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Discussion > Questions to suggest to Lord Donoughue

RKS - Thanks for that.

There was another post by RB where he said that the lack of warming had been predicted by their models (because the temperatures lay within the error range of their simulations). I wish I could find it - it's in there somewhere.

I replied that I had written a program that predicts the number on a thrown die with unfailing accuracy. [The number on the thrown die always lies within the error range of the number predicted by my program.]

On the Met Office replies to Doug Keegan thread, Steve McIntyre posted

If the Met Office is to be confronted, I would much prefer that they be confronted on more substantive issues.
Jun 1, 2013 at 2:23 AM Steve McIntyre

I have emailed Steve M asking for his suggestions of two or three issues on which the Met Office should be confronted.

Jun 1, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

GSW - I think you are right. My understanding is that, in reply to Lord Donoughue's question

"To ask Her Majesty’s Government … whether they consider a rise in global temperature of 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1880 to be significant. [HL3050]". The Met Office replied “the temperature rise since about 1880 is statistically significant”.

But it seemed doubtful they had actually done any statistical analysis ie they were bullshitting.

The subsequent questions were intended to uncover what if any statistical analysis the Met Office had actually done. Their coyness in answering said all that needed to be said.

[If I have misunderstood things, someone please correct me]

GSW - the topic of this discussion thread is what questions might now be suggested to Lord Donoughue. What do you suggest?

Jun 1, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Thanks for the response Martin,

I believe the questioning was more than about statistical significance since 1880, (from Stringers questions)

(a) every year since 1998 has been significantly warmer than the temperatures you would expect if there was no warming and

(b) for the last three decades the rate of temperature increase is significant made by 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. [150533]

By "supported by any statistical time-series analysis" I take it to mean was this subject to full rigours of a Scientific Analysis- to which the answer seems to be NO, it's what they believe based on the orthodoxy as wrote, they actually argue that such analysis is not possible.

Politics isn't really my thing, but I've noticed it is common to make statements in the form of a question.
So if I was to suggest one it would be following,

"The response from the Met office is somewhat at a tangent to the question actually asked, but seems to suggest the the briefing was indeed not supported by any time series analysis, and amounts to no more than subjective opinion, can the Minister please confirm that is valid interpretation of that response?"

Jun 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

Having had lots of practice at drafting answers to Parliamentary questions, I hope that BH readers will indulge me if I make a few suggestions from a long way away.

First and most important, make your question as sharp and narrowly focused as possible. Broad-ranging questions like "what evidence do you have ..." are easily deflected. The more specific the question, the harder it is to lie or obfuscate. Ideally, like the question framed by a good barrister, the answer should be yes or no.

Secondly, never demonstrate any partisanship in the framing of the question. It reduces your credibility. Stick to the facts.

Thirdly, ask for data or sources. Never let them get away with "the Minister is advised that ..." By whom? What? When?

Best of British.

Jun 2, 2013 at 5:54 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna


Would the question asking the government if they have performed due diligence studies I posed earlier in the thread qualify?

Yes or no. I am pretty sure no such study has ever been undertaken to objectively determine the veracity of the science basis for policy, and considering the enormous implications of the policy I would regard that as a dereliction of duty.

Jun 2, 2013 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgnostic

Sorry, I meant the question to ask is a "yes or no" type question, not demanding you respond one way or the other which is what it looks like from the post....oops.

Jun 2, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgnostic

Agnostic - "due diligence" is not a difficult one to deal with, if I was drafting an answer. ; )

Of course the Minister and his/her advisers evaluated the evidence! Here is a list of citations.

The term is way too broad, and the question is not specific enough.

It would be better to pick a particular aspect of energy policy and ask for details of something like cost/benefit studies (if any) that support the policy. Windmills are a vulnerable target for this kind of question, IMO. People like Phil Bratby would be able to help with framing a very specific question along those lines.

Jun 2, 2013 at 3:45 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I'm thoroughly with johanna on that. Though Lord D is more of an expert than I :)

Jun 2, 2013 at 9:28 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


I realise you are trying to predict the response, but "evaluating the evidence" is not due diligence. The question is "engineering level of due diligence" which, in most other major projects, involves a large team of disinterested experts who would examine every aspect of the science in forensic detail.

"evaluation by ministers" is nothing like that, and would not constitute an acceptable or accurate answer.

