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« Met bashes Cameron | Main | Bean holds forth »
Thursday
Jan092014

Deben and 'the deniers'

In yesterday's exchanges in the Energy and Climate Change Committee there was an interesting exchange between Peter Lilley and Lord Deben, with the latter expressing outrage at the suggestion that a scientist might have said that their results had no effect on the broader global warming hypothesis simply so as to ensure they didn't lose their grant funding.

Deben's outrage quickly switched onto a subtly different point, namely the idea that scientists might be motivated solely by the need to keep grant funding moving on. He then sought to occupy the moral high ground by saying that he didn't engage in such behaviour himself:

I don’t think I have ever accused those who disagree on climate change with unworthy motives. People working in the climate change area do so because they are scientists; because they want to find the truth. I find it increasingly unacceptable for people to undermine their position by saying they are only doing it for the grant or they say this to protect themselves. I don’t think that’s a worthy way for any of us to behave. I’ve never said this about the Global Warming [Policy] Foundation…I don’t think ad hominem arguments are acceptable in any circumstances and we won’t use them.

Now when I appeared on Radio Five a few months ago, Lord Deben was moved to ask his Twitter followers whether the BBC gave a "platform to those who don’t believe smoking causes cancer?", so I don't think we should take his protestations seriously. But unfortunately for Lord D, Lilley later recalled the Fisher House Conference, which was reported on this site at the time, and during which Deben had apparently encouraged the audience to read a book called The Deniers, which, Lilley said was full of the arguments about motivation that Deben said he eschewed. Many readers here will recognise that The Deniers is actual Lawrence Solomon's sceptic-flavoured book about scientists who take dissenting views on global warming. However, from the conversation between Lilley and Deben it is fairly obvious that the book that was discussed at the Fisher House Conference was in fact Merchants of Doubt, by Oreskes and Conway.

Confronted in this way, Deben started to improvise, saying that the book was not an attack on the motivations of scientists but was instead a record of how the US coal industry had sought to undermine the global warming consensus. I've never read the book, so I was surprised when I took a look at its front cover:

That's right. It's subtitle is "How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming".

Oh dear.

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Reader Comments (49)

It's Naomi Oreskes, who is the archetype of the psuedoscientific quack grant-hoover.

Jan 9, 2014 at 8:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

As secretary of state, environment minister Gummer introduced the landfill tax, which is of course an EU diktat.

This man is steeped in greenwash politics and is primarily an UNEP/ EU man.

'THIS IS ESSENTIAL READING for all those who want to see that what they do, in rising to the challenge of Rio, draws properly on the experience of others and therefore makes their contribution all the more effective.' from the Foreword by JOHN GUMMER MP former secretary of State for the Environment 'An essential guide to how global agreements are being implemented at a local level. Sometimes people question whether global agreements impact on their lives. This book answers with a firm 'YES'.' FELIX DODDS UNED-UK Coordinator Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development called for the participation and cooperation of loca1 authorities in support of its economic, social and environmental goals. This collection of in-depth case studies emphasizes the diversity and inventiveness of local initiatives since the Rio 'Earth Summit' within different national settings. From the Earth Summit to Local Agenda 21offers a realistic counterpoint to the official monitoring and assessment procedures of national governments and international bodies. It highlights the problems of assessment and policy evaluation and clearly sets out the policy stages necessary for more effective realization of Local Agenda 21 objectives. WILLIAM M LAFFERTY is professor of political science at the University of Oslo, Norway, and director of the Program for Research and Documentation for a Sustainable Society (ProSus) within the Research Council of Norway. KATARINA ECKERBERG is associate professor in international relations at the Department of Political Science, Umea University, Sweden. Originally published in 1998

Gives you a flavour of this twerp.

Gummer-Green loony and nothing he says or does surprises me.

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

You don't have to go far back in Deben's tweets to find him doing exactly what he claims he doesn't do.

John Deben ‏@lorddeben 4 Jan
@tveitdal @BjornKHaugland Really scary re-telling of the hounding of scientists by climate change deniers plus what motivates the dismissers

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:21 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
==============

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
How about a beefburger? Oh, sorry. He stuffed that down his daughter's throat, didn't he? Not quite got the courage of his convictions, there.
Creep.

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:34 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Time to finally read the thing I suppose?

