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« The Energy Swindle | Main | The biomass industry is nervous »
Friday
Jul052013

Answers, non-answers

This is a guest post by Doug Keenan.

The recent Bishop Hill post “Questions, questions” lists eight Parliamentary Questions that were tabled by Lord Donoughue, pursuant to suggestions in the Bishop Hill Discussion “Questions to suggest to Lord Donoughue”.  The eight Questions have now been answered, as shown below.  Lord Donoughue happily thanks those who suggested Questions and he would be grateful for ideas on how to proceed further.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Newby on 22 April (WA 358) which stated that "it is the role of the scientific community to assess and decide between various methods when studying various time series", what mechanisms exist within the Government to ensure (1) appropriate oversight of scientific advice, and (2) that scientists advising them are accountable to (a) Ministers, and (b) Parliament. [HL966]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Every government department has a chief scientific adviser (CSA) who is responsible for ensuring the quality and accuracy of the scientific evidence base provided for policy making and delivery in their department. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) has a cross-government coordinating role in this work.

The GCSA works with the CSAs to ensure departments have effective structures and processes for accessing the relevant science expertise and maintaining the requisite internal capability. The work of the GCSA (along with other scientific issues of Parliamentary interest) is scrutinised by the Commons Science and Technology Committee.

Civil servants have an obligation to provide objective, impartial advice to Ministers, subject to the Civil Service Code1. All CSAs are civil servants for the duration of their appointment and therefore accountable to Ministers, who in turn are accountable to Parliament.

Some departments have a Scientific Advisory Council, comprised of external independent academics, which brings independent external input to supplement CSAs. In many departments, advice on specific issues is also provided by Scientific Advisory Committees. Both types of advisory body are governed by the Code of Practice for Science Advisory Committees (CoPSAC)2. Also, the 'Principles of Scientific Advice to Government'3 define the relationship between independent advisers and Ministers and are included in both CoPSAC and the Ministerial Code.

In developing policy, Government is guided by the scientific evidence. This comprises a wealth of peer-reviewed and published research and reviews thereof. Scientists whose publicly-funded work informs and advises Government are accountable scientifically to their peers and professionally to their institutes and/or professional bodies through their relevant quality assurance processes.

1 http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/about/values

2 http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/goscience/docs/c/11-1382-code-of-practice-scientific-advisory-committees.pdf

3 http://www.bis.gov.uk/go-science/principles-of-scientific-advice-to-government

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Verma on 22 April (WA 358), whether, on the basis of a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model, they consider the recorded increase in global temperatures of 0.8 degrees celsius to be statistically significant. [HL967]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Verma on 21 May (WA 44–5) and the briefing paper by the Chief Scientist of the Met Office, "Statistical Models and the Global Temperature Records", issued on 31 May, which stated that a linear trend model was "less likely to emulate the global temperature time series than the third-order autoregressive integrated model", why the Met Office favours a linear trend model. [HL969]

Baroness Verma: I refer the noble Lord to the briefing paper "Statistical Models and the Global Temperature Records" produced by the Met Office Chief Scientist, which states that the Met Office's assessment of global climate change is not based on assessing the evolution of global surface temperature using statistical models in isolation. As the paper notes, the Met Office does not use a linear trend model to detect changes in global mean temperature change. I would also refer the noble Lord to the Written Answer I gave on 27 March 2013 (Official Report, col. WA 237, 238), concerning statistical models.

With regard to the use of a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model in assessing statistical significance of the 0.8°C rise in global temperature, I refer the noble Lord to the Written Answers I gave on 21 May (Official Report, col. WA 44, 45) and 12 June (Official Report, col. WA 248) and note further that we do not consider this model to be appropriate.

I am concerned at the expense incurred in relation to the series of questions on this issue and so I invite you to meet with the Department's Chief Scientific Adviser, to discuss these scientific matters.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have carried out any risk analysis to assess any actual or potential losses to the United Kingdom attributable to any failures in the accuracy of climate forecasts. [HL968]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): In 2012, the Government published an assessment of the key risks for the UK arising from current and predicted climate change up to the year 2100 (the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment or CCRA). The CCRA makes use of the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) that represent a range of possible future changes in UK climate. The range of possibilities takes into account uncertainties in natural climate variability, how the UK's climate may respond to global warming, the future trajectory of emissions, and how these might magnify any regional climate change effects.

