Source: The Guardian
Event: The Guardian: Was 'Climategate' the greatest scandal to hit climate science or a mere storm in a teacup?
George Monbiot: Well, you probably all know roughly what happened. In November 2009 somebody got on to the UEA server or got off the UEA server - who knows - it was either hacked or leaked, but a very large number of emails were released into the public domain and what those emails largely concerned was the correspondence, or rather some of the correspondence, among scientists at the Climatic Research Unit in the University of East Anglia, and between them and their colleagues elsewhere in the world. It immediately turned into a big issue, because some of those emails appeared pretty bad. Some of them appeared to show scientists manipulating the data, blocking Freedom of Information requests, and exercising improper or undue influence over the peer review process. With startling originality, this issue was labelled Climategate, and that, I'm sorry to say, is the title of our debate tonight.
Now, the problem for the UEA was immediately exacerbated by their catastrophic handling of it, whereby they completely failed to engage with their critics, or answer the media's questions, or put their side of the story - I hope we might hear why before very long - and it was blown out of all proportion by certain members of the climate change denial community who made such lurid claims as "the death of climate science" and the "end of global warming theory". So it was a pretty hot issue before very long at all. And then there were no fewer than three reviews published of this big issue, the latest of which, the Russell review, reported just last week. The first one was an inquiry carried out by a parliamentary committee - pretty half-hearted and shoddy - the second two were both commissioned by the University of East Anglia, the first one by Lord Oxburgh looked into the science involved in the emails, and the second one looked into the conduct of the scientists. That was the one by Muir Russell which reported last week.
These three reviews by and large exonerated the Climatic Research Unit and the scientists involved, though with some serious caveats about the issues of openness and transparency.
However, the debate has not gone away, because some people claim that some of the issues were skated over or glossed over by those reviews, and that the reviews treated some of them too lightly and let off the climate scientists when they should not have done. And so, while the controversy doesn't rage quite as hotly as it did before, there's still plenty of heat in it.
So to try and sort out some of this mess, or perhaps to make it even worse, we've assembled a fantastic panel of people tonight, some of whom have been absolutely at the heart of this issue, and for the most part I've never met before, so this is a unique occasion, and it promises to be quite an exciting one.
On my right we have Trevor Davies, who is the Pro-Vice Chancellor in charge of research at the University of East Anglia. "Pro-vice" doesn’t mean he's in favour of vice, it's just his role in the university. And between 1993 and 1998 he was director of the Climatic Research Unit, and that actually covers some of the period that the emails cover, doesn't it, so...
Then Steve McIntyre, also a central player in this drama as the foremost critic of some of the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit. Steve is a mathematician with a background in mining in his native land, Canada, and has been fiercely critical of the hockeystick projection of past temperature reconstructions, and has also been on the case of the Climatic Research Unit for a long time concerning its temperature data.
Then we have Bob Watson, known to many of you. Among many of his prestigious roles, he's been chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology, and as well as being the chief scientist at the government department Defra, he used to have the chair in environmental science at the University of East Anglia. So you see, everyone's very relevant here tonight.
Then we have Doug Keenan, who's a mathematician, a background in finance, used to be a financial trader on Wall Street and in the City of London, who, like Steve, has been a staunch critic of the Climatic Research Unit, and particularly over the issue of Chinese weather station data, which I think we'll be hearing more of later.
And then Fred Pearce, my sometime colleague at the Guardian, a freelancer like me, but who works a lot for the Guardian and of course for New Scientist, possibly the world's most experienced environmental journalist, he's certainly been knocking around for far longer than I can remember, and the author of a series of briliant books far too numerous to mention, culminating to date in your definitive guide to the Climategate issue, which is "The Climate Files - the Battle for the Truth about Global Warming" which has just come out, and Fred will be signing books afterwards in the foyer.
So, what we're going to do is kick off by giving everyone on the panel five minutes, and by that I mean five minutes. I'm going to be a very fierce chairman. If anyone's still speaking after five minutes they can finish the sentence they're on and no more. Then we're going to have fifteen minutes to knock the issue around between us, and then forty-five minutes for you guys to get involved and to raise the level of our debate. And I'm going to start off with Trevor, and as with everybody, I'm going to start him off with a harsh question, which is: why was CRU's response to this issue such a total car crash?
Trevor Davies: It's very difficult for a good employer to get reputation management right. It's even more difficult when crucial international decisions have to be made. Most of the media wanted to talk to Phil. A number of us gave many interviews..
George Monbiot: This is Phil Jones the director of the Unit?
Trevor Davies: ... Jones yes. A number of us gave many interviews, most of which were ignored because we weren’t Phil. I talked about what I was confident about at the time, which was the science and data availability. By and large, my broadcast interviews were not shown at all. Everyone wanted Phil. Phil at that time was hounded by the press, quite literally, and he was incapable of talking to the press, and so I think we suffered the disadvantage of perhaps not quite getting the right balance between duty of care to our employers [sic] and our obligations to the press.
But the general question was, what did the emails reveal?
Well, the revelations, as interpreted by some on the basis of a very small sample from a great number over a long period, were far from reality. I say this on the basis now of three independent investigations into UEA, the Penn State investigations, a recent very large report from the US National Academy of Sciences, and the Dutch report on the IPCC. But of course there are lessons to be learned, and I’ll quickly address some of the lessons which I think are relevant to UEA. And one which Muir Russell pointed out is that we need to be much more aware of the interactions between the blogosphere and the mainstream media, and contribute to identifying the public space where debates can be conducted on appropriate terms. Muir Russell recommendation. It's not clear to us at this stage what that would be, but we do intend to take part in some initiatives later on this year, and our involvement in this evening's event is part of our exploration of what might be the right sort of space, and I think evidence of our willingness to engage constructively.
Reputation management is another one. I've briefly answered your question there, George. I've got another half page of notes which I fear I’m going to have to skip over. Another lesson that we've learned is that we, and perhaps climate scientists generally, need to explain the uncertainty spectrum better than we have. By and large, scientists are fair about uncertainty in the scientific literature, but we need to explain the nature of that uncertainty much better, and I don't think that that fault lies wholly with the scientists. Where we have been at fault I think is not communicating the right emphases in the way that different sorts of information are integrated, and how those different sorts of information should be assessed.
Uncertainty about what happened in the Mediaeval Warming Period has been an important part of the last six months' debate. The nature of the Mediaeval Warming Period will always be uncertain, relatively uncertain, compared to what we know about the last one hundred years.
And I think that what we need to do is emphasise much more successfully that it's man-made greenhouse gases which are the new driving factor, and although a longer term context is valuable, the analyses and models are convincing in explaining observed variations in the instrumental period, and they can only be explained by and large by greenhouse gases. And although there are uncertainties in the model projections, model performance we think is good enough to give us an envelope of reasonable projections which confirm the nature of the major challenges for modern humankind, irrespective of the nature of the Mediaeval Warming Period.
Another lesson for UEA. Obligations under the law, obviously, and towards society can't be neglected, even in the face of frustration, criticism, and threats. We have to be more helpful in response to FOI and EIR - that’s Environmental Information Regulation - requests. There are important resource and governance implications as indeed I think there are for all universities, and we started addressing these some time ago. But as at least one submission to Muir Russell pointed out, and Universities UK have pointed out in a recent press statement, there may be unintended consequences in the way that the Freedom of Information Act is being implemented and interpreted, especially with respect to (have I run out?) fishing trips. Erm -
George Monbiot: That's it.
Trevor Davies: - that’s it. Two more lessons.
George Monbiot: Two more lessons can come up later if need be. Right, now, Steve. Oh, you want to go to the lectern? Okay, you go to the lectern, and then I’ll ask my harsh question.
Steve McIntyre: Oh, I got this up before I’m on the clock.
George Monbiot: Okay, well, before you start, I want to ask you this: you spent a very long time pursuing the Climatic Research Unit for its temperature series data
Steve McIntyre: No
George Monbiot: No? Yes?
Steve McIntyre: I don’t want to be on the clock
George Monbiot: Okay, well, well, right ...now, one of the things that the Russell Review did was to find that the very data that you were looking for was already in the public domain, and that the tools needed to analyse it could be drawn up by a competent programmer in just two days, so, were you wasting their time, wasting your time, just causing trouble?
Steve McIntyre: Okay. I don’t want to be on the clock for this. First of all, we’d said exactly the same thing at Climate Audit last July, so to that extent Muir Russell confirmed something that we’d already said
George Monbiot: I’m not sure that people can hear you there, and I would like you to incorporate this into your talk so we’re starting the clock now.
Steve McIntyre: Okay. In the climategate files, Fred Pearce who, unlike Oxburgh and Muir Russell, actually read the emails, concluded that the evidence of scientists cutting corners, playing down uncertainties, etcetera, suggested scientific sloppiness, endemic conflict of interest, but not outright fraud. Given the importance of climate science in today’s society, all of us surely expect more of climate scientists than merely not committing outright fraud, and exoneration on such a limited charge would surely be small exoneration indeed.
