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Josh 94


Shub on Singh

Shub wonders whether Simon Singh was on James Delingpole's side in his recent Press Complaints Commssion spat with UEA.

Simon Singh must be aware, by now that the ‘denier-numpty’ columnist and blogger, James Delingpole, belonging to the alternate non celebrity-infested world of climate scepticism, has been pursued vigourously by the University of East Anglia, in almost the exact same manner as Singh was by the British chiropractors. Just as Singh did with the chiropractors, Delingpole gave Professor Phil Jones of the University a few choice names — “FOI-breaching, email-deleting, scientific-method-abusing”. Delingpole cannot pronounce his hyphenated descriptors of Phil Jones or the Jones-run epicentre of climate controversy and data prison - the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the University felt in turn. They lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Comission.

The analogy is, of course, not exact - a complaint to the PCC being a different beast to a libel suit. A better comparison would of course have been the pursuit of Tim Ball by various climatologists. Dr Singh will no doubt want to contribute to Prof Ball's legal defence fund here.


Another HSI sighting

The Hockey Stick Illusion is cited in a forthcoming book chapter by Seth Roberts.

Nowadays blogs show the innovative power of free time. There are millions of bloggers; almost none make a significant amount of money. This leaves them free to say whatever they want. In Italy, the blogger Beppe Grillo has exerted substantial anti-corruption pressure on the government (Mueller, 2008). The Canadian blogger Steve McIntyre has had an enormous effect on the global debate about climate change. His requests for archived data led to Climategate. His examination of the famous hockey-stick graph led to its dismissal (Montford, 2010). He did this work during his free time.

The book is Roberts, S. (in press). How economics shaped human nature: A theory of human evolution. In S. Cai & N. Beltz (Eds.), Mind and Cognition. Beijing: Springer.


A souvenir of Chile

Watch President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic collect a souvenir of Chile

H/T Lubos


Peer-to-peer review

From the Chronicle of Higher Education via here and here.

Open peer review—which gives anyone who’s interested a chance to weigh in on scholarly content before it’s published—just got an institutional boost. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given New York University Press and MediaCommons a $50,000 grant to take a closer look at open, or peer-to-peer (P2P), review, the press announced today. MediaCommons is a digital scholarly network hosted by the NYU Libraries and affiliated with the Institute for the Future of the Book.



Muller again

Pielke Jnr has a partial transcript of Richard Muller's radio interview yesterday.

CONAN: Do you find that, though, there is a lot of ideology in this business?

Prof. MULLER: Well, I think what's happened is that many scientists have gotten so concerned about global warming, correctly concerned I mean they look at it and they draw a conclusion, and then they're worried that the public has not been concerned, and so they become advocates. And at that point, it's unfortunate, I feel that they're not trusting the public. They're not presenting the science to the public. They're presenting only that aspect to the science that will convince the public. That's not the way science works. And because they don't trust the public, in the end the public doesn't trust them. And the saddest thing from this, I think, is a loss of credibility of scientists because so many of them have become advocates.

CONAN: And that's, you would say, would be at the heart of the so-called Climategate story, where emails from some scientists seemed to be working to prevent the work of other scientists from appearing in peer-reviewed journals.

Prof. MULLER: That really shook me up when I learned about that. I think that Climategate is a very unfortunate thing that happened, that the scientists who were involved in that, from what I've read, didn't trust the public, didn't even trust the scientific public. They were not showing the discordant data. That's something that - as a scientist I was trained you always have to show the negative data, the data that disagrees with you, and then make the case that your case is stronger. And they were hiding the data, and a whole discussion of suppressing publications, I thought, was really unfortunate. It was not at a high point for science.

And I really get even more upset when some other people say, oh, science is just a human activity. This is the way it happens. You have to recognize, these are people. No, no, no, no. These are not scientific standards. You don't hide the data. You don't play with the peer review system.

It's good to see Muller banging on about "hide the decline": the scientific establishment and prominent science commentators have, for the most part, maintained a deafening silence on the subject - something that does them no credit.

If you have climbed to the very top of the scientific tree you get responsibility as well as power. That responsibility includes the duty to stand up and speak out when scientists misbehave, particularly where public policy is involved. Fence-sitting, diplomatic silences and vague allusions to "problems" are not sustainable approaches for these people to take. Eventually the truth will get out and then the public will ask "Who knew?" and "Why weren't we told?". Many reputations will then be on the line. Muller's will not be one of them.


