Saturday, February 27, 2010

Institute of Physics raises questions for Inquiry

The Institute of Physics has a memorandum on the UK Parliament website for the forthcoming inquiry. Below are some excerpts. Read the whole text here

1. The Institute is concerned that, unless the disclosed e-mails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context.

2. The CRU e-mails as published on the internet provide prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law. The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their ideas and results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital. The lack of compliance has been confirmed by the findings of the Information Commissioner. This extends well beyond the CRU itself - most of the e-mails were exchanged with researchers in a number of other international institutions who are also involved in the formulation of the IPCC's conclusions on climate change.

3. It is important to recognise that there are two completely different categories of data set that are involved in the CRU e-mail exchanges:

· those compiled from direct instrumental measurements of land and ocean surface temperatures such as the CRU, GISS and NOAA data sets; and
· historic temperature reconstructions from measurements of 'proxies', for example, tree-rings.

4. The second category relating to proxy reconstructions are the basis for the conclusion that 20th century warming is unprecedented. Published reconstructions may represent only a part of the raw data available and may be sensitive to the choices made and the statistical techniques used. Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information.

5. The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the reconstructions and raise questions as to the way in which they have been represented; for example, the apparent suppression, in graphics widely used by the IPCC, of proxy results for recent decades that do not agree with contemporary instrumental temperature measurements.


Jonathan said...

The original statement can also be found at the IOP website.

It's very good.

Marco said...

It's actually really bad: there were no FOI requests for the proxy data, those were for the temperature data.

Moreover, the ICO did not confirm lack of compliance. It hasn't even finished its investigation into the matter.

Two whoppers of mistakes in the IOP statement. I find that quite disconcerting: a reputable organisation making such basic mistakes. It's obvious the Royal Society of Chemistry has been paying better attention.

itisi69 said...

If I was one of the group of scientists adressed to in a devastating assesment by an Institute representing 36.000 physics worldwide, I would sit quietly ashamed in a corner and certainly not try to be the smartest-guy-in-the-room.

Hans von Storch said...

itisi69/3 - what do you mean? Hans

itisi69 said...

Dr.Von Storch; sorry if I was unclear, I meant the group of scientists which is subject of the investigation and people like Marco who's trying to find petty excuses to reduce the impact of this statement.

As much as I was appalled by the misquote by Professor Acton (UAE's vice-chancellor by all means!) of the ICO statement and the University's demand (sic!) to ICO to withdraw their statement about that the university had failed in its duties under the Freedom of Information Act. When will these people learn? They still live in a cocoon.

Jonathan said...

Marco, have you actually read the IOP submission? There is no statement there about FOI requests for proxy data; the phrase "the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information" makes no mention of FOI or of data, and could easily refer to non-FOI requests or to FOI-requests for email correspondence, both of which certainly happened. Furthermore the IOP nowhere makes any statement about whether the CRU evaded FOI requests; it merely notes "the allegations of scientific malpractice and evasion of the Freedom of Information Act at the CRU".

Plus, of course, an FOI request for proxy data did in fact happen, see FOI_08-50.

You seem to be complaining about something else entirely?

Marco said...

FOI_08-50 was released, so that one does not fit either. The section suggests, in my opinion, that they refer to proxy data and/or processing:
"Different choices, omissions or statistical processes may lead to different conclusions. This possibility was evidently the reason behind some of the (rejected) requests for further information."
I've seen no evidence of people asking Briffa et al for explanations of choices, supposed omissions, or statistical processes.

And regarding the ICO: IOP claims the ICO confirmed lack of compliance. He didn't.

Leigh Jackson said...

Today's Guardian quotes Peter Gill, one of the committee members who formulated the IOP's evidence to the Parliamentary inquiry into the CRU emails:

"If you don't 'believe' in anthropgenic climate change, you risk at best ridicule, but more likely vitriolic comments or even character assassination. Unfortunately, for many people the subject has become a religion, so facts and analysis have become largely irrelevant."

Change "don't" to "do" and the statement is no less true. Acccording to the Guardian, Gill is head of an energy consultant company whose clients have included Shell and British Gas. When asked who the other members of the committee were, the IOP declined to answer, wanting to protect them from being "dragged into a very public and highly politicised debate".