In February, the University of East Anglia announced their intention
to reappraise CRU’s science. This resulted in the science appraisal panel
chaired by Lord Oxburgh, a panel which demonstrated its independence of the
university by creating a unique logo containing the House of Lords insignia
with the email address of the university Registrar’s office. The Oxburgh
enquiry did not interview any CRU critics, and in that respect I’m grateful to
the Guardian for inviting me here, as I’ve not been invited to testify to any
of the three inquiries. Nor, in their interviews with Jones and Briffa did they
take transcripts or minutes; Jones and Briffa were interviewed on the 7th and
8th, and Oxburgh wrote the report on the afternoon of the 8th and it was
released a few days later. Some days later, I learned from a reliable source
that Jones had apparently admitted in his interview that it was probably
impossible to do the thousand-year reconstructions with any accuracy. This
admission was not included in the Oxburgh report, though it was the most
contentious issue in the entire hockeystick debate. I wrote to Oxburgh asking
that he issue an addendum, recording this important information. He refused,
saying that the science was not the
Muir Russell was due to report in Spring 2010, this year, but as at the start of April, nobody at CRU had been interviewed on anything to do with the hockeystick or the IPCC. In fact Muir Russell does not even appear to have met with Jones or Briffa after the unveiling of the Muir Russell panel in February. He didn’t bother attending the one and only interview with Jones and Briffa on the hockeystick and IPCC on April 9th, nor did two other panellists.
Muir Russell’s mishandling of the notorious "delete all emails" beggars imagination. On May 27th David Holland submitted an FOI request that covered what Fred Pearce called back channel communications that were a direct subversion of IPCC openness. The next day, Phil Jones emailed his CRU associates and university FOI officers to say that Briffa should say that there had been no such correspondence. The following day Jones emailed his associates requesting that they delete all such back channel communications. The information commissioners said that it was impossible to contemplate more cogent prima facie evidence of an offence. Against the obvious facts known to thousands of people familiar with the story, Muir Russell stated that there had been no FOI request prior to the "delete" email. The public may not be able to judge the fine points of principle components, but they can judge this sort of thing.
Nor were they more credible on the trick to hide the decline. Any inquiry that aspired to legitimacy had to provide a convincing explanation, or disown the practice, something that none of the inquiries has done. Penn State adopted RealClimate’s absurd view that the trick was a valid statistical method, an approach viciously satirised by John Stewart, an American comedian, as follows: he says "It means nothing. He’s just using a trick to hide the decline. It’s just scientist-speak for using a standard statistical technique for calibrating data in order to - trick you - into not knowing about - the decline."
Oxburgh took a different approach. He didn’t say the trick was acceptable, he said it was regrettable that IPCC had neglected to show the adverse data, ignoring the obvious fact that CRU was involved as IPCC authors, and that the deletion was intentional. Muir Russell dodged the issue entirely, saying it wasn’t misleading per se, to delete or splice data, but failing to grasp the nettle that they’d been charged to consider, whether it was misleading in the facts of this particular case.
If inquiries are not going to renounce this sort of conduct, there’s a price to pay. In this case, the price seems to be the public confidence in climate scientists. If climate scientists are unoffended by the failure to disclose adverse data, unoffended by the "trick" and not committed to the principles of full, true, plain disclosure, the public will react, as they have, by placing less reliance on the pronouncements from the entire field.
George Monbiot: Steve, you’re done. Finish your sentence.
Steve McIntyre: Okay. A more appropriate reaction would have been the one recommended by the chairman of our panel on first learning of the emails, that we could not justify the emails with technicalities, and that we’d only get past this by grasping reality, apologising where appropriate, and demonstrating that it cannot happen again.
George Monbiot: Thank you Steve, now, Bob, you’ve read quite a lot of those emails I take it. Now, did any of them surprise you, or was it all standard scientific practice in your view?
Bob Watson: No I only read a few of them actually, [it has been reported that a member of the audience then shouted "Do you always go out without doing your homework!" although this is not clear from audio records] and indeed, there’s no question if you read them, you could interpret that there’d been manipulation of data, deletion of emails, blocking alternative views, censorship, undue influence on the IPCC, unwillingness to share data, and selective use of data. There’s no question, if you read a subset of the emails, you could certainly come to that conclusion, no question.
I actually think that the two reviews by Muir Russell and Lord Oxburgh had high integrity. If you look at the individuals who were on those two panels, many of them were not involved in climate science, they were some of the best statisticians in the world for Lord Oxburgh, and each of the individuals in my opinion for both reviews had impeccable integrity.
Their view is that there had been no true manipulation of data, the "trick" issue was not an issue, there was no blocking of competing views, the censorship, there’s a classical thing called peer review, with all published in the refereed journal - some papers get accepted, some rejected, some have to be modified. There was clearly no undue influence on the IPCC. I used to chair it. There is no way you can block views. Some of the most contentious views of people like Dick Lindzen appear in the IPCC, at least when I chaired it, made absolutely sure competing views were there, would also note where there was a majority view. Yes, they did say there was unwillingness to share data, and there’s a major lesson to be learned there for all of us, but again, there was no obvious selective use of data, and that came out of the Oxburgh report.
So fundamentally, I think UEA should be given credit for at least making sure there was a Muir Russell report and the Lord Oxburgh report, and as you’ve heard, the House of Commons came up with an independent report, but it didn’t go into real depth, I mean we have to be quite honest, although they did indeed solicit evidence from a wide range of people, no question whatsoever.
A key issue is, when attacking the recent temperature record, there were two unbelievably parallel data sets and interpretations from NASA and from NOAA, and the results are the same, within an incredibly small difference, there are totally different ways of analysing the data, and different ways to understand when you’ve got data gaps, and they all give exactly the same results, of which I then said, on at least ten if not twelve television interviews, basically I do believe the press, and I do believe it is largely the printed press, basically said that UEA was guilty, without a detailed examination, and that indeed does include the Guardian, I mean, George called for one of the scientist to resign, Fred wrote some very strong articles, those issues should all be exposed to the public, do not misunderstand me, but one really had the feeling people were guilty without an in depth analysis of what they were being accused of.
The television were much more balanced. I appeared as I say on ten or twelve shows, and there was always a sceptic or someone who felt that there was a problem, and at least there it was at least two sides of a story. And we do - what we’ve learnt from this - there must be much more open debate. Some people on both sides of the debate are becoming very defensive - selective use of information - we need much more open debate that is not selective, not based on ideology, and effectively we’ve got to get rid of the defensiveness, expose to the public, expose to the governments, what we know, what we don’t know, where are the uncertainties, so I think we’ve learnt something about that. Clearly got to make sure that the data is released no question, other people need to analyse the data, but we do need a set of principles and procedures, when is it appropriate? especially with publicly funded research, when is it appropriate? Is it at the time of peer review, is it before, is it after? because there are such things as intellectual property rights. The US has come up with some very good guidance in my opinion that we need to look at very carefully for the UK.
So clearly, more openness, more open debate, there’s no question, but I would argue, what do we mean by balanced reporting? The scientific community that studies this issue is not fifty fifty. The very large majority of scientists that look at this issue fundamentally I would say ninety, 95% recognise the evidence is that we humans are changing the earth’s climate. So if you have a BBC interview, or a radio programme or the press, what do we mean by balance? Is it two views, or should it be ninety to ten? The key point on IPCC see, we must expose all views, doesn’t matter if it’s the majority view or the minority view, then the responsibility of the IPCC is to explain why there is a range of views and what the implications are for policy. We must not hide minority views, they need to be exposed, but I do believe the public always sees a fifty fifty face, and therefore by definition, it is actually in my opinion being somewhat confused. The interesting thing, we’ve touched upon IPCC, which is not the real debate here, but when the IPCC made some mistakes such as the Himalayan glaciers, they failed to admit the mistake quickly, that was the problem there. It wasn’t the mistake, there’s maybe six sentences which should be written differently, one horribly wrong on Himalayan glaciers, five or six or so which could have been rephrased -
George Monbiot: Thank you, Bob.
Bob Watson: And so the key point is openness and transparency absolutely essential, balanced reporting, equally essential.
George Monbiot: Thank you very much. [Applause.]
[George Monbiot next invites Douglas Keenan to speak.]
Douglas Keenan: ... I have alleged that Phil Jones committed fraud, in his work on the 2007 IPCC report. My allegation was published in a peer-reviewed journal. It was also widely publicised, including in a front-page story in the Guardian. Yet neither the Russell review nor the Oxburgh review considered any of the evidence for my allegation. Other people have also had their allegations against researchers at CRU not properly investigated. David Holland's allegation, for example, where the review panel, essentially, just asked CRU researchers and their supporters if the researchers were guilty. And then accepted the replies without question, or asking Holland for comment. That is not how justice is achieved.
