Boulton’s 18 Years at UEA

The Muir Russell website states of its panel:

None have any links to the Climatic Research Unit, or the United Nations’ Independent Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). More information about each of the review team members can be found in the Biographies section.

An alert reader at Bishop Hill observes that Boulton spent 18 years at the University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences, before moving to the University of Edinburgh:

lectr then reader Sch of Environmental Science UEA 1968-86 … Univ of Edinburgh: regius prof of geology and mineralogy 1986-2008… gen sec RSE [Royal Society of Edinburgh] 2007-; contrib to numerous books and papers in glaciology, Polar science and global environmental change…

Muir Russell asked his listeners to accept that they were “independent” because – Muir Russell looking straight into the camera and saying “we are independent” and re-iterated on their webpage that “none have any links to the Climatic Research Unit”.

But the Inquiry bio left out Boulton’s 18 years of employment at the University of East Anglia.

I understand that climate scientists think that leaving out adverse information is a “good way to deal with a problem”, but people who aren’t climate scientists think that it’s a trick.

Update: Discussion of Boulton at The Scotsman here.

Prof Boulton said he had been open about having worked at the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA between 1968 and 1986. “Since then, I have had no professional contact with the University of East Anglia or the Climatic Research Unit,” he said.


26 Comments

  1. derek
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:34 PM | Permalink

    Just amazing

  2. Anand Rajan KD
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:38 PM | Permalink

    No wonder they wanted to call themselves “the team”.

  3. Steamboat McGoo
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:50 PM | Permalink

    I’m sorry, but this did not surprise me the tiniest bit.

  4. SimonH
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:53 PM | Permalink

    Epic stuff. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.

  5. derek
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 10:55 PM | Permalink

    I would now question Sir Muir Russell as the leader of this investigation.

  6. deadwood
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:01 PM | Permalink

    At the risk of sounding like I’m piling on, I’d say these folks’ bag of tricks has a way to go before being empty.

  7. Nick
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Permalink

    “None have any link to the Climate Research Unit..” Boulton was at the School of Environmental Science until 1986, 24 years ago. Did he have any connection with the CRU,besides being in the department that contained it?

    • Ian
      Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:35 PM | Permalink

      Nick:

      That’s a fair question, one which bears further investigation. That being said, in situations such as this (performing what amounts to a quasi-judicial function) the perception or apprehension of bias is itself problematic.

      On his blog, the good Bishop also notes (http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/2/12/more-boulton.html) that the “Team’s” website states as follows:

      “Do any of the Review team members have a predetermined view on climate change and climate science?

      No. Members of the research team come from a variety of scientific backgrounds. They were selected on the basis they have no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science and for the contribution they can make to the issues the Review is looking at.”

      It appears unlikely that this answer can be extended to Mr. Boulton. He appears to have nailed his colours very firmly to a single mast, which increases the appearance of possible bias. A couple of quotes from a lecture he gave in January, 2008 at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, indicate most clearly the ship that bears that mast:

      “The impacts are there already. These are representative images from Central Ladakh from ‘69, ‘79, ’89; they show the cover of snow and, in fact, glacier ice. The reason why that’s important is that during the dry season something like 80% of the flow of the rivers of the great north Indian plain, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, about eighty per cent of that dry season flow comes from snow and melting glaciers. Already in the last fifteen years we’ve seen dramatic reductions in dry season flow. Calculations by glaciologists now suggest that by 2050 most of the Himalayan glaciers will have gone and the impact on dry season flow of those great rivers will be dramatic in the extreme. They could be reduced between twenty and thirty per cent of their current dry season flow with devastating impacts on agriculture in both India and Pakistan and indeed, in Western China.”

      “I’ll touch on a medical issue. You will all remember the 2003 heat wave in Europe which produced this excess of deaths, particularly in France during the summer time. Well this is a forecast of temperature to 2100 – people shouldn’t take this too seriously, it’s not a specific forecast – and the variability here is based on the statistic analysis of previous variability. That’s the sort of temperature that was reached in the summer of 2003 in Paris and what it suggests as it says here that by the 2040s those temperatures will be normal and by the 2060s those temperatures will actually be rather cool and I leave it to your imagination what the impacts of that might be.”
      (From the transcript of the lecture: http://www.gcph.co.uk/content/view/119/107/”)

      The Bishop quotes a few other examples as well, though I think it’s clear where Mr. Boulton’s views lie on this matter.