The risks were assessed for a range of plausible climate scenarios — presented as a range from a lower to an upper estimate of magnitude — to take account of uncertainty in future climate scenarios. The CCRA did not consider actual or potential losses to the UK as a result of the accuracy of climate forecasts, but it did take account of uncertainty in climate projections.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Met Office has set a date by which, in the event of no further increase in global temperatures, it would reassess the validity of its general circulation models. [HL1080]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): General circulation models developed by the Met Office are continually reassessed against observations and compared against international climate models through workshops and peer reviewed publications. The validity of general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades, as evident in the peer-reviewed literature. Such models are further developed in light of improvements in scientific understanding of the climate system and technical advances in computing capability.

Short term fluctuations in global temperature do not invalidate general circulation models, or determine timelines for model development. The long term projection remains that the underlying warming trend will continue in response to continuing increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there has been an independent audit of the accuracy of the Met Office's recent forecasts of (1) wetter winters, (2) dryer summers, and (3) higher global temperatures. [HL1081]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The methodology for the projections in the summary statements from the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) and from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) was peer reviewed prior to launch and has since been followed by further publications in leading journals.

Projections are fundamentally different from forecasts. The Met Office has not issued a forecast for wetter winters or drier summers. Long term projections, such as those included in UKCP09 and IPCC AR4, by their definition cannot be audited for accuracy until the period the projections cover has passed. For UKCP09, time periods are in 30 year slices and the earliest such projections are for 2010-2039.

It is possible to compare the existing projections against results from new climate model studies as these emerge, to check whether or not the projections remain consistent with the latest understanding and capabilities available worldwide. The next opportunity to perform such a check will be provided by the forthcoming publication of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and the Met Office Climate Programme contains effort to do this.

The Met Office provides an annual forecast on the expected difference, from the long term average, of the world's global average temperature for the year ahead. This is publicly available on the Met Office website. For example, the global average temperature for 2012 fell well within the range forecast by the Met Office on 4 January 2012, which had a most likely value of 0.48 °C above the long term average. The independent body of the World Meteorological Organisation stated that global average temperature in 2012 was 0.45°C above the long term average.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have co-ordinated a cost-benefit analysis of their policies to introduce wind farms, on- and off-shore, as part of the United Kingdom's national energy generation; whether any such analysis took account of any specified forecast reductions in global temperatures; and, if so, what reductions. [HL1082]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): The Government response to the Renewables Obligation banding review set out our intentions to support onshore and offshore wind under the Renewables Obligation over the period 2013 to 2017. The accompanying impact assessment details the analysis behind these decisions and can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/42847/5945-renewables-obligation-government-response-impact-a.pdf

The modelling for the RO Banding review used the Department's energy and emissions projections. The UK is on track to meet its first three carbon budgets and as such, DECCs energy demand projections are in line with carbon reductions as specified in the first three carbon budgets (to 2022).

DECC's policies are aimed at reducing carbon emissions to contribute towards the UNECCC's goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the comparative carbon footprints resulting from converting Drax power station from coal to biomass, including the estimated total costs, in money and carbon, of mining, logging, processing and transporting, and the relative energy outputs and efficiency. [HL1083]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): DECC has analysed the potential contributions from different renewable, low carbon and fossil fuel technologies to develop scenarios of how the UK could cost-effectively achieve its energy and carbon targets in 2020 and beyond. We have not made estimates for individual power stations. However, as outlined in our Bioenergy Strategy, the use of sustainable biomass as a transitional fuel to reduce carbon emissions from current coal power generation is an important decarbonisation pathway.

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Reader Comments (131)

"The validity of general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades,"

Splutter...

Jul 5, 2013 at 12:37 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

I have a PDF copy of the following document:

"NCAR Manuscript No. 300: NCAR Global General Circulation Model of the Atmosphere

by Akira Kasahara and Warren M. Washington, National Center for Atmospheric Research , Boulder, Colorado.

December 1966

Abstract:

This paper describes a model of the general circulation of the
earth's atmosphere which has been developed and experimented with, since
1964, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder,
Colorado,"

Not necessarily coupled ocean-atmosphere, and only have a couple of layers (small computers) but...

Jul 5, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Registered Commenterthinkingscientist

The way forward? Dellers has the answer, "abrowning or a Minigun!

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrianJay

Quote "The CCRA did not consider actual or potential losses to the UK as a result of the accuracy of climate forecasts, but it did take account of uncertainty in climate projections."

