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I've gone on record in the past as saying that the Royal Society is little more than a political campaigning body, a criticism that I understand has not gone down too well at Carlton House Gardens. I was therefore interested to see the SciTech Committee's reminder that the Royal benefits from considerable quantities of public funding, and a suggestion that it might like to pull its weight on the public relations front (although Sir Paul Nurse's considerable campaigning efforts are noted approvingly):

89. The Royal Society receives the majority of its funding, £47.1 million a year, from the Government. Block 2 of its delivery plan up to 2015 is for Science Communication and  Education but, of the £515,000 a year allocated to science communication since 2011, very little appears to have been spent on communicating on climate science. The public profile the Society has on this issue is due to the ongoing debate about climate science taking place directly between Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, and Lord Lawson from the Global Warming Policy foundation. This debate has been widely reported in the press.

90. Sir Paul Nurse has very publicly engaged with prominent climate sceptics in the past. But the same is not true of the Royal Society as a whole. The launch of its joint report with the US National Academy of Sciences could have been used better to promote and communicate accurately the most up-to-date science to a non-specialist audience.

Click to read more ...


Losing hearts and minds

One of the issues that has been exercising the minds of both pro- and anti-shale gas sides is the possibility that the law of trespass might be used to prevent drilling under private property. It seems that the government is to move to extend the get out clause used by coal miners:

The reform of the law would extend the existing rights of water, gas and coal mining firms, set out in the Coal Act 1998, to go under people’s land without permission.

Compensation of around £100 is likely to be offered to landowners.

The revamp would also apply to the geothermal wells that harness heat from deep in the earth.

Hmm. I'm not sure that £100 is going to change the perception that people are being forced to accept drilling under their land and potentially their homes as well. Of course the risks are minute - the wells have a tiny cross-section and are miles below the surface - but the perception of coercion will remain. Hearts and minds will be lost. This is a recipe for years of protest and struggle.

I maintain that a better approach would be to repeal the Petroleum Production Act 1934 and return the oil and gas resources to landowners. But what do I know?


Dealing with DECC

Alex Henney sends me a 2012 article from the journal New Power, in which he and Fred Udo examine electricity grids in several countries around the world and assess how the use of wind turbines has affected the carbon intensity of the power generated. Suffice it to say that it's not quite what the environmentalists intended.

What is particularly interesting is that the article prompted a response from DECC, whose ability to misunderstand the arguments presented is something to behold, and the resulting correspondence is appended to the end of the file.


Henney and Udo


What the IPCC left out

Rupert Darwall has a smashing post in the National Review examining the IPCC's cherrypicking and its failure to report the benefits of global warming:

...the summary speaks of rapid price increases following climate extremes since the 2007 report. This negligence amounts to downright dishonesty, as the summary omits mention of one of the principal causes of the 2007–08 spike in food prices, which is highlighted in the main body of the report. It was not climate change that increased food costs, but climate policies in the form of increased use of food crops in biofuel production, exacerbated by higher oil prices and government embargoes on food exports.

Read the whole thing.


Avoiding agreement

So here it is - the Science and Technology Committee's report on climate science communication. In it we learn that the Mail and the Telegraph are bad people™ and that the BBC has been allowing other bad people on air.

So far, so predictable.

I was hugely amused by one bit of the report. I had told the committee that there wasn't any single trusted source for information about climate science and that you needed to check everything. And in particular I took issue with the reliance on peer review:

Peer review is completely overdone. I know this Committee has done its own inquiry into peer review, but there is a lot of empirical evidence out there that peer review does not do a lot for you. On the whole, it does not find fraud or error, so the only way of getting to the bottom of whether something is right is to verify it.

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Preparing the ground

Ahead of tomorrow's publication of the Science and Technology Committee's report into the communication of climate science, certain sections of the chatterati are, shall we say, preparing the ground.

The Guardian notes SciTech chairman Andrew Miller bemoaning the appearance of dissenting voices in certain media outlets:

Andrew Miller MP, the committee's chair said: “All of the serious news outlets we spoke to were unanimous in accepting the scientific evidence that human activity is causing climate change. This came as a surprise to us because some papers regularly give a platform to lobby groups or indeed conspiracy theorists – many not even qualified scientists – who pooh-pooh the evidence and attack UK climate scientists."

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The open society and its enemies

Lawrence Torcello, the academic who called for criminal negligence charges to be levelled at some climate sceptics, has been on the receiving end of some rude emails. One apparently invited him to "die you maggot".

Not nice.

