Oxburgh: “It’s Just Not Fair”

It’s hard to restrain snark when considering an email like the following:

Oxburgh – “We all understood how and why this happened”. OK, then wouldn’t it have been worthwhile reporting how and why this happened? Isn’t that would inquiries are supposed to do?

Oxburgh: “it’s just not fair to blame this on CRU!” Boo hoo. Then who?

Maybe Oxburgh’s next “inquiry” will conclude “it’s just not fair to blame the blowout on BP!” After all, Tony didn’t personally install the cement or remove the drilling mud or whatever.


  1. wcopp
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 3:50 PM | Permalink

    Although I am not a scientist nor do I claim any particular expertise in any hard science field, for 25 years I have kept with me a copy of a book that I’m sure you must have read. It is probably the best book on the whole climate change issue existing….despite not saying a word about the issue in it. It is Richard P. Feynman’s “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.” Although the entire book is delightful and edifying, the last chapter “Cargo Cult Science” is the most on point. I would also recommend Feynman’s report of his participation in the Challenger shuttle investigation, published in “What Do You Care What Other People Think” after his death in 1988. This last is particularly pertinent in re the BP oil spill.

    • Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 4:04 AM | Permalink

      Absolutely agree, wcopp, those are both excellent reads. I would also recommend Taleb’s “The Black Swan” to all readers here – I’ve just finished reading it and it contains a lot of thought-provoking material about the nature of randomness (he categorises deterministic but unknowable processes as ‘random’) in the real world, and the implications of same for our ability to predict the future, and to quantify risk.

      The examples in the book are largely about the world of high finance. Writen around 2006, it’s quite chilling to realise how well-known the fragility of the global economic system was at that time, given later events.

      He doesn’t address climate science at all but many passages are directly applicable to the field.

      • JT
        Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 9:28 AM | Permalink

        I’ll also recommend:

        How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organised Criticality

        Per Bak
        New York, NY: Copernicus Press
        Cloth: ISBN 0-387-94791-4

        Its about the ubiquity of processes which follow power laws in the natural world.

  2. ZT
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    This message shows that Lord Ronnie (of Beano?) knew that Jones et al had behaved badly.

    However, it also shows that no one has bothered to explain to Lord Ronnie what was actually done to hide the decline. ‘…no error bands…'(!) – well, indeed, but that is not the significant problem.

    Clearly Lord Ronnie was picked to defend the indefensible on the basis of his inability to absorb information. I wonder who actually wrote the report?

    (I suspect that an analysis of the vocabulary will trace the inquiry report back to the UEA).

  3. Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    Typo, Steve: “Isn’t that would inquiries are supposed to do?”.

    I think you meant to say, “Isn’t that what inquiries …” [Or perhaps, “Isn’t that what a proper inquiry would do?”]

    That aside, the “IPCC stuff” Oxburgh didn’t have “to hand” is perhaps the flip-side to the irrelevant “papers” which they obviously did have “to hand” and about which the report (using the term somewhat loosely) made much ado.

    Amazing. Simply amazing.

  4. Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 4:36 PM | Permalink

    I am beginning to wonder, in all seriousness, if none of the Oxburgh panel members knew that Jones and Briffa were IPCC and WMO lead authors. In the report itself they exonerate CRU but blame groups like the IPCC for “regrettably” failing to discuss all the uncertainties. It all gets very bizarre unless you imagine that some or most of the panelists didn’t realize that on the relevant topics, IPCC&WMO = Jones&Briffa; and those that did kept mum.

    • bender
      Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

      people & institutions, peas & thimbles. Keep the targets moving.

    • Brooks Hurd
      Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 8:54 PM | Permalink

      Since the goal seems to have been to exonerate rather than to investigate, then these surreal statements are consistent with the flawed process.

    • Craig Loehle
      Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

      When you put on a different hat, you become a different person, so it doesn’t count. Seriously, either they didn’t know Jones & Briffa et al were lead IPCC authors, or they have very good compartmentalized thinking.

      • Dave Andrews
        Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

        When you conduct a ‘whitewash inquiry’ you have no problem compartmentalising things. CRU was the object of the inquiry so they just took CRU ‘literally’ as their remit despite what they might otherwise have known.

        Steve: The Parliamentary Committee said that they expected the Science Appraisal Panel to consider the trick (which involved CRU scientists at IPCC). To the extent that they expected panels to consider their opinions, they were disappointed. To the extent that they were led to believe that Oxburgh would consider CRU conduct at IPCC, they were tricked.

        • bender
          Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 2:57 PM | Permalink

          CRU was the object, and quality of science was the subject. Easy then – by obfuscation – to avoid focused scrutiny on the performance of one guy who did one thing – Phil Jones “completing Mike’s Nature trick”.

