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BBC impartiality

The BBC's flagship Today programme featured an environmentalist presenter, John Humphrys, interviewing an environmentalist, Tony Juniper and an activist environmental scientist, Mike Hulme.

Nobody to put the sceptic point of view.




Andrew Neil on gates

Andrew Neil is emerging as the voice of scepticism within the BBC. Twenty years or more after the global warming debate began, it's certainly nice to see one's opinions finally recognised as legitimate. He hits hard at the IPCC and has some nice words for the blogosphere too.

The bloggers, too easily dismissed in the past, have set the pace with some real scoops -- and some of the mainstream media is now rushing to catch up.



Idle hands

I was talking to a contact today about how the National Domestic Extremism Team came to be involved in the Climategate investigation. Apparently NDET was set up to deal with the animal extremists, but turned out to be rather to good at their assigned job. Having prosecuted and locked up all the available animal rights people, the team found it had nothing else to do.

My contact had concluded, therefore, that their involvement was simply a case of making work for idle hands.





The other snippet

I mentioned two snippets of information in the last post and no doubt some of you are wondering what the other one is.

The ICO officer volunteered that my complaint might not eventually be upheld because it was possible that UEA was in fact unaware of the existence of the archive of data and emails that eventually formed the Climategate hack/leak. He said that the current understanding in the ICO's office was that the archive was not an official data repository, but was set up by an individual within CRU for their own use.

This is important because, if true, it strengthens the suggestion that the data was not hacked but leaked. If the archive was on a hard drive on someone's PC then it is highly unlikely that a hacker could have found it, and it seems to me still unlikely that it would have been found on a shared drive either.

It's not definitive, but it does fit in well with earlier evidence of an inside job, such as the cleansing of file creation dates.



+++No Climategate FoI prosecutions+++

I've  just come off the phone to the investigations office at the Information Commissioner's office. I had made a request for information to UEA that, while only peripherally related to Climategate, has now turned up some interesting new information.

My original request was from a couple of years ago, asking for any correspondence between the CRU's Mike Hulme and the BBC in relation to a body called the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme (see here for some background on this story). The original response from UEA was that all Prof Hulme's emails prior to 2005 had been lost, an admission that appears rather embarrassing in the light of CRU's suggestion that they had lost some of their original temperature data.

However, when the Climategate emails were released I noticed several email from Mike Hulme predating 2005, which appeared to contradict the earlier assertion that all such emails had been lost. Intrigued, I wrote to the Information Commissioner asking that this be investigated and today I had my response.

First off, I was told that while there appeared to be a problem, I needed to be clear that there would be no prosecutions under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, regardless of the final outcome of the investigation. Although withholding or destroying information is a criminal offence under the terms of the Act, apparently no prosecutions can be brought for offences committed more than six months prior. As anyone who has made a UK FoI request knows, it can take six months to exhaust the internal review process before the ICO even becomes involved. The ICO can then take another six months before starting his investigation.

The upshot is that the FoI Act's section allowing criminal prosecutions is to all intents and purposes a dead letter and the ICO officer actually volunteered this conclusion himself - "the Act is flawed" was the way he put it. The ICO is apparently going to take this up with the Ministry of Justice, which is fine but will be of little help for those who are interested in seeing justice done.

It seems quite clear that civil servants are able to withhold and destroy information without any consequences and it's interesting to ponder how such a dramatic flaw can have found its way into the terms of the Act. Of course we in the UK are used to poorly drafted laws finding their way onto the statute books, but we might also consider the thought that Sir Humphrey might have knowingly inserted this crucial error, in order to ensure that when push came to shove he could keep things quiet without any concerns that he might find himself in hot water.

Conspiracy theory? Perhaps, but you have to admit, it's a possibility.




The IPCC's favourite source

Canadian blogger Donna Laframboise wondered just how many times the IPCC had cited the World Wildlife Fund in its report. The answer is quite a lot!



Stern report doctored

Roger Pielke Jnr has the news.

As I was preparing this post, I accessed the Stern Review Report on the archive site of the UK government to capture an image of Table 5.2. Much to my surprise I learned that since the publication of my paper, Table 5.2 has mysteriously changed!



Pachauri says he's staying

IBN LIVE: Rajendra Pachauri, president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on Saturday said he would not quit over the IPCC blunder of saying that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035.


Who's on the select committee?

Here's an introduction to the members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, gleaned from Wiki pages, TheyWorkForYou and so on. For each member, I've given details of constituency, party, educational/professional background and details of their voting records on climate change issues.

The good news is that there are a reasonable number of people there with genuine scientific backgrounds, including a few PhDs and one full professor.  In terms of credentials I think this is probably a reasonable group of people to assess the questions that have been asked.

Overall they seem to be much more sceptical of global warming than one might have expected. Intriguingly the distribution of sceptics over the different parties is almost the opposite of what might have been expected, with the Conservatives all appearing to be vigorously green, while their Labour counterparts appear to be the ones who vote against climate change legislation. This could be a case of the Tories trying to establish their environmental credentials as mandated by their party leader, David Cameron.

Here's the list.

Phil Willis (Chairman) Harrogate and Knaresborough (LD). Degree in history and music. Former teacher. Has voted moderately for laws to stop climate change.

Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods City of Durham (Lab). Sociologist. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Mr Tim Boswell Daventry (C). Former farmer. Has voted very strongly for laws to stop climate change.

Mr Ian Cawsey Brigg and Goole (Lab). Background in IT. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Mrs Nadine Dorries Mid Bedfordshire (C). Former nurse and businesswoman. Has voted strongly for laws to stop climate change.

