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« All models are wrong | Main | Hanging the laundry out »
Saturday
Jan282012

Sir John's emails

A few weeks back, readers may remember, the Information Commissioner ruled that where public servants used private email accounts to conduct public business, their messages were still subject to FOI. With this in mind I decided to ask the Met Office for Sir John Houghton's emails relating to the IPCC's Third Assessment Report. I copied my message to Sir John's email address at the John Ray Initiative - the evangelical programme which now appears to occupy much of his time.

Attentive students of the Climategate emails will have noticed that Sir John appeared to use a private email address for all of his work on this most controversial of reports.

A week or so ago, the Met Office replied.

I am writing to advise you that, following a search of our paper and electronic records, I have established that the information you requested is not held by the Met Office. Sir John Houghton has also confirmed that he does not hold private e-mails relevant to your request.

So it appears that Sir John has deleted historic records relating to his work on the Third Assessment Report - work that was funded by the UK taxpayer.

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Reader Comments (62)

I've not heard of any "back-channels" being set up by IPCC.

Dec 15, 2011 at 3:58 PM | Richard Betts

You have now

Jan 28, 2012 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Trying to get a fix on what goes on in climate "science" is a bit like looking for the Higgs Boson.

Occasionally, you get a tantalising glimpse - but never enough to prove anything.

Smoke & mirrors.

Jan 28, 2012 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

Houghton has acted irresponsibly, and without the integrity expected of a public scientist. Even is there was nothing to hide this is still shabby behaviour.

Jan 28, 2012 at 7:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterxc

Isn't this exactly the same behaviour as John Mitchell, director of the Met Office, who also deleted all his IPCC correspondence? The Met Office doesn't seem to have any quality procedures. I guess the absence of procedures matches the absence of quality.

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

So let's think about this. A few days ago you implied that anyone complaining about harassment-by-FOI was making things up, because all FOI requests were only related to people "trying to replicate climate scientists work".

Hard to see how this is related to anything other pure nosiness. Please keep it up though, because the best argument against the current laws is their abuse by hypocrites.

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrank

Ok Richards Betts, where are you to justify this from the MO?

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Frank

There are legitimate questions to be answered about the Third Assessment Report - how the Hockey Stick came to be promoted so strongly, how Mann became a lead author when so young, that kind of thing.

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:18 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:11 PM | Frank

You still don't get it, do you? These were requests for information (payed for by the taxpayer) to understand how IPCC policies were formulated or used or indulged in or interacted with by one of HM gov's employees. The taxpayer's employee. Don't you think they have a right to know where their money is being spent?

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Hard to see how this is related to anything other pure nosiness. Please keep it up though, because the best argument against the current laws is their abuse by hypocrites.
Jan 28, 2012 at 8:11 PM Frank

Are you actually aware that Houghton was co-chair of IPCC and used his personal email address for IPPC business?.................or are you just trolling to try and muddy the waters a little bit?

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

This behaviour by the 'believers' becomes more outrageous by the day. They still assume that they need merely, airily dismiss any criticism as beneath them to render it so. In almost every important respect, they behave exactly as the world-weary of 18th-century aristocrats.

The great irony, of course, is that they simultaneously also consider themselves progressives, plotting a new future for the world.

In reality, they are nothing but tired reworkings of one of history's oldest stories: a corrupt, self-serving elite riding for a very nasty fall. Which I strongly suspect will come very much sooner than they might ever have imagined.

Bring it on.

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

Of course they probably have a reasonably sound policy regarding backups, one which maybe their IT department may be familiar with this time ?

Jan 28, 2012 at 9:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris

Phillip Bratby

"The Met Office doesn't seem to have any quality procedures."

That would be a relevant statement provided the Met Office was a scientific establishment, but on “Climate Change” it is practising “Policy relevant science” and therefore as a policy unit such controls are deemed unnecessary.

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate-change/policy-relevant

Jan 28, 2012 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

"Sir John appeared to use a private email address for all of his work on this most controversial of reports."

No doubt in the belief that it wouldn't then be subject to FOI...

Jan 28, 2012 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Agouts: the behaviour of the believers is very similar to that of the 18th Century Aristocrats who believed in phlogiston. This was because they had been classically educated and thought it was a 5th Greek Humour. When metals oxidised in air were shown to have gained mass, their response was to claim phlogiston had negative mass! By the end of the 18th Century, the few believers centred on Priestley, a real religious fanatic. Lavoisier settled the debate by using oxygen as combustant in a closed vessel, proving the gain in the mass of the metal was balanced by the loss of mass of the gas.