This means that they did not do an adequate job. Surely a risk assessment in a situation that calls for acting upon forecasts has to estimate, amongst much else, the consequences of those decisions when those forecasts are wrong? Part of the analysis should be to address at least these four possibilities:

the forecasts are reliable as a source of practical guidance: we ignore them vs we follow them
the forecasts are not reliable as a source of practical guidance: we ignore them vs we follow them

And by 'ignore them', I mean we act as if we expect future conditions will be within the range of past ones, over say the past 100 years. This is 'business-as-usual' in other words. As and when we can afford it, we make our houses, our agriculture, our communication links, our industry a little bit more robust so that extremes in any meteorological or oceanographic condition will be handled more readily.
To act otherwise than this, means there are climate forecasts with appreciable skill. That should be a focus for analysis, including assessments of the costs/benefits of following forecasts that can go wrong.

My own hunch is that we'd be better off not taking climate forecasts seriously until we have more evidence and analysis that that is a sensible thing to do. And by that I do not mean made-to-order excursions of special pleading such as the Stern Report.

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:10 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

HL968 is the stand out question to me because it has the potential to spill over to treasury forecasts and hence and departments future budgets, also de-risking life in the uk seems to be the overt predeominant driver in uk gov of late.

As can be found on yourclimate.org (yorkshire region gov) various pages waffle about extreme weather and 50th percentile projection risks and have drawn up actions plans to combat these. These were based on UKCP09. There are any number of papers currently debunking recent extreme weather connectedness with CAGW and unprofessional use of statistics.

Ergo we are passed the point of risk assesment of future action alone, money has already been spent on projects to manage extreme events under the caveat of CAGW. If the UKCP09 projections were wildly out, it should be trivial to show mismanagement of public funds, which a formal risk assesment of the facts (not models) SHOULD have shown in advance.

I can't get access to UKCP09 a the moment - defra website is down?

We 'know' already that the CCRA has a bias, proving that bias (e.g. use of certain consultancies, closed access from detractors etc) invalidates risk mitigation strategies as anybody with experience of managing risks in business will testify to.

I would dig futher but I would like to know the end game before commiting any serious time to this. If it is for political points scoring, headline grabbing, junior ministerial resignations, forget it, small beer = no signigficant change. We have to aim for the wholesale embarassment of the big players (fat chance this is too complex a subject) or prosecution against heads of department for malfeasance etc..

Unless there is a serious consequence for the grown ups its status quo. All government departments are enmeshed in CAGW policy the inertia to overturn this now needs to be huge, there are too many appointees troughing at this to go quietly.

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterjimbob

I am concerned at the expense incurred in relation to the series of questions on this issue and so I invite you to meet with the Department's Chief Scientific Adviser, to discuss these scientific matters.

Well that's a very helpful invite.
And it is good that she is so concerned about expense.

But speaking of expense, let us look at the cost of that new off-shore windfarm that was opened yesterday. Would that cost have been incurred if the projections weren't being used to make policy?

Which does make one wonder as to the difference between a projection and a forecast.

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterM Courtney

It is possible to compare the existing projections against results from new climate model studies as these emerge, to check whether or not the projections remain consistent with the latest understanding and capabilities available worldwide.

So climate models can only be compared to newer climate models to check if they are consistent. It doesn't matter what the climate is doing, it only matters that the climate models agree on what they think it should be doing.

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

About those GCMs...

http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/myles-allen-admits-nobody-forecast-temperature-standstill/

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:20 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

'Scientists whose publicly-funded work informs and advises Government are accountable scientifically to their peers and professionally to their institutes and/or professional bodies through their relevant quality assurance processes.'

Really? 'Quality assurance processes'?

I needed a good laugh. Here's all you need to know about Climatology QA. From Dr Phil himself:

'They've never asked'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/mar/01/phil-jones-commons-emails-inquiry

The 'quality standard' seems to be no more than checking it isn't written in green ink and that it is suitably alarmist to guarantee continued gravy train funding for all. Then it enters the 'peer-review literature' effectively safe from scrutiny or challenge until Doomsday.

But take heart - the advent of crowd scrutiny as well as peer-review is slowly changing things. The most egregious crap (eg Gergis et al) is being detected and discarded by the wider world. But there is still a huge amount of ordure from the good old days of the last 15 years of easy grant money, lazy 3rd rate 'scientists' and supine fellow-travellers around.

