Royal Society of Edinburgh, Oct 29, 2009

The Muir Russell FAQ states:

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.

In respect to Team member Geoffrey Boulton, General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, they say:

Professor Geoffrey Boulton has expertise in fields related to climate change and is therefore aware of the scientific approach, through not in the climate change field itself.

Boulton’s unawareness of the “scientific approach … in the climate change field itself” – a complaint that others have also made about Team climate science – has not prevented him from talking at considerable length about climate change.

In addition to Boulton presentations listed elsewhere e.g. here here , I draw readers attention to his presentation at the Royal Society of Edinburgh on the eve of Climategate (Oct 29, 2009) as part of a program entitled “The impact of climate change on Scotland.”

The three presenters were:

Professor Geoffrey Boulton OBE FRS FRSE, General Secretary, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Member PM’s Council for Science and Technology.
Professor John Mitchell OBE FRS, Director Climate Science, The Met Office.
Dr Andrew Dlugolecki, Visiting Fellow, Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia and Chartered Insurance Institute

Boulton’s presentation was entitled Adapting to climate change: the space between science and politics ppt here. There is an online summary of Boulton’s remarks here:

PROFESSOR BOULTON summarized the present position. We have the evidence, we have a consensus on scientific interpretation, we have the investment, we know (Stern) that mitigation now rather than later is cheaper. But, we have not sorted out the politics and started to adapt behaviour to minimize risks. We cannot do this without public support. If we fail, we will be risking the consequences of catastrophic climate changes. The problem is that these consequences will not be felt at first in polluting countries, such as Scotland. The objectives of the RSE inquiry are to map out the ground between where we are now and where we need to get to in order to achieve the targeted Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions; and understand how to engage the public so as to enable politicians to make the right choices. Change is happening now – see the studies of water flow in the Ganges and the effects on agriculture. Kyoto failed to reduce atmospheric CO2; Copenhagen needs to do much better. But will it?

Surveys show only 33% of the public are concerned about climate change, and only 18% alarmist. The issue is lower in priority than other seeming threats. A problem for public understanding is that climate change science is complex – not simple cause and effect with self evident outcomes. We cannot fully explain the relationship between and the extent of natural and anthropogenic variations in the atmosphere. The public think that computational modelling which underlies projections is only a technical tool thought up for the occasion; they do not understand the universal use of modelling to project likely consequences. A mitigation strategy must seek to meet emission targets, minimize costs, and maximize energy security. The policies which would enable us to meet these aims should include economic incentives, freedom to use all technical means, and full transmission to the public of the need to stop the misuse of resources. But we must be positive about the future, not simply fearful and negative.

Speakers agreed that it was vital to get children to understand the issues in climate change and discuss the actions needed to meet objectives. The Inquiry certainly proposed to involve schools. Children could not only pressure parents but could themselves imagine how things might be done differently, and how actions might improve life, not threaten it. But we need to be careful about how they are taught and the basis of their understanding. We must not attempt to tell teachers how to teach, but they must be able to appreciate the scientific method, the analytical tools that are used and the importance of exploring unexpected relationships

The role of the media was also raised. How much time should be spent attempting to educate them and rebutting the inevitable publicity generated by sceptics? Was the BBC, with its remit of fair coverage, too lenient with sceptics? Sceptics must be answered, but politely. Rancour and exaggeration would backfire, and result in loss of confidence in arguments.

The Scotsman today:

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. He added tha that he had “declared my current view of the balance of evidence: that the earth is warming and that human activity is implicated. These remain the views of the vast majority of scientists who research on climate change in its different aspects”.

But he added: “As a sceptical scientist, I am prepared to change those views if the evidence merits it. They certainly do not prevent me from being heavily biased against poor scientific practice, wherever it arises.”

