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Discussion > Questions to suggest to Lord Donoughue


Lord Donoughue has left a long comment at WUWT. He says that “In 28 years in Parliament I do not recall such obfuscation”, as occurred here with the Met Office.

Additionally, he states that if anyone would like to suggest further Parliamentary Questions for him to table, he would welcome such.
May 29, 2013 at 10:45 PM Douglas J. Keenan

It's important to avoid deluging Lord Donoughue with questions that have not been carefully thought through and without suitable background information. Let's discuss here what question(s) might be suggested to Lord Donoughue.

May 29, 2013 at 11:49 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

It's very tempting to begin with a facetious one.

May 30, 2013 at 12:52 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

What due diligence studies of engineering quality have been carried out in respect of both the science basis for energy policy and for the energy policy itself?

(the IPCC reports are assessments, not due diligence studies)

May 30, 2013 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgnostic

To ask DECC:

'Please detail the empirical validation you have made of the assumption that the use of wind power to generate electricity produces an overall reduction in UK CO2 emissions'.

Unless they have done something new in the last 12 months, this is still just an unvalidated assumption. 'Erect the windmill - job done' in their eyes.

May 30, 2013 at 9:23 AM | Registered CommenterLatimer Alder

The UN - IPCC produce their "Summary for Policymakers" where do Ministers go for independent scientific advice in order to carry their responsibility of due diligence on this issue? An issue of such magnitude that it will have a significant effect upon the well being of each and every UK citizen?

To the Met Office, CRU, Reading etc? By being instrumental in compiling the IPCC report is it reasonable to expect such establishments to be in a position to offer, not only independent scientific advice, but also to look critically (due diligence) at the IPCC's findings?

How do Ministers avoid such potential circuitous confirmation

May 30, 2013 at 10:38 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

To the Met Office:

"To summarise any empirical evidence that carbon dioxide, produced by human activity, could significantly change the climate of the Earth, or cause disruption to regional weather (and in doing this accepting the IPCC conclusion that it is impossible for computer models to simulate a coupled, non-linear chotic system)"

May 30, 2013 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

It might be worth asking for some assessment of the "carbon footprint" resulting from converting Drax to biomass as compared with coal.
The figure would need to include the total costs of mining and transporting the coal on one hand and the total (and I mean total — no finessing!) costs of logging, processing, transporting, shipping, transporting again.
Cost both in money and carbon together with differential costs in terms of energy output and efficiency.
I'll give it more thought but anyone who can help with phraseology or anything I've missed.
I think this particular example of governmental idiocy could be well worth pursuing especially as it is likely to be one that could either attract support from environmentalists as a step too far or alternatively embarrass them. Either would suit!

May 30, 2013 at 10:57 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

10:57 AM Mike Jackson

Good question - although I have reservations about posing questions that imply acceptance of the view that minimising a "carbon footprint" is a worthwhile objective.

May 30, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

|I would ask for the engineering feasibility study that enabled Ms. Worthington to put together the CCA.

I would then ask for the engineering road map to achieve the targets set out in the act. That is the road map which shows energy generation capability coming on line and energy generation capability being decommissioned.

Thirdly I would ask for the name of the person who had overall responsibility for delivery of the road map in such a way that there would be no energy shortfalls.

May 30, 2013 at 4:07 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I know the answers to those questions. To all three the answer is the same: "There isn't one".

I believe the British public should be made aware of the recklessness of politicians of all parties in embarking on a programme that without a feasibility study, a plan, and manager. So let's get it out there for the public to see.

May 30, 2013 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Who was responsible for appointing Robert Napier as Chairman (2006-2012)?
What process and procedures were used that led to his being selected?
Why was he hired?
What are the major contributions he has made during his term of office?
Are the minutes and other materials associated with his period of leadership available for inspection?

May 30, 2013 at 5:30 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Very good, ger'mo. But there are even more basic questions. By what engineering study, based on what falsifiable science, do we know the impact on globally averaged temperature anomaly of said cuts in emissions? Even if all the developed world and BRIC countries joined in, to the same extent, would we even know what impact there had been on GATA? This is a policy with no hope of verification - the same deep problem as declaring dissidents mentally ill, in that the necessary custodial sentence becomes endless. (A point made by CS Lewis long ago.)

Which reminds of a little joke that came unbidden to mind on reading a global warming related piece in The Independent earlier. On a sidebar I saw a typical headline:

Little time left to halt warming

I immediately jotted down:

Because if we don't do it soon, there may be no more warming to halt.

In case of doubt, the above doesn't yet qualify as a well-constrained and targeted question for that great Labour champion of the poor (and when did we think we'd write that again?) Lord D. :)

May 30, 2013 at 5:34 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Who took the decision to issue seasonal forecasts to the public?
Is there any independent auditing of the climate- forecasting skill of the Met Office?
Has a risk analysis been made to assess the actual and potential losses to society attributable to poor guidance on climate?
Has consideration been given to creating a distinct body to handle climate work, and leave the Met Office dedicated to its original tasks link to recording and forecasting weather?

