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« Garden shed tinkerers | Main | Lewis on Walport and the HadGem model »

Diary date: persuasion

The Science and Technology Committee's inquiry into how to persuade the public to believe the Fifth Assessment Report restarts next week with two more panels of witnesses:

Monday 9 September 2013
Wilson Room, Portcullis House
At 4.30 pm

  • James Randerson, Assistant National News Editor (environment, science and technology), The Guardian
  • Catherine Brahic, News editor: environment & life sciences, New Scientist

At 5.20 pm

  • Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent, The Guardian
  • Lewis Smith, Freelance Journalist

Wednesday 11 September 2013
Thatcher Room, Portcullis House
At 9.15 am

  • Tony Grayling, Head of Climate Change and Communities, Environment Agency
  • Phil Rothwell, Head of Strategy and Engagement (Flood and Coastal Risk Management), Environment Agency
  • Paul Crick, Director of Planning and Environment, Kent County Council, and
  • Katie Stead, Environment Officer, Investment and Regeneration Service, Kirklees Council

 At 10.15 am

  • John Hirst, Chief Executive, Met Office, and
  • Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist, Met Office

Normal service has been resumed.

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Reader Comments (50)

Do they really expect that this list of the High Priests of AGW Orthodoxy will convince anyone other than existing true believers?

Sep 5, 2013 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Have the science and technology committee actually read AR5??

Sep 5, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I was hoping from the title that Jane Austin had been called. At least her prose, though fiction, was stylish.

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:02 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

No sense, and not much sensibility, but plenty of pride and shedloads of prejudice.

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:04 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I'm not quite seeing why those media mavens are supposed to persuade the public of anything, much less government policy. Is that their job? Shouldn't they work for the poor wights who buy their product rather than the advertisers?

(Yes, I am being purposely naive. I do know what really happens.)

And, of course, where is my invite? The published written submissions were about 50:50 warmist vs sceptic. The oral, not so much.

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:16 PM | Registered Commenterrhoda

Somehow, I don't think the public are particularly interested any more. All the wild predictions have very publicly come to nought, and even the thickest are beginning to take notice, now.

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

There's an old legal aphorism that goes, "If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table."

As their "facts" continue to crumble, the pounding gets louder.

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterbladeshearer

portcullis - [pɔː(r)tˈkʌlɪs] - a heavy iron grate lowered to defend a castle gate in time of siege.

Isn't it delicious that they're meeting in Portcullis House? ;-)

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterbladeshearer

bladeshearer: Any relation to Alan? But that sums it up beautifully. As Old Goat says even the thickest are beginning to take notice that there's nothing alarming about the climate, with or without man's emissions. But it's never been the thickest that have been the problem. For it's never been what we don't know about climate that's been the problem, it's what a self-appointed elite knows that ain't so.

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Hard to find much about Lewis Smith on Google. Seems he was environment editor on The Times until 2009. Then what? Why him?

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrumpy

Well, if Fiona Harvey is for it, that's about enough evidence for me.

Here's her take on the Otto et al. paper from earlier this year, which argued for a reduced sensitivity:

Climate change: human disaster looms, claims new research.
Forecast global temperature rise of 4C a calamity for large swaths of planet even if predicted extremes are not reached"

Sep 5, 2013 at 4:44 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Richard Drake: my ''handle' comes from years in the West Highlands, clipping sheep with traditional blade shears.

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterbladeshearer

4 Journalists
I Met Office chief executive who isn'y a scientist
1 Met Office scientist whose projections have not been correct.
4 Planning officers (loosely) who do not seem to have outstanding scientific credentials.

How will they defend the projections of the 3rd and 4th assessment reports?
I expect they won't have to because no MP will ever put them on the spot.

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterRC Saumarez

"how to persuade the public to believe" - presupposes that it is not believable

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterfilbert cobb

These would be all the people who've been failing at this for years?

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

bladeshearer: As good a rationale I've heard baa none.

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:25 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

And we get accused of living in an echo chamber.

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:37 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

If they got rid of that lot it would be a step in the right direction.

