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Climate's parliamentary cheerleaders

The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee has released its report into the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report. This is fascinating stuff, if only to see all the intellectual contortions that have been adopted by committee staffers in arriving at the required answer, namely that everything is hunky dory with climate science and the IPCC.

The press release is here and consists mainly of standard parliamentary cheerleading of the kind that has "sod the constituents" written all over it (Tim Yeo is quoted extensively, so I guess that follows).

The report itself is here and it's a lot of fun for climate geeks, in a rather morbid way. You can see our illustrious parliamentarians effectively arguing for the validity of subjective methodogies in climate science (Para 45). This is pretty amazing when you think about it: the committee heard from Myles Allen, who eschews Bayesian approaches completely, and from Nic Lewis who says that if you use a Bayesian approach it has to be objective. How they then conclude that subjective Bayes is OK would be a mystery if we hadn't already concluded that the inquiry was a bit of a pantomime.

Then there's the hiatus (para 49), our parliamentary servants concluding that the IPCC has given us a robust explanation and that it doesn't matter. Given that nobody seems to be able to follow that explanation, even if they can find where it was buried, we are drawn inexorably to the conclusion that the committee's report is just more PR.

Which is exactly what committee members Graham Stringer and Peter Lilley have concluded, issuing a press release detailing their unhappiness with the report.


Peter Lilley and Graham Stringer voted against the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee’s report on the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Report because “we believe the role of the Select Committee is to hold public institutions critically to account not to act as their cheer leaders”.

They added: “As scientists by training, we do not dispute the science of the greenhouse effect – nor did any of our witnesses.  However, there remain great uncertainties about how much warming a given increase in greenhouse gases will cause, how much damage any temperature increase will cause and the best balance between adaptation to versus prevention of global warming.

The bulk of the main IPCC technical report recognises these uncertainties and is simply a useful compilation of the research in the field.

However, the Summary for Policy Makers is far less balanced than the report it purports to summarise. 

Its headline conclusion was that “evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is

extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”.   It is hard to justify that increase in confidence that CO2 emissions are dominant given that: about one third of all the CO2 omitted by mankind since the industrial revolution has been put into the atmosphere since 1997; yet there has been no statistically significant increase in the mean global temperature since then.    By definition, a period with record emissions but no warming cannot provide evidence that emissions are the dominant cause of warming!

The pause in surface warming does not invalidate the greenhouse effect.   But it does mean that other factors – natural variations – can be of the same magnitude as the greenhouse effect over at least a decade and a half.   Since such variations are presumed to cancel out over the long term variations in the opposite direction may have contributed a significant portion of the surface warming over the previous two and a half decades.  

The IPCC’s conclusion flies in the face of the Inter Academy Council Review on the previous IPCC report which criticised its “authors [who] reported high confidence in some statements for which there is little evidence” and recommended that “Quantitative probabilities (as in the likelihood scale) should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence. Authors should indicate the basis for assigning a probability to an outcome or event (e.g., based on measurement, expert judgment, and/or model runs)”.   No such basis for assigning this enhanced probability was given even though it is the headline conclusion of this report.

Moreover, the Summary for Policy Makers systematically omits mentioning or plays down key information in the main report which might suggest that the problem of global warming may be less acute or less certain than previously suggested.   Notably it omits to alert Policy Makers to the following facts:

1.       The IPCC’s medium term forecast for temperature to 2035 is below that given by the climate models since the experts believe these to be “overheating”.   However, the forecast to the end of the century assumes the temperature will revert to following the projections of the models with no allowance for their tendency to exaggerate warming.

2.       New estimates of the impact of aerosols based on satellite observations are both more certain and suggest a smaller cooling effect than previously assumed.   However, there was not time to rerun the models using these latest aerosol figures.  They will, however, inevitably mean that the models are even more out of line with temperature data than previously thought.  This was described by one of our witnesses as ““the most significant thing in AR5 because if aerosol cooling is lower and … we know how much warming there has been, then it must follow … a much lower figure [is] attributable to carbon dioxide”.

3.       For the first time the IPCC authors cannot agree on a best estimate for climate sensitivity even though they did in previous reports.  There is only a cryptic reference to this in a footnote in the SPM.   It is hard to square this unprecedented disagreement between the experts with the stated increase in their confidence in the scale of global warming.

4.       Most recent empirically based studies suggest that the sensitivity of the climate to increases in CO2 is probably lower than assumed in the climate models.

