Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Climate chief’s e-mails and procedures ‘broke code of honour’

The integrity of climate change research is in doubt after the disclosure of e-mails that attempt to suppress data, a leading scientific institute has said. The Institute of Physics said that e-mails sent by Professor Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, had broken “honourable scientific traditions” about disclosing raw data and methods and allowing them to be checked by critics.

Professor Jones admitted to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee yesterday that he had “written some very awful e-mails”, including one in which he rejected a request for information on the ground that the person receiving it might criticise his work.

In a written submission to the committee, the institute said that, assuming the e-mails were genuine, “worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context”. The e-mails contained “prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law”, it added.

The institute said that it was concerned by suggestions in the e-mails that Professor Jones and other scientists had worked together to prevent alternative views on global warming from being published. It said: “The e-mails illustrate the possibility of networks of like-minded researchers effectively excluding newcomers.” The institute said that doubts about the veracity of climate science could be overcome if scientists were required to make all their data “electronically accessible for all at the time of publication [of their reports]”.

Professor Jones stood down from his post during an independent inquiry into allegations that he manipulated data and attempted to evade legitimate requests for data under the Freedom of Information Act. The committee did not ask him about several of the most damaging e-mails he had sent, including one in which he asked a colleague to delete information that had been requested. The committee had been asked not to press him too closely because he was close to a nervous breakdown.

Professor Jones denied that he had tried to prevent alternative views being published by influencing the process of peer review under which scientific papers are scrutinised. He said: “I don’t think there is anything in those e-mails that supports any view that I have been trying to pervert the peer review process . . .” He added that it “hasn’t been standard practice” in climate science for all data to be disclosed. [That's a great commentary on standart practice in climate "science"]

Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Conservative Chancellor and a leading climate sceptic, said that those who wanted to check the university’s research should not have been forced to resort to making requests under the Freedom of Information Act. He said: “Proper scientists, scientists of integrity, wish to reveal all of their data and all of their methods. They don’t need freedom of information requests to force it out of them.”


Royal Statistical Society also critical of official climatologists

And the hits just keep on coming for UEA/CRU and Dr. Jones. Now I wonder, where the heck is the American Meteorological Society?

Earlier we reported on The Royal Society of Chemistry making a statement to the Parliamentary inquiry saying they as an organization support open data sharing. They join the Institute of Physics in making a strong statement on the practices of UEA/CRU. Now the Royal Statistical Society has weighed in with much the same opinion.
Memorandum submitted by the Royal Statistical Society (CRU 47)

1. The Royal Statistical Society (RSS) is the UK’s only professional and learned society devoted to the interests of statistics and statisticians. Founded in 1834 it is also one of the most influential and prestigious statistical societies in the world. The Society has members in over 50 countries worldwide and is active in a wide range of areas both directly and indirectly pertaining to the study and application of statistics. It aims to promote public understanding of statistics and provide professional support to users of statistics and to statisticians.

2. The Society welcomes this opportunity to submit evidence to the Science and Technology committee on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia inquiry.

3. The Society’s response relates to the first of the questions on which the committee invites submissions: “What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?”

4. The RSS believes that the debate on global warming is best served by having the models used and the data on which they are based in the public domain. Where such information is publicly available it is possible independently to verify results. The ability to verify models using publicly available data is regarded as being of much greater importance than the specific content of email exchanges between researchers.

5. The position of the RSS regarding public dissemination of scientific data is that where the results of scientific analyses have been published or are otherwise in the public domain, the raw data, and associated meta-data, used for these analyses should, within reason, also be made available.

6. The qualification, within reason, is important because there are some cases where preservation of confidentiality is required to protect the rights of individuals to privacy. There are also occasions where the need to protect sensitive areas means that publication of all details is inappropriate. An example would be the exact locations of rare breeding species. Similarly, there are other occasions where overriding commercial interests may suggest that publication is inappropriate.

7. However, it is the view of the RSS that such commercial interest will only justifiably be invoked infrequently. An analogy with the common approach to patents is appropriate here. Companies may choose to keep their research secret and not patent it. However, if a patent is sought, the details of the invention must be revealed. Analogously, in the field of drug development, a pharmaceutical company is reimbursed not just because of the molecules it has discovered but also because of the knowledge it has acquired regarding the effects of those molecules. It cannot justifiably seek reimbursement for that knowledge and not make it available. Hence, by the point at which it seeks a commercial return, the data on efficacy and safety should be in the public domain.

8. It is also clearly unreasonable to require that any given scientist having published some research is then condemned to answer each and every question that might possibly arise from it.. For example, requests under the Freedom of Information act or the Environmental Information Regulations could overwhelm small groups of scientists. To avoid this it is best if data are stored in data centres that are professionally run and properly funded.

