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« The headless chickens | Main | Walport the soothsayer »
Friday
Jan312014

Defence of the realm

Paul Nurse has written to the Times to try to defend the idea that the Royal Society speaks with a united voice on global warming.

Sir, It is possible to think from the letter of Michael Kelly, FRS, (Jan 29) that the Royal Society might not be fully supportive of the views of the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and the IPCC on the science of climate change. That would be wrong.

In 2010 the Royal Society produced a guide that set out what climate science was well established, where there was wide consensus but still debate and where there remains substantial uncertainty.

Michael Kelly was on the working group which wrote that report, which came to similar conclusions to those of the IPCC. Informed by that report, our Council, the representative body of our Fellowship, recognises that the evidence is increasingly clear that there is increased warming of the Earth, due to human activity.

There are uncertainties about predicting the exact future impact of such changes, but the Royal Society’s and IPCC’s evidence-based and scientific approach gives us the best possible insight into what may lie ahead and should be the basis for discussing the policy decisions related to this issue.

The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes — those who refuse to accept the evidence and those who seek to overstate it.

For a productive debate to take place we need to look at the most reliable evidence as presented by the majority of expert climate scientists. The Royal Society and the IPCC reports are a good place to start.

Sir Paul Nurse

President of the Royal Society

This is rather funny. On Tuesday we had prominent climatologists telling MPs that the IPCC's computer models do not include the IPCC's latest estimates of aerosol forcing. This necessarily means that they run too hot. These models form the basis of both the attribution of recent warming to man and predictions of future climate change.

In what strange world are the IPCC reports "a good place to start"?

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Reader Comments (82)

Ye Gods, is the man's grip on sanity really so tenuous that he could make such a claim in good faith?

Jan 31, 2014 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterdepressing

It's interesting that Nurse acknowledges that there are some people who 'seek to overstate' the evidence. I wonder if he will identify any by name?

Jan 31, 2014 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris Long

Yet another one who appears to have Special Needs - how many more?

Jan 31, 2014 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterGummerMustGo

Increasingly, I feel ashamed of scientists.

Well done, Michael Kelly, it takes guts to speak out against the establishment. We need more scientists with knowledge and influence in this area to set the record straight and expose the alarmism that seems to be the product of group-think.

Jan 31, 2014 at 11:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Nursey:

"the majority of expert climate scientists"

Lindzen (this week and as close as i can get it):

"the not so bright students went to climate subjects. The bright ones...Physics, Chemistry"


Says enough for me!

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

Michael Kelly probably thought he knew what he thought but clearly, he does not know what he thought he thought as much as Sir Paul Nurse does.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Wasn't it 42 RS Fellows who objected to its line on CAGW? For a Nobel laureate (as he likes to remind everyone) Nurse has a rubbish memory.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes — those who refuse to accept the evidence and those who seek to overstate it.

What "evidence" is there, other than the massaged figures of cr*p extremely dodgy Temp' statistics ala the computer modelled science? Don't take my word for it - listen to Dr Lindzen.

as presented by the majority of expert climate scientists

"majority"

What? He must be thinking of that damned statistic - some 97% of about 30-40 biased bods of the IPCC persuasion?

Methinks to the contrary, the mere fact that Nurse deems it necessary to pen this letter - means that there must be some considerable doubt in the minds of many of the members of the Royal Society and is that - such a surprise?

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Why is it nearly always a non climate scientist defending climate science? One might be fooled into thinking that only those with half the picture dare stand up for it.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Kelly is a physicist with a lot of engineering experience in industrial research. No-one with that kind of background accepts the flawed physics in IPCC Climate Alchemy. Nurse hasn't got the intellect to do more than support the scam.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

Someone should remind Paul nurse that the phrase nullius in verba is the royal society 's motto and not a disclaimer .

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterandymc

It would be good if some other FRS's were to tell Nurse what's what. For example

On the Academic Advisory Council of the GWPF:

Sir Alan Rudge

Sir Alan Rudge FRS, an electrical engineer, is Chairman of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, Chairman of the ERA Foundation, former Chairman of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council,and a former member of the government Scientific Advisory Committee.

