Wednesday, June 23, 2010


15 things you probably didn't know about Star Trek.
30 sf films of the 21st century.
A legal cross-examination of agw.
Obama: an incompetent executive.
Religion, science and the humanities - an interesting interview.


  1. Hi Sam,

    The legal cross examination article you reference the abstract to, may be found in full here. However, it is 82 pages, so may be at this stage settling for the abstract is the way to go.

    Bishop Hill through a FOI request has unearthed a fascinating paper (you may already be on to this).

    You might recall that at the conclusion of the enquiry headed by Lord Oxburgh into the science of the CRU, he reported “we found absolutely no evidence of impropriety whatsoever".

    It turns out that Bishop Hill’s FOI request has turned up a paper written by one of the panel members, a Michael Kelly, who apparently is Professor of Electronics at Cambridge, recording Kelly’s impressions on reading through the papers that were selected for the enquiry to assess.

    He is clearly unimpressed by both the Briffa and Jones papers.

    He says I find no blatant mal-practice – that blatant is no vote of confidence in my view. In assessing Briffa’s conclusions his assessment that the line between positive conclusions and the null hypothesis is very fine in my book leaves the distinct impression of Kelly not finding Briffa’s conclusions particularly convincing.

    In respect of the Jones’ papers he says:

    I worry about the sheer range and the ad hoc/subjective nature of all the adjustments, homogenisations etc of the raw data from different places.... There is no evidence of overt (like blatant, another weasel word in David Palmer’s vocab) scientific malpractice. That is not to absolve the authors of conscious or unconscious bias in making all the choices referred to above (the reference is to Kelly’s earlier specific assessments).

    Kelly address some questions to both Briffa and Jones, one of which is:

    Given that the outputs of your work are being used to promote the largest revolution mankind hass ever contemplated, do you have any sense of the extent to which the quality control and rigour of approach must be of the highest standards in clear expectation of deep scrutiny”.

    Just so.

    Bishop Hill (Andrew Montford) has been interviewed on the hockey stick affair by spiked - well worth a read.

  2. I've just posted a response to Byron on your agw red herring thread, where I make reference to windfarms.

    I've been having careful look into windfarms as there are a million proposals to plaster them all over the Australian countryside with local residents up in arms (leastways excepting those earning income by agreeing to have them on their property), while all us poor sods who use electricity are watching up bills go up by leaps and bounds.

    In the same series as Gerondeau's Climate: the great Deludion, is John Etherington's The Widfarm Scam which I found particularly enlightening and his arguments compelling. Etherington was a reader in ecology at the University of Wales, Cardiff and since retirement has immersed himself in fighting proposals for windfarms.

    Also in the same series is Bob Carter's Climate:The Counter Consensus which I hope to start next week.

    On the other side of the fence, I've ordered Claire Parkinson's Coming Climate Crisis?: Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix

  3. David, I'd be interested to hear how you get on with Parkinson's book. Judith Curry recommended it (no better recommendation for an agnostic), so I was thinking of getting it myself.

    The legal briefing mentioned by Sam and you is a bit of a rehash of many of the old sceptic arguments - you can see where he's coming from by looking at the people he acknowledges: more or less a who's who of sceptics. There is a point by point rebuttal on a new podcast series at Irregular Climate (podcast 4). Of course they are pro-CAGW so their rebuttal is also a bit biased the other way in my opinion (e.g., their treatment of the hockey stick).

  4. Hi Roger,

    I would describe myself as a agw agnostic. I think the science has a great deal of uncertainty. One of the gains of the climategate affair is that the mainstream are going to talk more about the uncertainties. I don't want to dismiss out of hand their concerns, frankly I'm in no position to do so, it is just the whole idea of swinging everything around CO2 seems so reductionist.

    One of the telling points in Kelly's analysis is his rejection of the way in which Briffa, and it may well apply to his colleagues, confuse model predictions with reality.

