intelligent friends who seem hell-bent on NOT looking at the facts, it's a form of doublethink, they know by looking at the real data, their faith will be shaken, and they'd rather have the security of a firm belief than know the messiness of the truth.

I had a Christian friend once who didn't want to look at a book which examined the evidence for a historical Jesus for very similar reasons. People who have put some stock in a position with which they identify, such as "being kind to the planet" know that if one of the tenets of that belief is shaken, they may have to throw out all of their moral framework with it, and in a way their entire basis of self. They will actively avoid the facts if allowed to.

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

TBYJ: I didn't say he would get clued up but that getting rattled was a necessary precondition for that. And that's precisely because of the cognitive dissonance you rightly suggest arises whenever any of us are forced (or allow ourselves) to consider evidence adverse to our current cherished positions.

Thus, on the historic Jesus, those that are into the great Jewish scholar Geza Vermes are less likely to go a bundle on NT Wright. And I think they should read both. And may the hypothesis that best fits the available evidence win. A little like science :)

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:59 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

It is interesting that Paul Nurse seems to think that the New Scientist article proves that Bishop Hill is against science. The article does not mention him and contains no evidence, only assertions. If Paul Nurse (sorry, I mean Sir Paul Nurse, the knighted or benighted ex-trot) really thinks that Bishop Hill is anti-science then why doesn't he, or his colleagues in the Royal Society, produce a detailed response to BH's report on the Royal Society?

I suspect that they know that the criticisms are valid, and that is what makes them angry! If the report by BH was full of mistakes or contained arguments that were plainly illogical, then Sir Paul Nurse and his henchmen would have been only too delighted to issue a detailed rebuttal.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

@ alan kennedy - thanks for a very good, analytical post.

As for "ex-Trots" - the Labor Party and the Greens here are infested with these people. They are never really "ex" - they have just redirected their activities and beliefs into another forum.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:04 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

johanna: because some ex-Trots have 'redirected their activities and beliefs into another forum' does not mean that others have not chosen what we would consider a better way. (I've given a couple of examples but there are many.) This indisputable fact renders the epithet vacuous. It's what someone believes in now that counts. Let's give examples of what Nurse has said or written in recent years, just as Lord Lawson has been careful to do. It's enough to be going along with!

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:10 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The sign of a weak faith. As one of my favourite theologians said, "the more you learn about God the surer you become that He exists".
The difference is that as far as religion is concerned there is no definitive answer this side of the grave while the effects of environmentalism are all round us and plain to see.
What we are seeing is a twofold self-contradictory belief system — first, a level of self-confidence which borders on arrogance, and sometimes even slips into it, that their belief must be right because they believe it; second, a persistent nagging doubt because every time they turn a corner they see (before they can shut it out) proof positive that their belief is wrong.
A recipe for blowing a fuse if ever there was one.
The point johanna makes, when you think about it, should be self-evident. The place was infested with Trots and other assorted lefty hangers-on 20-30 years ago. Why should we assume that their intellectual offspring don't exist? They have simply morphed into what Delingpole calls water-melons but their aims remain the same only the means adapt to suit the times (and keep the opposition on the back foot).

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:12 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The pompous blustering of Nurse reminds me of Lewandowsky.

The Liberal Left have not been idle; they now control the Royal Society, the BBC, the UN, the Civil Service and er um..... oh yes the government.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:14 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Jul 12, 2013 at 11:35 AM | omnologos

The "faithful" remark is more apt this time. Just like nobody knows theology like a committed atheist, no scientist will know climatology as well as an activist skeptic.

Believers "accept", unbelievers want to know it all.

I get rather irritated by the smug tone of atheists and agnostics on this site. Most committed atheists know as much about Christianity as a tone-deaf person does about music. There may be the odd exception - Beethoven went deaf but he already knew rather a lot about music.

Similarly, unless TheBigYinJames has sincerely examined the evidence for Christianity, he should have used himself and not his Christian friend as an example of someone who is unwilling to consider things that contradict their beliefs.