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

Another excellent contribution to the UK debate Andrew. Peter Lilley can be forgiven for getting a book title wrong. Deben is pretending one thing in front of the SciTech committee and resting on all the normal ad-homs outside, including the false lung cancer analogy. Except Gummer does steer away from using 'denier' - that I've seen on Twitter anyway. It's amazing to think Lawson, Lilley and he were in the same Cabinet. I like to think that those two have at least modified his vocabulary in that regard.

Mike Jackson: Are you really saying Gummer didn't eat a beefburger himself at that time? Just so the range of sceptic views is known I've never felt any animus towards him about his role during the mad cow scare. Isn't that a major distraction right now? Can you provide evidence please that he ate no beefburger himself, only asked his daughter to do so?

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Hi Bish

This bit from the first para doesn't make sense.............

.......... with the latter expressing outrage at the suggestion that a scientist might have say that their results had no effect on the broader global warming hypothesis ....................

Cheersh
[Done. Thanks. BH]

Jan 9, 2014 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Aggrey

Can you provide evidence please that he ate no beefburger himself, only asked his daughter to do so?
Jan 9, 2014 at 9:51 AM rRichard Drake

Richard, it would be hard to provide evidence of someone not eating something. However, I saw it on TV at the time and I remember very clearly that he gave his daughter the beefburger to eat and there was no sign of him eating one himself. Of course, the TV report could have been edited so that is not proof he did not eat one himself.

I remember that, later, the family of a CJD sufferer were outraged and described what they had seen on TV, which matched my memory of what I had seen.

----------------------

OK - I found it on Youtube. My memory was faulty. See for yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QobuvWX_Grc

He gave Cordelia a beefburger direct from the seller. But it was too hot for her. He is shown eating the same beefburger so it's not true to say he did not eat a beefburger himself.

Jan 9, 2014 at 10:09 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, thank you. You know that meme where sceptics will believe anything bad about their enemies, however groundless? Best not to give folks like Deben the comfort of being able to point to exactly that.

Jan 9, 2014 at 10:49 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

It's nonsense. Ad hominem attacks and appeals to authority are the cornerstone of global warming.

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

I never liked the fellow when he was just John Selwyn Gummer, MP, and was perplexed when he was promoted to the cabinet. With the likes of him, Worthless, Archer and Prezzer in the HoL, if ever the impossible does happen, and I am offered ennoblement (though I admit that I am more likely to be a panto dame than one of the realm), I think I might be tempted to turn it down – you never know what you might catch in there!

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

The BSE scare is a good lesson of just how much trust to put in grant-funded scientists: They were wrong, en masse, twice. First they declared CJD from BSE was impossible - largely because the government urged them to say so. When it became impossible to deny the truth any longer, they then just completely invented a rogue 'prion' to explain how the impossible could in fact happen. Then they panicked and became ridiculously pessimistic, having previously been ridiculously optimistic.

The lumpen public, by complete contrast did the right thing twice - they did not initially believe the scientists because it was obvious bullshit, then they went back to eating beef after it was clear that only very few people were susceptible.

Gummer/Deben could have used that humiliation as a salutory lesson - but then he does seem to suffer from selective memory loss.

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

I was at the meeting in Cambridge, and although I can't remember the book in question,I do recall at how ill mannered Deben was throughout the proceedings. The meeting was chaired by Rowan Williams, and there were four speakers from each side, including Peter Lilley and Dick Lindzen. On each occasion when a so called sceptic spoke, Deben would ostentatiously flick through his papers making it abundantly clear his utter disdain for anyone not in agreement with the AGW hypothesis. His alarming rudeness to Dick Lindzen contrasted starkly with Lindzen's impeccable manners and politeness. It was an extraordinary outburst, but I'm afraid Deben's arrogance and self satisfied smugness about his rightness of everything is overriding, and is not attractive to behold.

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Maxwell

Deben has eaten too many burgers.

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Gummer thinks scientists are infallible paragons of virtue-

John Deben‏@lorddeben19h
I insisted the at the Select Committee that scientists should not be besmirched by claims that their results are affected by need for grants

Andrew Stuttaford‏@AStuttaford18h
@lorddeben Yet you have been known to suggest that 'denier/dismisser' research can be somehow tainted by some funding sources. Inconsistent?

peter overton‏@overton95118h
@lorddeben Yeh right !!

