Stringer’s Dissents – a Split Decision

MP Graham Stringer, widely recognized for insightful questioning of Jones at the Parliamentary Inquiry, voted against acceptance of the Parliamentary Inquiry report, against the inclusion of the Summary and against a number of individual items. In every case, Stringer was opposed by three MPs: Tim Boswell, Evan Harris and Brian Iddon.

Individual dissents were as follows.

Stringer voted against paragraph 47 which stated the following:

47. This has substance if one considers CRU’s work in isolation. But science is more than individual researchers or research groups. One should put research in context and ask the question: what would one hope to find by double checking the processing of the raw data? If this were the only dataset in existence, and Professor Jones’s team had been the only team in the world to analyse it, then it might make sense to double check independently the processing of the raw data and the methods. But there are other datasets and other analyses that have been carried out as Professor Jones explained:

There are two groups in America that we [CRU] compare with and there are also two additional groups, one in Russia and one in Japan, that also produce similar records to ourselves and they all show pretty much the same sort of course of instrumental temperature change since the nineteenth century compared to today.67

[...] we are all working independently so we may be using a lot of common data but the way of going from the raw data to a derived product of gridded temperatures and then the average for the hemisphere and the globe is totally independent between the different groups.68

He voted against paragraph 51 which read as follows:

51. Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available—which they mostly are—or the methods not published—which they have been—its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified.

He proposed an amendment to paragraph 66, to leave out from the beginning to “We” in line 6 and insert “We have not taken enough evidence on this matter to come to a final conclusion”.—(Graham Stringer.) Paragraph 66 read as follows:

66. Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity. That he has published papers—including a paper in Nature—dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous. We expect that this is a matter the Scientific Appraisal Panel will address.

He proposed an amendment to paragraph 132 as follows: to leave out from “science” in line 6 to the end and add “it would be necessary for the whole of climate science to increase its transparency and improve its scientific methodology”. Paragraph 132 reads as follows:

132. Reputation does not, however, rest solely on the quality of work as it should. It also depends on perception. It is self-evident that the disclosure of CRU e-mails has damaged the reputation of UK climate science and, as views on global warming have become polarised, any deviation from the highest scientific standards will be pounced on. As we explained in chapter 2, the practices and methods of climate science are a key issue. If the practices of CRU are found to be in line with the rest of climate science, the question would arise whether climate science methods of operation need to change. In this event we would recommend that the scientific community should consider changing those practices to ensure greater transparency. it would be necessary for the whole of climate science to increase its transparency and improve its scientific methodology


21 Comments

  1. justbeau
    Posted Mar 30, 2010 at 10:27 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Stringer got a college degree in chemistry. Though a member of the Labour (Global Warming) party, he seems nobody’s yo-yo. Good for him and for the practice of democracy within the UK.

  2. Posted Mar 30, 2010 at 10:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Read it all pretty much. Phew.

    Andrew Montford is quoted more than anyone else of individual submitters – and very reasonable, measured and cogent are the excerpts chosen. Very helpful.

    Steve isn’t quoted once but that isn’t the real problem. The problem is that they didn’t call Steve for interview. He’s exceptionally good at explaining the background to many of the emails but that requires some serious time and attention, something the committee decided they didn’t have. To have Lord Lawson, politician and financial journalist, quoted saying one thing about the science (about the solitary pine, for example) followed by a rebuttal from Professor Phil Jones was ridiculous. There again, Steve ain’t recognised as professor of anything but many of us judge that he’d have done a better job than anyone in the world. There we have the climate science credentials problem in a nutshell. Ross McKitrick would also have been a good choice, of course.

    Phil Jones would be reinstated based on this. What does one say?

    It’s hard to take in. Graham Stringer is certainly a hero. And the report does rightly castigate CRU and climate science generally for witholding data and code. That surely must now change and, as it does, quality in many areas will improve. That’s all to the good, even if it feels a bit like a race against time, given so many plans still afoot in the policy arena. There again, public scepticism has hardened. It will be intriguing to see this plays in the London papers, the MSM more generally and the blogosphere. I’m not going to try to predict.

  3. Lance
    Posted Mar 30, 2010 at 10:43 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Really the best that could be hoped for. Much more than I expected actually.

    They let Jones off the hook of course and placed the blame amorphously on the University of East Anglia.
    Kudos to you Steve. You have shattered the wall of silence, at least temporarily, and you should take no small satisfaction in the tacit approval of your long enduring mission to shed light on the haughty closed society that represents most of the climate science consensus.
    The lone dissenting voice, MP Graham Stringer, will of course be branded a “denialist” in short order.
    No matter the cat is out of the bag and this marginal whitewash will not cover the stench.

