Thursday, June 24, 2010

Behind the scenes at the Oxburgh inquiry

Oxburgh was led by the nose

Slowly, but surely, the curtain is being lifted on Lord Oxburgh's inquiry into the science of CRU. Today I received a response to my FoI request for the emails of Sir Brian Hoskins and Professor David Hand (both of Imperial College, London) related to the Oxburgh inquiry. They are going to make a bit of a splash I think.

The emails can be downloaded here. There's a file for each man's correspondence and another for the attachments to Hand's emails. There's a lot of administrative stuff, but there is much of interest and some that made me laugh out loud.

I particularly liked the bit where Oliver Morton of the Economist asks Oxburgh who chose the papers for the inquiry. Oxburgh replies:
Thanks for your message - the answer is that I don't know! What I received was a list from the university which I understand was chosen by the Royal Society. The contact with the RS was I believe through [redacted - probably Martin Rees] but I don't know who he consulted. [Name redacted], when I asked him, agreed that the original sample was fair.

A summary of the Hand emails is here. The Hoskins emails are here.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

More Warmist crookedness

Scientific issues are always open to debate and challenge. Warmism is clearly not science. It just pretends to be

As part of his ongoing investigations into the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, David Holland has used FoI to get hold of a pile of emails from Professor Brian Hoskins, then of the University of Reading and now at Imperial College. Readers will remember that Professor Hoskins amusingly rubber-stamped the list of papers chosen by UEA for the Oxburgh report.

I thought I'd highlight one particular email, which stands on its own as being something of an indictment both of the Royal Society and the IPCC. It's an email from an IPCC bigwig, Susan Solomon, who was in charge of the admin for the Working Group 1 report for the Fourth Assessment Report. Solomon sent it to Rachel Garthwaite of the Science Policy Unit of the Royal Society. Regular readers may remember Ms Garthwaite as the person who stopped answering my questions about who it was who wrote the IPCC's position papers on climate.

The email dates from 2006, nearly 9 months before the release of the Fourth Assessment Report. Garthwaite is trying to organise speakers to attend a Royal Society lecture to coincide with the report's publication. The email appears to be from Garthwaite with Solomon's inline responses:
RG: Thank you for calling last week and my apologies for having taken so long to get back to you. I am out of the office all of this week but wanted to reassure you that the Royal Society is still very keen to hold an event to showcase the WG1 report and we have taken your comments regarding the potential content of the meeting very seriously.

SS: thanks - I think it was very helpful.

RG: In terms of ensuring there are no climate sceptics present at the meeting, obviously this will be difficult to ensure if the meeting is open to members of the public.

SS: I didn't say anything along these lines. I fully expect some to be present in the audience.

RG: However we have no intention of inviting any known sceptics to the meeting, and certainly would not have invited representation on any discussion panel should we decide to have one.

SS:Yes, that is the point - they should not be invited to take the podium as speakers or panelists because that is simply not an appropriate representation of the state of understanding and uncertainty. The public has been confused enough by one side says this, the other that. This issue has gone far beyond that and this meeting should reflect that.

It's astonishing to see these two organisations, which are supposed to be neutrals in the climate debate, getting down and dirty, taking sides and doing their darndest to make sure their side wins. No sceptics allowed. In fact, Rachel Garthwaite goes on to try to persuade Solomon that the Royal Society event should be about policy matters rather than scientific ones.
RG: In terms of ensuring that the content of the meeting does not breach IPCC rules we will of course include both yourself and Tim Palmer in the organisation of the meeting to ensure the content reflects these rules while still meeting the needs of the Royal Society (ie that there is some element of policy discussion)...

SS: As you know, WG1 is the physical science report. I am concerned to understand what it is you are proposing. Please clarify what it is you are envisioning regarding 'some element of policy discussion'.

It's funny to see the Royal Society trying to argue that one of their events should be about policy rather than science. Does anyone seriously doubt that the Royal Society has become simply another arm of the government, a body to give a scientific gloss to whatever it is the government wants to do?


More on the "authoritativeness" paper

The claim that climate skeptics are intellectual lightweights and a tiny mirority in the scientific community has produced a lot of outrage among those implicated. So I reproduce below one of the better critiques of the paper. It is from a Warmist -- Prof. Judith Curry:

I’ve been looking at the database quite extensively. Even if you accept that the datbase is accurate and individuals have been accurately categorized, the big flaw in the analysis is this.

