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Beddington: "We need error bars!"

Sir John Beddington has commissioned a summary of the science of global warming at the GO Science website. My impression, based on a brief perusal of the contents, is that it's largely a standard-issue "we're all going to fry" kind of thing, but perhaps a more detailed look will prove me wrong. This was interesting though:

The fact that uncertainty exists in climate science, as it does in other fields, does not negate the value of the evidence – and it is important to recognise that uncertainty may go in both (or a number of) directions. But an appreciation of the nature and degree of uncertainty is critical if the science is to properly inform decision-making. Indeed, that is what much scientific endeavour is about, describing both what is known and where our understanding is imperfect, and placing “error bars” on the knowledge we have.

This appears to be an admission that we don't as yet have error bars on "the knowledge we have". An important statement, I would say.


Orlowski interview with Lord Turnbull

Andrew Orlowski interviews Lord Turnbull on the GWPF report.

The former head of the civil service has called for a new approach from scientists and policy makers to restore waning trust in climate scientists. Speaking to The Register, Lord Andrew Turnbull, former cabinet secretary and head of the Home Civil Service between 2002 and 2005, says the University of East Anglia's internal enquiries into the Climategate affair were hasty and superficial, and called for Parliament to sponsor two wide-ranging investigations.


Fred Singer on HSI

Fred Singer reviews The Hockey Stick Illusion in Right Side News:

This is probably the best book about the Hockey Stick...There is little one can add to Montford's comprehensive account.


Josh 40


GWPF report press

I'll post up links to any news coverage of the GWPF report here.

James Delingpole:

Climategate whitewashers squirm like maggots on Bishop Hill's pin

Here's Fred Pearce in the Guardian:

Andrew Montford's report for Lord Lawson's sceptic thinktank raises some valid criticisms but will most likely be ignored for its brazen hypocrisy

Roger Harrabin

[Montford's] report complains that the enquiries commissioned by UEA did not offer sceptics the chance to give oral evidence. He points to many instances where he says the enquiries failed properly to investigate serious allegations against academics at UEA.

Louise Gray in the Telegraph

[A] report for GWPF by Andrew Montford, a well known blogger, said the inquiries failed to ask the opinions of sceptics. He also said they were rushed and failed to ask a series of questions about why requests for information were refused or probe allegations of fraud in scientific papers.

Fiona Harvey in the FT

[I]n the latest salvo, the Global Warming Policy Foundation – a think-tank started by the UK’s former finance minister Lord Lawson – published its critical assessment of four of these inquiries on Tuesday.

“None of the panels mounted an inquiry that was comprehensive,” the GWPF concluded. None “managed to be objective” or “performed their work in a way that is likely to restore confidence in the work” of the UEA scientists who wrote the e-mails.


The press conference

Whew! That was quite a tough couple of days, but I think it went pretty well in the end. The turnout for the press conference was reasonable, although it was a worry at about two minutes to 11 when there were fewer than ten people in the room, and four of those were on the top table. In the end though we had the Times, Guardian, FT, Express and a few others. 

The presentations were fine - perhaps I might have made it a little shorter if I had my time over again - but of course the meat was in the questioning. I was a bit waffly on one of them, but chatted to the journalist in question after the event and made things a bit clearer. James Randerson's questions were interesting - were you paid for the report and how much - that kind of thing. This was pretty feeble stuff after the other journalists' questions. The other question he put, where I made a slight error in my reply, was when he asked why, since I was criticising Oxburgh for being partisan, the public should trust my report, given that I am also a partisan. My reply was that it wasn't enough to point to the partisanship, but to point out the subsequent errors or omissions, and I invited the press to check the citations in the report out for themselves. But I also began my reply with "Yes I am a partisan" or words to that effect. This is frankly, undeniable, but I saw James leap for his pen at that point, so I guess he will try to make something of it. 

