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Wednesday
Jan272010

ICO believes FoI offences committed at CRU

Jonathan Leake at the Sunday Times has discovered that the Information Commissioner believes that offences were committed under the Freedom of Information Act at CRU. As readers here know, the ICO is not able to take any action because there is apparently a six month time-bar on summary offences such as these.

The emails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland's requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information. Mr Holland's FOI requests were submitted in 2007/8, but it has only recently come to light that they were not dealt with in accordance with the Act.

The legislation requires action within six months of the offence taking place, so by the time the action taken came to light the opportunity to consider a prosecution was long gone. The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. It is important to note that the ICO enforces the law as it stands - we do not make it.

Intruigingly, there does seem to be a hint of a possibility of action under the data protection act.

We will also be studying the investigation reports (by Lord Russell [sic] and Norfolk Police), and we will then consider what regulatory action, if any, should then be taken under the Data Protection Act.

(Source-press release, so no link).

 

Tuesday
Jan262010

Chief scientist: fundamental uncertainty in climate science

The UK government's chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, is the latest rat to flee the sinking ship Climatology, with an interview in the Times in which he comes out of the closet:

The impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser.

Now he tells us. If Professor Beddington really believes this, it's hard to fathom why he hasn't said so in the two years in which he's been in office. 

Professor Beddington also thinks that people should be nicer to sceptics.

Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.

Again, not a word about withholding data and code until the ship starts to go down. Where has he been?

 

Tuesday
Jan262010

Leak or hack?

We still don't know if the emails were leaked or hacked - I've emailed Norfolk Constabulary to see if they have managed to get to the bottom of what exactly it is they are investigating. Given that they are treating this as a serious incident with specialists brought in to assist them, one would think that after two months they would have at least ascertained what it is they are investigating.

However, there is some new evidence, of sorts. A couple of commenters have noted interesting opinions on the issue. In the last twenty four hours, both Phil Willis, the chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and Mike Hulme, professor of environmental sciences at the University of East Anglia, have referred to "leaked emails".

It's not proof, but these two men are in a better position than most of us to know which it is.

 

Tuesday
Jan262010

Who should be the next head of the IPCC?

Discuss.

Tuesday
Jan262010

BBC impartiality

The BBC's flagship Today programme featured an environmentalist presenter, John Humphrys, interviewing an environmentalist, Tony Juniper and an activist environmental scientist, Mike Hulme.

Nobody to put the sceptic point of view.

Again.

 

Tuesday
Jan262010

Andrew Neil on gates

Andrew Neil is emerging as the voice of scepticism within the BBC. Twenty years or more after the global warming debate began, it's certainly nice to see one's opinions finally recognised as legitimate. He hits hard at the IPCC and has some nice words for the blogosphere too.

The bloggers, too easily dismissed in the past, have set the pace with some real scoops -- and some of the mainstream media is now rushing to catch up.

 

Tuesday
Jan262010

Idle hands

I was talking to a contact today about how the National Domestic Extremism Team came to be involved in the Climategate investigation. Apparently NDET was set up to deal with the animal extremists, but turned out to be rather to good at their assigned job. Having prosecuted and locked up all the available animal rights people, the team found it had nothing else to do.

My contact had concluded, therefore, that their involvement was simply a case of making work for idle hands.

 

 

 

Monday
Jan252010

The other snippet

I mentioned two snippets of information in the last post and no doubt some of you are wondering what the other one is.

The ICO officer volunteered that my complaint might not eventually be upheld because it was possible that UEA was in fact unaware of the existence of the archive of data and emails that eventually formed the Climategate hack/leak. He said that the current understanding in the ICO's office was that the archive was not an official data repository, but was set up by an individual within CRU for their own use.

This is important because, if true, it strengthens the suggestion that the data was not hacked but leaked. If the archive was on a hard drive on someone's PC then it is highly unlikely that a hacker could have found it, and it seems to me still unlikely that it would have been found on a shared drive either.

It's not definitive, but it does fit in well with earlier evidence of an inside job, such as the cleansing of file creation dates.

 

Monday
Jan252010

+++No Climategate FoI prosecutions+++

I've  just come off the phone to the investigations office at the Information Commissioner's office. I had made a request for information to UEA that, while only peripherally related to Climategate, has now turned up some interesting new information.

My original request was from a couple of years ago, asking for any correspondence between the CRU's Mike Hulme and the BBC in relation to a body called the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme (see here for some background on this story). The original response from UEA was that all Prof Hulme's emails prior to 2005 had been lost, an admission that appears rather embarrassing in the light of CRU's suggestion that they had lost some of their original temperature data.

However, when the Climategate emails were released I noticed several email from Mike Hulme predating 2005, which appeared to contradict the earlier assertion that all such emails had been lost. Intrigued, I wrote to the Information Commissioner asking that this be investigated and today I had my response.

