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An open letter to Sir Paul Nurse

Dear Sir Paul

In your article in the FT today, you repeat remarks you have made in the past about scientists having to be open about their work:

Scientists have an obligation to communicate their work to the world, and to be open and transparent about doing it. “Trust me, I’m a scientist” is not a good enough answer to give to policymakers or the general public who are looking to make informed decisions on important topics.

This is an area on which people on both sides of the global warming debate should be able to agree. However, it is clear that many in the climatological mainstream do not share this belief. The IPCC has indicated that drafts and review comments on its reports will not be published until after the main report and that, for Working Group I at least, the panel's new conflict of interest policy will not apply to the Fifth Assessment Report.

As I am sure you will agree, these decisions go against the principles of openness and transparency that you say you favour. This being the case, I am asking you, on behalf of the Royal Society, to make a public call for the IPCC to correct these issues.

I hope you can help.

Yours sincerely

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Reader Comments (105)

Boulton was at the UEA from 1968 to 1986; Nurse was at the UEA from 1970-1973. Perhaps they studied advanced statistics together?

Jun 26, 2011 at 1:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

...or perhaps the enduring Boulton-Nurse union was forged in the intensity of their mutual dedication to scientific ethics:

Jun 26, 2011 at 1:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Dang, I've got to order a special display case for this one in my Museum of Climate Ironies: The Royal Society's Director for History of Science writing up his own memorable and spectacular niche therein.

Jun 26, 2011 at 1:32 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Kim, I spent a few, wasted, but very pleasant hours at the Royal Scottish Museum today. Loved the History and the benefit of hindsight afforded by just reading about the exhibits.
So chuffed that I am an irrelevance unlike Sir Paul who has firmly nailed his banner onto the masts of the genuinely dodgy characters.
'Tis sad that such a talented bloke has picked, such, a poor flock of friends.
I hope that he is humble enougth to reconsider!

Jun 26, 2011 at 3:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

And admits to his mistakes. Otherwise he is remembered as a loyal but complicit 'useful idiot'
I take no pleasure from this observation.

Jun 26, 2011 at 4:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

Jun 25, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Hengist McStone
Having read your acclaimed list of sceptics on the IPCC contributor's list, I have to say it is as weak as wee wee water.

Given that the IPCC is a cast of thousands effort, is it significant that "Shell sent a G.R. Davis to assist Working Group III (mitigation) on the third assessment report"?

Why do you not note how much money Shell pays to AGW activist groups ( because it pays nothing to any sceptic group known to me).

You also fail to account for the passage of time. A number of the people you list might well have started off cooperating with the IPCC, then got peed off and left. How about you do a list of sceptics contributing to AR5?

You might to look at your AR5 source at

then count how many of the total people come from Germany, which seems to be the hotbed of dissent, out of proportion to global population and noted for taking on the ROW.

Jun 26, 2011 at 6:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

"Paul knows that reputable Scientists don't operate in the way you describe.
So he keeps insisting!"

So one would be led to believe that Nurse would, for example, understand that Susan Solomon, who was head of IPCC's Working Group 1, was bang out of order by threatening to remove S. McIntyre from the reviewers if he continued to ask for data from the study authors?

I simply wonder if he really understands how deep the skulduggery runs within the climate clique?

Jun 26, 2011 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Pete H -
O/T but this may have been discussed previously. is the Barry Sidwell who married Susan Solomon in 1988 by any chance this Sidwell in the UK?

Barry Sidwell
IIndependent Environmental Services Professional
Liverpool, United Kingdom | Environmental Services

Jun 26, 2011 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

@Pat 9.15am

I will have to do some searching on that Pat. Possibly the Bish knows from his research for the HSI.

Jun 26, 2011 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

Interesting job he has though!

Jun 26, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete H

The implication of the reply from the Royal Society to David Holland is that when considering the suitability of candidates to serve on (or chair) their committees they do not consider any behaviour of or outstanding allegations against candidates except in cases where the candidate is directly employeed by the Royal Society.