5.       The pause in global warming since 1997 may well be the result of natural variations offsetting the warming effect of more CO2 in the atmosphere.   But if that is the case it follows that natural variations may have contributed a sizeable proportion of the warming in the 25 years prior to 1997.

6.       Over the last 35 years (not just during the hiatus) the composite of models followed by the IPCC have collectively run 15% too high. 

7.       Forecasts of global warming generated by climate models have progressively converged on each other but diverged from actual observations of mean global surface temperature.

These issues were raised during the Committee’s inquiry.   It is unfortunate that they were not dealt with in the Committee’s report. The Committee’s report would have been more balanced if it had drawn a distinction between the largely technical main Report and the much more politicised Summary for Policy Makers.

Graham Stringer MP and Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP

Members of Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change

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Reader Comments (37)

It should be renamed "The House of Commons Almost-Complete-Lack-of-Understanding-of Energy and Climate Change Committee"

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:08 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Congratulations to Ruth Dixon. The suggestion in her written submission for a "red team" of non-climate scientists is quoted on page 10 of the report. Something along these lines is proposed in the report's second recommendation, and in the third paragraph of the report's summary.

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:13 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Funny how one can change one's opinion. Years back I remember being unimpressed by Lilley as he blamed the country's economic problems on teenage unmarried mothers. "I have a little list" etc.

Now, together with Stringer, he's an island of sanity in a sea of parliamentary lunacy.

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:15 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

It's enough to make a grown man weep. HUNDREDS of billions of Pounds thrown away on "renewable" energy and the distinct possibility of major power blackouts this winter. And lots of deaths of old people.

Still, it's nice to see ol fish'ead get his comeuppance (elsewhere) over the idea that rUK will buy his overpriced, undispatchable, untimely renewable power after he wins the vote in September. I'm surprised the committee didn't address that issue either. Or am I.

The depth of misunderstanding of the science, the total arrogance of the proposed solutions, the absolute failure to perceive the very foundation of our civilisation being destroyed is beyond my comprehension.. All for a few pieces of silver.

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnOfEnfield

I think those in the Energy and Climate Change Committee mirror politics as a whole, apart for one or two honorable one, they are only concerned with self interest.

Furthermore, members like Tim Yeo showed an astonishing ignorance. Also there was an obvious bias when questioning those who gave evidence.

No wonder the public are losing cinfidence in our political classes. How many of them are financially connected to the renewable energy industry?

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

At least there are two sane MPs who recognise a scam when they see it.

What is more they actually criticise it!!

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

This is the most entertaining bit of the official report that I've found so far:

"50. Subsequent evidence has confirmed that a number of witnesses supported the conclusions of the IPCC. For example, Dr Stott told us that, "

Peter Stott is coordinating Lead Author for IPCC Chapter 10. (Myles Allen, also quoted at length, is also an author of that chapter).

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

it looks very much as if the final obstacle to progression along the path of sanity has been overcome. It is the acceptance that the explanation of the 'hiatus' aka 'pause' by natural cooling processes, countering the GHE, implies that natural heating processes contributed to the previous warming.

So far so good; Latif argues that the IPCC's CO2 'Climate Sensitivity' has been far too high:

However, there is much further to go; the reality is that solar processes account for most if not all of the post 1710 warming:

CO2 Climate Sensitivity may be very low indeed and it is easy to show how........

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

"6. Over the last 35 years (not just during the hiatus) the composite of models followed by the IPCC have collectively run 15% too high."
I don't agree with this one. Assuming the period in question is Jan1979-Dec2013, the CMIP5 model-mean trend* in global average temperature is about .23 K/decade, amounting to an increase of about 0.8 K. The trend of the various observational datasets is about .15 K/decade, coming to an increase of around 0.53 K. I make the model-mean to be about 50% high.

* "trend" is the ordinary least-squares trend. Increase is calculated by multiplying the trend by the interval (35 years in this case). Other metrics are, of course, possible, and may be more informative.

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:33 AM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

I suppose that if you are going to defend the IPCC, then you might as well
use their format.
All too predictable and makes no contribution to the debate.

