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« Traces of Hockey Stick Illusion | Main | Lindzen in London update »

Nullius in verba

This has just been released:

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is calling on the Royal Society to restore a culture of open-mindedness and balanced assessment of climate science and climate policy.

In a new GWPF report, written by science author Andrew Montford, the Royal Society is urged to ensure that genuine controversies are reflected in its public debates and reports and that the full range of reputable scientific views are being considered.

“As the Society’s independence has disappeared, so has its former adherence to hard-nosed empirical science and a sober detachment from the political process. Gone are the doubts and uncertainties that afflict any real scientist, to be replaced with the dull certainties of the politician and the public relations man,” said Andrew Montford, author of the new report.

In his report, Andrew Montford describes the development of the Royal Society’s role in the climate debates since the 1980s. He shows the Society’s gradual closing of critical scrutiny and scientific impartiality and the emergence of an almost dogmatic confidence that climate science is all but settled.

In recent years, the Society has issued a series of highly political statements demanding drastic action on energy and climate policies from policy makers and governments. On the issue of climate change, it has adopted an increasingly political rather than scientific tone. Instead of being an open forum for informed scientific debate, the Society is at risk of turning into a quasi-political campaign group.

The GWPF report criticises the Society for being too narrow minded in its assessment of climate change and for failing to take into account views of eminent scientists and policy experts that do not accord with its own position.

In his foreword to the report, Professor Richard Lindzen (MIT), one of the world's most eminent atmospheric scientists, warns that "the legitimate role of science as a powerful mode of inquiry has been replaced by the pretence of science to a position of political authority."

 The report itself is here.

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Reader Comments (103)

Pecuniate obediunt omnia.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

The RS's website isn't peddling the global warming tripe quite as blatantly as before. Two years ago it displayed the following piece of outrageous tosh:

“Once our actions have raised concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, levels will remain elevated for more than a thousand years.”

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

How long before Bob Ward posts a message either here or at CiF pointing out that you are a) in the pay of the oil industry, b) don't know what you are talking about c) there's nothing to see here or possibly all three.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

@Arthur, Bob Ward is partly responsible for the mess the RS finds itself in...

I would love to see his "work" PUBLICLY repudiated by a more balanced approach within the RS.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

So far just read the Foreword by Richard Lindzen, Bish. If Lindzen says it's "a straightforward and unembellished chronology" and it's serving to expose this kind of nonsense:

Rees and Cicerone conclude: “Our academies will provide the scientific backdrop for the political and business leaders who must create effective policies to steer the world toward a low-carbon economy.” ... Is this simply ignorance or dishonesty? My guess is that Rees and Cicerone were only mindlessly repeating a script prepared by the environmental movement.

... this could be very important indeed. Congratulations.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Oh and now you know why the GWPF is being attacked :)

It is building some weight...

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Bob Ward is a gift to the CAGW skeptic / lukewarmist. I hope he never resigns.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered Commentermrsean2k

Oh good, I see Bob Ward (FGS) has his name mentioned....

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Many more congrats in order Bish - I am sure it will be the usual incisive read, I will get down to it ASAP.

I have long said that when this AGW scam is abated (I will probably not live long enough to see it buried completely - given the real nastiness of the CO2 atom / sarc off) the reputation of the Royal Society and the Met Office will be irreversibly damaged.

I suppose it is just a reflection of the state of the rest of the UK and its standing in the world.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterRetired Dave

A masterstroke to use the Royal Society's old motto against itself.

They should be ashamed at debasing their inheritance.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

"Nullius in verba"

Speaking of which, I wonder how many of the original founders would wish to be associated with the RS in its present incarnation?

It is a mystery why the broad membership have sat by and allowed this travesty to unfold.

Feb 7, 2012 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered CommentermikemUK

not at all O/T...

1 Feb: AP: Karl Ritter: Nobel peace prize jury under investigation
Nobel Peace Prize officials were facing a formal inquiry over accusations they have drifted away from the prize's original selection criteria by choosing such winners as President Barack Obama, as the nomination deadline for the 2012 awards closed Wednesday...
If the Stockholm County Administrative Board, which supervises foundations in Sweden's capital, finds that prize founder Alfred Nobel's will is not being honored, it has the authority to suspend award decisions going back three years — though that would be unlikely and unprecedented, said Mikael Wiman, a legal expert working for the county...
Fredrik Heffermehl, a prominent researcher and critic of the selection process, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that "Nobel called it a prize for the champions of peace."...
Especially after World War II, the prize committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, has widened the scope of the prize to include environmental, humanitarian and other efforts, he said.
For example, in 2007 the prize went to climate activist Al Gore and the U.N.'s panel on climate change, and in 2009 the committee cited Obama for "extraordinary efforts" to boost international diplomacy.
"Do you see Obama as a promoter of abolishing the military as a tool of international affairs?" Heffermehl asked rhetorically...
Geir Lundestad, the nonvoting secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, dismissed Heffermehl's claims.
"Fighting climate change is definitely closely related to fraternity between nations. It even concerns the survival of some states," he told AP...

