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News from the House of Commons

Hot off the presses:

The Science and Technology Committee’s First Report of Session 2010–11, The Reviews into the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit’s E-mails, will be published on Tuesday 25 January at 00.01am (HC 444).

Embargoed electronic copies of the Report will be available from 11am on Monday 24 January. Copies of the embargoed Report will be available to media representatives and witnesses only on request.

Why do I have no great sense of expectation here?


Universities and FOI

There is an article here about the application of the Freedom of Information Act in universities. Michael Jubb, Director of the Research Information Network, discusses the lessons from Climategate and the Muir Russell report as well as looking at the ways universities would like the Act to be change.

There is discussion of extending the "Scottish exemption" to English universities. This exemption, which I'd never heard of before, would allow information to be withheld ahead of publication in a journal. I can't see anyone objecting to this. Data relating to unpublished papers would be of little interest to sceptics, since they couldn't be relied upon in the IPCC reports. That said, you would have to be sure that there was no question of withholding it further on the grounds that it was going to be used in another paper.

The other point to make is that (I think) this exemption would only apply to the FOI Act and not the Environmental Information Regulations, so would have little impact of sceptics searching for data.


Donna skewers greens

Donna Laframboise is off again, ripping the IPCC to shreds on the basis of the submissions of insiders to the IAC review.


The calibre of the participants has been declining.

It seems that knowledge and scientific contributions are increasingly at discount in selection of authors compared to the personal connections, affiliations and political accommodations.

Many authors are absent and also some hardly contribute.

...selection of lead authors is based on a mix of competence and politics

Read the whole thing.




The Association of Chief Police Officers, the private company that runs bits of the police service in the UK is to lose all operational duties after one of its undercover officers appears to have gone native, getting (ahem) emotionally involved with one of the green activists he was supposed to be monitoring.

This will therefore include the National Domestic Extremism Team who investigated the "well organised and well funded conspiracy" of global warming sceptic who (allegedly) infiltrated CRU.

Now own up - how many of you have been sleeping with undercover police officers?


Drivel ahoy

You always know when the Guardian knows it's publishing drivel. They switch the comments off. Today's contribution from Leo Hickman is one of these, and my goodness you can see why they wouldn't want anyone airing an opinion on it.

It turns out that GWPF has published its first set of accounts and that most of its income comes from donations rather than membership fees. Leo seems to have a problem with this, but I would have thought that the vast majority of charities working in the area of the environment are funded by donations from trusts and wealthy individuals. Or more likely different bits of government.

But more by way of donations than membership fees is all there is to this story, ladies and gentlemen. The rest is just innuendo, in a Guardian-y sort of way. That being the case, guess who pops as the article's talking head?

Yes it's dear old Bob. (Why do the Guardian still treat him as a reputable source?)

Responding to the publication of the foundation's accounts, Bob Ward , policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science, said: "We can now see that the campaign conducted by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which includes lobbying newspaper editors and MPs, is well-funded by money from secret donors. Its income suggests that it only has about 80 members, which means that it is a fringe group promoting the interests of a very small number of politically motivated campaigners."

He continued: "We do not know whether the foundation's secret donors have vested interests in its campaign, which involves disseminating inaccurate and misleading information to the public and media about climate change, such as trends in global temperatures. This is outright hypocrisy from a group that constantly accuses climate researchers of not being open enough."

It's hard to know where to start with this, apart from noting once again that switching off the comments may have been wise. Well-funded? We really need a photo of the GWPF office. That's "office", not "offices", folks. And what about the rest of it? It's hilarious. I mean, we may not know whether GWPF's donors have vested interests (although they say that none are connected to the energy business), but we are 100 percent certain that Bob is funded by a single very wealthy environmentalist. We know that he is on the board of the big-oil funded Science Media Centre.

No shame, some people.

But still the Guardian are happy to publish him.

(With the comments off, of course).


Shale bonanza

Matt Ridley looks at the shale gas revolution, which he says changes everything. Well, perhaps. But then again perhaps not everything. The impression you get from Andrew Orlowski's article on the same subject is that Britain's Department of Energy and Climate Change are entirely unmoved by the bonanza taking place around the world and indeed on our own back door here in the UK.

No doubt some wag will soon start to refer to the denizens of DECC as "shale gas deniers". It's just as well we are above that sort of thing here.


Universities and critical thinking

Much good fun to be had at Donald Clark's blog, which concentrates on education and in particular, e-learning. Today he's looking at a survey of what students actually get up to at universities and whether they are actually learning critical thinking.

Do universities really teach critical thinking? This huge CLA longitudinal study on 2,322 students for four years from 2005 to 2009 across broad range of 24 U.S. colleges and universities, suggests not. Richard Arum of New York University found that they were woeful at critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication. 36% showed no significant gains in "higher order" thinking skill. 45% made no significant improvement in critical thinking.



Peterson and knife fights

James Hrynyshyn has written about Tom Peterson's "knife fight" quote, which I mentioned here the other day. According to Hrynyshyn, Peterson was quoting somebody else.

What Tom was doing when he made the reference to a "knife fight" was recalling what had been said to him after a climate science hearing in Washington. His notes for his presentation include:

"An aside from a Congressman after a hearing: -You're in a knife fight and need to fight back."