  4. deadwood
    Posted Mar 30, 2010 at 10:51 PM | Permalink | Reply

    AS the member of the panel with a science background, and based on his questions during the oral testimony, I rather expected Stringer would try and place some sting in the report.

    However, aside from a couple of votes and editorial suggestions, his efforts do not quite rise to the level of hero as mentioned above. If he makes his views public – perhaps.

    • C.W. Schoneveld
      Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 4:52 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Your phrasing implies that you, not Stringer, are the expert.

  5. Posted Mar 30, 2010 at 11:05 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Stringer made one other suggested amendment not mentioned above, to paragraph 134:

    The process of two reviews or inquiries is underway. In our view there is the potential for overlap between the two inquiries—for example, the question of the operation of peer review needs to examine both methodology and quality of the science subject to review. The two reviews or inquiries need to map their activities to ensure that there are no unmanaged overlaps or gaps. If there are, the whole process could be undermined.

    His suggestion:

    Amendment proposed, at the end of line 5 to insert “Given the increasingly hostile attitudes of both sides on this issue, it is vital that these two inquiries have at least one member each who is a reputable scientist, and is sceptical of anthropogenic climate change”.—(Graham Stringer.)

    We might doubt the validity of the committee approach (I agree with Steve that an entirely impartial high court judge hearing evidence from whomever he chooses would be much better) but in the current context I think that was the most creditable of all.

  6. Posted Mar 30, 2010 at 11:50 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Stringer knows he can’t go too far because of some unstated political pressures, but he also knows it’s rubbish. Hide the decline is not some technically incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, it’s slashing the end off of a graph and blending a different one on. There is not one lick of science behind it.

    It’s paint by numbers.

    Yet they find nothing wrong.

    • Michael Jankowski
      Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 12:07 AM | Permalink | Reply

      “Hide the decline” – “In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous.”

      Say what?

  7. Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 12:05 AM | Permalink | Reply

    The BBC highlights Climate science must be more open, say MPs in its headline, not the various exonerations. And they focus on the last proposed amendment with Stringer:

    One dissenting member of the committee, Labour MP Graham Stringer, said he was unhappy that neither of the independent reviews had a climate sceptic member.

    “There should be a reputable scientist on the panel [who is] sceptical about man-made global warming,” he said.

    “If we are trying to establish credibility this would be preferable.”

    But Dr Evan Harris, science spokesman for the Liberal Democrats disagreed and said that scientific enquiries were, by their nature, sceptical.

    Setting up oppositional positions within a committee tended to hinder its work, he said.

    I hear that last point being said with feeling, with Mr Graham Stringer himself in mind!

    • ThinkingScientist
      Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 7:15 AM | Permalink | Reply

      The purpose of an inquiry is to reach the correct result. Hardly likely with a sceptic to “rock the boat”.

  8. Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 12:16 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Google News currently suggests a near-even split of headlines between exoneration and censure for lack of openness. I think only Roger Harrabin of the BBC (above) questioned Stringer after the report’s release, at least so far.

  9. johnh
    Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 1:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

    On BBC radio 4 this morning the chairman of the committee was interviewed, to a question on the UAE data being corrupt he replied that as there were 2 independant databases based in Russia and Japan that matched he saw no reason to believe the UAE data needed further investigation.

    Russia and Japan have Global Temp databases ?

  10. Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 9:51 AM | Permalink | Reply

    In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous.

    There’s discarding data, and then there’s discarding data.

    On the one hand, if data is known to be erroneous because of some external circumstance — such as the last 200 years of the Kortyavarti lake sediment series which has been disturbed by agriculture and development, then yes, it should be discarded.

    But if it just is suspected of being erroneous because it doesn’t fit one’s model, as is the case of the 1960-1980 portion of Briffa’s MXD series, then no, it may not be discarded. To do so is essentially cherry picking. Or to be more precise, “lemon dropping,” in the case where you are dropping “sour” observations and leaving the neutral ones in, rather than just picking the “sweet” ones.

  11. Ray Girouard
    Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Reply

    This is OT but I’m not sure which thread it belongs in. Please review and post accordingly. Thank you, Ray G.

    NASA will be using the Global Hawk drone for data gathering flights over the Pacific Ocean followed by flights over the Arctic regions. Chris Naftel, the NASA project manager indicates some willingness on NASA’s part to consider outside ideas on the use of this platform for research. See the following quote. I think that it behooves those of us in the skeptics community to consider the options, discuss ideas on the various blogs and make a few well-supported recommendations for experiments or data gathering that will help to move a data driven discussion forward. I will be sending this post to CA, WUWT, Bishop Hill and ChiefIO for consideration.

    “NASA Prepares ‘Global Hawk” for Takeoff”

    “Another major goal of the early runs will be to figure out just what else is possible with the Global Hawk. “We want to know, ‘how do you use this platform for research?’” Naftel said.

