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Greens and a tin-opener

Brian Micklethwait writes about last night's BBC Radio 4 programme about the psychology of climate change. Having read the blurb for the show I had decided to give it a miss, and from what Brian has written I was probably right to have done so. Nevertheless, he makes some perceptive points about the problem facing our opponents given that many people have simply concluded that the world is not going to fry:

The elephant in their room is that they have lost this argument, in the sense that they need unanimity [on climate change], but are drifting further and further away from unanimity. They are ignoring this elephant. They are behaving like that economist, stuck on a desert island with various other sorts of experts, who is wondering how to contrive a tin-opener. "Let's assume we have a tin-opener." This won't work.


Liz Wager on conflicted peer review

There has been an interesting discussion in the Steig thread about whether Eric Steig should have been invited to be one of the reviewers of the O'Donnell paper or not. On the one had there is the fact that Steig, being the subject of the critique, had a conflict of interest. On the other, he would have been the person best able to point out possible flaws in the O'Donnell paper. Opinion among commenters appeared divided. With this in mind I wrote to Liz Wager at the Committee on Publication Ethics - an advisory body for scientific journals - to ask for her thoughts. Here they are:

Should an author whose work is the subject of a criticism in a submitted manuscript be among the invited peer reviewers of the manuscript?

COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics) doesn't issue general guidance or proscriptions on how peer review should be done but we do mention criticisms in our Code of Conduct for editors, namely

"Cogent criticisms of published work should be published unless editors have convincing reasons why they cannot be. Authors of criticised material should be given the opportunity to respond.

Studies that challenge previous work published in the journal should be given an especially sympathetic hearing."

In developing this guidance, we had in mind letters to the editor rather than new analyses/papers but recognise that practices differ in different areas (apparently maths journals never print correspondence so if you want to criticise another person's work you have to write a new paper).  So COPE says that the authors should be given the opportunity to respond to specific criticism of their work, but we do not provide guidance about whether they should peer review papers criticising their research.  We leave that up to the editor.

Liz Wager, Chair COPE


Climategate in LaStampa

The Italian newspaper LaStampa has an article about my GWPF report on the Climategate inquiries. The Hockey Stick Illusion gets a mention too.

Italian original here. Machine translation here.

There's some interesting responses from Italian academics, which seem to centre around my having no expertise in climate science. Why they think that this would be relevant to a report about the conduct of some inquiries is anyone's guess.

Thanks are due once again to Maurizio Morabito and to Instituto Bruno Leoni for making the Italian translation happen.


More Chuck

The Express covers Prince Charles' speech to the European Parliament yesterday. Yours truly is quoted as follows:

Andrew Montford, author of The Hockey Stick Illusion, which seeks to debunk climate change science, said: “It isn’t sceptics who have eroded public opinion – climate scientists have destroyed their own credibility by hyping global warming and cheating the scientific process. More hype from Prince Charles will merely turn people off further.”

Hmm. I specifically say that The Hockey Stick Illusion doesn't disprove the global warming hypothesis. It's a pity they didn't check this with me.


Steig response coming

Eric Steig has indicated that he will be posting a response to O'Donnell later today.

I can hardly wait.


His rude highness

Prince Charles has decided to step into the climate fray. This is excellent, because if there's one person you don't want on your side in a debate it's the heir to the throne. His speech was rather predictable stuff, demonstrating a shaky grasp of, well, pretty much everything. This, however, took my interest:

I have to say, this process has not exactly been helped by the corrosive effect on public opinion of those climate change sceptics who deny the vast body of scientific evidence that shows beyond any reasonable doubt that global warming has been exacerbated by human industrialized activity.  

We "deny" scientific evidence do we? Is that not an interesting turn of phrase for HRH to adopt?

Does he owe us an apology?



DEFRA science advisors

The Department of the Environment, Food and the Regions are looking for scientific advisors. Anyone want the odd day of consultancy work?


Stitching up the gas market

Also in the House of Commons today, an inquiry into shale gas, again under the auspices of Mr Huhne's Energy and Climate Change COmmittee.

Who will give evidence?

At 9.45 am

  • Nigel Smith, Geologist, British Geological Survey, and
  • Professor Richard Selley, Petroleum Geologist, Imperial College London

At 10.45 am

  • Jenny Banks, Energy and Climate Change Policy Officer, WWF, and
  • Professor Kevin Anderson, Tyndall Centre, University of Manchester

I wonder if Chris Huhne has an environmentalist to tell him which pair of underpants to put on in the morning?


Stitching up the electricity market

This from the agenda for today in the House of Commons:

9 Energy and Climate Change

10.00 am Room 19 (private)  10.15 am (public)

Subject: Electricity Market Reform.

Witnesses: Riverstone, Citigroup Global Markets, Virgin Green Fund, and Climate Change Capital; RSPB, Greenpeace, WWF, and Friends of the Earth (at 11.15 am).