Royal Society committees could easily become the last refuge of the corrupt - and they would not find that worth investigating.

Jun 26, 2011 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

While there is some talk of people saying naughty things about each other, try this npart of Climategate 1120593115 from the ubiquitous Phil. Catch the quote on cooling since 1998.

" From: Phil Jones <>
To: John Christy <>
Subject: This and that
Date: Tue Jul 5 15:51:55 2005
This is from an Australian at BMRC (not Neville Nicholls). It began from the attached article. What an idiot. The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has but it is only 7 years of data and it isn't statistically significant.

The Australian also alerted me to this blogging ! I think this is the term ! Luckily
I don't live in Australia.[1]
Unlike the UK, the public in Australia is very very naïve about climate change, mostly because of our governments Kyoto stance, and because there is a proliferation of people with no climate knowledge at all that are prepared to do the gov bidding. Hence the general populace is at best confused, and at worst, antagonistic about climate change - for instance, at a recent rural meeting on drought, attended by politicians and around 2000 farmers, a Qld collegue - Dr Roger Stone - spoke about drought from a climatologist point of view, and suggested that climate change may be playing a role in Australias continuing drought+water problem. He was booed and heckled (and unfortunately some politicians applauded when this happened) - that's what we're dealing with due to columists such as the one I sent to you."

Jun 26, 2011 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

I remain a little exercised about the task of finding any 'alarmist moderates' to enter into a conversation with the 'sceptical moderates' - of which there seems to be quite an abundance. Perhaps Sir Paul Nurse is a possible, since he has already sided with the alarmist cause - perhaps of out a sense of leftwing solidarity with many of its proponents, perhaps out of a reluctance to introduce a discountinuity in the Royal Society's pronouncements. Yet his apparently naive behaviour in being possibly railroaded by the Horizon team to avoid hard questions of Phil Jones, be duped by the gross exaggeration of human CO2 emissions made in the programme, and to degrade his otherwise promising discussion with James Delginpole, suggests he might have a score to settle and some motivation to dig a little deeper with his own mind switched to penetration rather than conformance mode. If he responds to the Bishop's gentle letter by reprimanding the IPCC, then might Mr Hickman, albeit with gritted teeth, admit him to his proposed conversation as an 'alarmist moderate'. That would be one place filled.

Jun 26, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

I'm a Lead Author for the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (Working Group 2, chapter 4, "Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems"

(NB. This does not mean I'm a "member" of IPCC)

The drafts of the report will be available for anyone who is an expert reviewer, so if you want to see the report and comment on it, you can do it this way. I imagine that there will be a call for reviewers at the end of this year for WG1 (their First Order Draft will be available for review from 16th Dec) and another in the middle of next year for WG2 and WG3 (those WGs are working to a different schedule).

So yes, although the IPCC are continuing with the policy of not actually publishing the draft documents, they are not really "secret" either. If you want to see the report and comment on it, sign up as a reviewer.

Just another point to note, which may reassure you (a little, anyway). There is a really good mix of authors and we had some good debates at the first WG2 Lead Authors' meeting. For example, Hans Von Storch (described by Montford as an "honest broker" in HSI) is in WG2 this time. He doesn't let anything go unchallenged.... :-)

I'll look forward to seeing your review comments!

Jun 26, 2011 at 4:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

While I recognise that this post is slightly OT, I think it indicates a general mind-set that has been around a very long time among those who achieve some status among the good and great largely by their own efforts but also with a push from a serendipitous event.

