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« Medallion man - Josh 161 | Main | Westminster loses it »

Beddington whips science five-nil

Sir John Beddington, the government's chief scientific adviser, writes in Farmers Weekly.

There is much to prompt comment. For example, you might have hoped that a credible chief scientific adviser would not make statements like

the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record"

without commenting on whether this meant anything in the context of the remainder of the record. Advocacy 1, Science 0.

Then there is a claim that

All the trends point to global warming, an increase in the level of sea level, the arctic ice is melting...

neatly avoiding the issue that policy responses are predicated on AGW and not GW. Advocacy 2, Science 0.

Prof Beddington cited two pieces of recent evidence which he said were "particularly dramatic".

Firstly, evidence collected by the insurance company Munich Re, which looked at disasters between 1980 and 2010, showed that disasters which came from a geological basis, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, have had no trend.

As anyone who reads RP Jr knows, neither does the trend in climate-related disasters. Advocacy 3, Science 0.

However, all the disasters that are determined by climate, such as floods, droughts and storms, have all shown a "dramatic increase" over the last 30 years, said Prof Beddington.

And again, as anyone who reads RP Jr knows, it is well known that this rise is because of growing wealth. Once this factor is controlled for, there is no trend. Advocacy 4, Science 0.

Secondly, a recent graph on the US state of Texas, a major contributor to US agriculture, shows a dramatic change in recent years in the historical relationship between annual rainfall and temperature.

"In 2011, the average temperatures were in the high 80s (F) and the rainfall was the lowest ever, but now it's right off the scale," said Prof Beddington.

Cherrypicking. Oh yes, and they've just had a very wet winter in Texas. Advocacy 5, Science 0.

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    [...]- Bishop Hill blog - Beddington whips science five-nil[...]

Reader Comments (74)

I can't wait to see the letters column in next months FW!

Apr 10, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterFrosty

I understand bold Sir John is a member of Cameron's entourage on his Far East trip; one wonders what other misinformation will be fed to the PM over drinks/dinner.

Apr 10, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Thompson

Bishop if you really want to wind up the Scientices ask to see their Tax Returns

Better still ask to see what they been claiming for on expenses

Apr 10, 2012 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

That completes the dream set for me.
1. My original article featured on Bishop Hill
2. It being picked up by GWPF
3. It outrages Sir JB.

Apr 10, 2012 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie


We share your frustration, The pressure of blogging means that yours seems to be growing to explosive levels.

I remind you of the words of Knut Hamsun

The artist and the polemicist need to be separated if both are to thrive.

You are undoubtedly an artist, as HSI and other reports have demonstrated. That the 'dark side' is not listening is entirely to be expected.

Apr 10, 2012 at 3:18 PM | Registered Commenterrickbradford

Here's my theory for this dreadful display. Beddington is clearly not up to his job description (which I suppose will include somethig like this phrase 'ensure that departmental decisions are informed by the best science and engineering advice'), and that is why he was appointed. I really can't think of any other explanation that doesn't put the man's integrity in doubt.

Apr 10, 2012 at 3:26 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Its not just farmers that can comment on the article, a critique from the Bishop or someone of similar stature would be useful.

Apr 10, 2012 at 3:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterjohn Lyon

Just proves Beddington is a gong-collecting idiot. He can only spout the officially-approved line. If he had anything original or intelligent to say on the subject, he wouldn't have got the job in the first place.

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:12 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

I've not tried it, but I believe he is tweetable. A suitable case for tweetment, perhaps..?

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Ah, yes, insurance companies have an interest in exaggerating extremes.

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

What the heck is this?

"One would expect the Arctic to be more sensitive to climate models, because of the geography in the magnetic poles of the Earth," added Prof Beddington.


Apr 10, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoccox

Unlike our own dear Sir Paul Nurse, who exhorts us to take the word of experts on things we know nothing about James Hansen (I think he peaked with Sesame Street personally) has decided to ignore the published literature and make things up. Well I suppose he would wouldn't he, he's been doing it since 1988.

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Oops don't know where James Hansen came from. Please ignore post.

