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« May on Bob Ward | Main | Two more reactions to Nullius »
Sunday
Feb122012

A letter to Paul Nurse

I am reproducing this letter with the permission of Professor Brice Bosnich, a retired chemist and a fellow of the Royal Society. He sent it to Paul Nurse on his election as president of the society in 2010. Nurse did not reply.

Dear Professor Nurse

I am a retired professor of chemistry in The University of Chicago. I also am a Fellow of the Royal Society. First, allow me to congratulate you on becoming president of the Society. You are about to live in interesting times, I am sure.

Whereas I am reluctant to intrude on your time, I feel compelled to draw your attention to a very serious matter related to the Royal Society's position on man-made global warming (AGW). Beginning with the presidency of Bob May and continuing during the tenure of Martin Rees the Society has put forward a scientific case for (catastrophic) AGW, has joined with other academies in urging governments to take drastic action to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and, on occasions, has behaved as if it were a propaganda arm for the alarmist cause, [1]. No one objects to individual Fellows having any view they wish on this matter, political or scientific, but I believe the Society should exercise great care in its public pronouncements. It should, I believe, resist taking overtly political or advocacy positions. Cautious, balanced and informed scientific arguments should be presented, the political implications of which should be left to the politicians.

If one goes to the Royal Society Web site one finds an especially poor, in places inaccurate, case made for catastrophic AGW, [2].  There is also a highly speculative report on ocean acidification by CO2, [3], which seems to be based on a single paper, [4], that purports to calculate the change in ocean pH from 1750 to present!  A change of 0.1 pH change was calculated! On this basis the report goes on to describe all imaginable catastrophes.  At about the same time the Society's web page highlighted a paper about AGW and the shrinking sheep of St Kilda [5]! Then there was Bob May presenting an AGW lecture with the comprehensively discredited, [6], “hockey stick” graph as backdrop. I could go on.

How this state of affairs came about is a matter of speculation on my part. It is probable, however, that a group of committed Fellows persuaded the Society to take a position on AGW while the less conversant majority remained uncomfortably silent. Further, I fear the Society may have decided it was advantageous to blend its position with that of the existing government. I hope this is not the case.

Although I am not a climate scientist, I am sufficiently conversant with the climate science literature to be able to assess the issues accurately. My conclusion is that the case for catastrophic warming induced by man-made CO2 emissions is extremely weak (see for example, [7]). Allow me to encapsulate the issue, and forgive me if you are already familiar with the material that follows.

  1. Following the (global) Medieval Warm Period where the temperatures were similar to those presently recorded, the earth entered the Little Ice Age. Since the end of the Little Ice Age (about 1850) the earth has warmed intermittently. The actual amount of warming is controversial for technical and possibly other reasons. For surface temperatures recorded by thermometer measurements, the amount of warming is probably less than reported [8]. There is, however, no dispute that some near surface atmospheric warming has occurred, [9] [12].
  2. Doubling the concentration of atmospheric CO2, which is projected to occur by the end of this century, will lead to an increase in temperature of about 1 degree C from the CO2 greenhouse effect. There is no dispute here. No one has suggested that a 1 degree C of "forcing" would be catastrophic.
  3. In order to get to the 2 to 4 or more degrees C increase by 2100 as claimed by the IPCC, one has to invoke large positive feedbacks. For the case of the feedback by water vapor, as an example, the initial(CO2 induced) warming would generate an increase in atmospheric water vapor, a greenhouse gas, which itself will increase the temperature which, in turn, would generate more water vapor and so on. There are other feedbacks, most notably clouds, which combined with water vapor represent about 90% of the greenhouse effect. Contrary to what the Society’s Web site asserts, there was no (predicted) upper atmosphere signature found for water vapor feedback during the recent warming. The feedback from clouds is poorly understood as acknowledged by the IPCC. There is, however, accumulating evidence which suggests that the total feedback from all sources is zero or possibly negative (see for example, [10]). The evidence for the negative feedback case is substantially more persuasive than the IPCC assertion that it should be large and positive.
  4. The only case that the IPPC makes for AGW is that they can't think of anything else that could have caused the recent warming and that models can reproduce the warming. This reproduction is achieved by introducing arbitrary amounts of aerosols. These same models did not predict the recent 12 years of constant temperatures.
  5. Finally, there is an excellent correlation between the US postal rates since 1900 and global temperatures, [11]. Thus the assertions that AGW is responsible for the shrinking sheep of St Kilda or the vanishing snows of Kilimanjaro or any other alarmist pronouncements do not establish that the warming is man-made. This should be obvious to Fellows of the Royal Society, many of whom have used such correlations to support the existence of catastrophic AGW.