Feb 9, 2012 at 1:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Congratulations BIsh. There could not be a clearer example of how investigative journalism has ceased to be the preserve of journalists and is now kept alive by the best bloggers, such as your good self.

Feb 9, 2012 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterGixxerboy

Thanks for the report. This is an interesting and important topic. However, while the chronology is useful the report is very weak on analysis. In my opinion the idea that it is all down to shifts in funding is about as useful as the idea that skepticism is all a result of funding by the fossil fuel industry. It's a mentality that can only imagine people's motivation as driven by the paycheck.

(This is not the place to pursue the argument, but I think the argument that government funding inevitable leads to corruption ultimately leads to the idea that objective knowledge is impossible. We all need to live and we all have interests. Funding may or may not corrupt us. Although Lindzen is right to say that there has always been tension with government funding of science, nonetheless funding for science has not, on the whole, resulted in intellectual corruption in most cases since the end of the nineteenth century. Funding may result in intellectual corruption, but it is not sufficient explantion. Why does it become a problem in particular circumstances.)

There have been more fundamental shifts in the relation between politics and science in the last thirty years. The changes in the role of the RS can only really be understood in that context. Hopefully I will have a chance to write in more detail elsewhere, and if so will definitely reference your report.

Feb 9, 2012 at 5:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJK

Rick Bradford posts “Pecuniate obediunt omnia.” That should be “pecuniae obœdiunt omnia.”

Feb 9, 2012 at 5:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterDeadman

Many thanks and congratulations - especially for the hard-hitting three concluding paragraphs.
In the body of the report, on the other hand, your scrupulous fairness sometimes leads you to be too kind to the RS.
For example, you call Sir Martin Rees’s statement the day after the "Great Global Warming Swindle” TV programme “comparatively mildly worded”.
In this statement, he said “Those who promote fringe scientific views but ignore the weight of evidence are playing a dangerous game”. That sounds like a threat to me - pure Bob Ward - from a scientist, discussing interviews with fellow scientists.

No reactions in the British press. I assume they had copies ahead of the embargo? Isn’t journalism about being the first out with the news?

Feb 9, 2012 at 6:06 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Lathyrus vernus.

Feb 9, 2012 at 6:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Congratulations - and thank you Andrew for bringing this all together into one easy reference. As usual, context is everything.

A couple of my favourite references unfortunately didn't make the cut and I include them here:

george c marshall institute letter to congress:

The Royal Society’s letter is truly disturbing and I write to you to inform you about it and the dangers the views expressed in the letter raise. As the Marshall Institute wrote in our reply to the Society, “That such a call comes from such a venerable scientific society is disturbing and should raise concerns worldwide about the intentions of those seeking to silence honest debate and discussion of our most challenging environmental issue– climate change."

Guidance for editors ("The Royal Society Guidance on how to suppress unpalatable truths")

Feb 9, 2012 at 7:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

Would this be the same royal society
Where Sir Paul Nurse is in charge
The same Sir Paul Nurse that had a go at Dellingpole on Horizon
The Sir Paul Nurse that asked Dellingpole does the
" Early treatment of cancer and it failiure equal your opinions on Climate Change"
Funny thing is it was a Horizon documentary about why people suddenly hate science and scientists
Well when scientices come out with c..p like that its not that surprising is it

The same Sir Paul Nurse that supposed to be trying to find a cure for cancer and is yet using the suffering of cancer victims to make a political point
That is talking it up to get a bit more funding in this recession for his scientists mates

So if doctors were using radiation to treat cancer back then and got it wrong
Then they can be wrong about CO2 and Global Warming now
Then in trying to treat it doing more harm than good

Feb 9, 2012 at 7:37 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Time for the pontifex maximus to post the QSDF signs at the RS.

Feb 9, 2012 at 7:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Excellent report Bish. Read it last night. I do not know all the details but doubt you missed anything of significance as usual. Very unfortunate timing for the GWPF though, the press will probably have dropped any planned coverage to go with the FA and Capello story. Redknapp was already going to get all the headlines, and now it will be wall to wall coverage until he quits Spurs. Even Paxman was covering the story last night. Mind you unlikely they would cover a football story 2 nights in a row, so you may yet get the phonecall from Newsnight after all.