They stand by their submission but have issued a clarification stating that the science leaves no doubt as to the reality of AGW and the need to take action now.

However, a question-mark now hangs over the impartiality of the IOP committee. Did the other members share similar views to Gill? The identity of the other authors ought now to be made known. It would be ironic if a FOI request should be required for this to happen.

Why also did the IOP hand the task of preparing the submissionr to the energy subcommitte alone rather than gathering more diverse expertise from several subcommittees?

Marco said...

I don't think the IOP is subject to FOI. It's not government.

Leigh Jackson said...

I thought that might be the case. If they are not forthcoming on the subject it will do them no credit at all.

Hans Erren said...

The contribution of IoP reads like an open door:

Fundamentally, we consider it should be inappropriate for the verification of the integrity of the scientific process to depend on appeals to Freedom of Information legislation

non-reproducable science is not science.


Frankly I don't see what marco is fussing about.

Marco said...

@Hans Erren:
The facts are that the science *is* reproducible. Anyone can contact the NMSs and ask for the data, and the methodology is described in several papers. It's that simple.

Combine that with others actually reproducing the results with *other* methods and at times *different* data, and you even have reproducible and robust science.

Hans von Storch said...

Marco/12 - It is certainly not that simple. Read again Reinhard Böhm's account here on the Zwiebel. First you need the raw weather data, then -to the extent possible- the meta data about the procedures to collect the data. Next step is the homogenization which is a complex and to some extent a subjective process. I an independent redo of the analysis, I would expect here differences to emerge! Also, some data may be rejected completely because of various problems (among them UHI) - again a partly subjective process. Finally the averaging procedures.
Not really simple - and the resulting numbers are of utmost societal relevance, so that an independent review and redo is undoubtedly needed. To establish trust. Which is the capital, we need to manage sustainably. Trust. The curves may be reproducible, but they have not been reproduced so far by a truly independent institution. But, as outlined in our (von Storch/Allen) submission to the UK Committee and in out nature piece, I am convinced that an independent reproduction will return essentially the same curve.
-- Hans

Leigh Jackson said...

HvS 13

Nor are independent reviews a simple solution.

Given the current hyper-volatile state of climate change politics an independent review is necessary, IMO.

However, independent reviews will never establish the trust of those who have an implacable ideological objection to the very concept of human caused climate change. There are many of them and they are not going to go away.

Millions of people refuse to countenance the idea that humans evolved from slime. No amount of scientific evidence has or ever will budge them from their predetermined view. Science, for them, must serve to confirm their religious faith or be damned.

Similarly, in the case of the use of animals for medical research, there have been several high-powered independent reports in the UK whose conclusions agree with statements of leading national academies to the effect that the use of animals in medical research is scientifically justifable and necessary in situations where there is no alternative.

Anti-vivisection organisations simply dismiss these reports and ask for *genuine* independent review.

Similarly anti-vaccinationists etc etc.

corinna said...

#Leigh Jackson
>However, independent reviews will never establish the trust of those who have an implacable ideological
>objection to the very concept of human caused climate change. There are many of them and they are not going to go away.

It is not about establishing the trust of those who follow an ideology, but of those who listen to the debate, developing their own opinion and are getting more
and more critical because of the arrogance and the unsatisfying way the climate science establishment is dealing with the skeptical

There is an increasing number of people feeling that they have been fooled so by climate scientists who tried to scare the
public or did not clearly object these scenarios for various reasons.

A recent poll from Sweden (one of the countries in which CAGW was least disputed) highlights this well:,1937,44615,00.html

The number of people who getting skeptical seem to increase when comparing with earlier similar polls.


Leigh Jackson said...

I agree Corinna. Some people will be honestly confused or doubtful and will need to be reassured which is why I believe independent reviews are necessary.

I predict, however, that all such attempts wil meet with a barrage of claims claiming that they are not independent at all and many honest people will still be just as confused and doubtful as before.

Hans von Storch said...