A few years ago I had occasion to visit the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford, gift of a former military officer whose own serendipitous event was being left a considerable estate and fortune at the end of his successful military career The museum has something of a reputation in ethnographic circles in the UK, but I was more than a little disturbed to find that the museum is an example of the Victorian urge to collect native artifacts from around the Empire when it was at its most expansive; the collection focussed on quantity rather than quality and appeared to have been laid out when native peoples from far-flung parts of the Empire were regarded as rather entertaining and primitive curiosities. I spotted an error on a label in a diorama depicting the art of NZ Maori moko, or tattoo. The label stated that 'the Maori name Aotearoa means New Zealand' when it actually means 'land of the long white cloud' which is the Maori name for New Zealand. When I pointed out the error to a staff member, she sniffed and said 'those labels were written by our Ethnologists. They don't make mistakes' and walked off, leaving me feeling somewhat annoyed.
I thought about this for a time and decided not frustrate myself by pursuing it and let it go, sure that any pursuit would not effect a change of label or attitude.
It was a valuable lesson for me in some of the underlying assumptions that have fuelled class warfare in the UK for so long. In my view, Sir Paul Nurse is continuing in the tradition of acquiring of high status being equivalent to acquiring the quality of infallibility..

Jun 26, 2011 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Re Richard Betts

I'll look forward to seeing your review comments!

But will the public get to see the review comments in an open, transparent and timely fashion? Perhaps we should set up an alternative site where docs could be visible and discussed, call it "AR5Exposed" or something.

Jun 26, 2011 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer


Nice story thanks,

Sir Paul Nurse is continuing in the tradition of acquiring of high status being equivalent to acquiring the quality of infallibility.

He's not doing to bad in the condescending self righteous smug department either.

Jun 26, 2011 at 5:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

Apologies for being off topic but I am posting from the UK on the evening of June 26th. The thing is, that after a decade of cold wet summers, today was effing hot. Perhaps ten years of shit weather have made me a bit soft, but I was unable to work outside in the garden without feeling as though I was going to melt. So how long will it be before the MSM are plugging 26/06/11 as the hottest day since the world began?

Jun 26, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground


Think yourself lucky, the summer in the east of Scotland has been pretty mediocre, apart from a week in April which was lovely. We have had the central heating on and off several times in the last few weeks, really cold evenings, quite a lot of rain, hardly any sun, and today warmish and grey with occasional rain, in spite of the weather forecast promising us sunshine and heat.

Mind you, that won't stop "the planet has a fever" brigade.

Jun 26, 2011 at 6:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Alexander K, the Pitt Rivers is in many ways a museum of the history of ethnography, rather than an actual museum of ethnography; it is deliberately kept in a very old fashioned state, and indeed was recently lovingly restored to an earlier state, undoing some of the changes made in the mid 20th century.

Jun 26, 2011 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterOxbridge Prat

Richard Betts

Interesting clarification. And it's always re-assuring to hear that HvS is involved. As you say, he tolerates no nonsense.

Jun 26, 2011 at 7:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

A contribution from an IPCC stalwart is refreshing to see, so may I, as another visitor here, thank you Richard Betts (4:11pm). I have you down, tentatively on the frail basis of your comment above, as a possible 'moderate alarmist', despite your predilection for alarming 'projections' from your GCM. I suspect Mr Hickman would be happy to have you take part in his 'meeting of moderates', as developed here by the Bish himself ( So that might be two representing the CO2-Anxious school of thought?

But coming back to this thread, and the direct content of your comment: So yes, although the IPCC are continuing with the policy of not actually publishing the draft documents, they are not really "secret" either. If you want to see the report and comment on it, sign up as a reviewer.

Are you saying that anyone can be an IPCC reviewer? That would be remarkable, despite the risk of comments being Santerised in due course. I guess though that the reviewer would have to reveal their address, and get it added to that Greenpeace database ('We know where you live' etc). A small risk to take, perhaps, when there is a civilisation to save from the threats of the environmentalists? But also, I speculate, the reviewers might have to agree to some kind of non-disclosure clause, thereby keeping them silent even as the Santerised SPMs and associated press releases are trumpeted around the world.

Jun 26, 2011 at 7:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

call it "AR5Exposed" or something.
Jun 26, 2011 at 5:24 PM Atomic Hairdryer

That's good.