  5. Paul Penrose
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 4:55 PM | Permalink

    Simply amazing. Didn’t it ever occur to them that someone would use FOI to obtain their emails and notes? Makes me wonder how smart these people really are. Maybe they think they are untouchable?

  6. kim
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 5:19 PM | Permalink

    Oxburgh’s ‘I don’t know’ when asked if the papers were chosen by the Royal Society is even more damning. See the Bishop’s.

  7. ZT
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 7:35 PM | Permalink

    Seems to me that the brittle circled wagons strategy will not be able to survive the revelations about Oxburgh’s ‘structuring’ of the inquiry, and Kelly’s real view of the hand (if not Royal Society) picked papers.

    Perhaps there will have to be a move toward tactical reassignments or resignations and an adoption of a new ‘it was just a one-off, few bad-apples’ tactic. (As George Monbiot originally suggested).

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the Muir Russell inquiry. I imagine that the practice sessions for the press conference, and Roger Harrabin’s briefings have already begun.

  8. mpaul
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 8:04 PM | Permalink

    I wanted to look something up in the Oxburgh report and followed the link to UEA — the report has disappeared! Is it just me, or has it vanished?

  9. justbeau
    Posted Jun 22, 2010 at 10:24 PM | Permalink

    John Cleese used to shout “unfair” when acting the role of an idiot, Gumby. Now its Lord Ox.

  10. Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 1:01 AM | Permalink

    Just to be sure. Many people know why and how this happened. Could you please simply explain it to the rest of us? Many of us only know it vaguely… 😉

    • DaveJR
      Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 6:38 AM | Permalink

      I’ve yet to see anyone summarise “how and why this happened” better than Steven Schneider (Promoter of the recent PNAS “black list” paper):

      “On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands and buts.

      On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.

      This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.”

      • Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 8:09 AM | Permalink

        Thanks, sure, I know this quote.

        I was asking for a somewhat more technical answer – why the error bars are being omitted. Well, they’re probably omitted because they would show, even with the flawed data, that the past climate is pretty much unknown.

        This undermines the authority of the champions of the climate panic – who know everything. On the other hand, such an uncertainty is also good because these folks also know how to present any uncertainty as an argument for even more hysterical reactions. 😉

        So I would like to hear what’s really important according to Oxburgh and why the omission of the error bars happened in his opinion. I know that none of you ise actually Lord Oxbugger but many of you must know him more than I do. 🙂

      • Gary
        Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

        There is no “ethical bind” for someone who is honest. What’s the problem with telling all the facts, caveats, uncertainties, etc. and then saying what you do and don’t know has you scared? Of course you have to say that you tend toward worry/pessimism to put your emotions in context, but that’s just being honest. Now you can be both a scientist and a human being. Otherwise you’re just a marketer.

        • Gord Richens
          Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

          Securities regulation in various jurisdictions will require offering documents (such as a PPM or a prospectus) to conclude with a certification generally as follows:

          “The foregoing contains no untrue statement of a material fact and does not omit to state a material fact that is required to be stated in order for the statement not to be misleading.”

          Until the public fully appreciates that the hiding of a material fact is just as obnoxious as spreading untruths, this sort of ethical bind will continue to be tested.

      • Laurent Cavin
        Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 9:36 AM | Permalink

        Interestingly, the key is that a scientist is supposed to be neutral, and have distance (not emotionally involved) with the subject of study. Ideally, it should not matter to him what the result is.

        This is a basic requirements for making good science. And we see that the ideal is already unreachable: all scientist must publish and need positive results for that, so they are not fully neutral.

        But wait… who can be neutral and keep distance at the tought of catastrophe for your specie? Man, the fate of our planet is at stake! As soon as those scientists got persuaded that they needed to save the planet, they could by definition not remain neutral scientists. Perhaps by surhuman effort they may have kept an appearance of objectivity, at best.

        Remember, they are on a mission to save the planet.

  11. Russ
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 1:39 AM | Permalink

    The Song remains the same I guess?

  12. Steve Crook
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 3:07 AM | Permalink

    The whole thing looks increasingly like a sham. The question is, what happens now?

    There’s no prospect of the inquiry being re-run, but now we know it was flawed, and the worries of at least one of the members of the inquiry panel were ignored, or not considered sufficiently important to warrant mention.

    Will this just continue to rattle round the blog-o-sphere, or does it have legs? Here in the UK, we’ve just had a tax increases and spending cuts and there’s the world cup, so there’s no chance of any mainstream press coverage.

    • DaveS
      Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 11:44 AM | Permalink

      For a start, it would be good to see Davies, Oxburgh, Hoskins and Rees publicly challenged with the evidence of their collusion to pretend that the Royal Society had anything to do with the selection of the papers (as revealed in the Due diligence… Climate Audit thread of 10 June). That collusion, on top of the false statement in the report about the provenance of the papers, together with the irrelevance of the (carefully selected, it appears) papers, ought to be enough to demonstrate the worthlessness of the report and for most of the above to be fired (difficult in Oxburgh’s case).