The present outbreak of scientific religiosity is based on the belief that the ice ages end by an unknown positive feedback involving mainly the CO2 greenhouse gas. This was plausible until in 1997 data were published showing CO2 rose after temperature. The psychological response of the believers was identical to the 18th Century case; a refusal to accept there could be a variation from the faith. This was preyed on by an inner group who decided to commit scientific fraud; no MWP, reducing past temperatures.

However, there are inner circle members who are not fraudsters. Thus Lacis claimed recently that because the Earth went into the snowball state in the GISS model when aerosols and CO2 were taken out, CO2 is responsible for all GHG warming! This is madness but because the madness is shared, it's difficult to dislodge from society. Interestingly, both Gore and the head of the UK WWF attended divinity degree courses.

The real answer to the problem is that the models are based on 4 bits of wildly incorrect physics but because it fits the religious dogma, you can't accept new thought, hence the peer-review fraud intended to maintain the purity of the faith. Only when experimental data show to the layman that the models are false will there be a resolution. The cooling of the North Atlantic is that proof because there is no way CO2-AGW can cool.

In the meantime, Hansen is busily claiming the missing heat is from increased net AIE when there is absolutely no experimental proof of this and the physics predicting it is plainly wrong as can be seen for any cloud preparing to rain. I think he has lost touch with reality, like Lacis living in the imaginary model they created and they are the saviours of the World from becoming like Venus [which was always like it is now because the CO2 could not be guttered by hydrological processes and life forms].

A separate group is now trying to claim there is no missing heat but they have had to sacrifice the claimed accuracy of their data. In reality because the real amplification process at the end of ice ages has also via Arctic melting caused considerable present warming, now ending, real CO2 climate sensitivity must be quite low and it could well be slightly net negative.

Jan 28, 2012 at 9:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

At least you may have got his back up.

Jan 28, 2012 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/01/22/g20_facebook/

Private back channel on g20 read the quote on climate change

Jan 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterjason f

I have just had a look at the John Ray Initiative website ......scary !!!! seriously scary !!!!!

Jan 28, 2012 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin

To be fair, I would have deleted any of my work e-mails by now as well.

I ditch all such material every time I change computer, which is fairly often. I have even changed my personal gmail account in the last five years, thereby losing all of those too.

The interesting thing is that they appear to be accepting that the request is legal. So, in that respect a precedent is set for later requests. This is different from the UEA stonewalling.

We have they have learnt from Climategate and are not lying. They would have an extraordinary amount of explaining to do if any do turn up. Surely they aren't that stupid?

Jan 29, 2012 at 12:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

We have to assume that they have learnt from Climategate and are not lying. Sorry

Jan 29, 2012 at 12:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMooloo

Sir John Houghton's email service provider might have backups of the emails.
However, his service provider isn't subject to FOI since it is a private company.
But, the service provider might have emails that are subject to FOI.
Maybe the Information Commissioners Office could provide some guidance.

Jan 29, 2012 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Phillip Bratby
" The Met Office doesn't seem to have any quality procedures. I guess the absence of procedures matches the absence of quality."

Will this do?
"The Met Office holds ISO 9001-2000 and ISO 14001-2004...."

We need an expert.

Jan 29, 2012 at 2:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim C

Jan 28, 2012 at 9:53 PM | mydogsgotnonose

Well said. Very interesting.

Jan 29, 2012 at 4:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Mooloo writes:

"To be fair, I would have deleted any of my work e-mails by now as well.

I ditch all such material every time I change computer, which is fairly often. I have even changed my personal gmail account in the last five years, thereby losing all of those too."

I take it that you are not in the US. In the US, your employer owns the emails. And your employer will make use of them as the employer pleases. If your emails were sent on employer owned technology then they are on the employer's servers. You have no rights over the emails on the employer's servers.

In the US, your internet service provider for your private internet account will retain a copy of your emails for a considerable length of time. Any of those emails that contain your employer's business belong to your employer.

Jan 29, 2012 at 5:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Tim C: you can become ISO accredited by asserting that you have no quality control procedures......