The case for catastrophic warming rests solely on the sign and magnitude of the feedbacks. As has been often said, “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence”. The potential of catastrophic AGW is an extraordinary claim, but is without compelling supporting evidence. Because of the way that the AGW issue has been politicized together with the behavior of certain climate scientists, the reputation of science and the institutions that support it have suffered. Further, were catastrophic AGW to join the dreary parade of alarms that have punctuated the recent history of affluent societies, the consequences to science and the Society could be severe. It may take a long time before reputations are restored. It is, therefore, imperative for the Society to stay away from politics and advocacy of AGW or any other science based issue, no matter how beguiling the prospect may seem.

Below is the opening paragraph of a joint statement (2005) by several academies including RS and NAS. This statement urges governments to take action on AGW. I have reviewed it for accuracy and balance, see round bracketed highlighted comments. This has been done in order to illustrate the unease and frustration that I am sure many Fellows feel when they read these official pronouncements.

There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate (Correct, climate science is in its infancy). However there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring (Is about 0.7 degrees C increase in 150 years evidence?). The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures (No warming has occurred for the last 12 years and the recent rate of warming is about the same as the rate of rise for the period 1920 to 1940 when greenhouse gases were increasing more slowly, [12]), and subsurface ocean temperatures(No warming has occurred for 8 years, at least, [13], and sea temperatures have been varying up and down for at least 50 years, [14]), and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels(No significant change in the rate of rise of sea levels has occurred for at least 100 years, [15] ), glaciers retreating (Glaciers have been retreating and some reforming since the Little Ice Age, at least, [16], and there is no persuasive evidence to suggest that the retreat is accelerating), and changes to many physical and biological systems(Which ones, the sheep of St Kilda?). It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities [IPCC 2001] (See above for this "evidence"). This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate (Climate is defined as more than 30 years of weather, so what are they trying to say? That 0.7 degree C or so rise in temperature is an indication of climate change?).

Similarly, the most recent Royal Society statement, issued jointly with the Met Office and NERC, is replete with misleading and inaccurate assertions, [17].

Finally, I note that the Society has enthusiastically endorsed the central recommendations of the Stern Review, [18]. As noted by William Nordhaus, "the (Stern) Review should be read primarily as a document that is political in nature and has advocacy as its purpose". Moreover, Nordhaus makes a persuasive case that Stern has not got the economic assumptions right, especially on the crucial question of economic "discounting", [19]. The Nordhaus argument, placed in a wider context, is given in, [20], where it is noted that when “Prudential Handicapping” is abandoned for the “Precautionary Principle” there are no guiding criteria for an impossibly expensive journey in the endless pursuit of a zero risk world. A recent assessment of these issues offers a prescription for dealing with climate change, from whatever source, that drastically differs from that advocated by the IPCC, Stern and by the Royal Society, [21]. These and other social science studies indicate that it would be wise for statements from the Society to stay strictly within the bounds of (physical) science.

I end with a quotation from Atte Korhola, a Professor of Environmental Change at the University of Helsinki:

When later generations learn about climate science, they will classify the beginning of the twenty-first century as an embarrassing chapter in the history of science. They will wonder about our time and use it as a warning of how core values and criteria of science were allowed little by little to be forgotten, as the actual research topic of climate change turned into a political and social playground.

This letter is being sent to Martin Rees and to John Pethica. I should be grateful if you were to pass it on to members of Council.