Feb 9, 2012 at 7:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

An excellent and enlightening report, Your Grace. Here's my take (I had highlighted so many paragraphs when reading it, that I would practically have reproduced it in full, had I written a "traditional" review!)

Of principles, presidents and pretense … the descent of the Royal Society

Feb 9, 2012 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

I recall attending a Royal Society summer soiree in 1989 or 1990 where there was a poster presentation about global warming. I remember at the time feeling very surprised that the Royal Society was lending its prestige to what appeared to me then (as well as subsequently) to be implausible alarmism.

Feb 9, 2012 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam


Is there a Kindle version of this - personally I don't like PDF on a Kindle. The Conspiracy In Green was very good and I would be happy to pay for a Kindle version.


Feb 9, 2012 at 8:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

I forgot to say how useful this report is going to be. A couple of years ago I was talking about the nonsense of CAGW to a good friend, who like me is more left than right (and very clever, but more artistically inclined than scientific). He had completely fallen for the alarmist bollocks (mainly by being a Guardian reader) so I showed him the GISP and Vostok ice core data which clearly shows the current warm spell is of no significance compared with the MWP, Roman, Minoan and HCO. It only took a couple of minutes for him to see that there was a very big uncertainty that CO2 was an issue. But, he would not back down, and eventually his response was " the Royal Society can't be wrong". I will email him the report.

Feb 9, 2012 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

I trust that when the peasants finally get around to hunting down the authors of the climate change boondoggle the first to be defenestrated will be Sir John Houghton.

I always say: "Beware of Zealots!"

Feb 9, 2012 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Congraluations are due to the author and those who commissioned this report. As lapogus illustrates this should have immediate uses in the service of the truth in the UK - and probably much more widely, given the reputation of the RS - for those for whom the argument from authority, with the RS at the pinnacle, has so far been conclusive.

I learned a great deal from the report and value its meticulousness. Aaron Klug was a name completely unfamiliar to me - at that point in my life (95-00) I'd already decided AGW was unbalanced and politically motivated but it seemed a distant threat and the Royal Society hadn't really gone political, that I had picked up anyway, so the name didn't even make it on the radar. I am therefore very interested in Nicholas Hallam's testimony from around 1989 - not least because it coheres with what was happening in the States in 88, with Al Gore's extreme "science is settled" approach, with Hansen in support, triggering the great Richard Lindzen's fightback. Lindzen has often said the AGW myth came fully formed with a claim of consensus - but the RS held out against this, mainly, until the last decade. It's extremely helpful to have the key moments in the chronology laid out so clearly.

And it's absolutely right that it doesn't include or seek to include deeper analysis, which will necessarily be much more contentious. GWPF is a cross-party operation. Much better to get these key facts on the table and let people make their own minds up, based on their different political outlooks, from there.

The treatment of Paul Nurse and Horizon was particularly helpful for me - and I watched the programme! Again, very wise not to get into Delingpole at all - the shape of Nurse's argument is all important. There is some necessary restraint in such an exercise and the Bish and his editors have chosen well.

Possibly the most important detailed point for me was this:

As the lone statistician on the panel, Speigelhalter had an important role to play, since many of the most heated disputes in climate change revolve around statistics. Unfortunately, Spiegelhalter’s expertise is in the area of biostatistics, an area that tends to involve quite different techniques to those used in the Earth sciences. The lack of an expert in time series analysis could therefore be seen as a weakness in the panel.

I'd completely missed that part of the review triggered by the 43 in 2010. Why don't they make Steve McIntyre an FRS to guide them on this vital point?

Well done Bish, Benny and all.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

The report seems to have missed out one of the worst examples of corruption:
The Oxburgh review claimed that the 11 papers they looked at were
"selected on the advice of the Royal Society".
In fact, the papers were selected by UEA, and Trevor Davies wrote to Rees asking would it be OK to say
"the publications were chosen in consultation with The Royal Society".
Rees wrote back immediately saying that was fine.
See CA post " British Due Diligence – Royal Society Style" for full details.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Matthews

Well written!

Difficult also not to feel a strong pang of sadness at what has happened to the Society, and to sincerely hope that it will eventually be returned to its earlier more dignified role.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I don't think there are plans to do a Kindle version, but I've mentioned it to GWPF.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Paul, Andrew does allude to the Society's questionable role but refers in a footnote to his own report for the GWPF on the three UK inquiries, in which this is dealt with more fully. Again, I thought that was a good call - but intelligent people (or even unintelligent ones) can disagree on such editorial decisions.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

A very good analysis, but probably no FRS for you anytime soon Bish?