      Oxburgh should also explain why, if he really didn’t know who devised the list (a claim which to me dosen’t fit in with Davies’ email which says that Oxburgh was keen to be able to say that the RS had a hand in devising the list), he didn’t ask.

      • ZT
        Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 12:50 PM | Permalink

        Davies, Oxburgh, Hoskins, Rees should apologize and institute an independent inquiry run by Kelly.

  13. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 6:04 AM | Permalink

    The worry continues when one asks how these various curves were converted into one. By hand drawing, perhaps?

  14. Benjamin
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 7:15 AM | Permalink

    Nominations for the IPCC AR5 are already done.

    Click to access wg1authors.pdf

    That is to say : the IAC review is useless for AR5, maybe for AR6 ?

    Richard Tol on this issue (translated with google, check bishophill comments on this topic) : “The IPCC forces IAC’s hand. The selction of the authors is the most important step. The IAC therefore has no influence on AR5 and we will have to wait untill AR6 (2021). Although I am CLA, I had no insight in the selection process. Useful or not ?”

  15. Stacey
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 7:50 AM | Permalink

    The UK honours system creates dishonour?

    • ZT
      Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 1:23 PM | Permalink

      No change there then.

    • David S
      Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 4:13 PM | Permalink

      More accurate to say it rewards it. You don’t need Michael Mann’s statistical “skill” to spot the strong correlation between major party donors and seats in the House of Lords.

  16. John Silver
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 1:29 PM | Permalink

    “Maybe Oxburgh’s next “inquiry” will conclude “it’s just not fair to blame the blowout on BP!” ”

    No, it is’nt!
    The all-american cowboy outfit Transocean is to blame.


  17. David S
    Posted Jun 23, 2010 at 4:06 PM | Permalink

    This report appears more factual:

  18. KevinUK
    Posted Jun 24, 2010 at 2:55 PM | Permalink


    Om another thread I pointed out that I thought Brian Hoskins was more than familar with the paleo-reconstruction record of CRU. You disagreed with me. On that other tread Steve I pointed out that Brin Hoskins as a Review Editor for AR4 was IMO more than familiar with the work that CRU had done and that unfortunately in the UK we have to put up with tha fact that Hoskins and Rees are both members of our UK Climate Change Committee. In the light of this email Steve, have you now changed your mind?

  19. KevinUK
    Posted Jun 24, 2010 at 3:14 PM | Permalink


    The thread was the “Due Diligence..” thread and her is the relevenat part from it.

    “Also given that Brian Hoskins was a review editor on the IPCC AR4 WG1 he is also clearly shall we say ‘being economical with the truth’ when he says that he isn’t familar with the details of CRUs ‘core’ work. He was in regular contact with the ‘good Dr Phil’ and Susan Solomon the other WG1 lead authors throughout the entire AR4 production process.

    Also for those who don’t already know he is also along with Rees a member of the UK’s Climate Change Committee
    – snip- policy

    What a joke!

    Steve: I’m prepared to stipulate that Hoskins is not familiar with the paleoclimate literature.

    I believe the words you snipped were ‘lying bastards”

    “We all understand how and why this happened” – thos eare Oxburgh’s words Steve, as spoken to Hoskins.

    Have you now chnage dyour mind and do you now agree with me that all of them (Hoskins and Oxburgh at the very least) are fully familiar with CRU’s ‘core’ work.

    Steve: I re-iterate that I’m prepared to stipulate that Hoskins is not familiar with the paleoclimate literature. I have no idea what understanding they may have shared in respect to the comment you cite, but believe that it falls well short of being familiar with the paleoclimate literature.

  20. KevinUk
    Posted Jun 25, 2010 at 6:47 AM | Permalink


    There aren’t may times when I disagree with you but I most definitely disagree with you on this one.

    IMO Hoskins is ‘up to his neck’ on this one. IMO he is one definitely one of the gatekeepers. How else would he get to be appointed to the UK Climate Change Committee along with Rees otherwise?

    IMO the reason why they (Oxburgh and Hoskins in this case) ‘understand how and why this happened’ is because they are part of the whole system that has been put in place (by those who really run the UK) to justify (pretend to) ‘de-carbonising’ the UK economy. IMO they have no intentions of ‘de-carbonising’ the UK economy to any great extent. Rather their ‘paymasters’ intentions are to use the whole climate change issue as a means of taking complete control of the UK economy.

    The battle to stop them doing this Steve is now raging and we are currently losing it because the vast majority of UK taxpayers don’t know or don’t really care about what is going on.

    Snip this if you want Steve (I won’t be offended), but I’m afraid this is exactly what is going on and I think in your heart of hearts you know it but are too polite to admit it.

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