Could be titled:-

"The IPCC exposes it's AR5E"


"The Emperor's Clothes"

Jun 26, 2011 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

@Richard Betts

Thank you for posting here and entering the lions’ cage. One of your erstwhile leaders Sir John Houghton wrote in 2002 for the Royal society of Chemistry:

“The work of the IPCC illustrates the following five important features which I believe should characterize the scientific assessments that form an input to policy making.”
[I skip the first two]
“Thirdly, all parts of the assessment process need to be completely open and transparent. IPCC documents including early drafts and review comments have been freely and widely available - adding much to the credibility of the process and its conclusions.”
Since 1993 the word’s governments have ruled that the IPCC assessment process is to be open and transparent so what Sir John said would be right if any TAR working documents had ever been made available freely and widely. Do you have access to any of them? The Met Office would not let me have them.

Now you say:

“So yes, although the IPCC are continuing with the policy of not actually publishing the draft documents, they are not really "secret" either. If you want to see the report and comment on it, sign up as a reviewer”

Do you not think that openness and transparency are bit like honesty and pregnancy? You either are or are not. You can’t be sort of, slightly or even mostly.

What sort of organisation changes the rules when they are flouted by its employees? Me, I’d sack ‘em.

However, be that as it may, can I be a reviewer? I have a 1966 Hons Degree in Electrical Engineering (that involves Maths Physics and Chemistry). Albeit a bit slower now I can read and understand any climate change paper I have seen. There are probably millions like me but better – surely we can’t all be reviewers. What we can do is to read and follow the IPCC assessment process and one or two of us will spot the odd Glaciergate, Amazongate or Texas Sharpshooter and post comments on sites like this. If enough people think there is a problem the message will surely get to you and your colleagues.

What exactly is the problem you see with obeying the original IPCC rules and with publishing all finished intermediate documents when they are finished as opposed to when it all too late? Have you read and understood the Aarhus Convention and what it means for you and the Met Office?

Jun 26, 2011 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

@Atomic, Foxgoose


Jun 26, 2011 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGSW

Oxbridge Prat, your comment re the Pitt-Rivers museum puzzles me. Is the university attempting to demonstrate how Brit-centric and culturally-blinkered such museums once were? What's the point of a retrograde historical makeover?

Jun 26, 2011 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Alexander K, the Pitt Rivers is eccentric even by the standards of Oxford, and the University's thinking is not entirely clear to me. The article at gives a reasonable sense of what was done and just possibly a few hints on why. And where else could you go to see a witch in a silver bottle?

Jun 26, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterOxbridge Prat

What what you say about HVS is right, people have used his integrity against him.

Re: The Soon and Baliunas paper.

Jun 26, 2011 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub


My take is that HvS is a rational thinker who does what they do. Keeps thinking.

Jun 26, 2011 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Dave Holland (and the Bish)

I thought long and hard about the IPCC draft issue.

I agree with your views that the draft documents could be made available. I was a bit undecided before.

At this stage, the main reason offered for not making the documents public at the stage of drafting is that 'deniers' would compare initial and later drafts, point to the differences and claim that the differences prove that the 'science is uncertain' and also claim: 'they change things around wholesale'. No other good reasons are forth-coming. I find this very surprising.

However, if this is what is on offer, it is infantile argument, not worthy of any serious consideration of the IPCC.

A more serious view to the problem of revealing the draft documents only reveals benefits. The 0th draft would reveal citation of poor sources, citation of non-peer-reviewed grey literature, and material from environmental pressure groups, if any. Discussions in special areas of climate science - paleoclimate, the urban heat island would improve.

More fundamentally, the IPCC documents are only quasi-scientific. They are akin to reviews, but of an assessment kind. In the end, the authors would exercise their judgment and have the final call.

I wouldn't say that revealing the drafts would increase in 'transparency'. The 'sausage making rule' applies to science paper drafting, and what is lost as a result of revelation of the drafts would be gained elsewhere (as in, the real work would still go on behind the scenes). But I don't believe that the IPCC report drafting process is not the same as a scientific paper drafting exercise and therefore I do not believe the same considerations of 'the authors' privelege to privacy' applies.