May 30, 2013 at 5:41 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Martin A

I have reservations about posing questions that imply acceptance of the view that minimising a "carbon footprint" is a worthwhile objective
I wouldn't disagree with that under normal circumstances but since the only justification for any of this pointless farrago is — supposedly — to reduce CO2 emissions it would be interesting to force the eco-activists to listen to an answer which plainly states that converting Drax to biomass, all things taken into account, actually increases those emissions and by all accounts quite considerably.
Someone more knowledgeable than me will probably be able to come up with a ball park figure; Radical Rodent and Richard Verney are very busy on the "...forest clear-cutting" thread discussing shipping costs which is also relevant.
But we do need to be right; the legal adage, "never ask a witness a question you don't already know the answer to" applies!

May 30, 2013 at 5:58 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

It's worth emphasising the point about due diligence.

In the commercial sector, if you were planning on spending of millions, or in this case billions, on a venture, you would perform due diligence studies. These would check everything you think you know about the subject in question. You would need all the research, you would have to check that everything in the research that the venture relied on was correct, that the sums were right, that the assumptions and references that the research relied on was correct, that the measurements were correct, that the instruments taking the measurements were not faulty or were used correctly.

Such studies are typically very costly, and require vast teams of disinterested contractors, from all sorts of disciplines, but they are designed to ensure that bias's are eliminated as much as possible, which in turn ensures you don't ask investors to sink money on something that won't work (or is unnecessary). To my knowledge, no such study has ever been undertaken by anyone on the issue of nothing less than the entire re-structuring of the worlds energy economy.

Simply asking the question whether anyone has actually checked to make sure that the science basis that the policy is based on is sound, to the rigorous degree that would be required in the commercial sector, ought to illuminate that no, no one has actually checked. The IPCC is an assessment of the science surrounding the possibility and implications of Anthropogenic Global Warming, it is not a study checking to make sure that the highly co-dependent nature of the science is correct to an an engineering level of detail.

It should also be noted that peer review is NOT due diligence either. In general it is a coarse filter to ensure that nothing egregious is being unjustifiably claimed and that it contributes something to the body of knowledge.

If the government wanted to spend £1 trillion to put all of the country's houses onto pneumatic stilts, I would want to know for sure that it was a) necessary b) the best solution.

May 31, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgnostic

If the government wanted to spend £1 trillion to put all of the country's houses onto pneumatic stilts, I would want to know for sure that it was a) necessary b) the best solution.
Of course you would, Agnostic, but if the government tells you that it has taken the best scientific advice on the subject, that alternative solutions are less likely to be cost-effective, that the cost to the taxpayer will be minimal when spread over the estimated period of implementation of the proposals, and that appropriate safeguards will be built in, while a complacent media choose not to do the sums independently, how are you going to argue against the plans and who are you going to get to listen?
By the time you discover that the only advice came from the Hydraulic Stilt-Makers Consortium and you have persuaded the a/m media to take an interest it is either (a) too late to do anything about it or (b) the whole scam has reached the end of its natural life, the HS-MC has disbanded, the government has covered its back by claiming that "things" (what "things", exactly, Minister?) have "moved on", and as usual the taxpayer has been royally screwed!
The Great Olive-Oil Bottle Scandal looks like falling flat only because details of the proposals leaked too soon but anyone who claims this wasn't driven totally by the industrial olive oil processors with the willing support of people who make the unrefillable, hermetically sealed bottles for the stuff is not living in the real world. But they really thought they were going to get away with it.

May 31, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Nice response Mike,

But I prefer to be "Agnostic" about this as possible. I appreciate it looks like a serious but hugely premature scientific issue was raised, which caught on, and then was promulgated and supported by vested interests, but I think it has mostly been victim of group think and hubris.

It doesn't help that US right-wingers view it as entirely about big government restricting personal liberty, and defining the argument along political lines, rather than entirely about justification of extreme policy based on premature science. I think Lord Donaughue's position is exactly right - as was FOIA who posted the climategate emails. The evidence doesn't justify the policy implications, but nobody has actually properly checked it!

May 31, 2013 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgnostic

Agnostic:

I think it has mostly been victim of group think and hubris

I agree. But you only said mostly. You only need one Adolf Hitler or Mao Zedong. This area is tailor-made for power seekers, for, as Richard Lindzen pointed out long ago, to control CO2 emissions is to gain control of all of human civilisation as we know it. And because it's tailor-made for totalitarians there is of course a temptation to overdraw the conspiracy theories. These guys aren't always that clever. But they remain dangerous, in every age, unless there's been a major breakthrough in human nature and I didn't get the memo.

I think Lord Donaughue's position is exactly right - as was FOIA who posted the climategate emails.

Very well said. Once again, agreed.

May 31, 2013 at 1:28 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Nothing is going to change as long as the Met Office remains the trusted source of climate information for the government and its advisors. That is why exposing the Slingo "statistically significant" baloney was so valuable.

My suggestion is to search for questions that expose that the Met Office's climate change position is built on a firm foundation (composition 50% sand, 50% bullshit).

One of the Met Office's key selling points is "this came from a 100 squillion megaflop supercomputer programmed using physical principles and tested every weather forecast so cannot be doubted".