Jan 29, 2012 at 5:50 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2093264/Forget-global-warming--Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html#ixzz1knmpog4n

‘If we don’t see convincing evidence of global warming by 2015, it will start to become clear whether the models are bunk. And, if they are, the implications for some scientists could be very serious.’

Jan 29, 2012 at 6:09 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Lest we forget...

Sir John Houghton wrote as a foreword to the infamous "Zero Carbon Britain 2030" Report (Partners and funders including the MET Office and UEA):-

“This new report from the Centre for Alternative Technology is much to be welcomed, coming as
it does at the start of a new administration. The goal of peak emissions by 2016 is less than seven
years away. Everything necessary to reach that first goal will have to be put in place by the next
government – a challenge they must take up with unusual urgency. A year ago in May 2009, a Nobel
Laureates Symposium on Climate Change hosted in London by the Prince of Wales had as its title,
The Fierce Urgency of Now.
One of the few positive outcomes of the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009 was the
near-global consensus for a goal of 2o C for the maximum rise of global average temperature from
its pre-industrial value due to human activities. That is a necessary, but tough target for the world
to meet. It will require, for instance, peak global emissions by about 2016. However it was very
disappointing that little was accomplished at Copenhagen to set up the actions required for its
realization.
Two reasons are often advanced to delay action on climate change. The first is to present climate
change as a longer-term issue and argue that of more immediate concern are big issues like world
poverty. That may appear to be the case until it is realised that the plight of the world’s poor will
become enormously worse unless strong action to curb climate change is taken now. The second is
to suggest the financial crisis must have top priority and action on climate change will have to wait.
That again may seem good sense until it is realised that there is much to be gained if both crises are
tackled together. Also, many studies, for instance those by the International Energy Agency1 (IEA,
2008), demonstrate that necessary action is affordable; increased investment in the short term is
balanced by savings that accrue in the longer term.
This report presents detailed information and argument to demonstrate that zero emissions
by 2030 is within reach – given appropriate commitment, dedication and effort on the part of
government, industry, NGOs and the public at large. In calling for a common sense of purpose, not
just nationally but internationally too, it points out the benefits to society – its health, social welfare
and sustainability – that will result from the pursuit of such a goal. May I urge you to study carefully
its arguments and its findings.”
Sir John Houghton, Former Co-Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

__________________________________________________

Houghton is thus firmly in frame as one of the most rabidly lunatic of the Thermogeddonists.

Jan 29, 2012 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

So it appears that Sir John has deleted historic records relating to his work on the Third Assessment Report - work that was funded by the UK taxpayer.

A sackable offence, surely.

Jan 29, 2012 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

Future "History of Science" historians are not going to have an easy job, by the looks of it.

Jan 29, 2012 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

'Future "History of Science" historians are not going to have an easy job'

Depends on what you mean by science. When I was taught it, you did experiments to establish or prove theories. This lot argue how to spin the results of modelling and how to alter real data in the appropriate direction to calibrate or prove the models.

Modelling is not science, it's a branch of engineering. Climate modelling is based on duff but politically correct theories so it has morphed from engineering to politics.

Soon the experiments we do will be opinion polls, and science will have become Market Research.....

Still, it's a form of Research!

Jan 29, 2012 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

I don't quite get this. How can you be sure that he holds emails relating to AR3 ? Or are you saying that the email you sent to him at his JRI address should have been returned to you under FOI ?

Jan 29, 2012 at 9:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Tim C

Yes I am aware that the Met Office is accredited to ISO 9001-2000 and ISO 14001-2004. However, as mydogsgotnonose notes, the Met Office can write its own procedures within those standards. It can produce a procedure that states that there is no need for archiving data or emails or letters or calculations or computer code or reports etc etc.

Jan 29, 2012 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@ Hengist McStone

Are you naturally stupid or are you being deliberately obtuse?

Jan 29, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Out of curiosity I just went to the webmail version of my BT account, to find that they have a record of every email I've sent going as far back as 2004!

Is that normal practice?
Mr Houghton may find those emails are still there.

Who is his provider?

Jan 29, 2012 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

http://johnosullivan.livejournal.com/44133.html

'please focus your attention on the world's largest class action lawsuit now underway in the U.S. which is exposing a $26 trillion fraud being perpetrated against us by a financial elite.