Jun 26, 2011 at 11:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I missed a word in my post.

I wanted to say: "While what what you say about HVS is right, people have used his integrity against him."

Jun 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub


That's true.

Jun 26, 2011 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Hans von Storch is no sceptic. He follows the consensus view. The difference is, as already observed here, is that he has integrity - if someone who agrees with him does something wrong, he will call them out on it. In science, everyone should aspire to that. It is one of the greatest failings of climate science that someone like Hans von Storch is the exception, rather than the rule. If the IPCC was made up of people like HvS, I would have far fewer concerns. But the reality is far from this.

Also, we have experience of individuals speaking out at IPCC meetings, criticising something; people such as Roger Pielke Sr, Paul Reiter or Chris Landsea. They were handled in the same way: their views were marginalised and ignored. In each case they quit the IPCC in frustration. So, no, a single individual who is critical, or who has integrity, is not enough to save the process.

The biggest failing in the IPCC reviewer comments is not the release of the review comments. It is the handling of review comments. Lead authors can dismiss comments, and never be called to account for it. There are plenty of examples in AR4. Whilst I understand there is likely to be disagreement on some topics between authors and reviewers, that is what the review editors are there to deal with. But the review editors do nothing but rubber stamp the review process (with one notable exception for AR4, who was critical but ultimately unable to fix anything).

Also, arbitrary (unreviewed) changes get made between the second order draft and the final release.

None of these are acceptable. Until the following are addressed, AR5 will be another advocacy piece:

1. A broader range of views amongst authors (not just the odd token "non-advocate" whose views can be marginalised)
2. A proper conflict of interest policy, implemented. If it is right that there should be one, do it now. It is not fair on the authors to do otherwise.
3. ALL review comments to be addressed. Any not addressed thoroughly to be properly handled by the review editors and not simply dismissed or rubber stamped.
4. NO significant changes between second order draft and final report that have not been through the review process.

(On point 4: I understand there is also a government review process after the technical review which may introduce changes here, which is not ideal but acceptable, since there should still be a diversity of views present)

I won't hold my breath for these four points. For all the reasonable people on AR5 (HvS, Richard Tol, etc) it will just be another advocacy piece and have little or no credibility amongst the sceptic community, and falling credibility in the public eye.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

John Shade

Thanks for your response. While I don't think anyone would like to be labelled "alarmist" I am pleased to at least have been called "moderate"!

Yes I do consider that anthropogenic climate change *may* be a serious problem, but I also recognise that there are huge uncertainties in both its impact and in the drivers of climate/environmental change, such as land use and the effects of carbon dioxide on plant photosynthesis and transpiration.

eg: I've published with Roger Pielke Snr a couple of times on land use effects on climate (still a relatively unexplored issue) and indeed am a co-author on a review of this topic with Pielke and Souleymane Fall:

(Incidentally, Fall and Pielke have also submitted a paper on the siting of US weather stations, with Anthony Watts and John Christy as co-authors)

I've also published work on how CO2 effects on plant transpiration may affect water availability, possibly reducing the severity of droughts to some extent - Gedney et al, 2006, Nature; Betts et al, 2007, Nature. Kevin Trenberth does not like our work on that at all, he speaks against it in papers and when I present it at conferences, but I don't have a problem with that - it's all part of the scientific debate.

Joe Romm didn't like it when I pointed out that the significance of the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice extent in 2007 had been overstated:

(He cited measurement of sea ice depth which are less robust than those of extent which I had cited - at least at that time anyway)

Also I think I can claim to be the only author on IPCC AR4 whose text was directly quoted in a favourable manner by the Heartland Foundation's "Climate Change Reconsidered" book (the CO2 chapter).

So yes I do like to consider all sides of an argument, and I think the climate science community should be better at challenging the over-certain claims that some activists make.