The second speaker at the session was John Mitchell of the Met Office, who has been the topic of much discussion at CA. His obstruction of FOI requests was covered by David Rose of the Daily Mail last Sunday. As CA readers know, Mitchell, of course, was the Review Editor of Briffa’s chapter in AR4. It was his Review Comments that were originally sought in David Holland’s FOI. Mitchell notified Phil Jones and Keith Briffa (and Susan Solomon) of Holland’s original pre-FOI inquiry in March 2006. On June 2, 2006, three days after Jones asked Briffa, Ammann, Mann and Wahl to delete correspondence pertaining to AR4, the Met Office said that Mitchell had deleted all his correspondence pertaining to AR4. It’s not unreasonable to wonder whether there might be a connection. However, the Russell inquiry did not include this in its “distillation” of questions.

The third speaker was Andrew Dlugolecki, Visiting Fellow, Tyndall Centre, University of East Anglia – the university with which Boulton has had “no professional contact” with since 1986.

Bishop Hill reported that Boulton’s office is three doors away from Gabi Hegerl. There’s a definite dig-here. Hegerl and her husband Tom Crowley were hired by the University of Edinburgh in 2007 at a very senior level. They are authors of a Hockey Stick study (one that is used in a Royal Society of Edinburgh briefing paper on Copenhagen dated December 2009) – more on this later. Crowley is mentioned 125 times in the Climategate Letters and Hegerl 41 times. It seems implausible that Boulton was not involved in the decision to invite and/or hire Crowley and Hegerl to the University of Edinburgh while he was a Professor in the very department to which they were hired.

Boulton is quite entitled to hold his present views on climate change and to ask government to adopt policies based on the views of institutions like various Royal Societies. (I’ve said, on numerous occasions, that, if I were a Minister of the Environment, I too would be guided by advice from accredited scientific institutions.)

But I do not agree that Muir Russell can then say that Boulton holds “no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science”. Boulton clearly believes that climate change is an important issue and that policy changes are urgent and important. He’s entitled to that belief.

Equally it’s not unreasonable for third parties to be concerned that someone holding such beliefs will have a considerable temptation to overlook or minimize any transgressions that may have committed by the (Hockey) Team.

There are thousands of people in the world who are qualified to serve on this inquiry who have never met Jones, Briffa and/or Mitchell; who haven’t worked for 18 years at the University of East Anglia and who aren’t currently active in climate change policy advocacy – people who meet Muir Russell’s criteria of having “no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science”. Boulton isn’t one of them.

27 Comments

  1. deadwood
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 12:28 AM | Permalink

    You have to wonder whether there is anybody in the upper echelons of the European or American scientific community who could act without bias.

  2. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 12:34 AM | Permalink

    Peter Clarke and Jim Norton seem reasonable enough on what little we know about them right now. There are thousands of scientists that meet Russell’s criteria.

  3. R Rodger
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:43 AM | Permalink

    The Piltdown man hoax lasted more than 40 years. The lesson seems to be that any theory that fits with preconceived views is very hard to shake, even amongst creditable scientists. The present situation calls for a fresh view, but a focus on the process doesn’t have to be by climatogists. Real scientists outside of the field might be able to dispell myths faster by even a cursory review of the methods used. Those already convinced of the evidence are probably resiled to stay that way.

  4. Tony Hansen
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:54 AM | Permalink

    What are the odds of a man of Muir Russells intelligence and experience making one bad call in five (ie Phillip Campbell)?
    Then for two in five?

    • Bernie
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:10 AM | Permalink

      One has to seriously wonder at the state of professional ethics among British academics. How on earth could Campbell and Boulton even allow their names to be put forward? They know their prior involvement and they must realize that there is a need for an impartial panel. Shame on them. Shame on Muir Russell. It is like being asked to sit on a jury when you have a deep interest in the outcome. It feels like somethiing from a movie, e.g., the Runaway Jury (but not 12 Angry Men).

      • JCM
        Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 11:26 AM | Permalink

        The UK has been in steep decline for 40 years.
        It afffects all aspects of society, why would we expect its institutions to be beacons of light and truth ?