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

iurare in verba magistri

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

For those wanting a Kindle version it is simple. Get a copy of Calibre (free) and use that to convert the PDF to the Kindle format - or any other for that matter.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:51 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

Excellent report. I hope you have a big umbrella for when the fan starts turnin aain.

As a student in the 60s, being lectured to by FRSs was considered a privilege. Nowadays, one would treat them with suspicion.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Haven't yet RTWT but this remark struck me:

the fellows and much of the general public know that there is something seriously amiss and that the
leadership do not speak for everyone within the organisation.

One could widen this comment to include pretty well every scientific society that has pontificated on the matter.

It is not clear what special expertise in climate change attribution may exist at the Soil Science Society of America, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, the Australian Coral Reef Society, or the American Academy of Pediatrics, for example. But they're all proudly cited by William Connolley on Wikipedia as evidence of consensus.

Given that we can be sure they didn't poll their members before pontificating, and given that even if they did their members know nothing about the issues at hand, none of these bodies' pronouncements on CAGW carries any special weight. You might as well poll the National Association of Estate Agents or the Guild of Hairdressers or something.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Error in the Bio paragraph for Bish:

The Hockey Illusion SB > The Hickey Stick Illusion

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Ah fat fingers it's late

Error in the Bio paragraph for Bish:

The Hockey Illusion SB > The Hockey Stick Illusion

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Well done Bish.

Get out of that R.S.

Feb 9, 2012 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Whale

How much notice, if any, will the Guardian and the BBC take of the report, I wonder? If those two media organisations ignore it then Labour and the Lib Dems will too, and so will the nice, new, non-toxic Tories.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy


Thank you for that, I will give it go tonight.

Much appreciated.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

The RS clearly needs a new motto. Classics scholars, what's the Latin for "Torture of the Scientific Method"? Competition, anybody?

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Well I've imported it into my Kindle via Pages (yes I'm on Mac), enlarged to 24 font size, then exported back to PDF. That works, but the page layout is all to cock, a problem you get with the cheap copies of novels. Yes, a proper Kindle version would be good, but I can't see that happening.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn in France

Roy - don't hold your breath for the BBC reporting this. I spent a whole year, with dozens of letters, complaining about Nurse's infamous "Horizon" broadcast. All that I required was a correction to the hopelessly incorrect information that was broadcast, or even a clarification. Needless to say, the BBC Trust refused to take any action.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Thanks Anthony

Benny tells me they've fixed the error

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Here's a link to Philip Stott's wonderful piece on the RS and 'Global Warming' as we used to call it back then, published July 2010.

Well worth reading, for those that haven't seen it.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDavid C

@ Jack Cowper

Download the pdf to your pc, then email the pdf to your Kindle - job done!
If you have not yet set up a Kindle email account, it is well worth doing.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Phillip Bratby - I've been waiting for you to popup. I mentioned the spec data you have on the Vesta 3MW turbine's electrical consumption to a Scottish journalist/wildlife writer (who regularly writes pieces against windfarms) and he asked me for more details of the source. He was completely unaware that tubines are a burdon on the grid at low wind speeds. Can you either ask the good Bishop for my email address and let me know yours so I can forward it to the journalist, or do you mind if the Bish forward's your address directly to me? He's a good journalist/writer, he just likes to check sources. Thanks.

All - sorry for the O/T. .

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

As any reader of the HSI would expect, this new report is lucid, easy to read, and sticks like a master mariner might to a steady course in a turbulent sea of self-serving spin and flim-flam and provocation. The storm has been stirred up by the recent leadership of the Royal Society, as well as by many other sources of disturbance to any voyagers in search of insight into our state of knowledge of the climate system.

Along with the HSI, this report will be essential reading for those who will rake over this sorry era.

This morning, I was sent a link to an article in yesterday's Edinburgh Evening News, an article by the Scottish political commentator, Jim Sillars. His article ends:

The green lobby, with its stunts and scares, has been shameless in its perversion of science in pursuit of hijacking government policies.

As Atte Korhola, Professor of Environmental Change, University of Helsinki, said: “When later generations learn about climate science, they will classify the beginning of the 21st century as an embarrassing chapter in the history of science.

“They will wonder about our time and use it as a warning . . . as the actual research topic of climate change turned into a political and social playground.”

We have the misfortune to live in the same playground at the same time as these destructive agitators exploiting speculations about climate. A full reckoning for the harm they have done will not be computable for many years, perhaps a generation or more given their impact in schools as well as in politics, but at least we can be pleased that some features of the modern scene are being carefully documented.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

John in France,

There is a version of Calibre for OS X which I think would be the better way for you to convert PDFs to Kindle format and resize fonts as well. After all Calibre is designed as an electronic book conversion tool.

Feb 9, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered Commenterivan

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