But back to the IPCC reviewer issue. What I am saying is that anyone can put themselves forward to be an IPCC reviewer, although I must admit I can't claim to know whether there is an actual "selection process" of any kind. However I do know that in AR4 we had lots of comments from so-called "sceptics" such as Steve McIntyre, Vincent Gray and Richard Courtney. (I was an LA on the WG1 chapter on Radiative Forcing, which had more comments than any other chapter!!!) So if you are interested in reviewing the chapter, why not test out the system?

I really don't think you need to worry about personal details being "passed to Greenpeace" or whatever. Despite how it might have appeared recently, IPCC and Greenpeace are *not* in cahoots (not as far as I am aware anyway!) and anyway I would have thought that the IPCC's technical support units would be subject to Data Protection laws.

Yes I think reviewers will probably be asked not to cite or quote the drafts, but at least they will be able to scrutinise the text as it is prepared. And in today's world I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if somebody put it online anyway, as Atomic Hairdryer suggested.

As for SPMs and press releases not representing the main text - yes I would encourage you to read the main text and shout if it's not properly represented in the SPM. If you review the draft chapters, you will see drafts of bullet points for the executive summary of each chapter, which largely form the basis of SPM statements, so in the process of chapter reviewing you can see if the exec summary (and hence SPM candidate material) is properly reflecting the main text.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

David Holland

Thanks for your response too.

Re: your query about whether I have access to the TAR working document. My honest answer (not that I would give any other kind of answer) is that I wouldn't know where to look. Yes the Met Office did host the TSU for WG1 in the TAR, but that was when we were in Bracknell and in 2003 we relocated the whole organisation to here in Exeter. I'd imagine that documents that were important but not actually being used probably got archived somewhere, but I really don't know where. I'd imagine it would be the responsibility of either the UK govt or the IPCC to look after them long term - the TSU work was a fixed-term contract.

As I said to John Shade, I don't know whether there is actually any kind of selection process for IPCC reviewers - as you say, it would be impractical if there were millions of reviewers - but since you have appropriate academic qualifications why not try and see what happens? Then you can tell the world if you are rejected :-)

Yes I'm aware of the Aarhus Convention, and while I'm no legal expert, my general understanding is that the Met Office (and myself, as a civil servant) have obligations of transparency and openness and this is all covered under FOI and EIR. If my FOI officer asks me for some information then I provide it.

Incidentally, as a citizen I am quite a fan of FOI - I've used it myself on several occasions (for non-climate related matters).

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Betts,
You say that anyone can put themselves forward to be an IPCC reviewer. How does that work? I cannot see anything about it on the IPCC website.
Note that the IPCC refers to reviewers as "expert reviewers", so I think that it is misleading to say that 'anyone' can put themselves forward. [But what would I expect from an IPCC author :) ]

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

Jun 25, 2011 at 10:59 PM | David Holland "By his hand, or at his instruction, Boulton emasculated my submission,"

Would this not be named plagiarism, or even breach of copyright, if it was done without your knowledge or permission?

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington


For the IPCC special report on Extremes, currently in preparation, they put a link on the WG2 website for people to get in contact. (The review process is now closed though, so the link has gone).

I imagine (but this is just my personal guess) that they will do a similar thing for AR5 when the time comes (later this year for WG1, early next year for WG2 and WG3).

Keep an eye on the IPCC website - also I will announce it on Twitter when it happens (I'm @richardabetts on Twitter if you want to follow - then you can see what the Bishop (@adissentient on Twitter) and I say to each other)

As I said earlier, I don't know what the process is for actually taking on "expert" reviewers, maybe you have to demonstrate some level of expertise either through your qualifications or where you work, I don't know. Clearly people like McIntyre, Gray etc were able to do this (so there was no screening out of "dissenting voices"). But maybe you don't even have to do that, I really don't know. As I say, why not try it and see what happens?