He earned a BSc from the London Polytechnic in 1964 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Birmingham in 1968. He was head of operations at British Telecommunications. He was Chairman of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. He was President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:54 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Notice how Sir Paul Nurse never talks of canvassing the Fellows in order to settle the debate.

In fact all the Learned Institutions that are quoted by Alarmists as being in agreement, have never asked their members.

Funny that!

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes — those who refuse to accept the evidence and those who seek to overstate it.

There is some truth in this. But on the whole it is undoubtedly the sceptics who have been labelled as extremists, deniers and worse, for merely questioning an unproven pseudo-scientific hypothesis, spurious statistical methods and dubious data, which has not been properly archived. Even in today's letter, Nurse accuses sceptics of refusing to accept the 'evidence'. At the umpteenth time of asking, could Nurse, Walpott and Stott et al please detail what this evidence fvor CAGW is, other than computer models which we now know run too warm (because the ASSUMPTIONS about the properties of aerosols were wrong), and are fundamentally flawed in any case because they can't model clouds. There has been no warming for 15 years, the tropspheric hotspot is missing, the Arctic sea-ice has not disappeared, the Antarctic sea-ice is at a 30 year high, and the chances are that UHI at Northern Hemisphere stations could account for much of the apparent Arctic warming. Meanwhile there have been no increase in the magnitude or frequency of tropical storms or extreme weather events.

Nurse needs to stop insulting us, and stop insulting our intelligence, and start asking some questions about many aspects of climate science and those who practice it.

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

Maybe somebody should remind Paul Nurse of the motto of the Royal Society.
"It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment."

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:18 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Like other organisation the RS has simply not actual asked its memebers their views, rather its 'leaders' of pushed out statements and policy without refering to the actual memembership.

Not usual , but its reality that those that seek such positions are often more poltical in nature with greater need for a ego bost than the majoirty of the memembers who ae not interested in the politcal games these leaders love to play .

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

A Nursey-ry Rhyme.

Nursey Nursey Nursey,

With theories all so Blust’ry

Atishoo atishoo you’ll all fall down

PM

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterPM Walsh

The body of the Royal Society left in an Nurse.....

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMydogsgotnonose

A suggested policy directive for "dave" would be for all his institutes to poll their members and provide a good stat on
the consensus.

It would earn him some credibility if he does not want to part from his wimmin

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:54 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I once worked for Alan Rudge. He does not like bureaucracy.

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

You have to wonder if people like Nursey Nurse (got him confused with the one in Blackadder) and Walport actually believe the BS that they spout so frequently.

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:55 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Don't knock it, for Paul Nurse to say ".... and those who choose to overstate it." Is a big admission and change in direction, in my opinion. Maybe he has actually been paying some attention for once.

Jan 31, 2014 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterHot under the collar

"The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes"

Does that include Presidents of learned Royal Societies who refer to sceptics as "Deniers!"

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterColin Porter

I'm waiting for the RS's Official Position on Clock Radio Science. I think it would be good for them to get on the right side of this vitally important work, so they can avoid looking like foolish deniers.

Andrew

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

Hmmm, 'choose to'. That's interesting.
==============

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Petition to change the RS motto to NUMQUAM NUTRICI IN VERBA

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

"The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes — those who refuse to accept the evidence and those who seek to overstate it".

"Overstating it" seems to be a key element of the job description of Government Chief Scientists.....

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:24 PM | Unregistered Commentermitcheltj

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

Thoughts:

(1) Sir P is a prominent geneticist with enough experience of the scientific world to recognize that when he speaks about climate science he does not know what he is talking about. He knows that he is a mere relay for those who appear to him to know more about the subject or that, if he does not speak out in the way we have so often seen, he will be vulnerable to attack from powerful and ill-disposed forces within the SocRoy membership. So is he a happy man, or is he under pressure? Are we witnessing intra SocRoy politics being played out before us?