The scientific litmus test for the paper is the AR4 statement: “anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for “most” of the “unequivocal” warming of the Earth’s average global temperature over the second half of the 20th century”.

The climate experts with credibility in evaluating this statement are those scientists that are active in the area of detection and attribution. ”Climate” scientists whose research areas is ecosystems, carbon cycle, economics, etc speak with no more authority on this subject than say Freeman Dyson.

I define the 20th century detection and attribution field to include those that create datasets, climate dynamicists that interpret the variabiity, radiative forcing, climate modelling, sensitivity analysis, feedback analysis. With this definition, 75% of the names on the list disappear. If you further eliminate people that create datasets but don’t interpret the datasets, you have less than 20% of the original list.

The strong convictions of the other (larger) group of ecologists, economists etc strongly supporting the IPCC view, well it doesn’t seem to be coming from their own investigations on detection/atribution, but presumably from faith in the IPCC “system”, political reasons, whatever. In any event, their opinions on this should not carry any particular weight.

If you asked these 20% that are the experts on detection and attribution if they would prefer the litmus test statement to read “very likely” or “likely”, i suspect a large number would feel much more comfortable with the “likely” level of certainty, including many in main public supporters group. I think that some of the people in the skeptics group would actually be ok with the “likely” confidence level (e.g. Pielke, Michaels).

Also, with regards to the large number of people active in detection/attribution research that were not categorizable by the tenets of this study, i suspect there is a pretty much normal distribution, with many people being undecided, unconvinced by the high level of certainty often portrayed by the public spokespersons on each side.

Finally, a few comments on the utility of publication count and citation count as a useful metric for expertise, credibility, or impact in climate research. I would agree that there is probably a minimum level of publication numbers/citations to establish expertise, credibility or impact. But beyond this minimum, the numbers don’t scale all that well with overall impact in the field. Some of the true giants in the field don’t have very high numbers, and nearly all of the people (even associate/support scientists) involved in the creation of datasets that everyone uses (e.g. CRUT) have very high numbers.

I found the table including “fellows of a learned society” to be more interesting, which includes the scientists deemed by their peers to have had the greatest impact, and are sorted by number of publications rather than citations. Yes, some deserving people are not on this list particularly skeptics, but overall i think it is a better list to use for the non-skeptics in terms of evaluating influence. And if you cull this list to include only the scientists active in detection/attribution (which i have done), i think you have a more accurate list of the most influential scientists on this subject

So i think this is an interesting database (not convinced of its accuracy and not sure how to intepret some of the discrepancies i’ve identified). But I don’t think it was appropriately analyzed in the PNAS paper in context of “credibility” , particularly in how the scientists were classified.


NY Times Reporter Honored For Greenie Activism Disguised as Journalism

When journalists give an award to one of their own, you’d think they’d honor reporting that rises above that of others in journalistic quality. But that isn’t what happened when The Deadline Club, the New York branch of the Society for Professional Journalists, gave its Daniel Pearl Award for Investigative Reporting to The New York Times’ Charles Duhigg. Duhigg was the author of the series “Toxic Waters.”

Bestowing that award on Duhigg should be an affront to the memory of Daniel Pearl, who lost his life investigating Islamic terrorists in the heart of darkness. Duhigg, on the other hand, echoed the campaign of radical environmental groups seeking to scare people about the safe use of pesticides. These groups aren’t true environmentalists, but instead try to instill fear in anyone who eats produce, drinks water, or breathes air.

Duhigg’s reign of toxic terror focused on alleged dangers in drinking water. Consider the headline from the Aug. 22, 2009 installment of his series, “Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your Water Glass.” The award-winning journalist allowed himself to be used as a pawn in a campaign against a long-used and important agricultural chemical, atrazine. That levels of atrazine in drinking water are barely measurable didn’t deter him.

“Recent studies suggest that, even at concentrations meeting current federal standards, the chemical may be associated with birth defects, low birth weights and menstrual problems,” Duhigg wrote. Especially in the Midwest, he found some spikes of atrazine concentration above the regulatory limit.

