Monday, February 08, 2010

BBC's billions that fund a green agenda

How amusing! This has made my day. The BBC is betting its employees' retirement money on global warming being right. It's literally putting its money where its mouth is -- but it is backing the wrong horse. Its employees will be frothing mad about it in the not too distant future. Those responsible will undoubtedly answer for it in court one day. What right have they got to gamble with other people's money? Most racegoers think their horse is a "cert" when they back it. The BBC has gambled on such a prophecy too. The money should have gone into blue chip stocks -- real present-day assets. As for ethics, what ethics? But skeptics will be laughing about it for years. "He laughs loudest ...."

STRIKING parallels between the BBC’s coverage of the global warming debate and the activities of its pension fund can be revealed today. The corporation is under investigation after being inundated with complaints that its editorial coverage of climate change is biased in favour of those who say it is a man-made phenomenon.

The £8billion pension fund is likely to come under close scrutiny over its commitment to promote a low-carbon economy while struggling to reverse an estimated £2billion deficit.

Concerns are growing that BBC journalists and their bosses regard disputed scientific theory that climate change is caused by mankind as “mainstream” while huge sums of employees’ money is invested in companies whose success depends on the theory being widely accepted. The fund, which has 58,744 members, accounts for about £8 of the £142.50 licence fee and the proportion looks likely to rise while programme budgets may have to be cut to help reduce the deficit.

The BBC is the only media organisation in Britain whose pension fund is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which has more than 50 members across Europe. Its chairman is Peter Dunscombe, also the BBC’s Head of Pensions Investment.

Prominent among its recent campaigns was a call for a “strong and binding” global agreement on climate change – one that fell on deaf ears after the UN climate summit in Copenhagen failed to reach agreement on emissions targets and a cut in greenhouse gases.

Veteran journalist and former BBC newsreader Peter Sissons is unhappy with the corporation’s coverage. He said recently: “The corporation’s most famous interrogators invariably begin by accepting that ‘the science is settled’ when there are countless reputable scientists and climatologists producing work that says it isn’t. It is, in effect, BBC policy, enthusiastically carried out by the BBC’s environment correspondents, that those views should not be heard. “I was not proud to be working for an organisation with a corporate mind so closed on such an important issue.”

Official BBC editorial policy governing how its correspondents should cover global warming was revealed after a member of the public wrote in: “I have heard reports that the BBC has decided not to broadcast any news or reports which disprove, disagree, or cast doubt on global warming theory. Could you provide some form of justification for this?”

In a reply dated October 26 last year, Stephanie Harris, Head of Accountability at BBC News, said: “BBC News takes the view that our reporting needs to be calibrated to take into account the scientific consensus that global warming is man-made.” She went on to quote from a BBC-commissioned report published in June 2007, which said: “There may be now a broad scientific consensus that climate change is definitely happening and that it is at least predominantly man-made. The weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to opponents of the consensus.”

Last month the BBC Trust announced an investigation after a string of complaints that the corporation was promoting the theory that climate change was a man-made phenomenon.


Some wisdom from the year 2002


Official coverup! How Britain's Met Office blocked questions on its own man's role in 'hockey stick' climate row

The Meteorological Office is blocking public scrutiny of the central role played by its top climate scientist in a highly controversial report by the beleaguered United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Professor John Mitchell, the Met Office’s Director of Climate Science, shared responsibility for the most worrying headline in the 2007 Nobel Prize-winning IPCC report – that the Earth is now hotter than at any time in the past 1,300 years. And he approved the inclusion in the report of the famous ‘hockey stick’ graph, showing centuries of level or declining temperatures until a steep 20th Century rise.

By the time the 2007 report was being written, the graph had been heavily criticised by climate sceptics who had shown it minimised the ‘medieval warm period’ around 1000AD, when the Vikings established farming settlements in Greenland. In fact, according to some scientists, the planet was then as warm, or even warmer, than it is today. Early drafts of the report were fiercely contested by official IPCC reviewers, who cited other scientific papers stating that the 1,300-year claim and the graph were inaccurate. But the final version, approved by Prof Mitchell, the relevant chapter’s review editor, swept aside these concerns.