Sep 5, 2013 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Judith Curry has posted:

The U.S. Senate Republicans on the Environment and Public Works Committee have issued a Minority Report entitled Critical Thinking on Climate Change.

Her introductory comment is:

"In case the Democrats are wondering why they are not making headway with climate/energy policy, this report pretty much lays it all out."

It certainly does and would make informative reading for the panel discussed in this post.

Sep 5, 2013 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

These people never give up. It's always the same story. Forget the 15-year pause in temperature rises, forget the inconvenient absence of 'extreme' weather, forget the hideous cost of 'free' renewables, forget the missing hotspot. The vast, creaking caravan rolls relentlessly on bearing with it a vast number of unthinking numbskulls all directly benefiting from this grotesque mis-use of other people's money.

It is curiously reminiscent of the Middle Ages – except that then indulgences had to be actually worked for. Today, they come with your taxpayer-funded pay check.

Sep 5, 2013 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered Commenteragouts

It might at least give us some insight into how schemers for the promotion of alarm over CO2 might be repositioning themselves given the exposure of the IPCC as untrustworthy, and the almost weekly (or is it almost daily?) appearance of papers and commentaries which expose the 'science' behind the alarm as not worthy of anyone's trust either.

Imagine if the Royal Society were led by those who believed in the spirit of Nullius in Verba! What a field day they would have had over the past couple of decades or so, and what a golden vindication of that philosophy they would be enjoying along with the appreciation of an admiring general public. As it is, they are well in the mire themselves as evidenced most recently by their awards for Ehrlich and Lewandowksy

But that is an aside. My guess is that the spin of 'take the big picture science as a given, and let's look at regional policy options' will get another tentative outing in various ways according to how close the contributor is to the heart of the darkness where I like to suppose the messaging will be being furiously refined. They've got to do something, what with the 'big picture science' being in such a mess for their point of view, and the search for a new Kyoto proving even more embarassing than the performance of the old one.

Sep 5, 2013 at 6:45 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

An interesting read, and the same "anti-reality" opponents.

Sep 5, 2013 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

"If the Devil could cast his net..."

Sep 5, 2013 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

This gentleman could have convinced everyone, but he is no longer with us.

Sep 5, 2013 at 8:26 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

It's quite clear that these people will never give up no matter what evidence to the contrary is presented to them. I believe that this is plain Alinsky marxist plotting; the issue is not the issue. They couldn't care less about whether there is or isn't AGW. What they have determined is that this issue furthers their socialist/communist agenda and while it continues to do so, they will carry on regardless. So, the way to defeat this enemy is not with reasoned argument and evidence that they are wrong. It has to be something asymmetrical.

Sep 5, 2013 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn in cheshire

Ah, the political variation of "If you might not like the answer, do not ask the question"

Simply ensure answers are only solicited from "safe hands" with previously confirmed points of view.

This "picture painting" exercise is so obvious that it could prove to be counterproductive.

Sep 5, 2013 at 9:12 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

As I said in a previous post, this is the 'Guilty Men' moment.

It's impossible to be an 'expert' on climate, called to give evidence to Parliament, and not know the direction the predicted warming is going. From this moment on all excuses are void.

It's fraud from here on in. Pure and simple.

Sep 5, 2013 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Good to see they honoured the mother of global warming by having the meeting in the Thatcher room.

Sep 5, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

How to persuade the public to believe the Fifth Assessment Report?

First, I would not bother with low circulation and/or financially tottering periodicals with a proven record of not being able to convince the public of their own merit. Second, I would not bother with the Fattest Cat chief executives whose emolument automatically precludes their having the faintest idea what/how/why people think.

It looks to me as if this has been carefully prepared for going through the maximum of motion to achieve the minimum of effect. Well done, whoever it was.

Sep 5, 2013 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuther Bl't

Mrs. Thatcher, God bless her - later bitterly regretted starting the AGW ball rolling, and the penitent sinner is the greatest convert, all are welcome, whatever the lateness of the day and however you arrive.