(2) There is nothing new in the letter - it appears uninspired and a mere YaBoo to Kelly. Give him the evidence-based and scientific approach of the IPCC and, by omission, scorn the fact that that body and its enquiries and reports are, at the same time and without conflict, institutionally biased as a result of dependence on government resources when those governments have policy-driven requirements for a particular result.

(3) The SocRoy and the IPCC share this dependence and the resulting bias, and may or may not be the best place to start to look for reliable evidence presented by climate scientists. But in order to complete a survey it will be necessary to go further. Being biased, Sir P chooses not to mention this fact and so seeks to deceive the reader.

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

...For a productive debate to take place...

Er - I thought he said that the science was settled...?

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Oops, 'seek to'. Still interesting.
===========

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Well, 'seek to' is even more interesting because of the admission, perhaps unconsciously, of bias.
============

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:43 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

"The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes — those who refuse to accept the evidence and those who seek to overstate it."

Nurse once again trying to pretend he is and always has been in the unobjectionable centre ground - and that the centre is alarmist, not like the sceptics who are "deniers" of any warming possibility ever.

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Slightly off topic but I see today that there is much reporting of new model predictions of significant warming and extreme weather. It seems that the climate scientists are turning up the rhetoric.

It made me wonder how long this can continue, assuming that Mother Nature continues to refuse to cooperate. At some stage the scientists will lose all credibility. It is incredible that they still seem to enjoy the support of people like Walport and Nurse after 17 years of non-warming. If this divergence of model prediction and reality continues, how does one define the refusal of public servants and academics to acknowledge the probability that their models are wrong?

Are they guilty of negligence, fraud, madness or what? It is a serious question. Given that policymakers continue to squander our money while these people deny reality, they must be guilty of something.

Jan 31, 2014 at 2:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

For a productive debate to take place we need to look at the most reliable evidence as presented by the majority of expert climate scientists.

Translation: We're hopefully going to dine out on this for years until some oik comes along with the correct interpretation of observations.

Jan 31, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Add Michael Kelly to the list of possible Paul Nurse fathers...http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2010/oct/24/profile-paul-nurse-dna-genes

Jan 31, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

If majority of ‘experts ‘ agreeing is all it takes for Nurse regard a position as unquestionable , would he also agree that as a majority of priests consider that gods exist , and who as could be called an ‘expert’, then we must accept hat indeed does god exists?

Jan 31, 2014 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterknr

@Paul Matthews ..well said , I echo

Jan 31, 2014 at 3:08 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Bishop,

You write again that the "IPCC's computer models do not include the IPCC's latest estimates of aerosol forcing", but this is to misunderstand how the models work.

Radiative forcing is an output of the CMIP5 models, not an input. The models therefore give a range of values for aerosol forcing. This point was made by Myles Allen during the evidence session.

Specifically, the CMIP5 output is -0.8 [-1.7 to +0.1]Wm^-2. You can find this in Table 2 of Forster et al (2013) - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jgrd.50174/pdf.

Compared to the IPCC range of -0.9 [-1.9 to -0.1]Wm^-2, it looks like the models *under*estimate aerosol forcing, if anything.

Jan 31, 2014 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered Commentertilting@windmills

I caution against implying or suggesting that Paul Nurse is unintelligent. We know this is not true, and making such a claim obliterates the merit of anything else you say along the way.

Smart people often say and do dumb things, and we know that academically brilliant people can sometimes appear devoid of any common sense. But Nursey is not unintelligent and he is not intellectually challenged. He's ill-advised, clearly not deeply knowledgeable on the lack of strength of some aspects of climate science and he is cripplingly naive when it comes to the climate elite's ideological biases. None of this makes him stupid, it just makes him LOOK stupid.

Jan 31, 2014 at 3:21 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Nicely put Simon, but I still can't understand how he can disregard his own society's motto so completely, a point I made in the comments under his letter in the Times online.

