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The respected David King

The former chief scientist Sir David King is in the news again, this time calling for the Kyoto Protocol to be replaced with carbon rationing.

The world should abandon the Kyoto protocol on climate change and move instead to a system where each nation would have a carbon emissions quota based on population, the UK's former chief scientist has urged, in an explosive contribution to the long-running climate negotiations.

Sir David King is one of the most respected figures in climate change policy. He is the architect of the UK's response to global warming, credited with reviving the flagging climate talks in 2004 when he called the problem "a greater threat than international terrorism".

As readers here know, Sir David was responsible for a truly extraordinary bit of "hiding the decline" in his book on global warming. It therefore speaks volumes about the Guardian that they describe him as "one of the most respected figures in climate change policy". I hate to think how the less respected ones behave.


Warm climates of the past

An interesting looking conference at the Royal Society in October:

Warm climates of the past - a lesson for the future?

In several periods in Earth's history, climate has been significantly warmer than present.  What lessons about the future can be learnt from past warm periods?  The answer depends on the quality of reconstructions of past climates, our understanding of their causes, and the validity of climate models which aim to reproduce them.  This meeting will address these exciting and challenging issues.


Hockey Sticks in the wild

Donna Laframboise is looking for sightings of the Hockey Stick in the wild. There is a category on Climate Audit for this kind of thing which has some early examples, but if anyone has any other suggestions, do drop Donna a line.


Beware trolls bearing gifts - Josh 112

H/t Theo Goodwin. Fishy arguments a plenty this week.

Cartoons by Josh


News of the World and UEA

From the comments at Climate Audit:

Outside Organisation

““We don’t advertise a lot of the things we do,” says Edwards, who was called in by the University of East Anglia when Climategate blew up. “That was really interesting. It’s very high level, and you’re very much in the background on that sort of thing.”

The university’s Climatic Research Unit wanted Outside to fire back some shots on the scientists’ behalf after leaked emails from the unit gave climate change skeptics ammunition and led to an avalanche of negative press about whether global warming was a real possibility.

“They came to us and said, `We have a huge problem – we are being completely knocked apart in the press,’” says Sam Bowen. “They needed someone with heavyweight contacts who could come in…”

This morning the Managing Director of the Outside Organisation was Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis (he’s not MD any longer), Neil Wallis was deputy to Andy Coulson at News of the World. Andy Coulson until recently worked for the Prime Minster David Cameron.

Andy Coulson was arrested a few days ago, Neil Wallis was arrested this morning.


Abraham on the MWP

John Abraham, the US academic who keeps falling out with Lord Monckton, has written an article about the MWP. It's a bit of a mixed bag, but there is much of interest.

For example, there's this rather naughty bit of quoting out of context:

the National Academy of Sciences thoroughly investigated [the MWP] and concluded, “the late 20th century warmth in the northern hemisphere was unprecedented during at least the last 1000 years."

Click to read more ...


Germany goes for coal

As most readers will know, Germany has decided to phase out its nuclear power programme, a move welcomed by most environmentalists.

There's a sting in the tail for them though:

The German government wants to encourage the construction of new coal and gas power plants with millions of euros from a fund for promoting clean energy and combating climate change.


Sheer heart attack

Reader John sent this -  a comment on the "Philosopher on Climategate" thread at the NYT. I thought it was an interesting point.

Is a consensus of scientists in a field enough for society to accept what they say unreservedly, and act upon that knowledge?

The consensus of scientists was wrong on plate tectonics for a long time -- the "experts" said there was no such thing, until the "go to" experts were dead. (I don't know if humankind was harmed by that erroneous consensus.)

More recently, the US government, in the late 1980s, advised women that they should take estrogen after menopause to lessen the risk of heart attacks. 15 or so years later, the double blind studies finally got done. These "gold standard" studies contradicted the observational studies which had been the basis for the estrogen recommendation. In the meantime, perhaps 50,000 to 100,000 women had heart attacks BECAUSE they took the estrogen. The government's advice killed. (Yes, the issue is more complex than this summary paragraph states, in particular with regard to opposed vs. unopposed estrogens, but the basic facts are as stated.)

In addition, when women stopped taking the form of estrogen commonly taken in the US, within months breast cancer incidence dropped. Once again, the government's advice killed, but for a different disease.

In this case -- taking estrogen post-menopause -- there wasn't much scientific opposition to the government's advice. But the consensus was very wrong indeed.

