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Preparing the ground

Thanks to readers who have been pointing to Bob Watson's interview on the Today programme this morning, in which he spoke about the difficulty of convincing a sceptical public of the horrors of climate change in the wake of Climategate.

Audio here, starting at 51:20.

This was a boilerplate interview, reiterating a series of standard AGW talking points. To me, what was interesting about was not the content but the timing - there was no obvious newsworthiness, with Climategate having slipped off the news schedules now.

I think the reason for Watson being given airtime now is that at some point in the near future we are going to get the BBC's review of science coverage published. For some time now the BBC has been sending out signals that the report will recommend hobbling anyone who might criticise the increasingly thin case for CAGW - what Brian Cox called the "Orwellian" solution. This is quite an important departure, and it is therefore likely that Watson's appearance is the first step in a softening-up exercise.

Expect more of the same.


More unintended consequences

An excellent article in the Guardian, looking at the effects of misguided greenery on poor people, and in particular how scaremongering over GM crops is leading to massive hikes in food prices.

The continuing distaste for [genetically engineered plants] and their consequent absurd over-regulation means that the most up-to-date, environmentally benign crop protection strategies are used almost exclusively for the mega-crops that are profitable for biotech companies. The public agricultural research sector remains largely excluded from using modern molecular technology. Will this change soon? I don't think so."

H/T The Englishman.


A civil liberties post

Many current readers of this blog may be unaware that one of its major focuses used to be civil liberties, so I hope I will be excused a temporary reversion to this subject. The quote below is an extract from a Hansard debate last week.

Mr Bacon: What my hon. Friend has just said is really quite extraordinary. As I understand him, he is saying that a court in this country... prohibited someone from talking to a Member of Parliament and from referring to the existence of the proceedings. When one thinks of secret courts, one thinks of unsavoury regimes such as those in Burma, Cuba, Hungary in the 1950s or Stalin's Russia, but one does not think of the United Kingdom. How can a judge feel it appropriate to make an order making it unlawful-supposedly-to refer to the existence of proceedings?

Report here.


Peer Review - not for the short sighted. Josh 87

More cartoons by Josh here


Lecture at St Andrews

This is guest post by Messenger.

I was in the audience at the Bishop’s talk in St Andrews. He had been sponsored for this  appearance by a member the Tayside branch of the Royal Society of Chemistry, who had read the Hockey Stick Illusion, and who, as I mentioned elsewhere, had thought it was a Good Thing.

The talk was the closing one of a regular annual series held on Friday nights at the University. The lecture theatre was just about full, probably 80 people or so, including St Andrews academics, which was more people than usual and very encouraging. The Bishop’s presentation was confident and entertaining, giving a condensed version of the highlights of the HS controversy with graphs and photographs of the protagonists on the screen.  He went on to demonstrate how the CRU emails showed that Steve McIntyre’s suspicions had been correct, matching the most damning email comments to what the audience had already been told. He followed this section with a brief look at the various inquiry fiascos and summed up with an optimistic look at the future possibilities for how this current situation in climate science might develop, both here and in the USA.

Click to read more ...


IPCC - In a class of its own. Josh 86

More Cartoons by Josh here


Environmentalists trashing the environment (again)

From Der Spiegel

Once...rubbish is collected, the sorting continues. Special machines with infrared sensors discern six different types of plastic. But then something strange happens -- more than half the yoghurt cups, plastic juice bottles and packaging foils are incinerated. That is quite legal. Under German law, only 36 percent of plastic rubbish has to be recycled.

The remainder can be sold for a profit, for example to plants that burn rubbish to produce heating or power. Such facilities are everywhere in Germany. Municipalities across the country built then in response to a ban on storing garbage in landfills. Indeed, now there are far too many of them in Germany -- and there is a shortage of burnable waste.

The result is that firms are buying up as much plastic waste -- which burns well due to the high quantity of oil in plastics -- as they can get their hands on. Indeed, some companies have even resorted to importing plastic waste to burn -- hardly a contribution to an environmental utopia.


A piece of Stringer

Bob Ward pens about Graham Stringer MP at the New Scientist blog. To tell the truth, I'm not sure what his point is.


