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Thursday
May192011

Singhing about the decline

Andy Russell has a report from the Royal Meteorological Society AGM, which was addressed by John Mitchell and Simon Singh. This bit was particularly interesting

There was also an interesting question for Simon about the similarities between the “hide the decline” episode and an edit Simon showed us that he had made to one of his own documentaries (substituting “primes” with “numbers” in an interview with a mathematician to make it understandable for a wider audience). Simon argued that they were quite different situations as the removal of unreliable proxy data was done for scientific reasons whereas his edit was done for communication reasons. I wonder if there isn’t more of an overlap, though. I’m not sure we’ve properly acknowledged the needs of different audiences and how scientists decide to summarise their work for them.

Removing the bit of data that shows the rest of the series to be unreliable is not a "scientific reason". It's called "cheating".

Thursday
May192011

Scrutinising the models

There has been something of a flurry of posts around the sceptic blogosphere about climate models and I wonder if this may continue to be a theme in coming weeks after James Hansen's recent admission that climate models are getting ocean heat uptake and the mixing of heat in the ocean wildly wrong.

This story is covered in layman's terms here by Anthony Cox and David Stockwell:

The Earth’s energy balance is the most important measure of anthropogenic global warming [AGW] because it shows whether energy is leaving or accumulating.

Among 52 dense pages of science, Hansen reports on two experiments from the last eight years that call for major revisions to the GCMs.

This is definitely a "read the whole thing" kind of article.

Put alongside the poor performance of the models against observations in recent years do we really have a watertight scientific case that demands a policy response?

 

Wednesday
May182011

Another climate conference

At the end of last month another conference bringing together the two sides of the climate debate took place quietly in Germany. The participants were a team from the Potsdam Institute - Schellnhuber, Rahmstorf et al - and a group from EIKE, the main sceptic body in Germany.

EIKE have just issued a report documenting the discussions from their point of view. This can be seen below.  The Hockey Stick Illusion is mentioned.

 

EIKE-PIK conference

Wednesday
May182011

HoL on BBC science coverage

The House of Lords Communication Committee questions Brian Cox and Sir David Attenborough on BBC science programming. Is it just me, or do parliamentary committees only ever want to hear from people who aren't going to rock the boat.

That said, there is some interesting probing of the "how to deal with dissent" question, with Brian Cox looking somewhat uncomfortable at one point.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May172011

Sir John B and the IPCC

As readers no doubt know, I have previously obtained a great deal of Sir John Beddington's correspondence around the Climategate affair. As evidence of Sir John's involvement in setting up the whitewashes grows, I started to wonder about the information that Sir John's office had said they had withheld for one reason or another. In particular I wondered what was covered by this:

* various internal advice from Government Office for Science and other officials to Sir John regarding the UEA incident and the establishment of the independent reviews, and advising on aspects of the handling of this from the viewpoint of the Government and his personal role.

Since there is a presumption in favour of disclosure, I decided to appeal the decision to withhold and I have now received some further information.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
May172011

Comets, climate and admitting you are wrong

The Miller-McClune site (H/T Paddy, via GWPF) carries an interesting story of how a theory of comet-caused climate change turned out to be wrong and how hard it was to get the truth out.

It seemed like such an elegant answer to an age-old mystery: the disappearance of what are arguably North America’s first people. A speeding comet nearly 13,000 years ago was the culprit, the theory goes, spraying ice and rocks across the continent, killing the Clovis people and the mammoths they fed on, and plunging the region into a deep chill. The idea so captivated the public that three movies describing the catastrophe were produced.

But now, four years after the purportedly supportive evidence was reported, a host of scientific authorities systematically have made the case that the comet theory is “bogus.”

Monday
May162011

Lord Turnbull advises caution

GWPF has issued a report by Lord Turnbull advising caution over UK energy policy.

Lord Turnbull, the former Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service (2002 – 2005), has called on MPs and ministers to consider more carefully the rising costs and economic risks of Britain’s unilateral climate policies.

In a dispassionate but devastating critique of current policies, Andrew Turnbull also criticises the blind faith in the propositions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) given that they do not bear the weight of certainty with which they are often expressed.

In his briefing paper for the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lord Turnbull outlines the many doubts and disagreements that exist about key IPCC assumptions.

Monday
May162011

Non-linear system is linear

Only in climateland - Willis Eschenbach's post at WUWT is very interesting. He shows that the output of a major climate model is essentially just a lagged linear combination of its inputs. This is kind of odd when what they are modelling is a non-linear system.