First off, I was told that while there appeared to be a problem, I needed to be clear that there would be no prosecutions under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, regardless of the final outcome of the investigation. Although withholding or destroying information is a criminal offence under the terms of the Act, apparently no prosecutions can be brought for offences committed more than six months prior. As anyone who has made a UK FoI request knows, it can take six months to exhaust the internal review process before the ICO even becomes involved. The ICO can then take another six months before starting his investigation.

The upshot is that the FoI Act's section allowing criminal prosecutions is to all intents and purposes a dead letter and the ICO officer actually volunteered this conclusion himself - "the Act is flawed" was the way he put it. The ICO is apparently going to take this up with the Ministry of Justice, which is fine but will be of little help for those who are interested in seeing justice done.

It seems quite clear that civil servants are able to withhold and destroy information without any consequences and it's interesting to ponder how such a dramatic flaw can have found its way into the terms of the Act. Of course we in the UK are used to poorly drafted laws finding their way onto the statute books, but we might also consider the thought that Sir Humphrey might have knowingly inserted this crucial error, in order to ensure that when push came to shove he could keep things quiet without any concerns that he might find himself in hot water.

Conspiracy theory? Perhaps, but you have to admit, it's a possibility.

 

 

Sunday
Jan242010

The IPCC's favourite source

Canadian blogger Donna Laframboise wondered just how many times the IPCC had cited the World Wildlife Fund in its report. The answer is quite a lot!

 

Sunday
Jan242010

Stern report doctored

Roger Pielke Jnr has the news.

As I was preparing this post, I accessed the Stern Review Report on the archive site of the UK government to capture an image of Table 5.2. Much to my surprise I learned that since the publication of my paper, Table 5.2 has mysteriously changed!

 

Saturday
Jan232010

Pachauri says he's staying

IBN LIVE: Rajendra Pachauri, president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on Saturday said he would not quit over the IPCC blunder of saying that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.

Friday
Jan222010

Who's on the select committee?

Here's an introduction to the members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, gleaned from Wiki pages, TheyWorkForYou and so on. For each member, I've given details of constituency, party, educational/professional background and details of their voting records on climate change issues.

The good news is that there are a reasonable number of people there with genuine scientific backgrounds, including a few PhDs and one full professor.  In terms of credentials I think this is probably a reasonable group of people to assess the questions that have been asked.

Overall they seem to be much more sceptical of global warming than one might have expected. Intriguingly the distribution of sceptics over the different parties is almost the opposite of what might have been expected, with the Conservatives all appearing to be vigorously green, while their Labour counterparts appear to be the ones who vote against climate change legislation. This could be a case of the Tories trying to establish their environmental credentials as mandated by their party leader, David Cameron.

Here's the list.

Phil Willis (Chairman) Harrogate and Knaresborough (LD). Degree in history and music. Former teacher. Has voted moderately for laws to stop climate change.

Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods City of Durham (Lab). Sociologist. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Mr Tim Boswell Daventry (C). Former farmer. Has voted very strongly for laws to stop climate change.

Mr Ian Cawsey Brigg and Goole (Lab). Background in IT. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Mrs Nadine Dorries Mid Bedfordshire (C). Former nurse and businesswoman. Has voted strongly for laws to stop climate change.

Dr Evan Harris Oxford West & Abingdon (LD). Medicine. Voted very strongly for laws to stop climate change

Dr Brian Iddon Bolton South East (Lab). Professor of Chemistry. Voted for and against laws to stop climate change.

Mr Gordon Marsden Blackpool South (Lab). Former editor of History Today magazine. Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Dr Doug Naysmith Bristol North West (Lab). PhD in Immunology. Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Dr Bob Spink Castle Point (Ind). Electronic engineer. Voted strongly for laws to stop climate change.

Ian Stewart Eccles (Lab). Chemical plant operator. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Graham Stringer Manchester, Blackley (Lab). Analytical chemist. Has voted strongly against laws to stop climate change. Has voted strongly against laws to stop climate change.

Dr Desmond Turner Brighton, Kemptown (Lab). PhD in biochemistry. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Mr Rob Wilson Reading East (C). Small businessman. Has a commitment to "scientific evidence-based research into climate change". Has voted strongly for laws to stop climate change.

 

 

Friday
Jan222010

Unsinkable

 

Friday
Jan222010

Pincer attack?

Joe Barton, the man behind the US Senate's 2006 hearings on the Hockey Stick, has been stirring things up in Washington again:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is pressing Energy Secretary Steven Chu for information about department ties to the U.K. climate institute at the center of the controversy over the infamous hacked climate science emails.

Barton, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote to Chu Friday asking about DoE funding for projects connected to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

Coming so soon after the announcement of the UK Parliamentary inquiry, one can't help but wonder if the timing is entirely coincidental. Nevertheless, shedding sunlight on what has been going on is certainly no bad thing.

Source: The Hill News.