On the other hand, he can hardly have expected those he wanted jailed to send him bouquets can he? Torcello's defence seems to be that he was not calling for sceptic scientists to be jailed but only those who fund them. Despite US law contradicting him, he seems to think that funding the causes one believes in doesn't amount to an exercise of free speech rights.

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Worthington versus Tol

I was interested to see a Twitter exchange between Bryony Worthington and Richard Tol last night in which the noble baroness revealed a deep-seated wish for a public debate with Richard Tol.

thington: @RichardTol perhaps can have debate at more convenient time. Do you stand by your comments in FT about UK? or were they a kind of bad joke?

Tol: @bryworthington I'm happy to debate the impacts of climate change in the UK and elsewhere.

In intellectual terms this would be something of a David-versus-Goliath outing, but I'm sure it would score highly for entertainment.


Curry in Scotland

I was picking up one of the sprogs from after-school hockey and switched on the radio to find none other than Judy Curry being interviewed on Radio Scotland.

Interviewer Bill Whiteford pushed pretty hard, but not unreasonably so and the result was, I think, pretty informative for the listener. It was nice to hear things moving on from the consensus-versus-denier thing that has corrupted public debate on global warming for so long.

Audio is below.

Curry Radio Scotland


The Alarmists return - Josh 268


Click for a larger image

Cartoons by Josh

H/t John Whitman for the typo


Working Group II

Updated on Mar 31, 2014 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The Working Group II report is out today and should be available here, although the site appears to be down at the moment.

YOKOHAMA, Japan, 31 March – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report today that says the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the oceans. The world, in many cases, is ill-prepared for risks from a changing climate. The report also concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.

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Dating error

Updated on Apr 1, 2014 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The difficulties of getting academics to correct errors is a regular theme on this blog, the Lewandowsky affair being just the latest in a long and shameful litany. Today's guest post by Doug Keenan describes a set of allegations he has submitted to the University of Oxford. Although not related to climatology, the parallels are obvious.

Research Misconduct by Christopher Bronk Ramsey

Submitted to the University of Oxford by Douglas J. Keenan 28 March 2014

NOTE: a draft of this report was sent to Ramsey; Ramsey acknowledged receipt, but had no comments on the contents.

The perpetrator

Christopher Bronk Ramsey is a professor at the University of Oxford. His main area of work is in a subject known as “radiocarbon dating”. Briefly, radiocarbon dating tries to determine how many years ago an organism died. For example, suppose that we find a bone from some animal; then, using radiocarbon dating, we might be able to determine that the animal died, say, 3000 years ago.

Click to read more ...


On proportion

Yesterday the BBC hit us with the shock news that raptor poisonings in the Scotland have doubled.

To six.

The wind industry in the USA is estimated to kill about 83,000 raptors a year. The number in the UK would be smaller, but assuming proportionality to the USA, the death count for Scotland must be at least in the high thousands.



Kelly on engineering reality

Mike Kelly has a new briefing paper out, looking at decarbonisation in the context of previous technology changes.

A paper published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation and written by Professor Michael Kelly (University of Cambridge) shows that most of the ambitions to decarbonise the UK and global economy have not been put through an engineering reality test.

The paper reveals that the scale, scope, feasibility, cost, resources and other requirements of the decarbonisation agenda have never been tested against other calls on human and physical resources of the planet.

The fact that carbon emissions are going up inexorably in spite of many projects across the globe already raises a simple question ‘What are we getting for our money?’

Professor Kelly’s paper discusses the role of technology changes in helping meet the global decarbonisation agenda: success in the UK and failure elsewhere still represents failure.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that some of the more calamitous projects are rather less likely, raising the question of how much of this agenda is really necessary in short order.

The new paper is intended to bring out some key lessons from the realities of successful technology changes in the recent past as they bear on the global challenge of climate change.

It finds that the gap between rhetoric and reality is dangerously wide, on the basis of some of the simplest premises of engineering and technology.

The paper is here.


Creating perspective

Matt Ridley has braved the brickbats of the vested interests and the greens with another hard-hitting piece in the Wall Street Journal, this time looking at the forthcoming Working Group II report, its downgrading of alarm and the new perspective of climate change among a number of issues facing the world.

Almost every global environmental scare of the past half century proved exaggerated including the population "bomb," pesticides, acid rain, the ozone hole, falling sperm counts, genetically engineered crops and killer bees. In every case, institutional scientists gained a lot of funding from the scare and then quietly converged on the view that the problem was much more moderate than the extreme voices had argued. Global warming is no different.

This, I think is likely to enrage those whose livings depend on the maintenance of a state of alarm and the reaction will therefore be aggressive. Let's make sure that the voices of reason are heard too.

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