Sep 6, 2013 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Mrs Thatcher was a communist like GW Bush. See, it all makes sense now. LOL !

How about funding green infrastructure? Texas, of all places, has the strictest renewable-energy mandate in the USA - and consequently lots of windmills. And who can we thank? Enron. It lobbied Governor George W Bush hard for the measure in 1999, partly because it coveted the chance to trade carbon credits and partly because it needed to help out its loss-making windmill arm, Enron Wind. Enron was showered with plaudits from green groups for its support for alarm about climate change.

Sep 6, 2013 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

The AGW clownocrats still think if they can find the magic words the skeptics will miraculously transform into AGW believers.
The magic words are: Prove it.
They have never been able to prove it, and instead rely on cheesy used car sales tricks and sleazy preacher tactics to trick people into buying into their pitch.

Sep 6, 2013 at 1:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

"Mrs. Thatcher, God bless her - later bitterly regretted starting the AGW ball rolling..."

Christopher Booker has a piece on Thatcher:
On two of the great issues, the lady was indeed for turning
"...Pouring scorn on what she called “the doomsters”, she questioned all the main scientific assumptions that had been used to drive the scare, from the conviction that the main force shaping the world climate is CO2, rather than natural factors such as solar activity, to exaggerated claims about rising sea levels. She mocked Al Gore and the futility of what she recognised as “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5 degree rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects..."

Sep 6, 2013 at 4:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDerekP

"It's quite clear that these people will never give up no matter what evidence to the contrary is presented to them. I believe that this is plain Alinsky marxist plotting; the issue is not the issue. They couldn't care less about whether there is or isn't AGW. What they have determined is that this issue furthers their socialist/communist agenda and while it continues to do so, they will carry on regardless. So, the way to defeat this enemy is not with reasoned argument and evidence that they are wrong. It has to be something asymmetrical."

"It's fraud from here on in. Pure and simple."

Here's the interesting part to me. From my perspective here in the States -there are so many people involved now. The media, so many politicians, even from opposing parties, so much of business, so much of the education establishment, and so very very much of the general public. I don't believe for a second that all these people are Marxists, know a damn thing about Saul Alinski, nor do I believe that they have any intention to commit fraud.

Yet fraud is being committed. Or is it? Yes the science is fraudulent of course, but to actually commit fraud requires intent, and I'll bet only a tiny number of people involved in this entire mass hysteria have any doubts as to the truth of what they're supporting. So, what is happening then? Richard has suggested that it looks like a conspiracy, but it simply can't be in the traditional sense, because the majority do not think they're misleading anyone.

I think the issue is this in a nutshell:

Humans have an innate desire to control others, and that desire finds ways to be manifested.

This climate change/CAGW issue is but one of the many ways it can be manifested. Thomas Jefferson was talking about the exact same thing when he said that the natural course of things is for liberty to yield and for tyranny to gain ground. This process is so natural that people don't even realize they're doing it.

Hence we something that looks and acts like a vast conspiracy, but people involved are largely ignorant of the fact that they are part of it - they simply join up without really knowing what they're really doing, resulting in what I call a spontaneous conspiracy. Others might call it a madness of crowds, or a popular delusion, but again, what it really is at the root is a manifestation of our natural innate human desire for control - one of many we have had throughout history and will continue to have.

Yes, there is a socialist agenda and all that really does exist, but that agenda is just another manifestation of our natural desire to control. Luckily for us, we do have another natural desire that can, given enough time and the right conditions, and a lot of courage, rein in and counterbalance our desire for control - and that is our innate desire to be free. Of course, control works its magic best with groups of people, and freedom manifests itself best in the individual. We are at a stage now where the individual is getting his arse kicked, and the controlling mob is running roughshod over us.

I'm not sure what "asymmetrical" approach will work here, but I'll listen to anything. Most likely, the pendulum will simply have to swing, and the forces of control will have to destroy a great deal of what freedom has built before they are finally spent. Then, we will rebuild. I don't mean to say we shouldn't do anything now, because we absolutely need to be on the record, and already be swimming in the right direction when our wave finally does come. I just mean that we have to be realistic about what is coming, and about the fact that this mass delusion will take a while to pass and the spontaneous conspiracy will take a lot longer to be unwound than any of us wish.