Both the Russell Review and the Oxburgh Review were clearly whitewashes. But that is not the problem. The real problem is the lack of systemic accountability. There should be some general mechanism in place, whereby allegations of improper behaviour are dealt with. What kind of society would we have if there were no police, judiciary or prisons? That, in effect, is the system in place in science today. There are tens of thousands of scientists in the United Kingdom. As far as I know, none have been convicted of research fraud in the last twenty years. That is not credible. Even among much smaller groups of respected people, for example members of Parliament, Catholic priests, police detectives, frauds do occur.
Moreover, in my experience, bogus research is widespread. I was in Sweden last week, and one of the people I met told me that he thought bogus research occurs relatively often there, because Sweden is a small country. A few years ago, a researcher in America told me that bogus research occurs relatively often there, because America is a big country. In the tiny field of archaeoastronomy, I have published two papers exposing bogus research. One researcher in this field told me that bogus research occurs commonly in archaeoastronomy because the field is small. Someone I met once, who researches in oncology, told me that bogus research occurs commonly in oncology, because the field is large. Obviously, not all these explanations can be correct. In fact, none of them are correct. Bogus research is widespread, and I could give many examples, and you can see some on my website.
The Russell review and the Oxburgh review are ad hoc responses to a tiny set of allegations. The reviews should never have taken place. There should have been a systemic mechanism for accountability in research.
One common problem with research in many fields is statistical improbity. I want to give some examples using what statisticians call “significance”. In statistics, an event is said to be “significant” if it is unlikely to have occurred by chance alone. For example, if a coin was flipped ten times and came up heads every time, that would be called "significant".
In 2007, I published a peer-reviewed paper pointing out that some research by Phil Jones was invalid, because it did not consider statistical significance. Jones was sent a copy of the paper for peer review; although he had many comments—all of which are on my web site—he did not attempt to dispute my criticism. Since then, all of Jones’ work has considered statistical significance. Possibly the timing of Jones’ change is just a coincidence, but in any case, Jones now clearly recognizes that it is critical to consider significance in his research.
It is good that Jones now recognizes this, but there is still a problem. The way in which Jones calculates significance is erroneous. Moreover, a similar problem occurs with the chapter in the IPCC report for which Jones was a Coordinating Lead Author. The IPCC chapter treats temperatures over the past 150 years or so. Demonstrating that those temperatures have been significantly increasing is fundamental for global-warming alarmism. The chapter does indeed claim to demonstrate that. But, its calculations are erroneous.
Several of the emails leaked in Climategate discuss statistical methods. It is clear that at least some of the scientists are familiar with techniques that would be more appropriate for the IPCC chapter; yet nothing has been done to address the errors. In other words, not only has the IPCC not demonstrated that instrumental temperatures have been significantly increasing, but some of the researchers must be aware of this.
The fundamental point here is that scientists are human, and scientific research is a human affair. We’ve known for millennia that prerequisites for integrity in human affairs include things like transparency, accountability, and checks and balances—and we need those things in scientific research.
George Monbiot: Thank you very much. [Applause.] Now Fred, you’ve made some pretty harsh criticisms of CRU in your book, as well as balancing a lot of the harsh criticisms that other people have made, and invalidating them in some cases, but your results are quite different really to those of the two reviews. How do you explain those discrepancies?
Fred Pearce: I think in some key areas, they didn’t go. None of the reviews really explored the science. They were concerned principally with process, and I think there are quite a number of issues where, when it came down to it, they simply - well, not simply - but they said, "Well, this is the scientific judgement of the scientists concerned, we have to accept that, because we’re not delving into the science, we have to accept that."
Now that’s not to say that, you know, the scientists concerned were wrong, or devious or anything else, but they didn’t quite get deep I think enough into it. They didn’t have enough context sometimes about the scientific debates that had been going on because they were very focussed on individual process. I don’t think the differences between me and the inquiries are very great, but I mean, I think where they show up they tend to be to do with that.
I was ... disturbed by the emails I think when I first read them, I quite early on thought that they merited investigation, and I’m still quite disturbed about the emails and what they reveal about the conduct of some of the scientists involved - not just, I might say, the CRU scientists. But for me, I think, Climategate is not a conspiracy, it’s a tragedy really, it’s a tragedy born of mistaken judgement of motive. It seems to me that after years of fighting off commercially and politically motivated critics, the scientists at CRU and their colleagues that they were emailing lost sight of the fact that there might sometimes be value in those criticisms. They just saw them as criticisms from enemies and left it at that. They failed to spot that there was also a new generation of critics - we have two of them on the platform here - who are essentially I think data libertarians rather than climate sceptics, still less climate deniers. So the mainstream scientists, they responded to criticism by shutting up shop, by refusing to share data, adopting if you like a kind of siege mentality, and that’s what for me came again and again and again through the emails, that kind of siege mentality.
But equally I think, their opponents, including perhaps those on this platform, misinterpreted that siege mentality as a sign that the mainstream scientists had big secrets to hide, or that there was a big fraud going on, and I think that too was a mistake. As I say, it was a tragedy of misunderstood motive, and it turned over a number of years - because this is quite a protracted process - into a war really, into data wars in many ways, and I think that led directly to somebody somewhere deciding at the back end of last year that enough was enough and that they were going to leak those emails. We don’t know who did it, my guess is it might have been somebody within the University of East Anglia, but at any rate somebody appeared to have reached that conclusion.
George Monbiot: Thanks very much Fred. Right, well, we’ve all laid out our stalls, and they’re pretty far apart, so now we’re going to bat some questions round among the panel, and, Trevor, we’ve heard, especially from Steve, that - he suggested that the reviews were almost set up to give you the conclusions that you wanted.
Trevor Davies: The reviews were wholly independent. The reason why Lisa Williams’...
George Monbiot [to murmurs from audience]: Could you save it please for questions? If you want to say something from the floor, there’ll be an opportunity later.
Trevor Davies: The reviews were wholly independent, and if you would like to make an assertion to the contrary, then you need to provide, you need to substantiate that.
I was a little puzzled about the comments that the science wasn’t addressed. When one ... even in the Muir Russell review there was quite a deep examination of some aspects of the science , especially in the way that CRU responded to the Muir review questions. Its first submission to the Muir Russell panel which was put on the Muir Russell website in March or April, seventy or eighty pages, mostly quite detailed science, and one of the many surprising things of the last six or seven months to me is the fact that nobody appeared to have read that seventy or eighty pages. I asked a number of people in the press and the media whether they’d read those seventy or eighty pages and I didn’t get a single affirmative.
As far as the criticisms of the Oxburgh panel is concerned, I’d like to if I may just -
George Monbiot: Very briefly.
Trevor Davies: - just briefly, because they are specific and wholly misleading accusations. The UEA Vice Chancellor told parliament that the Oxburgh panel was set up to assess the science and make sure that there was nothing wrong. UEA statement on the website the eleventh of February "there should be an additional assessment considering the science itself." UEA website: "The panel will have access to any publications or materials it requests bla bla bla and will from the body of CRU’s research and will look into the science. And then the Oxburgh report, its remit described the Oxburgh report: "to see whether data had been dishonestly selected, manipulated and/or presented to arrive at predetermined conclusions that were not compatible with a fair interpretation of the original data". Well, if that is not the science, I’m a little puzzled.
George Monbiot: Thank you very much Trevor. Steve, Bob pointed out that you could produce the same results from different data with different analytical methods, which suggests that your whole crusade to expose the real data and to find the real analytical methods, that was a waste of time, wasn’t it?
Steve McIntyre: Okay. 98% of the Climategate emails are about the hockeystick. The CRUTEM temperature record is only mentioned in about 20 emails, and none before 2005. My particular issue was in the proxy reconstructions and in the estimates of temperature back to the Mediaeval Warm Period. The CRUTEM issue as I say had nothing much to do with the Climategate emails. It arose in a different context. Phil Jones about five years ago had laid down a gauntlet to a fellow named Warwick Hughes saying "We have twenty five years or so invested in this, why should we give you our data when your only objective is to find something wrong with it?" So that led to attempts by various people to get the data just, Willis Eschenbach in 2006 sent an FOI request, and one of the subtexts that hasn’t come out in the inquiries is that evasive and even - well Muir Russell describes it as "unhelpful", but one reporter that I talked to who is familiar used a different term, he called it "deliberately deceptive" - responses to the excuses for not providing those answers. So that’s really a separate issue to the temperature thing.
My request for data wasn’t until the summer of 2009. One of my readers - I asked for, I noticed that the Met Office had a copy of it and I sent an FOI request to them wondering if they might have been under a different FOI regime than CRU. They turned it down and referred me back to CRU. One of my readers who was at Georgia Tech said that he’d just got the data from Phil Jones and didn’t understand what the problem was, so I asked for the same data from Phil Jones that he’d just sent to Peter Webster at Georgia Tech, and they refused, saying that they had confidentiality agreements that prohibited them from sending that information to non-academics. Well, that was not a very smart strategy. First of all, immediately there were five people with unimpeachable - let me finish -
George Monbiot: Very, very briefly.