Backing the lawsuit are Congressmen Alan Grayson and Ron Paul.....

The evidence now gathered lends greater credence to the analysis of Canadian climatologist, Dr. Tim Ball and others who argue that faux climate science, a propagandised education system and compliant mainstream media have been the sock puppets of this corrupt elite.'

Now it seems we know how fake climate science has been organised and why......

Jan 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Martin Brumby

The Fierce Urgency of Now.
I like it. Is it related to "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", by any chance? Or is it one of those profound philosophical discoveries that disturb one's sleep and turn out in the morning to be "the skin is mightier than the banana"?
Or an entry for Pseud's Corner?

Jan 29, 2012 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

@timc

The ISO 'standards' only say that you must write down your processes. They makes no judgement about the quality of the processes.

So a written process that says you will treat all and any customer complaints with outrage, scorn and insult is a perfectly legitimate and accreditable ISO standard.

Yet another con trick by the world of bureaucracy and jobsworths sent to torment us.

Jan 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Nodog, how is the 30 year, $100 billion climate science research project a Ponzi Scheme?
============

Jan 29, 2012 at 11:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

John Houghton has God on his side. Read his treatise on Joseph, Pharoah and a Climate Crisis:
http://www.jri.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/JRI_18_Joseph.pdf

It was written pre-Copenhagen, which Houghton described thus: "Christians are calling for worldwide prayer and many are saying it is the most important meeting the world has ever seen."

Joseph, the Egyptian Climate Supremo:
"The next seven years, Joseph said, would be years of plenty with very good harvests. After that would follow seven years of famine with very poor harvests. Joseph was, in fact, passing on a climate forecast for Egypt and the surrounding region for the next fourteen years. He told Pharaoh that the forecast demanded immediate action – no time must be lost."

"The plans that Joseph presented seemed good to Pharaoh who put Joseph in charge of the whole action programme. He became the climate supremo ranking only second to Pharaoh in the government of Egypt."

The Message
"What is the particular message of the story to us today? We face a climate crisis of enormous magnitude and proportions, not local but global, not of 7 years duration but lasting indefinitely. Information about it has not come through dreams but through science. Many hundreds of scientists representing the world scientific community have got together, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the necessary climate forecast and to propose to governments what needs to be done."

"To Joseph, God gave the ability to interpret dreams connected with the future. To scientists today God gives the ability to interpret scientific information related to the future and to propose actions that need to be taken to avoid harm, loss, destruction or calamity."

Action Plan
"We need to work hard to reduce our personal carbon footprint – e.g. through buying green electricity and ensuring that our homes, shopping and transport are as energy efficient and carbon free as possible. Through our churches and communities we need to provide aid to poorer countries to help them adapt to the damaging impacts of climate change and to develop in sustainable ways. We also need to press our government, through national and international action, to move rapidly towards zero carbon emissions.

At the end he says, "Pharoah and Joseph had 7 YEARS. So have we - 2016."

Well, it's down to 4 years now, so start praying.

Jan 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

"the information you requested is not held by the Met Office"

Is it worth asking the IPCC, or do they not keep anything either?

Jan 29, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Bish. The Met. Office's reply "I am writing to advise you that, following a search of our paper and electronic records" is very carefully written in that it does not state what was actually searched.
Was it the PC that John Houghton actually used, or did it include the server through which these emails were actually sent?
Following my recent court victory against CRU, it was established that such a server would "hold" information for the purposes of the Act, unless there were defined retention and deletion policies in place when the emails were sent.
I would therefore ask the Met Office two further questions;
1) What policies concerning the rentention and deletion of emails they had in place at the time
2) Whether the server was actually searched.

With respect to the second part of the Met Office's reply "Sir John Houghton has also confirmed that he does not hold private e-mails relevant to your request."

As you say the Information Commissioner has already ruled ruled that where public servants used private email accounts to conduct public business, their messages were still subject to FOI.

Accordingly I would draw the ICO's attention to what appears to be a prime facie breach of FOIA regulations.

Jan 29, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

A comment relating to Sir John from an old thread made me laugh. It was by MikeE on Nov 27, 2009 at 2:38 PM. And it made the Bishop laugh as well! The thread is this one

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2009/11/27/the-royal-society-and-global-warming.html

Jan 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

...the behaviour of the believers is very similar to that of the 18th Century Aristocrats who believed in phlogiston...... Lavoisier settled the debate by using oxygen as combustant in a closed vessel, proving the gain in the mass of the metal was balanced by the loss of mass of the gas.