Too many academic rent-seekers and too few Steve McIntyres :-(

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

So, the answer to HL1082 (cost-benefit analysis for wind power), which runs for about 120 words, is - "No."

Assuming, that is, that we take cost-benefit analysis at its normally accepted meaning, i.e. as used in economics and finance.

Jul 5, 2013 at 1:42 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

One question was to set a date at which the standstill in global temperatures would be a major problem for models. The answer should have been a date.

Answer was there none.

Jul 5, 2013 at 2:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterPfrack

The answer to the question relating to Drax needs to be pursued vigorously.
The government is claiming (and always has), in effect, that biomass counts towards CO2 reduction because they say it does. If the breakdown of comparable CO2 emissions coal vs biomass exists then please can we see it? If it doesn't exist then converting Drax is a highly irresponsible move since there is no evidence extant that there is any net reduction on CO2 emissions associated with that conversion.
If it can be proved that overall the effect will be to increase CO2 emissions, as has been suggested, then either someone is deliberately misleading parliament or the government is lying.
Either way ...

Jul 5, 2013 at 2:24 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Slightly off topic, but this is an interesting paper on the disaster that is UK energy "policy"


http://liberum.eu.bdvision.ipreo.com/NSightWeb_v2.00/Handlers/Document.ashx?i=e7f798d1a60646efb76a03a030054be9

Jul 5, 2013 at 3:05 PM | Registered Commenterjeremyp99

jeremyp99
All I'm getting on that link is a blank page.

Jul 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Apologies from Canada for not knowing exactly who Lord Donoughue is but I love this line of questioning.

And the non-answers are simply dumbfounding. I understand there are a group of people who like the current policy and don't care what the evidence is and there's another group that don't agree with the policies and this is just more indication why. I.e., those two groups would not change their current position based on the above.

However, there has to be a group that actually wants policy to make sense and be built upon strong evidence and think that's what is currently occurring. Those are the people that need to read this.

Jul 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeC

The Green apocalypse will become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- the first climate refugees will be British pensioners begging their offspring in the US or Australia to take them in to stop them dying from fuel poverty.

Jul 5, 2013 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

MJ, the link works fine for me - but note it is on two lines, so maybe you're only selecting the first line.

Jul 5, 2013 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered Commentersteveta_uk

"So, the answer to HL1082 (cost-benefit analysis for wind power), which runs for about 120 words, is - "No." Assuming, that is, that we take cost-benefit analysis at its normally accepted meaning, i.e. as used in economics and finance." --johanna

As used in government, cost-benefit is the sum of the costs (yours) divided by the total benefit (to them and their friends). Any project with a positive cost:benefit is thus acceptable.

Jul 5, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Given the concern about costs could the guardians of truth be asked to provide us with the statistically significant evidence that man-made carbon dioxide is having an impact on the climate? After all without statistically significant evidence all expenses incurred are a waste of tax payers' money.

Jul 5, 2013 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnt

I don't know who came up with the questions but whilst they may have good scientific knowledge they have zero interrogation skills. all questions apart from the first and last could have been answered with yes or no, in other words they were useless.
Surely people are aware of the difference between open and closed questions? Closed questions can be answered with yes, no and waffle. Open questions push the subject into thinking and defending a position. All the questions should have been open questions.

Jul 5, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Registered CommenterDung

The validity of general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades

The question that remains unanswered is, how did they go about establishing the validity of general circulation modelling four decades ago?

Jul 5, 2013 at 5:32 PM | Registered Commentermatthu

The energy policy involving decarbonisation targets is set by Brussels.

The government a) don't like admitting this and b) can't/won't defy the EU.

QED.

Jul 5, 2013 at 6:06 PM | Registered Commenterwoodentop

I invite you to meet with the Department's Chief Scientific Adviser, to discuss these scientific matters.

There was a meeting on July 3rd. I was supposed to attend, but did not, due to mixed-up communications. The Chief Scientific Adviser, David MacKay, did not attend either. In his stead was the Department’s Head of Climate Science, David Warrilow. Warrilow seems to have negligible understanding of climatic-data analysis (bizarrely). As a result of all this, the meeting discussed little about science. Perhaps there will be another meeting in the future.

I have been unable to find out much about Warrilow, except that he leads the UK delegation to the IPCC. If anyone can supply some background on him, that would be welcome and helpful.

