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« David Kennedy on climate sensitivity | Main | And they're off »

Bishop in the commons

Well that went OK, I thought. The questions were fair and touched on many of the issues that are of concern to those of us in the sceptic community.Those readers who have been suggesting sceptic talking points that I could work in to my answers may be pleased therefore, although I had decided that I would concentrate on trying to answer their questions as best I could.

It would have been helpful to have had Sarah Newton's question, which revealed something of the committee's objectives, at the start of the hearing rather than at the end. It seems that the government is looking to find a way to persuade everyone that the science of global warming is solid so that we accept the IPCC report without question. I can't see that happening. If you want to convince someone a report is solid, you really need it to actually be solid in the first place. There's a long way to go before that happens.

I think I'm right in saying that this is the first time a sceptic has been heard in the SciTech committee since GWPF were invited to the Climategate hearings. I hope they learned something from it. Judging from the look on some of their faces when I was talking about sea ice, what I said was certainly new to them.

[Updated - I'd misidentified Sarah Newton as Sarah Wollaston]

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Reader Comments (120)

After Davey on Sunday, and now your report on this, I truly think most of them are clueless about more recent developments in climate science. They are still reacting to the scare stories of the late 2000s, and do not know that science is starting to retreat from the scare. They've been told not to look or listen.

Jul 17, 2013 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Very well done. Let me reproduce my comment from the previous post:

I managed to watch almost all the two panel events this morning, and I was generally impressed by them.

The first panel. Better questions, more signs of sharpness in the Committee, reasonable replies. This all seemed satisfactory to the passing observer. But they did not dig deeply enough for my tastes. What could they have done? I think they might have sought a common definition of that they are referring to under the label ‘climate change’. I think the next is to expose the flaky 97% statistics and how well that has been explained by the tv channels. Next, some of the counter-examples that show the weakness of the case for alarm might have been raised. Instead, we never got past the notion that the broadcasters were trying to explain science and that dissent against ‘climate change’ is largely from poorly-informed people or people with hidden agendas. The second panel, almost entirely thanks to Andrew’s contributions, made some progress away from that luvvy-level simplicity. What it is missing, and it is a point which Andrew made more than once, is that there is a very respectable position in climate science that is not at all alarming about human impacts. Or, as I would prefer, the case for alarm over those impacts has failed to convince some very well-informed people in science. As a moderately well-informed, imho, outside observer of that science, I have not been convinced either for what it is worth. Not worth much by itself of course, but I think there are many well-informed people with that view.

I was far more impressed by the committee this time than in earlier viewings, although the Chair spoiled their otherwise good levels of gravitas with his cheep jibe about the Neil/Davey interview near the end of the first panel. I thought there were lots of very good questions from them. I guess the Committee is charged with drawing conclusions, but the only one I think they can reasonably take is that they are at the beginning, not the end, of their investigation. This should have happened two decades ago, and it might just have helped save the BBC from their descent into blatant bias on climate as revealed by their docility in the face of lobbying such as described in ‘The Propaganda Bureau’. And if, two decades ago, such deliberations if pursued with vigour had led to a calmer and more considered view of climate variation in the media, we might well have been spared the embarrassment and harm of the Climate Change Act. I hope the Committee will find ways to pursue their current deliberations, as they might yet reduce the probability of even more harm in the future.

Andrew was excellent. The Committee must surely have been impressed by the high calibre of his contributions. I certainly was. His fellow-panelists were reasonable and civil, although both clearly not quite ready to enter the ranks of the enlightened!

Jul 17, 2013 at 2:40 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The earlier part with the three TV people starts with a huge whopper from the BBC man, when the chairman asks: “scientists have learned the hard way that lack of transparency has a tendency to cause bad press. Has that been a problem for broadcasters as well?” and the Beeb man says: “I don’t think that’s been a problem from the perspective of the BBC, no... The issue of transparency is one which I know is taken enormously seriously... responsability to audience via BBC Trust...” etc. Or to translate: “No. We hired five barristers to hide our decision-making process wrt climate change. We were caught out by a blogger, but no-one in the media or government took a blind bit of notice, so no, it’s not a problem”.