Nobody to put the case for the consumer then. Anyone could end up with the impression that Chris Huhne is trying to organise a stitch up of the electricity market to benefit his green friends.




Beeb responds

You may remember that I emailed Emma Jay, the producer of the Horizon programme who appeared to have misled James Delingpole over the nature of the programme. The BBC promised to get back to me and now, with a bit of prompting, they have sent me a copy of the letter that editor Aidan Laverty sent in response to Delingpole's article in the Spectator:


In response to James Delingpole’s article last week I wanted to clear up a few points concerning the Horizon documentary ‘Science Under Attack.’

From the outset, we made clear to James that the purpose of this film was to examine public trust in science generally - not just in the area of climate change - reflecting both the role of scientists and the influence of the internet and bloggers. At no point did anyone on the production team lie or mislead any contributors about the programme's content or objective.

Well, hold on Lord Copper, in her letter to Delingpole Emma Jay said this:

The tone of the film is very questioning but with no preconceptions. On the issue of who is to blame no-one will be left unscathed, whether that is science sceptics, the media or most particularly scientists themselves.   Sir Paul is very aware of the culpability of scientists and that will come across in the film. They will not be portrayed as white coated magicians who should be left to work in their ivory towers – their failings will be dealt with in detail.

None of this was true, was it? The tone of the film was unquestioning and carried a clear preconception that sceptics were wrong. No scientist emerged criticised in any meaningful way. The idea that Sir Paul felt the scientists to be culpable in some way (if indeed he does) was not conveyed to the audience and none of the scientists' failings were discussed.  This is hard to square with Mr Laverty's statement that " At no point did anyone on the production team lie or mislead any contributors about the programme's content or objective." Very hard indeed.

To return to the new missive...

We recorded an interview in good faith with James lasting just over 90 minutes - a typical length of interview for most scientific documentaries. The film contained five minutes from this interview, including what we believed were his key arguments.

Were they what he believed were his key arguments though, or was this just another example of sceptic arguments having to be interpreted by an environmentalist?

The science in the film was rigorously researched and accurate.

This is plainly untrue. Even the scientist interviewed by the programme has admitted that he got the figures wrong. It was a clear case of the BBC regurgitating anything that met their preconceived green agenda.

There is a substantial body of evidence that humans – rather than natural causes – are producing most of the increases in atmospheric CO2

The significance of this human contribution can only be properly assessed against the evidence that the natural release of CO2 into the atmosphere is almost completely balanced by the absorption of CO2 into the land and oceans as part of the carbon cycle.

That ain't what they said in the programme though was it?

Really, this is an appalling letter for the BBC to write. Why do civil servants feel that the correct response to being caught fibbing is to fib some more? 


Simon says...?

I wonder what Simon Singh makes of the latest findings of the climate numpties?


Steig's method massacred

Ryan O'Donnell has posted a splendid pictorial guide to the oddities of Eric Steig's method for creating trends in the Arctic. If you have been one of the people not following the story too well so far, here's a little layman's version of the posting, which assumes no prior knowledge. I hope this helps.

There's a lot of talk of the Antarctic peninsula. This is fairly obvious at the left hand side of each map below. The name refers only to the narrow bit of land though. The slightly fatter bit that joins the Peninsula to the main part of the Antarctic continent is West Antarctica.

Now Steig's method purported to show that he whole continent was warming, and particularly West Antarctica. Previously it had been thought that only the peninsula was warming.

Here's Steig's original result with the warming showing up as the dark colour in West Antarctica.

Click to read more ...


Baghdad Fi

Fiona Fox has the most hilarious article up at the BBC College of Journalism blog, in which she defends the BBC as being neutral on global warming.

Shades of Comical Ali.


Intergovernmental Panel on Economics

Ross McKitrick has posted up a paper he wrote ahead of the Lisbon conference on reconciliation among climatologists. It's quite short, but quite pointed. I liked this bit.

Suppose the International Monetary Fund (IMF) created an economics version of the IPCC, which proceeded to issue an Assessment Report and Summary for Policymakers every five years that was promoted as the consensus view of what “every mainstream economist believes.” Suppose further that the IMF was committed to one particular school of economic thought, such as New Keynesianism, that they ensured that all the lead authors of the IMF report were dedicated New Keynesians, and that the report inevitably concluded the New Keynesians are right and their critics are wrong (or do not even exist). And finally, suppose that the IMF report was sponsored and endorsed by government departments who benefited by promotion of New Keynesian ideas, and that major funding agencies and  university oversight agencies also began to endorse, support and promulgate the views in the IMF report.

It should be obvious that all of this would, over time, degrade the intellectual climate in the economics profession. It would do so even if New Keynesianism is true—and moreso otherwise. Members of the research community would be forced to respond to the warped incentives created by such a dominant institution by embracing, or at least paying lip service to, New Keynesianism. Over time it would be costlier and costlier to be publicly identified as a critic of New Keynesianism, and as critics became marginalized by political forces the IMF’s declaration of a “consensus” would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Josh 76