Jan 31, 2014 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

The evidence Nurse ignores, surely, is the global temperature measurements, terrestrial, balloons and satellite, that shows no warming since 1998. Yet he is still grasping the straw that temperatures are higher now than at some year in the late 20th century. Forgetting, of course, the predictions of the IPCC climate models, that have all but been falsified. We all looked up to the RS and were proud of any colleague who had a paper accepted by the Fellows. Now I really wonder if we should feel this way.

Jan 31, 2014 at 4:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

tilting@windmills : "Specifically, the CMIP5 output is -0.8 [-1.7 to +0.1]Wm^-2. You can find this in Table 2 of Forster et al (2013)" The only such number in Table 2 is the adjusted forcing for the 2001-2005 period for the "historical non-greenhouse-gas" scenario, which indeed has a 90% uncertainty of +/- 0.9 Wm-2. So I'm fairly certain this is the value to which you refer.

Later on, Forster writes, "This section has shown that it is not appropriate to represent aerosol AF by the Historical-nonGHG residual scenario." I think you're comparing apples to apes.

Jan 31, 2014 at 4:23 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

Like 100% of warmists Nurse is either stupid or dishonest.

I read a lot of the 'skeptic' blogs and I never see anyone claiming there's been no warming. The theme is always about (1) the amount of warming & (2) how much of that is likely to be natural, (3) the implications of the warming and (4) the implications of drastic CO2 reduction.

The answers are almost always:

1 - not much
2 - some
3 - beneficial
4 - economic suicide

It seems like a no-brainer to me, but I'm not a climate scientist.

Jan 31, 2014 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterjaffa

Wasn't it 42 RS Fellows who objected to its line on CAGW? For a Nobel laureate (as he likes to remind everyone) Nurse has a rubbish memory.

Jan 31, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Yes it was! Something Sir Paul Nurse seems to have "inconveniently" forgotten!

All this stems from the likes of Nurse because they possess an arrogance of un Onanism. They genuinely believe that they are so intellectually above we plebs that we should blithely believe everything they say!

I also recall something Prof Lindzen said a little while ago in some testimony he gave to the House of Lords Committee on Climate Change. HE posed the rhetorical question the Committee, "What do we actually know for certain? Well, we know that the Globally Averaged Temperature seems to have rise around 8/10th of a degree Celcius over the last 150 years. We know that man's activities are adding very small amounts of Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere, and we know that, "in theory", that Carbon Dioxide should add to that warmth". He concluded that that was about the size of it! After he & Professor Paul Reiter had testified to the Committee, the Lords recommended that the UNIPCC should be disbanded! Of course no such event took place, at least not while Tony was on watch, but it's looking more & more shakey for the IPCC, it may cling on for some time!

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

I go along with Simon Hopkinson's caution (3:21 PM) that it would be unwise to suppose that Paul Nurse is unintelligent. It is tempting to be cheeky about him. The smart-alec schoolboy role he played in that tv documentary of January 2011 makes one think he is, for all his honours and achievements, a bit of an intellectual lightweight. There is a thoughtful review of that programme by someone called Mike Hersee, on a blog I came across today. His review ends with these words:

Yes, but the public is becoming increasingly aware that too often it’s the scientists themselves who have become political, ideological, and left the science behind. And from the evidence of this programme, that includes the new president of The Royal Society, Sir Paul Nurse himself. He has sacrificed his allegiance to scientific principles on the altar of maintaining the superficial prestige of the scientific establishment.

If this is true we must not just consider Nurse’s weaknesses in climate science, but perhaps give more attention to what may be his greater strengths in ‘political, ideological’ matters.

The letter from him reproduced above is a bit of a highly-polished gem of clever positioning. There is much in it that climate sceptics would agree with, not least our Council, the representative body of our Fellowship, recognises that the evidence is increasingly clear that there is increased warming of the Earth, due to human activity. I think it very likely that this council would go along with that. It does, not after all, specify how much warming is due to human activity. It might, for example, be a very small proportion of the observed warming in the late 20th century since the similar warming earlier in the century is presumably entirely natural.

