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Mike Hulme on climate models

There is video available here of a lecture given by Professor Mike Hulme entitled "How do Climate Models Gain and Exercise Authority?". Hulme asks whether deference towards climate models is justified and whether we should have confidence in them. I think the answer is "We don't know".


UVa versus Cuccinelli redux

The Madison Eagle is reporting that the University of Virginia has applied to have Ken Cuccinelli's demand for Michael Mann's emails thrown out again.

Cuccinelli sent a third, more limited subpoena — known as a civil investigative demand — to UVa on Sept. 29. Cuccinelli says he is investigating Mann for possibly violating Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act because Mann received a $214,700 university grant while he was employed at UVa between 1999 and 2005.

On Wednesday, UVa’s lawyers filed papers requesting that Cuccinelli’s latest demand be “set aside” as well.


ICO rules against Hoskins

David Holland writes:

The Information Commissioner has just issued Decision Notice FER0239225 on my complaint against the University of Reading for its refusal to disclose information relating to the IPCC Fourth Assessment process.

It is broadly similar to that issued in relation to the University of East Anglia, in particular confirming that such information is subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 which has fewer opportunities for refusal.   As a result of the Information Commissioner's intervention some 368 emails were disclosed.   One issue in this case is that employee concerned, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins had not given the University’s Information Officer the opportunity to examine the emails that he held in order to determine if they should have been disclosed, until the Information Commissioner contacted Reading.

The Information Commissioner continues to investigate similar complaints against the MOD/Met Office and the University of Oxford.   Professor Myles Allen of Oxford had made his attitude to Freedom of Information requests very clear at the Royal Institution debate on Climategate on 14 June 2010.  

Oxford has recently added a novel defence to its refusal to disclose, which the Commissioner is considering, and which I will dispute should it be seriously entertained.   Oxford is arguing that Professor Myles Allen took extended unpaid paternal leave while undertaking his duties as an IPCC Review Editor and thereby undertook his work for the IPCC on a “personal basis”.   The IPCC shows Allen’s affiliation as Oxford and he copied the pro forma Review Editor’s Report onto University letterhead before sending it to the IPCC Working Group.   His IPCC duties ran from at least 17 November 2005, when he was appointed, to 4 January 2007, when he submitted his Review Editor’s Report.

The ICO's ruling is attached below.

ICO ruling on Holland's Reading FOI request


UKRIO on retractions

The UK Research Integrity Office has issued new guidelines on retractions of journal articles (H/T COPE). I thought it was interesting to compare the guidelines to the events surrounding Phil Jones' 1990 paper on urban heat islands, which is now of course the subject of a fraud allegation from Doug Keenan. Keenan's claim is that Jones continued to cite the paper even when he knew that some of the underlying data could not be relied upon. Jones' defence is that a subsequent paper he published has shown the findings to be broadly correct.

UKRIO says that papers should be retracted

when there is clear evidence that the reported findings are unreliable, either as a result of misconduct, such as fabrication of data, or honest error, for example. miscalculation or experimental error;

I think on the basis of this statement, Jones would still argue that the findings were reliable since they were backed up by his later study. However AFAIK, there was a gap of several years in the middle when Jones knew of the problems with his 1990 paper, but hadn't yet published his new findings. This suggests that his conduct at the time was not up to the standards required by these new guidelines (although I am not aware of what rules applied at the time).

The guidelines also make the interesting point that one of the reasons for retraction is so as not to bias future meta-analyses:

A retraction can help reduce the number of researchers who cite an erroneous article, act on its findings or draw incorrect conclusions, such as from ‘double counting’ redundant publications in meta-analyses.

It is therefore interesting to consider the effect of Jones 1990 on any metaanalysis of UHI papers. One assumes that such a study would still pick up Jones 1990 because it has never been retracted. It therefore seems to me that it is incumbent upon Jones to retract the paper, even at this late stage.


Lord Marland shames Parliament

Yesterday Nigel Lawson asked a question of Lord Marland, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change. This is the full exchange:

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the chairman of the Government’s own Green Investment Bank commission has authoritatively stated that the cost of meeting our current carbon reduction commitments in this country is somewhere between £800 billion and £1 trillion? Does he not agree that, with the best will in the world, this mind-boggling cost cannot be justified except in the context of a binding global carbon reduction agreement? Therefore, in the absence of such an agreement being secured at Cancun, does he not agree that it is only commonsense to suspend the Climate Change Act until such time as a binding global agreement is secured?

Lord Marland: My Lords, when I bumped into my noble friend in the Corridor and he said that he was catching the train to York I was rather relieved. Sadly, he will be catching a slightly later train than I was hoping for. I have now forgotten entirely what his question was.

Utterly, utterly shameful.


Nature on sceptics

Nature has published an opinion piece on the subject of the BBC's science review and in particular the way it handles global warming sceptics.