Craig M‏@CraigM35017h
@lorddeben @LeoHickman I honestly thought that was a spoof account/tweet there for a minute. Climate scientists must be non human! ;-)

Foxgoose‏@Foxgoose17h
@lorddeben @LeoHickman Pompous posturing. Glad to hear you respect your twitter opponents though - it isn't always all that clear.

Arthur Dent‏@RealArthurDent16h
@lorddeben @LeoHickman Perhaps you should have words with the green NGOs that insist that funding biases scientific results

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Registered CommenterPharos

"Deben's outrage" - real or pretend outrage - does the man have any integrity?

I have noticed he uses this tactic to try and put his accuser on the back foot. It is really appalling to watch him waffle on when he answers an "embarrassing" question. I suppose someone like him is never really embarrassed, just pretends to.

For a man who has believed in CAGW since he served in Major's (or should that be Mago's) cabinet, how can he claim any kind of objectivity! In fact he was most likely a convert to the CAGW religion much earlier than that.

Jan 9, 2014 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Gummer was my MP once (sadly). He has always been the prince of fools. I cannot imagine that anyone who watched his 'evidence' to the committee could fail to be appalled by him and all he stands for.

Jan 9, 2014 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterDudley Jones

Mike Jackson: Are you really saying Gummer didn't eat a beefburger himself at that time? Just so the range of sceptic views is known I've never felt any animus towards him about his role during the mad cow scare. Isn't that a major distraction right now? Can you provide evidence please that he ate no beefburger himself, only asked his daughter to do so?

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:51 AM | Richard Drake
===========================================================

Certainly on TV only his daughter was shown eating (having forced down her throat, rather, it seemed) the burger

Jan 9, 2014 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

Jeremy - that was my recollection - perhaps the early evening news.

But see the Youtube vid - Gummer munched the burger himself afterwards. As I said before, it was possible that what was shown on the news was edited.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QobuvWX_Grc

Jan 9, 2014 at 12:49 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Slightly off topic but likely to be of interest here is this recent post by Judith Curry...
http://judithcurry.com/2014/01/06/ipcc-ar5-weakens-the-case-for-agw/#more-14295
...which considers what the AR5 WG1 report actually says, as opposed to what people repodted it saying.

Title: IPCC AR5 weakens the case for AGW

JC Summary: If you read the fine print (not just the SPM) and compare the AR5 with statements made in the AR5, the IPCC AR5 WGI Report makes a weaker case for AGW than did the AR4. Of course there is nothing in the AR5 SPM that directly suggests weakening.

Jan 9, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

I think given the YouTube evidence it's unlikely John Gummer himself will be entirely impressed by the charge that he made his daughter do something potentially life-threatening that he was not willing to do himself.

Of course, that may not matter to people here. He's scum, just as he thinks we are and that's the way it is with us, just like the hard left and right fought it out in the streets in Weimar Germany. That turned out well, didn't it?

I'm not sure we're at our most persuasive when instead of raising very real concerns about Deben today, as the host does, we bring up something that is patently wrong from the 1990s. But I'm such a pedant. Please do carry on.

Jan 9, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The Norwegians had the measure of him 20 years ago. Their environment minister Thorbjoern Berntsen, during a discussion on acid rain which Gummer (then his opposite number) refused to reply to, called him the biggest drittsekk (shitbag) he'd ever met. I believe he wasn't very popular at school, either.

Jan 9, 2014 at 1:04 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Richard

I take your point, but the fact remains that he tried to get poor Cordelia to eat it, which is not exactly heroic.

Jan 9, 2014 at 1:10 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Progressives: make their decisions, then engage their brains (to defend their decisions)
Conservatives; engage their brains until they finally come to a decision (and then move on to something else)

In modern society, the former is more politically effective for the person involved, and inevitably proves disastrous for everyone else.

Jan 9, 2014 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

jamesp: It's a distraction as far as I'm concerned. I read about it at the time and I've read endlessly about it on UK blogs as if it's some sort of game-changing revelation and it's always left me completely cold. And then Mike Jackson adds that he didn't eat a burger himself and Martin A finds a YouTube clip showing he did. And Mr Jackson goes very quiet. (OK, that may be a timezone thing. I hope so.) Count me completely underwhelmed. All this does is distract from and diminish the very important interaction between Lilley and Gummer yesterday. Doesn't anyone else feel the pain when we shoot ourselves in the foot with such accuracy and regularity?