Sincerely,

Brice Bosnich

Citations:

[1] http://royalsociety.org/News.aspx?id=1331&terms=global+warming
 , http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2006/09/19/LettertoNick.pdf
[2] http://royalsociety.org/Report_WF.aspx?pageid=8030&terms=global+warming
[3]http://royalsociety.org/Report_WF.aspx?pageid=9633&terms=ocean+acidification
[4] http://pangea.stanford.edu/research/Oceans/GES205/Caldeira_Science_Anthropogenic%20Carbon%20and%20ocean%20pH.pdf
[5] http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/325/5939/464
[6] http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/WegmanReport.pdf
[7] http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=84462e2d-6bff-4983-a574-31f5ae8e8a42
[8] http://icecap.us/images/uploads/MM.JGR07-background.pdf
[9]http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_Apr_10.gif
[10] http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0809/0809.0581.pdf
[11] http://joannenova.com.au//globalwarming/graphs/us_post_causes_global_warming.jpg
[12] http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/nhshgl.gif
[13] http://pielkeclimatesci.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/figure.jpg?w=450&h=357
[14] http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/heat_content55-07.png
[15] http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/images/CSIRO_GMSL_figure.jpg , http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009GL038720.shtml
[16]
 http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/MoEF%20Discussion%20Paper%20_him.pdf
[17] http://royalsociety.org/Report_WF.aspx?pageid=4294969087&terms=climate+change
[18] http://royalsociety.org/News.aspx?id=1471&terms=stern+review
[19] http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:CAgjOZmU0QIJ:flash.lakeheadu.ca/~mshannon/Nordhaus_on_Stern_050307.pdf+william+nordhaus+climate+change&hl=en&gl=au&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEEShsKm9xHKKkcHvZTsk9qiZQ1Ar6YTm4UWAmsiRLV2rwDQN7KCHW04MgfZ26SB_XK9p7RHHepmscunFWnkEQuyy2RkM96Wk3TI4uW16Ibzu_FX-ob0uOX7JL39u5ZTsz-V_a9fXT&sig=AHIEtbQBsNMlkFV-9RPtSHYhwWhzE5Vq7g
[20] http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/article_detail.asp?id=436&css=print
[21] http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27939/1/HartwellPaper_English_version.pdf
[22] http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1612851

 

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  • Response
    Suite n�35 Mon seul but par ce genre de billet : d�montrer par des d�clarations de scientifiques, que le pr�tendu consensus sur les conclusions climatiques �mises par le GIEC, n?existe pas. D?autres citations contredisent certaines id�es re�ues. - 37...

Reader Comments (75)

Why should Nurse give Bosnich the time of day when all Bosnich wants to do is to find something wrong with the data Nurse is relying on? I mean, come on really ...

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterNiels

Glad to see there are still some scientists in the Royal Society

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

An excellent letter that I will show to my two teenage girls who are forced to wade through the CAWG "evidence" presented in their course work at school in Scotland. It will be of much help in my continuing conversations with their teachers ......................... Thanks very much indeed!

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thomson

It would very be interesting to know whether the letter was ever passed on as requested ... is it possible that the letter never even reached its intended recipient? Not to have accorded even the courtesy of a brief reply to such a well-argued, well-referenced letter from a fellow of the RS is very strange.

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:48 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

What a sad reflection on the RS that such a polite, well reasoned letter should elicit no reply.

I guess that the no-reply says it all, really.

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRonaldo

Matthu

No doubt that he'll know about it now!

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnother Ian

The transformation to an empire is almost complete.The ever expanding and ambitious praetorian guard is near total control of the empire and its bureaucracy. The senate has become irrelevant. All communication to Tiberius has to go through Sejanus. Letters unfavourable to the interests of the guard and their allies within the ruling elite never make it to the emperor and often risk severe consequences to the authors. We've seen this movie before.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I can see why Paul Nurse ignored it for it is as polite and well balanced as you can get. Nurse does not have the intelligence or the whit or the facts to dispute it so the only answer is to ignore it. Come on fellows of the Royal Society stand up for your traditions and honour and show Nurse the scientific way.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

Meant to say does not have a whit of facts or the wit to dispute it.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