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia


"2. ‘The Plan’
For more than 25 years the conventional view has been that an international political solution to climate change can be negotiated if driven by the engine of science. That is, if a strong enough scientific consensus on the causes and consequences of anthropogenic climate change could be forged and sustained, then the compelling force of such rationality would over-ride the differences in worldviews, beliefs, values and ideologies which characterise the human world. Such a scientific consensus would bring about the needed policy solutions.
This latter enterprise secured its first big success in 1987, when the predictive power of the newly minted Earth System science was co-opted by the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It was the convergence of these circumstances in the years around 1990 that helped fashion the conventional climate change project—“The Plan”—and allowed it to surge forward with optimism."
"At the time it seemed entirely reasonable that with one of the last “enemies” of progressive Enlightenment liberalism having been swept away (i.e., communism), a new irrepressible world order would emerge. And it would be one that would now fully exploit the predictive power of fruitful globalised science. The putative threat that a burgeoning carbon-fuelled humanity—thriving, ironically, through the fruit of this very same Enlightenment—was posing to climatic stability would be defused. This project would demonstrate decisively the force of scientific rationality over the fading and divisive powers of religion and ideology. Scientific consensus would forge political consensus and political consensus would yield victory."

I would like to add that it started with Silent Spring and ban on the use of DDT?

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSanta Baby

If you had written/constructed a substantial report and the executive summary had missed significant and contentious parts of it...what would you think would happen?

It starts with turning you over badly and your professional life suddenly changes. Well, it used to be like that?

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

A shorter version is that climate science has been politicized to promote a political Agenda and end the last remains of national democracy and freedom?

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterSanta Baby

The final section from page 50 with Stringer's proposed amendments is interesting:

".We have received evidence which gives us cause for concern of chronic political and “activist” interference. The procedures to safeguard against this influence are either non-existent or ineffective."

and several more.

Jul 29, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

A press release that misleadingly gives the impression that the Committee’s findings were unanimous, rather than admitting that the only two members with relevant scientific qualifications dissented, is a fitting memorial to Tim Yeo’s tenure as chairman, and to his soon to end political career.

Jul 29, 2014 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

It should be clear to all MPs, including cabinet and shadow cabinet, that this report is a poorly constructed attempt to push the green agenda, regardless of the science. But knowing their prejudices, we can be sure they will take the bait without question. But that, of course, is what the IPCC wishes. Ii doubt if they will even read the critical comment by Stringer and Lilley.

Jul 29, 2014 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud
Jul 29, 2014 at 10:23 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The declaration of interests is of interest. Robert Smith mentions a shareholding in Shell. But there's nothing from Tim Yeo. Did he forget his interests in renewable energy, such as his financial support from the Renewable Energy Association? And his Chairmanship of TMO renewables?

Jul 29, 2014 at 10:35 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The members (now there's an unfortunate word for those fond of double-entendre) of the committee:

Mr Tim Yeo (Chair) Conservative (Biggest 'member') Going!

Dan Byles Conservative - North Warwickshire (VERY marginal - to Lab); retiring at next GE

Ian Lavery Labour - Wansbeck (very safe); website failed

Dr Phillip Lee Conservative - Bracknell (safe); Grammar School boy; MD

Albert Owen Labour - Ynys Mon (fairly safe); Worried about 'energy prices' (from his website)

Christopher Pincher Conservative - Tamworth (safe); History degree and IT Management; Called for a cut in the Green levy (from his website)

John Robertson Labour - Glasgow NW (very safe); 30 years with BT; Believes Nuclear energy is the best way to combat climate change (from his website)

Sir Robert Smith Liberal Democrat - West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (fairly safe); BSc; Vice-Chair of the All-Party Group for the UK Offshore Oil and Gas Industry. (from his website)

Dr Alan Whitehead Labour - Soton, Test (fairly safe); PhD Political science (likes to be called 'Doctor'); in favour of renewable energy (from his website)

Mr Peter Lilley Conservative
Graham Stringer Labour

Just so we can see who thinks the country needs to be taken back to the Dark Ages. I just wonder what it is that people like Yeo have on these people that makes them so ignorant.

Jul 29, 2014 at 10:42 AM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

As global warming stopped (not paused) seventeen years ago, the voices of the green agenda pushers become shriller and shriller with the passage of time, till they run out of frequencies.

Jul 29, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered Commenteroebele bruinsma

If you discuss the SPM then by default you must be very aware of the report's main body content. You invite technical experts to elaborate the technical issues. That would include the experts that don't auto lick their own ar*es.

This committee has only Lilley and Stinger with science qualifications. And Lilley has degrees in Economics and Physics. So really the BBC should be interviewing him on every one of their little slots that turf the CC BS at us. Can't have Lawson of course?

I await Moncktons judicial review.

Jul 29, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

Concern over the impending thermageddon became somewhat unnecessary at least seventeen years ago, i.e. rather too recently for our politicians to have noticed. Give 'em a half century and some of them might start to wake/grow up. No, I am joking! Of course they won't, there is literally no hope.

