While we're talking about cancer, Shub Niggurath has an article about problems with the availability of data and code in another field of scientific endeavour, with close parallels to the case of Phil Jones and the Chinese station data.
I was pondering my post yesterday about all the senior members of the scientific establishment who agree with us in the sceptic blogosphere that the science of global warming suffers from a problem of overhyping of the size of the problem. I think it is fair to say that this is probably a relatively uncontroversial observation these days.
It is interesting to have this new consensus in mind when one thinks about the analogy Sir Paul Nurse used in his encounter with James Delingpole on Horizon last night - that of a visit to a cancer specialist. One wonders if a more accurate analogy would have been a visit to a cancer specialist whose hospital has been found to be regularly guilty of operating when there is no medical need.
Mike Hulme has published some thoughts on the Horizon programme, little of which will be disputed by sceptics. Here's a snippet:
I do not recognise [Nurse's] claim that “climate science is reducing uncertainty all the time”. There remain intractable uncertainties about future predictions of climate change. Whilst Nurse distinguishes between uncertainty arising from incomplete understanding and that arising from irreducible stochastic uncertainty, he gives the impression that all probabilistic knowledge is of the latter kind (e.g. his quote of average rates of success for cancer treatments). In fact with climate change, most of the uncertainty about the future that is expressed in probabilistic terms (e.g. the IPCC) is Bayesian in nature. Bayesian probabilities are of a fundamentally different kind to those quoted in his example. And when defending consensus in climate science – which he clearly does - he should have explained clearly the role of Bayesian (subjective) expert knowledge in forming such consensus.
There is a list of the top weather and climate blogs here. Yours truly features.
Anthony in the comments notes that it's a site trawling for links. I've removed the link accordingly. My moment of glory gone!
The Mail has a devastating extract from the new book by ex-BBC newsreader Peter Sissons, showing just how corrupt the corporation has become, particularly on the subject of climate change.
From the beginning I was unhappy at how one-sided the BBC’s coverage of the issue was, and how much more complicated the climate system was than the over-simplified two-minute reports that were the stock-in-trade of the BBC’s environment correspondents.
These, without exception, accepted the UN’s assurance that ‘the science is settled’ and that human emissions of carbon dioxide threatened the world with catastrophic climate change. Environmental pressure groups could be guaranteed that their press releases, usually beginning with the words ‘scientists say . . . ’ would get on air unchallenged.
Oops. This got published prematurely and minus the links. Oh well, you've seen it now...
The impact of global warming has been exaggerated by some scientists and there is an urgent need for more honest disclosure of the uncertainty of predictions about the rate of climate change, according to the Government’s chief scientific adviser.
Professor Beddington said that climate scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming. He condemned scientists who refused to publish the data underpinning their reports.
Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office...was particularly critical of claims made by scientists and environmental groups two years ago, when observations showed that Arctic sea ice had declined to the lowest extent on record, 39 per cent below the average between 1979 and 2001. This led Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, to say that Arctic ice was “in a downward spiral and may have passed the point of no return”.
Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics Group at the University of Oxford, said: “Some claims that were made about the ice anomaly were misleading."
Every prediction has to trump the last. Melting Antarctic ice is one of the current horror scenarios du jour. Who benefits from this? The assumption is made that fear compels people to act, but we forget that it also produces a rather short-lived reaction. Climate change, on the other hand, requires a long-term response. The impact on the public may be “better” in the short term, thereby also positively affecting reputations and research funding. But to ensure that the entire system continues to function in the long term, each new claim about the future of our climate and of the planet must be just a little more dramatic than the last. It’s difficult to attract the public’s attention to the climate-related extinction of animal species following reports on apocalyptic heat waves. The only kind of news that can trump these kinds of reports would be something on the order of a reversal of the Gulf Stream.
All of this leads to a spiral of exaggeration...
Robert Watson said that all the errors exposed so far in the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) resulted in overstatements of the severity of the problem.
Somewhere there is a similar quote from Bob Ward. If anyone can find it, do let me know.
Links added now.
For the avoidance of doubt these quotes are (with the exception of von Storch) postdate Climategate, but are not more recent than the start of last year.
My GWPF report on the Climategate inquiries has been published in Italian by a Turin-based think tank, the Instituto Bruno Leoni. It can be seen here.
Getting out the message that the inquiries in the UK and USA were whitewashes is very important work, so if any polyglots out there feel like volunteering, do get in touch. (The Spanish translation is already in hand though.)
Wow. Even Louise Gray is emphasising the SciTech committee's criticisms of the inquiries. She also has more from Graham Stringer.
Graham Stringer, a Labour MP on the Committee, said there are questions over how the scientists chose the figures they used to back up the case for global warming.
He said the ‘missing email’ may refer to how researchers tried to further influence how their science is accepted by the scientific community.
He said both reports had failed to answer these questions.
“It does not say this is the end of the scientific case for global warming but it does say that people at the centre of this research did some very bad science,” he said.
“It is not a whitewash, it is the establishment looking after their own. They are not looking hard enough at what went wrong.”
I'll post coverage of the SciTech Committee's report here. Click on the names of the publications for links to the original articles.
The University of East Anglia’s Climategate inquiries were not sufficiently transparent and failed to properly investigate some key issues, the Commons Science and Technology Committee has concluded.
A UK parliamentary report on the so-called ‘Climategate’ email theft has expressed “some reservations” about two independent inquiries into the incident. However, the House of Commons science select committee says it is now time to implement the inquiries’ recommendations and move on.
TWO inquiries into claims that scientists manipulated data about global warming were yesterday condemned by MPs as ineffective and too secretive.
Inquiries into issues raised by 2009's climate e-mail hack did have flaws, a committee of MPs concludes.