      (Frankly, I think the Review Team did itself a disservice by declaring that none of its members had a decided view on climate issues – but, it’s there now, and I don’t think it can be said to apply to Mr. Boulton.)

      I expect that this is just the beginning…

  8. Follow the Money
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:06 PM | Permalink

    Boulton understands politics. The following from his 2008 work, “What are Universities for?”

    http://www.unimi.it//img/news/What_are_universities_for(1).pdf

    “10. It is not surprising therefore that universities have moved from the periphery to the centre of government agendas. Governments around the world have invested heavily in universities and made demands upon them about objectives and even the processes used to attain them.”

    I, for one, would like to hear from the UEA how much and in specificity the UK government urged certain findings and emphases.

  9. Charlie A
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:13 PM | Permalink

    Ouch.

    • Harry Eagar
      Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:27 PM | Permalink

      He may not have had anything much to do with CRU, although on the other hand, faculty form a (heh) collegiate body to make decisions, so he could hardly have avoided acting (uh) collegially with the people now to be investigated.

      This spells the end of the Russell panel. If he couldn’t investigate the backgrounds of his own selections any better than that, how could anyone imagine he could investigate anything as vexed as CRUtape?

  10. geo
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:28 PM | Permalink

    Oh, I don’t know. . . “set a crook to catch a crook”, after all. And he left in 1986, not only more than 20 years ago, but well before this whole area became contentious.

    Tell me he’s Phil Jones brother-in-law and I’d be a lot more worried.

  11. geo
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:30 PM | Permalink

    I’m not saying that everyone should get a pass on conflict-of-interest, but it would be nice to think that the skeptic community would have a lot more empathy for conflict-of-interest claims that are somewhere between tenuous and spurious. After all, who knows better how unfair they usually are?

  12. Charlie A
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:45 PM | Permalink

    And the comments over at Bishop Hill have several more comments he made, including comments from his lecture of 29 January 2008:

    “Calculations by glaciologists now suggest that by 2050 most of the Himalayan glaciers will have gone and the impact on dry season flow of those great rivers will be dramatic in the extreme.”

    ref: http://www.gcph.co.uk/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,385/

    Immediately before that he says “The reason why that’s important is that during the dry season something like 80% of the flow of the rivers of the great north Indian plain, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, about eighty per cent of that dry season flow comes from snow and melting glaciers.”

    I haven’t found any really definitive statements on this, but what I’ve found indicates that the glacial melt coincides with the summer monsoon, and that the dry season is in the winter when the glacier (and snow) melt is negligible. (More precisely, it seems that snow melt peaks in late spring, then monsoons, then right after that glacier melt peaks).

  13. Graham
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:47 PM | Permalink

    Perhaps this is a calculated move to bow out …via the victim card. What I find curious is if so, what is the next move? Maybe something like this:

    Since we couldn’t find *qualified* individuals that were not involved with CRU/IPCC so we can’t begin a *real* inquiry. As we have said before, the skeptics keep us from doing our work, and we don’t know how to “counter the concerted media and industry effort”.

  14. Charlie A
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:49 PM | Permalink

    In the introduction to his lecture, see link above, the moderator describes Boulton as

    ” He also heads up the Global Change Research Group which is hosted in Edinburgh and he has just told Carol and I that he has recently arrived back from China where he has been having discussions there with governmental and NGO representatives around global climate change and the role that China and it’s industrialisation will be playing in that.”

    So perhaps he’s not working directly for IPCC or UN, but it sure sounds like he’s in the middle of the climate change bureaucracy.

  15. Charlie A
    Posted Feb 12, 2010 at 11:52 PM | Permalink

    The panel is clearly getting off to a bad start as far as credibility.

    I don’t see any inherent problem in having on the panel people that have already stated positions on climate change.

    But it is bad form to claim that they are coming to the panel with a clean slate when that clearly is not the reality.