Jul 17, 2013 at 2:41 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Well done Andrew. I only saw the last 40 minutes or so and missed the TV people. I thought that Graham Stringer’s question on consensus was made for you, but no, James Painter, wringing his hands, answered that one.
That the science is still in its infancy - was confirmed by the Rt Hon Ed Davey, no less, in his latest interview with Andrew Neil - and so the idea that there is a scientific consensus on climate is, to say the least, premature. But that is what representatives of DECC claim.
Ronald Bailey, Scientific Correspondent, Reason, 2010:
‘..the credibility of scientific research is not ultimately determined by how many researchers agree with it or how often it is cited by like-minded colleagues, but whether or not it conforms to reality.’
Bob Carter, The Australian, 27 June 2012:
‘Scientific knowledge is always in a state of flux; there is simply no such thing as “settled science” ..'

Jul 17, 2013 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterQuercus

Well done and thanks Bish

Jul 17, 2013 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Having just listened to the Davey-Neil interview, I was struck by the way Davey kept referring to "climate change scientists" rather than "climate scientists".

It may have been pure ignorance, but it had a vaguely Freudian feel to it.

Then again, politicians only learn enough about any subject in order to be able to add it to their bafflegab collection, so maybe not an issue.

Jul 17, 2013 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

The BBC position was nicely encapsulated last night in the 'infinite monkey cage' which attempted to define Science and pondered things like economics, which were generally considered unreliable because of the complexity. The obvious (to me, at least) parallel with climatology was never mentioned, although it may be somewhere in the uncut version. It would be fun to know...

Evan Davies did well, I thought - someone should send him a copy of HSI.

Jul 17, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

The video of the meeting can be found here:

Jul 17, 2013 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

I suspect the use of climate "science" scientist was very deliberate and marks an acceptance that other parts of science are starting to question the assertions. By narrowing the expertise quoted to just "climate science" scientists, they can still claim a consensus.

Jul 17, 2013 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

This catches me in transit with an elderly relative so unable to listen until later in the day. But having read the reactions so far I don't feel I need delay before saying massive congratulations Bish. You are a representative for us and for so many and it sounds like you have been so with insight and aplomb.

Jul 17, 2013 at 3:55 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Well done sir.

Jul 17, 2013 at 4:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterIbrahim

I listened to but didn’t watch the session. Congratulations to Andrew and to the others for maintaining a civilised atmosphere of intelligent disagreement. It’ll be Montford and Painter who get invited into the TV studios to discuss IPCC AR5, not Monbiot and Delingpole, and so much the better. (Although apparently the BBC bod didn’t hang around to watch the afternoon session, which provoked a caustic comment - from the chair I believe).
Andrew’s insistence that this blog is about scientific disagreement about the science by scientifically qualified commenters sat uncomfortably beside Paynter’s comment about people’s attitudes being coloured by their politics. Any reasonable viewer would come away with the impression that an interesting debate had been opened up here. Bravo Andrew.

Jul 17, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Well done Bish

Jul 17, 2013 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeilC

I dunno abaht the scientifically qualified bit, geoff, but what I do know is that if the non-scientists on here are anything like me they have taken the trouble to examine their own ignorance and their own prejudices before mouthing off.
Which I must say is a more than can be said for a fair number of the trolls or some of the knee-jerk reactionaries that can be found here and on some of the dedicated warmist sites around the place.
If Andrew has done no more than plant in the MPs' minds the idea that there might be a few people out here who have bothered to do a little research and have reached a reasoned conclusion on the science then that is a big step forward.
Though the sceptical sceptic in me suggests that holding my breath might be a bit premature.

Jul 17, 2013 at 4:45 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

I wonder why Ros (relatively new recruit) was sent to represent the Carbon Brief, not the editor of the Carbon Brief - Christian Hunt.. (ie bit like Andrew sending me, or another guest poster.

Perhaps, bcos possibly the last time Christian was at the House of Commons, was he was being arrested (ex Greenpeace) getting down off the roof of the building? (a climate protest)

Jul 17, 2013 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Well done and remember that the Marxists are taught to specify 'Climate Change Science', not 'Climate Science'. The purpose is to impart the idea that Climate is changing according to the IPCC dogma when in reality, it's starting to cool for different physical reasons......

Jul 17, 2013 at 4:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Well I was unimpressed. The bishop is a stunning writer. But I thought his contribution to this oral debate showed he needs time to carefully construct and polish his thoughts.
I don't think I understood a word the woman said. I was just swamped by em um er you know um er.
I'm afraid she switched my comprehension faculty off. And does the Bishop accept the 97 % of scientists guff? He mentioned it without derision a number of times.
As for James Painter's inability to see that if 100 scientists or 1 million scientists reach a consensus on a topic it matters less than a gnat's **** if the topic is wrong in the first place.
No wonder we are in a mess if that was a glimpse at the quality of advice and briefing these policy makers get.Sorry to sound so contrarian.