Steve McIntyre: ... credentials that asked for the data, and then we just asked for the confidentiality agreements. I have lots of experience of confidentiality agreements, and I didn’t believe that they had any agreements that said that, so that ended up, it wasn’t nearly as much trouble for them as they asked for, but the issue there pertained more to their refusals. Now, at the time I said to people: "Don’t expect any smoking gun here. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just being stubborn." And one of my readers pointed out you can replicate a lot of it from GHCN. I thought the only secret that was being hidden was how banal the calculation that CRU was taking, and that there was no value added in what they were doing.
George Monbiot: Thanks Steve. Bob, what we’ve heard, indeed from Steve and to some extent Doug and Fred is that there is this unnecessary reluctance on the part of CRU scientists to divulge the data which, you know, subsequently reviews said: well, there wasn’t anything wrong with the data anyway, so why should they have been so reluctant? What did they have to hide?
Bob Watson: I don’t think they had anything to hide but I can’t actually say why Phil and others did not equally release the data, as you said, and as the last report said, all the data was available by going to the national weather centres basically, at least for the modern record, so I can’t answer that particularly.
I mean I think there are two very crucial issues, one is this long term record where you bring the long thousand, multi-thousand year record to what we call the modern instrumental record, and this long term record’s based on tree ring data, it’s based on ice core data, and it’s nowhere near as accurate as the modern instrumental record in the last hundred and fifty years. One of the real - and it is important to understand natural variability obviously, that is part of the natural system. The real question we’ve got is, are we humans changing the earth’s climate? There are three major data sets. They all broadly say the same thing. They’ve been incredibly peer reviewed by some of the world's best statisticians actually, so to say one hasn’t looked at uncertainty, to say one hasn’t looked effectively at the consistency would be quite wrong, so there’s been a lot - and actually when you go to IPCC, not only does each chapter typically have a hundred reviewers, every government in the world looks at it. The Saudi Arabian government have hired really good people to find errors. They’d much prefer that this was a non-issue because they don’t want to stop their producing oil. So when you put something into the literature, not just into a single journal where you have two reviewers, anything that gets into IPCC has a very thorough peer review by sceptics so-called and supporters alike so when I’ve heard here that there’s no evidence of a temperature increase, especially in the last fifty years, I would have to say the evidence does not support that and it has been critically examined.
[George Monbiot next invites Douglas Keenan to speak.]
Douglas Keenan: The basic idea is that Phil Jones did some analysis on temperatures in China, and naturally he based - got his data from weather stations in China. And when you're doing that, it's essential that the weather stations be consistent over time, for example if the city has expanded or if the weather station's moved, then that corrupts the record and you cannot really analyse it easily, or even at all. Okay, so Phil Jones got some data from the Chinese weather stations from a guy named Wei-Chyung Wang in - he was actually in New York - and he got that data in good faith. The data was supplied by Wang in good faith, and Jones trusted him.
Now, Jones should not have trusted him; that was a foolish thing to do, and that's not just my opinion - even Tom Wigley has criticised Phil Jones for trusting Wei-Chyung Wang. But nonetheless he trusted him and I believe that was just an error of judgement - there's no evidence of dishonesty at all. Okay, in 2001 Phil Jones published a paper where he analysed weather stations from Shanghai and Beijing. And he reported that the Beijing station moved five times over a distance of 41 kilometres. So in other words, it's moved a whole lot, and there's no way you could trust its temperature record. Right. He also reported that the Shanghai station had moved in such a way that the warming that it showed was doubled - what the actual warming should have been. Okay, so this is Phil Jones saying this, himself, in 2001. Which means at that time, in 2001, he knew that the claims they had made in the earlier paper with Wei-Chyung Wang, were invalid.
Now what he should have done then is he should have reported something about it - to say: hey, we seem to have a problem with that paper. But he did not do that. What he actually did was in the IPCC report in 2007, was he relied on the problematic data he got from Wang - in the IPCC report. So he knew that that data was problematic, and he still relied upon it anyway. Now when I first found that out, I couldn't understand it: how could Phil Jones do this? I thought Phil Jones was an honest person. So I emailed Phil Jones, and I said: what's your explanation for this? I was very polite. There was no response. So then I wrote a paper and I submitted it to a journal. And the editor of the journal sent my paper to Phil Jones for peer review comments. Okay, and Phil Jones had numerous comments on my paper, and they're on my website if anyone wants to look at them. Nowhere in those comments does he even attempt to rebut my allegation that he committed fraud. Then, on February 2nd of this year, Fred Pearce wrote a story, which was published on the front page of the Guardian, talking about my allegation of fraud. Later that day, as I'm sure you know, the University of East Anglia issued a press release criticising certain points in Fred's story. But those were nitpicky points. None of - nowhere in there did he even attempt to deny my allegation of fraud. So he has had several opportunities to deny, and in fact the evidence is really clear, there's no way he could deny it.
George Monbiot: You wanted to respond to Bob very briefly, please, Doug.
Douglas Keenan: The idea that peer review doesn’t try to lock things out, I mean, I’ve had papers take years to get through the peer review system where people just keep saying no no no. I’ve had one paper rejected 35 times and all it is it's just something that anyone at all could read. There’s a paper though published by Foster et al in 2008. Co-authors include Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt. And they both say that the method used by the IPCC is complete rubbish and absolutely should not be used to analyse temperatures. Here’s a copy of the paper. Okay? [Applause.]
George Monbiot: Trevor, would you like to respond to those very serious allegations which Douglas Keenan has made?
Trevor Davies: Yes they are very serious allegations and I think it’s Phil who needs to respond to them in detail, not not not not me. But of course we have noted that very serious allegation. I just ...
George Monbiot: But I mean, you must have looked into this, because you have noted it. Phil can’t be here tonight, so we’re asking you to speak on behalf of CRU.
Trevor Davies: Yes, the original disagreement was around a paper which was published in Nature in 1990, and there was a further paper published by Phil Jones in the Journal of Geophysical Research in 2008 which made it clear that any station moves would not have made a difference to those conclusions. The individual station moves - and it was rather difficult characterising many of those station moves - but the individual station moves were not important. The 2008 paper showed that the adjustments were bimodal. They cancelled each other out, so, as far as the broad conclusion, which was separating out the warming trend in China from a regional or global signal and an urbanisation signal, that 2008 paper confirmed absolutely the conclusions of the Nature 1990 paper and obviously there was a very tough peer-review process to go through for the Nature 1990 paper to start with, and that confirmation of that original research has also again been shown by a publication this year by Parker 2010 in I think it was Climate Research.
George Monbiot: But in 2001 I think it was when he first came across that issue of the temperature stations moving, the weather stations moving - should he then have issued a retraction or correction?
Trevor Davies: He issued a retraction. He did say considered issuing a clarification for the Nature paper, but that would have been very much less detailed because obviously a correction would only be a short piece, so he chose to publish a lengthy paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research which clarified and confirmed his initial conclusions.
Douglas Keenan: George can I make one point?
George Monbiot: I’m going to give one more minute to this discussion.
Douglas Keenan: The 2008 paper said that 40% of the temperature increase was due to urbanisation. This was clearly the paper - Fred has also reported this in the Guardian article - that’s what it said, so how can you...
Trevor Davies: ..in one small area of China on the east coast where there has been a great deal of urbanisation..
Douglas Keenan: ... the region was being analysed. Eastern China was the region being analysed. In 1990 he said urbanisation was negligible...
Trevor Davies: ..the global warming signal was greater than the urbanisation signal.
Douglas Keenan: Yes, but there’s a difference between being insignificant and taking up 40%. In 1990 he said it was insignificant, in 2008 he said it took up 40%.
Trevor Davies: Yes, I of course don’t have this level of detail...
George Monbiot: Fred; we’ve run very soon into an issue which is incredibly detailed, it involves when you get into it even further an awful lot of complicated science. The great majority of people who’ve tuned into this debate don’t have the scientific expertise to be able to judge - how do we navigate ourselves, navigate our way, through issues like that?
Fred Pearce [after a pause]: I wish I knew really. It’s, it’s it’s very difficult, it’s very painstaking work. I think the best way we know is
Trevor Davies: - and the system which we have at the moment - it's the peer-review system. [Applause.]
George Monbiot: Hopefully we’ll have a chance to continue this in the discussion which is about to ensue. I’ve got 45 minutes to involve you lot, and I’m sure we’ll find it far too little time. You’re going to have a maximum of 20 seconds to ask your question or make your comment, but I’m going to just take them one at a time and I’m not going to group them, and what I’m going to do, before you start, is to go alternate sides of the room and alternate genders so that the blokes don’t shout out the women, and I will try to dart around back to front as well. Okay, quiet please, and we’re going to start with a lady here in the front. Could we wait for the microphone to come round to you? Could you say who you are before you start?