Jan 9, 2014 at 1:22 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

JamesG,

"The BSE scare is a good lesson of just how much trust to put in grant-funded scientists: They were wrong, en masse, twice. First they declared CJD from BSE was impossible - largely because the government urged them to say so. When it became impossible to deny the truth any longer, they then just completely invented a rogue 'prion' to explain how the impossible could in fact happen. Then they panicked and became ridiculously pessimistic, having previously been ridiculously optimistic."

=========================================================================

As I understand it, the story ran, in the late 80s a spongiform encephalopathy was increasingly noticed in cattle. Then it was noticed that there was new variant CJD in humans.

BSE was similar to scrapie in sheep, which had been known about for centuries and appeared to have no human health consequences. Scrapie was similar to several other diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease in deer. The agents were known as 'slow viruses' but very little was understood about them. It was known that they were very small, that they contained little or no nucleic material and they were highly resistant to chemicals, radiation, nucleases and other things which destroy viruses. They seemed to have very long incubation periods which made study awkward.

Generally, they were covered by a paragraph or two in microbiology text books.

When nvCJD appeared as a problem in the early 90s, on the one hand the government had the potential of a public health problem of enormous proportions, on the other hand, the prospect of destroying a £4.5 billion a year industry.

Government scientists were asked to advise; to guide the government and give authority to decisions. However, as a colleague said at the time, "It's hard to see how government scientists can offer anything but complete guesswork because next to nothing is known about these things. They can't really extrapolate from the way viruses behave, because this does not appear to be caused by a virus".

The honest answer was that they hadn't got a clue what this was all about, but I'd gauge that if you're a "government scientist", saying you haven't got a clue isn't a possibility and to a large extent you are there as a stage prop for the politicians.

I'd say the BSE episode is a good lesson in the possible difference between science and things scientists say.

Jan 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

we are talking about a the man who force-fed his daughter a beef burger, live on TV news, at the height of the BSE scare.

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Scientists are no more immune to rent seeking and moral hazard than anyone else.
Anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant or fibbing.

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Doesn't anyone else feel the pain when we shoot ourselves in the foot with such accuracy and regularity?
Jan 9, 2014 at 1:22 PM Richard Drake

No, not really, because:

- The Great Delusion will eventually come to an end (in five years? fifteen? fifty? five hundred?) but its demise won't have been significantly held up because some refutable comments were posted on an internet blog frequented by AGW skeptics.

- Anything said here is likely to be taken as 'deniers talk nonsense' anyway (see comments by Chanda, EM, BBD, etc for examples)

- There are plenty of AGW skeptics who talk complete nonsense anyway (see Slaying the Sky Dragon for examples) so a bit of additional nonsense here is just a small increase in the background noise.


But having said that, I'd add that I'm all in favour of keeping things factual with traceable evidence for anything that is asserted.

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:17 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

At the time, when the Govt was saying that British beef was 100% safe (stated by the Govt's chief medical officer - see the youtube clip), I remember reading that:

- Nervous tissue had been ordered to be removed from beef prior to sale.

- Numerous countries had banned the import of beef from Britain.

This seemed strange to me if it was certain that eating British beef involved absolutely no risk.

It turned out that the number of people contracting nvCJD was small but, at the time, and in view of the long incubation period of the disease, the possibility of a major outbreak seemed at least a possibility.

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:46 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I was at the Cambridge meeting and Dick Lindzen emailed me afterwards to ask who it was that had laid into him and Peter Lilley. Gummer and his hot burger is better known this side of the Atlantic. There was another panellist who also put the boot in and I suspect that this was who Peter Lilley was referring to when Gummer mistakenly assumed he was being accused of making untrue aspersions by Lilley. As to the book I think it was Merchants of Doubt. Lindzen is mentioned in innuendoes twice in the text and 3 times in the references. I doubt Lindzen would have been so affronted otherwise.