Use your HSI effectively

H/T to Lord Beaverbrook, who found this in the comments at WUWT:

I am not sure if this is the best place to post this, but I wanted to mention an interesting conversation I just had with my local Liberal MP Peter Chandler.

Some time ago I had dropped my copy of the book “The Hockey Stick Illusion” as I was aware from previous conversations that he and I saw pretty much eye to eye on matters relating to climate change, conservationism and power generation and I believed the book would be a good source of infor providing links and a clear discussion which not all MP’s in this country are willing to do.

My first call in after some time to see if he had read it revealed he had not yet had time to do so, however that was not the case today.

I called in to the office and we had a discussion on the book and he let me know that he has used it extensively in climate change discussions – and in fact in a number of cases related to but not always directly about CO2 emissions. In addition, he has quoted passages and given sources in local parliament and says that “the best thing about the book is that it is very clear on giving source information so when the people who are ‘enusiastic’ on climate change ask him questions such as ‘where is his source?’ he can easily give references’. He also said that with some of these people he drives them up the wall somewhat because every time he does bring up these points some people do not like them because it brings solid facts to the table.

I was somewhat floored by the use to which he has put the book and wanted to just let you know that here is a good example of where the book has had direct impact on discussions of policy for my local electorate (Darwin, Australia).

He also warned me that the book was currently on his nightstand and that when I got it back it would be a “work in progress” (referencing it will likely not come back in pristine condition) which I have no problem with as I have a feeling it has been put to very good use and more use than I probably could have done.


How to get to the top

Donna Laframboise has uncovered the remarkable story of the IPCC lead author, Sari Kovats, who was appointed a lead author on the IPCC report before publication of her first scientific paper and years before she had completed her PhD. In the meantime she appears to occupy the position of senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, desite the fact she was only awarded a PhD last year.

It stinks.


St Andrews tonight

Just to confirm that I'm speaking tonight in St Andrews. The talk is 8pm in the Physics Building (Lecture Theatre B). The public are welcome.


Quote of the day

The anonymous peer review process is the enemy of scientific creativity…peer reviewers go for orthodoxy.

Professor James Black

Quoted in Donald Gillies' submission to the House of Commons Science and Technology COmmittee. H/T Judith Curry.


No opposition

Peter Gill emailed me a couple of days ago. Some of you may remember Peter as the man who famously didn't write the Institute of Physics submission to the House of Commons inquiry into Climategate. Peter wanted to tell me about a recent invitation he'd had to take part in a global warming debate at one of the bits of the University of London. After several months of to-ing and fro-ing, the who event has now been cancelled because nobody was willing stand up to represent the other side of the argument.

This is a rather familiar story, isn't it?

(I had a similar experience a few weeks back, although the reason given was lack of ticket sales).


Science in hot water

Cumbrian Lad points to a BBC Radio programme starting at 9pm tonight called Science in Hot Water. It's about scientific misconduct and will apparently feature CRU at some points. Strange, I thought they'd been exonerated.

When the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit got into hot water over leaked emails, the case review stated: "[In] a matter of such global importance, the highest standards of honesty, rigour and openness are needed". In this two-part documentary, Adam Rutherford reviews some high-profile cases where scientists didn't take those responsibilities quite seriously enough. As he trawls through a fascinating rogues' gallery, from Piltdown Man to a South Korean geneticist's claim that he had cloned stem cells, Rutherford wonders whether scientific misconduct is more prevalent than we think


SciTech peer review inquiry

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee have started to publish the submissions of evidence on their website.

A number of familiar names are there, and I'll try to read these when I get a chance:

  • Philip Campbell, the editor of Nature who had to resign from the Russell inquiry after prejudging the findings (not to mention his conflict of interest)
  • Richard Horton, the editor of The Lancet, who replaced Campbell and whose advice was ignored where Russell found in convenient to do so
  • Michael Kelly, of the Oxburgh panel, whose observations on the indequacies of CRU's work was not reported by Oxburgh
  • Nic Lewis, of O'Donnell et al fame
  • Prominent sceptics, McLean, de Freitas and Carter

There are also two from UEA and one each from the big learned societies, including the Royal Society.