The moment of excitement was at the end, where Graham Stringer piped up from the back of the room. I hadn't noticed he was there before then, but his comments did bring a certain focus to events. After the trivia of James R's questions, hearing from a member of the Science and Technology Committee that what was going on at CRU was literature and not science made the question of how much I was paid for the report seem somehow deeply irrelevant. 

So, I'm reasonably content with how thing went. It just remains to be seen what everyone makes of it.


Quickfire Bob

I'm off to the big smoke this morning, but I leave you with another example of Bob's superfast typing. This time it's his comment on the notice I posted, pointing readers to the Guardian article.


Jones in El Pais

This is my adaptation of a part of a machine translation of an interview Phil Jones gave to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Q. How do you think Climategate will be seen in 20 or 30 years? Do you think it will be important or considered a story?

R. I hope people will be back to believing in science, but I think it will take some years. There are two different cases. Many people believe that the planet is warming. It is ridiculous to question the warming, which is clear and no scientist disputes it.  Then there are people who say that even so is not due to human activity.

Q. The debate about the influence of man is relevant?

A. There are scientists who still doubt it, but they are few. And when asked how to explain the warming that has occurred they have much difficulty because it is very difficult to find a rational explanation other than greenhouse gases.

Q. They say that there was a similar warm period in the Middle Ages.

A. We need more evidence on that period, about which information is very limited, and only for the northern hemisphere.

Q. But there were periods as warm as the present.

A. Yes, but we know why there were warm and cold periods in the past. The amount of solar radiation was different and so we will have ice ages in the future.  These processes are still happening and will continue, but they have a completely different timescale to humans.  Here we are talking about climate change in a century that is very fast compared to the past.


For whom the bell Tols

Richard Tol has a strongly worded piece up at Klimazwiebel. His ire is directed at a statement by IPCC bigwig, Ottmar Edenhofer - this one:

I cannot understand, even if I try hard, the assertion that the IPCC would deliberately have omitted things, which would have been inconvenient, which would not have been consistent with the overall story.)

The response is forthright:

This assertion of the co-chair of Working Group III of the IPCC is at best peculiar if not outright false. In the following, I will back this statement in some detail, by demonstrating how specific conclusions from white publications, known to the IPCC lead authors, have been filtered out in support of a (false) claim of consensus in the Summary for Policymakers. At the time of his interview, Dr. Edenhofer was aware of these inconsistencies.



Josh 40


More discussion of me

The Liberal Conspiracy blog has a post up discussing my Newsnight appearance.

The author is somewhat rude about me and refuses to link to this site. Apart from that there's not a lot to say about it. A bit airy-fairy really.


Quote of the day

Judith Curry

[The Hockey Stick Illusion] has almost become a litmus test for seeing who has an open mind, open enough to at least read the book and ponder the actual issues that it raises.


Judy blogs!

Judith Curry has decided to formalise her longstanding campaign to get people on both sides of the global warming debate to fling foul abuse at her. Her new blog is called Climate etc .

Welcome to the blogsphere Judy!


Some points from El Reg

A couple of important points about the Oxburgh hearing have been pointed out to me.

Firstly, towards the end of Orlowski's Register piece, we are told that Professor Acton has agreed to return to talk to the Science and Technology Select Committee again. No date is given, however.

Secondly, in the comments on my earlier thread about his piece, Orlowski notes that Google News has not indexed his article, something which he says is very unusual.

It's all becoming quite interesting.


Can one trust the Guardian?

A couple of readers have noticed the extraordinary speed with which Bob Ward managed to respond to my article.

This is odd enough, but when I tell you that at approximately 5pm, James Randerson sent me an email to say that he had posted my article up, it looks...well... not quite right.

But then if I tell add in this comment from reader, Jono...

The other strange feaure about Bob's reply is [that it is] completely missing the link back to Andrew's rebuttal. It's almost as if he only saw a text version when preparing his reply. all looks...very odd.

Especially if I tell you that the drafts that passed between me and the Guardian had no links in them.

Ho hum.