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Re JamesG on BSE,

The similarities between the BSE science and AGW have some similarities. Both the main theories were/are well funded by government and the various changes that James mentions had a lot to do with the main theory struggling to explain what was happening. At the BSE inquiry at least another two theories were found to have merit and it was suggested that funding should be granted to see if they had legs. This did not happen though one of the researchers, Mark Purdey, continued doing proper research on the subject until his early death from a brain tumor. He proposed that the disease was caused by various forces acting together, organo phosphate chemicals together with a mineral inbalance caused the mutant prion.
I think his theory remains plausible, which would mean that the BSE/vCJD link is common cause. The food standard agency on the subject uses "most scientists agree" when explaining the official BSE theory, and you all though there was a consensus on the subject!

Jan 9, 2014 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn Lyon

Thanks cosmic and Martin A. I imagine it's true the experts really didn't have a clue about BSE. Remind anyone of any other pseudo-scientific scare?

For some what Gummer did was cheesy, for others it took genuine courage. (I kinda feel both at once.) Whatever, let's take the generous view and see that we need him to gain the same moral clarity and courage in the face of scientists "making it up as they go along" in Martin's memorable phrase.

He needs to see that that phrase applies - and all it implies. Scales dropping from eyes, that kind of thing. A few hefty donations to help those in fuel poverty following on from that wouldn't go amiss either.

Jan 9, 2014 at 3:01 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

David Holland: Very interesting. Did Gummer say the most damaging things about Lindzen in that debate or was it the other person you mention but don't name?

Jan 9, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

One other thing, Bish, about the Lords' meeting. Lilley kept pounding at Deben that he (Deben) was relying heavily on models and that the models - 'none of them' - had predicted the pause and all of them were running hot.
Deben's response was that his committee relied an far more than models, but when he explained what that 'far more' was it all came back to models: (I paraphrase) "We use charts and tables to back up the models. where do the charts come from? Oh, they come from models."

Wonderful to watch him squirm. And Kennedy just sat and left him to it!

Jan 9, 2014 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield

To be fair to Gummer, giving his daughter a hamburger was probably less dangerous than what some other parents do with their children on TV.

Jan 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Richard Drake. Deben didn't say anything damaging about Lindzen, he was just gratuitously rude to him. I don't recall any other panelist putting the boot in. The Panel Members were:

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins FRS, Director of Grantham Institute of Climate Change, London
Professor Richard Lindzen Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Peter Wadhams Professor of Ocean Physics and Head of Polar Ocean Physics Group, Cambridge
Professor Sir Colin Humphrey Goldsmiths' Professor and Director of Research, Department of Materials Science, Cambridge
Paper from Professor Sir Anthony Kelly FRS, Emeritus Professor and Distinguished Research Fellow, Cambridge (delivered by Paul Kelly)
Professor John Loughlin L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, Von Hügel Institute Director, Cambridge
Professor Christopher Whitty Chief Scientific Advisor, Department for International Development & Professor of international Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Lord Deben of Winston (John Selwyn Gummer) Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change.

For those interested the video of the debate can be downloaded at http://sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1446029

Jan 9, 2014 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Maxwell

Peter: Thanks. What a stupid own goal, all caused by scientivists he's rubbed shoulders with that have hyped themselves up way beyond their real merit to pour scorn on RL.

Jan 9, 2014 at 8:39 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

For some what Gummer did was cheesy ...

Richard Drake : Are you really saying Gummer eat a cheeseburger himself at that time ...?


I'll get me coat ...

Jan 9, 2014 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

gs: I almost did but I thought better of it :)

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Yes wasn't it this guy & all the 'Govt scientists' who said you couldn't get Mad Cow from meat.
It was one honest female scientist who stuck to her guns & was unfortunately proved to be correct.
Its no wonder people have little faith in political scientists opinions anymore.

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBLACK PEARL

The BBC are at it again - they continued to peddle its North Korean style propaganda tonight on Radio 4's 'Inside Science' with coverage of the failed Spirit of Mawson expedition to the Antarctic. The presenter Adam Rutherford proceeded to abuse its science oriented audience by calling its sceptical listeners “deniers”. He then interviewed a warmist scientist from the British Antarctic Survey, John Turner, who tried to make the case that the sudden change in weather was something quite exceptional, and that the ice was only 1% above normal. Hopelessly unbalanced pseudo-science.

