Currently, the British Parliament House of Commons Science and Technology Committee is considering the issue of the controversy surrounding the CRU Email theft and has held a hearing today, March 1, 2010, to question key players in the matter.
My conclusion on what this does to the skeptics?
I think the image says it all.
Here are the TORs:
The Independent Review will:
1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.
2. Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.
3. Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.
4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds .
The questions asked of written submissions and witnesses:
—What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
—Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate (see below)?
—How independent are the other two international data sets?
- Rt Hon Lord Lawson of Blaby, Chairman, and Dr Benny Peiser, Director, Global Warming Policy Foundation
- Richard Thomas CBE
- Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor, University of East Anglia, and Professor Phil Jones, Director of the Climatic Research Unit
- Sir Muir Russell KCB, Head of the Independent Climate Change E-Mails Review
- Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist, Met Office, and Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientist, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Today’s hearing was allotted a shorter time period than was intended, but they managed to get in 3 solid hours of statements and questions.
One of the first things to ask when assessing one of these kinds of hearings is — who is heading the hearing and who sits on the panel? What are their political affiliations? Do they have any known interests in the issue at hand — any stakeholders in their constituencies that may affect their position on the issue? I know nothing about these players as they are UK and not Canadian, but I do invite any of my UK readers to comment with anything they know about the panel.
My conclusions first — this won’t make much difference, because the entrenched positions are not likely to change. What matters is who has power and what do they think about the matter? The hearing is public relations. It is showmanship. The government must appear to be looking into the issue and must appear to have met with the important principals and must appear to have received information from the public. This gives all the cranks and stakeholders the chance to provide written and oral input.
The government of the day will have to determine its position re the CRU matter and will have advisors on the best strategy to take with respect to any public statements. It will do what it has to do to retain credibility and appease its stakeholders — whichever ones the advisors think matter the most in terms of the political bottom line — retain power. Hence, it will be a political balancing act to decide what kind of response is required. I am glad I don’t have to be involved in any of that let me tell you! It’s nasty. Can’t you just see The Minister and Sir Humphrey discussing how to proceed? The withering look of Sir Humphrey as he reminds The Minister of various concerns?
I don’t know enough UK politics to know how this will play out in various parliamentary offices, but believe me, this means interesting times for those involved. 🙂
What will be of interest to the staff behind the scenes is this — will their politician perform well? This group seemed relatively well informed, although there were many instances of confusion, but that is to be expected as there are disconnects between the questions asked and the witness’s ability to understand the question and willingness to respond. The witnesses were aware of the questions they would be asked before hand and so should have had their responses well thought out. So, to that end, let’s look at the first witnesses — Lord Lawson and Dr. Piesner.
Dr. Pieser is of course a co-editor of Energy & Environment — the discredited ‘peer-review’ journal most climate skeptics seem to run to because they can’t get published in reputable climate science or science journals. I don’t have to mention the shenanigans and statements of 26 Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, but you can read her submission at the link under her name. I won’t deal with her submission in depth except to provide this:
I am interested in the value and misuse of the peer review process. [yuk yuk!] The negative attitudes of the IPCC/CRU people to my often sceptical journal have harmed it. Its impact rating has remained too low for many ambitious young researchers to use it, and even sales may have been affected. However, this is not an interest as my work is voluntary and the publisher has remained supportive. As a member of the Labour Party and deeply politically engaged person, I have not found life as a ‘climate sceptic’ always easy, but have kept my MP and MEP informed. I have been somewhat offended but not surprised by the ‘CRU-hack’ revelations.[my emphasis]
Might I express considerable amusement at her statement bolded above, given her previous statements about her vision of what a journal editor does and publishes? That her journal has lost prestige is due solely to the junk science it publishes and not anything the scientists at the CRU did, IMO.
Moving right along, Piesner’s submission is interesting. It centres on the fraud allegations against Wang by Douglas Keenan as discussed in the CRU emails. Here is the paper E&E published against the advice of Prof Jones. As people who have read the background on this will know, the charges of fraud against Wang were cleared by his employer. I do not know enough about the matter to comment on it, but I appreciate comments by those who actually are in the know and have more info. Was Jones protecting Wang and his own record? Are the criticisms of Jones deserved?
The other witness was Lord Lawson, who heads the GWPF — Global Warming Policy Foundation –– which appears to my first glance to be a clearly contrarian / denialist organization set up to provide some astroturf in the effort to help the cause of ‘creating a climate of doubt’ about AGW. All of its stories are tilted to contrarianism and a very interesting section on the language used in the website could be done, but alas, I have but one life. What is interesting is that despite this obvious bias as shown in the website’s articles and policies and publications, Lawson tried really hard to stick to the issue of “open access to data and methods’ mantra rather than debating whether the globe was warming.
Here is their submission to the committee:
We believe that there is compelling evidence both independent of the leaked email exchanges and arising from those emails to suggest that the answers to (ii), (iii) and (iv) above are clearly ‘yes’. As to (i) above, we believe that the jury is still out, although the motive for the improper behaviour involved in (ii), (iii) and (iv) above needs to be investigated, as it may well have a bearing on the answer to this. Moreover, we are disturbed by the CRU scientists’ treatment of the so-called divergence problem. That is the fact that, for that period of time where both a proxy global temperature series and a recorded global temperature series are available, the two series markedly diverge. This clearly suggests either that the proxy series is unreliable or that the recorded series is unreliable (or possibly both: the point is that they cannot both be true). The CRU scientists’ attempt to hide the problem by concealing the divergence demonstrates, we believe, a lack of integrity. [my emphasis]
Of course, this is the old “hide the decline” mantra that deniers and contrarians like to throw about in an effort to flog this dead horse. It sounds so good, you see. Taking words out of context is the easiest way to spin something to your side and this is what has happened in the case of the notorious email, IMO.
The fact that the 1998 Briffa paper discussed divergence, on which the WMO graphic was based, and that it was also mentioned in the TAR WG1 doesn’t count to deniers. The only thing that counts is that email and the WMO graphic — because it’s all they have. They must keep on it, making more of it that it deserves in order to keep the science and scientists in doubt.
Here is the exchange on the issue of divergence: (my transcripts are not verbatim, but I catch the general drift if you listen to the hearing … means I didn’t catch every word)
Lawson: The paleoclimate record is in question — not the basic science — the hiding of the decline – hiding of the divergence program. The emails brought to attention the existence of divergence to many more people even though it was not unknown. It brought up the reliability of the paleoclimatic record. The emails are important because they raised the issue of how reliable is the paleoclimatic record issue. How unusual is the warming we have seen in the latter part of the 20th century…The thing that is reprehensible is that when the proxy series based on tree rings departed from the measured temperature series, a normal person would say that maybe the proxy series is not that realiable. In order to stop people from saying that because they want that… They rely on on a single pine tree… They wanted the proxy series to show the so called — largely fraudulent hockey stick…If they had said openly that the proxy series doesn’t fit, … they say in their evidence that it was only after 1950- 60 — if they had said it doesn’t fit and so we’re going to use the proxy series before the temp readings are available, and after that splice on the temperature readings, and after that admit there has been a complete divergence of the two series since 1950. It would be out in the open. But they didn’t — they hid it.