        • jamie
          Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

          Definitely the reputation of UK educational institutions are taking a hammering. The Old Boys club long associated with these institutions raise it’s ugly head again in this enquiry.

          As Mr Watts has already stated there are many professionals that could have been asked to particpate in the process that have no association, they chose however to go with alarmists and a professor with past ties to the University.

        • Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 6:56 AM | Permalink

          Re: jamie (Feb 13 14:16), I’m glad this is all happening and being outed. I hope it will make clearance, at the depth needed, more possible. Since Maggie Thatcher’s input the whole direction of UK research was set on a fatal tailspin. This may be why there seem to be so few tenured UK academics speaking up about the bad climate science – compared to other countries – and so much bad science put out as official answers to sceptics by BBC, Royal Society and Met Office.

        • Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

          I suspect Lucy you’re going to be snipped for politics there but in case not Freeman Dyson has a rather different analysis of why UK academics got stuck in such pessimism and apocalypticism, partly through their snobbish reaction to Thatcher, in the middle of a brilliant 2007 interview with Benny Peiser which is also prescient on the AGW issue, as ever. Dyson is generally a liberal Democrat (and liberal rather than fundamentalist Christian) but was of course born in the UK, one of our greatest scientists of the last hundred years, so I find his spin on this important cultural background of particular non-partisan interest.

        • Jimchip
          Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 1:06 PM | Permalink

          Re: Lucy Skywalker (Feb 14 06:56),

          Lucy, leaving politics aside, there aren’t a lot of US climate scientists speaking up and, according to ‘email Phil’, the US should have four times as many ‘speaker uppers’. I think a lot of attitudes derive from the ambiguity and uncertainty of the conclusions reached by the science in it’s current state of development. Recently I’ve been studying some Briifa emails and I think Ed Cook’s “half-empty” “half-full” statements wrt the MWP from several years ago still apply in lots of areas. I call it human nature- Even the insiders (maybe especially the insiders) are somewhat tepid about media and political implications. I hope the US doesn’t follow the MET example, for example, wrt here.

    • stephen richards
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 8:56 AM | Permalink

      You shouold not assume that titled british people have either intelligence or common sense. Lord, Sir, Baron, Baronette, etc rarely arrive paired with the words intelligent, streetwise, common sense, knowledgeable etc. They do not get their titles for being radical free thinkers, you know.

  5. John R. Walker
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 4:12 AM | Permalink

    Statement from the UK science community

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6950783.ece

    A Prof. Geoffrey Boulton of Edinburgh University also appears on this list as signed up to this statement:

    We, members of the UK science community, have the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities. The evidence and the science are deep and extensive. They come from decades of painstaking and meticulous research, by many thousands of scientists across the world who adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity. That research has been subject to peer review and publication, providing traceability of the evidence and support for the scientific method. The science of climate change draws on fundamental research from an increasing number of disciplines, many of which are represented here. As professional scientists, from students to senior professors, we uphold the findings of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which concludes that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”.

    • Glacierman
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:07 AM | Permalink

      That says enough for me. That is officially going on the record in my opinion. No further evidence of having one’s mind made up is needed.

  6. Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 5:32 AM | Permalink

    There are thousands of people in the world who are qualified to serve on this inquiry who have never met Jones, Briffa and/or Mitchell; who haven’t worked for 18 years at the University of East Anglia and who aren’t currently active in climate change policy advocacy – people who meet Muir Russell’s criteria of having “no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science”. Boulton isn’t one of them.

    I think you’ve established that Steve! As ever, thanks.

    • justbeau
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 10:49 AM | Permalink

      Cogently stated.
      There are thousands of technically literate people who could serve as independant reviewers. Boulton, however, is not among them. The review seems to be aiming to evaluate climate science, a sweeping mandate. This explains inclusion of a Global Warming policy advocate like Boulton, to defend claims about the general validity of “mainstream” IPCC science.