9. More widely, the basic case for publication of data includes that science progresses as an ongoing debate and not by a series of authoritative and oracular pronouncements and that the quality of that debate is best served by ensuring that all parties have access to the facts. It is well understood, for example, that peer review cannot guarantee that what is published is ‘correct’. The best guarantor of scientific quality is that others are able to examine in detail the arguments that have been used and not just their published conclusions. It is important that experiments and calculations can be repeated to verify their conclusions. If data, or the methods used, are withheld, it is impossible to do this.

10. The RSS believes that a crucial step in improving the quality of the debate on global warming will be to place the data, the analysis methods and the models in the public domain.


Obama's Tonya Harding energy policy

Politicians would have us believe there's a Brave New World of renewable energy out there. But like the book, the reality of our current energy policy is more of a dystopia. Case in point: With great fanfare last October, President Obama took a trip to Florida to celebrate raising the electricity bills of Sunshine State residents.

Well, not really. But that is in effect what happened. Florida Power and Light had three new solar power plants coming online, and the president was eager to show that he was following through on his campaign promise to increase America's supply of renewable energy. So he attended the unveiling of one of the plants. What the president didn't mention is the plant cost $152 million, funded by a 31 cent increase in monthly electricity bills.

That's not counting the cost of outrageous federal subsidies. Energy Department estimates show federal subsidies of solar power amount to $24.34 per megawatt hour of solar energy produced, compared with 25 cents per megawatt hour for fossil fuel power plants -- nearly 100 times more.

The levelized cost of generating solar power is four times as much as the energy produced by conventional coal and natural gas power plants. The cost of this Florida power plant visited by Obama is expected to be six times the cost of a conventional fossil fuel plant, according to the Institute for Energy Research.

And the new solar plant the president visited will only provide enough electricity to supply 3,000 of Florida Power and Light's more than 4 million customers. Even with astounding federal subsidies, the Department of Energy estimates solar energy generated only 0.02 percent of U.S. electricity in 2008.

On the campaign trail last year, Obama said that his administration's goal was to have 10 percent of America's electricity needs supplied by renewable energy by 2012 and have 25 percent of our electricity supplied by renewable sources by 2025.

It's too soon to call this a broken campaign promise, but these figures are so wildly unrealistic it's safe to write it off already.

In 2008, just 7 percent of America's electricity consumption came from renewable energy sources. According to the Department of Energy's (rosy) estimates, fossil fuels supply 84 percent of America's energy needs. Even with a gigantic push toward renewable energy, fossil fuels are still projected to supply 78 percent of America's energy by 2025.

Far and away, the biggest source of America's renewable energy is hydroelectric power. But the same environmental groups making the push for renewable energy are decidedly opposed to building more dams. (The Sierra Club opposed its first dam project in 1913.) Wind power costs 1 1/2 to two times as much as conventional power and will likely require major upgrades of our power grid.

So where are these new sources of renewable energy going to come from? It would take a civilization-altering technological breakthrough to meet the president's goals. Don't bank on it.

Meanwhile, renewable energy isn't getting cheaper, so radical environmentalists are trying to make conventional power plants more expensive. One energy expert who wished to remain anonymous describes this as the "Tonya Harding energy policy." You can't beat the competition, so you kneecap it with taxes and regulatory hurdles. This certainly explains cap-and-trade legislation.

There are plenty of legitimate environmental and national security concerns that justify shifting away from carbon-based energy sources. We should vigorously pursue new technologies to meet our energy needs. But the best way to meet America's future energy goals is to make sure our energy policy doesn't impoverish us in the here and now.


Coldest winter for more than 30 years... but British Met Office defends its long range forecast

They can't get it right months ahead but they can get it right 50 years ahead????

Perhaps someone should ask workers at the Met Office to take a rain check on their optimism. After predicting just a 20 per cent chance of a colder than average winter, they were left embarrassed again when official figures revealed it was the coldest for more than 30 years. Temperatures in December, January and February struggled to stay above zero, with the UK's average a chilly 1.5c (35f), making it the deepest freeze since 1978-79.

And in Scotland and Northern Ireland it was the coldest winter since 1962-63. Altnaharra in northern Scotland recorded the lowest temperature of -22c (-8f) on the morning of January 8. The previous day brought England's lows, of -17.6c (0.32f) in Woodford on the edge of Manchester and -17.7c (0.14f) in Benson, Oxfordshire.

The figures - released yesterday to mark the first day of spring - sharply contrast with the forecast of the Met Office last autumn. Its 'long-range' predictions for the winter, said there was a 50 per cent chance of it being mild and just a 20 per cent risk of it being colder than the average temperature of 3.7c (39f). In mid-December the forecast was revised to say there was a 45 per cent chance that January and February would be colder than average.

In January, as Britain was warned to expect a 'windchill Saturday', with blasts of wind forcing daytime temperatures as low as -10c, a senior Met Office official admitted it should have done better. Asked on BBC TV: 'Why didn't you see this coming?', Keith Groves replied: 'I'm disappointed that our seasonal forecasts didn't give a prediction or stronger probability of a colder winter.' It was also forced to defend its long-range forecasting last autumn, when the much-feted 'barbecue summer' proved to be a washout.