I suggest that a copy of this letter, and a copy of Andrew Montford's report, Nullius in Verba, are sent to Her Majesty The Queen with a request that she withdraws her permission for the Royal Society to continue using the word "Royal" in their name.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Roscoe

Peter Whale
Perhaps

stand up for your traditions and honour and show Nurse the scientific way ...
out
Just a thought. :-)

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

It is very reasssuring to read this letter, and to imagine that one day someone of this candour, courtesy and intellectual calibre will break the sorry sequence of May, Rees, and Nurse, each of whom has contributed to the degradation of the Society they had or have so much influence over.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Robert Thomson 09.40am. I recommend Plimers "How to get expelled from school". Just recently published, my copy bought over the Internet came from Oz in just a few days. It is an excellent primer on climate change for parents and schools with a load of questions to ask any teacher who has bought the CAGW propaganda. I bought a copy to donate to the library at my old school.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

That's a really nice, moderate, well-reasoned letter and puts Sir Paul Nurse's (mis)representation of climate sceptics as scientifically illiterate bullies that operate by oppressing mainstream scientists to shame. The fact that the Royal Society did not reply to such a reasonable and thoughtful letter speaks volumes in itself. It doesn't match the image of climate sceptics they wish to project.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterSpence_UK

My guess ishe's sent it to the Met Office for rebuttal, and they can't, so he's staying schtum. To me it is a constant source of surprise that anybody could accept that success in formal education is anything other than success in formal education. I had a few years experience taking part in engineering research and finding it, I realised that the ability to focus on a subject to the exclusion of all others said nothing about one's ability to make rational judgements. I had a boss who had a double stared first from Cambridge, and I kid you not, I wouldn't have sent him for a loaf without wrapping the money in a piece of paper asking the baker to give him a loaf.

Nurse is an activist, he's bound to use his position to advance his political causes, live with it and hope the Fellows wake up to how they're being brought down by these activists. The question remains, who is advancing these zealots as President of the RS?

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:33 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

It is extraordinarily discourteous for the President of the RS to not even acknowledge receipt of a letter from a Fellow.

Given that the RS currently has 146 staff, there is simply no excuse for this. I worked for a busy Minister who received over 20,000 letters a year. Except for abusive nutters, every one of them was at least acknowledged. In an analogous situation, ie a letter from a backbencher to the Minister, a substantive reply would have been prepared, to be signed by the Minister.

We can now add to the list of Nurse's shortcomings churlish rudeness to the distinguished scientists who are Fellows of the organisation he heads.

May I add, for a chemist, Bosnich is a very good writer. Clearly, he is an exceptionally bright chap. No offence to chemists, but writing excellent prose is not a priority in their field! The contrast with the semi literate emails to and from UEA revealed by FOIA is stark indeed.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohanna

Sir Paul Nurse constantly repeats an anecdote that he chased Sputnik as it blazed across the night sky. As it happens the sputnik 2 orbit could not be seen from London, he was actually chasing the landing lights of a Vickers Viscount on approach to Heathrow.

If the history of the RS was likened to sputnik Sir Paul would be laika!

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Prof Bosnich was not the only one to warn Nurse. I am sure there were hundreds. For what it is worth, here was my contribution.

25th Jan 2011
Sir Paul Nurse
President
The Royal Society
6-9 Carleton House Terrace
London SW1Y 5AG

Dear Sir Paul,
I watched with interest your contribution to the global warming debate last night on Horizon. I think it was a pity that your genuine wish to find out why there is such a public mistrust of science was bound up with the BBC who have publicly acknowledged that they are not impartial on this issue as they believe the “science is settled.”
I am sorry that several personal attacks on you have appeared on the blogs – such ‘ad hominem’ criticisms have no place in scientific debate.
I also feel it was regrettable that opposition to GM food was coupled with opposition to the current global warming theory. As a global warming sceptic, I find myself on the opposite side to environmental activists who both object to GM but have also co-opted AGW for their own ends.
I apologise in advance for the length of this letter, but you have asked the question and I want you to know why this scientifically educated (M.A. Ph.D (Cantab) and Hon D.Eng (Sheffield)) member of the public is a global warming sceptic. Below are a few of the many reasons which have pushed me from a neutral to a strongly held sceptic position.