Now, the Met Office is refusing to disclose Prof Mitchell’s working papers and correspondence with his IPCC colleagues in response to requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act. The block has been endorsed in writing by Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth – whose department has responsibility for the Met Office.

Documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday reveal that the Met Office’s stonewalling was part of a co-ordinated, legally questionable strategy by climate change academics linked with the IPCC to block access to outsiders. Last month, the Information Commissioner ruled that scientists from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia – the source of the leaked ‘Warmergate’ emails – acted unlawfully in refusing FOI requests to share their data.

Some of the FOI requests made to them came from the same person who has made requests to the Met Office. He is David Holland, an electrical engineer familiar with advanced statistics who has written several papers questioning orthodox thinking on global warming. The Met Office’s first response to Mr Holland was a claim that Prof Mitchell’s records had been ‘deleted’ from its computers. Later, officials admitted they did exist after all, but could not be disclosed because they were ‘personal’, and had nothing to do with the professor’s Met Office job. Finally, they conceded that this too was misleading because Prof Mitchell had been paid by the Met Office for his IPCC work and had received Government expenses to travel to IPCC meetings. The Met Office had even boasted of his role in a Press release when the report first came out.

But disclosure, they added, was still rejected on the grounds it would ‘inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or the free and frank provision of views’. It would also ‘prejudice Britain’s relationship with an international organisation’ and thus be contrary to UK interests. In a written response justifying the refusal dated August 20, 2008, Mr Ainsworth – then MoD Minister of State – used exactly the same language.

Mr Holland also filed a request for the papers kept by Sir Brian Hoskins of Reading University, who was the review editor of a different chapter of the IPCC report. When this too was refused, Mr Holland used the Data Protection Act to obtain a copy of an email from Sir Brian to the university’s information officer. The email, dated July 17, 2008 – when Mr Holland was also trying to get material from the Met Office and the CRU – provides clear evidence of a co-ordinated effort to hide data. Sir Brian wrote: ‘I have made enquiries and found that both the Met Office/MOD and UEA are resisting the FOI requests made by Holland. The latter are very relevant to us, as UK universities should speak with the same voice on this. I gather that they are using academic freedom as their reason.’

At the CRU, as the Warmergate emails reveal, its director, Dr Phil Jones (who is currently suspended), wrote to an American colleague: ‘[We are] still getting FOI requests as well as Reading. All our FOI officers have been in discussions and are now using the same exceptions – not to respond.’

Last night Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said the affair further undermined the credibility of the IPCC and those associated with it. He said: ‘It’s of critical importance that data such as this should be open. More importantly, the questions being raised about the hockey stick mean that we may have to reassess the climate history of the past 2,000 years. ‘The attempt to make the medieval warm period disappear is being seriously weakened, and the claim that now is the warmest time for 1,300 years is no longer based on reliable evidence.’

Despite repeated requests, the MoD and Met Office failed to comment.


New errors in IPCC climate change report

The United Nations panel on climate change is facing fresh criticism today as The Sunday Telegraph reveals new factual errors and poor sources of evidence in its influential report to government leaders. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report is supposed to be the world’s most authoritative scientific account of the scale of global warming. But this paper has discovered a series of new flaws in it including:

* The publication of inaccurate data on the potential of wave power to produce electricity around the world, which was wrongly attributed to the website of a commercial wave-energy company.

* Claims based on information in press releases and newsletters.

* New examples of statements based on student dissertations, two of which were unpublished.

* More claims which were based on reports produced by environmental pressure groups.

They are the latest in a series of damaging revelations about the IPCC’s most recent report, published in 2007. Last month, the panel was forced to issue a humiliating retraction after it emerged statements about the melting of Himalayan glaciers were inaccurate. Last weekend, this paper revealed that the panel had based claims about disappearing mountain ice on anecdotal evidence in a student’s dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine. And on Friday, it emerged that the IPCC’s panel had wrongly reported that more than half of the Netherlands was below sea level because it had failed to check information supplied by a Dutch government agency.

Researchers insist the errors are minor and do not impact on the overall conclusions about climate change. However, senior scientists are now expressing concern at the way the IPCC compiles its reports and have hit out at the panel’s use of so-called “grey literature” — evidence from sources that have not been subjected to scientific ­scrutiny.