It's worth noting that the remit of WG2 is so wide that it's hard to think of any academic or business field that would not count as relevant. (That's my personal view anyway)

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Richard Betts
Like most others here can I say many thanks for engaging in this debate. But let me be just a touch critical.
What sceptics in general are seeking is transparency in the science of climate change. When 'The Team' or their associates produce a paper it should not be necessary for McIntyre or Eschenbach to jump through hoops in order to find out how they came to the conclusions they did and try to replicate them.
They have still not learned the lesson. See Climate related sea-level variations over the past two millennia [Kemp et al, 2011] and Eschenbach's shredding thereof at
The debate is not, or should not be, about who is right; it's about testing the ideas and theories to see whether they stand up. "They stand up because we say they stand up" is not science. How many times do we need to repeat that?
The more I read of your defence of the IPCC the more I am driven to ask the question: What is the IPCC for? It does no scientific research (which Mann, Jones, et al do whatever we might think of the quality); its remit requires it to assume the existence of the anthropogenic aspect of climate change whether this is scientifically correct or not; it spends large amounts of (in my view unproductive) time and money holding meetings and conferences (the more exotic the venue the better) of working groups for this, that, and anything else they can think of; and every few years it produces massive quantities of printed matter which, in effect, tell us nothing we didn't already know but which politicians use an excuse to exercise more control over people's lives and their cronies (wives, fathers-in-law and others) use as a fine system for ripping off the consumer.
Climate change, climate change research, and government action (if such is needed) to adapt to climate change (we all know that mitigation measures are pointless though it is still heresy to say so) will continue (or not) if the IPCC were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow.
Ideally I would go one step further and suggest that such an event would be a major blessing for mankind which could use the billions of dollars saved to do some constructive good in the world.

Jun 27, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterMIke Jackson

There are two main reasons why all the completed working documents of the IPCC assessment process should be published as soon as they are completed.

John Christy gave the first at the US House Committee on Science hearing on 31 March. It almost certainly would have stopped the "hockey stick" and the "hide the decline" as both would have been jumped on had John Daly got his hands on the zero draft and then seen the first order draft. Likely Steve McIntyre or someone else would have tried to get the data and methodology from Mann and found that it was not available. It would likely have also stopped Glaciergate and all the other gates. No Lead Author would try their luck. Before AR4, the only certain fact in the IPCC assessment of climate science was that no one was likely to examine the working documents and when they did it was too late to do anything.

The second is that the IPCC assessment process is the most important environmental decision-making process of all. It takes place in discrete formal and fully completed steps over several years, It decides the orthodox view on climate change, its causes and informs governments' policy. At the "Town Hall Meeting" the RS speakers did not like it being said by me but the LAW of Europe requires that the public do have access to the information and must be able to participate in the decision-making process. The public have to obey all sorts of laws they don't like and I do not see why an exception should be made for climate scientists.

It must not be possible for another "hockey stick", "hide the decline", or "Texas Sharpshooter" to be be slid in unnoticed into AR5. That does not mean there have to be millions of official IPCC reviewers. It means full and prompt disclosure and free public debate on each discrete step.

Jun 27, 2011 at 12:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Mike Jackon

Your criticism is welcome. I'm not particularly trying to defend IPCC, I'm just making you guys aware of how you have the best chance of seeing what is being written in the drafts.

For me, the IPCC should be a synthesis of climate science knowledge and understanding which is relevant to the question of whether society needs to respond or not. Although this is mostly seen in terms of whether GHG emissions needs to be cut or not, there is also the issue of *adaptation* to climate change and natural variability. The better we understand the climate system the better we can be resilient to changes / variability in weather and climate from whatever causes. I have a particular interest in appropriate attribution of impacts - there is definitely a tendency to blame lots of things on climate change when in fact there is no real evidence, which leads to the risk of maladaptation (adapting to something that is not really a problem). eg: if you believe some people, we'd need a new Thames barrier within 30 years - but in fact the evidence is that we have longer before we need to be thinking about that. This is important information when billion-pound decisions are being made. So the IPCC *should* be objective on the science (including on the impacts). However the Interacademies Council report found that in AR4 there was a tendency to focus more on worst-case scenarios. Hopefully in AR5 we can try to rectify that. However this does rely on a robust debate between lead authors and a thorough review process (last time clearly it was not as thorough as it should have been!)