1. Informed observers agree that there may be a degree or two of global warming going on. By comparison with the annual fluctuations at any place on earth, it is small and arguably may be beneficial.
2. Your programme elegantly explained the difference between correlation and causation. Nowhere have I been able to find convincing proof that increasing CO2 levels cause global warming.
3. You harped on the argument of ‘consensus’ but having worked in the medical industry, I well remember the consensus on the causes of gastric and duodenal ulcers and the major surgery patients were obliged to endure until a small voice from an Australian doctor piped up to some derision that “it’s all down to a bacterium Helicobacter pylori” And so it proved.
4. I do not believe that there is a conspiracy but the sheer weight of money thrown at research to prove AGW has caused groupthink and made it very difficult for doubters to advance their career in the face of it.
5. Even a cursory examination of the global temperature records will give any reputable scientist food for thought. Climate scientists indulge in ‘homogenisation’ so that the record the public is allowed to see has been substantially altered from the raw data. Worse, as Phil Jones confirms, the audit trail is often lost so that the adjustments cannot repeated. Another cause for concern is the tinkering with the historical records and the frequency with which the recent data tends to be adjusted upwards and older data downwards to exaggerate the warming trend.
6. A recent example is from New Zealand. The official record has now been disowned after skilful criticism from sceptics and it is now accepted that no warming has occurred (in New Zealand at least)
7. An American schoolboy and his father demonstrated that in their area of the USA, a comparison of the temperature record in rural areas compared with urban areas showed warming in the latter but not in the former. Phil Jones says that the urban heat effect on the record is only very small and is allowed for in ‘homogenisation’. Common experience suggests this is highly unlikely.
8. Anthony Watts at the blog WUWT has shown just how questionable is the land temperature record. A large proportion of the recording stations making up the global record were first put in place for aviation purposes and can be affected by aircraft jet exhausts and the heat retaining properties of airport runways and aprons. Aviation activity has grown vastly in the last century and will have undoubtedly affected the global temperature record.
9. You went to NASA and saw some pretty video of the world’s cloud movements compared with such movements modelled on a computer. Didn’t that just prove that we are now pretty good at forecasting the short term weather? But extrapolating to the end of the century? Really?
10. It was noticeable that you did not choose to interview NASA’s most (in)famous climate scientist James Hansen. How can we be expected to trust him and his science when he spends so much time in AGW advocacy, such as his recent participation in the demonstrations at Kingsnorth power station?
11. You appeal to us to have faith in the peer reviewed science. However, in your look at Climategate you only questioned Jones on ‘hide the decline’. What about his attempt to control the peer review system as it applies to climate science. Serious scientists who do not subscribe to AGW have difficulty penetrating the journals within groupthink and have to resort to publishing in journals from peripheral fields.
12. The UEA claimed that the Russell and Oxburgh enquiries confirmed the AGW science. On their own admission they did no such thing. NOBODY has held an enquiry in to the SCIENCE behind AGW. Today’s report by the House of Commons is pretty uncomplimentary about the quality of those enquiries.
13. Phil Jones has admitted on the record that there has been no significant global warming for 15 years in spite of rising CO2 levels. With so much uncertainty, can we risk spending vast resources on an attempt to influence the climate?
I could go on about the vast carbon trading commercial interests that have grown on the back of AGW and who do not wish it to end, but that’s politics not science.
The biggest contribution you could make on your watch at the august Royal Society would be to take your own advice (i.e.trust no-one) and undertake a very careful independent review of the science underpinning AGW including evidence from not only the climate science community but the several highly qualified sceptics who are household names in the blogosphere . Such an enquiry could do much to salvage the reputation of the Society on this subject, which was so damaged by your predecessors as to call forth protest from 43 of its members.
Finally, and on a lighter note, here is a link to ‘a complete list of things caused by global warming’. I hope it will amuse you as well as illustrating the groupthink to which I have referred.
http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Hanwell

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

Does the RS hold meetings? You know, the usual thing, welcome from the President, minutes read from the previous meeting, some sort of financial report, correspondence (yes correspondence, it's not at all unusual in meetings that I've been involved with), general business etc.