Jul 5, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Douglas, Is this David Warrilow you are looking for?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0_KF0uo19g

David Warrilow, Head of Climate Science and International Evidence at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, comments on the Climate and Security workshop organised in Paris on 3 May 2012

Jul 5, 2013 at 7:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

More background on Warrilow:-

http://www.zoominfo.com/p/David-Warrilow/16961074

Jul 5, 2013 at 8:19 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

This seems to be his seminal early work - Lean & Warrilow 1989

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v342/n6248/abs/342411a0.html

Jul 5, 2013 at 8:36 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Messenger, thanks—I also now found http://vimeo.com/17956345, which shows him speaking as well, but does not tell about his background.

Foxgoose, that looks really interesting—and it does give some of his background. The following extract lists his educational qualifications.

Education

degrees Fahrenheit

This is the person who has responsibility for ensuring that the scientific basis of UK climate policies, which cost hundreds of billions, is sound.

Jul 5, 2013 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Doug

He seems to have been at the Met Office Research Centre in Bracknell, when he published this paper with Tony Slingo (Julia's late husband I believe):-

Modelling of land surface processes and their influence on european climate (1986)

http://tinyurl.com/khhyp9n

Jul 5, 2013 at 9:04 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

The Aarhus Convention requires in Article 5 that public authorities possess and update environmental information which is relevant to their function and that it is transparent and effectively accessible. Transparency is further defined as:

“The requirement for transparency in the way that public authorities make information available means that the public can clearly follow the path of environmental information, understanding its origin, the criteria that govern its collection, holding and dissemination, and how it can be obtained”.

In Community law (Directive 2003/4/EC and Regulation 1367/2006), transparency is defined as an obligation to ensure that environmental information is 'accurate, up to date and comparable'.

The Irish forthcoming Climate Change legislation is 'justified' by a reference to the EU Commission webpage on Climate Action, where it is stated: “Science tells us that all developed countries would need to reduce emissions by 80 - 95% in order to have a fair chance of keeping global warming below 2°C”.

The Irish Department of the Environment refused point blank to reply to an access to information on the environment request in relation to how they had ensure that this was 'accurate, up to date and comparable'. This went to appeal a year ago to the Commissioner for Environmental Information, but she just 'sits' on such appeals. So the same request was sent in to DG Clima in the EU Commission, who replied with the below; Ref. Ares(2013)710598 - 17/04/2013:

I would like to reassure you that the European Commission bases its climate policies on the best available current science and on the scientific consensus of experts in the field of climate change. The scientific consensus view is presented in this subject area by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), which involves thousands of climate change scientists from around the globe.

On the basis of the science collected and summarised by the IPCC, EU policies strive to limit the global temperature increases to less than 20C within this century. Current research suggests that potential damages to human and natural systems beyond that threshold could be both dangerous and rreversible. This broad objective was endorsed in Copenhagen and Cancun by world leaders of countries representing more than 80% of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.

On this basis, in February 2011 the European Council endorsed the 20C objective and reconfirmed the EU's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050 compared to 1990, in the context of necessary reductions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by developed countries as a group.


All I can say is, it is going to be interesting when the lawyers start getting into this stuff in earnest.

Jul 5, 2013 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPat Swords

He was also on Phil Jone's email circulation list at the time of Climategate

http://consume.free.fr/climategate/en/1168022320.html

Jul 5, 2013 at 9:16 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Wow! - "Head of Climate Science and International Evidence" - should be the go-to guy then!

Guest post perhaps?

Jul 5, 2013 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

"The way forward? Dellers has the answer, "abrowning or a Minigun!"

RARDEN 30x170 , precision over speed every time......

Jul 5, 2013 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Ozanne

"The validity of [weather] general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades,"

Oh but it has, it's just that there is still very serious problems.

"The validity of [climate] general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades,"

Not the same thing. Do any at all actually work?

This leads to some novel stuff.

If climate GCM works then why have we paid for grossly overlarge computing facilities since weather involves a vastly smaller time granularity?

Jul 6, 2013 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterTim Channon

osseo, Alexander K

With reference to your comments on the Ducking, Diving, Dodging, Weaving thread:

I have been watching the interaction between Lord Donoughue, Doug Keenan and the Bishop Hill website with great interest. I found it particularly interesting that the latest Gish Gallop of parliamentary questions were put together with considerable input from BH.
While much of the activity involved goes on out of public view, enough of the iceberg is showing for me to postulate what I am coming to think of as the Bishop Hill Conspiracy, a concerted attempt to attack the Met Office.