Woman: My name’s Julia, I was at Copenhagen, and I wanted to ask you, it wasn’t just the emails, but it was sort of the timing of these emails, and while I think everyone on the panel agrees that debate is good, otherwise they wouldn’t be here, and sharing information is great, we may never get an error-free definitive body of evidence on either side, so what I’m asking is, how much debate should we have until we can take action one way or the other?
George Monbiot: Bob, could you aswer that?
Bob Watson: Yes, and this is where I slightly disagree. Fred and I fully agree on openness, transparency, open debate. IPCC does show uncertainty, that’s why we said next hundred is 1.4 to 6.4 degrees Celsius, we show that some models go an increase in precipitation, others a decrease. I think the IPCC is probably the best system you can invent. I would like to see far less defensiveness I would agree but I think it shows uncertainty all the way through we got to do an even better job, so I think you bring the best scientists in the world together, you get it heavily peer reviewed by sceptics, supporters, based on evidence, and all governments of the world, I don’t think one can design amuch better process, but sceptical views must be in the document.
George Monbiot: Thank you. I’m going to go for a man on this side. Right at the back.
Man: Thank you. So everyone’s asking for an open debate of the science, so in that vein, Steve, if I may I’d like to ask you a quick question, it’s a really simple question. Since 1980, the surface temperature of the globe has increased by about 0.6°C. This theory, hypothesis, is consistent with a whole range of evidence from many disparate places. Where has that energy come from?
Steve McIntyre: He’s asking me?
George Monbiot: Yes, he’s asking you.
Steve McIntyre: Well, sorry, why?
Man: Let me expand a bit. So, since 1980; the planetary system, or more specifically the atmosphere and the oceans, have taken on billions upon billions upon billions of joules of heat energy. Why?
Steve McIntyre: Well in terms of what I’ve examined closely, I’ve looked at proxy reconstructions for the last thousand years, and they don’t give a whole lot of information on that topic.
Man: You’ve asked a lot of questions tonight and I’m asking you to give one answer.
Steve McIntyre: Sorry?
Man: You’ve asked a lot of questions this evening and I’m asking you to give one answer.
Steve McIntyre: Well look, in terms of climate policy, I have - my blog - never suggested that governments should not, that climate change is not an issue or that governments should not adopt climate policy, so all I’ve challenged is proxy reconstructions and whether they rise above phrenology, and I don’t they do, but that doesn’t mean that some other line of evidence might not be valid.
George Monbiot: The intent behind the question is to ask you, do you accept that man-made climate change is taking place.
Steve McIntyre: In terms of whether it’s a big problem or a little problem or what degree, I don’t know.
Man: I don’t care, I just want the answer to that one simple question, where do those billions of joules of energy come from?
Steve McIntyre: I don’t know. Clearly, if you take a Lindzen point of view, increased CO2 will lead to 0.8°C. The big issue is whether water vapour and cloud feedbacks are mildly negative, or strongly positive, and I don’t know.
Man: ... projections. I’m asking about the history, the history, the historical record -
George Monbiot: Okay, we’ll move on and I’m going to a woman on this side. Okay, could we stop this please, we’ve gone as far as we can with that one. The woman here in black. Wait for the microphone, it’s coming your way.
Woman: Thank you. Hi. I work for quite a large humanitarian organisation, and we struggle with how to approach the issue of climate change. Part of our remit is to be impartial, so it’s quite a contentious issue as to how we approach it, especially when we work in a lot of places in South East Asia, like Bangla Desh for example which, if some of the climate change research is correct, might be quite adversely affected, and I just wondered, given the attention that’s been focussed on this issue, if you felt that public perception of climate change had been damaged, and if you felt that was a bad thing.
George Monbiot: Thank you. Fred, can you help us with that?
Fred Pearce: I think, yes, short-term it has been damaged. I think in the long term what has happened is going to be beneficial because it’s going to produce better science, more open science, scientists more engaged with the public, and I think we have to go that route. It can be a bit messy, but it’s a bit like, I would suggest the debates over MPs’ expenses. In the short term, all those revelations about MPs’ expenses were bad for democracy, you might say, because they undermined people’s confidence in MPs and made them thought [sic] they were all a bunch of shysters and they were all as bad as each other. But I don’t think one could then argue that you shouldn’t have exposed those issues about MPs’ expenses, you simply had to go through that purging process and I would hope that democracy is stronger for that. Similarly I think there’s a purging process going on in climate change science, I also believe that climate science will come out stronger and public trust in science will ultimately improve.
George Monbiot: Thank you. A man over here. You’ve had your hand up for a while. That’s it. Yup.
Man: We’ve had quite a good look at the science in terms of all the reviews. One of the things which really strikes me which needs to be looked at now is the role of the media and the media’s ability to communicating [sic] the truth, and George, you’ve particularly been asking lots of questions tonight and I’m just wondering whether you could comment on the media’s responsibility for talking about truth, not blending it with opinion, and particularly whether you still stand by a lot of the early things you jumped in and said regarding Phil Jones and his culpability.
George Monbiot: Thank you. Well, the Guardian chose me as the ideal chair for this occasion on the grounds that I’d already alienated everybody involved in the debate. [laughter] And, yes, I have to say that when I first read those emails I was shocked really because it wasn’t what I imagined I had been championing all this time as an environmentalist trying to become a channel for climate science into the media, and I have to say I felt quite let down, quite betrayed really by some of what I read, and it’s possible that some of my judgements were a bit hasty as a result of that shock. And, I don’t know if you saw the column that I wrote last week where I said that, you know, my position has changed a little, it’s not changed a huge amount. I think perhaps I was wrong to have called for Phil Jones to resign, but I still think there are some pretty serious issues there, and not all of them were comprehensively dealt with by the reviews.
But I think the general point is that we all - whether we’re environmentalists or whether we’re on the other side of the divide - we all have a very powerful interest in making sure that the science does stand up, and in fact it should be us environmentalists who are in the forefront of demanding scientific integrity, because our cause stands or falls according to the science behind it. And I don’t think we do the wider cause any harm by saying this has got to be, not only impeccable, but also seen to be impeccable, if we’re going to be defending it. Trevor would like to come in here.
Trevor Davies: Yes. We were shocked too by the excerpts from the original emails, and that was one reason why our response, we were accused of being slow in our response. First of all we had to determine whether they were real, and then assess them, but we decided to assess them, not on the basis of a small number of emails, but via independent reviews, and you may say that those independent reviews have not answered all of the questions, but at least we waited until we were confident that we could put those emails into some sort of appropriate context.
George Monbiot: Thank you Trevor. Right. Let’s go for a women on this side. Any women on this side? Right. In the front there.
Woman: Thank you. My name’s Christine, I’m a journalist, and I was just wondering about the subject of FOIs, and should emails be
George Monbiot: Bob, could you say something about FOIs and emails?
Bob Watson: Yes certainly emails can be FOI-ed there’s no question whatsoever, and I think the lesson from this is, don’t write off hasty emails, just think what you’re writing. I mean, when I worked in the White House it was very clear that everything we did, whether it was a telephone call, where you had to keep a log, or whether it was emails, were FOI-able basically - certain information to the president, I’m sure it’s the same here on a policy issue is not but I think we have to be - I mean, I think we’re all saying the same thing, we need to have an opennness, we need to have a transparency. It should be based on solid evidence, recognising uncertainty, and not straying into ideology. I personally don’t know anyone that’s switched personally, personally, from a normal email account which can be FOI-ed to a g-mail account, but that - I just don’t know of anyone that’s done it - certainly within the government we wouldn’t. We have to use official email systems.
George Monbiot: Okay, thank you, and a man in this block, yes, on the edge there.
Man: I agree with what I think all the panelists have said, that we need to be more open about uncertainty, clearer about it, and all the rest of it. I just think, that’s all very well saying that in this room, but the reason people tend to reduce things to being a lot more certain, and change, the vast overwhelming weight of evidence is that climate change is happening, it is happening, we must do something, is because we do actually have to do something, and if we all start being clearer about the uncertainty, and explaining the details about what might have happened on the west coast of China and why that’s a bit different to somebody else and spend the next thirty years thinking about it, at the end of which we say "oh, we are certain. Bugger, it’s too late. What are we going to do now?" How do we deal with this? because this is a media and a politician issue as well, and not just a bunch of learned scientists. [Applause]
George Monbiot: I mean, Doug, this is surely the downside of the kind of campaign that you and Steve have been doing, that actually, you've gone far into the detail, you’ve tunnelled deep into the data - I'll come to you in a minute Steve as well - and in doing so, haven't
Woman: Could you? [Applause]
Douglas Keenan: Maybe I should explain a little bit about what a time series is. A time series is just any series of measurements taken at regular time intervals, okay, so for example, the temperature at Heathrow at noon each day, the price of the FTSE at the close of each business day, or the total amount of wheat harvested in Canada each year. Another example would be the average temperature of Earth each year. Those are all time series. My point is, financial data and climate data are both time series, so anyone who is skilled in mathematical analysis of financial data will also be able to do climatic data.
