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Thursday
Jan272011

UKIP on the rise

The UK's only sceptic political party of any note is apparently shooting up the political charts, and is now polling at levels it has never reached in the past. According to Ed West, the party is even beating the LibDems in some age brackets.

With the Tories on the Science and Technology Committee voting for whitewash rather than the truth, I would expect plenty more people to abandon the Tories for Farage's anti-establishment party.

Thursday
Jan272011

SciTech committee to investigate peer review

This could be interesting:

The Committee has today launched an inquiry into peer review. The committee invites evidence on the operation and effectiveness of the peer review process used to examine and validate scientific results and papers prior to publication.

The Committee welcomes submissions on all aspect of the process and among the issues it is likely to examine are the following:

  1. the strengths and weaknesses of peer review as a quality control mechanism for scientists, publishers and the public;
  2. measures to strengthen peer review;
  3. the value and use of peer reviewed science on advancing and testing scientific knowledge;
  4. the value and use of peer reviewed science in informing public debate;
  5. the extent to which peer review varies between scientific disciplines and between countries across the world;
  6. the processes by which reviewers with the requisite skills and knowledge are identified,  in particular as the volume of multi-disciplinary research increases;
  7. the impact of IT and greater use of online resources on the peer review process; and
  8. possible alternatives to peer review.

The Committee welcomes submissions from scientists whose material has been peer reviewed, those who commission peer reviews and those who carry out peer review.

The Committee invites all written submissions on any of these issues by Thursday 10 March 2011.

Thursday
Jan272011

Josh 71

More cartoons by Josh here.

Thursday
Jan272011

The Haldane principle and global warming

A scientist called Adam Leadbetter has written a thoughtful piece on the Paul Nurse programme. He is writing from a mainstream standpoint and therefore gets some of the Climategate facts wrong, but his conclusions about data openness are worth a look.

In passing he makes reference to the political control of scientific funding:

 

Science journalism needs to be more responsible

The Daily Express, The Daily Mail and The Guardian were shown by Paul Nurse to have reported the outcomes of the investigation into Climategate in completely different ways. Yes, newspapers have different editorial lines and I will choose to read one newspaper based on how it fits with my political standpoint and you may choose to read another. Fine. It is also true that scientific funding bodies may choose which projects are deserving of their money based on a political agenda set at a national governmental level. Despite that, however, the results of a scientific programme should be apolitical and as such deserve to be disseminated, at what ever level of detail, in an apolitical, factual way and not spun out of all recognition to the tone a newspaper editor finds most appealing.

The idea that politicians direct scientific funding is, I think, at least mainly incorrect. There is a long-standing convention - the Haldance principle - that scientific funding is directed by scientists, or perhaps more accurately by scientific administrators. So while we might be concerned about scientific funding being directed to support the ambitions of politicians, I'm not sure that things are any better with the science bureaucracy running the show. The bureaucrats, like the politicians have little or no incentive to direct funding towards projects that will further the interests of the public. Their economic incentive is simply to get more funding.

We can see the results of these perverse incentives in the pages of New Scientist every week.

 

Wednesday
Jan262011

Josh 70

Wednesday
Jan262011

A Russell bug

John Graham-Cumming emails to point me to his latest blog post, in which he outlines a small bug in the code used by the Muir Russell panel in their (kinda, sorta) replication of the CRU temperature series. This was spotted by someone called David Jones, who I think is something to do with Nick Barnes' Clear Climate Code project. The problem appears to be that the Russell version of the code doesn't weight cells by area.

The impact doesn't seem to be enormous.

The warming trend shape doesn't change, but the temperature anomaly does alter. In recent years the unweighed average is greater than the weighted. For example, grabbing 1998 to 2008 at random the differences ranges between 0.02C and 0.07C with an average of 0.06C. So the upshot of the ICCER bug is that it makes things seem slightly warming.

The story of McIntyre's correspondence with the university is remarkable for its similarity to the emails between Palmer and Eschenbach, with the university simply pointing the Canadian to the same pair of data repositories. Knowing what had happened to Eschenbach, McIntyre responded by filing a complaint with \nature\, the journal in which Jones had published the paper back in 1990, and shorly afterwards Jones relented and released the list. [data?]
Wednesday
Jan262011

Shub on cancer and climate

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.

Wednesday
Jan262011

Science hype and overprescribing

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.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Hulme on Nurse

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.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Top weather blogs

There is a list of the top weather and climate blogs here. Yours truly features.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Comments

The comments are getting completely out of hand. Once again, please do not call people names. Stay on topic. I'm simply snipping whole comments now, because I do not have time to edit our people's poor behaviour.

Tuesday
Jan252011

Sissons on BBC climate change coverage

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.

Read the whole thing.

 

Tuesday
Jan252011

Scientists exaggerate global warming

Oops. This got published prematurely and minus the links. Oh well, you've seen it now...

John Beddington

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

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."

Hans von Storch

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...

Bob Watson

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.

Bob Ward

Somewhere there is a similar quote from Bob Ward. If anyone can find it, do let me know.



Tuesday
Jan252011

The Climategate Inquiries - in Italian

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.

The translation is by our very own Maurizio Morabito, to whom enormous thanks are due. Maurizio has also written a foreword, which he has translated back into English. 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.)

 

Tuesday
Jan252011

It must be serious

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.”