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Lord Stern FRS

Congratulations to Lord Stern, who has been elected a fellow of the Royal Society. According to the press release, this is: recognition of his work challenging the world view on the economics of climate change and his distinguished career in mathematical economics with involvement in industry and in government.

I hear on the grapevine that the bigwigs at the Royal Society were a bit miffed by the suggestion in Nullius in Verba that the society was a political advocacy operation. The elevation of Stern - whose report on climate economics was criticised by the entirely non-sceptic economist William Nordhaus as "political in nature" and having "advocacy as its purpose" - is doing little to assuage my doubts.

And those doubts are strengthened by another of the names released today. Among the new foreign members is former US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, another keen basher of climate heretics and an wide-eyed advocate for renewable energy.

But if nothing else, I'm grateful to the society for keeping us all entertained at BH towers.

In passing, I should note one other point of interest. I was also surprised to see on the full list of new fellows one Anthony Watts, but this turns out to be a geologist from Oxford. WUWT is good, but not that good.

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Reader Comments (39)

The only possible comment is "the mind boggles"!

May 1, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

In passing, I should note one other point of interest. I was also surprised to see on the full list of new fellows one Anthony Watts, but this turns out to be a geologist from Oxford.

I wonder how difficult he finds it to get papers published.

May 1, 2014 at 11:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

All we hear about is the pro CC gang(s) in the main. Is there an alter opinion/view in the FRS. I mean that which holds counter evidence and openly speaks? I know..stupid thing to ask!

Anything Gov to me is a failure appearing soon. So, whenever they say there is going to be a war tomorrow/day after I know I will not have ordered my self loading pitchfork from Amazon in time. It is a serious as that I'm afraid!

May 1, 2014 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

It really is very very sad when such august institutions such as the RS are subverted in this way.

May 1, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

...his work challenging the world view on the economics of climate change...

Sorry, run that past us again? By challenging a delusional world view by offering an even more delusional one?

Give me strength.

May 1, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Nicholas Stern: 'I got it wrong on climate change

The Stern review, published in 2006, pointed to a 75% chance that global temperatures would rise by between two and three degrees above the long-term average; he now believes we are "on track for something like four ".
. . .
Congratulations for being wrong.
And, am I to understand that using the same data & formulas, this time It's correct?

May 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered Commenterhandjive

Just another Bullingdon club for the old boys to look down on us from. "Nullius integrity" more like it.

May 1, 2014 at 11:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

Difficult to comprehend how anything as entirely worthless as the Stern report could be a passport to membership of a (once) august body such as the RS. Frankly it was crap economics from beginning to end. Worse still CO2, apart from having absolutely no demonstrable real world effect on global temperature is enormously beneficial in terms of increasing crop yields. The reality is this rare trace gas has produced a staggering benefit since the fifties worth trillions worldwide in agricultural productivity and any economist worth his salt would have taken great delight in doing some pioneering work to quantify that. If it had in fact contributed to a warming of the planet that would also have been a huge plus economically. Sadly though, as far as I'm concerned it probably did not have that particular beneficial effect.

Just another inconsequential political operator in an increasingly politicised age. About time someone cleansed the Augean Stables at the RS. That is increasingly looking to be a Herculean task.

May 1, 2014 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

I'm pleased to hear that the RS is a bit miffed. I would be delighted to hear that they are outraged - by those Fellows who seek to politicise and their Society. All we hear is pro-alarmism and criticism of those who question the so called science.

Clearly, they are not yet miffed enough.

May 1, 2014 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

'Lord Nicholas Stern has been made a Fellow in recognition of his work challenging the world view on the economics of climate change and his distinguished career in mathematical economics with involvement in industry and in government.'

The Royal Society is plumbing new depths here. For 'challenging the world view' read 'misrepresenting the science of extreme weather events and using a discount rate that produces a convenient answer.' Jesus wept.

May 1, 2014 at 1:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAynsley Kellow

Stephen Chu is a Nobel prize winner and a great expert on biofilms, among other phenomena, so he is deserving.

May 1, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatt Ridley

Oh yes, one can't quibble with Chu's election on scientific grounds.

May 1, 2014 at 1:40 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Not sure what latin for "the only evidence we need is consensus" would be, but that is what the Royal Society for the Protection of Consensus science and the rejection of any skeptics who dare suggest that proper [skeptic] science requires the use of the scientific method ... should be.

May 1, 2014 at 1:51 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Lord Stern deliberately misrepresented published papers in his report and "doctored" a graph to present a catastrophic effect of temperature change on crop production, that does not exist in reality.*

The man is a liar- he should fit in well at the Royal Society.