In contrast, with global warming, there is a huge amount of scientific opposition. The opposition isn't to the notion that CO2 warms the atmosphere, but rather to the amount and the effects. All of us understand that if a doubling of CO2 causes an increase of 1 degree C, there are far different policy prescriptions than if it causes an increase of 3 degrees. The IPCC is on shaky ground here.

So please, give it a rest on this appeal to authority.



Feedback to SJB

Sir John Beddington is seeking feedback on the climate impacts report I blogged about yesterday.


A tree ring blog

Kevin Anchukaitis is a tree ring guy who is currently on an expedition to Alaska to sample treeline spruce trees. There's an article here and a related blog diary of the expedition here.


A philosopher on Climategate

I've always been rather unimpressed with philosophy and philosophers - I keep feeling that there is much less there than meets the eye. I don't think this article in the New York Times is going to change my opinion much. In it, philosopher Gary Gutting looks at the AGW `consensus' and Climategate and frankly doesn't make much of a case. Here he is on Climategate:

Some non-expert opponents of global warming have made much of a number of e-mails written and circulated among a handful of climate scientists that they see as evidence of bias toward global warming. But unless this group is willing to argue from this small (and questionable) sample to the general unreliability of climate science as a discipline, they have no alternative but to accept the consensus view of climate scientists that these e-mails do not undermine the core result of global warming.

The "consensus view" about the emails that Prof Gutting cites is an article about the Russell review, which was not exactly chock-full of climate scientists and was not exactly full of people who could be described as honest brokers either. Prof Gutting also seems to have missed the point about the emails - if they really show that the peer reviewed literature was largely closed to sceptics, then yes climate science as a discipline is unreliable.


Beddington's baloney 

Sir John Beddington has published a new report that addresses "International Dimensions of Climate Change". The lead author team includes BH regular Richard Betts.

The headlines are going to be grabbed by the reports call for climate disasters overseas to be used as a lever for introduction of unpopular policy measures in the UK:

The onset of more severe climate impacts overseas may also open up temporary opportunities, or ‘policy windows’. These would allow legislators the licence to take specific bold actions which they ordinarily believe would not otherwise be possible or politically acceptable...

Click to read more ...


Guardian flip flops on hacking

Guido Fawkes notes that although the Guardian is on its high horse about the misdeeds of the News of the World, it was formerly all in favour of such tactics, publishing the hacked Wikileaks cables with some fanfare.

Of course as readers here know, before the latter incident the Guardian was against hacking, noting repeatedly that the (alleged) hacking on the CRU emails was illegal.

Flip, flop, flip.


Guardian debate transcript

TonyN and Alex Cull have posted a full transcript of last year's Guardian debate featuring McIntyre, Keenan, Fred Pearce, Trevor Davies and Bob Watson, and all overseen by George Monbiot.


What did Fox know?

This appears to have been the view of at least some attendees at the annual conference of the World Conference of Science Journalists, held this year in Doha. Fiona Fox reports a conference session set up to discuss the role of the science media centres, with Connie St Louis (chairman of the Association of British Science Writers) invited to assume the role of critic-in-chief. 

Connie took on her role as critic enthusiastically and told the audience that the SMCs are actively encouraging the trends towards lazy 'copy and paste' journalism, are becoming too powerful and are vulnerable to being hijacked by maverick scientists, campaigners and funders alike. Connie told us that she teaches her students to do real journalism - to 'dig out' original stories, ask the tough questions to mainstream scientists and to keep a distance between themselves and the scientists they report.

This seems exactly right to me but in many ways St Louis' criticisms don't go far enough. The blogosphere has been diligently investigating climate science and asking those "tough questions" of climatologists and yet has been completely ignored by the Science Media Centre.

At times the centre has gone further, adopting the role of spin doctor on behalf of mainstream science. Its reaction to the Oxburgh report is a case in point, with the centre seeking reactions from Martin Rees and Brian Hoskins, both of whom had helped to arrange inquiry (or whitewash if you prefer). No mention was made of their involvement, however. This then raises the uncomfortable question of whether the SMC is so close to the scientific establishment that it is actively involved in covering up the misdeeds of scientists or whether it is was just blind to the possibilities. Did Fox know of the involvement of Rees and Hoskins in setting up the inquiry or was she kept in the dark?

I will write and ask.

(Incidentally, is it just me that sees scientifically literate people meeting in Doha for navel gazing purposes as strong confirmation of the suggestion that well educated folk are unconvinced by the idea of catastrophic manmade global warming?)