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Nature on sceptics

Nature has published an opinion piece on the subject of the BBC's science review and in particular the way it handles global warming sceptics.

In reality, perhaps the most common complaint from scientists about the corporation's coverage of global warming is the exposure handed to sceptical non-scientists, such as former UK chancellor Nigel Lawson. This is the source of the long-standing 'false balance' problem. The BBC Trust, which is running the review, should take a stricter line here. If BBC staff want to use non-experts to criticize widely accepted science, they must explain this lack of expertise to the audience, and why the BBC has invited them to participate.



UEA hearings redux

The big news while I was away was the announcement of a further invitation to a member of staff at UEA to appear before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. We have already had Oxburgh's appearance, and knew that Sir Muir Russell was to appear with Sir Edward Acton at the end of this month. However, it now appears that UEA's Trevor Davies will also be making an appearance. Davies, as regular readers know, was not only Phil Jones predecessor as head of CRU but, more importantly, appears to have been a pivotal figure in the organisation of the "independent" inquiries into CRU. All three men will appear on Wednesday 27th October.

Click to read more ...


The London trip

I'm now back home, having had an interesting couple of days in London.

The talk at the Energy Institute went reasonably well, although numbers were apparently down considerably on normal because the invitations had been sent out rather late in the day. I also suffered from some technical problems, which meant that I had to speak without notes. I think, however, that I gained as much in fluency as I lost in completeness, so this was not the end of the day. One disappointment was that (from the tenor of the questions at least) most of the audience were probably already on the right side of the debate, so I'm not sure how many were persuaded by my words. Nevertheless, having not spoken in public for the best part of twenty years, I was quite pleased with the way the whole thing went.

The Vaclav Klaus lecture yesterday was excellent - a very unpolitician-like politician, I thought, quietly spoken and with a complete lack of histrionics. This made him a very persuasive speaker I thought, and I would recommend you read what he has to say if you haven't already.

Thanks are certainly due to my hosts - Peter Gill and Josh - for their hospitality and to Benny and everyone at the GWPF for inviting me to the Vaclav Klaus talk.


Light blogging

I'm off to the big smoke tomorrow. I'm giving a talk at the Institute of Energy and attending Vaclav Klaus's lecture on Tuesday.

Be good while I'm away.


Canadian poll closes

The poll for best Science and Technology blog poll in Canada, which I mentioned in the Climate Cuttings post, seems to have closed, apparently prematurely.

I wonder why?

Update: No this was apparently expected.


Climate cuttings 38

There are a lot of climate related stories around at the moment, so I thought I'd wheel out the Climate Cuttings series once again.

First up is Roy Spencer, discussing a new paper by Lacis (Schmidt) et al. The authors seem to be trying to sideline the role of water vapour in the climate system so as to leave the road clear for carbon dioxide. Their results, however, appear to rest on the assumptions they make. Pielke Snr wonders why Science published the paper at all, unless for propaganda purposes.

Stephen Goddard looks at Hansen's 1988 predictions and finds that warming of 8 degrees in the Antarctic is probably somewhat (ahem) off the mark.

Jeff Id looks at the proxies from the recent Ljungqvist reconstruction and finds that the temperature pattern in the reconstruction is rather robust.

The Hal Lewis resignation story rumbles on. Andy Revkin has taken a potshot at Lewis here, prompting a further response from another APS member, Roger Cohen, at WUWT.

Geoff Chambers, writing at Harmless Sky, notes the difficulties the Guardian has got itself into over research funded by oil companies.

I'm rather late to this one, but the Environment Spokesman for Germany's CDU/FDP party has come out as a sceptic, referring to climate change as an ersatz religion. The greens are not happy.

And lastly, help Steve McIntyre be chosen as Canada's top science blog by voting here.


Ben Pile on the Royal Society

A thought provoking post by Ben Pile of Climate Resistance fame, documenting the Royal Society's track record on climate change and presenting some disturbing possibilities about where its attention may be directed next.