Sorry for the length everyone ; /

Sep 6, 2013 at 5:39 AM | Unregistered Commentertomdesabla

Wow! Someone should package up all those Lottory number generators and sell them to the "warmists". They can run them alongside their anti-Y2K software and the global warming models.

Sep 6, 2013 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

Does anyone feel like I do. I read stuff about global warming, but the idea of listening to someone talking about it horrifies me. Even for a minute or less.

Sep 6, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

When Lenin said " We shall hang the capitalists"someone said " But what if we do not have the rope". Lenin replied " The capitalists will sell us the rope". One a status quo has been produced, certain people obtain money ( salary) and status.
When it comes to the Met Office how much funding was obtained from the Department of Defence pre 1989 and was part of the peace dividend a reduction in their income?.

What appears to be merging is conflict between the individual and the state which I would suggest has occurred a number of times since the Roman Times . The unification of Britain under Athelstan, Saxon/Norman, Magna Carta ( which looks back to Anglo Saxon Law ) Rise of the archers as main military capability/ Black Death/ Peasants Revolt / Rise of Lollards of 14C , Henry VIII and conflict with Church, Civil War, rise of the economic power of craftsmen in the 18C and American War of Independence , universal sufferage up to women obtaining the vote. All are conflicts between the state, those who who obtain money and status from the state and the individual who wishes to be left alone.

The fear of AGW is a perfect excuse for those who obtain money and status from the state seeking to exert control over and obtain income from the individual. Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous seas of liberty Jefferson .

If you love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains rest lightly upon you.

AGW is the modern day version of the Church selling indulgences so that wrongdoers may go to Heaven. Jobs to do with AGW is a modern version of simony, selling ecclesiastical positions for money.

Sep 6, 2013 at 12:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie


This is what an Englishman, Samuel Johnson said about the traitors aqnd gangster who betrayed their country, went over to the French side and stole the American colonies. They wanted the genocide of the Indians. Britains said 'no', the French said 'yes'.

"Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."

"How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

"Slavery is now no where more patiently endured, than in countries once inhabited by the zealots of liberty."

Sep 6, 2013 at 12:45 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Summary of the American war of independence. We should have hanged Jefferson and his silver tongued gangsters at the very start.

The reason we didn't is seen in the fact that prime minister Lord North offered to resign several times. There was a civil war going on inside British politics. Even though most of the colonists were the descendants of British aboriginals and criminals, they were still British. The military didn't have the stomach for the fight.

Sep 6, 2013 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

This is a copy of an email I sent to the Committee a couple of days ago, before I was sent notice of the second hearing & the witnesses:

Dear Committee,
You know that you Brits influence we Aussies enough to join you in times of War, but this Inquiry is really most peculiar.
Surely one starts by assuming that the government is there to do the bidding of the majority of the public.
You have to assume that the public has the understanding required, because after all, they voted you in.
The main policy implication (if you think the public misunderstands) is that you ought educate them better.
Now as to Climate, the great green god, I guess that you mean Catastrophic Climate Change, because that’s where some politicians and their mates have made a great deal of money from a trusting public.
I say trusting, because that is the flip coin for the loyalty that saw you elected.
What is being fed to you as the science of climate change, which many of you believe as a matter of course, has been, in places, rather unscientific.
In fact, it is embarrassing to mention it alongside real science.
Please, ladies and gentlemen of the Committee, be aware that you are being used to channel more money into the pockets of a smart few.
You must understand that by now, public understanding is moving rapidly to shine the light on the poor science. It is no longer being believed except by those who profit from it and those who are still catching up.
You would do the public a service to audit the science, calling on people from many disciplines to air their beliefs in, or hard objections to, the science.
That would be far more valuable than making policy based on your current impression of public understanding, which has changed very rapidly in the past few months.
Do study the Australian election result. It’s largely about ditching a ‘carbon tax’ that is hated by the public.
Do you really think that the people appearing before you are representative of the public? Why not call scientists rather than news reporters?
Even from distant Australia I could name several UK scientists who comprehend much better what you should be told.
Please audit the science openly and without appeal to authority, for that non-logical path has let you down.

