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The East Anglia publication scheme

Steve McIntyre has posted up an interesting article about the complaints made by Nature in its Climategate editorial, namely that scientists were being overwhelmed by freedom of information requests. As he points out, the actual number of requests made so far has been very small, a point reinforced by a brief perusal of, the portal for many FoI requests to UK public bodies. Prior to Climategate, there were only ten FoI requests to UEA. This doesn't preclude there being requests made through other channels, but it does at least suggest that the problem is rather smaller in scale than Nature would have us believe.

But in many ways, this is besides the point. As well as the Freedom of Information Act, CRU information falls under the terms of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. These require public bodies to:

(a) progressively make the information available to the public by electronic means which are easily accessible; and

(b) take reasonable steps to organize the information relevant to its functions with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.

As far as I can see, the University of East Anglia, in common with many other UK universities, has failed to set up the legally mandated publication scheme. In other words, the alleged burdensome level of FoI requests has only been necessary because those scientists' have been flouting the law.

A similar point is made in the comments at CA by the economist Richard Tol:

I bet that I get far fewer requests for information (2-3 a week) than my colleagues in climate science proper. I do find these requests disruptive, because it means taking your mind of the data you’re working on and focussing on data you worked on years ago. I have a simple solution for that: I post all relevant data on my website. As the data is in the public domain anyway per the various freedom of information acts that govern my work, I might as well put the data there.

So it's simple. Publish everything as you go and you not only comply with the law but you make your life simpler in the long run.

I've put in a further FoI request to East Anglia, asking what steps they have taken to ensure compliance with the terms of EIR. In the meantime, the ecowarriors at Nature might do better to direct their ire at climatologists who flout the law rather than sceptics who are forced to use FoI to unearth the information that is being withheld.



Hope you all had a nice Christmas

I hope everyone had a nice break - it snowed here so I got rather distracted from the blogging. Higher priorities like sledging and digging the car our took precedence. So my apologies for my failure to sign off at the end of term, and thanks for all the good wishes.





Sonia B-C on Marr

Sonia Boehmer-Christiansen, one of the most doughty fighters against the global warming movement, has written a complaint about Andrew Marr's performance in a programme on global warming broadcast on BBC radio the other day.

There are some fascinating snippets of which I would love to know the details. For example:

  • the BBC having a financial interest in the advancement of the global warming agenda
  • ditto the Royal Society
  • the IPCC is not allowed to assess the "for and against" of global warming since it is signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which states that global warming is real and dangerous

Read the whole thing.




Richard Tol on Stern

I'm very pleased to have had a comment by the eminent economist Richard Tol (even it is was to tell me that I was wrong about the Stern Report - the report was still flawed, but not for the reasons I had put forward).

Here's what he says:

Stern managed to focus the discussion about the Stern Review on the discount rate used. The issue is not that Stern argues for a particular discount rate. That is his right as a a citizen of a democratic country. The issue is that he used a single discount rate (without performing a sensitivity analysis) and that he used a discount rate that differs from the discount rate typically used by his own, democratically-elected government. And all without alerting the reader. Stern's use of the discount rate is a clear case of manipulation.

The sloppiness of the Stern Review is perhaps best illustrated with its assessment of an optimal climate policy. (By the way, the Stern Review concludes that the previously formulated long-term target of the UK government is exactly right.) Stern's "optimum" does not meet the first-order conditions. In the optimum, marginal costs should equal marginal benefits. Stern recommends that greenhouse gas concentrations be stabilized at 550 ppm CO2eq, but at that point his (faulty) estimates of marginal costs do not equal his (faulty) estimates of the marginal benefits.

When I pressed him over this, the paraphrased reply was that Newton and Leibnitz are so passe.

The subsequent discussion is very interesting too. In essence Stern is arguing that a philosopher king should tell us what is right, while Tol is making the libertarian case - that ordinary people should choose their own way. Global warming enthusiasts should be clear, both to themselves and to the public they seek to persuade, that this is their intention.

Which brings me back to my original point: Stern should be strongly criticised for not making this clear to his readers, and Ed Stourton, one of the most senior journalists at the BBC should hang his head in shame for precisely the same reason.



CRU website live again

Hat-tip to a reader for pointing out that the CRU website is now live again, although the data pages do not as yet seem to be complete.




Met Office code

John Graham-Cumming reports that the Met Office has published the code for preparing the land surface records.

This is slightly odd. What appears to have been released is the code for generating the CRUTEM land temperature index, which is actually prepared by CRU. However this does tally with what we know about the data the Met Office released the other day. This was, contrary to the impression given by the Met Office press release actually the corrected data which is used as input into the CRUTEM average and also the HADCRUT global temperature index. It's the latter index that most people are interested in.