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

"I can't wait to see the letters column in next months FW!
Apr 10, 2012 at 2:14 PM | Frosty"

You won't have to - the clue is in the title

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterFilbert Cobb

Sir John you cant go much wrong with the worst case scenariro

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

It's so clever to award your chief liars titles like "Sir". It makes everything they say more credible compared with what "Johnny Beddington says". "Sirs" are assumed to be persons of high intellectual prowess and achievement. In practice he is a cunning liar evident in the clever way every statement is groomed, crafted and cherrypicked.

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterLondonCalling

James Hansen pops up in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he will receive the so called "Edinburgh Medal" at the so called Edinburgh International "Science" Festival. - Pass the sick bag please.
He is quoted as saying that climate scientists (like him) are losing the public debate.
This report in The Telegraph
gives details from an interview with him including this comment:
"There is a huge gap between the public's understanding of the situation and the scientific understanding. If the public doesn't understand, it is not going to happen. Political leaders are not independent of public opinion."

H/T - Cameron Rose, Edinburgh City Councillor for Southside/Newington Ward (Conservative)
Lang may yer lum reek!

Apr 10, 2012 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAuld Reekie

Sir John definatley loves worst case scenarios

How he makes his living

Apr 10, 2012 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Doccox, 4:37pm: I expect he was just briefed to use some meaningless words/phrases as the ignorant farmers wouldn't understand them anyway.

Apr 10, 2012 at 5:05 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

In the last reply I received from my MP (concerning our hosts paper on the Royal Society) he acknowledged that the contribution of man-made activities to global temperature changes is controversial. But he went on to say that the government`s view is, "on the scientific advice that has been provided, that man-made activities are a contribution to the climate trends that we are seeing at present". That advice, no doubt, will have been provided by Professor Beddington and his predecessors and Presidents of the Royal Society. It is also clear that Cameron and many of his cabinet offer them a receptive ear.

It seems to me that the propaganda noise level has been raised on several fronts in anticipation of the forthcoming Rio conference. It has been refreshing, in contrast to the doom mongers agenda, to watch the new BBC4 series on the history of metals (sadly no longer available on the iPlayer) and last night on plastics. Well worth watching, if you have not seen it. I am sure you will be cheered by the ingenuity of man.

Apr 10, 2012 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer

Sir John (before his elevation at Imperial) was the chap who wandered around Oxford street with a sandwich board claiming that the world was ending...and could only be saved by intensive vegetarianism.

Apparently, he cut such a fine figure with his flat cap and chalk boards that the vice chancellor of Imperial (Prof. H Higgins, I believe) decided to take him on as part of a small wager with the vice chancellor of UCL. The rest, as they say, is history.

Apr 10, 2012 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

>"In 2011, the average temperatures were in the high 80s (F) and the rainfall was the lowest ever, but now it's right off the scale," said Prof Beddington."<

It's currently off scale alright. I reside in Southeast Texas, not far from the Trinity River, probably the largest water-flow-volume river in Texas. This river runs from north Texas, where it has a history of floods involving Dallas, to the Gulf of Mexico near Houston. It is >500 miles long and is navigable. This river is currently in flood at nearby Liberty where I drove across it just two days ago. The long term mean river-flow-volume at Liberty is 26,000 cu.ft./sec; today it is flowing at 33,600 cu.ft./sec at Liberty per the river flow records.

Apr 10, 2012 at 6:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterdrcrinum

"chief scientific adviser"

more like he's qualified to be chief astrology adviser, or chief scientology adviser.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterFred from Canuckistan

One would expect the Arctic to be more sensitive to climate models, because of the geography in the magnetic poles of the earth,” added Prof Beddington. “The whole point about the climate models is that weather events are going to become more extreme.”


The comments are unanimously negative, and there’s a link at the bottom of the article to a fine sceptic rant by Charlie Flindt. Farmers Weekly is obviously the periodical for the thinking man.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

Worry not! If you check out the comments on the FW article you will see that that sturdy fellow Farmer Giles has the Prof nicely sized up. After all, he and his ilk have been close observers of wind, rain, frost and sunshine for several thousand years, a little longer than some people have had their heads in their computers.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTim

Did he say what price pork sides are this week, I am thinking of going long on pork scratchings.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDisko Troop

Yes. Good to see him taking a well-earned pasting. Being from farming stock myself (albeit a couple of generations back) I can assure you that the appearance of a Perfessor trying to tell us all about climate is worse than trying to teach your grandmother to suck eggs.
What surprises me is that Farmers Weekly would have given him space for such a one-sided rant. I suspect they may have lost a few readers as a result.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

The irony is, his audience actually wants more CO2 for their business, to encourage better plant growth, greater yields, and hence more profit!