He does not use his letter as an opportunity for sounding the alarm again. He merely notes that the council of the Royal Society has gone along with the IPCC in the past (failing to note that it first did so with such enthusiasm that a group of fellows objected and had the rhetoric toned right down for the revised statement of 2010 to which Sir Paul alludes.)

If the IPCC represents the case for the 'prosecution' ( and essentially it is a prosecution of industrial civilisation), then it is an unsatisfactory one. It goes big on noting late 20th century warming, and asserting that human influence is clear, but these are scarcely grounds for major policy decisions. The recent report by the NIPCC, ‘Climate Change Reconsidered II’, has captured a great deal of the evidence and argument in the scientific literature that would be called upon by the ‘defence’. Their conclusion is

‘that any human global climate signal is so small as to be embedded within the background variability of the natural climate system and is not dangerous.’
Note there is nothing explicit in Sir Paul’s letter that disagrees with this.

The sentence that most jars with me in the letter is this one: There are uncertainties about predicting the exact future impact of such changes, but the Royal Society’s and IPCC’s evidence-based and scientific approach gives us the best possible insight into what may lie ahead and should be the basis for discussing the policy decisions related to this issue.

We might readily agree that an ‘evidence-based and scientific approach gives us the best possible insight into what may lie ahead’, and that such an approach should be a key part of ‘discussing the policy decisions related to this issue’. But claiming this high ground for the Royal Society and the IPCC is going too far. The NIPCC report alone makes that clear.

There is a fine new booklet out written by Jamie Whyte and called ‘Quack Policy’ He illustrates the deceptive nature of the phrase 'evidence-based policy making' in the hands of governments who have used poor quality science to promote poor quality policy, the ‘quack policy’ of the title. I am very pleased to have come across his writing, as I think he is contributing an important piece or two to the jigsaw that one day will reveal just how we came to such a sorry pass in the intersection of climate science and policy. I’ve read the book once through quite quickly, but I hope to return to it and draw out some of the insights at a later date. Maybe, and hopefully given my relatively low productivity, others will beat me to it. I hope so. There are insights there that would be relevant to developing the ‘productive debate’ which Sir Paul mentions in his last paragraph. The catch-phrase 'evidence-based policy' covers many sins, not least through its use as a device to allow , in Whyte's words, 'academic elites to impose their own values on society as a whole'.

Sir Paul is most decidedly a member of an academic elite, and he deserves to be treated with extreme caution.

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:06 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

... For a productive debate to take place we need.....

presumably another gagging order from Nurse and his cohort of hangers on.

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartyn

"The debate on climate change is too often characterised by those at the extremes — those who refuse to accept the evidence and those who seek to overstate it."
And here is clearly one at the extreme of CAGW and he will presumably be our next King. I can only say to our current Queen - hang on in there for as long as you can.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/prince-charles/10610108/Prince-Charles-climate-change-deniers-are-headless-chickens.html
Will he ever learn? Maybe Nurse and his ilk are advisers to this "Prince Charming". He will clearly not be a king for the people, but mostly for Guardian readers. I feel insulted by a future head of state.

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter
I was just about to post the same link.
He is a complete embarrassment to the UK.
Notice there are Comments available, he would get deluged in insults.

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

The Royal Society and the Age of Stupid, 20 March 2010, Tate Modern Starr Auditorium

Was this their finest hour?

"Tate and the Royal Society collaborate by bringing together scientists and artists to imagine the social and psychological impacts of climate change". http://royalsociety.org/events/2010/age-stupid/

Speakers for the symposium include: Professor Brian Hoskins, Lucy Orta, Robert Bloomfield, Tomas Saraceno, Professor Steve Rayner, Agnes Denes and Professor Corinne Le Quere, (now Director of the Tyndall Centre).

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:49 PM | Registered Commenterdennisa

Here are some more useless Ba**ards looking after the Realm as well.
http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/457246/EU-Referendum-Bill-killed-off-in-the-House-of-Lords

Jan 31, 2014 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

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