Sep 6, 2013 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

bladeshearer - you're not the guy in the Specsavers advert who shears his border collie by accident, are you..?

Seriously - I am really quite shocked that such a committee should be convened - to 'persuade' us assumed morons that AR5 has to be sold to us. Surely we're capable of making our own minds up - or is that too much of an assumption for politicians to consider..?

Sep 6, 2013 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Perhaps they should entitle it “The Fifth Assessment Report Explained – Hear Our Lively Explanation of Science” or “AR5E-HOLES”

How ironic that they should meet in the Thatcher Room of Portcullis House.

Sep 6, 2013 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Sep 6, 2013 at 5:39 AM |tomdesabla

Agreed. I think that anyone who tries to reduce this whole mess to "They are all Marxists" or "Follow the Money" or any other single issue are missing the point. CAGW is a bonanza/opportunity/excuse/delusion for all sorts with all sorts of motives conscious and unconscious.
Every time anyone tries to ascribe one specific motive then they unwittingly do sceptics a disservice because it's easy for warmists to point to examples of believers who patently do not have that motive.

Sep 6, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

You are of course correct. I tend to write short posts, but it is clear to me that the AGW movement is a sort of emergent secular religion, and is attracting/has attracted a broad range of people. I distinguish promoters of AGW and believers and true believers of AGW in an attempt to show that there is not a monolithic movement/dogma.

Sep 6, 2013 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

I think it was Richard North who posited that political division had rotated 90 degrees.

Before, there was Left and Right; now there is Above and Below, a new aristocracy based on mendacity, amorality, avarice and arrogance. How else to explain the behaviour of people like Grantham's golden boy, the odious Stern?

Sep 6, 2013 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Rick Bradford

That is my view. As Gordon Brown said 'the rewards are there for those who cooperate (with the criminals). Stern and Ward are shining examples of Homo Mendacity.

Sep 6, 2013 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

A gathering of 'true believers ' to plot how to sell their message to the people , well if past experience is to go from .
There will be lots of shoes with holes in them as they shoot themselves in the foot . And long my it continue, that they fail to understand its not the way the message is spread, but the message itself that is the problem .
Arrogance and hubris are a bad mixture , but thank the lord the AGW faithful seems to have an never ended supply of it .

Sep 6, 2013 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterKNR

Rick Bradford,
I think that North's idea has a great deal of merit as does, I think, the idea of adding an Authoritarian/Liberal axis to the simplistic and often misleading Left/Right continuum.

I think the two ideas are quite compatible if you consider that Authoritan types, of Left or Right, populate most of North's Above the Line.
People who are Liberal - in the sense of not wishing to force other people to do things they may not want to do - may have been born Above the Line or otherwise got lucky but they don't tend to be ambitious, sociopathic or greedy enough to fight to make it there.

Sep 6, 2013 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Graham Stringer must have the patience of Job. Lets hope he loses it.

Sep 6, 2013 at 10:41 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Never mind AR5, maybe the committee members will ask Prof Slingo for some more horticultural tips given her pronouncements in the Gardening section of the Telegraph last January:

Changing weather patterns will make the perfect British lawn 'a thing of the past'

... Professor Julia Slingo, the chief scientist at the Met Office, also believes gardeners will need to adapt to the change.

She said: "We should all be worried about climate change, we are taking the planet into unchartered territories through our own activities.

"We are taking our planet into a climate that we haven't seen for a very, very long time, going back to before there were gardens in the UK.

"For us in the UK we will be buffered from most of the climate change because we live downstream from the Atlantic Ocean, that is why we have lovely gardens now.

"(The weather) will continue to be very variable and as gardeners we need to adapt to that."

So we need to adapt to a CONTINUATION of variability? How bad can things get before our decision makers realise that they have been totally duped by these alarmist idiots?

Sep 7, 2013 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

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