    The ideas may come from beyond NASA: Dryden will soon have live feeds from the Global Hawk, including high-definition ocean snapshots that “should be really fascinating for the public to see,” Naftel added. “

    http://www.livescience.com/technology/global-hawk-airplane-100330.html

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Apr 1, 2010 at 5:27 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Sir Charles Scott Sherrington has the same surname as mine. I have not established a blood link yet, but I do study his works because he was famous. Here is a passage to show how words like “research” and “attitude” used to have meaning. Quote -

      Oxford offered Sherrington the Waynflete Chair of Physiology in 1913.

      . The electors to that chair unanimously recommended Sherrington without considering any other candidates. Sherrington enjoyed the honor of teaching many bright students at Oxford. Over a handful of his students were Rhodes’ scholars and three went on to be Nobel laureates. The three are Sir John Eccles,
      Ragnar Arthur Granit and Lord Howard Florey.

      Sherrington’s philosophy as a teacher can be seen in his response to the question of what was the real function of Oxford University in the world. Sherrington said:

      “after some hundreds of years of experience we think that we have learned here in Oxford how to teach what is known. But now with the undeniable upsurge of scientific research, we cannot continue to rely on the mere fact that we have learned how to teach what is known. We must learn to teach the best attitude to what is not yet known. This also may take centuries to acquire but we cannot escape this new challenge, nor do we want to.”

    • Geoff Sherrington
      Posted Apr 1, 2010 at 5:38 AM | Permalink | Reply

      Ray Girouard re NASA Global Hawk. Would it be too mundane to grid map the UHI of several cities/towns and their rural surrounds using mid to far IR as with a FLIR camera? It’s too easy to jump to sexy applications when we lack the basics.

  12. Dr Iain McQueen
    Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 1:08 PM | Permalink | Reply

    This is a summary by the Science and Technology Committee of their activity to date for the session from Oct 2009 to the present dying days of this parliament March 2010:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/481/48106.htm#a9

    The penultimate paragraph No.65 concludes

    “….Third, that climate science has a great responsibility in terms of providing the planet’s decision makers with the knowledge that they need to secure our future and that this responsibility means that the knowledge on which these kinds of decisions are taken had better be right; the quality and transparency of the science must be irreproachable.”

    I reckon this is quite encouraging. None of the committee members will be naive, and I should say they have smelled a bit of a rat. They have to write a report for the record, but in the British way, that does not mean their beliefs are restricted to the published contents. It is to be hoped that some coherent questioning of the whole process is at least started.

  13. Ausie Dan
    Posted Mar 31, 2010 at 9:35 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I watched the netcast of the hearings in its entirity.

    It was refreshing to see a committee member who actually understood the issues and was not afraid to base his questions on that understanding.

  14. Tom P
    Posted Apr 1, 2010 at 3:25 AM | Permalink | Reply

    Steve,

    Have you resolved the issues with your submission yet, in particular the cause of the inaccurate reconstruction of Briffa’s plot and how many chronologies had been replaced in your sensitivity test?

    As the committee had been made aware of these issues, I’m afraid they might have rather discounted your submission unless you had given some clarification on these points.

  15. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Apr 1, 2010 at 5:44 AM | Permalink | Reply

    In politics, if you lie down with dogs you wake up with fleas. It cannot be assumed that all of the submissions were read, or even skimmed, as it is evident that most came down heavily against the CRU. It is very easy to find cases where the Committee reports on matters that say the opposite (with good reasoning) in the submissions. That’s not an unusual outcome for those who are taught not to ask questions unless they know the answers.

    G. Stringer MP is a Chemist. So am I. Simplistically put, we both know that if you mix A + B in a test tube, you get C every time. No supposition, no belief needed, just use the evidence that can be replicated over and over.

  16. Owl307
    Posted Apr 2, 2010 at 11:32 AM | Permalink | Reply

    It is perhaps informative to review the voting records of the few panel members that bothered to work and vote on the final report. It is significant that, barely 16 months ago, the UK Climate Change Bill, the most draconian yet passed into law anywhere, was passed virtually unanimously by all MP’s. Only three rebelled, all Conservatives, plus two Conservative tellers. None of those worthies sat on the present committee. Interestingly, from the CRU Parliamentary Inquiry, Labour member Stringer was absent for the Climate Change Bill vote, the other three Inquiry authors were however present and approved it. Stringer’s overall voting history is indicative that he is his own man- voting rebelliously on several occasions, notably in favour of a referendum on the high profile Lisbon Treaty.

    So it is perhaps not so surprising that Stringer rose fearlessly to the task in hand, while the others perhaps less courageously chose to adopt the tactically safer role, reminiscent of the proverbial Three Monkeys who saw, heard and spoke no evil.

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