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

I think this is a great example of Orwell's 1984 doublethink ("To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them...").

Almost every statement he makes is either clear wrong or misleading.

I suspect he believes most of it all too, and anyway it supports "the cause" for parts that he has any doubts about.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:28 PM | Registered CommenterQ

It is more than merely distressing, more than merely infuriating, more than merely OUTRAGEOUS that 'Sir' John Beddington believes, smugly, that he can make so obviously meaningless, so obviously misleading a statement as 'the first decade of the 21st century was the warmest on record' and expect anyone with even the most basic of brains not to be boiling with fury at his impertinent stupidity.

He must know why this assertion is wholly dishonest, designed only to shock. That, with an apparently straight face, he comes up with it can mean only that he is party to a deliberate attempt to subvert truth.

If he had so much as an ounce of decency – to say nothing of conscience – he would resign at once.

That, predictably, he will do nothing of the sort tell us all we need to know about the corruption of the governing class.

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

The trend in Texas long term precipitation has not changed significantly since records were kept. Some decades show terrible multi-year droughts, others show area wide flooding in every river basin (such as they are) in the state.
It is interesting that governments around the world are relying on similary mediocre misleading counsel regarding science policy. What other sources of advice are as poor that we are simply not paying good attention to?
When one considers the uniform response from most European and US leaders to challeneges like environment, economy, energy and food, and when one notices that in most cases much less than optimal or sustainable, much less rational, policies are being pushed, I am afraid the answer to my question is "many".

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

However did such people manage to scale the heights of government science advisors? It's like a bad dream.

Is it unrealistic to hark back to solid dependable professors, men of integrity who limited their work to that-which-can-be-proven-and-repeated. Was this some kind of golden age?

How did a generation of advocates and slippery speculators gain such prominence?

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrent Hargreaves

"One would expect the Arctic to be more sensitive to climate models, because of the geography in the magnetic poles of the earth," added Prof Beddington.

Is there anyone using any language known to mankind who can explain what that statement is supposed to mean? Please say that they misquoted him.

I see he has already been trashed in the comments. I was dragged up on a farm. Farmers know what is happening around them without needing extra BS from Prof Beddington to fertilise the fields. Farms have a family memory, ours went back to the 17th century. Dad, G-dad and G-G-dad(in his farm diary) would tell us about how it was worse back "then" for every weather event that happened. They were not lying, sometimes exaggerating!

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDisko Troop

"One would expect the Arctic to be more sensitive to climate models, because of the geography in the magnetic poles of the earth,"

On a scale from a mild stroke (at 9) to John Prescott (at 10), this is a 9.5.

(This is an attempt at humour, sorry. I didn't mean to be offensive to stroke victims.)

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Dunford

Lest we forget:-

'Dear Ron

Much appreciated the hard work put into the review, general view is a blinder played. As we discussed at HoL, clearly the drinks are on me!

Best wishes, John'

So, in appreciation of the humbuggery put into Sir John's piece in Farmers Weekly, general view is a blunder played.

No doubt as discussed at HoL, a generous load of slurry intended for aberrant farmers and BH bloggers, is on him!.

Apr 10, 2012 at 8:20 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Saopian: Just proves Beddington is a gong-collecting idiot. He can only spout the officially-approved line

If the IPCC is the "officially approved" line then Beddington isn't even following that. Claiming there has been a dramatic increase in natural disasters must now, in climate parlance, be described as "anti-science".

Apr 10, 2012 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveJR

Disco Troop

I've done the ancestry bit as well. I would be surprised if 90% of all our bloggists did not have an agricultural ancestry. I can boast G-G and 2-3 G-G dad hop and sheep farmers, and G-G maternal brewer, but mostly agricultural labourers and surprisingly all within about a 25 mile radius of where I live now, back to the 1700's. But I'm down to a miserable couple of rows of spuds, some runner beans and a tomato seed in the window sill.