Apparently not, especially if correspondence is from "unclean" Fellows. If it wasn't so asinine it would be hilarious. Delingpole should have a field day with this.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

Sorry for the duplication above please delete the surplus

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

Nurse has not replied because he cannot.

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Nurse has never replied to requests for evidence for his FOI inundating UEA smear.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Anthony Hanwell - thank you for sharing another good letter - I trust you also posted three separate copies to Paul Nurse! The chances of all three going astray must surely have been considerably reduced.

Perhaps other scientists who have written similar letters to the President of the Royal Society without having had the courtesy of a reply will now realise they are not in such a small minority. And will those who have not yet written be spurred into putting pen to paper?

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Anoneumouse: "Sir Paul Nurse constantly repeats an anecdote that he chased Sputnik as it blazed across the night sky..."

A scientist? Even if he had been here in Australia where Sputnik crossed, he would not have been able to see it. The highly polished surface of the rocket which lofted it, yes. But not Sputnik. Too small. (Even so, I told of watching it for about 40 years before I learned it was the case I had followed; but I am not a scientist.)

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Carr

It is extraordinary that Professor Bosnich did not get a reply to his letter. Anthony Hanwell does not reveal whether or not his letter was acknowledged. In my own working life (running a business), I always made a point of at least acknowledging letters, promising to offer a more considered reply later if I could not do so immediately. On my frequent trips abroad, my secretary did so as a matter of course and ran an efficient holdover system to ensure that the need for replies was not overlooked. Perhaps the RS should look to its elementary administrative procedures.

Perhaps this report will persuade other RS members to speak out. The issue deserves an airing and taxpayers, who substantially fund the RS, deserves to hear what is said.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

For people like Paul Nurse the "die was cast" before he took office - the scene was set with the likes of Robert May - politics and religious intolerance is the RS meme

Until there is a clearing out of the Climate Apparatchiks such letters will fall on stony ground

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMaxwellsDemon

Roger Carr, I was nine at the time so my father could have been having a lend of me, but he took me outside at the appropriate time (I presume he got it from the radio) and we tracked it across the night sky in outback South Australia. On more than one night, so it couldn't have been the launcher unless it was also orbiting. We had binoculars but it was also visible to the naked eye.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrantB

Paul Nurse probably thought that it was from that Aussie who used to play in goal for Aston Villa.

Feb 12, 2012 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered Commenterjb

Feb 12, 2012 at 11:34 AM | johanna wrote

quote
. I worked for a busy Minister who received over 20,000 letters a year. Except for abusive nutters, every one of them was at least acknowledged. In an analogous situation, ie a letter from a backbencher to the Minister, a substantive reply would have been prepared, to be signed by the Minister.
unquote

First you have to get your MP to actually pass on your question. Mine (Hancock, West Suffolk) always replies, but he does not ask the question of his superiors. Why do I want a Minister to tell me by how much my energy bills will be elevated by 2015 (i.e. election time) because of the direct and indirect effects of the CCA? Because he will have to sign the letter and will either tell the truth, which is damaging, or lie, which is revealing. Nice though it is to get a letter direct from an MP, it's not the same thing. Resolving this political dilemma by talking about something else (energy security is their thing now, has anyone else noticed that?) does not indicate much independence of mind, nor does it speak well for current standards of PPE education at Oxford.

Sir Martin Rees, Sir Robert May (now a lord), Sir Paul Nurse. If Sir Fred Goodwin could be stripped of honour because of a mere few billions, what will happen to these noble gentlemen when they stand accused of presiding over thousands of deaths, trillions of dollars? Hearing him addressed once more as Dr Nurse would be sad, a life of great achievement wasted because of stubbornness and gullibility, the latter exemplified by his simple pleasure that a big screen and a 3D projection of clouds computed by a weather model looked just like the real thing. Let's hope he sees the light before someone shines it into his face.

JF

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

On that Horizon programme, didn't Sir Paul Nurse maka a gaff about the proportion of man made CO2 against the natural background? As I recall he said that man made CO2 output was seven times greater than the output from natural effects, when the actual figure is under three percent.