The reverse twinkle

Hat tip to Barry Woods for this excerpt from the website of Thames Valley Climate Action, which gives guidance on how the organisation runs its meetings. They have a thoroughly nifty set of hand signals to enable attendees to indicate how they feel about what is being said:

I particularly like the idea of a "reverse twinkle" to show that you disapprove. Personally I think the whole AGW thing could be considered one large reverse twinkle.


Hegerl on stupidity

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about Gabriele Hegerl's lecture in Edinburgh and said that she said that sceptics were "stupid". The video of the lecture is now available here and my recollection of what was said was not quite right. The exact quote is as follows:

...What is frustrating to me as a scientist is that the objections raised by the skeptics groups are scientifically so stupid would be really much more fun to fight really interesting assertions.  But it's often things that often ring reasonable to people who have not background in this but that are scientifically totally with out value. I would find it more interesting to discuss if the sceptics would raise better questions.

So Prof Hegerl was quite correct to say that she didn't call anyone stupid. It was the questions asked by sceptics that she said were stupid. 

(H/T to Rob Schneider and also thanks for the transcript of this excerpt)


New vacancy on S&T committee

One of the Labour members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Jonathan Reynolds, has been appointed a whip. In this position he is no longer eligible to sit on the committee.

New elections will be held among the Parliamentary Labour party to select a replacement, with nominations closing on 25th October.


(Via Farah Bhatti)


Josh 49


Lobbywatch and the Fox

Interesting suggestion here that the SMC may have been "got at" by the Lobbywatch organisation.

(H/T Messenger)


Pursuit of Fox

When I wrote yesterday's piece about Fiona Fox, I expected little or no reaction, but a number of science commentators are now reporting the story, including Climate Audit, The Blackboard and the Guardian's Science Notes column.

Some of the commentators on CA were quite critical of Steve for discussing the story, even though he had made clear Fox's involvement in the Oxburgh report. To that we could also add her involvement in the recent Royal Society statement on climate change or the involvement of her various colleagues at the Science Media Centre in sceptic-bashing activities: Bob Ward's various smear campaigns need no introduction of course, but there were also the roles of Mike Granatt and (briefly) Philip Campbell in the Russell review.

I had been particularly interested in the press release issued by the SMC at the time of the Oxburgh report. The centre's choice of experts and their remarks on the inquiry were very interesting:

  • Bob Ward, who described Oxburgh's five page report "rigorous" and "thorough";
  • Sir Brian Hoskins, who had rubber-stamped UEA's selection of papers for the inquiry and then described the report as "thorough and fair"
  • Lord Rees, who had helped select a chairman with a conflict of interest and a biased panel and who had allowed the  Royal Society's name to be used to disguise the fact that UEA had chosen their own papers. Rees described the 5-page report as "thorough".
  • Myles Allen, a very vocal critic of climate sceptics, wisely made no comment on the thoroughness or otherwise of the report.

Given that the report was so embarrassingly short, for the SMC to put forward a series of people who were willing to describe the investigation as thorough suggests strongly that they are a propaganda outfit rather than a body that helps journalists get at the truth. One commenter at CA suggests that SMC is the "public relations arm of establishment science" in the UK. That may well be right and journalists might do well to consider that possibility when they are fed stories by Fiona Fox and her chums.



Bob's boss in bizarre hoax

It's not often I link readers to the Sun, but this turned up via a Google alert. It appears that Bob Ward's colleague at the Science Media Centre, the former revolutionary communist, Fiona Fox, is something of a practical joker. Fox, readers may remember, has called for sceptic views to be avoided in media coverage of global warming.

She is also apparently a close friend of Jim Devine, a former Labour MP who is now facing fraud charges over his expense claims. She appears to have got herself involved in a bizarre and rather nasty practical joke involving Devine and his office manager, and which has now led to a substantial damages award against the politician.

They're a rum lot at the Science Media Centre aren't they?



William Connolley has been topic banned by Wikipedia. Climate change is now off-limits for WC.