A new poll has revealed that public belief in climate change is weakening. The panel’s controversial chair, Rajendra Pachauri, pictured right, is facing pressure to resign over the affair.

The IPCC attempted to counter growing criticism by releasing a statement insisting that authors who contribute to its 3,000-page report are required to “critically assess and review the quality and validity of each source” when they use material from unpublished or non-peer-reviewed sources. Drafts of the reports are checked by scientific reviewers before they are subjected to line-by-line approval by the 130 member countries of the IPCC.

Despite these checks, a diagram used to demonstrate the potential for generating electricity from wave power has been found to contain numerous errors. The source of information for the diagram was cited as the website of UK-based wave-energy company Wavegen. Yet the diagram on Wavegen’s website contains dramatically different figures for energy potential off Britain and Alaska and in the Bering Sea. When contacted by The Sunday Telegraph, Wavegen insisted that the diagram on its website had not been changed. It added that it was not the original source of the data and had simply reproduced it on its website.

The diagram is widely cited in other literature as having come from a paper on wave energy produced by the Institute of Mechanical Engineering in 1991 along with data from the European Directory of Renewable Energy. Experts claim that, had the IPCC checked the citation properly, it would have spotted the discrepancies.

It can also be revealed that claims made by the IPCC about the effects of global warming, and suggestions about ways it could be avoided, were partly based on information from ten dissertations by Masters students. One unpublished dissertation was used to support the claim that sea-level rise could impact on people living in the Nile delta and other African coastal areas, although the main focus of the thesis, by a student at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, appears to have been the impact of computer software on environmental development.

The IPCC also made use of a report by US conservation group Defenders of Wildlife to state that salmon in US streams have been affected by rising temperatures. The panel has already come under fire for using information in reports by conservation charity the WWF.

Estimates of carbon-dioxide emissions from nuclear power stations and claims that suggested they were cheaper than coal or gas power stations were also taken from the website of the World Nuclear Association, rather than using independent scientific calculations.

Such revelations are creating growing public confusion over climate change. A poll by Ipsos on behalf of environmental consultancy firm Euro RSCG revealed that the proportion of the public who believe in the reality of climate change has dropped from 44 per cent to 31per cent in the past year. The proportion of people who believe that climate change is a bit over-exaggerated rose from 22 per cent to 31per cent.

Climate scientists have expressed frustration with the IPCC’s use of unreliable evidence. Alan Thorpe, chief executive of the Natural Environment Research Council, the biggest funder of climate science in the UK, said: “We should only be dealing with peer-reviewed literature. We open ourselves up to trouble if we start getting into hearsay and grey literature. We have enough research that has been peer-reviewed to provide evidence for climate change, so it is concerning that the IPCC has strayed from that.”

Professor Bob Watson, who chaired the IPCC before Dr Pachauri and is now chief scientist at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, insisted that despite the errors there was little doubt that human-induced climate change was a reality. But he called for changes in the way the IPCC compiles future reports. “It is concerning that these mistakes have appeared in the IPCC report, but there is no doubt the earth’s climate is changing and the only way we can explain those changes is primarily human activity,” he said.

Mr Watson said that Dr Pachauri “cannot be personally blamed for one or two incorrect sentences in the IPCC report”, but stressed that the chairman must take responsibility for correcting errors.

Another row over the IPCC report emerged last night after Professor Roger Pielke Jnr, from Colorado University’s Centre for Science and Technology Policy Research, claimed its authors deliberately ignored a paper he wrote that contradicted the panel’s claims about the cost of climate-related natural disasters. A document included a statement from an anonymous IPCC author saying that they believed Dr Pielke had changed his mind on the matter, when he had not.


Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility

Now it's "Africa-gate"!

A LEADING British government scientist has warned the United Nations’ climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility. Robert Watson, chief scientist at Defra, the environment ministry, who chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002, was speaking after more potential inaccuracies emerged in the IPCC’s 2007 benchmark report on global warming.

The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general. This weekend Professor Chris Field, the new lead author of the IPCC’s climate impacts team, told The Sunday Times that he could find nothing in the report to support the claim. The revelation follows the IPCC’s retraction of a claim that the Himalayan glaciers might all melt by 2035.