* Stern used data from an obscure publication (Wheeler et al 1996) and manipulated it to produce a conclusion that was not supported by the original authors. They clearly state in their abstract “Mean seed dry weight was increased by > 72 % at elevated CO2, because grain numbers per ear did not decline with an increase in temperature at elevated CO2”. Stern went to the trouble to delete this data, which did not support his narrative, from the graph, he then further emphasised the apparent decline by adding a green “dogleg” line, which did not appear in the original graph.

May 1, 2014 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

William Nordhaus described the Stern review as "political in nature" and having "advocacy as its purpose". Dr Nordhaus was too kind by far.

The Stern Review was the work of hacks similar to a lot of government-financed cost-benefit analysis (CBA) I have seen, an opinion I base on 40 years professional experience both in the UK and abroad.

For a start the Stern Review did not seriously consider the many benefits of CO2 enrichment to agriculture, forestry or marine life. Further, the Review did not consider the benefits of warming.

The Stern Review's treatment of inter-generational equity is also absurd. Should we become poorer today to benefit future generations that will be richer than us even if the IPCC is right about climate and even if we do nothing to mitigate climate change.

(I distinguish mitigation (prevention of climate change) from adaptation to climate change.)

The low discount rate used in the Stern Review favoured present pain for pie in the sky. We see now the adverse economic effects in those countries that have implemented mitigation policies.

O mighty Angela, how dost thou lie so low? Beggared by your own political success in getting your policies implemented..

Truly if your input is garbage the output will be garbage. The assumptions of the Stern Review were garbage but they were designed to generate a predetermined result. Ergo "good garbage" from the establishment point of view.

Lord Stern will go the way of Lord Kelvin, remembered for his 1897 estimate for the age of the Earth as: "more than 20 and less than 40 million year old, and probably much nearer 20 than 40". Out by a factor of at least 100.

The pre-determination of a CBA is much like IPCC Chairman Pachuri's statement in 2010 that AR5 would be more alarming than all the previous IPCC reports. Sure enough in 2013-2014 AR5 is more alarming. But AR5 is probably the least scientific of all the reports to date.

I criticize the Stern Review for its economics, not because his report used IPCC projections as its scientific basis.

May 1, 2014 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred Colbourne

Matt Ridley: "Stephen Chu is a Nobel prize winner and a great expert on biofilms, among other phenomena, so he is deserving.

Deserving in consensus science no doubt! But does that make him deserving in the eyes of skeptics, in skeptic science? What most skeptics want, (what I call "skeptic science") is not whether some group of [consensus] scientists decided their consensus is that he deserves a prize, but whether his work was based on the data, the conclusions were drawn from the data, and that he said no more than can be supported by reasoning from the data.

This is the difference between consensus science where a group of academics form a committee and agree that the world is ending with a 95% probability and skeptic science where anyone, no matter whether or not they belong to some old boys club like that, can work out that the data shows the world hasn't warmed in 15+ years, and no matter what the Royal Society for the protection of consensus science says, the skeptic science, the evidence-based science we value, says they are talking carp.

Or as Galileo put it: “In questions of [skeptic] science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.”

May 1, 2014 at 2:46 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

an interesting social dynamics in seeing "sir" paul nurse trowling all sorts of likeminded mediocres around him..
The things you can do with other people's money.

I wonder if this was "accomplished" now with one checkbox balotting, or did he pass on that fig leaf, as well?

One would think some of the many millions of "highly educated" humanities students (sociologists and the like) to expose this, but no: the mediocre leftwing leeches they all are they are proving again the futile investment their education was.

May 1, 2014 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

When the Obama admin brought in Chu, his grand delusion I believe was to try to re-engineer photosynthesis.

I call this a sign of fundamental scientific weakness.

May 1, 2014 at 3:27 PM | Registered Commentershub

MikeHaseler (May 1, 2014 at 1:51 PM)

Google Translate would have it as:

nisi consensus sit necesse est

May 1, 2014 at 3:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSkeptik

Skeptic. "nisi consensus sit necesse est"

I'm not sure that means what is intended. More "Solum consensus sit necesse est" (consensus alone is necessary) or perhaps the Royal Society for the protection of Consensus science should have as its motto: solum consensus. (just consensus)

May 1, 2014 at 4:11 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Well, they elected Paul Ehrlich!
as the late Julian Simon lamented:

Economist Julian Simon always found it somewhat peculiar that neither the 'Science' piece nor his public wager with Ehrlich nor anything else that he did, said, or wrote seemed to make much of a dent on the world at large. For some reason he could never comprehend, people were inclined to believe the very worst about anything and everything; they were immune to contrary evidence just as if they’d been medically vaccinated against the force of fact. Furthermore, there seemed to be a bizarre reverse-Cassandra effect operating in the universe: whereas the mythical Cassandra spoke the awful truth and was not believed, these days “experts” spoke awful falsehoods, and they were believed. Repeatedly being wrong actually seemed to be an advantage, conferring some sort of puzzling magic glow upon the speaker. [interview with Ed Regis WIRED 1993]

May 1, 2014 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

The Royal Society has ceased to be a Scientific Body.