And we all know what happened to the 'skeptic' Lavoisier ...

Jan 29, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Education Secretary Michael Gove is being urged to stop his officials using private emails for government business and to check the practice is curbed.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham says the use of private emails and texts should be "actively discouraged".

His guidance follows reports private emails were used to conduct Department for Education(DfE) business.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16197167

Jan 29, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle

I find it very hard to believe that neither the Met Office nor JH have any emails relevant to his role in the TAR. As Don's experience has shown, to get to the truth one has to be very persistent.
A complication may be that UK FOIA came in while the TAR was being prepared.

Jan 29, 2012 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Rick Bradford; In Australia, one of the societies of professional scientists and engineers trying to combat climate science corruption is called the Lavoisier Society. Another is named after Galileo.

Jan 29, 2012 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

Hengist.. Andrew wrote to John Houghton at his JRI email address to make him aware of the issue.. NOT to disclose his JRI emails..

that is why people might describe you as being delieberatly obtuse.. ie trying to distract away from the actual issues.. emails relating to TAR, which are undoubtable in the public interest. and foi able. regardless of email address used at the time.

Jan 29, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

DennisA

Kipling on Joseph, the Egyptian Climate Supremo:

"Who shall doubt 'the secret hid
Under Cheops' pyramid'
Was that the contractor did
Cheops out of several millions?
Or that Joseph's sudden rise
To Comptroller of Supplies
Was a fraud of monstrous size
On King Pharaoh's swart civilians."

Jan 29, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Jan 28, 2012 at 8:15 PM | Stephen Richards

Ok Richards Betts, where are you to justify this from the MO?

Hello Stephen

At the precise moment that you asked where I was, I was in my local village hall taking part in a quiz. I think that at 8.15pm, our team was probably debating the answer to the question "Name a poisonous snake" (it's quite a cunning one because there are many venomous snakes but, apparently, only two which are actually poisonous.)

Actually it might have been a different question which we were debating at precisely 8.15pm, but for some reason this one has leapt into my mind in answering you. Not sure why.

Anyway, I digress....

First I'd like to point out that I don't come on Bishop Hill to "justify" things.

Nevertheless I can make a point which may help here, particularly regarding the "back-channel" point made by Anoneumouse.

I am not sure, but I imagine that Sir John used a private email account for his IPCC work because in the 1990s Met Office systems did not allow access to email from outside the Met Office network. We didn't get that facility until a few years ago. The main reason for this is security - remember that until a few months ago the Met Office was owned by MOD. In the 1990s it was simply not possible to use a Met Office email account when out of the office, and since Sir John was not actually based in the Met Office and spent much of his time travelling to meetings, he would not have been able to carry out the role is he'd tried to only use a Met Office email account.

Also, remember that Sir John was no longer CE of the Met Office at this time - as far as I am aware, his only association with the Met Office was through his WG1 co-chair role. I'm not sure whether he was an employee or a contractor, but I doubt if that makes any difference anyway.

I'd like to ask whether anyone here keeps their emails from 15 years ago? I know I don't. My work ones may be archived somewhere, I have no idea, but the non-work email account I had 15 years ago simply does not exist any more - not for any conspiratorial reason, simply because I changed provider.

I know it's disappointing for BH to not get the emails but I really do not think you should read anything sinister into this.

Hope this helps,

Cheers

Richard

Jan 29, 2012 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I think the wording of the reply itself is probably in all honesty accurate.

They are probably right that any emails the geezer sent using his private email address isnt being held by the Met office.

However, the Met Office, if it was truly interested in honesty and transparency, should have directed Sir John to provide copies of all emails he has sent using his private email address for business purposes.

That would also have an unintended consequence of bringing an end immediately to the use of private email use for getting around FOI.

Mailman

Jan 29, 2012 at 3:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

mydogsgotnonose @9.19 "Modelling is not science, it's a branch of engineering." Er, no. I've worked as an engineer, (as opposed to a scientist), since 1975, in a number of different industries. The imperative is to provide something that works, in a reasonable timeframe, at a reasonable cost. Not to produce the mythology that climate modelling has done.

Jan 29, 2012 at 3:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterPalantir

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