Beddington's meeting with Pachauri

H/T to David Holland for this little snippet. In February 2010, Ed Miliband - then the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, now leader of the opposition - wrote to Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC on the subject of Climategate. The letter is not desperately interesting, being mainly suggestions for what Pachauri might do about the shambles of the IPCC, but I was interested that its writing was prompted by a meeting between John Beddington and the IPCC chairman.

The meeting doesn't seem suspicious to me - for the head of the IPCC to meet the chief scientific officer of one of his major funders is surely quite natural in the wake of a scandal. What is interesting is that I had asked to see all Beddington's Climategate related correspondence and papers, and there is no hint of such a meeting in what was disclosed. I find it hard to believe that UEA was not discussed at this meeting.

More FOI required.




Cornell shale study debunked

This looks like a fairly thorough riposte to the Cornell shale gas study. I don't think "debunking" is too strong a word for it. The article lists five things you need to know about the Cornell study. Here's a sample:

Thing #1: The study’s conclusions rely almost entirely on the application of a Global Warming Potential (GWP) factor that’s 45 percent higher for natural gas than the one cited by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.

Thing #2: Even the study’s authors admit their data is “lousy.”...

Thing #4: The authors’ estimates on pipeline leakage are based on data and assumptions that are completely irrelevant to the Marcellus Shale...

I always had it in my mind that Cornell was a good university. But it's going to be hard to maintain that idea in the face of stuff like this.


Quality data

The New York Times seems to want to head up the fightback against shale gas, publishing a rather uncritical article about a forthcoming paper about whether gas really is better than coal.

Cornell University researchers say that natural gas pried from shale formations is dirtier than coal in the short term, rather than cleaner, and "comparable" in the long term. That finding -- fiercely disputed by the gas industry -- undermines the widely stated belief that gas is twice as "clean" as coal in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The gas industry has promoted that concept as a way for electric utilities to prepare for climate change regulations by switching from coal-fired plants to gas.

There is a link to the preprint of the paper, which finds that the root of shale gas's problems in leakage of methane during the production process. I particularly liked their description of where they got their methane leakage figures from:

Between 0.6% and 3.2% of the life-time production of gas from wells is emitted as methane during the flow-back period (Table 1)... However, we note that the data used in Table 1 are not well documented, with many values based on PowerPoint slides from EPA-sponsored workshops.

The source of the Table 1 figures for quantity of methane emitted at the Haynesville site - the highest in the table -  is a paper by Eckhardt et al (2009). Oddly, this paper doesn't appear in the list of references. Can anyone identify likely candidates?


Solar looters get more loot

Having fleeced taxpayers once by offering crazy feed in tariffs to solar power companies, DECC is now going to fleece them once again by offering compensation now the subsidies have been somewhat reined in. Huhne really is stark raving mad isn't he?


Climate change just happens

I've always shuddered rather when people say things like "70% of the observed temperature change is due to manmade carbon dioxide emissions". Christofides and Koutsoiyannis clearly feel the same way as shown in their presentation to the EGU a few days ago.

...we should be careful when we talk about causes, and that trends and shifts do not necessarily imply non-stationarity or a change in forcings: they can just happen.

The implications for all those claims of "we can only reproduce climate history with carbon dioxide in our forcing mix" seem rather profound.


Light blogging

It's half term at the moment and I've headed for the beach. Blogging will therefore be light.


Terence Kealey on post-normal science

Another brilliant talk from the EIKE conference, this time from Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham. Kealey's message is essentially "never mind the idealised version of science put forward by Popper, let's look at how it works in practice".


Praising post-publication peer review

Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal and regular critic of the pre-publication peer review process, writes on the subject of post-publication peer review.

But more important than...formal types of peer review is the informal, the thousands of comments, decisions, and actions from the many that lead to a sorting of studies. I may hear a study presented or read a paper and be impressed. Others in the audience or other readers might also be impressed. We talk to friends about it. We email colleagues. We put it on listserves. Some of the recipients are impressed and start their own cascade. Others are less impressed and see problems. Perhaps a statistician attracted by the clamour reads the clinical article and sees important flaws that she shares with colleagues. Somebody might incorporate the study into a lecture, a review, or a grant application. And so a study might attract increasing attention and assume a prominent place, or it might fade as its receives more attention and more problems are noticed.

Many studies, in contrast, attract no attention—usually, but not always, rightly.


More on the windy flops

There is a very amusing article on the BBC website about the John Muir Trust report on windfarms, which you read about here yesterday. The report, you may remember, noted that...

During each of the four highest peak demands of 2010, wind output reached just 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity, according to the analysis. which Jenny Hogan of the quango Scottish Renewables has retorted:

no form of electricity [works] at 100% capacity, 100% of the time.