And last night the Met Office was on the back foot again. Spokesman John Hammond said: 'You have got to bear in mind that it is a relatively new forecast. Only 20 years ago you would be looking at a one or two-day forecast and questioning its accuracy. Now we take those for granted.

'Given our geographical position we are very much at a crossroads of weather patterns and that makes it more challenging, but that is part of the game. We will continue to do the research and make sure [forecasts] improve in the future.'


Inglorious Gore

I love, love, love Al Gore's new screed, Why I Hate You Backstabbing Anti-Environmentalist Wingnuts (okay, it's not really titled that) spanning a full three pages in the New York Times' online edition. It features gems like:
...even though climate deniers have speciously argued for several years that there has been no warming in the last decade, scientists confirmed last month that the last 10 years were the hottest decade since modern records have been kept.

Gore fails to mention, of course, that modern records have only been kept for about a century. That's kind of like saying your puppy is completely house trained because, after nine months of defecating on the rug, you took him for a walk in the park and he happened to go in the bushes. Then, this:
Some analysts [argue]... that a cap-and-trade approach is too unwieldy and difficult to put in place. But...there is no readily apparent alternative that would be any easier politically.

So, even though everyone hates this solution, we should push forward, because, well, Al Gore wants to. And he doesn't even address the fact that cap-and-trade is unwieldy and difficult because there is no scientific consensus on the matter. Eat your vegetables, America.

As Jay Richards at The American points out, the biggest problem with Gore's piece is the angle at which he approaches the debate. His approach to critics is to tell them: "you're wrong because it's hot outside!" while completely dismissing evidence that things are not getting hot, or that things may be hot but there's no evidence of a warming trend, or that there might be discord over what to do about it.

Instead, Gore's dreamy-eyed puppy love for Climategate scientists oozes out between bombastic declarations of emergency, and petulant insistence that the taxpayer simply must pay for his dreaded plans.
From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption.

The last guy I knew who was lobbying for human redemption seemed to have slightly less inflammatory rhetoric.


Australia: Weather forecasters ignored -- rightly -- because the warning was wrong. Nothing adverse happened

I wonder why people have no confidence in them? But they can predict global warming, of course -- even though predicting the pathway of a tsunami should have been a cinch compared to the complexity of predicting the climate 50 years hence

LIFESAVERS have blasted hundreds of surfers who defied tsunami warnings and hit the waves on Gold and Sunshine coast beaches yesterday. Crowds of onlookers along the coast also were criticised for ignoring tsunami warnings issued by the weather bureau to avoid coastal areas. Many ventured to vantage points with their children, despite the unknown risk.

Although all beaches and both coasts were closed, recreational board riders ignored the alert en masse. Many swimmers also flouted the warning while thousands of spectators risked a tidal surge by lining the beaches. "It's disappointing," Surf Life Saving Queensland duty officer Kevin Dunn said. "Most people did the right thing but the board riders seem to do what they want. They don't understand the repercussions and how serious it could have been."

The Quiksilver Pro world surfing championship tournament at Snapper Rocks was postponed until later in the day, leaving superstars including Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning high and dry. Despite excellent surf, Quiksilver Pro tournament director Rod Brooks said organisers were taking no chances after spectators were injured by a freak wave during a recent surfing contest in California.

Recreational surfer Geoff Martin, 48, shrugged off the tsunami warning and a plea from his mum not to venture into the ocean. He said the clean 1.5m waves rolling through Currumbin were too good to miss. "My mum rang me about seven o'clock this morning and said: 'I hope you're not going surfing'," he said. "Of course, I was straight down the beach."

The Gold Coast City Council activated its Disaster Management Centre and set up an evacuation centre for residents of low-lying areas, but the lack of any serious wave action meant the initiatives became a training drill.

Across the Sunshine Coast every major beach was officially closed though scores of swimmers took to the water from Caloundra to Noosa. At Maroochydore, surfboard riders barely missed a beat, gathering off main beach to chase waves throughout the day. Just before midday neighbouring Coolum Beach patrol captain Peter Gardiner said he could count at least four swimmers who had ventured into the water despite lifesaver warnings that the danger remained.

Mr Gardiner kept Coolum beach shut down though to mid-afternoon after reports of slight disturbances in southern waters came in just before midday.



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1 comment:

CrisisMaven said...

This Royal Society knuckle-rap was to be expected - this "research" is no better than the "safety" calculations for atomic power stations were - one catastrophic accident per nuclear power station in a million years, but uncertrainty plus/minus 10 million years. Laugh or cry? As I see you are dealing with statistical research: I have put one of the most comprehensive link lists for hundreds of thousands of statistical sources and indicators on my blog: Statistics Reference List ( And what I find most fascinating is how data can be visualised nowadays with the graphical computing power of modern PCs, as in many of the dozens of examples in these Data Visualisation References ( If you miss anything that I might be able to find for you or if you yourself want to share a resource, please leave a comment.