Cut the funding and let it die.

May 1, 2014 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurnedoutnice

Most appropriate, under the prevailing abysmal circumstances. They deserve each other.

May 1, 2014 at 5:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

It rather seems that the Royal Society appoints new members in the way the Papacy creates new 'saints'!
Would the RS use similar criteria? Including the requirement of performing one miracle!

May 1, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

Turnedoutnice "The Royal Society has ceased to be a Scientific Body."

Not quite. Whilst it is true the Royal Society has ceased being a [skeptic] Science body, in the sense that most skeptics understand the word "science", the reality is that "science" as a concept is something that society and broadcasters like the BBC use to refer precisely to those like the Royal Society.

This then raises the question: "who should have the final say over what constitutes 'science'"

Should it be:
a) A group that call themselves "scientists", that every broadcaster in the land calls "scientists", that the public call scientists and their work "science" and that even which skeptics call "scientists" & "science".


b) A group like us who no one calls scientists and who don't even call themselves scientists.

So unfortunately, whilst we might want "science" to mean what I now term "Skeptic science" to encapsulate what we skeptics refer to as "proper science", the reality is that what constitutes "science" is decided by those like the Royal Society. So they do do "science" - by definition - because they decide the definition not us. And if they want it to mean "consensus science" or "peer reviewed science" - and see the scientific method and assertions based on the facts as a "nice to have" but not "essential", then unfortunately their view will predominate.

May 1, 2014 at 6:08 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler


I am a scientist, defined by being totally objective and immune to political considerations.

It also means that if I am wrong, I wear a BIG LABEL around my neck stating that fact.

The RS elected as Fellow Paul Erlich, whose Club of Rome predictions have been shown to be baseless. They have now elected Stern, similar.

'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This Society is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-SOCIETY!!

May 1, 2014 at 6:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterTurnedoutnice

The stench emanating from the Royal Society in London will eventually reach and repulse most thoughtful observers. What a lost opportunity this climate scaremongering has been for a society with Nullius In Verba reflecting its spirit!
Instead, it has rolled over, pocketed the cash, and played the political patsy. The spirit has clearly evaporated. What a pity. It could have had a noble and impressive part to play in countering the spinners and weavers of climate alarm. But it merely joined in.

May 1, 2014 at 6:26 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The low discount rate used in the Stern Review favoured present pain for pie in the sky. (Fred Colbourne)

Isn't this what the ruling elite, via their Church, have been promising us for centuries? And, as before, just so we can keep them in power and opulence.

May 1, 2014 at 6:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

A problem with the Scum Left is our sloppiness.
Many people do not consider it a priority not to tackle the inherent blackmailing parasitism in a small institute quango or crony capitalist "company" ; They say what does it matter in the larger scope of things, and we're well off already so let's stick to discussing "higher concerns".

However , this is like not being concerned about the corkroaches behind the oven, under the plinth.
Don't come and complain afterwards when the whole house is declared inhabitable because the vermin has taken over everything.

May 1, 2014 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Turnedoutnice - re dead parrot.

I totally agree and that is why I always used to refer to Climate "Scientists". Then I realised, that I was being quite absurd, because in any other walk of life - teacher, police, army - you wouldn't expect a group of people who aren't in government, aren't teachers, police, army and that no one else sees as being that to define what a "teacher", "policeman", "Solider" was and what it was not.

So, I'm sorry to have to say, we must let the "scientists" decide what they mean by "science". That isn't what I or as far as I can see most other skeptics mean by "science", so I don't feel I can continue using "science" to mean what I want it to mean. Instead "Skeptic science" seems to me to encapsulate the idea of what we skeptics mean:
- evidence based.
- using the "scientific" method
- conservative in what is said (i.e. skeptical).

The contrast is this "consensus science" or "post normal science" which is the standard which is now used by much (but not all) of "science" and is what most of the rest of the world call "science". This is really a job description of group of people who obtain their position by having their work peer-reviewed by people who are called "scientists".