Bob Watson: Two very quick points.
George Monbiot: - action.
Bob Watson: To say nothing stands up to scrutiny is challenging many hundreds - well, actually several thousands - of unbelievably bright people. On theoretical modelling, on basic physics, very simple basic physics, you put greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, it must warm. The question is when and how much. [Someone else is speaking.] Wait... Absolutely, and that's why it's -
George Monbiot [to someone]: Quiet, please. If you want to make a comment, you'll have your turn if a question comes your way.
Bob Watson: And that's why the IPCC has a range of 1.4 - 6.4 degrees Celsius over the next 100 - this cost of inaction has to - the cost of action is 45 trillion has to be placed about [?] the cost of inaction, which can affect both developed and developing - and 45 trillion over 100 years is only a couple of percent of GDP, which actually slows down development of - of economic development - by 1 to 1-and-a-half years. And you need to - if you read things like Stern, even Nordhaus, who looks at the cost of action, would recognise it's a minor perturbation over 100 years; 45 trillion sounds a lot. It's not, over a 100-year time period.
George Monbiot: Okay, thank you.
Douglas Keenan: Can I just make one very brief point?
George Monbiot: Very, very brief point.
Douglas Keenan: I am not opposed to action on global warming - I am not opposed to action on global warming. I actually agree, pretty much, with what Steve said.
George Monbiot: All right. Now we're looking for a woman, to start of with on this side. And there's one in the middle. I know you've had your hand up for a long time. You - yes. Keep your hand up, there - that's it.
Fiona Fox: Fiona Fox from the Science Media Centre. Do the panel feel that those filing FOIs have any responsibility to behave proportionately? And do you feel that FOI is the right way to have this adversarial debate that Fred is calling for? Is FOI the space that Muir Russell recommended, or is there already an adversarial space, and it's called peer review?
George Monbiot: Okay, thank you. I'm going to give it briefly to Trevor and then to Steve, who is responsible for an awful lot of FOI requests, so... Go on, Trevor.
Trevor Davies: Yes, I know he's responsible for a lot of FOI requests. The Freedom of Information Act came in to challenge the presumption of secrecy in public life, and that is laudable, clearly. It's now confused with the assumption that confidentiality has no place in a public body, and that confidentiality somehow denotes something sinister. And I think this is a real problem for universities, because universities, possibly more than any other public body, use emails as speech. To come to quick decisions. People all over the world there - a different side of the campus - there's a danger that this will have, if the debate is around emails, as a result of Freedom of Information requests, there's a danger that there will be a chilling effect on the engagement of scientists in this country with other countries. It is important, but I think it needs to be proportional. I do think there are better mechanisms for discussing science, and one of the characteristics of tonight's debate is that much of the criticism has not been around science - or at least much of the discussion has not been around science. So peer review is there. It's not perfect, but it's there, and it's an accepted mechanism for debating science.
George Monbiot: Thank you. Now, Steve, you and your acolytes put forward a very large number of FOI requests - were you harassing people, in doing that?
Steve McIntyre: Not at all. I think anybody that's looked at it realises that the initial FO - first of all, any data that we've asked for is now agreed that should have been there all along, so that the FOI requests arose only out of obstruction in providing data that should reasonably provided - not because you requested it, but it should have been online and available to everybody, in the first place. The data requests escalated in 2009 because of untruthful answers from the university in giving their refusal, and one lesson, I think, that institutions like the University of East Anglia should take away, is that if you're going to do things, be truthful. And don't make wrong excuses, because that makes people mad, and it was the untruthful excuses that led to 60 FOI requests for confidentiality agreements. The other point that I think has - there's been disinformation by climate scientists, is that those 60 email requests for confidentiality agreements sound like a lot but one of Phil Jones's emails said that he could respond to those by putting up a short web page, and that it really wasn't any big imposition. The function of the 60 emails was to show the university that it wasn't just me that was interested in the data, there are other people, there are other people paying attention, and that they should pay attention to the issue, which they hopefully are, now.
George Monbiot: Fred, you wanted to add something, briefly please.
Fred Pearce: Yes, just briefly. Can people be asking for things, disproportionally? Yes, undoubtedly they can. There is, in the legislation - says you can reject vexatious requests, I would have thought that was probably enough. I think the scientific community, as a whole, made a really big error in failing to recognise Freedom of Information law coming down the track. Oddly enough, Phil Jones in the emails is revealed as one of the first people in science to spot - I mean, and he was talking, you know, "I'll delete my emails rather than -" or "delete my data rather than hand it over", but probably didn't quite deliberately mean that, but I mean - in the vernacular, that's what he was saying. He recognised very early on. Where was the rest of science? Why - where were, you know, the top people in science? Where was the Royal Society? Why were they not saying "Whoah, how is Freedom of Information law - it's not going to work very well with science, is it?" It's not designed for science. It's - it's really going to be a nasty clash, when the two come together. I think there was a real failure for the science community to address that issue, and I think it persists.
George Monbiot: Thank you very much. Piers. Wait for the microphone.
Piers Corbyn: Thank you. Piers Corbyn, Weather Action - Long-range weather and climate forecasting - and one of the people described by Phil Jones as an utter prat, and also obviously one of those whose publications they want to suppress, as they said. Now, first question is, I want to know if the panel are going to - especially with the chairman - are going to drop the use -
George Monbiot: You’re not going to have more than one.
Piers Corbyn: Okay, well, this is a combined question, ...drop the use of the word "climate denier", which is pejorative, whereas climate researchers such as myself know that there are changes in climate and can explain the rise of temperatures up to 2002 and the fall since then, which is due to solar and lunar activity? And isn’t the key failing of the current time the IPCC’s failed science, and inability to actually explain anything, whereas solar activity can make forecasts of extreme events?
George Monbiot: Thank you. Fred, solar activity?
Fred Pearce: Yes, solar activity alters climate, nobody has ever denied that. If we didn’t have solar activity, we would be rather a dead planet, and a rather cold planet. But that’s not the issue when we’re talking about climate change. The question is whether the things that we’re seeing on the timescales that we care about are to do with human activity, and, you know, the greenhouse effect of greenhouse gases is such well-established science that that’s not really at issue. There are real issues about the feedbacks, and they‘ve been touched on briefly. That’s why, as I understand it, the next IPCC report will probably have even wider error bars than the last one, and that’s going to cause some quite serious problems. Now, anybody who thinks therefore we don’t need to worry about climate change - absolutely wrong. You may have - the bottom of the error bars may be saying: Well, global warming might be a bit less than we thought, but the top of the error bars will say: Well, global warming could be much worse than we thought. One of the problems, I mean, one of the good things which climate sceptics have done is to point out that there are greater uncertainties in climate science than is often recognised [interruption] excuse me, than is often recognised. One of the really bad things that they’ve done is kind of, by sleight of hand, suggest that therefore we don’t need to worry. In many respects we need to worry even more. [Applause.]
George Monbiot: Bob.
Bob Watson: I agree with everything that Fred just said. The basic issue, cannot look at climate over 5 or 10 years. There’s natural variability in climate just as there’s natural variability in weather from day to day, week to week, month to month. You have to look over a long period of time. All of the simulations we take into account, all of the known natural including solar, all of the human activities etcetera, and indeed solar can have an influence, but it is not a significant influence in the last fifty or more years, which means yes, uncertainties may get more in the next set of projections, but it’s a risk management - how much do we want to risk? or how little do we want to risk? So climate change is a classical risk management, that’s why uncertainty needs to be understood, and you can actually then say, how would you deal with it? [applause]
George Monbiot: Right. There’s a woman there, up struggling with your drink. Microphone to her please. Thank you
Woman: Professors Davies and Watson, how can you say that the CRU and East Anglia have learned their openness lessons when, in the reappointment of Phil Jones, you’ve delegated the Vice-chancellor’s office to field all information requests, meaning that Phil Jones and the CRU will never have to answer to the public again. I’m also wondering why people are only allowed to heckle Messieurs McIntyre and Keenan. [Applause.]
George Monbiot: I’ll just deal with that last little barbed point. The reason that the questioner was allowed to keep questioning Steve was that I felt and he felt that he hadn’t answered the question, but to pass your main question over to Trevor. Fire away.
Trevor Davies: We are determined to be more helpful with respect to openness than we’ve been in the past, because, as the reviews have indicated, we’ve basically had nothing to hide. You’re incorrect when you say that the handling of Freedom of Information job in the Climatic Research Unit will be delegated to the Vice Chancellor’s office.. sorry?
