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
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.