      UEA should instead be pursue a much more limited scope. How is UEA conducting its climate programs and are any changes warranted within UEA, in light of disclosures within the revealed emails? A narrow focus like this would leave the field of climate science for debate among climate scientists. A reasonable review would focus on the practice of science at UEA and on the conduct and obligations of the university’s climate scientists.

  7. Don Jackson
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 5:35 AM | Permalink

    Most people sign petitions because they hadn’t the time or inclination to avoid doing so…

    • Don Jackson
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 5:37 AM | Permalink

      (in reference to above)

  8. sam mccomb
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 5:43 AM | Permalink

    Sorry if this is OT.The RSE is holding an inquiry “Facing up to climate change”. One remit is: “To engage in deliberative dialogue with individuals, industries and public authorities to help develop and respond to proposed government climate change policies. The inquiry is Scottish orientated.However, IMHO it might be useful for folk here with or without a scientific background to make contributions.What emerges from the inquiry may help dialogue or raise awareness of scientific disagreement. All submissions will be published which may mean it is more likely that they will need to be addressed. We have until 31 may, the closing date for submissions. It might be interesting to copy submissions to the Mann inquiry and the Muir- Russell inquiry to this one.

  9. Craig Loehle
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 8:49 AM | Permalink

    Richard Feynman, where are you?

    • kim
      Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 9:16 AM | Permalink

      With four episodes of significantly similar rates of temperature rise in the last century and a half, show me the anthropogenic signature.
      =================

    • stephen richards
      Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 8:51 AM | Permalink

      Craig I said that to wife almost at the same moment that you posted. Richard where are you?? Please come back.

  10. ErnieK
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    The Inquiry certainly proposed to involve schools. Children could not only pressure parents…

    Indoctrinate the children at an early age to pressure their parents — where have I seen those tactics used before?

  11. ZT
    Posted Feb 13, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    snip – over-editorializing

    The next press conference will be interesting.

  12. Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 8:55 AM | Permalink

    Why is this being treated as so important?

    I can easily go out and get four acquaintances to put together a report on our opinion about the Emails. We would have very firm opinions. Nobody would pay the slightest attention. The same path should be followed for this group.

    Why is the opinion of this group more useful than the opinion any five people one could pull in off the street?

  13. adamnemo
    Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM | Permalink

    “There are thousands of people in the world who are qualified to serve on this inquiry who have never met Jones, Briffa and/or Mitchell; who haven’t worked for 18 years at the University of East Anglia and who aren’t currently active in climate change policy advocacy – people who meet Muir Russell’s criteria of having “no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science”. Boulton isn’t one of them.”

    How very accurate, and to the point. Apparently, there are still those who think they can get away with it.

  14. Posted Feb 14, 2010 at 11:01 PM | Permalink

    Among the thousands of people “having “no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science””, any names coming to mind?

    Steve: this is essentially a legal matter. Turn it over to lawyers.

  15. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Mar 21, 2010 at 5:22 AM | Permalink

    There are significant implications for the education of youngsters in this type of work. Here is a take by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Penny Sackett. About 15 mins of video, with the main message near the end.

    http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201003/r533777_3055472.asx

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] As famed Canadian climate analyst, Steve McIntyre, the unpaid blogger who precipitated the Climategate scandal by his Freedom of Information requests, points out: […]

  2. […] contact with the University of East Anglia or the Climatic Research Unit”. But as recently as Oct 29, 2009, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Boulton is the General Secretary) presented a program entitled […]

  3. By Eye on Britain (2) on Feb 15, 2010 at 7:05 AM

    […] on one side or the other.” [These guys don't seem to be able to keep their story straight. The Muir Russell FAQ states: "Professor Geoffrey Boulton has expertise in fields related to climate change and is therefore […]

  4. […] her husband Tom Crowley, a prominent IPCC advocate. Third, as recently as Oct 29, 2009, Boulton had invited and appeared professionally with CRU fellow Dlugolecki and Climategate correspondent Mitchell at a Royal Society of Edinburgh […]

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