Jun 3, 2013 at 7:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAgnostic

Agnostic - I participated in the due diligence for the largest share float ever carried out in this country. I know what it means.

The point is, the construction of a due diligence exercise varies according to what is being evaluated - it's horses for courses. There is no single blueprint (although there are regulatory requirements which vary within and between jurisdictions). A due diligence study for a mining proposal is significantly different from one for acquisition of a manufacturing company, which is different from a dd for a company float.

You could argue for an engineering style dd for the effects of renewable energy on the power grid. But that is not the same as the totality of energy policy.

My point is that you need to be very specific and narrowly focused if you want to force an answer. "Due diligence" for energy policy across the board is so vague as to allow plenty of wriggle room in the answer.

Hope that clarifies what I meant. : )

Jun 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Back on 28th February, the Met Office forecast that Spring temperatures were likely to be “near average”. They also said colder temperatures were no more likely than warmer ones.

“This forecast is based on information from observations, several numerical models and expert judgement”

Perhaps they would like to tell which of these were faulty.

Jun 3, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterIbrahim

Good one, Ibrahim! I suspect they grew weary, possibly even alarmed, by the errors of their more ambitious forecasts of BBQ summers and mild winters and the associated public ridicule. So they tried going down the middle, not too warm, not too cool, just about ordinary - the kind of look into the future that a man with an almanac could readily provide at a lot less expense and with more humility. But they got that wrong too despite the blandness! Perhaps more humility might be in order for all subsequent pronouncements re climate. A lot more.

Jun 3, 2013 at 12:28 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

"To ask the Department of Energy and Climate Change why, in the light of the Secretary of State's remarks on June 3rd that shale gas is an essential element in the UK's future energy generation:
1. he has imposed a limit for seismic activity in areas where fracking will be undertaken considerably below the level at which tremors can be felt, and
2. why he refused to accept the findings of the British Geological Survey with regard to the amount of shale gas in the Vale of Bowland and has sent them back to do their sums again thereby delaying the date when this 'valuable resource' will come on-stream."

Some tidying up would be needed but you get the drift.

Jun 4, 2013 at 10:46 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Could there be a parliamentary question about the computer code for CRUTEM4?

Jun 5, 2013 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

Could there be a parliamentary question about the computer code for CRUTEM4?
Jun 5, 2013 at 8:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSara Chan

Too detailed and specialised, perhaps. Plus too easily answered with a load of technical-speak gobbledegook.

But maybe a very good topic for a FOI request? Anyone can do it.

Jun 5, 2013 at 9:26 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

On the other thread Richard has replied as follows:

Jun 5, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Richard Betts
The Met Office still plans to release the code

(so the only question remaining is whether this will be done under the 30-year rule or sooner!)

Jun 5, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

Jun 1, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Martin A

I didn't say "the lack of warming had been predicted" - I just said that it's within the uncertainty range (which was quite large).

Jun 5, 2013 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

7:51 PM Richard Betts

Richard, Thank you for the correction.

As I am unable to track down either your comment or my response to it, I have to accept that my memory of what you said must be at fault. Sorry for misquoting you.

Jun 5, 2013 at 10:26 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Jun 5, 2013 at 7:51 PM Richard Betts

OK, Richard, found it. Here is what your BH posting actually said:

Apr 4, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Buck

Can someone point me to the model which predicted no statistically significant warming over the last 15 years?

Sure - the Met Office model did

- or at least, it was within the uncertainty range even if it was not the central estimate.


Apr 4, 2012 at 12:32 PM Richard Betts

(my emphasis and my insertion of new lines)

To me, that says quite plainly that the Met Office model predicted no statistically significant warming over the past 15 years.

The subsequent clause says "...if it was not the central estimate" leaving open the possibility that it actually was the central estimate although raising the possibility that it was not.

So I now stand by my Jun 1, 2013 at 9:53 AM comment, where I said:

There was another post by RB where he said that the lack of warming had been predicted by their models (because the temperatures lay within the error range of their simulations).

I suppose it is possible that a specialist in English grammar might argue that my interpretation of what you said was wrong, and that you did not in fact say that the Met Office model predicted the lack of warming (because the temperatures lay within the error range of its simulations), but I think that my interpretation of your words is reasonable.

Jun 5, 2013 at 11:46 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Mike Jackson, I think your question is along the right lines. Hope somebody asks it.