Jun 27, 2011 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Bottom line no AGW , no IPCC its a parasitic relationship and its very much in the IPCC's interest to keep the 'host' alive. So what else can CR5 do but support it ?

Jun 27, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR


I absolutely agree that climate change is an important and necessary field of work. It may be thousands of years away but I have seen nothing to say there will not be another ice age and by then I hope we can do something about it. Today's issue is only about openness, transparency and accountability in work undertaken at the taxpayers expense. Openness and transparency delayed is openness and transparency denied.

Jun 27, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland


Thanks. Like I say, I'm not trying to defend anything, just let you know how you can see the work in progress.

But it's been useful to hear your point of view, I think I understand a little better why we get so many FOI request from you! Thanks for the discussion.

Jun 27, 2011 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

Re Richard Betts

For me, the IPCC should be a synthesis of climate science knowledge and understanding which is relevant to the question of whether society needs to respond or not.

Whether society responds may depend on how convinced or sceptical they are, especially if eveyone is expected to adapt to the threat. Especially when that adaptation may cost them , or inconvenience them. That can be a tough barrier to overcome and a perception of secrecy or poor communication can just increase rather than decrease scepticism. Witness the response to the recent WG3 paper on renewables showing how science by press release can backfire.

A more transparent approach showing AR5's gestation may help overcome scepticism. There is a risk that the blogosphere may sieze on points from drafts or review comments and spin or misrepresent them. But it would also allow sceptics to see how the documents developed, what expert objections or criticisms there were and how they were overcome as it happened rather than retrospectively. That may educate and help slay the 'uncertainty monster' more than the current approach of releasing several thousand pages presented as a fait accompli. Then telling us the science is settled, here's the consensus, it's time to move on etc etc.

Increased openness may help provide a more thorough review process, or it may just provide a distraction if authors and editors allow it to. It may avoid situations like apparent pressuring Briffa to provide a 'tidy story' to support the narrative rather than the science.

Jun 27, 2011 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

From Richard Betts' commentary of reviewers of the IPCC AR4 report:

Clearly people like McIntyre, Gray etc were able to do this (so there was no screening out of "dissenting voices").

McIntyre and Gray were allowed to comment, but their comments were largely ignored or distorted by the lead authors. Essentially, their views were blocked out anyway. This should have been addressed by Review Editors but was not done.

The reviews are worthless while this state of affairs remains, and I see no reason to believe anything will change with AR5. I expect it will still be a narrowly presented narrative which will ignore good scientific research that questions that narrative. There are too many examples of this in AR4.

I expect AR5 to be an improvement over AR4, but the reluctance of the IPCC to embrace change suggests the improvement will be rather small and incremental.

Jun 27, 2011 at 1:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

Atomic Hairdryer:

Thanks, you make some good points and I must admit I don't entirely disagree. Faceless beurocracy doesn't help.

Incidentally, as you probably know, there is an increasing move towards open access
scientific journals
, and some of these include climate-related journals such as Earth System Dynamics

All submitted papers are put online for open review, including comment by anyone.

I think this is a good thing.


Yeah, I thought someone would say that! My point was merely that they at least got to see the drafts.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I know he's gone back under his bridge for now, but I had a wee look at Hengist's blog - he's a dishonest wee troll who is not at all up front on the Bish's site with his real opinion. Not the sharpest knife in the box at all.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

The next version of the IPCC docs (SPM in particular) will be essentially the same as the previous version, except the "certainty" will be dialled up a notch, and it will be "worse than we thought". It will be politically impossible to do otherwise, especially since it is presumably becoming harder for activists/opportunists to push their agenda in the face of increasing public scrutiny.

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJake Haye

Thanks Richard, I do like to be predictable ;)

I largely agree with you on the question of the drafts.

Jun 27, 2011 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

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