Politicians behave in what they perceive as their best political interest. What I am wondering is what Lord Donoughue perceives he is getting out of it? This campaign's purpose will be obvious to his political colleagues, even if it might slip past the casual observer.

Jul 6, 2013 at 12:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic Man

Uh, uh, accountability again. Brilliant.

Jul 6, 2013 at 12:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

""The validity of general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades."

See
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2013/06/still-epic-fail-73-climate-models-vs-measurements-running-5-year-means/

Jul 6, 2013 at 2:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterNoblesse Oblige

I don't know who came up with the questions but whilst they may have good scientific knowledge they have zero interrogation skills. all questions apart from the first and last could have been answered with yes or no, in other words they were useless.
Surely people are aware of the difference between open and closed questions? Closed questions can be answered with yes, no and waffle. Open questions push the subject into thinking and defending a position. All the questions should have been open questions.
Jul 5, 2013 at 5:12 PM | Registered CommenterDung
------------------------------------------
Dung, take it from someone who drafted answers to PQs for a living for many years - you have got it exactly backwards.

Open questions are a doddle - you just regurgitate the party line, at length and in detail. No need to engage at all.

Closed questions are hard, because you don't want the Minister to lie to Parliament. For example, it is clear from the answer to the wind energy cost/benefit question that the answer is "no", even though they took a lot of words to say it. That's what you want - the Minister admitting that no cost/benefit analysis (in the accepted sense of the term) was ever done for this policy.

Jul 6, 2013 at 4:48 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

EM - "The Bishop Hill Conspiracy".
Get it right. The Bishop Hill Conspiracy funded by big oil, nuclear, coal and gas.
If you're going to get all hot and bothered about conspiracies, you may as well go the full monty.

Jul 6, 2013 at 6:32 AM | Registered CommenterGrantB

@entropic

You are welcome to join us to see the underbelly of your imaginary 'iceberg' at the Kings Arms, Oxford on Monday 8th from 18:30. As is everybody else of whatever persuasion on climate matters.

Sadly the hiheedyins of the Big Oil, Gas, Nuclear and Coal Denier conspiracy have yet again not seen fit to bless us with cash, so - as ever - it's strictly PAYG.

But despite the pecuniary disappointment, the entertainment will be superb:

Rhoda has promised to show us her new frock, Jonathan will discuss Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (or not) at near light speed, various mysterious 'lurkers' with curiously similar names will reveal themselves from behind pillars. Ruth will chat about her aquatic pursuits (not to be missed), and I will drone on trying to make bad jokes. Various brainy peeps beginning with letter B (Ben, Barry etc) will update us on their latest exploits.

Beer will be drunk and fish and chips will be consumed.......

See you there!

PS : The meting has been publicly advertised since 12 June on this blog - so no excuses about short notice will be accepted.

http://kingsarmsoxford.co.uk/

http://bishophill.squarespace.com/discussion/post/2140622

Jul 6, 2013 at 7:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Jul 6, 2013 at 12:45 AM | Entropic Man

Please don’t tar all politicians with the same brush. There are some good men who do not tow the party line, but think for themselves. Having a concern with truth, and hostility to propaganda, based on long political battles with Marxists, is Lord Donoughue's background. Bringing that experience to bear to deal with the green faith claptrappers is similar. Having a concern that the costs are ruining our fragile economy and that it is the poor who suffer most, with them paying the green taxes to reward the big landowners hosting the inefficient windmills, is the driver.

Jul 6, 2013 at 8:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterDrJohnGalan

"Civil servants have an obligation to provide objective, impartial advice to Ministers, subject to the Civil Service Code1."

What make-believe. All part of government, they all of them prioritise the general good of government.

Jul 6, 2013 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterKatisha

"I am concerned at the expense incurred in relation to the series of questions on this issue "

I see I am not the only one to pick up on this.
Terrible to waste any time and money checking facts where there is a multi-trillion pound bear pit to leap into...

Jul 6, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith L

Keith L - actually, it is a flag for those who think that Lord D. should engage in detailed questions about arcane aspects of physics and statistics. That is not the purpose of parliamentary questions - they are not a debating forum. Nor are they a forum for unlimited delving into public records, no matter what the expense, just to score (or not score) a minor debating point.