But Chris's Tweet didn't have room for the context. So when the blogosphere's most popular climate-change pseudoskeptic, Anthony Watts, came across the little snippet, his interpretation did not square with the facts. Instead, he attributed the knife comment to Tom, rather than the congressional aide.

I'm not sure I'm wholly convinced by this. If Peterson had quoted the congressman in order to refute or criticise him then that would be one thing. But there is no indication that this was the case - it looks very much as if Peterson was using the quote to illustrate a point.

European carbon market suspended

The Telegraph (among others) is reporting that the European carbon market has been suspended for a week following the theft of emissions permits from the Czech registry.

More than €2bn (£1.7bn) of trade is likely to be disrupted after the European Commission said it would prevent transactions until January 26.

The suspension follows allegations that 475,000 carbon credits worth €7m were stolen in a hacking attack on the Czech carbon register. It appears that the intangible allowances were bounced between eastern European countries before disappearing without a trace.

I'm not sure I understand why they feel it necessary to suspend the market this time. According to the same article,

[The market] has been plagued by fraud, with Europol estimating that carbon trading criminals trying to play the system may have accounted for up to 90pc of all market activity in some European countries during 2009. Fraudulent traders mainly from Britain, France, Spain, Denmark and Holland pocketed an estimated €5bn.

Industrial-scale fraud - environmentalism's legacy to the world.


Make yer mind up Issa

Remember I said that the US House of Representatives had (kind of) said they weren't going to investigate Climategate? That was yesterday. Today, they are (kind of) saying that they will. Mother Jones has this:

UPDATE: Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill responded to a question about whether climate is still on Rep. Issa's agenda this year, via email: "The issue, as explained in the September report, is still a relevant concern. [Bardella's]  comment simply reflects the fact that the committee has not announced a hearing or specific investigation on the issue."

In the comments to yesterday's post, Doug Keenan said he thinks that Issa's Oversight Committee will probably pass this particular hot potato over to the science committee. That sounds about right to me.


The Royal Society and sea level

WUWT has a guest post looking at sea level rises...and possibly falls:

Based on the most current data it appears that 2010 is going to show the largest drop in global sea level ever recorded in the modern era.  Since many followers of global warming believe that the rate of sea level rise is increasing, a significant drop in the global sea level highlights serious flaws in the IPCC projections.  The oceans are truly the best indicator of climate.

Hat tip then to John Shade (of Climate Lessons fame) who notes the views on sea level rise put forward in the Royal Society's recent paper on climate change:

Because of the thermal expansion of the ocean, it is very likely that for many centuries the rate of global sea-level rise will be at least as large as the rate of 20cm per century that has been observed over the past century. Paragraph 49 discusses the additional, but more uncertain, contribution to sea-level rise from the melting of land ice.'

Oops. As John Shade notes, it woud be instructive to have an annual review of the Royal Society's paper in the light of new data.


Enviro what?

Benny Peiser points me to some more evidence that interest in the great green god Gaia is waning. In fact so uninterested are the public that it is getting quite hard to find anyone who thinks it's a priority at all.

The story comes from a report about a Fabian society conference, which heard from pollster Peter Kellner:

YouGov pollster Peter Kellner reinforced the point, noting that in 2005, 20 per cent of the public pointed to environmental issues as important to them - this year that number had fallen to 7%. Likewise, three years ago 50% of the public accepted that climate change is man-made, but as a result of the University of East Anglia controversy, amongst other things, this had fallen to below 40%.


Republican probe off again

The back-and-forth over the proposed global warming hearings in the US House of Representatives appear to be off again. According to The Hill, although a New Yorker profile of new House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa, suggested that he was keen to do an investigation, a statement yesterday by Issa's spokesman said that no such inquiry would take place.

Issa spokesman Kurt Bardella on Monday pushed back against the depiction of Issa’s climate plans in The New Yorker piece, claiming that Issa had been asked about the issue rather than raising it as a priority.

“We are not pursuing a Climategate probe,” Bardella told The Hill on Monday morning.


Virginia legislators to thwart Cuccinelli

Democratic senators in the Virginia State legislature are going to launch an attempt to thwart Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's probe into the work of Michael Mann. Their aim is to repeal the section of the Virginia legal code that permits the AG to issue demands for information - the so-called CIDs that Cuccinelli is currently directing at the University of Virginia.

The senators, A. Donald McEachin and J. Chapman Petersen, will meet this morning with Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, at the Capitol to discuss the legislation.

“This particular statute has been used to get at an issue that would be discussed more appropriately by scientists, not legislators or elected officials. This bill would repeal the whole statute. I’m not sure it has to go that far, but that’s what the bill seeks,” Toscano said.

Officials in Cuccinelli’s office said they have not seen the bill and cannot comment until they get a chance to read it.

The idea of repealing legislation to prevent an investigation, even a politically inspired one, from going ahead seems extraordinary to me.


Government rejects deep greens

Roger Harrabin is reporting that the Tyndall Centre have called for a moratorium on shale gas extraction in the UK "until the environmental implications are fully understood" (meaning permanently, one assumes). The report was apparently commissioned by the Cooperative (which used to be called the Co-op Bank).

The Co-operative is concerned that Decc pronounced shale gas safe last week before the end of a consultation into the technology by MPs on the Commons energy and climate change select committee.

Paul Monaghan, head of the organisation's social goals, said: "There should be no fracturing of rock for shale gas until legislation can catch up.