The African claims could be even more embarrassing for the IPCC because they appear not only in its report on climate change impacts but, unlike the glaciers claim, are also repeated in its Synthesis Report.

This report is the IPCC’s most politically sensitive publication, distilling its most important science into a form accessible to politicians and policy makers. Its lead authors include Pachauri himself. In it he wrote: “By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised.” The same claims have since been cited in speeches to world leaders by Pachauri and Ban. Speaking at the 2008 global climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Pachauri said: “In some countries of Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50% by 2020.” In a speech last July, Ban said: “Yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by half in some African countries over the next 10 years.”

Speaking this weekend, Field said: “I was not an author on the Synthesis Report but on reading it I cannot find support for the statement about African crop yield declines.”

Watson said such claims should be based on hard evidence. “Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate change. I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report,” he said.

The claims in the Synthesis Report go back to the IPCC’s report on the global impacts of climate change. It warns that all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert and then says of north Africa, “additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003)”. “Agoumi” refers to a 2003 policy paper written for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. The paper was not peer-reviewed.

Its author was Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert who looked at the potential impacts of climate change on Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. His report refers to the risk of “deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000–20 period”. These claims refer to other reports prepared by civil servants in each of the three countries as submissions to the UN. These do not appear to have been peer-reviewed either.

The IPCC is also facing criticism over its reports on how sea level rise might affect Holland. Dutch ministers have demanded that it correct a claim that more than half of the Netherlands lies below sea level when, in reality, it is about a quarter.

The errors seem likely to bring about change at the IPCC. Field said: “The IPCC needs to investigate a more sophisticated approach for dealing with emerging errors.”


Virginia storm may set records

A historic winter storm left some parts of Virginia under nearly 3 feet of snow Saturday, knocking out power to 175,000 utility customers and collapsing buildings. "The accumulations that have been reported now have been historic," Gov. Bob McDonnell said during a teleconference with state emergency officials. He cited a high snowfall of 33 inches in Loudoun County, in northern Virginia, and 2 feet along the Interstate 81 corridor in western Virginia.

Snow depths are "fast approaching the highest accumulations in the 103 years that these statistics have been kept," said McDonnell, who declared a snow emergency on Wednesday.

Virginia State Police, which had 75 percent of its uniformed officers on duty, had responded to 1,323 traffic accidents in the last 36 hours. Two crash deaths Friday in southwest Virginia were blamed on the weather.

The power outages were down from a high of 200,000, with the majority being customers of Dominion Virginia Power, the state's largest utility. Most of the outages were in northern Virginia.

Appalachian Power reported nearly 40,000 customers without power, primarily in the southwest corner of the state, and small electric cooperatives were reporting power failures in the northern and western portions of the state....

The Virginia National Guard put 500 troops on active duty and positioned them in the hardest-hit areas, such as Fredericksburg, Waynesboro, Charlottesville and in northern Virginia. They were assisting local emergency crews.

The National Weather Service said runoff from snow and rain had caused a rapid rise of the Dan River near South Boston. Residents were advised to monitor local conditions.

The Virginia Department of Transportation said crews worked through the night to clear Interstates 81, 77 and 581. While clear of snow, road surfaces remain slick, VDOT said. Along some roads, plows were piling snow so high, trucks had to be called in to haul the snow away so plowing could continue.

Heavy snow had brought down trees and limbs on roads in Henry, Patrick, Roanoke and Bedford counties. Crews are working to remove them.


Time to scrap the Australian government's climate plan - academics

A COALITION of academics who doubt the science on the causes of climate change has called on the Rudd Government to dump plans for an emissions trading scheme and consider alternatives.

Their call comes as a Nielsen poll, published in Fairfax newspapers today, shows Australians prefer the federal coalition's climate action policy. Of those polled, 45 per cent favoured the Opposition's direct action emissions fund over the 39 per cent who backed Labor's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

The Australian Climate Science Coalition believes the Government is losing the political high ground on global warming. "The debacle in Copenhagen demonstrated the futility of Australia adopting a go-it-alone strategy,'' executive director Max Rheese said in a statement. Public faith in the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had been shaken following revelations about some of its information-gathering processes, he said.



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