It is quite reasonable for a Minister to direct a Member who wants specific data to an official who can provide it, without spending a fortune, and clogging Hansard with potentially dozens of pages of stuff that is at best peripheral to policy.

This might sound harsh, but the fact is that there have to be constraints on PQs - there is only a limited amount of time to deal with them in Parliament, and answering them can take a lot of people away from their other work. There are other ways, such as FOI, Committee proceedings, letters from MPs to Ministers, and briefings such as has been offered, to deal with highly detailed questions.

Anyone who has dealt with a Minister's correspondence will know that it is simply impossible to answer every question everyone asks in complete detail without doubling the size of the public service. It is quite legitimate for people to request information such as that held about themselves or things directly relating to them, even if it means a lot of work. But, when it comes to anyone and everyone demanding a complete trawl of the records on their particular issue at whim, as both a former bureaucrat and a taxpayer, I cannot agree.

Oh, and well done to Lord D. For once, all that rhetoric about social media and crowdsourcing has produced something very constructive. Some of these questions have produced direct hits, others have provided the groundwork for very telling follow-up questions. Questions which start with "I refer to the Minister's answer to XXX" always help to concentrate the minds of those answering them.

Jul 6, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

"The validity of general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades, as evident in the peer-reviewed literature"

Question: "To ask HMG for references to the evidence in the peer-reviewed literature that establishes the validity of general circulation modelling for over four decades."

Jul 6, 2013 at 10:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Roger, that won't work. In drafting an answer to this question, I would have no difficulty in citing peer reviewed references.

PQs are not a vehicle for scientific debate. The general public has never heard of general circulatory models, never will, and frankly, why should they care?

It is much better to try to pin them down on things like whether particulate emissions from biofuel plants meet standards, whether bird and bat kills from windmills meet standards applied to other industries (and if not, why), whether they have assessed the CO2 impacts of windmills on a whole-of-life basis, and so on. These things have been asserted for years, but getting Ministers to admit them is very important.

Jul 6, 2013 at 11:23 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Johanna, I take your point, but my point is that I am 99.9% certain that GCMs have never been validated. I have searched for years for proof of validation without success. If HMG have proof of validation I, and many others, would like to see it. Indeed, it would stop a lot of arguments and justify billions of pounds of climate change policies.

Could Lord D. at least ask the question, which should be simple and inexpensive to answer, given HMG's assurance that the evidence exists?

Jul 6, 2013 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Roger, as the Minister would say, I have nothing to add to what I have said previously.

Jul 6, 2013 at 1:08 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

johanna

I hesitate to argue with someone having your experience but I would like to make some points about open/closed questions and politicians ^.^
Closed questions are never answered properly, mostly because someone like you has coached the politician on how to handle them. They know what the difficult questions are and they are ready.
I have watched Paxman and Humphreys push MPs for an answer to a direct question and fail totally.
The aim should be to take the politician into an area he/she is not expecting and is not sure of and by asking an open question to get them to think on their feet with no get out.

Jul 6, 2013 at 2:26 PM | Registered CommenterDung

To ask HMG what proportion of the costs of nuclear electricity are engineering and what are political and regulatory, in particular whether they dispute the engineering assessment that at least 3/4 of costs are not inherently engineering ones?

To ask HMG if they have any basis to dispute that nuclear power is not only cheaper, less intrusive, more reliable and cuts CO2 production far more than wind turbines but also has a safety record several orders of magnitude better?.

To ask HMG if they dispute Professor Peter Cameron, professor of international energy law and policy at the University of Dundee, statements

"Energy is at the heart of modern life"

and

"In modern times the main driver of economic growth has been, and continues to be, energy".

and if not whether there are any circumstances under which they will reverse the present policy of making electricity much more expensive and less reliable & thereby deliberately deepening recession and increasing fuel poverty.

Jul 6, 2013 at 2:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Johanna, with all due respect I completely disagree with you. If the Minister has said that evidence of GCM validation exists in the literature then there is no excuse for not supplying references to it. There can be no evidence of GCM validation as GCMs have never forecast reality! Retrospective forecasts/predictions/projections can never be used for the validation of a foreward calculating numerical simulation.

I therefore ask Doug to ask Lord D. to submit the question: "To ask HMG for references to the evidence in the peer-reviewed literature that have established the validity of general circulation modelling for over four decades."

Jul 6, 2013 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

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