But despite questions over remits and omissions, they say it is time to make the changes needed and move on.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) remains deeply concerned about the failure by academic and parliamentary inquires to fully and independently investigate the ‘Climategate’ affair.
A committee of MPs has described two independent inquiries into the ‘climategate scandal’ as ‘unsatisfactory’ because they failed to answer important questions about allegedly missing emails.
Andrew Montford, who produced a report critical of the Russell and Oxburgh enquiries, said MPs had failed to examine the allegations of intellectual corruption – the knobbling of the "peer review" process. He told us:
If peer review is bent against the skeptical scientists, then there's a question mark over the whole IPCC process. The defence made on their behalf is flimsy to the point of vanishing, their word is accepted every time. None of the reports have investigated the basic allegations raised by the emails.
In the formal minutes that appear at the end of the SciTech report, it is possible to read a paragraph that was proposed as an amendment by Graham Stringer. This is important.
There are proposals to increase worldwide taxation by up to a trillion dollars on the basis of climate science predictions. This is an area where strong and opposing views are held. The release of the e-mails from CRU at the University of East Anglia and the accusations that followed demanded independent and objective scrutiny by independent panels. This has not happened. The composition of the two panels hasbeen criticised for having members who were over identified with the views of CRU. Lord Oxburgh as President of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and Chairman of Falck Renewable appeared to have a conflict of interest. Lord Oxburgh himself was aware that this might lead to criticism. Similarly Professor Boulton as an ex colleague of CRU seemed wholly inappropriate to be a member of the Russell panel. No reputable scientist who was critical of CRU’s work was on the panel, and prominent and distinguished critics were not interviewed. The Oxburgh panel did not do as our predecessor committee had been promised, investigate the science, but only looked at the integrity of the researchers. With the exception of Professor Kelly’s notes other notes taken by members of the panel have not been published. This leaves a question mark against whether CRU science is reliable. The Oxburgh panel also did not look at CRU’s controversial work on the IPPC which is what has attracted most [serious] allegations. Russell did not investigate the deletion of e-mails. We are now left after three investigations without a clear understanding of whether or not the CRU science is compromised.
This was voted down by the Tories Stephen Mosley and Stephen Metcalfe and the Labour MP, Gregg McClymont.
The embargo on the new SciTech commitee report is lifted at 1 minute past midnight so, assuming I haven't messed up, this should appear at the earliest possible moment. With a bit of luck, the report should now be available at the inquiry website.
The best that can be said of the report is that it is marginally better than expected. This, I suppose, is the great advantage of low expectations. My impression is of a group of people who know they are raising two fingers to the general public, and feel forced at least to admit that there is something amiss, but the overwhelming need to hold the line on global warming gets the better of them and leaves them looking at best foolish and at worst outright criminal.
First the good bits:
- They recognise that UEA misled them over the nature of the Oxburgh panel's inquiry
- They recognise that there were issues with the Oxburgh panel's independence and that it was not thorough
- They recognsise that allegations of FOI breaches were not investigated.
However, when put in the context of the bad stuff, this rather gives the impression of them tossing a few scraps in our direction:
- Asking for other working papers to be made available. (39) Some are already known to have been destroyed (This was noted in my report para 127).
- They note that the panels looked at MBH98 (not a CRU paper) and try to use this to excuse the failure to look at CRU's own multiproxy papers.
- In response to my pointing out their failure to investigate breaches of peer review confidentiality, they have obtained a statement from Russell saying, essentially, "it could be nothing". End of story.
- They reiterate the absurd fiction that `hide the decline' was not an attempt to mislead, directly contradicting the Russell report.
- I had pointed out several instances of peer review being apparently undermined. They ignored these, returning to the weak examples in the original report and standing by their original finding, that Jones was merely commenting on papers he thought were poor. We still do not know if CRU actually contacted any of the journals they discussed threatening. This is shameful.
- The committee ignored McKitrick's allegation of fabrication in the original report. I pointed this out to them and they have ignored it again in this new report. Shameful again.
It is possible to believe that in the hectic rush to complete their original inquiry before the general election, the committee might have overlooked the McKitrick allegation, the ousting of Saiers, the allegations of `pal review', the cherrypicking and the bodging. Well...maybe.
To miss half a dozen allegations of wrongdoing could be considered a trifle careless. To miss them all twice, on the other hand, seems to represent a wilful disregard for the interests of the general public.
(Well he is a doctor after all) :-)
Ben Goldacre has some interesting comments about the media's treatment of Delingpole today.
delingpole clearly a penis, and he's citing it for wrong reasons, but "peer-to-peer" review is not an insane idea
god, i'm really sorry, i like Nurse, but this is kind of slow, feels like a bit of a duty watch.
[Delingpole] is absolutely a dick. but that was weak, and if it was their killer moment, makes the press activity of today a bit ugly tbh
well, sorry, delingpole didnt do brilliantly on a question, and fumbled, but they say they interviewed him for 3 hours. thats the killer mo?
if that was the killer delingpole moment that the bbc have been crowing about all day then i'm actually quite unimpressed
The Confederation of British Industry appears to have designs on your pension, which it thinks should be spent on green boondoggles. This is from the British bosses organisation's latest press release (H/T Damian Carrington).
"Some bold initiatives would be in order. For example, rebuilding large parts of the nation’s power generating industry will require more investment capital than the market left to itself is likely to supply. So I would favour the development of a green investment bank designed to channel long-term finance from the pensions institutions into energy infrastructure – not easy to do, but perfectly possible with a bit of imagination and courage.
Yes, that's right. Your pension manager doesn't want to invest in the green scam, but with a bit of "imagination and courage", for which I take it we should read "compulsion", all difficulties can be overcome.