In reality, perhaps the most common complaint from scientists about the corporation's coverage of global warming is the exposure handed to sceptical non-scientists, such as former UK chancellor Nigel Lawson. This is the source of the long-standing 'false balance' problem. The BBC Trust, which is running the review, should take a stricter line here. If BBC staff want to use non-experts to criticize widely accepted science, they must explain this lack of expertise to the audience, and why the BBC has invited them to participate.



UEA hearings redux

The big news while I was away was the announcement of a further invitation to a member of staff at UEA to appear before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. We have already had Oxburgh's appearance, and knew that Sir Muir Russell was to appear with Sir Edward Acton at the end of this month. However, it now appears that UEA's Trevor Davies will also be making an appearance. Davies, as regular readers know, was not only Phil Jones predecessor as head of CRU but, more importantly, appears to have been a pivotal figure in the organisation of the "independent" inquiries into CRU. All three men will appear on Wednesday 27th October.

Click to read more ...


The London trip

I'm now back home, having had an interesting couple of days in London.

The talk at the Energy Institute went reasonably well, although numbers were apparently down considerably on normal because the invitations had been sent out rather late in the day. I also suffered from some technical problems, which meant that I had to speak without notes. I think, however, that I gained as much in fluency as I lost in completeness, so this was not the end of the day. One disappointment was that (from the tenor of the questions at least) most of the audience were probably already on the right side of the debate, so I'm not sure how many were persuaded by my words. Nevertheless, having not spoken in public for the best part of twenty years, I was quite pleased with the way the whole thing went.

The Vaclav Klaus lecture yesterday was excellent - a very unpolitician-like politician, I thought, quietly spoken and with a complete lack of histrionics. This made him a very persuasive speaker I thought, and I would recommend you read what he has to say if you haven't already.

Thanks are certainly due to my hosts - Peter Gill and Josh - for their hospitality and to Benny and everyone at the GWPF for inviting me to the Vaclav Klaus talk.


Light blogging

I'm off to the big smoke tomorrow. I'm giving a talk at the Institute of Energy and attending Vaclav Klaus's lecture on Tuesday.

Be good while I'm away.


Canadian poll closes

The poll for best Science and Technology blog poll in Canada, which I mentioned in the Climate Cuttings post, seems to have closed, apparently prematurely.

I wonder why?

Update: No this was apparently expected.


Climate cuttings 38

There are a lot of climate related stories around at the moment, so I thought I'd wheel out the Climate Cuttings series once again.

First up is Roy Spencer, discussing a new paper by Lacis (Schmidt) et al. The authors seem to be trying to sideline the role of water vapour in the climate system so as to leave the road clear for carbon dioxide. Their results, however, appear to rest on the assumptions they make. Pielke Snr wonders why Science published the paper at all, unless for propaganda purposes.

Stephen Goddard looks at Hansen's 1988 predictions and finds that warming of 8 degrees in the Antarctic is probably somewhat (ahem) off the mark.

Jeff Id looks at the proxies from the recent Ljungqvist reconstruction and finds that the temperature pattern in the reconstruction is rather robust.

The Hal Lewis resignation story rumbles on. Andy Revkin has taken a potshot at Lewis here, prompting a further response from another APS member, Roger Cohen, at WUWT.

Geoff Chambers, writing at Harmless Sky, notes the difficulties the Guardian has got itself into over research funded by oil companies.

I'm rather late to this one, but the Environment Spokesman for Germany's CDU/FDP party has come out as a sceptic, referring to climate change as an ersatz religion. The greens are not happy.

And lastly, help Steve McIntyre be chosen as Canada's top science blog by voting here.


Ben Pile on the Royal Society

A thought provoking post by Ben Pile of Climate Resistance fame, documenting the Royal Society's track record on climate change and presenting some disturbing possibilities about where its attention may be directed next.


The reverse twinkle

Hat tip to Barry Woods for this excerpt from the website of Thames Valley Climate Action, which gives guidance on how the organisation runs its meetings. They have a thoroughly nifty set of hand signals to enable attendees to indicate how they feel about what is being said:

I particularly like the idea of a "reverse twinkle" to show that you disapprove. Personally I think the whole AGW thing could be considered one large reverse twinkle.


Hegerl on stupidity

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Gabriele Hegerl's lecture in Edinburgh and said that she said that sceptics were "stupid". The video of the lecture is now available here and my recollection of what was said was not quite right. The exact quote is as follows:

...What is frustrating to me as a scientist is that the objections raised by the skeptics groups are scientifically so stupid would be really much more fun to fight really interesting assertions.  But it's often things that often ring reasonable to people who have not background in this but that are scientifically totally with out value. I would find it more interesting to discuss if the sceptics would raise better questions.

So Prof Hegerl was quite correct to say that she didn't call anyone stupid. It was the questions asked by sceptics that she said were stupid. 

(H/T to Rob Schneider and also thanks for the transcript of this excerpt)


New vacancy on S&T committee

One of the Labour members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Jonathan Reynolds, has been appointed a whip. In this position he is no longer eligible to sit on the committee.

New elections will be held among the Parliamentary Labour party to select a replacement, with nominations closing on 25th October.


(Via Farah Bhatti)