If this is confusing you, I've prepared a summary of my understanding of how it all fits together. I'm not promising this is correct

I've made everything but the data and code released by the Met Office semitransparent. As you can see, what we are looking at are intermediates in the preparation of the global temperature index. While this is welcome, the guts of the changes are in the selection of the stations and in the correction of those stations for the plethora of problems with them - urban heat islands, changes in equipment, station moves, changes in observation time and so on. So while there is a feel of increasing openness, in reality, the shutters are only open the barest crack and it's still not possible to make out what's going on inside.

Meanwhile, even this extremely limited attempt at openness is not all it seems to be. John G-C has been looking at the code and running it against the data he has. What he has found is that prior to 1855 there was no southern hemisphere data and that when you run the Met Office's newly released code, this shows up as a gap in the graph of the average. But there is no such gap in the actual CRUTEM index. John's conclusion is that what we're looking at is not the actual code used in CRUTEM, but something written especially for public consumption. In light of the scorn that many programmers have been pouring on the quality of the coding standards at CRU, this might suggest that the original code was just too awful to make available for public inspection.


Stourton on global warming

I caught most of Edward Stourton's history of global warming on Radio 4 this morning. This seems to represent something of a shift for the BBC, moving from outright cheerleading and propaganising to something slightly more balanced. Stourton even managed to include some sceptical views (Pat Michaels and Myron Ebell) without sneering or otherwise belittling them. He also managed not to mention the Hockey Stick as far as I could tell, and one wonders whether this was significant or not.

The shocker was that he covered the Stern Report without informing the listener that Stern reinvented the subject of economics in order to get to the answer he did. Let us say charitably that this is probably a case of embarrassing incompetence on Stourton's part rather than anything more sinister. Still, it is hard to credit that an organisation with the resources of the BBC could make such an oversight.

Meanwhile, no reporting of Rajendra Pachauri's conflicts of interest (latest revelations here) from our national broadcaster. I guess there are limits to how far the BBC is willing to go.



Great Northern

Richard North has two articles in the newspapers today, both on the extraordinary financial conflicts of interest in the IPCC process.

In the Telegraph, he and Christopher Booker look at how IPCC boss Rajendra Pachauri has reaped vast sums of money from his involvement in the trade in carbon credits:

What has also almost entirely escaped attention, however, is how Dr Pachauri has established an astonishing worldwide portfolio of business interests with bodies which have been investing billions of dollars in organisations dependent on the IPCC’s policy recommendations.

These outfits include banks, oil and energy companies and investment funds heavily involved in ‘carbon trading’ and ‘sustainable technologies’, which together make up the fastest-growing commodity market in the world, estimated soon to be worth trillions of dollars a year.

The Mail meanwhile, has completely messed up, attributing the story to a completely different Richard North, and printing the wrong photo alongside the article to boot. The story though is a good one, looking at the big picture of how Copenhagen was a victory for the money-men, retaining the lucrative trade in carbon credits.

Forget 'Big Oil' - this is 'Big Carbon' making the most of a 'business opportunity' that was created by the first climate treaty at Kyoto in 1997.

The frenzied negotiations we have just seen were never about 'saving the planet'. They were always about money. At stake was this new 'climate change industry' which last year ripped off £129billion from the global economy and is heading for that trillion-pound bonanza by 2020 - but only if the key parts of the Kyoto treaty could be renewed.



Searching for Phil Jones

This was rather amusing until environmentalists started to get violent.



Tool of big oil

Coincidences are funny things. Just hours after joking about my "connections" with the oil industry I got an email from Rob Schneider, the secretary of the Scottish Oil Club, wondering if I'd like to attend some of their meetings. (I always thought these approaches were meant to be accompanied by a large cheque, but what do I know?).

I've written a rather non-commital response explaining that I'm likely to be criticised if I do go, although Rob assures me that the club has as many (warmist) university types as it does sceptic oilmen. This is certainly borne out by the list of forthcoming speakers - I'd be interested to hear what Jeremy Leggett has to say at his talk in February, if only so I can ask him some difficult questions.




In which I go beyond the pale

The Yale Climate Forum has a post up about Climategate - standard "move along now nothing to see here" fare. Perhaps attracted by the Yale name, I decided to make a small contribution to the debate there, picking up on some remarks by the piece's author Zeke Hausfather. Here's what he said about "hiding the decline":

This may be somewhat dubious in that it gives the impression that proxy reconstructions match the observed temperature record better than they otherwise would.