LJ/16- true, there will be lots of claims and counterclaims. But, as I learned from the discussions on KLIMAZWIEBEL, there are very vocal people, who simply will not agree on anything which may lead to the need of changing one own's mind (compare to our little bet-episode). However, the majority of people - at least here on KIMAZWIEBEL - is willing to listen to arguments, given that they are based on transparent and plausible reasoning. There is a chance for convergence. We should push for such solutions of the present unacceptable situation, where alarmists and deniers jointly try to hijack the debate by first insisting on their preconceived concepts and second pointing to the danger, their opponents would represent.

I conclude that redoing the key exercises, and deriving a history of temperature development from thermometer readings is one of them, need to be re-done independently.

ghost said...

so, the statement was not really the view of the IoP... do not care, but another example...

well, openness: please, Prof von Storch would you consider that open:
* the raw data is freely available
* the program processing the data is freely available (incl. re-implementation of an independent source)
* the documentation is freely available (in form of readmes, papers, etc)

Yes or no?

Well, I think, you will say yes. Now, my question: how does it come that the here so praised Watts, another Prof D'Aleo smear that GISTEMP is fraud without showing the problem in the code, in the raw data, in the algorithm? How does this come? Why are people believing that Watts or the SPPI institute are right? What is your idea of more openness in this case?

I think, GISTEMP is a good example, that openness is good because it shows (proves) the worthlessness of many "skeptical" claims and shows the dishonesty of some persons, in this case Anthony Watts and D'Aleo.

PS: the claims of Watts and D'Aleo are shown to be wrong by 3-4 independent groups now. Still no apology or retraction. Explain it to me, why.

Marco said...

I won't be speaking for Hans von Storch here (obviously), but I'd say he already gave what I think is the answer to your last question in #17 (right above your comment).

@Hans von Storch:
What would you consider "independent"? One may argue that the people at NCDC, GISS, and CRU are maybe too interrelated to call it independent. But whoever else is going to do something will need to understand various aspects of climate science to make proper choices of handling the data. Teach them, and they are no longer independent.

Look, for example, at It is 'rewriting' GISTEMP. It thus uses the same procedures as GISTEMP, but a different computer language. Whenever they have a question, they ask GISS. Not independent?

Hans von Storch said...

Marco / 19 - independet?
I would guess that many people have reservations towards GISS, because of Jim Hansen being there. Thus, there are some perceptions that GISS may not be that independent as one would hope for. Also NCDC my have such a problem - the three different groups have worked together, and they may have shared their work. They may in reality be perfectly independent, but some people may be suspicious that they are not. For these suspicious people, a word by GISS or NCDC may not be sufficient.

Thus, to regain the needed public trust the analysis should be re-done by a professional group so far not involved in the (global temp) business, say the Finnish Weather Service. Remember, the issue is trust. -- Hans

Marco said...

Say, what about the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg? I'm not joking!

Then again, we already HAVE a reconstruction by a "weather" service, one by the Japanese Meteorological Society:
(see here for more information:

Do 'we' trust the Japanese?

ghost said...


Kyoto is in Japan, that says everthing ;)

Can you recommend a good survey about current temperature reconstructions and their comparison? I think, there are a lot.

BTW: do you really think, it is a reasonable view that Jim Hansens personal opinion had an influence to GISTEMP? Really?

Leigh Jackson said...

HvS 20
I think you make my point here, Hans. If the Finnish Weather Service were to give their seal of approval to CRU's work I can imagine two possible reactions from British sceptics. Either to say: The Finnish Weather Service - don't make me laugh; or: Another crowd of dumb weather-people sticking up for one another - what else do you expect?

Leigh Jackson said...

Marco 21
I can see it now. The Sun and the Daily Mail - the two top-selling British newspapers by a country mile - saying to their Euro-friendly readers: Those trustworthy German scientists say that global warming science is totally secure, so that is that then.

Leigh Jackson said...

The point here is that independent scientific review may help to reassure people who are genuinely open to science but will never reassure those who are only open to doubting AGW - at best. Science just doesn't cut it for many people unless it fits with their predetermined worldview.

Marco said...

Perhaps, at this point, we should be happy with anyone we can convince that certain individuals and organisations are not to be trusted? And I'm not pointing at GISS, HADCRU, or NCDC here...