Wednesday, March 3, 2010

UK Science Committee hearings on CRU

I've just been watching the hearing of the UK House of Commons (HoC) Science and Technology Committee looking at the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

The Committee questioned witnesses, most of whom would be expected. However the first witnesses were a couple of rather strange people - a certain Rt Hon Lord Lawson of Blaby, Chairman, and Dr Benny Peiser, Director, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. This "Foundation" was only set up in November 2009, coincidentally just after the CRU's emails were stolen. The Chairman refused to disclose to the HoC committee the names of any donor.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation is colocated at 1 Carlton Terrace London with the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. Its website lists several people on the Board (mostly old public servants)and says it gets all its funds from private individuals and charitable trusts (which in the UK means any non-profit organisation, not charities in the normal sense of the word). It says it doesn't accept donations from energy companies or anyone with a significant interest in an energy company. The website suggests that Peiser is the only employee, so they probably don't get or need much money. Their aim seems to be to put out papers denying the world is warming.

The first two witnesses were an odd couple, not just in appearance but in demeanor and in their rather extreme conspiracy theories. They wanted to accuse all the world's scientists and research institutions of fraud, and while they insinuated as much they did seem to stop short of saying it outright - at least at the hearing. As in their written submission, these two tried to make much of the 'divergence problem', probably not realising there is no problem at all. They were also a bit behind the times in regard to satellite data, thinking it showed a different trend to surface observations (which it doesn't).

The other witnesses included Richard Thomas, the immediate past Freedom of Information Commissioner, Sir Muir Russell who is heading up Independent Climate Change E-Mails Review, and three of the top scientists in the UK, Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist, Met Office, and Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientist, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs . The scientists appeared together and were unanimous and forceful in stating the earth is warming and its caused by human activities. I thought they could have been more clear about when data and workings should be made available to the public, and that most scientists in other fields don't put all their stuff on the internet for the public to pull apart. (I'd love to see the face of physicists everywhere if they were told to put up all their workings and data on the internet 'immediately'.)

The key witnesses were Professor Jones and Professor Edward Acton, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of East Anglia. Professor Jones was very straight in his responses. Acton hardly said a word but was supportive of Jones.

None of the witnesses pointed out that the main protagonist in all of this debacle, McIntyre was hardly squeaky clean and certainly not a climate scientist. I thought someone at least should have pointed that out. Neither did anyone point out that the FOI storm was instigated from McIntyre's website, with the majority of the 61 requests of last year coming in over a forty-eight hour period.

Some of those on the committee were better informed than I expected them to be. I'd be surprised if they decided to do anything other than wait for report from the Muir Russell inquiry.

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