Jul 17, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Well done, Bish. I liked the bit about peer review. Almost hot of the press that one.

I disagree with Painter that environmental journalists should seek the mainstream consensus. If they are meant to be a scientific correspondent then they should also apply some common sense and scientific thinking (as in has this finding been experimentally verified or is it just a model? What did it show?) before just sided with the "consensus". Painter in effect has just agreed with the "Aether wind" hypothesis.

Jul 17, 2013 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterMicky H Corbett

Mike Jackson
You’re right. I should have said scientifically knowledgeable” or “informed” rather than “qualified”.
I wonder what Carbon Brief will have to say about Andrew being given equal time with their spokeswoman? Talk about false balance. Perhaps James Painter should do a survey about it.

Jul 17, 2013 at 5:27 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

umm ar err ar umm umm umm er ar global err ar um umm warming

Jul 17, 2013 at 6:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Well done, your Grace !!

You were the very voice of reason.

Jul 17, 2013 at 6:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDiogenes

Your Grace

Overall I think you were very impressive and made some very good points. I can not remember exactly where you made your first tv appearance but I do know that this was a huge improvement. You were relaxed and confident and came across as someone who knew their subject. I now give you high marks as a communicator.
We disagree on the science since you are indeed a luke warmer not a skeptic but it was still good ^.^

Jul 17, 2013 at 6:45 PM | Registered CommenterDung


The 97% comment was made in relation to agreement that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is taking place. That's something frankly I am surprised does not have 100% agreement, however it has no implication as far as the standstill in land surface temperature over the last 16+ years and is also nothing to do with Cook's silly paper which referred to 97%.

Jul 17, 2013 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B


I think you‘re being a little unfair on the Bish. This wasn’t a debate. It was a question and answer session and slow, thoughtful answers to, more often than not, equally slow, thoughtful questions, was the order of the day. In front of a panel of the great and good and with TV cameras to boot, I thought Andrew had it just about right. Ros Donald was quite obviously nervous (and lets face it, who wouldn’t be?) but she persevered and managed to get her points across reasonably well I thought, though she will undoubtedly feel she could have done better. Painter, on the other hand, came across as a little too confident, if that’s possible. I felt his delivery, though undoubtedly good, came off a little too pat and much of what he said may have gotten missed. Though, no doubt, the message he seemed determined to ram home regarding the BBC,s impartiality (ho, ho) probably hit it‘s target. Both seemed quite reasonable people for warmists though ;)

As for things such as the 97% meme or the science itself, this was definitely not the time or place for any attempt at the wholesale destruction of either. It would have been seen as soap-boxing and they would have switched off on what he had to say about anything at all. As it was, I thought Andrew managed to put across that the 97% was only valid on the very basics quite nicely. That, coupled with other little points he managed to sneak in made the whole thing a worthwhile effort I think.

However, I thought the first session with the TV people was nothing short of scandalous. None of them seemed to have the first clue about the subject matter. Almost everything the BBC bloke said was false. I don’t think it was deliberate, at least I hope not, he just really didn’t have any idea what the proper answers were and appeared to say the first thing that came into his head. The other two were just totally out of their depth. All three seemed much more worried about “editorial freedom” than accurate reporting. Poor. 1 out of 10.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:01 PM | Registered CommenterLaurie Childs

I wonder what Carbon Brief will have to say about Andrew being given equal time with their spokeswoman?
The phrase 'conniption fit' comes to mind.
Also words like 'toys' and 'pram'. Am I on the right lines, do you think?

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:03 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

(Microsoft Siverlight? Not even Microsoft wants me to install Silverlight anymore...)

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:08 PM | Unregistered Commenteranonym

I didn't get beyond the BBC guy saying that the BBC wanted to safeguard their editorial independence.

For an organisation that behaves as the broadcast arm of the Guardian, WWF, Greenpeace, made me laugh. I suppose they do wish to avoid being objective, impartial and propaganda free and therefore wanted to preserve that position.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Simple going Green causes poverty.

Get the Newspapers onside and we are away.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

I have often thought that when confronted with the 97% number the apposite remark is "You are aware, sir, that that number comes from a paper authored by a cartoonist."

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJay Currie

I enjoyed that. Well done Bish. I would recommend Andrew Neil to seek your guidance before his next meeting with Davey so he can get his facts in a row.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterson of mulder

Andrew, I think you did okay, you were bound to be the "Outsider", given the rest of the bunch.

I take this from the the debate: I suspect you were the only one who was not paid! Therefore your voice was truly honest, and I applaud you. (You may of course be entitled to expenses!)

But I accept the view of Matt at 5:10, you are like me, better at stating your case in a considered piece of prose. The oral method requires a different approach, politics and the creatures who have attained high office over the decades are proof of this hypothesis!

Too much was allowed to slip through as a given; consensus is meaningless in science, CO2 and its rogue character was never questioned, even the average global temperature is a fiction, or at best a guess, this was not meaningful discussion, it was a travesty and testament of the sound bite era we live in. You were allowed to dissent, by the gathered crew of vultures, they never started from a neutral position. You reasonableness, albeit to your credit, merely reinforced the statist position.

I didn't get the impression that any of the so called 'SciTech' committee were remotely capable of true scientific analysis, sad isn't it!

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterbrianh

"I hope they learned something from it. Judging from the look on some of their faces when I was talking about sea ice, what I said was certainly new to them." Just shows you that that the members do not bother to look at the various graphs so readily available on the Internet but just takes for granted what they are fed by the MET and DECC.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Peter

Mr Montford, you were excellent. I couldn't watch all of it because the great communicator Ros Donald said "um" so often it became actively irritating. I wonder how much um Ros um Donald um, y'know um gets er um paid. £6.79 per hour is too much.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Crawford

I've now listened to the segment with Andrew Montford, James Painter and Ros Donald from Carbon Brief.

I thought Andrew you were very good indeed. But I also thought your task was very difficult, for reasons I can't fully pin down. Let me contrast and compare. Richard Lindzen had a difficult job on Friday (broadcast time) saying concise yet sensible things on being confronted with mostly banal patter from Mehdi Hasan. Andrew Neil had a very difficult job - and a very different one - interviewing Ed Davey on Sunday and getting anything sensible out of him or at least out of the interchange. And today you had a totally different challenge in answering questions from the MPs on the SciTech committee honestly and helpfully without being too obnoxious either to your questioners or to your fellow panellists.

I agree that, assuming Sarah Wollaston accurately expressed the objectives of the committee in inviting you, it was particularly unhelpful that this was not spelled out at the start of the session. Having said that, for me you scored highly at two levels. You came across as thoughtful, intelligent, honest, able to take a joke and able to tell it straight - I particularly appreciated the "none of the above" on what you considered an authoritative source, we must verify everything. But you were also master of the detail in a number of the areas touched upon. Not just sea ice but, through your books, the hockey stick, Climategate and its so-called inquiries. There's reality and there's perception but in those areas you came across as knowledgeable and you genuinely are. Few manage both.

All the same, there was something unsatisfactory about the session. Here's where I think the main problem lay. Painter's taxonomy of scepticism was helpful:

1. trend sceptics
2. attribution sceptics
3. impact sceptics.

I would have jumped on that both to agree with it and to add a fourth category: policy sceptics. And, without coming over all Robin Guenier, it was the absence of that last distinction, and the analysis of media coverage that befits it, that was I think the big missing factor in today's proceedings.

Sarah Wollaston brought this to the fore - but was really alone on the committee in doing so - by mentioning the increase in people's electricity bills as context for the new IPCC report in September. People can be sceptical about the need for this increase even if they're not impact sceptics. Because of China etc. Take it away Robin ...

Earlier Ros Donald made the same point from a different direction in mentioning opponents of wind farms and how unhelpful it was lumping those in under the monolithic category of sceptics. In an ideal world I would have leapt on that point too, agreed with it and tried to explore where it should lead. (For one thing the 97% becomes irrelevant at that point. Is it as much as 27% in favour of wind power?)

One other observation of a more positive kind. A year ago the debate about climate sensitivity would not have had any air time at all in a session of the SciTech committee. Today it was front and centre, both for the MPs and for all three panellists. Nic Lewis got a surprise mention from Ros Donald and I'd like to end with the same. Thank you Nic. And thank you very much Andrew.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:46 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Laurie Childs

Almost everything the BBC bloke said was false. I don’t think it was deliberate, at least I hope not, he just really didn’t have any idea what the proper answers were and appeared to say the first thing that came into his head.
There was a remark at the beginning from I think the chairman saying how surprised they were that certain people didn’t turn up.The suit from the BBC answered something to the effect that the BBC was getting a lot of calls to give evidence to parliamentary committees, that, like fan letters, they couldn’t answer them all individually; that Lord Patten, Steve Jones and the entire news, environment, science and light entertainment teams were extremely busy, which is why I, a suit with no knowledge of the subject, have been chosen to undergo this routine torture.

Jul 17, 2013 at 7:52 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Richard Drake makes a good point about how different (and unpredictable) various media events can be. This is why Andrew was right to answer questions simply and directly and not try to score points at every opportunity.
The vital thing in my opinion was that Montford was treated as an equal by other interviewees and by members of the committee. This certainly didn’t happen to Peiser and Lawson, who were treated disgracefully by a LibDem member of the committee a couple of years ago. This is a huge change - as important in its way as any downward revision of empirically determined estimates of climate sensitivity. OK, I know that in an ideal world, the hard work of a Nic Lewis would count for more than the benevolent smile of the chairman of a parliamentary committee; but our world is a bit different. In our world, this committee hearing was a small victory. Let’s celebrate it.

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:11 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

What happens is that scientists keep quiet because of the venomous atmosphere of intimidation coming from big business sponsored corporate media (lead by the Guardian)and the government controlled media, namely the BBC.

The Guardian originally employed the titled minor aristocracy and the billionaire class to promote their corporate Green agenda, namely Viscount Porrtt, Lord Melchitt, Oliver Tickell, , Zak Goldsmith, David de Rothschild, James Lovelock, Edward Goldsmith and Paul Kingsnorth (Goldsmith family employee).

They were mocked off the stage due to their privileged positions and replaced with one minor public, school, tabloid level 'journalist' called George Monbiot. Ironically also descended from (French) aristocracy. A new tactic is to use idiots like Dana Nuticelli and John Cook who aren't qualified scientists and pretend they are.

We are supposed to believe that the opposition is Lord Monckton, Lord Lawson, Lord Ridley and their good chum, Andrew Montford. The only credible sceptics I know of are the Pielke family who don't belong to right wing think tanks and are seriously smart people.

My opinion only. Mrs Smiff has James Hansen's autograph on the wall.

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

In regard to the government looking to find a way to persuade everyone that the science of global warming is solid so that we accept the IPCC report without question.-

Why should we, when the government's only in depth audit and review of the evidence of the IPCC's work, the Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs, 2nd Report of Session 2005-06 The Economics of Climate Change, July 2005 was highly critical not only of the integrity of the scientific evaluation process itself, but also of the economic justification for the proposed governments policies. ie

The IPCC process
171. We can see no justification for an IPCC procedure which strikes us as
opening the way for climate science and economics to be determined, at least
in part, by political requirements rather than by the evidence. Sound science
cannot emerge from an unsound process (para 111).
172. The IPCC Summary for policy makers says that economic studies
underestimate damage, whereas the chapter says the direction of the bias is
not known (para 114).
173. We are concerned that there may be political interference in the nomination
of scientists to the IPCC. Nominees’ credentials should rest solely with their
scientific qualifications for the tasks involved (para 116).
174. The IPCC process could be improved by rethinking the role that
government-nominated representatives play in the procedures, and by
ensuring that the appointment of authors is above reproach. etc., etc.

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:22 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Geoff: I agree on the wisdom of not trying to score points on everything - indeed Andrew got the density of point-scoring, for me, just about spot on. Something I was intending to articulate myself.

More importantly, I also agree about how much of a breakthrough it was for any climate sceptic (and I use that term to encompass lukewarmerism, as I almost always do, and as Andrew clearly did today) to be treated as an equal in this context and at this juncture for our democracy.

It's hard to know who to most pat on the back for this change in common consciousness. So why don't we all just pat each other on the back :)

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:27 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Have you heard the one about the PR man, the featherbrain and the Bish?

Well done Sir.

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

My post was a response to what Mr Montford said about there being no sceptical scientists in the UK He came across well and is obviously an intelligent and sensible chap. Totally tainted unfortunately, by his connection to the GWPF.

My view is that the science is basically irrelevant because no one believes it enough to protest or organise to support it . It is not a serious political issue. We are being railroaded by a pack of lies, partly using the EU.

If there was a problem, Lomborg has the solution.

The only British person I would wish to represent my view would be former Guardian journalist James Heartfield who has written a book on the subject.

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:58 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

Andrew: How would you now respond to the question about the upcoming IPCC report? My own thought after having had time to ponder it would be something along the lines of allowing a period of crowd sourcing of assessments of the accuracy, authenticity, consistency and coherence of the report before launching into any policy initiatives. In other words, let's check to ensure that this is first a more reliable report than TAR4.

Overall I thought you did a commendable job. Alas the lady from Carbon Brief was largely incoherent beyond her support for CAGW.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie

May I mount a limited defence of the lady from Carbon Brief?

Didn't think so :)

But I thought Ros Donald was rather charming. Bob Ward at his most obnoxious she certainly ain't. Better than Mehdi Hasan, check. Better than Ed Davey, check.

I took Donald's incoherence to be a consequence of having begun to think honestly about her position and that of the organisation she represents. So a good sign. A few more months of that and she could be a useful ally. But that's just the way I read it.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:11 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Overall, a step in the right direction, and kudos to the Bishop for his efforts. What disturbed me on the Bishop's panel, however, and I thought Andrew did just fine, given the circumstances, was the emphasis by his two co-panelists on PERCEPTION. The Painter bloke was riveted on this (it's his job it seems). What of any value comes out of surveys that say that in news articles 20% of writers claim the earth is flat; 30% aren't sure one way or the other; 50% believe earth is round? Who cares?

Ms. Donald was better, but her meme was "context." Up to a point, she certainly has a valid position. But what about truth? I was dying to hear someone say that the term "consensus," when applied to matters scientific, is absurd.

When we say F = ma, or V = IR, we never say (or hear), the "scientific consensus says V = IR." We say V = IR. We don't "need no stinkin consensus."

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeorge O'Har

You are surely courting banishment from our sacred precincts by quoting Madame Smiff’s taste in autographs.
Your class analysis of Guardian contributors is fascinating (though it’s Nucci, not Nuti). But isn’t it interesting how the eleven regular environment correspondents (or ten - editor Rusbridger isn’t quite sure) like Monbiot, Carrington, Hickman &co have more or less retired from the climate scene to take care of badgers etc, leaving the trench warfare to Cook’s favorite son Nuccitelli and John (“I, and other well-known polar bears”) Abraham.
i didn’t know Paul Kingsnorth was a serf of the Goldsmith family. I thought he lived in a tree on the site of the fifth London airport somewhere. I recently had a polite conversation with him at carboncommentary. I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since Monbiot described his utopian vision of the green post-apocalypse as being the impossible vision of a world peopled by “men in torn jeans and women in fur-skinned bikinis”, to which the inimitable green activist theSnufkin replied: “George has obviously never been in Streatham on a Saturday night”.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:20 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I thought Schrodinger’s Cat’s description of the BBC as “… an organisation that behaves as the broadcast arm of the Guardian, WWF, Greenpeace, etc…” was spot on, as was Geoff Chambers point “The vital thing in my opinion was that Montford was treated as an equal by other interviewees and by members of the committee.”

As Andrew points out in his introduction, it’s a pity that the Committee didn’t cut to the chase at the start, rather than at the end of the oral evidence session. Here’s my transcript of her statement, and question (from ~11.48 onwards) Sarah Woolaston:
“The reason we set up this enquiry is the part we’re not really talking about. Because any government is making huge policy decisions, based on the assumptions of man-made climate change, and deeply committed to our reducing our carbon footprint, which is costing every consumer a lot of money so it’s very important (A) that we have the evidence, and (B) that we have the trust of the public, that we have the right evidence to make such huge policy changes
Given all of the things that you’ve said we come to a very important moment in September, when we’re going to get the IPCC report. Given everything we’ve heard today, and in our evidence, how should we be advising ministers, and critically the media (it’s a shame that the BBC has left and hasn’t heard this) really tackling the communications in the run up to that report. And how there’s going to be a proper discussion about the science, when the report comes out, rather than this pretty sterile debate about believers and non-believers”
She’s rather rambly, but then the whole Committee process was poorly structured, and few asked perspicacious questions. At least she highlighted the “…sterile debate about believers and non-believers” (a sure sign that this ‘debate’ has never been about science). And she was the only Committee member who mentioned, the huge costs of “decarbonising” the UK economy, not to say huge risks.

Andrew, who was completely outnumbered by “believers” (see list below), and did well. He came across as measured, and authoritative.
I thought that his statement that, in the UK, “If you are outside the alarmist mainstream you are going to get hammered” was horribly true. It probably explains why the media-folk witnesses were so relaxed. They know that they’ve got the scientists ‘in the bag’.

It would be nice if some, just some, UK climate scientists would break ranks, and explain just how flaky and poorly warranted are the alarmist projections. It could be fun, and liberating too. I’m sure BH would welcome scientific whistle-blowers with open arms.
David Jordan – member of BBC management board Responsible for the development and implementation of the BBC's editorial policy and standards. Produces the BBC's editorial guidelines Salary: £167,000

Ralph Lee (Channel 4) “a leading talent in specialist factual programming”

Fiona Ball Spent last eight years on Sky’s sustainability strategy. Sky became “carbon neutral” in 2006 (whatever that means).

Ros Donald holds an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy from the London School of Oriental and African Studies, specialising in global energy and climate policy. Her employer, Carbon Brief portrays itself as neutral and independent.

James Painter Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Currently interested in the impact of global warming on the poor in developing countries. Convincing, polished, relaxed media operator. Questions Committee member in one instance, and reframes his question. ‘I know lots of climate scientists. They work very hard. The ‘science’ is a done deal’. Didn’t say ’I’m an alarmist believer’, but he is, as probably were all the other witnesses, apart from Anthony.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Piney

Well, I think that was outstanding by the Bish. Many of the ideas and perceptions commonly accepted here come across as revolutionary to the BBC believing, Guardian reading, Royal Society respecting, peer review trusting multitude and it's vital not to come across as some conspiracy theorist nutter. I think Andrew did that superbly.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:29 PM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle


Thanks for the courtesy, she prefers Lady Smiff but Madame is fine. Kingsnorth was the leading commoner in the production of The Ecologist under Edward Goldsmith (assistant editor). He has a organisation called Dark Mountain whose purpose is to re-embrace the Neolithic.

The entire clan of minor aristocrats and billionaires including Monbiot are what is known in polite circles as 'deep ecologists' as is you friend Snufkin, who is a practising pagan and an accredited tunnel digger and crop destroyer for Greenpeace (charged by police).

Nuccitelli has an Msc in physics. Cook has some form of degree, but I wouldn't put a lot of value on it. They aren't scientists.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

My incoherent ramblings go something like this

Formal hearings are not conducive to getting at the truth in an efficient or expeditious manner. There is the unwritten protocol that you show respect to the other players even if you think they are complete morons.

Painter was big on uncertainty but as I recall the ‘U’ word was a no-no until Judith Curry gave it respectability only within the last 3 or 4 years. There was certainly no uncertainty when the Climate Change Act was passed.

Bish as you acknowledged the sceptic house is a big mansion and it is impossible to speak for all who dwell within so all you can do is to speak your own mind and I think you did this extremely well.

I got the impression that most of the committee don’t get out much. One of them seemed to think ‘climate change’ encompassed natural variability. He would not get a job with the BBC.

The lady at the end who raised the point about the cost of all the nonsense must have at least read a Booker column or two. But no willingness, it seems, to do any sort of serious cost benefit analysis.

I felt sorry for Ros who was obviously rather nervous and not a natural speaker. I doubt that I would have done much better.

To me the whole thing is based on a false premise, but if the Bish, or anyone else, went in there and told these bozos straight that they were the victims of the biggest con in the history of man, I doubt that it would have made any impression. A good con is one that the mark wants to believe.

Will all this make the world a better place? I know not.

I still think we will need a public enquiry in due course.

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterOneTrophyWin

Thanks Mark Piney for the long transcription, which reveals that it was Sarah Woolaston, and not the chairman, as I said, who criticised the BBC bloke for not staying to hear the evidence of the afternoon session.
Though I sometimes pass for the resident extreme lefty here, I thought the whole session reflected well on our parliamentary system. The Sarah Woolastons who make pertinent points will see their careers advance, while those like the Scottish lady who waffled just before her will disappear without trace.
All this will happen without 99.9% of electors noticing, but tough luck on them, I say. Since the Alan Sugar programme and that dance thingy which apparently fascinates you British, the country is apparently beginning to understand how this democracy stuff works. It’s slow and unfair, but everybody gets a chance. Montford seized his chance by the horns and came off well. Let’s all congratulate him and bathe a little in the reflected glory.
(Still waiting for a reaction at Carbon Brief).

Jul 17, 2013 at 9:53 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

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