However not all "scientists" are consensus scientists like those in the field of climate. For example, CERN and similar physics establishments have shown a standard which I believe many skeptics would be very happy with. Evidence based, willing to reject even a theory like that of the speed of light, if the evidence shows otherwise. Careful observation, not involving politics, cautious in their assertions.

CERN is Skeptic science
IPPC is the quintessential consensus science (science by committee and not in the lab)

May 1, 2014 at 7:13 PM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

Those with training in hard science do not believe in scientists. Engineers use Euclidian geometry with confidence because its propositions stand demonstrated, not because they believe in Euclid. This accounts for great distance between believers and those who practice science.
Richard Feynmann tells us that science is belief - in the ignorance of experts. Paul Nurse tells us to believe in experts of climate science. I have a question for him. Would he consent to heart surgery tested only on a computer model of the heart? That is what is being asked from the world economy in the name of anthropogenic global warming predicted by computer models.

May 1, 2014 at 7:14 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan neil ditchfield

Matt Ridley: "Stephen Chu is a Nobel prize winner and a great expert on biofilms, among other phenomena, so he is deserving."

So why wasn't Chu elected earlier? That his election occurs after his stint with the Obama administration can be seen as reward for being "a safe pair of hands" on climate policy rather than his contributions on biofilms.

May 1, 2014 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered Commenternvw

Has anyone found out how Fellows of the RS are elected?

May 1, 2014 at 8:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Macdonald

Keith Macdonald

"By consensus"

May 1, 2014 at 9:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

Ah yes, but consensus of who?
The RS executive committee or the whole membership?

May 1, 2014 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterKeith Macdonald

I would think most of the FRS are octa/nonagenarians and under the keen care of people apt at changing bed pans and the like? But I am open to pleasant surprises.

May 1, 2014 at 11:09 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Whatever one may say about Mr Chu, he is an absolutely first class scientist. I have no problem with his "elevation".

Mr Stern is another kettle of fish. It is clear why he was elected; it has nothing to do with his ability at economics, nor his contributions to the subject, nor his intellectual distinction. The self-serving joker is not even a scientist.

The Royal used to be a sleepy organization which took science seriously, but with the advent of the CAGW religion matters have taken an ominous turn.

May 1, 2014 at 11:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Not too many years ago, my wife and I shared a tour of Buckingham Palace with a couple of fellow Kiwis. After we had completed the tour, we all agreed that his Highness the Prince of Wales has a bloody outrageous nerve to lecture people who have earnt their own money on 'living simply', which was a bit sad as all four of us were mildly approving of Royalty until we did the tour.
The RS is now a joke in the poorest of taste.

May 2, 2014 at 4:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Kendall

Why I am different from Nick Stern

I would not normally waste my time on someone as worthless as Stern but I need to get my thumb out of my arse and practice my typing skills

There are no legal incentives that would persuade me to support any of the following propositions:

1. all successful economies of the future will be based upon slavery;
2. making energy more expensive for the poor and the businesses of the UK, so that the rich can get richer, is a good thing;
3. anyone who does not make a positive contribution to the public finances for a period of 12 months should be put into a state of suspended animation*;
4. smoking cigarettes is still the ultimate in cool;
5. enforced sterilization for supporters of [insert name] Football Club is the only way to save the gene pool

As we all know Stern did not have a problem doing a number 2 (which is how many have described his notorious review). Now, when I was growing up, we did not have a washing machine or a dishwasher or a toaster or central heating or any of the many things that we all take for granted these days. The way I would describe this process is to say that our standard of living has improved but, guess what, that improvement is dependent on energy, cheap abundant wonderful life-giving energy!

Then along comes Stern and tells us that fossil fuels are evil and our modern standard of living has to be paid for with subsidies on useless renewable energy projects and carbon taxes and all sorts of other nonsense that can only be dreamt up by those completely disconnected from reality. It is a standard of living tax, Nick, and it comes with a triple helping of guilt. Guilt for using all those fossil fuels in the past. Guilt for using fossil fuels now and guilt for using fossil fuels in the future. Well, I got news for you Nicky boy (yes I am talking down to you) I don't do guilt. Moreover, whilst there are billions of people living in poverty, their only hope of clawing their way out of that poverty is by burning fossil fuels and I will applaud them every step of the way because you know what, Nicky, poverty sucks.

So what purpose is served by the sacrifice of the many for the few? A lordship and an FRS. FFS.

*at the present time the only form of suspended animation that is fully functional is generally known as ‘death’.

May 3, 2014 at 4:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeadless Chicken

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