Jan 9, 2014 at 9:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterwellers

Richard Drake, Martin A and others,

My impression of the Gummer/hamburger incident was that it was both crass and entirely wrong to exploit his young daughter. I marked him down as someone of huge and narrowly selfish ambition, with amazing slight ability and very poor judgement; not at all someone I was comfortable having a role in government. His recent performances have confirmed, rather than caused me to review, that opinion.

Rationally, I doubt that he was exposing his daughter to anything more than a miniscule additional risk, in that together with a significant proportion of the population, she'd likely already been exposed to BSE tainted beef, both in the form of meat, but more importantly in the form of processed meat products containing beef, and particularly bovine nervous tissues; sausages, burgers, pasties, etc. From an early stage, it was at least strongly suspected that nervous tissues were the most significant hazard.

For some reason, I'm not inclined to credit Gummer/Deben with that much rationality.

Jan 9, 2014 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

cosmic: I agree with your rational view. But as I said earlier it's a distraction. Historians will surely find the CAGW phenomenon a hundred times more important than BSE and Gummer a major knave and a fool within it. We need some profound changes of heart, the kind of things that saved England from the bloodletting of the French Revolution in 18th century. The future's open (in my worldview) - anyone can still change their contribution, just as there's genuine change now towards agile methods in government IT projects, after we were about the worst in the world in a corrupt and bloated process that fed the rich and harmed the poor. Sound familiar?

Jan 10, 2014 at 4:23 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

The most prominent sceptical scientist, Richard Lindzen recently gave an interview where this issue concerning the research financing motives was touched:

"If Lindzen is right about this and global warming is nothing to worry about, why do so many climate scientists, many with résumés just as impressive as his, preach imminent doom? He says it mostly comes down to the money—to the incentive structure of academic research funded by government grants. Almost all funding for climate research comes from the government, which, he says, makes scientists essentially vassals of the state. And generating fear, Lindzen contends, is now the best way to ensure that policymakers keep the spigot open."

http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/what-catastrophe_773268.html?page=3

Interestingly, only retired scientist seem to dare to make such statements publicly...

Jan 10, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterPethefin

Richard Drake,

We had our revolution in the Civil War, where the middle class and parliament asserted itself. The solution was not quite something we were ready for and we invited back the monarchy. After James II had done his worst, parliament asserted itself again and ousted him, another monarch was installed with more constraints, and a compromised, but surprisingly adequate religious settlement imposed.

I think we have to move another change, a more direct form of democracy than elections every five years where we elect one of two rival teams, which if they are in complete agreement on something such as CAGW, the electorate has no voice. So the government lives in its own private world and does things to us, rather than for us.

I don't see anything in the BBC article to give confidence that large government IT projects are to be better managed than some of the scandalous debacles we've seen. The problem with huge government projects is that they're paid for from the bottomless money pit of taxpayers' money, - the government can't go bust in the way that a commercial company can. It seems easier to continue throwing money at them than can them. I hope you're right that they will be better done and we won't see the huge waste and incompetence richly rewarded, as we have.

The amount of time and money spent on measures to tackle climate change in the UK, which aren't and can't be successful even by their own measures, and is paying through the nose for something destructive, is something which will have future generations filled with puzzled amazement, in the way that we look at huge follies such as the Mississippi Scheme. It's vastly more important than BSE. It dwarfs money wasted in useless IT schemes, aircraft carriers with no planes, and the other follies we've seen over the years.

Jan 10, 2014 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered Commentercosmic

cosmic:

And that's The Harrogate Agenda

Jan 10, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Jones

cosmic: I think the change coming out of the Government Digital Service is real and one of the most significant things that's happened in my lifetime in this country, in areas in which I myself have specialised. I said as much to another software engineer I met for the first time at a big party for Silicon Roundabout types before Christmas and he strongly agreed. And he was a very insightful dude who's worked with some very good people. And that can all read as confirmation bias I'm sure! Time will tell.

My emphasis earlier was on the need for radical change on CAGW and that Deben can be part of that. We are going need some major changes of heart to get out of this mess. I don't know how exactly that will happen. I continue to feel that abusing people for imaginary or much lesser faults doesn't help. That was my only interest in BSE and use of the word 'creep' for something the guy wasn't guilty of. You're right that I should have said CAGW is a million times more important than BSE. You obviously agree radical change is required. I'm tuning out now though for some humble coding.

Jan 10, 2014 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

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