Duhigg also noted implied and overt allegations of reproductive abnormalities. However, those data come from frog studies that have been roundly dismissed by the scientific bodies that have objectively reviewed them, including the Environmental Protection Agency – no fan of industry. And the federal guidelines, which limit the annual level of pesticide contamination, not the occasional spikes, were in fact not violated.

The fact is atrazine has been safely and extensively used for more than 50 years to increase corn yields and reduce the need for other pesticides.

In other reports, Duhigg parsed local municipal water system records for evidence of malfeasance, chicanery, and greed in the monitoring of water systems nationwide. He was helped in his onerous endeavor by the stalwarts at the Natural Resource Defense Council, a well-known anti-chemical, anti-business activist group, best know heretofore for promulgating (with the crucial assistance of CBS News) the great Alar scare of 1989. The NRDC helped to gather damning evidence of water contamination.

The reporter and the activists did indeed find widespread evidence of lax regulation and less-than-ideal adherence to numerous regulatory strictures, with occasional spikes in the concentration of various pollutants and chemicals nationwide. But they found nothing that would impact human health.

This pattern was repeated over the course of the “Toxic Waters” series, with plentiful notations of briefly spiking pollution levels, but few of sufficient intensity or duration to warrant regulatory intervention. Duhigg attacked the EPA repeatedly for giving waterborne chemicals too easy a pass. But atrazine, for one example, has been evaluated rigorously by numerous scientific and regulatory bodies, including the EPA, and has been found to not even be a potential health hazard.

At the series’ conclusion, an objective outsider’s appraisal would have detected numerous “concerns” but no actual instances of human health impact from all the alleged violations. No surprise there; trace levels of chemicals are to be expected in our water (and air and food).


British Green Energy Plant is a Joke

THE new "green energy" biomass plant proposed for Leith would take at least 40 years to become carbon neutral, according to a new study. In the meantime, critics claim, the £360 million plant would actually set back Scotland's drive to cut carbon emissions.

A report by the Manomet Centre for Conservation Sciences in Massachusetts, US, said burning wood for power generation had generally been seen as "carbon neutral" because new trees would be planted to replace those used in the process. But it said a more complex picture was emerging, with the time taken for trees to grow meaning the creation of a "carbon debt" which would last for decades.

It said: "For biomass replacement of coal-fired power plants, the net cumulative emissions in 2050 are approximately equal to what they would have been burning coal."

On top of that, most of the two million tonnes of biomass needed every year for the Leith plant would come in by sea from North America, Scandinavia and eastern Europe, adding further carbon emissions.

Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm has written to finance secretary John Swinney, highlighting the findings of the report.

He said: "The Manomet research suggests electricity from biomass creates a huge carbon debt which will only be repaid decades later from forest regrowth.

"Biomass fuels have a carbon footprint greater than coal burning for the first decades of their use and these are the most important decades in which to get CO2 reductions.

"Electricity from biomass would not therefore support the Scottish Government targets for defined CO2 emission cuts each year between now and 2050."

In his letter to Mr Swinney, he added: "I hope the Scottish Government will reconsider its enthusiasm for electricity from biomass in the light of this research."


More inhuman thinking from Peter Singer

Singer recently showed up in the online pages of the New York Times (naturally) opinion section asking “How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world?”

He introduces us to the philosophical pedigree, starting with Arthur Schopenhauer in the 19th century and leading up to today’s South African philosopher David Benatar, that argues a good life is of no benefit the person that lives it, but a bad life causes suffering for the person that lives it. (This line of reasoning is technically known as “vita combibo, tunc vos intereo.” Look it up.)

This is where it starts getting really good. Singer plumbs the depths of his gigantic intellect to draw forth an example that will make it all clear to us lesser minds…
“Here is a thought experiment to test our attitudes to this view. Most thoughtful people are extremely concerned about climate change. Some stop eating meat, or flying abroad on vacation, in order to reduce their carbon footprint. But the people who will be most severely harmed by climate change have not yet been conceived. If there were to be no future generations, there would be much less for us to feel to guilty about.

So why don’t we make ourselves the last generation on earth? If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required…

Of course, it would be impossible to get agreement on universal sterilization, but just imagine that we could…we can get rid of all that guilt about what we are doing to future generations — and it doesn’t make anyone worse off, because there won’t be anyone else to be worse off.”

There you have it. No alarmism here.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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