Monday
May162011

Wegman paper retracted

USA Today is reporting that the allegations of plagiarism made against Edward Wegman have hit their mark. Said et al, a paper describing the uncomfortably close relationships between cliques of climate scientists has been withdrawn after it was shown that elements of the paper were plagiarised.

The journal publisher's legal team "has decided to retract the study," said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report's analysis.

As far as I can tell, nobody is disputing the paper's findings though.

 

Sunday
May152011

UKCIP defunded

From the Oxford Mail:

CLIMATE change experts working in Oxford fear their jobs could be lost after funding was cut by the Government.

The UK Climate Impact Programme, set up in Oxford 13 years ago, currently receives £1m a year from the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The programme, part of the university’s Environmental Change Institute, has been told that there will be no more Government support from September.

(H/T DaveB)

Sunday
May152011

Climate cuttings 52

Here is my latest attempt to round up the bits and bobs that I should have blogged about in recent weeks but haven't quite got round to.

Hilary Ostrov noted the IPCC apparently approving their recent report on renewables before they actually reviewed it. Some deft rewriting of history by the IPCC appears to have ensued.

Shub Niggurath takes a look at what I call the "official sceptics" and finds that almost none of them are sceptical of climate change. Does this say more about the nature of their scepticism than the status of global warming research? You would have thought the falsification of the models (or the lack of falsifiability according to some) would have raised a few doubts.

Click to read more ...

Saturday
May142011

Beddington - definitely a lobbyist

A few days ago, I noted the frank admission by the chief scientist in Australia that he saw himself as a lobbyist for the scientific community. I wondered at the time whether our own head boff was working for the benefit of those who pay his salary or just for scientists.

Here's the answer, found in Hansard:

Q5 Chair: Should the Committee, perhaps, re-think its position on the desirability of a Chief Scientific Officer at the Treasury, or do you think the need is even greater now?

Professor Sir John Beddington: I do believe it would be sensible to have a Chief Scientific Adviser in the Treasury. It is a thing I have discussed with Nick Macpherson, the Permanent Secretary in the Treasury. In the run-up to the CSR I did have meetings with the Senior Management Board of the Treasury, which Nick chairs. We were discussing primarily the Science Settlement and there are people in the Treasury who do absolutely know a lot about science and the importance of science, but I don’t think that is a substitute for actually having somebody who comes in from outside who has an appropriate external experience of science and engineering. I do think it is still important. The last month or so has been quite busy, so it is not a thing I have been pursuing with much energy, I confess.

Saturday
May142011

Darrell Ince on the tranny

Darrel Ince is interviewed by Tim Harford about the difficulties of getting corrections made to scientific papers.

Darrell Ince on wrong papers

Saturday
May142011

Boulton's editorial

Geoffrey Boulton has an editorial in the Lancet discussing the Royal Society project on science and the public, which he is leading. In particular, he discusses the first phase of the project, which looks at data availability. Climategate is mentioned:

Conventional peer-reviewed publications generally provide summaries of the available data, but not effective access to data in a useable format. Increasing calls for greater accessibility have not only come from peer reviewers and those who wish data to be more efficiently used, but also from citizens who wish to interrogate scientific conclusions in depth. The latter in particular have often been frustrated by the apparent resistance of scientists to the release of data, and are increasingly making use of freedom of information laws to obtain it. Recent high-profile cases in the UK include the global temperature data sought from the University of East Anglia, which culminated in the so-called Climategate affair, and the tree-ring data series eventually obtained from Queen's University Belfast through the intervention of the Information Commissioner.

The full article is here (free registration required).

Friday
May132011

A new approach to science funding

I wondered earlier if it would ever be possible to separate scientists from the perverse incentives that encourage them to hype their work and work against the interests of the people who are paying for them. (I'm not saying that scientists necessarily work against the public interest, although some clearly do - simply that this is the direction that their incentives push them)

By strange coincidence Susan Greenfield, the former head of the Royal Institution has come up with a pretty radical set of suggestions that would at least improve things. Firstly she wants to abolish the research councils and divide the pot of research money up between researchers. Secondly, and perhaps more practically, she suggests getting venture capitalists to fund research.

Both of these suggestions would reduce the incentives to work against the public. Quite how practical they are, I'm not sure, but the ideas are certainly worth a look.