Woman: That’s what the Information Officer informed me.. [inaudible]
Trevor Davies: Well, the reality is that the administrative support will be provided within the School of Environmental Sciences and within the Faculty of Science in which the Climatic Research Unit is embedded.
Woman: And so the Vice Chancellor’s office will be handling information?
Trevor Davies: The the the ... a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s office takes the ultimate responsibility for compliance with FOI requests, but in terms of the process, then that is undertaken, that will be undertaken within the school of Environmental Sciences.
George Monbiot: OK, I think we’ve explored that sufficiently thank you. You’ve had some supplementaries. On this side, the man with the hockeystick I notice, has had his - appropriately or otherwise ...
Man: Mr Watson states that if you put CO2 in the atmosphere you get warming. The ice core records show that at the end of each of the interglacials during the current ice age, CO2 rose for up to 2500 years after the hot point of the interglacial, and the earth cooled during the whole of that time. So wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that CO2 put into the atmosphere causes some warming, but often, the natural cycles will completely drown what it’s doing? [Applause.]
Bob Watson: I mean, there’s no - it’s the magnitude of the warming - there’s no debate about whether greenhouse gases such as water vapour CO2 or many others have a warming effect. You only have to look at three planets. Mars has almost no greenhouse gases - [Groans from the audience.]
George Monbiot: Piers, you’ve been interrupting all this meeting. If you do it again, I’m going to throw you out. [Applause.]
Bob Watson: The physics of the radiation transfer is quite straightforward, it’s simple physics, and you can look at three planets, Mars, Earth, and Venus, and you can explain why there’s such a difference, a frigid Mars planet, no greenhouse gases, Venus, absolutely boiling, lots of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and the earth by luck has maybe the right amount. There’s no question, when you go in and out of an ice age, it’s a complicated set of feedbacks stimulated by solar radiation changes, feeding back on CO2, and you have to then understand the complete biosphere and ocean / atmosphere exchange, so you would expect some time lags in the system, basically. So, but the basic issue is, just has been said: What are the feedback effects between any change in greenhouse gases, whatever the greenhouse gases, and how will the temperature respond? Even the most ardent sceptics such as Dick Lindzen do agree the greenhouse effect is real, they do agree, the temperature will warm, the question is, whether it’s on the low end, like Dick says, or is it on the higher end like many other scientists, and that is indeed where the debate - which therefore brings you down to again the risk, what do you, how would you handle the risk of human induced climate change? Even the majority if not all sceptics who look at the physics agree there will be an effect.
George Monbiot: Doug, you wanted to come back on that, briefly please.
Douglas Keenan: A brief point about cycles over long time. There’s a paper by Gerard Roe, R,O, E, in Geophysical Research Letters, 2006, and it matches up perfectly the variation in Earth’s orbit and the cycle changes. People were doing it incorrectly before 2006. He does the calculation correctly. There’s no need for delays with CO2 and stuff like that, and he talks about that explicitly in this paper. It works perfectly. I’d recommend it to anyone.
George Monbiot: Right. There's a woman in a floral dress here.
Woman: Hi there. I would mainly direct this question to Professor Trevor Davies. You said at the beginning of the talk that, following the reviews, there’d been a recommendation for a new kind of platform, a more open platform, and you said that you were slightly unsure about how that would take place, and you said that UEA was going to take some initiatives to do that, and I was wondering if you think that that, those kinds of platforms can be widened into the wider community and involve the media and the public and really open up a kind of space that we need to talk about these issues in, like you said, to get over these adversarial issues, and tell us a bit more about them please.
Trevor Davies: Well, we’re thinking about that. I think we see some of the problems this evening of engaging with, across, a very wide spectrum of opinion, and of course sceptics vary from people who have, who are concerned, don’t understand the nature of anthropogenic global warming, think that there is, there might be, something wrong with the science, are concerned about how peer review works, all the way through to what some people call deniers or denialists, I mean, I, that is not my terminology, but other people describe them thus, and there are sort of, papers in learned journals about the characteristics of denialist campaigns, and I think, I think engaging with such a wide spectrum is difficult, so we will be, initially we will be exploring how best to do it, and I think the experience tonight will be helpful. We don’t have the answer. I think Muir Russell’s recommendation has set up a very big challenge.
George Monbiot: One quick, very brief...
Bob Watson: Yes, as you know, there were some mistakes made in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and a panel of more than a dozen eminent people from across the world - many not connected to climate science, are looking to see how can the IPCC have more open transparent processes, both in the selection of authors, peer reviewers - that report will come out in September, and IPCC can be a platform because all of the papers are sent out for peer review openly for peer review to everybody, so that can also help this open debate basically.
George Monbiot: Roger, at the back in the blue jacket there.
Roger Harrabin: Thank you George. Roger Harrabin from BBC News. I was very interested in Doug Keenan’s point about a systemic failure, as he identifies it, of science to be able to be held accountable. I’ve looked myself for, to a really painstaking - and painful from my own point of view - degree into some of the inquiries recently, and I found it very difficult to trace a line of responsibility and accountability, and in a serious issue like this, you know, that line of accountability I think, needed to have been seen and clearly identified. And I’m wondering if I could ask Bob, with your hat on as chief government environment scientist, are you happy with the system of accountability of science, not just for this issue, but for other ones, and if not, what sort of system would you in future envisage, and recommend to ministers?
Bob Watson: As most people, I would not trust any single scientific paper, whoever writes it, whether they’ve all been through peer review, whether in Science, Nature, or some of the other academic journals. I do believe the national and international assessment process, where you bring together scientists, with different perspectives, different views - hopefully all based on evidence, not on ideology, and that’s critical - is probably the best system one could apply. I actually believe the IPCC is very strong, have to be quite honest, although they made some mistakes and they didn’t openly admit where those mistakes were made, I think this Interacademy Council will try to look, how can you strengthen that process, which will look at the issue of accountability. How can we make sure that the science that’s being looked at is critically peer-reviewed openly and transparently, appropriately looks at what’s known, what’s not known, and what are the uncertainties? So I think to me, are there ways to further strengthen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or other national assessments etcetera - as most of you know I’ve been involved in four or five totally different subjects from biodiversity, agriculture, ozone and climate - and it is international assessment, but we must make sure you do not preselect authors with one set of views, and you do need to make sure that you have the full range of interested stakeholders involved in peer review from governments to private sector, academics, NGOs etcetera. So I’m reasonably comfortable, but all systems can be improved, there’s no question about that.
George Monbiot: Doug, a brief point.
Douglas Keenan: There doesn’t seem to be integrity in general in the academic system. In a matter completely unrelated to global warming, I filed an allegation of academic fraud against a researcher at the University of Reading, and they just refused. They said they have no procedures to investigate such allegations, because their professors always act with integrity.
George Monbiot: OK, thank you, and a woman on this side. There are going to be three more questions altogether.
Woman: I’d like to ask the panel generally - thank you - There is a recognised methodology in science whereby something is considered to be so consensually agreed upon that we call it a scientific law, and I take for example Newton’s discovery of the Law of Gravity. We have consensually reached the point where we don’t challenge that finding, and because we don’t challenge it, we believe it to be beyond challenge, we call it a law, and it has the same power, in a methodological sense. Do you think, given the degree of consensus we have globally about the fact of anthropogenic global warming, that our failure to reach a consensual point where we might call it a law ..
George Monbiot: Briefly please.
Woman: .. is based on the science or the politics?
George Monbiot: Steve.
Steve McIntyre: Yeah, I’ll answer that. I started looking at this really, much like most of you, as a citizen with some mathematical training that was interested in the problem, as a citizen. My own take on it is that there is no scientific law as to whether water vapour and cloud feedbacks in total are mildly negative or strongly positive, and that’s the elephant in the room in trying to decide whether it’s a little problem or a big problem.
One of the problems that I have with the IPCC report as a citizen is that they provide surprisingly little guidance on this matter. In the last report there is about a page and a half on this topic, and my criticism of the last IPCC report is that it’s become far too much a shout out to every climate scientist in the world who wants to get cited in it, and the interests of policy makers become submerged in the collective desire of the community to recognise themselves. So if I were designing, or had any input into, what the report would cover, I’d have three hundred, four hundred pages on the water cycle and cloud feedback problems, which seem to me to be the largest source of scientific uncertainty, and for which certainly the public is desperately interested in knowledge that’s clearly explained, and explained not just as the output of a model with all sorts of other possibly conflating elements, but clear descriptions.George Monbiot: Thanks Steve. [Applause.] A man on this side. Um, yes, in the blue shirt. No, sorry, the man right in the front. I beg your pardon.