My comment was that "somewhat dubious" is a remarkable way to describe what Jones did. I pointed out that if he had done this as part of a share issue he would be looking at a long jail term. This is factually correct, and was posted pretty much in the terms I've given here.

Unfortunately though, The Yale Climate Forum viewed the posting of a true statement in mild terms as being completely beyond the pale and they decided to delete my comment.

I complain regularly that the climate debate often lapses into those on the other side of the argument claiming that words have different meanings to normal when they use them. The word "Forum" is clearly used in a profoundly different sense at Yale.



Smearing at long range

A few days back I mentioned the attempts to connect Steve McIntyre to big oil by pointing out that he had once given a talk at a think tank that had once received a donation from an oil company.

I'm not sure everyone believed me, but there's another hilarious example of the same thing today, with a connection being "revealed" between McIntyre and the Russians. Speaking of James Delingpole's story about the Institute of Economic Analysis, who have accused the Met Office of cooking the temperature books, Unity has this to say.

What Delingpole failed to disclose was the series of connections linking the Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) to a number of Western right-wing economic think tanks and, through those think-tanks, to a number of high profile global warming deniers and, through one of these, directly to Steve McIntyre.

I can't help but be reminded of the old saw about everyone being connected to  everyone else in the world by no more than seven links of association.

(Declaration of interest - I know a guy who works on an oil rig. That's my credibility shot then.)



JG-C is worried

John Graham-Cumming is worried he may have found an error in the CRU temperature series algorithm.

Read it here.



Hans von Storch interview

English translation here:

It appears from the so-called CRU-Mails that the cartel has sinned against a basic scientific principle namely the principle of transparency. Science should be practiced openly. All published results should in principle be verifiable, should be open to criticism, also to criticism from people who are not well-meaning. That is something a scientist must accept, that people who are not well-meaning scrutinize him.

The e-mails from CRU indicate that there have been attempts to keep people from publishing
by contacting authors or publishers, that one lead author of the IPPC has at the least  expressed the thought of keeping certain persons out of the whole process and lastly, and possibly the worst, that the data on which their research is based has not been put into the open for verification. This is not acceptable.




The heights of bizarre

Warmist blogger Deep Climate has been doing some detective work and has found an extraordinary similarity between a paragraph of the Wegman Report (which demonstrated that the Hockey Stick algorithm was wrong) and a paragraph of a book written by a sceptic physicist, Donald Rapp.

Here's the Wegman section:

The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem is to extract the temperature signal and to distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.

And here's the Rapp equivalent

The average width of a tree ring is a function of many variables including the tree species, tree age, stored carbohydrates in the tree, nutrients in the soil, and climatic factors including sunlight, precipitation, temperature, wind speed, humidity, and even carbon dioxide availability in the atmosphere. Obviously there are many confounding factors so the problem challenge is to extract the temperature signal and to thus distinguish the temperature signal from the noise caused by the many confounding factors.

Too similar to be accidental, I'm sure you would agree.

The Wegman Report was published in 2006, while Rapp's book appeared two years later. Now you or I would therefore assume that Dr Rapp had pinched the relevant paragraph from Professor Wegman, but in the bizarre world of climate science such simple explanations do not hold. Deep Climate concludes instead that Dr Rapp was a ghostwriter for the Wegman report.

And slowly the awful truth dawned on me. The Wegman report section was an early version of the text book chapter, not the other way around. I had just discovered a hitherto well hidden fourth author.

I'm speechless. I simply do not have the words to express how ridiculous this is. I'm not the only one either. One of Deep Climate's commenters wonders if our hero hasn't maybe got things back to front:

DC, are you sure you don’t have the plagiarism backwards? Rapp author was ripping off Wegman, rather than Wegman ripping off/collaborating with Rapp?

To which our supersleuth replies thusly:

[DC: That doesn't work. First off, Wegman has no knowledge of climate proxies at all. But suppose he or one of his co-authors wrote it. Then you have to suppose Rapp took that and extended it to three other proxies but kept the same style. And kept on going. I just can't see it. Something else is going on here ...]

If you refer back to the paragraphs quoted above, this is Paleoclimate 101 stuff - anyone who had read a few review papers on paleoclimate or the IPCC reports could have put this together. The idea that Wegman needed to get expert help to write this is simply risible. Half the commenters on ClimateAudit or RealClimate could have put that handful of sentences together.

It all smacks of a desperate attempt to try to smear Wegman, but one that is so transparent in its efforts to twist the facts to fit a preconceived conclusion that I think it will simply backfire on its author. It's just too funny.