    Here is what Kelly says,

    I take real exception to having simulation runs described as experiments (without at least
    the qualification of 'computer' experiments). It does a disservice to centuries of real
    experimentation and allows simulations output to be considered as real data. This last is a very serious matter, as it can lead to the idea that real 'real data' might be wrong simply because it disagrees with the models! That is turning centuries of science on its head.

    I have been debating Byron for a while mainly on his blog. He is concerned that people should adopt a simpler, more Biblical lifestyle. Part of the motivation for so doing is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and hence the possibility of averting the worst of the agw fears. He will correct me if I have this wrong.

    I think he is wrong to link the simpler more Biblical lifestyle to agw. If the lifestyle he has given such eloquent expression to is truly Christ like and Biblical, our reasons for such a lifestyle are to be found in Christ alone.

    I’m also concerned this obsession with the science clouds the more important issue of what can be done if all the bad scenarios are in fact likely.

    Leaving aside my gut feeling that we are witnessing a rerun of past issue scaremongering, albeit on a grander scale, I think there are no easy solutions, should the problem be real. The fossil fuels will all be mined and used to provide energy. No question. Windfarms are a scam, carbon capture and storage seems incredibly problematic, if not outright dangerous; solar may possibly, eventually, come to something. Biomass takes far too much food productive land out of circulation. The only proven technology is nuclear but requires a massive ramping up of infrastructure, rebuilding and expanding technical and engineering expertise, political will to overcome obstructionist green lobby, long time frames and very large licks of capital.

    Basically the human race will do what it has always done: adapt, thereby muddling through.

    In the meantime, a simple lifestyle would benefit all of us in the West. If that assists our brothers and sisters elsewhere climb out of poverty well and good.

  5. Hi David,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I should check out Byron's site then. I have benefited from reading your exchanges here, so if there are more over there, even better. I think the issue of how Christians relate to global warming is interesting in a number of dimensions. How we engage in debate is one thing; we mustn't let our espousal of this or that position somehow put people off the gospel. But also how we are alarmed or not by the possibility of catastrophe is a matter for reflection.

    One paradoxical thing about Byron's position, as I tried to explain on the agw red herring thread, is the following. If you are right about all the fossil fuels being mined anyway, then if some of us start to reduce our use of fossil fuels, this actually increases the rate at which fossil fuels will be extracted now (this is very much a ceteris paribus argument).

    Kelly's quotes are very interesting (not wholly unsurprising to those of us who have followed this saga). From my position of very little knowledge I agree with him about the models. I do think too much faith is put into them. I know how these things work in economics; I know the fudges that people do to get their models to work; I know how good these models are at predicting the past, but it's harder to do the future. Maybe the climate is much more amenable to precise modelling. We shall see I guess.

  6. Hi Roger,

    I also got the the reference to Parkinson's book from Judith Curry. I really like what she has to say, as well as Mike Hulme and Roger Piekle Jnr the latter of whom all the alarmists seem to hate even though he accepts the agw hypothesis.

    I've made a start on Bob Carter's just published Climate: The Counter Consensus. Carter is a Research Prof at James Cook University, Queensland, a geologist specializing in palaeontology.

    One chapter in and I can say he writes beautifully which helps immeasurably not only for pleasure of reading the book, but for what I might learn from him.

    He characterises the many politians who jump onto the agw bandwagon this way:

    as for the many public didnataries and celebrities ..... their enthusiasm for a perceived worthy cause greatly exceeds their clarity of thought about climate change science, regarding which they are palpably innocent of knowledge.

    He could have been speaking of our recently (ie this past week) cut off at the knees prime minister, Kevin Rudd. Red maggie who has replaced Rudd appears not to be not so gullible, but we will have to wait and see.

  7. Hi,

    I 'd be interested in any comment on the BBC Panorama programme, What's up with the Climate?.

    We can't access it in Australia off the net, presumably a block to allow ABC to have a crack at showing it (eventually).

    If this article is a fair representation, then there's hope of some semblance of sanity returning!

  8. I'm abroad myself so haven't seen it, but thanks for the reference to the review. Curious, but it wasn't mentioned on Bishop Hill (although the trailer was). Climateprogress were horrified, so that might indicate a semblance of balance.


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