Jonathan Leake: Hi there. Jonathan Leake, I'm Environment Editor of the Sunday Times. Steve, in your presentation, you said something very quickly, which I wasn't quite sure of, but you seemed to say that Phil Jones was not interviewed by Muir Russell at all, er, in person - in other words, he was interviewed by some other members of his panel. Did I hear that right? Because if so, it would be astonishing that the chairman of the inquiry did not question the principal witness at the heart of this whole affair. And if that is true, who did question him, and perhaps, Trevor Davies, you could tell us why that happened? It seems remarkable.
Steve McIntyre: Okay. The - in the - I'm going from the minutes of the report statement, um, in December there was - Phil J - Muir Russell arrived, according, they had eight meetings that day, one of which was between Muir Russell and Phil Jones, accompanied by Trevor Davies, I assume - at which I presume no evidence was taken. In January there was another exploratory meeting. The panel was then announced, on February 11th. There were two meetings with Phil Jones after that, one on March 4th, if I recall correctly, between Jim Norton and Peter Clarke, which covered the CRUTEM series, and the other one on April 9th with Geoffrey Boulton and Peter Clarke again covering the Hockey Stick issues and IPCC. Muir Russell did not attend either of the two meetings with Phil Jones after the unveiling of the panel, which were the only two meetings at which any evidence was taken. And yes, it just - it bewilders me that a responsible chairman of an inquiry could not attend the only material interviews with the people involved in the whole affair. Muir Russell, however, did have extensive meetings with administration staff.
George Monbiot: Trevor, does that - does that chime with your experience?
Trevor Davies: I'm, I'm just trying to check the - my memory of - detail here is not as good as Steve's, but he's already confirmed that Muir Russell did indeed interview Phil Jones and yes, I have it, in my list: he interviewed Phil Jones. [Pause.] And - and this information is in the back of the Muir Russell Report.
Steve McIntyre: Not after the panel was announced, and not where any evidence was taken.
George Monbiot: Do - can you contradict that?
Trevor Davies: Er... Um... [Pause.]
Steve McIntyre: He can't.
Trevor Davies: Yes, the -
Steve McIntyre: He can't contradict it.
George Monbiot: Just a moment, Steve, please.
Trevor Davies: Er, I'm just checking... Steve will have to remind me when the panel was actually announced. [Loud laughter from the audience.]
Steve McIntyre: February 11th. [More laughter and ironical applause.] February 11th, Trevor.
Trevor Davies: Um, yes. Um... [Pause. One man in the audience says something about "inquiry", another responds "He's checking the evidence."] No, I think Steve appears to be - there were interviews -
Steve McIntyre: It's on page 92.
Trevor Davies: - there were interviews between Muir Russell of the chairman, and Phil Jones. Um, later on, those interviews were conducted by the specialists -
George Monbiot: When did these two interviews take place, between Muir Russell and Phil Jones?
Trevor Davies: The last one that I can see is the 27th January. [Pause.]
George Monbiot: All right. Okay, thank you very much. We're going to go - okay, I think we've exhausted that one. Two more questions, both on this side. Starting with a woman. I see one in a red dress there.
Woman: Hi, I'm Tammy Boyce. I just, er - I have had a background in climate change but I've moved into health and really I just think some people need to get a reality check on how the world works. Policy doesn't get developed on evidence, and boy, Doug Keenan, do I ever wish that you would take the effort that you have made on climate change and apply it to academy schools, because there's no evidence on that, there's hardly any evidence. That's not - policy doesn't get developed based on evidence. And oh how I wish that you would just see that there's other things besides a black and white research paper that will give you the ultimate answer. And what I also find slightly ironic is that you're so certain that things are uncertain. And there's a confusion here, you want so much certainty, there's - the sceptics are so certain about themselves in claiming about uncertainty -
George Monbiot: Okay -
Woman: - and I think there needs to be some reality here about what you're saying and your own involvement and your resp - and what you're getting out of it tonight.
George Monbiot: Okay. [Applause.]
Douglas Keenan: I'm not specifically involved in global warming, I'm involved in research integrity. I've made that clear. And it's also clear on my website. That's what I care about. I'd like to read a quote, actually, from Linus Torwalds, the creator of Linux operating system. Linus Torvalds was an undergraduate student in Finland -
George Monbiot: Better be a brief one, Doug.
Douglas Keenan: Okay. And a lot of people he came up with the Linux operating system, and it turned out to be, in many ways, better than Microsoft Windows, at least for servers. Okay. At the time, all computer scientists believed that you should use a so-called "microkernel" approach. Linus Torvalds said no. He's an undergraduate, just an average undergrad -and he said no. And here's a quote. "... the microkernel approach was essentially a dishonest approach, aimed at receiving more dollars for research. I don't necessarily think that these researchers were knowingly dishonest. Perhaps they were simply stupid. Or deluded. I mean this in a very real sense. The dishonesty comes from the intense pressure in the research community at that time to pursue the microkernel approach. In a computer science research lab, you were studying microkernels, or you weren't studying at all. So everyone was pressured into this dishonesty." It was because Linus Torvalds didn't go along with that, that we have a competitor that is in many ways better than Windows. You can change a few words there, you get global warming. [Applause.]
George Monbiot: Bob?
Bob Watson: Just a minor comment. Evidence is absolutely a necessary, but not sufficient condition for informed policy formulation and implementation. You have to recognise there are uncertainties, that we'll never have absolute knowledge. And to be quite honest, uncertainty doesn't paralyse the average government official, certainly none that I've had dealt with. [Audience laughter.] Because there's uncertainty in the economic projections, there's uncertainty in national defence. You have to understand the uncertainty and the implications of it. So evidence is important, but there are many other factors also taken into account.
George Monbiot: Fred, very briefly.
Fred Pearce: Yes, I agree with most of what Bob has said. I think, in the same way that scientists have to be more grown up in the way that - have more candour in the discussion with the public, the public, too, has to recognise and be more grown up about, about - understanding the uncertainties of science. And also, if you like, the political pressures that go into policy-making - yes, you're absolutely right, policy-making is not entirely an evidence-driven process. I always hate it when politicians say "I'm just doing what the scientists told me to do." Because it's very rarely true.
George Monbiot: Okay. Now there are three men here who have had their hands up for so long that I think they're going to do themselves muscle damage. And, arbitrarily, for the very last question, I'm going to choose the one in the mustard-coloured shirt. [Cries and groans ring out.] Wait for the microphone, please, or it will have to go to -
Man: I'm an architect with technology interests. At school I did science and art. Can I ask Bob - Professor Bob Watson - what amends must the media, the newspapers make, following the findings to these inquiries that they made - they were not proportionate in their response, and, quoting the Guardian on 8th July: "It is now very apparent that these so-called sceptics owe a huge apology to the public, for having presented the email messages as evidence that climate change is a hoax carried out by a conspiracy of dishonest scientists". And the world has been set back -
George Monbiot: Very briefly, please .
Man: - many years by these influences of these newspapers, and causing public mistrust to the whole climate change issue, which should - urgently, we should take action.
George Monbiot: Okay. Bob.
Bob Watson: Reporting is always difficult, and I think the question is - I think the newspapers like - we as scientists have to get across, but in much simpler terms, so it connects with the public. What do we know and what don't we know? Where is the majority opinion, and where is the minority opinion? And also I think there was a quick jump to - to - accuse of inappropriate action without really enough in-depth analysis, so what I would hope [someone is speaking] -
George Monbiot: Quiet, please.
Bob Watson: - so, exactly, one reads the emails and has to dig into it. And so I would hope, and in the Guardian I have a great regard for, some of the very best reports ever, in my opinion, and what I would call a balanced way. So I would hope that somehow - controversy sells newspapers, and headlines sell newspapers - we have to realise that, especially the controversial headlines. I think the responsibility is to try at least to let the public know: where is the majority opinion, point out where the uncertainties are, 'cause minority opinions are important, and what the implications are to us as a society are - act, or don't act - so let the public understand what's the state of knowledge, and what are the risks we're taking, either by over-acting, or not acting at all. It's not an easy story to write, for the public to understand, given that a lot of the issue are nuances, but I think that is what we need, basically.
George Monbiot: Well, thank you, Bob. [Applause.] That wraps it up for us. It's been a very interesting and fiery debate. We've got absolutely nowhere, as we might have expected [audience laughter] but we have managed to bring a lot of the issues up to the forefront of people's minds, and for that we should be grateful to all the panel, so please give them a big round of applause. [Applause.] And my profound apologies to the people we didn't get through in the audience - I know there were a huge number of people wanting to ask questions, which is a sign of the fervour of the debate. But you can continue to follow this, if you like, in several ways. First of all, let, um - Fred Pearce will be signing his book in the Jarvis foyer outside, and there's all sorts of interesting nuggets of information in there. And then the podcast and the video content of this meeting will be up on the Guardian's website tomorrow, you can follow it there. And doubtless an awful lot more content, and I daresay you'll be chasing up - chasing some of these questions up on other websites too. Thank you very much, everybody, and especially to our panel. [Applause.]
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