These are notes taken from a discussion meeting at Oxford University on 26th February 2010 and sent to me by reader, Simon Anthony. I think they are extremely interesting.
Question and answer format featuring environmental correspondents Richard Black (BBC), Fiona Harvey (FT), David Adam (Guardian) and Ben Jackson (Sun) and chaired by Fiona Fox, director of the Science Media Centre.
(Abbreviations: CG = Climategate; CC = Climate change; CH = Copenhagen meeting)
FF: Has the press done a disservice to the public in reporting CG? Has media a responsibility to make the public “think the right way”?
The pace of events is getting out of hand again and I'm struggling to keep up with the demands on my time and the regrettable need to earn a living. I must put a tip box up on the site some time.
The stunner for me today has been the Institute of Physics submission to the Science and Technology Committee, which is to the point to say the least. This is really starting to look very bad for the guys at UEA:
1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.
With retrospect, once the emails became public it was likely that some of the major learned societies might try to distance themselves from the climatologists. It may be that support for the CRU now starts to fall away. We'll see.
McIntyre has the full story.
Of course, there is also the story of the IPCC review, but that will require a more considered piece, which will have to wait for the morning. For now, the local hostelry is calling.
Some explanation of the rather surprising statements on FoI made by Sir Edward Acton and his colleagues in their submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee has emerged. As noted in the previous post, Sir Edward said that no offence under the FoI had been established and that the evidence was prime facie in nature. Here is the exact quote for reference
On 22 January 2010, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) released a statement to a journalist, which was widely misinterpreted in the media as a finding by the ICO that UEA had breached Section 77 of the FOIA by withholding raw data. A subsequent letter to UEA from the ICO (29 January 2010) indicated that no breach of the law has been established; that the evidence the ICO had in mind about whether there was a breach was no more than prima facie; and that the FOI request at issue did not concern raw data but private email exchanges.
Guido Fawkes, (the top UK political blog, for the benefit of non-UK readers) is reporting that BBC political teams have been told not to go away over the weekend, this warning representing a red-alert for a potential general election announcement.
I think I'm right in saying that if an election is indeed called, Parliament will be dissolved and the CRU hearings will not take place.
Richard Drake in the comments notes that yesterday, after taking evidence from Sir John Beddington, Select Committee chairman Phil Willis bid the scientist "farewell" in the following terms:
This is likely, Professor Beddington, to be the last time we have the pleasure of you before our Committee. Could we thank you very strongly indeed for all the work you have done with our Committee and indeed your predecessors.
Given that Sir John is due to appear in front of the committee on Monday to give evidence on the CRU affair, it does rather look as if our suspicions may be correct.
I've now had a chance to cast an eye over Sir Edward Acton's contribution to the Parliamentary Select Committee's inquiry into CRU. Like many commenters, I'm not impressed.
It's every man for himself
The contribution is billed as as being submitted by Sir Edward, "with additional comment provided, where indicated, by the University's Climatic Research Unit". It's interesting to note, therefore, that the controversial sections are attributed to the CRU rather than to Sir Edward, so there's a strong hint that the UEA boss is not confident enough of what Jones et al are saying to want to put his name against it. Joint and several liability is a dangerous thing when giving evidence to one's political masters, it seems.
One of my favourite political bloggers, "Tom Paine", says some nice things about the Hockey Stick Illusion in an interesting essay charting the parallels between Steve McIntyre's experiences at the hands of the scientific establishment and those of John Harrison, the man who solved the problem of longitude.
John Graham-Cumming reports that the Met Office has confirmed the errors found by him and his readers. The effect of the correction will be a slight narrowing of the error bars. Well done to JG-C.
Prospect magazine, the house journal of the bien-pensant centre-left is the latest media outlet to throw in the towel and start discussing the other side of the climate debate. In its current issue it publishes a broadly sceptic take on the quality of the temperature records and notes some of the Climategate revelations.
Well worth a look.
The Guardian's Leo Hickman has added his thoughts to my earlier piece commenting on his call for climate bloggers to lose their anonymity. This, he believes, will create trust in what they are saying. Many readers have responded with thoughtful contributions, and in particular I'd echo Lucia's point about the nature of the problem being one of the public not trusting the scientists rather than the other way round, as Leo seems to think. Turning Tide also points out that anonymity of commenters does encourage readers to assess comments on the arguments made rather than any spurious authority of the writer.
Fox News reports that the IPCC is on the brink of making major changes to the way it does business.
In the wake of its swift and devastating fall from grace, the panel says it will announce "within the next few days" that it plans to make significant though as yet unexplained changes in how it does business.
Brenda Abrar-Milani, an external relations officer at the IPCC's office in Geneva, Switzerland, said changes have been slow in coming because "we have to inform the governments (all 194 member States) of any planned steps, and they are the ones who eventually take decisions on any revision of procedures."
"We put everything on the table and looked at it," she said, explaining that the panel's reforms would be extensive. She refused to detail any of the changes, but she did confirm that are in response to recent scandals involving the panel.
The article quotes Steve McIntyre, whose reaction seems to have been the same as mine:
Steve McIntyre, who also worked at the IPPC and whose blog, Climate Audit, has been one of the most vocal critics of the panel, says that while cries for reform have become loud, "very little thought has yet been put into what changes have to be made."
"I don't think they plan to change very much," he said. "They just don't know how to reform it."
It looks as though Judith Curry is going to have a piece up at the Guardian in which she continues in her struggle to bridge the chasm between the sceptics and the mainstream. It's not available yet, but reader Fran Codwire, in the comments, has caught a glimpse of Graun regular Leo Hickman's response, which looks as though it will appear before Curry's original.
Hickman's contribution seems like something of a rant to me, holding McIntyre and Watts responsible for the contributions of their commenters and apparently demanding that anonymous commenters be unmasked. This is the only rational explanation I can reach when he says "I think until those that frequent these sites come out from behind the cloak of anonymity that most of them choose to hide behind very few people, particularly climate scientists, will be willing to trust the motives of this army of DIY auditors."
I mean, how will retribution be handed out if nobody knows who these people are?