Last week, the Royal Society announced the list of new appointments to the fellowship for 2013. For climate geeks the only familiar name that of Imperial's Joanna Haigh, who specialises in the solar influence on climate and who, to the best of my knowledge, has not been associated with any kind of activism. I've spotted one other climate scientist, but not one I've come across before.
Unfortunately, the society seems to have got itself into a bit of a pickle over its decision to elevate Prince Andrew to the fellowship too.
As James Wilsdon bluntly puts it this morning:
Plenty of institutions with a royal history that aren't spending the 21st C with their heads lodged quite so firmly up the Windsor arse.
Jonathan Leake, who broke the story in the Sunday Times (paywalled), noted that the election involved a ballot paper that only allowed existing fellows to vote in favour or to abstain. Apparently only 11% of the electorate voted in favour of the prince, with "a huge number" abstaining.
Leake has also got a choice quote from Lord May, who expresses his "dismay" at the vote and says that
This is not the way to run an election. A ballot where you can only say yes is a bad idea and should be changed.
This takes a certain amount of chutzpah from the noble lord, who chose to retain this "bad idea" of an electoral system when he was in charge of the Royal Society.
Such Soviet-style shenanigans were mentioned in my Nullius in Verba report in connection with the election of Lord Rees as president, with Rees's the only name on the ballot paper. The electoral practices of the society have no doubt been central to its corruption by political activists. Would the fellows have chosen Paul Erlich in a fair election?
Of course, the Royal Society chose to ignore the criticisms I made at the time, refusing even to acknowledge the existence of the report. If they had taken those concerns on board, they might not have got involved in this unseemly row.
[Corrected last line 11.50am. BH].
Christopher Booker notes the appearance of Joanna Haigh in his report on the BBC:
Another BBC documentary about which the Climategate emails are very revealing was one called Meltdown: A Global Warming Journey (2006). When this was being shot, its producer Jonathan Renouf emailed Keith Briffa, one of Jones’s senior colleagues at the CRU, clearly expecting to be filming him the following day for what was intended to be a key sequence in the programme. He explained that his presenter Paul Rose, a scientist, was going to pose as someone dubious about the warming theory because he was troubled by talk of the Mediaeval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. What Renouf wanted was a sequence in which Briffa would explain how climate history had been dramatically rewritten by Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ graph, all but eliminating the MWP and showing how in recent years, in a way which could only be due to man-made global warming, temperatures had soared to levels quite unprecedented in the past 1,000 years.Briffa’s job, the producer went on, would be to "prove" to Paul that what we're experiencing now is NOT just another of those natural fluctuations we've seen in the past. The hockey stick curve is a crucial piece of evidence because it shows how abnormal the present period is - the present warming is unprecedented in speed and amplitude, something like that. This is a very big moment in the film when Paul is finally convinced of the reality of man made global warming.
In fact, for whatever reason, Briffa did not appear in the finished programme (which can still be seen on YouTube). Instead his part as the ‘talking head’ climate scientist was played by a young professor from Imperial College, Joanna Haigh. She went through precisely the routine Renouf had outlined to Briffa, enabling Rose to pose initially as something of a sceptic who, after hearing the argument, at last finds the evidence for man-made global warming wholly convincing. This is a formula with which we have become familiar in these pages; but rarely do we get such an insight into how calculatedly the BBC is prepared to stage such a charade, to put over the point the programme makers have wanted to make all along,