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Academic freedom for me, but not for thee

When Chris Horner was trying to get hold of Michael Mann's emails, the academic establishment moved heaven and earth to ensure that everybody knew where they stood on the question, namely that exposure of an Mann's emails would be an affront to academic freedom. The legal establishment seemed to concur.

Strangely, however, it seems that if an academic is suspected of having (whisper it) free-market sensibilities then exposure of their emails is no longer an affront at all.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) stood by professors in the Wisconsin and Virginia cases, publicly criticizing broad requests for emails on politically charged issues as an assault on academic freedom.

The association hasn’t issued a statement this time around, which has drawn criticism from writers at some conservative publications and blogs, who accuse the organization of being hypocritical. 

In a post on the independent blog of Academe Magazine, which is published by the AAUP, John K. Wilson says the AAUP has always recommended that open-records requests be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some pose a threat to professors' academic freedom, but some could reveal violations of academic freedom or standards, said Wilson, who is a co-editor of the blog and a member of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Recalling Jonathan Haidt's observation that the hostility of the majority of social scientists to colleagues suspected of being free-market liberals or conservatives has damaged the credibility of their specialism, it is hard not to conclude that the credibility of the whole American education system will soon be at stake as well.


BEST bet on a tie

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project have reported their results for 2014:

The global surface temperature average (land and sea) for 2014 was nominally the warmest since the global instrumental record began in 1850; however, within the margin of error, it is tied with 2005 and 2010 and so we can’t be certain it set a new record.



Duarté on Verheggen et al.

Jose Duarté has had a comment published on Bart Verheggen's survey of climate scientists. I discussed this at BH last summer.

It's fair to say that Jose is not terribly impressed and his comment makes very amusing reading. Describing the process taken by Verheggen et al to arrive at the list of authors they survey (who very often turn out not to be climate scientists at all), he notes that those remaining after the whittling down process includes a paper entitled:

Urban bicyclists spatial analysis of adult and youth traffic hazard intensity

and another entitled

Attitudes of Scottish city inhabitants to ceteacean conservation.

Jose says that "The paper should be withdrawn and the correct figures reported when available".

Ouch. Read the comment here.



What's up with this?

Updated on Jan 15, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

There is much excitement among the green fraternity this morning over a new paper that claims to have found an acceleration in sea-level rise that is even more dramatic than previously thought.

Stop yawning at the back there.

As usual, a brief perusal beyond the headlines reveals a considerably more nuanced story. The paper is based on tide guage records and finds a slow increase over the 20th century of just over 1mm/year. This is rather less than some previous estimates.

However, the authors go on to say that:

Click to read more ...


Money talks

Two related stories caught my eye over the last couple of days, which seem to put our choices at election time in a fairly stark light.

At Guido's we learn that David Cameron has received a donation from one of the partners in his father-in-law's windfarm venture.

Meanwhile, the Times (£) reports that Labour have secretly told windfarm businesses that subsidies will flow unabated should they win the election. Indeed there seems to be a suggestion that the flood of money will turn into a tsunami.

A vote for either seems to be a vote to have your wallet emptied.



Carbon conversation

This is a guest post by Peter Gill, a retired physicist who may be familiar to readers as a central character in my Institutional Bias pamphlet. I have lightly edited a couple of paragraphs to make the meaning clear.

The ClimateSceptics Yahoo Email Group is very active and includes contributions from some, notably Mike MacCracken who are certainly not sceptics of the AGW set of hypotheses. On 7 January 2015, Mike MacCracken wrote two pieces on carbon dioxide. The first on 7 January included this:

But what I really want to write you about is the statement: “(Also recall than man's CO2 is different than nature's CO2 because man's CO2 magically stays in the atmosphere while nature's doesn't.)” The statement results from a misunderstanding­ all CO2 molecules are the same and experience the same processes. There are two different times to be aware of: 

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Scotsman fracking conference

The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee are currently hearing from the usual suspects on the subject of unconventional oil and gas. No doubt they will hear that it will be an unmitigated disaster, is wanted by nobody and will never happen anyway. Meanwhile,  Alex Salmond's exit as the leader of the SNP has brought a new leader who is apparently not quite so in thrall to the greens and within weeks of taking over the announcement of a task force to support the oil and gas industry.

It's all nicely poised. And with consummate timing, the Scotsman has organised a conference on the very subject of unconventional hydrocarbons. This move will no doubt infuriate the green fraternity, but it has to be said it's high time the industry started to try to make things happen.

Here are the details.

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India cracks down on greens

Hot on the heels of its decision to crack down on foreign funding for Greenpeace, the government of India has started what looks like a full-scale crackdown on green groups:

Authorities over the weekend barred a Greenpeace staff member from traveling to London to speak to British lawmakers about alleged legal and human rights violations in India by Essar, a British-registered energy company.