Maybe questions exposing the fact that their Global Circulation Models are essentially equivalent to the argument from ignorance - "it must be CO2 because we don't know anything else that could have caused warming". Some off-the-cuff ideas to start with...

- How are the physics of cloud formation represented in the MO's models?

- What physical observations were used to obtain the data used to program water vapour feedbacks in the MO's models?

- What explains the failure of the Met Office's models to predict the absence of global warming since 1998?

May 31, 2013 at 3:15 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I think the last one would be the place for Lord D to concentrate at this stage Martin, the others being too open ended. And best not to say absence of GW imho - just why haven't they predicted GATA at all well since 1998. And at what point in the future would they say the GCMs are invalidated if there is no increase during that time? Lastly, it's General Circulation Model, I believe, to the pedants.

May 31, 2013 at 3:58 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Agreed. My suggestion was just a starting point.

You are right about General Circulation Model, though I have seen Global used occasionally and it stuck in my mind:
http://www.cmmap.org/learn/modeling/whatis1.html
http://www.ccafs-climate.org/downloads/docs/Downscaling-WP-01.pdf

May 31, 2013 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

I don't want to start introducing irrelevancies at this point, Martin, but their "it must be CO2 because we can't think of anything else" mantra is looking thinner by the day.
I've always thought that "it must be CO2 because we want it to be" would be more accurate but we now find over at WUWT a study putting the blame on CFCs + cosmic rays and showing a better correlation with temps than CO2.
Early days and more study needed no doubt but it undermines the "can't think of anything else" ploy.

May 31, 2013 at 6:59 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The Met Office seems to be saying "Stinkin statistics don't matter; observations and models are what matters". (Met Office Blog with link given in "Met Office responds to Keenan" thread.

"The basis for this claim is not, and never has been, the sole use of statistical models to emulate a global temperature trend. Instead it is based on hundreds of years of scientific advancement, supported by the development of high-quality observations and computational modeling."

This means that they are pinning all on their GCMs.

Note that they have already fired a pre-emptive shot. Some time back, Richard Betts of the Met Office posted on BH that the current stasis in GAT was in fact predicted by their models. His reasoning was that because the current GAT lies (just) within the 95% confidence limits of the simulation variability, it was in fact predicted. (I am not kidding. His comment is somewhere in the BH database.)

I'm too sleepy to figure out good questions to expose the flakiness of their models at the moment. Something to mull over during the weekend.

Jun 1, 2013 at 12:07 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Note that they have already fired a pre-emptive shot. Some time back, Richard Betts of the Met Office posted on BH that the current stasis in GAT was in fact predicted by their models. His reasoning was that because the current GAT lies (just) within the 95% confidence limits of the simulation variability, it was in fact predicted. (I am not kidding. His comment is somewhere in the BH database.)

I'm too sleepy to figure out good questions to expose the flakiness of their models at the moment. Something to mull over during the weekend.

Jun 1, 2013 at 12:07 AM | Martin A>>>>>>

I kept a record of that post in case anyone tried to say the Met Office were not aware of the temperature hiatus:-

" So the statistical lack of warming over the past 15 years can be totally ignored and they all carry on as if it's the 1980's all over again........

Aug 21, 2012 at 12:05 PM | RKS

RKS: no, the last 15 years cannot be ignored. To date, this flatlining is still (just about) within the range of natural variability simulated by the models, so on the face of it, it doesn't disprove the models. However, it is part of our research programme to understand the reasons for this - is it just internal variability, or negative external forcing (sun, aerosols, etc) - or indeed is it the case that the positive forcing has been overestimated? There are genuine scientific questions here, which should not be dismissed.

Aug 21, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Richard Betts"

Pretty pathetic cop out really. No engineer or serious scientist in any field other than 'climate science' would accept such broad and pointless error margins.

Jun 1, 2013 at 12:21 AM | Registered CommenterRKS

Apologies all,

Coming to this a little late, but I thought the main thrust of the questions from Stringer thru to Donoghue was whether

"the Met Office in a climate science briefing sent to the chief scientific adviser on 8 February 2010 was supported by any statistical time-series analysis."

http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2013/4/17/not-answering-the-question.html

The Met Office answer seems to be NO. From the blog post (http://metofficenews.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/a-response-on-statistical-models-and-global-temperature/)

"Using statistical tests in the absence of this other information is inappropriate, particularly when it is not possible to know, definitively, which is the most appropriate statistical model to use."

Further, they indicate the briefing was based on their "judgement"

"Our judgment that changes in temperature since 1850 are driven by human activity is based on information not just from the global temperature trend, or statistics, but also our knowledge of the way that the climate system works, how it responds to global fossil fuel emissions and observations of a wide range of other indicators, such as sea ice, glacier mass, sea level rise, etc."

Which all seems a rather roundabout way of saying the briefing was not supported by any satistical time series it was just their opinion/judgement, for all that that is worth.

I'm sure there is more detail to the conversation, but isn't that what the questioning was trying to determine?

Jun 1, 2013 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterGSW