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More from the SciTech inquiry

Last week the Commons Science and Technology COmmittee took further evidence in its inquiry into the public understanding of climate change. The evidence was taken at the Science Museum, so there was no video stream, but the transcript has now appeared.

The witnesses were Nick Pidgeon, Understanding Risk Research Group, Cardiff University, Chris Rapley, Communicating Climate Science Policy Commission, UCL, and Alex Burch, Director of Learning, Science Museum Group.

The transcript is here.

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Reader Comments (21)

John Pethica, further down the transcript, notes that the Royal Society and the NAS are working on a new summary of climate science.

Jul 2, 2013 at 4:32 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

This line from Rapley seems appropriate in view of the previous post:

"By being completely open and transparent, and showing your working, so to speak, through the internet, you can build up trust in a vast hinterland of people who are taking an active interest in the subject."

Jul 2, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Some interesting comments towards the bottom on the planning and preparation for the release of the IPCC report in Septemer.

Jul 2, 2013 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

What about the 28 written items of evidence which did not go along with the nonsensus? Are there going to be any oral submissions from that quarter? The transcript read like arrogant certainty as well the usual 'we are just not communicating it right' meme showing they have no handle on the problem at all.

Jul 2, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

It would be interesting to have had Richard Feynman’s views on these studies, with particular reference to his ideas about pseudosicence: “…British attitudes to climate change.”; “…studying audiences’ reactions to science…”; “…seeks to climateproof London.”


“…seeks to climateproof London”!? Ye gods and little fishes! Does this man’s arrogance know no limits? Climateproof London!? Believe it or not, I do not wish to be too rude, but what is he talking about?

“…the carbon cycle and the way human activities have disrupted it…” Oh, Lord. Give us all strength. Humans are part of the carbon cycle; if I, with few qualifications, and effectively a glorified pump-jockey, till-operator and cleaner, can see this, why can these self-proclaimed genii not see it?

As for the nuclear option: “…some environmentalists who have come out and, whether you agree with nuclear or not, they have said, ‘We believe it is a low-carbon source and therefore we are now more prepared to support it.’” Odd how a mere change of emphasis can cause such a drastic change in attitude – “Nuclear power: bad, bad, bad.” (irrespective of any validity to that claim) to “CO2 bad: nuclear power good, good, good.”

Jul 2, 2013 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

Pseuds - the lot of them. Had the misfortune to hear even more pseuds on the human zoo on radio 4 earlier today examining why climate sceptics think they way they do.

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Rapley’s been reading you. This is how he engages with your argument

I read through the written evidence that you have received, and of the 17 or so pieces of written submitted evidence from individuals who passionately disagree that climate change is real or hazardous-you know the various arguments - although some technical evidence was presented, that "It’s all a natural cycle," or "We’ve seen this before," a common theme through all of those was distrust of the science community. Either the peer review system is corrupt or ineffective, or this is simply a power and finance grab by opportunists, or what-have-you. For those who have formed an opinion that they do not accept the premise, lack of trust in the science community is a key rationalising factor.

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

@Radical Rodent, is that a confession to being in the pay of Big Oil ?

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterHyperthermania

I would hazard a guess that one group of the public that have a knowledgeable understanding of climate change above all other groups it is those that are sceptical.
If the motivation for the conference is to maintain alarm they might do better if they just stayed shtum.

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat


'Distrust of the scientific community'

I do not distrust the scientific community as a whole. My old tutors - for whom my admiration has grown, and many old friends are members there. I generally have a generally favourable approach.

But if somebody declares themself to be a 'climate scientist', they start with the huge reputational burden of Climategate around their neck in my opinion. and if they then call me a 'denier' or try the frequent arrogant tactics of the dismissive 'I Am A Climate Scientist' or accuse me of being a shill or a lunatic (a la Rapley), then I am on the lookout for sharp practice, obfuscation and falsehoods from the getgo.

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Graham Stringer caught Rapley out on his equating skeptics with biased views, and Rapley quickly withdrew his comment.

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterLance Wallace

It is clear from the 'evidence' presented to the Committee that Rapley is just an activist of the worst sort. Totally disingenuous, and not only that but comes across as ignorant of the sceptical position, attempting to pass them off as ill informed and worse.

Given his refusal to release information (see last post) he is clearly also a hypocrite at best, and I can now see why UCL have sunk to the levels they have if they employ people like this. Rapley appears to see no problem attending a Parliamentary Committee arguing for release of all data but overseeing a student thesis which appears may well have contained fraudulent claims.

People like Rapley will never see that most sceptics are sceptical because the science, other than the direct radiative effect of adding CO2 to the atmosphere, contains huge uncertainties. Instead his lazy conclusions lead him to believe it is simply poor communication that requires to be resolved. No wonder UCL has lost its way.

Jul 2, 2013 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

It is a great relief, as well as a tribute to Parliament, that Commons Select Committees have people like Graham Stringer who can tell the difference and don't mind calling out the professionals when necessary.

Jul 2, 2013 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

[Yes, too off topic!]

Jul 2, 2013 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

"Professor Rapley: Trust is absolutely crucial. I looked through the written evidence that you have received, and there was this lady, Caroline Peacock, who is trying to assist a parish council decide about wind farms, and has put a lot of due diligence into trying to understand the complex science of climate change, who is right, who is wrong and who has the right opinion. I thought it was interesting that, in her evidence, she said, "I got to the point when, in the end, I could not really make up my mind from the technical stuff". Why should she? She is not an expert. It is hard enough for the experts. So she said, "I looked at people’s motives, and tried to decide based on that"

He;s at it again. He loves to quote from the work that he has been snooping.

These people are just a bunch of back slappers who have no idea what is happening in the real world.
Not only do they think that they know what I think but that they know how to instutute a dialogue which will bring me on board.
Every time I hear an advocate mention the house insurance analogy I could physically vomit.

Jul 2, 2013 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia


Jul 2, 2013 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Professor Rapley:

One of the arguments that is used to say, "This is not a problem" is that the evidence from the ice cores-and we have one over there-is that in the natural variations of climate, it is temperature that has led carbon dioxide, and now the argument is that carbon dioxide is going to cause a temperature change.

There is an assumption that one thing kicks another, but this is a coupled system. We need to get the idea across of a coupled system, so it does not matter which one goes first; the other will follow. It is a deep concept. That is important.

Is that right?

So if temperature rose in the past then CO2 would have risen a little later - as shown in the ice-cores. Tick.
But then being coupled, the temperature would have risen again... runaway to Venus? Hmm.

Surely, the temperature will drop again and then the CO2 will follow or the temperature and CO2 will decouple.

I can't believe the esteemed Professor made such a mistake but, sadly, I can believe that I have. Yet I want to learn.
Please tell me where I have gone wrong.

Jul 2, 2013 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterM Courtney

This part of the record makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise .................................

Q65 Sarah Newton: Given that you all seem to be very committed to try to better public understanding of climate change and to make the evidence more available, we know in September the IPCC will be producing its report. This is a golden opportunity for the science community to share their evidence and to use the publication of that report to raise public awareness and to tackle some of the issues that you very openly admit to as being problematic. Can you describe what each of your organisations that you represent is doing to make the most of that opportunity in September?

Professor Palmer: John and I are looking at each other because at the Royal Society we are organising a twoday meeting to coincide with the publication of the IPCC report and we have some of the real world experts talking about the latest developments in the IPCC science, very much to nonspecialists. You are extremely welcome to come if you are interested. That will be a major event in London. Publication of the IPCC report is a newsworthy story, so it will attract the David Shukmans, the Roger Harrabins, and so on, of the world to come and do stories, and I am sure we will all be highly engaged in discussing with them. This is what I am saying: it needs an IPCC to trigger this type of reporting. If I just phone up as Fred Bloggs, the reaction will be, "What is the story? What is new? What is news?"

Professor Pethica: May I add to that? There are several other things going on. This meeting is one. One of the things I think we mentioned in our evidence to the Committee is that we are also working with the US National Academy of Sciences on a new summary of the science or what is new in the science; you will be aware of the one we produced two and a half years ago. I think it is very important to emphasise that international aspect. As has been pointed out earlier on in the evidence, of course this is not just a global phenomenon, but the fact is the UK is a relatively small part of where the critical decisions will have to be made. That has a very strong effect on the public’s perception of the significance of this, so it is really important that we engage very closely with the major players-obviously the US and China-in this process, and we are heavily engaged in precisely that, in that context; it goes beyond just the question you raised.

Professor Sutton: Just briefly, obviously, the IPCC event is in September. It will not surprise you to learn that the IPCC is offering media training to anybody who wants it or who feels that they need some more. Perhaps that is partly learning lessons of the past, and that is a good thing. I and others will be in Stockholm and there will undoubtedly be an awful lot of dialogue, I hope, after that meeting. The Natural Environment Research Council is also discussing whether, in addition to the events that we have heard about, there may also be some further communication events.

Professor Womersley: The lead research council for this will be the Natural Environment Research Council. The best way to do this is to use the researchers and the institutes of NERC, but there is also a NERC magazine, which is distributed widely, to raise interest in this and there may be some RCUK communications around high-profile events like this as well.

Jul 2, 2013 at 11:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobert Thomson

I can't find anything which qualifies Rapley to bang on about psychology - anyone know if he has anything other than his personal bias to support the cr*p he spouts?

Although, maybe he's reconsidering:

As a btw - he lists himself as having skills in "carbon" whatever that means? Good with pencils and charcoal??

Jul 2, 2013 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

A video stream of Rapley in past action is here:

His bit starts at about 7mins in with a show of hands vote.

Mentions Donna Laframboise's "Delinquent Teenager" at about 14mins.

GWPF mentioned at 20m30s. Climategate at 24min.

"97%" at 25m20s.

Interestingly frank comment re: BBC bias at 26m30s - 28m.

Lorraine Whitmarsh starts on the psychology of it all at 30m30s.

Might watch more but had as much as I can take for now.

Jul 3, 2013 at 12:37 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Rapley's comment on the ice cores and CO2 temperature relation noted by M. Courtney at 10.26pm strikes me as a careful manoeuvring of his position in order to cover the inconvenient fact that CO2 driving temperature no longer appears to be the case. In the same way, global warming and the end of the world as we all shrivelled up with heat was carefully transmuted into climate change, global weirding, climate disruption and whatever else they can think up to call it.

Jul 3, 2013 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

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