Jul 29, 2014 at 12:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Reed

Stringer and Lilley fail because they argue on the basis of linear logic rather than the recursive or circular [il]logic which modern politics practices. Their unfamiliar words will completely escape the establishment politicians, who are quite incapable of registering anything but the emotional outpourings of incestuously created lobby groups.

Jul 29, 2014 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Well

Report para 45: "The non-Bayesian methods and the objective Bayesian methods give very much the same answer.". Has no-one told Yeo et al. that even if the (nearly) right answer is produced but the method is wrong, the result is inherently unreliable and not to be trusted! Kids fail school exams if hey get the method wrong.

This is outright and deliberate deception, pure and simple!

Jul 29, 2014 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterIlma

"By definition, a period with record emissions but no warming cannot provide evidence that emissions are the dominant cause of warming!"

That is the point the journalists should be making every time one of these scientivists is on TV. It's blindingly obvious that the experiment on planet Earth has already been carried out and the results tell us that carbon dioxide is unequivocally not a driver of climate - at best it is a very minor feedback whose effect is so miniscule it cannot be teased out of the noise. To use John Humphries phrase ' 14 years is a lot more than a blip'.

Meanwhile Didcot A is officially dead; killed by legislation that was introduced to deal with the equally phony acid rain enviro-hype. And that followed the phantom 'new-ice-age' scare. All supposedly caused by fossil fuels. The only consistency here is that Earth Scientists are clearly obsessed with condemning the fossil fuels that have driven the industrial revolution, brought prosperity, while saving European forests and whales from destruction. Alas they just can't get nature to agree with them. Happily for them, their many mistakes are never recalled by the media or by our science-averse political classes.

Jul 29, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

My main dispute with Messrs. Lilley & Stringer is their acceptance of the greenhouse effect. As CO2 only absorbs IR in 3 narrow bands, at about 4, 9, and 15nm, with the rest passing straight through even 100% CO2, and standard gas properties that cause it to re-emit that energy, not trap it, how on earth can CO2 cause any warming? Folks (incl. L & S) should read the comment by Berthold Klein (24 July, 2014 at 12:53 am) at for a fuller physics based explanation.

Jul 29, 2014 at 12:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterIlma

'Nothing to see here; move along...'

You feel like taking these idiots (Stringer and Lilley excused) out and shake them all warmly by the throat, until they admit that they really haven't got a clue about the 'chaotic system' which is the climate...

Along the same path to jaw-dropping incredulity, I now have a fist-shaped indentation in my poor kitchen tv's screen due to hearing Baroness Grender, a guest on The Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, announce in response to Max Hastings timely criticism of No10's energy policy, that 'wind turbines are a very efficient way of producing electricity...'

With people like her in positions of political influence - what chance have we got..?

Jul 29, 2014 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Its not just 'sod the constituents', its 'sod any scientific method'....

Jul 29, 2014 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

One of these might bring them round.

Jul 29, 2014 at 1:17 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp


"Meanwhile Didcot A is officially dead"

Blowing up the cooling towers did seem a bit unnecessary, but I guess they have to show commitment to our EU masters. I'm not sure that a scorched-earth policy on power generation is exactly wise, though...

Jul 29, 2014 at 1:20 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"The only consistency here is that Earth Scientists are clearly obsessed with condemning the fossil fuels that have driven the industrial revolution, brought prosperity, while saving European forests and whales from destruction." James G at 12.39

The replacement of carbonaceous fuels was always the the objective, not the result. CGW simply became the convenient scapegoat that justified the desired result and the vast amount of money and effort expended to continue the justification is being overcome by simple observation of reality.

Jul 29, 2014 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterseedy

s CO2 only absorbs IR in 3 narrow bands, at about 4, 9, and 15nm

CO² has only 2 degrees of freedom. 2 fundamental absorption frequencies and a tiny side frequency absorption.

Jul 29, 2014 at 2:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

One of these might bring them round.

Jul 29, 2014 at 1:17 PM | Registered Commenter jamesp

Just another group of scientivists using scare tactics to get on the gravy train. Absolute rubbish.

Jul 29, 2014 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Science evolves, but politicians do not.

Jul 29, 2014 at 3:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

Judith Curry now has a post on this - Politicizing the IPCC report.

Jul 29, 2014 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

We endorse this report as it bolsters our ideology of taxing and regulating everything and everybody. That's why we use your money to fund fund this stuff in the first place ffs!

Jul 30, 2014 at 8:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterTuppence

There's a piece on this at The Register.

Interestingly diverse comments, too, considering that most of El Reg's readers are technically competent. A long way from a consensus, I would say.

Jul 30, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

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