Saturday, 12 December 2009

84 local scientists enter politics

Eighty four scientists and students at Edinburgh University have signed a declaration in which they express 'the utmost confidence in the observational evidence for global warming and the scientific basis for concluding that it is due primarily to human activities'.

The declaration, released during the Copenhagen summit to support the under-fire Climatic Research Unit scientists at the University of East Anglia, has been co-ordinated by the Met Office. The Edinburgh University 84 include key authors of the IPCC reports who have featured in the CRU emails and are amongst 1700 who have signed the statement.

However, the tactic has come under fire from an increasing number of commentators who characterise the statement as a 'groupthink' exercise which does not address the real debate amongst scientists about the key science issues. Professor Philip Stott of the University of London comments here and Clive James broadcast a thoughtful analysis on the BBC this weekend - text here. The Times Higher Education Supplement wades in here.

For readers of this newsblog who are unfamiliar with the issues of what has come to be known as climategate or warmergate, it might be helpful to sit down with a glass of mulled wine this Christmas and work through the issues and links below.

  1. What was behind the deception used by scientists at the CRU to create the hugely influential graph which appeared in the IPCC report in 2001 and frequently since, and which was a crucial influence on public opinion? See here for one detailed discussion by a seasoned observer Steve McIntyre.
  2. What is the reliability of the enhanced climate data (especially surface temperature data) which has been the basis of the claim of late C20th warming? See the suggestion by Ross McKitrick in the video in this post that the various sets of temperature measures come largely from one source. Also see this recent example of many longstanding challenges to the quality of the data measurements on which our global warming theory is founded.
  3. Is it possible to claim the 'science is settled' concerning anthropogenic global warming? See this article by Professor Richard Lindzen of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  4. Is it possible to claim there is a scientific consensus on global warming? This post started with the claim by 84 local scientists, many of whom work at the King's Buildings or live in Southside & Newington ward. But numbers don't make a consensus and there is growing evidence of a willingness to engage in a genuine debate about the science.

This is crucially important, even on a local level, because so much of our public policy is based on the assumption that there is a scientific consensus that the science of human caused global warming is settled. That assumption, long challenged by some, has been further undermined by recent events and revelations.

The declaration by scientists is an effort to influence the politics. Above all, what is needed now, is for those close to the disputed science to engage in its reassessment - a process which is under way online. Any of the Edinburgh 84 willing to engage?


Anonymous said...

I'm with George Soros on this one.

CR said...


George Soros effectively suggests spending a lot of money on the basis of the assumption.

Anonymous said...

It's a little more than an assumption. But the inherently selfish nature of the populations of developed counties is likely to guarantee that insufficient effort is made to reduce carbon emissions and Bjorn Lomberg will be correct that investing in what to do as climate changes is possibly more pragmatic. It seems politicians think that maintaining our grossly consumptive way of life for future generations is appropriate.

Personally I'd sooner my children had less material choice and be less dependant on imported resources. Our materialism hasn't exactly made us happy.

CR said...

Absolutely agree with last para. And lots of things can be done about poorer nations.

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