Apr 10, 2012 at 9:00 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Let's face it British cousins - the UK body politic is f****d beyond repair by internal means. When you have all three major parties grimly riding the CAGW bandwagon to inevitable doom, and what's more spending your money overseas to propagandize the scam, there is no hope. Luckily for you trends in the US, Canada, Australia and some parts of Europe (go Poland!) are in the opposite direction and will rescue you. Cameron will be able to excuse himself by saying: "Well the rest of the world wouldn't come along with us, so our priority now is to salvage the economy by restoring cheap energy." For your sakes I hope he makes that pronouncement soon.

Apr 10, 2012 at 9:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris M

Volunteering to try and bullshit working farmers on anything to do with climate strokes me as an obvious suicide mission - the fact that Bedders even attempted it is a symptomatic of massive arrogance combined with a complete lack of common sense.

I notice the comments have petered out now though - I suppose farmers have better things to do than rant at idiots.

Apr 10, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Hopefully not too OT, but re the "dramatic increase" in weather disasters and the Texas drought, I now have a full transcript of BBC's Horizon on "Global Weirding" here:

I've counted 32 occurrences of the words "extreme", "extremes" or "extremely" during this 59-minute programme, thus about once every 2 minutes on average, although there are 10 occurrences in the last 10 minutes or so, as if to ram the point home.

Apr 10, 2012 at 10:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

It would be interesting to put Beddington up against those 50 Rocket Scientists who requested that NASA refrain from making unproven and unsupported remarks

Apr 10, 2012 at 10:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterrednose

Apr 10, 2012 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered Commenter Brent Hargreaves

'How did a generation of advocates and slippery speculators gain such prominence?'

Brent, you may wish to do some research on 'Fabian Socialism'.

In essence, it's Marxist-thought evolution, as opposed to (failed attempts at) revolution. A dripping tap strategy, if you like.

Unfortunately, and partly because they've found an unlikely alliance with the bankers (mmmm, carbon trading!), it's been very effective. However, the tap is poisonous; it's slowly killing us. Our childrens' futures are disappearing before our eyes.

Make no mistake, CAGW is one of several fronts on our our generation's fight for freedom from oppression. To anyone with eyes, it's as plain as day. The plan is to make us 21st Century serfs.

We need to fight this 'Regulatory Class' at every opportunity.

And having read Tocqueville and a few other smart folk, history suggests that we will eventually win. The only variable is time.

Keep the (skeptic) faith...

Apr 10, 2012 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaulH from Barcelona

Who would have ever thought, especially when I was a kid, that The Farmer's Weekly would become a political battlegroung?

Apr 11, 2012 at 12:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert of Ottawa

Didn't the IPCC come out recently with a statement that "extreme" weather events could not be attributed to AGW ? The way the supporters of the Cause are going they'll end up tripping all over each other. Or is it simply the Sir John is not up to speed with the memo from the Al Gore PR company and Real Climate's spin machine ?

Apr 11, 2012 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss

Very good post, Bishop, but depressing, all the same. They just aren't prepared to give up and tell the simple truth. Has there ever been a Chief Scientific Adviser who hasn't been a pathological liar?

Apr 11, 2012 at 1:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

"Oh yes, and they've just had a very wet winter in Texas" Yes indeed. The wildflowers are gorgeous and Barton Creek is flowing. (It is usually dry.) I found this pic of the creek as it runs through south Austin (unbeknownst to many Austinites)

Apr 11, 2012 at 5:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterTrey

I grew up on farms in New Zealand and have no problems communicating with my relatives who farm in North Yorks., apart from us having to become accustomed to our different English dialects to fully understand each other. I have no idea of what Beddington is on about when he babbles about models affecting climates; As professor Strunk put it so nicely so many years ago - 'his prose has flown over the garden wall of reason'.

Apr 11, 2012 at 6:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

If you want to see a good farming battleground, Robert of O, read the furious forum debate that erupted just after I wrote a much earlier 'sceptic' article in Farmers' Weekly, just after Climategate I. (Unfortunately I can't find the original online - I think we at FWeekly were still pretty much unaware of the new fangled Internet thingy back then).
It's here:

Apr 11, 2012 at 7:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Flindt

Beddington is not a scientist; his undergraduate study was economics.

He's a spread-sheet hugger who hasn't a scientific thought in his status-obsessed little mind.

For fun read this:

Apr 11, 2012 at 8:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermydogsgotnonose

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