  16. Mr. Hutton
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 12:34 AM | Permalink

    I am concerned by Professor Boulton’s claim:
    “Calculations by glaciologists now suggest that by 2050 most of the Himalayan glaciers will have gone”
    Made on 29 January 2008 at Glasgow Centre for Population Health.
    He is no diletente in glacial matters. He was the Regius professor of Geology at Edinburgh, which must be one of the most prestigious chairs of Geology. His research interests include glaciers. To quote his web page at the university:
    “Research Interests: Works: on the processes that condition the stability of large ice sheets, particularly the hydraulic and deformational processes at the ice sheet bed; modelling the dynamic behaviour of former ice sheets and their geological products; and the future evolution of glacier cover in the Himalayas.”
    So why did he say the Himalayan glaciers would be mostly gone by 2050. As with the figure of 2035 this must have been roundly debunked. I can speculate three situations.
    1. It really is as bad as the good professor says backed up by his erudite research.
    2. His research in the Himalayan glaciers is as speculative as Hasnanian’s. Or his experise is in historic glaciers and doesn’t translate readily into predictions.
    3. He is repeating flawed figures from the IPCC summary to sow alarmism and fit in with AGW in his public speeches, which however conflicts with his serious geological expertise. He is an expert and cannot use the excuse of being misinformed by others.

    Cheers James

    • Harry Eagar
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

      Yes, this is the most bizarre point of all.

      Maybe some journalist at New Scientist got the 2050 (or 2035) date badly wrong, but you’d think a professional glaciologist of 40 years standing would have spotted the mistake. Or does Boulton think it wasn’t a mistake?

      Were skeptics mocking Pachauri missing the real target, which would be real glaciologists? Or were skeptics wrong this time?

  17. bobdenton
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:33 AM | Permalink

    Between 1976 and 1986 Boulton and Jones fellow members of staff at the School of Environmental Sciences UEA. That’s a lot of collegiality.

    There is insufficient distance between Boulton and the institution and personnel under scrutiny for him to regarded as independent.

    We do not know how Boulton and Jones got on when they worked together, but whatever evidence he hears will be coloured by his emotional response to the institution he worked for and the colleagues he worked with. There will be an unavoidable reflexive bias.

    This is the reason that an independent enquiry is normally empanelled, so a distance between the institution and personnel can be created that eliminates unconscious and reflexive bias.

  18. ianl8888
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 3:01 AM | Permalink

    I have admitted to myself that if Boulton is finally squeezed out for all the reasons listed in the lead post here, this is a far heavier step than Campbell leaving … fascinating

  19. Gary
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 10:07 AM | Permalink

    Prof Boulton said he had been open about having worked at the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA between 1968 and 1986. “Since then, I have had no professional contact with the University of East Anglia or the Climatic Research Unit,” he said.

    Careful parsing is in order. “no professional contact” does not exclude all contact, including personal friendships. It’s the cozy relationships that are more troublesome. Professional relationships have paper trails and clear indications of quid pro quo.

  20. Jimchip
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

    “But the Inquiry bio left out Boulton’s 18 years of employment at the University of East Anglia.”

    Funny, that. In order to keep my optimism I must defend Boulton: meh, at least he’s a Scot.

  21. Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 12:38 PM | Permalink

    I understand that climate scientists think that leaving out adverse information is a “good way to deal with a problem”, but people who aren’t climate scientists think that it’s a trick.

    Exactly. Increasing numbers of neutral observers in the UK – soon to be voters in a general election – have every reason to demand something scrupulously honest and scrupulously fair. That the Muir Russell inquiry clearly isn’t, at least not yet.

  22. dearieme
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:15 PM | Permalink

    “Since then, I have had no professional contact with the University of East Anglia or the Climatic Research Unit,..”

    I can’t think of a single person of my scientific acquaintance of whom the corresponding statement would be true.

  23. P Solar
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    “Since then, I have had no professional contact with the University of East Anglia or the Climatic Research Unit,” he said.

    Note the careful language. The “no professional contact” suggests there is some non-professional contact that he has maintained with is colleges of 18 years.

    Such contact could be as much or more of a conflict of interest.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Climategate, what is going on? - EcoWho on Feb 14, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    [...] Boulton’s 18 Years at UEA – not that an independent review after all.. [...]

  2. [...] to the University of East Anglia – still unreported at the Inquiry website – see here. The Inquiry had stated: None have any links to the Climatic Research Unit, or the United [...]

  3. [...] didn’t take long to show that this claim was wrong in respect to Boulton. First, Boulton had worked for 18 years at UEA, directly overlapping with Phil Jones and Tom Wigley (the link here is to a CA [...]

  4. [...] establishment. Other than a few lone voices, the silence there was deafening. Now there is another whitewash investigation, and the silence only [...]

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