I'm uneasy about this. Greenpeace is certainly an organisation that has engaged in criminal behaviour in the past but not, to the best of my knowledge, in India. They certainly have a policy of using dishonesty as a tool in their campaigning. Their hypocrisy is beyond dispute. But travel bans look a bit over the top to me.

The argument of the Indian government seems to be that the greens are threatening the economic security of the country, and in some ways you can see their point. In a country with an energy supply that is far from secure and far from regular, any threat to that supply is quite possibly a matter of life and death for the people who depend on it. But does this justify travel bans and funding freezes?


Those lovely BBC journalists

Most of the presenters on the BBC News Channel are a bit of an unknown quantity to me - anonymous, featureless, characterless. The exception was one particular guy, whose casual use of the d-word at the time of the Fifth Assessment Report marked him out as a campaigner rather than a journalist. I noted his behaviour and I have recalled it when he has appeared on my screen but that was the extent of my interest. The BBC is full of people who are campaigners rather than journalists.

That was until this morning when I learned that his name is Tim Willcox and he facing calls for his resignation, after some outrageous behaviour during the march for free speech in France.

A BBC reporter has faced calls to resign after he told the daughter of Holocaust survivors in Paris: 'Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well'. 

Journalist Tim Willcox sparked anger during his coverage of yesterday's rally in Paris, held in memory of the 17 victims of last week's terror attacks, including four Jewish people in a siege at a Kosher supermarket.

Potty mouthed, bigoted, biased. He's probably due for promotion.




Well here's a turn up for the books, from the pages of Hansard:

David TC Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, whether members of the Climate Change Committee are permitted to have financial interests in businesses which might be affected by energy and climate change policy.

Amber Rudd: The Government and the Committee on Climate Change takes very seriously the need to ensure that board members have no conflicts in fulfilling their public duties. When appointing to the board, the Government follows Cabinet Office guidance about making public appointments that sets out the rules and transparency requirements which must be satisfied before public appointments can be made.

I wonder if a follow up question along the lines of "What steps would be taken against committee members who were found to have made false statements about their business interests during the recruitment process?" might be interesting.


Hitchens on freedom of speech

A propos of my recent flurry of posts on freedom of speech, here is Christopher Hitchens on the subject. Some lessons in there for Lord Deben and Bob Ward I would say.


Boxed in - Josh 307


Sans science, sans maths, sans everything

Updated on Jan 13, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Updated on Jan 13, 2015 by Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Over at Lucia's place, there has been some interesting conversation in the comments about the technical abilities of some of those on the other side of the climate debate. This originally arose in connection the host of And Then There's Physics, who had apparently reduced Blackboard regular Paul K to laughter in a post about a paper on climate sensitivity by Craig Loehle and a response to it, Cawley et al, which was written by five of the denizens of Skeptical Science. This amusement was followed by others chipping in with their own surprise at ATTP's comments. It's all good family fun. However, it turns out that it's not only ATTP who is struggling. Nic Lewis has added a comment to the thread about the Cawley paper itself which is astonishing.

First a bit of background. Loehle's paper described a model developed in an earlier paper (Loehle and Scafetta 2011) and used it to derive an anthropogenic warming trend from the mid-20th century onwards. The paper then derived an estimate of transient climate response (TCR) of 1.1°C by relating the anthropogenic trend rise in temperature to the increase in anthropogenic radiative forcing, and went on to derive an estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) of 2.0°C. The Skeptical Science response appeared about six months later and was written by Gavin Cawley, Kevin Cowtan, Robert Way, Peter Jacobs and Ari Jokimäki. This is the key part of the abstract.

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A cancer in our midst

From time time to time I have remarked on the tendency of those prominent in sci-policy circles to invent poisonous allegations about prominent global warming sceptics. Paul Nurse's inventions about Nigel Lawson are a case in point, the fulminations of the "we're being rude about sceptics so we don't need to tell the truth" types at the Guardian another.

You can point out as often as you like that these people are being dishonest and it will have little effect. In the circles in which they move telling the truth is no particular virtue and dishonesty is no particular sin.

I was reminded of this when reading the remarks of Lord Krebs, the chairman of the Adaptation Committee of the Committee on Climate Change in a speech he made to the Oxford Farming Conference recently:

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Persuading the public

One of the climate-related memes that has tended to induce yawns in yours truly over the years concerns the so-called "deficit model" of climate communication. This is the idea that on the subject of climate the public are at best ill-informed and at worst pig ignorant and that they need better information about climate change in order to bring them round to the idea that we need to tear down the economy and build the new socialist future together.

Or something like that.

Click to read more ...