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterStonyground

Bish

For my part I would be more than happy to write to Sir Paul attaching a copy of the letter from Prof Bosnich and asking if it is really true that Prof Bosnich received no reply as that would surely not be appropriate and that perhaps it is not too late for Sir Paul to respond now as a matter of courtesy and of course to confirm safe receipt of my letter

and I would feel minded to say that I shared the sentiments expressed so eloquently by Prof Bosnich and that being the case I would also appreciate a substantive reply on the points raised by Prof Bosnich

and others may feel obliged to write to Sir Paul in similar terms?

what do you say?

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

sHx at 10 28 above...An nescis quantilla prudentia mundus regatur?

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

I hold no candle for Sir Paul Nurse, however, Sputnik 2 was visible from London (orbit inclination 65 degrees).

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Anoneumouse
Oh please let that be true as I have to say there's nothing like a pompous man getting a kick from reality!

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commentermat

Seen this Bish?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099922/BBCs-Weather-Test-washout-bid-check-accuracy-forecasts-vanishes-storm-wrangling-predicted.html

Almighty kerfuffle over BBC's weather forecast accuracy study. Roger Harrabin taking the flack.

Feb 12, 2012 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Richard Roscoe says;

I suggest that a copy of this letter, and a copy of Andrew Montford's report, Nullius in Verba, are sent to Her Majesty The Queen with a request that she withdraws her permission for the Royal Society to continue using the word "Royal" in their name.
Feb 12, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Roscoe

I'm afraid that may result in only a short term fix because you know what's going to happen when Queen Charles inherits!

Feb 12, 2012 at 2:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

Actually Peter I think being Monarch would put Charles into his box. If he continued spouting his political opinions we would soon find ourselves living in a republic.

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

It's hardly surprising that Sir Paul did not respond to Professor Bosnich.

His first thought must have been horror that someone so well informed had the temerity to 'put him on the spot'. I'm sure his next thought would have been to pass the letter to a few of his AGW alarmist friends for rebuttal.

Nothing forthcoming? - better to just ignore it then!

I think, a follow up letter, enclosing a copy of the original and requesting a response might just get the ball rolling - or not!

Feb 12, 2012 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

He's already heading documentaries on the subject and steering the society towards a position so an education lesson should not be required. They hear only what they want to.

Feb 12, 2012 at 2:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

As and inorganic chemist myself ('though of insiginificant repute) I can attest that Professor Bosnich is no lightweight.

I have saved his Wiki page in the event the Connelley's of the world decide to do their dirty deeds.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brice_Bosnich

For those who might suggest that Bosnich is speaking outside his area of expertise, I would caution that his comments about ocean pH could arguably be more cogent than those of retrained oceanographers.

Feb 12, 2012 at 3:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

Somebody obviously thought that Professor Bosnich's views on AGW were worthy enough to note on his UCL profile:

Boz was a superb but formidable lecturer to undergraduates. Unconventional in his thinking and in his attitudes, Boz knew how to get a rise out of people - this won him both friends and enemies. Conservative in outlook, he has gone on the record as rejecting the possibility of anthropogenic climate change.

Prof Bosnich was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 2000.

http://www.chem.ucl.ac.uk/resources/history/people/bosnich.html

Feb 12, 2012 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

I read the letter and finding myself nodding agreement, line after line. While I pretty much came to the same conclusions he had, I had never taken the time or energy to research the reasoning as carefully as he had. The reference list is a gold mine.

You should invite Professor Bosnich to submit his thoughts to this forum, Bishop.

Feb 12, 2012 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Perhaps Sir Paul Nurse, as an alumnus of UEA, is not willing to remove a Royal Society supportive stance for UEA's climate science staff.

Feb 12, 2012 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrant

Roger Carr
Nurse's chasing of sputnik across the night sky could be an example of post-normal pseudo-proletarianism — also known as "anything to be seen as one of the people", occasionally known as "engaging in terminological inexactitude" (though it could just be that he was mistaken, of course)
The best known example is that perpetrated by Antony Linton ("Tony") Blair who claims to remember watching Jackie Milburn playing for Newcastle United which is at least doubtful since he spent the first two years of his life in Edinburgh after which the family went to Australia for three years and then went to live in Stepps (which is just outside Glasgow) in — by my calculations — no earlier than 1958. They did then move to Durham but Milburn left Newcastle Utd in 1957 at which time Blair may have been four years old but is more likely still to have been three!