Paul Nurse would have been an atheist in the days when he was a Trot, and probably still is. The New Scientist article mentioned by Nurse in his correspondence with Lawson was scornful of prayer. However Nurse, like many other supporters of the theory of CAGW, seems quite ready to believe in Green ideologies on the flimsiest of scientific evidence. According to a quotation often attributed to G.K. Chesterton:

When a man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy


Empty vessels make the most noise :-)

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

Roy, I was raised a Christian, and now consider myself an agnostic. I find it odd that you assumed I am an atheist* simply because I allude to a Christian friend. Perhaps it is my science posts here.

*Atheism is the only belief that considers itself not to be a belief. Oh wait, they all do.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Mike: the problem with the word faith is captured in the response of the little girl when asked what it meant:

"Believing things you know aren't true."

For this reason I tend to avoid the word in chatting to a great brain like TBYJ. Too much baggage. Better even to adopt the existentialist's approach that emphasises human choice as pre-eminent? I know I don't know. But the presuppositions of all of us are worth a challenge.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I have no problem with Montford's contribution to specific aspects of the science. However he wrote an outrageously politicised article in the Spectator accusing Nurse of being left wing. Credibility in the public debate after that - zero.

The two most intelligent commentary against AGW have come from the left. Namely Prof Noble of Toronto and Marxist and former Guardian columnist James Heartfield. The only credible academic sceptics on the science front are Roger Pielke Jr his father (both progressives) and Judith Curry. Not sure about Doug Keenan. There is nothing left wing about AGW, no matter what the lunatic fringe says. Its effects are regressive. It will starve and freeze the poor, not the rich thanks to energy prices. there is literally no evidence that it exists.

Deep ecology is a very nasty, ultra conservative, (eco fascist), anti science, anti progress and anti human cult. Many so called scientists are members of it. Hansen and Hulme being the most obvious.

Stacey. Thank you for your vacuous contribution.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

eSmiff: totally agree on the regressive effects of CAGW-justified policies (and it's almost always a bogus justification, even if CAGW were true). And as it happens Lord Lawson has been particularly good on this aspect in recent years.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Lord Lawson writes

"Dear Sir Paul

I have only recently received your ill-tempered letter of 4 June."

May we see this "ill-tempered letter"?

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commentersimon abingdon

simon: it's this one.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I do tend to err towards eSmiff's position on GWPF, though. An unwelcome political intrusion into something that lies wholly within the realms of science and economics. Like with Heartland in the US, I don't really like the idea of what is ostensibly or perceptably an "right-wing think-tank" occupying the same hill as me on this battlefield. I think it does more harm than good, and alienates more people than it wins over.

"great brain" TBYJ

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

May I respectfully suggest that the Great Brain considers the footer on Lawson's latest, where the trustees of the GWPF are listed, with the excellent Labour peer Lord Donoughue second and others of all parties or none following. This you would not find on the equivalent Heartland piece of stationery. Peiser and Lawson have gone to great lengths to ensure this cross-party representation. If you feel you have to knock the organisation, please at least bear this in mind.

As for me, I think they're doing an awesome job, as is their hired hand aka respected host of this 'ere blog. All power to their many-sided elbows :)

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:45 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Hi Bish! I think the comment boxes have a problem: I keep finding odd characters dropping out of them. If you look closely, I swear you can see where "IMHO" has fallen out of esmif's box.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered Commentersnotrocket

@Richard Drake

Thanks. I had the order transposed; didn't read the dates. Stupid boy.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered Commentersimon abingdon

That was why I added the "perceptibly" (and typo'd it) - I might be wrong, but I think there is a popular perception that the GWPF is a right-wing think tank. This is a common belief amongst AGW believers anyway, who also believe it's oil-funded.

Jul 12, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


The GWPF was set up when not many people were prepared to stick their heads over the parapet and disagree with CAGW. The GWPF was a website you could visit as a denier and get good info on the political effects of pro CAGW policies.

Jul 12, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Registered CommenterDung

As a scientist and engineer I tend to agree with you but at least GWPF and Heartland with WUWT help to balance the huge well funded machine that is the warmist team.

Jul 12, 2013 at 2:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

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