Dr Evan Harris Oxford West & Abingdon (LD). Medicine. Voted very strongly for laws to stop climate change

Dr Brian Iddon Bolton South East (Lab). Professor of Chemistry. Voted for and against laws to stop climate change.

Mr Gordon Marsden Blackpool South (Lab). Former editor of History Today magazine. Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Dr Doug Naysmith Bristol North West (Lab). PhD in Immunology. Voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Dr Bob Spink Castle Point (Ind). Electronic engineer. Voted strongly for laws to stop climate change.

Ian Stewart Eccles (Lab). Chemical plant operator. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Graham Stringer Manchester, Blackley (Lab). Analytical chemist. Has voted strongly against laws to stop climate change. Has voted strongly against laws to stop climate change.

Dr Desmond Turner Brighton, Kemptown (Lab). PhD in biochemistry. Has voted moderately against laws to stop climate change.

Mr Rob Wilson Reading East (C). Small businessman. Has a commitment to "scientific evidence-based research into climate change". Has voted strongly for laws to stop climate change.







Pincer attack?

Joe Barton, the man behind the US Senate's 2006 hearings on the Hockey Stick, has been stirring things up in Washington again:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is pressing Energy Secretary Steven Chu for information about department ties to the U.K. climate institute at the center of the controversy over the infamous hacked climate science emails.

Barton, the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote to Chu Friday asking about DoE funding for projects connected to the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

Coming so soon after the announcement of the UK Parliamentary inquiry, one can't help but wonder if the timing is entirely coincidental. Nevertheless, shedding sunlight on what has been going on is certainly no bad thing.

Source: The Hill News.



+++UK parliament to investigate Climategate+++

The Science and Technology Committee of the British parliament has announced that it is to investigate the Climategate affair:

The Science and Technology Committee today announces an inquiry into the unauthorised publication of data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The Committee has agreed to examine and invite written submissions on three questions:

  • What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
  • Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate (see below)?
  • How independent are the other two international data sets?

The Committee intends to hold an oral evidence session in March 2010.


On 1 December 2009 Phil Willis, Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, wrote to Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of UEA following the considerable press coverage of the data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The coverage alleged that data may have been manipulated or deleted in order to produce evidence on global warming. On 3 December the UEA announced an Independent Review into the allegations to be headed by Sir Muir Russell.

The Independent Review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

2. Review CRU's policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

3. Review CRU's compliance or otherwise with the University's policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act ('the FOIA') and the Environmental Information Regulations ('the EIR') for the release of data.

4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds .


The Committee invites written submissions from interested parties on the three questions set out above by noon on Wednesday 10 February:

Each submission should:

a)be no more than 3,000 words in length
b)be in Word format (no later than 2003) with as little use of colour or logos as possible
c)have numbered paragraphs
d)include a declaration of interests.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and marked "Climatic Research Unit". An additional paper copy should be sent to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Please supply a postal address so a copy of the Committee's report can be sent to you upon publication.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at:

Please also note that:

—Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.

—Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.

—Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

—Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

The full press announcement is here.

This is very exciting. This kind of intense scrutiny will be very uncomfortable for the scientists involved and should help to ensure that Muir Russell's independent review of the CRU scandal is not a whitewash.



Weather is climate

At least according to Matt Briggs, statistician and fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Sure is cold out there, unusually so. By “unusual,” I mean the temperature is on the low end of the observed temperatures from previous winters.

Of course, we don’t have any more than about 100 years of reliable measurements, so it’s possible that the freeze we’re experiencing now isn’t as unusual as we suspect. But, anyway, it still sure is cold.

If you recall, a lot of global warming models predicted it would be hot and not cold, and to risk redundancy, it sure is cold. Does this dissonance between the models’ predictions and what is actually happening mean that those models are wrong?

No. But it sure as ice doesn’t mean that they are right.



Hans von Storch says Nature invented quotes

Everybody's favourite environmental journal, Nature, seems to have got itself into hot water. Hans von Storch reports on his Die Klimazwiebel blog that the quotes attributed to him in Quirin Schiermeier's article (see previous posting) did not form part of the interview between the two men.

Quirin Schiermeier quotes me with "You need to be very circumspect about the added value of downscaling to regional impacts," agrees Hans von Storch in this week's issue of nature. And: he cautions, "planners should handle them with kid gloves. Whenever possible, they'd rather wait with spending big money on adaptation projects until there is more certainty about the things to come." I have not spoken with Mr Schiermeier about regional modelling, at least not recently; the term "kid gloves" is unknown to me, not part of my vocabulary. I have asked him for evidence that I have said these sentences to whom.

Nature's reputation was already looking rather damaged, what with the "denialists" editorial and all. This kind of thing is hardly going to help.



Schiermeier on climate uncertainties

Quirin Schiermeier has an article in Nature on the uncertainties in climate science, which will interest many readers. It tends to reiterate lines of argument that are familiar to anyone who has followed the pronouncements of the Hockey Team in recent years. This is hardly surprising when one looks at who he chose to interview - Gavin Schmidt, Jonathan Overpeck, Gabriele Hegerl, Susan Solomon, Hans von Storch, and an economist called Leonard Smith.

Not a sceptic among them and four of them being Hockey Team members.

There are many points of interest. For example, Schiermeier claims that the divergence problem is restricted to "a few northern hemisphere sites", directly contradicting Keith Briffa who has referred to it as "a widespread problem" in the NH. Schiermeier also tries to defend the Nature "trick", although perhaps without quite the certainty that Jones' defenders have had in the past. "It could have been done better", seems to be the current preferred line for those who would try to justify hiding things from politicians.