Martin, have to agree that when anything within the error bars is an "estimate" they should just include the error bars in the graph as part of the estimate.

Jun 6, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

On another Discussion thread, Martin A draws attention to a 'Johnny Zero' character found by Barry Woods and apparently once intended to be a leading part of a cartoon aimed at, how shall I put it, persuading children of the MO's view of the world. It seems the project may be a dead one for the time being, but I wonder if a PQ might help throw some more light on what it was, what it setting out to do, and how it was justified as a reasonable use of funds.

JOHNNY ZERO - Met Office Hero?

Barry Woods (May 3, 2013 at 1:51 PM) posted:

Totally Met Office

Rob Hutt
Creative Facilitator & Innovation Consultant at Met Office
Exeter, United Kingdom | Environmental Services

Current:My Climate & Me Creative Director and Johnny Zero Executive Producer at Met Office, Creative Facilitator & Consultant at Met Office, Busi...

This got me curious. Who/what is the Met Office's Johnny Zero? It sounded very creepy to me (see below). However, I surmise that it is a project that the Met Office has now dropped, in view of its "we just do science" position.

More here, after some scrolling down to May 13, 2013 at 9:45 PM | Martin A:

Jun 6, 2013 at 4:38 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Jun 6, 2013 at 4:38 PM John Shade

John - The Johnny Zero thing seemed utterly creepy to me, especially in view of its apparent projected use for further brainwashing of schoolkids. But since it now seems to have been put to death by the Met Office itself, it's perhaps hardly worth pursuing. The costs would probably have been miniscule by comparison with other MO communication activities and would no doubt be easily explained as a normal part of their 'outreach' activities in making 'climate science' accessible to all.

Far more important (in my opinion) would be formulating questions that would help in paving the way towards, ultimately, the repeal of the Climate Change Act.

The Climate Change Act's foundation was advice from the Met Office to the govt and its advisors that AGW is:

- Real and happening now
- Dangerous
- Caused by fossil fuel use
- Avoidable by curtailment of fossil fuel use
- A scientific fact not open to question
. (hence "the science is settled"; "flat earthers" - HM govt ministers)

This, in turn, was based on two things:

- The observation that the global average temperatures had risen rapidly.

- The MO's modelling efforts that 'confirmed' that AGW was real, projected rapidly rising global temperatures and confirmed that fossil fuel CO2 was the cause.

What I think is needed are some questions that have the following properties:

- Each question has only one single possible numerical answer, that can readily be verified from publicly available information and/or simple calculation.

(eg "[1] In 1997, what was the MO's prediction, in degrees centigrade, of the most probable Global Average Temperature for 2012 relative to the GAT for 1996?";

"[2] What was the Global Average Temperature, in degrees centigrade (from xxx database) for 2012 relative to the GAT for 1996?" , etc etc)

- The answers make apparent to anyone, including those without knowledge of statistics, computer modelling, radiative physics, and so on, that the Met Office's climate change predictions have been contradicted by reality.


Any suggestions for a suitable set of questions?

Jun 6, 2013 at 8:41 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin, I see what you are driving at, but those kinds of questions are easily deflected. They will just say that they were working with the information available at the time.

Jun 7, 2013 at 6:08 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Johanna, I'm not sure that it's easily deflected. The predictions were presented as firm information at the time. A question asking for quantitative information has to be answered with such information. As somebody (you?) said, never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.

Of course, if the question unwisely went on to say "And how is this lack of prediction skill explained?" the govt minister could come up with all sorts of flannel.

Never, in a million years, would the govt minister answer "Well, predicting the climate years ahead is, for fundamental reasons, beyond human capability, so the MO told the govt of the time what they wanted to hear but it was essentially bllx".

Jun 7, 2013 at 9:47 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

As somebody ... said, never ask a question to which you do not already know the answer
Me, actually. I'm siding with johanna on this; she appears to have some experience of PQs and how to avoid answering them.
Your idea of digging out five-year-old Met Office stuff — regardless of what it was used for — is an open goal for politicians or PR people. As johanna said, "we were working on the best information available at the time." Possibly adding, as a means of closing down future questions, "if we were looking to introduce similar legislation today we would have additional data to consider and it is likely that legislative proposals would take a different form." Then the killer "There would, however, be little point in speculating what form any such proposals would take."

Jun 7, 2013 at 3:40 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson