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« A letter to Paul Nurse | Main | Chivers on cosmoclimatology »

Two more reactions to Nullius

Two more reactions to the Nullius in Verba report have come from Donna Laframboise

To be a climate skeptic is to find oneself in an awkward spot. Eminent science organizations have publicly declared that human beings are causing dangerous climate change. Among these are the US National Academy of Sciences, the Science Council of Japan, the Académie des Sciences in France, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

How can rational, intelligent people not take their word for it? How can someone such as myself – who lacks any scientific training whatsoever – imagine that my own misgivings deserve to be taken seriously when such esteemed bodies have spoken?

and Hilary Ostrov

If you are new to the “climate wars” (as I still consider myself to be, even after more than two years on the battlefield), Montford’s chronology provides considerable context and background which, although specific to the RS, is echoed in the pre- (and post-) Climategate activities of other high profile and supposedly “independent” organizations.

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Reader Comments (27)


The Hilory Ostrov link takes you to Hilary's home page not the specific thread.

Feb 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos
Feb 11, 2012 at 11:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Donna Laframboise's statement is just the unknowing, unsure version of what I have said many times, with absolute confidence, based upon my own study and my own amazing (because they are so simple, yet definitive) discoveries, about the real fundamentals of atmospheric warming: All of our authoritative institutions have been suborned by an incompetent consensus in climate science. The result is widespread madness--a REFUSAL to face reality (the definitive evidence against the consensus), among the overwhelming majority of scientists, and those who mistakenly believe they are defending science.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman

The Royal Society can never be correct. The sooner this is realised the better.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

I just finished reading Nullius in Verba. It is very informative and very well written. It certainly describes how May, Rees and Nurse have used their position as President of the Royal Society to push the case for CAGW. If your goal was to show that the RS has become an impassioned advocate for a particular worldview then Lindzen has it correct - you have done a fine job.
ut is that all that could have been said? For example, the argument as stated could be rebutted with a simple "So what?" What your analysis does not show is what impact the positions taken by Rees, May and Nurse have had on climate science research that could reframe the current CO2 driven debate. The discussion of Svensmark’s work is a huge tease. Did the RS support Lockwood's research? What is so telling about the Climategate emails is the evidence that Jones, Mann et al were inappropriately influencing the peer review and publication process, thereby changing the scope of the debate. These are smoking guns. Were there any at the RS?
For example, a critical point in this story is the rebellion of the 43 Fellows who apparently forced the rewriting of the official RS position on the state of Climate Science. You cover the general scope of this rebellion well. However, who pushed back on these 43? As a long, long time student of organizational behavior, however, I am left wondering as to the details of the rebellion. Have they paid a professional price for their temerity? In particular, because I believe that in organizations like the RS the administrative staff can play an enormous role in shaping decisions, I wanted to know more about these players and their agendas. Take a look at Clark and Clark's little tome, Newton's Tyranny. The Clarks argue that Newton set back research on electricity for 100 years! The back story of the Double Helix gives another example.
Similarly, and to use the well-known Anthony Jay inspired series, Yes Minister, it is the Sir Humphreys of an organization who can wreak havoc and suborn the mission of an organization. So while the behavior of the visible heads of the RS is relevant and telling, I suspect that much mischief is driven by the likes of Bob Ward (whose role you do highlight). But he is not alone. Who replaced him? Where did they come from? What agenda did they bring with them? How was the election of 3 Malthusians in a row accomplished?
It seems to me you have the basis for an intriguing book - non-fiction or, in the absence of sufficient data, a CP Snow –like novel.

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Bernie: "I just finished reading Nullius in Verba. ..."

Thanks, Bernie... intriguing... thought provoking...

Feb 12, 2012 at 3:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

An "awkward spot" ?

Here is a simple proof in 10 easy steps why the Greenhouse Effect is a physical impossibility.

(1) The IPCC claim that radiation from a cooler atmosphere slows the rate of cooling of the (warmer) surface, thus leading to a greenhouse effect.

(2) The "rate of cooling" is a 24 hour worldwide mean, so wherever the Sun is warming the surface (any sunny morning) the rate of warming would have to be increased by whatever process is slowing the rate of cooling.

(3) Thus extra thermal energy must be added to the surface by such radiation in order to increase the warming rate in the morning and slow the mean rate of cooling calculated from both day and night rates.

(4) Now the Second Law of Thermodynamics relates to heat transfer which is not the same as energy transfer. Radiated energy can be two-way, but heat transfer between two points is always one way and it is invalid to split such heat transfer into two opposite components and try to apply the Second Law to each. Physics doesn't work that way.

(5) Hence, the surface cannot warm faster in the mornings due to such an imaginary heat transfer, because that would be clearly breaking the Second Law no matter what. Nor can it slow the rate of cooling because of (4). And in general you would expect the same process to happen whether the surface is warming or cooling.

(6) So, those photons from the cooler atmosphere are not being converted to thermal energy in the warmer surface, as Prof Claes Johnson proved in Computational Blackbody Radiation.

(7) Hence the effect of the photons being either reflected or scattered is that there is no impact on the surface at all.

(8) It is also clear that there is no significant transfer by diffusion or conduction from the atmosphere to the surface because the surface absorbs more solar insolation than the lower atmosphere, and we observe that the atmosphere is generally cooler and even cools faster at night than the surface.

(9) So it really does not matter even if extra thermal energy is trapped higher up in the atmosphere because it does not affect what we call climate, and any such energy cannot make its way back to the surface, except possibly an insignificant additional amount in precipitation.

(10) Hence there is no valid physical way in which backradiation or absorption by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause a significant atmospheric greenhouse effect.

If I haven't convinced you, read this paper Falsification of the Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within the Frame of Physics

Doug Cotton

Feb 12, 2012 at 7:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Cotton

I am looking forward to reading the Royal Society's reaction. Has your report been sent to the fellows?

Or will there be what they imagine to be a "dignified silence"?

Feb 12, 2012 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

And another reaction to 'Nullius':

A group of Dutch climate secptics addressed a similar report/request to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW). The KNAW has responded that it is willing to continue the dialogue with the sceptical scientists.

Feb 12, 2012 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterHans Labohm

Those are two excellent summaries by Donna and Hilary of the Bish's report. Well done to all three.

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Re the role of Bob Ward (and as a footnote to the Bishop's excellent report, which I've just been reading) there is an interview with Lord May on the ABC's Science Show website - audio and transcript here:

In the interview, he says this about AGW sceptics:

These people are all economists, and more recently I've come to learn a little bit more about economics and I realise it is very largely (and I don't mean this in a sarcastic way, it's just a statement), it is largely faith-based. It doesn't have much in the way of testable hypotheses and things. It does have things in the way of simple models but they tend to be grounded on beliefs, and the discussions they have would have been a more familiar in Socrates' Athens than in today's scientific colloquium.

And this is what he says about the role of Bob Ward (this is in the specific context of the foot and mouth crisis). My transcription below is slightly different from ABC's as I've heard some words differently, but you can also listen to the original audio:

That was an example of aggressive engagement to be useful to government that not everybody had a clear conscience about, but I think was useful, and not everybody was happy with the sometimes quite in-your-face comments that the Royal Society or its president made, particularly helped by the head of the press office Bob Ward, whom I found immensely valuable. He had the knack of being able to capture my voice so he could write things that I got the credit for and didn't have to do the work, and I think the kinds of things we did were entirely appropriate.

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

The KNAW has responded that it is willing to continue the dialogue with the sceptical scientists.

Is there a dialogue to continue?

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

@Bernie Feb 12, 2012 at 1:52 AM

[B]ut is that all that could have been said? For example, the argument as stated could be rebutted with a simple "So what?" What your analysis does not show is what impact the positions taken by Rees, May and Nurse have had on climate science research that could reframe the current CO2 driven debate

Bernie, I respectfully disagree! Regardless of what (or how much) an expositor might say, IMHO, there is always more that could have been said! That being said (so to speak!) in my books "So what" in this instance is far from constituting an effective (or informative) "rebuttal".

My guess would be that Andrew was given some vey specific terms of reference for his report by GWPF, who perhaps have more (you should pardon the expression) faith in the critical thinking skills of a lurking readership.

If one considers that there are probably far more newbie information "explorers" than seasoned information seekers, then to my mind Andrew's exposé strikes the right balance between "here are the facts" and food for the reader to explore, consider and reach her/his own conclusions... nullius in verba and all that :-)

Personally, I very much doubt that Rees, May or Nurse have had (or could have had) any "impact on climate research" per se. Their role - as figureheads - has been to influence, mobilize and proseltyze (amongst "sister" Royal Societies - as indicated, for example, by Peter Foster's account which indicates how the Canadian Royal Society has followed the RS party-line).

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov


You asked: 'Is there a dialogue to continue?

Good question!

Our contacts with the KNAW have a long history. See:

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterHans Labohm

As an indication of what the average punter thinks the Royal Society is for, you could hardly do better than this:'mind%11weapons'?”-everyone-asks-royal-society-201202084874/

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Hilary appears to be mistaken when saying "strangely enough, nullius in verba is nowhere to be found anywhere else on the RS website". The RS search box gives 37 hits, mainly but not exclusively speeches.

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterHenry

@ Henry Feb 12, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Perhaps I should have been more precise in my assertion; what I should have said is that nullius in verba has become far from obvious as an RS motto. It is conspicuously absent from their "branding", i.e. their logo and banner.

Furthermore, the search results to which you refer are - with the exception of the history page (which I had specifically mentioned) - all pdfs, none of which are found at the visible levels of the site. Which might lead one to conclude that - just as the IPCC, for example, pays lip-service to the need for "transparency" - those who speak/write on behalf of the RS pay lip-service to their motto.

In any event, to my mind, an organization that claims to provide "authoritative" advice does not seem to be adhering to the principle inherent in its motto.

YMMV, Henry. So, by all means, do feel free to find another context-free nit to pick.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Jonathan Swift found it hard to take the Royal Society seriously way back in his day. A literary reviewer of his Gulliver's Travels, Shirley Galloway, has this to say:

Many critics feel Swift was satirizing "the strange experiments of the scientists of the Royal Society," but may also have been warning his readers against "the political projectors and speculators of the time," (Davis 149-150). The Laputians excel at theoretical mathematics, but they can't build houses where the walls are straight and the corners are square. Instead, they constantly worry about when the sun will burn out and whether a comet will collide with the earth. This misuse of reason is hilariously elaborated on in Chapters five and six, where the various experiments occurring at the Grand Academy of Lagado are described. Of course, the point is highlighted as Gulliver professes his sincere admiration for such projects as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers and building houses from the roof down. The satire in Voyage three attacks both the deficiency of common sense and the consequences of corrupt judgment (Quintana, 317).’
[I added the emboldening. For links and sources, see:]

We surely have sufficient details in the Nullius report to inspire a new Swift to tackle the political projection and speculation which has so defiled the Royal Society in our time, not to mention their cheerleading for the latest equivalent of constantly worrying about when the sun will burn out.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

My comment was not meant as a criticism of Andrew's report. I did recognize that Andrew probably had a particular brief and he has done a great job addressing that brief. My point is that, if you are a supporter of the positions May, Rees and Nurse have taken with respect to their activism, it is very easy to dismiss the charge that the RS is compromising its original principles. You and I may not feel that way - but others will simply argue that May et al are on the side of truth and light and therefore the ends justify the means. Remember the famous Schneider quotation.
How the leadership and administration of RS specifically reacted to the rebellion of the 43 and how they addressed potentially CO2/AGW theory altering research by Svensmark are potentially more problematic for the RS as a scientific institution, if they engaged in behavior similar to Jones, Mann, etc.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Yes indeed, Laputa.

It seems the worrywarts have been around for a long time.

"These People are under continual Disquietudes, never enjoying a Minute's Peace of Mind; and their Disturbances proceed from Causes which very little affect the rest of Mortals. Their Apprehensions arise from several Changes they dread in the Celestial Bodies. For Instance; that the Earth by the continual Approaches of the Sun towards it, must in Course of Time be absorbed or swallowed up. That the Face of the Sun will by Degrees be encrusted with its own Effluvia, and give no more Light to the World. That, the Earth very narrowly escaped a Brush from the Tail of the last Comet, which would have infallibly reduced it to Ashes; and that the next, which they have calculated for One and Thirty Years hence, will probably destroy us. For, if in its Perihelion it should approach within a certain Degree of the Sun, (as by their Calculations they have Reason to dread) it will conceive a Degree of Heat ten Thousand Times more intense than that of red hot glowing Iron; and in its Absence from the Sun, carry a blazing Tail Ten Hundred Thousand and Fourteen Miles long; through which if the Earth should pass at the Distance of one Hundred Thousand Miles from the Nucleus or main Body of the Comet, it must in its Passage be set on Fire, and reduced to Ashes. That the Sun daily spending its Rays without any Nutriment to supply them, will at last be wholly consumed and annihilated; which must be attended with the Destruction of this Earth, and of all the Planets that receive their Light from it.

They are so perpetually alarmed with the Apprehensions of these and the like impending Dangers, that they can neither sleep quietly in their Beds, nor have any Relish for the common Pleasures or Amusements of Life. When they meet an Acquaintance in the Morning, the first Question is about the Sun's Health; how he looked at his Setting and Rising, and what Hopes they have to avoid the Stroak of the approaching Comet. This conversation they are apt to run into with the same Temper that boys discover, in delighting to hear terrible Stories of Sprites and Hobgoblins, which they greedily listen to, and dare not go to Bed for fear."

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterJorge

Your comment prompted me to look at the Royal Society web-site. Apparently in 2009 they updated their mission statement and now - like GE (US) - have an alliterative set strategic priorities:
Our mission

To expand the frontiers of knowledge by championing the development and use of science, mathematics, engineering and medicine for the benefit of humanity and the good of the planet.

Our priorities
■Invest in future scientific leaders and in innovation
■Influence policymaking with the best scientific advice
■Invigorate science and mathematics education
■Inspire an interest in the joy, wonder and excitement of scientific discovery
■Increase access to the best science internationally

They appear to be totally unconflicted about their role of influencing policymaking, i.e., advocacy.

I started poking around and came up with this gem from Andrew in 2010 -

Now this is the kind of thing that I was looking for:

The email dates from 2006, nearly 9 months before the release of the Fourth Assessment Report. Garthwaite is trying to organise speakers to attend a Royal Society lecture to coincide with the report's publication. The email appears to be from Garthwaite with Solomon's inline responses:

RG: Thank you for calling last week and my apologies for having taken so long to get back to you. I am out of the office all of this week but wanted to reassure you that the Royal Society is still very keen to hold an event to showcase the WG1 report and we have taken your comments regarding the potential content of the meeting very seriously.

SS: thanks - I think it was very helpful.

RG: In terms of ensuring there are no climate sceptics present at the meeting, obviously this will be difficult to ensure if the meeting is open to members of the public.

SS: I didn't say anything along these lines. I fully expect some to be present in the audience.

RG: However we have no intention of inviting any known sceptics to the meeting, and certainly would not have invited representation on any discussion panel should we decide to have one.

SS:Yes, that is the point - they should not be invited to take the podium as speakers or panelists because that is simply not an appropriate representation of the state of understanding and uncertainty. The public has been confused enough by one side says this, the other that. This issue has gone far beyond that and this meeting should reflect that.

It's astonishing to see these two organisations, which are supposed to be neutrals in the climate debate, getting down and dirty, taking sides and doing their darndest to make sure their side wins. No sceptics allowed.

May, Rees and Nurse are important, but look at what influence Rachel Garthwaite wields.

Feb 12, 2012 at 2:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

Feb 12, 2012 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterclivere

Feb 12, 2012 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterclivere


I would have written something as well but when I first tried to download it, the link was down. We are all talking to basically the same people anyway. You did an excellent job and as always - well written.

Thanks for doing the difficult legwork again.

Feb 12, 2012 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Condon


I don't disagree with anything you've written; but, in my view, unless one is writing a book (with opportunities for greater scope than an expository essay) it is important to bring key background pixels to the foreground in order to ensure that the big picture is in focus :-)

To my mind, Andrew's paper is a jumping off point for readers to begin their own exercises in due diligence. Well, at least it set me off on a more thorough journey through the RS site ... where I found the same "corporate" mission-babble you did!

Had I been more diligent in compiling my own observations, I would have found the very telling Garthwaite-Solomon correspondence you've highlighted here, as it is a perfect example of my claim that in the non-profit world:

change does not often happen unless driven from the top (and is frequently suggested by senior staff, rather than by the membership or even the senior voluntary leadership).

Garthwaite's LinkedIn Profile completes this part of the picture:

2005 – Present Senior Policy Advisor, Environment, Energy and Climate Change at The Royal Society
Providing science policy advice on issues related to international and national environmental policy including biodiversity, air quality, climate change, marine/fisheries, population and consumption.

October 2003 – October 2005 International Officer at UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee

2000 – 2003 Deputy Chief Technical Officer-Biosecurity at NZ Department for Conservation

Also of interest and concern (well, to me at least!) is Garthwaite's authorship of a Nov. 2011 RS submission re Rio+20:

The Royal Society welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the preparatory process of the Rio+20 meeting. The Society believes that Rio+20 is a critical milestone for reinvigorating international political commitment and catalysing action for meeting the challenges the world now faces.

The Royal Society Science Policy Centre (SPC) has undertaken work on a wide range of issues relevant to sustainable development, most recently completing reports on Nuclear Fuel Stewardship1, the Governance of Solar Radiation Management methods of Geoengineering2, Geoengineering the Climate3 and Ground-level Ozone4. The Society has also been central to the development of interacademy statements5 – at both G8+5 and global (through the IAP global network of academies6) levels: these have set out clear consensus among the international scientific community on wide-ranging issues, such as global health, energy security, climate change, ocean acidification, tropical forests and water and sanitation. Currently the SPC is preparing a report entitled People and the Planet, which considers the dual contribution of population and consumption to sustainable development.

The Society’s submission to the Rio+20 consultation is based exclusively on the content of the People and the Planet report which is expected to be published in early 2012.

This submission contains the following key messages:

The zero draft document must recognize the fundamental importance of population and consumption to achieving sustainable development. A failure to consider the close interactions between the two when identifying goals, desired outcomes and delivery mechanisms for Rio+20 will compromise efforts to achieve sustainable development. Unsustainable population growth, lack of access to reproductive health-care and continuing degradation of environmental services will compromise development and poverty eradication efforts across the world. Demographic changes present challenges and opportunities for sustainable development, and will influence the achievement of a global green economy. Planning for a transition to a green economy must take these dynamics into account.

Looks like Garthwaite has been instrumental in leading the RS down the garden path to "sustainable development". As I had noted a few weeks ago:

On the road to Rio: Sustainability swamps climate change

In the case of the RS, it would appear that advocacy is swamping the science ... and as Andrew's paper has so cogently demonstrated, May, Rees and Nurse (with no doubt considerable tutelage from the likes of Garthwaite) have been leading the charge of the blight brigade.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

I think we are in violent agreement on all counts. I see definite similarities to what Donna Laframboise found when she started peeling the IPCC onion - tears and all!!
I suspect the policy hires are all activists, which raises the question as to how and who hired them.
Perhaps Andrew already has thoughts on this.
A pleasure as always.

Feb 13, 2012 at 4:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterBernie

'charge of the blight brigade' - now there's a phrase you could dine out on for quite a while! Thanks Hilary! (10:56PM)

Feb 13, 2012 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

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