Feb 12, 2012 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

A fine letter and fine comments, above.

A gentleman would have responded to Professor Bosnich's letter forthwith.

I have no further comment.

Feb 12, 2012 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

As Blackadder would say - It has always been all about Bob!

Feb 12, 2012 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreen Sand

Sorry I should have mentioned that no reply or even acknowledgement came back as a result of my letter above.

Feb 12, 2012 at 8:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

I suspect comrade Nurse regards common courtesy as a bourgeois distraction. Is the UEA going to go down in history as a finishing school for leftwing radicals intent on wrecking their societies in the name of socialism, a dogma multiply disgraced, and profoundly disgraced, in the 20th century?

Feb 12, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

After reading the recent paper by Your Grace on the subject of the perversion of the Royal Society, I came across a very interesting address given by Sir Aaron Klug, OM at the Anniversary Meeting of the Royal Society held on 30 November 1999. An extract appears below. It is obvious from this well argued piece that the rot set in with his successor, Lord May.

A key feature of the policy-maker’s world is that decisions have to be made, even when certainty is not available. And, as just mentioned, the policy-maker has to take account not only of objective facts but also of the art of the possible. But that does not make science irrelevant. To say that objective scientific evidence has no part to play in policy-making would be as blind as to imagine that it is the only relevant consideration.

Moreover, we recognise that scientific advice must be based on the best available knowledge at the time, and that later experience may show that knowledge to have been incomplete or defective. That is true about all advice. We still have to make recommendations, and we still have to base them on the knowledge we do have. This means stating possibilities, with various degrees of probability if possible, but also means rejecting ludicrous suggestions, some of which surfaced during the BSE/CJD crisis.

I will not enter into the complex problem of risk assessment, but there is a view which has emerged which is not helpful. This is called the precautionary principle which originated in discussions of environmental matters, but has spread more widely. According to the precautionary principle, any new activity in which a theoretical risk of some kind can be posed, should not be undertaken, unless its outcome can be predicted. This is no way to deal with uncertainty - it is a recipe for stagnation. None of the advances which have transformed our living standards and our health would have taken place if we had followed the precautionary principle to the letter. Taking some risk is indeed a necessary condition for progress. However, in a particular situation, the public should be kept informed of the facts as they are known, and the problems fully faced. This may involve delays and difficulties, but in the long run, openness is the best policy.

When faced with major uncertainties, the best course may be to take actions that leave key options open. A good example of this approach occurs in an important report that the Society published in June this year on the implications of the Kyoto accord for UK energy policy. In this report we argued that the current state of alternative technologies would not allow the UK to meet its Kyoto obligations on carbon dioxide emissions without an input from nuclear. We also pointed out that current plans for the obsolescence of nuclear power stations meant that nuclear power, which currently supplies about 14 000 MW of electricity (27% of Britain’s total electricity supply), would supply only 4000 MW by 2015 and nothing at all thirty years later. Alternative, non-nuclear, sources could, conceivably, improve far more dramatically than even their most enthusiastic advocates foresee, but it would be unwise to plan the national power supply over the next few decades on that basis. The so-called renewables, windpower and tidal energy, and fuel cells and photovoltaics, important as they are,may turn out to be only niche technologies, or for local application. We, therefore, view with great unease policies that appear unperturbed by the prospect of all nuclear capacity disappearing from the UK by the middle of the next century. Thus we argued in our report that the UK must keep its nuclear options open, which means that decisions about new power stations must be made in time to replace the stations that will reach the end of their working lives in the next two decades.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

In a sense, I am not surprised that Nurse did not reply. It's quite obvious that he couldn't, even when he finally stopped spluttering incoherently. Having said that, his failure to reply to a polite and excellently reasoned letter from a Fellow is scandalous.

Feb 12, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

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