Climategate in the UK House of Lords

Palace of Westminster

Palace of Westminster

H/t: Watts Up With That. From a speech in the House of Lords by the rather ironically named Lord Turnbull – notable because it questions the science. Many politicians believe that public opinion dictates that the science be left alone, and arguments made purely on economic grounds. ACM believes this is wrong, and that the whole scientific basis of AGW should be thoroughly reviewed.

There is the issue of the science, which I had previously taken as given; but many people’s faith is being tested. We are often told that the science is settled. I suppose that is what the Inquisition said to Galileo. If so, why are we spending millions of pounds on research? The science is far from settled. There are major controversies not just about the contribution of CO2, on which most of the debate is focused, but about the influence of other factors such as water vapour, or clouds-the most powerful greenhouse gas-ocean currents and the sun, together with feedback effects which can be negative as well as positive.

Worse still, there are even controversies about the basic data on temperature. The series going back one, 10 or 100,000 years are, in the genuine sense of the word, synthetic. They are not direct observations but are melded together from proxies such as ice cores, ocean sediments and tree rings.

Given the extent to which the outcome is affected by the statistical techniques and the weightings applied by individual researchers, it is essential that the work is done as transparently as possible, with the greatest scope for challenge. That is why the disclosure of documents and e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit is so disturbing. Instead of an open debate, a picture is emerging of selective use of data, efforts to silence critics, and particularly a refusal to share data and methodologies.

It is essential that these allegations are independently and rigorously investigated. Naturally, I welcome the appointment of my old colleague, Sir Muir Russell, to lead this investigation; a civil servant with a physics degree is a rare beast indeed. He needs to establish what the documents really mean and recommend changes in governance and transparency which will restore confidence in the integrity of the data. This is not just an academic feud in the English department from a Malcolm Bradbury novel. The CRU is a major contributor to the IPCC process. The Government should not see this as a purely university matter. They are the funders of much of this research and their climate change policies are based on it.

We need to purge the debate of the unpleasant religiosity that surrounds it, of scientists acting like NGO activists, of propaganda based on fear, for example, the quite disgraceful government advertisement which tried to frighten young children – the final image being the family dog being drowned-and of claims about having “10 days to save the world”. Crude insults from the Prime Minister do not help.

Well said indeed.

Read the whole speech here.


  1. Bob Whittaker says:

    I am an Australian Vietnam Veteran. I was a member of 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment which toured SVN in 1970.

    My wife and I lost our firstborn child (a daughter), in 1982. The post-mortem indicated that she died of an aneurism that was a result of a congenital defect. The reason for the defect was never established, but studies of the children of Vietnam Veterans contain some very convincing statistics.

    [edit for space]

    I find the opinions on AGW expressed on your website deeply offensive. They offend the memory of my child, and many Australian Veterans who had their lives ruined by indifference and arrogance through disregard of the natural environment.

    You can commit to future infanticide if you wish, but I have no intention of joining you. I would have thought that somewhere in the word “conservative” is contained a meaning which has a strong comment on the sanctity of human life.

    The issue should be above politics. It’s simply too important. At least there is a possibility that a global consensus will be reached at Copenhagen, despite coordinated and energetic efforts to derail it. If it is, it will probably be the first time in human history that people of all creeds races and value systems have united on something. Call me naive, but I feel encouraged by this possibility.

    Prudential risk management is called for. The stakes are as high as they can get. And this time, the USA and the military-industrial complex doesn’t run the agenda. What a positive change!

  2. @Bob Whittaker: Anyone reading your comment would have the greatest sympathy for the loss of your child, and would acknowledge the debt of gratitude owed to you and your colleagues for your service in Vietnam. But to suggest that this web site, and indeed the holding of a sceptical viewpoint on AGW, is offensive to her memory and Australian veterans is frankly irrational. Likewise, your accusation of committing “future infanticide” is equally irrational (and offensive).

    The policies being decided in Copenhagen to scale back economic growth by means of emissions reductions are far more likely to cause future infanticide, as a result of millions of people in the developing world being condemned to a life of poverty as a result of denying them cheap energy. The precautionary principle you advocate is irresponsible since it imposes a huge economic and developmental cost on the planet for zero benefit. There is no risk management involved – the climate will change whether we like it or not – adapt by all means, but control is pure hubris. Kyoto, if it had been fully implemented, would have made just 7/100 of a degree difference to global climate (even if we accept the position that CO2 is the primary driver of climate).

    You are correct to say that the issue is above politics – but not in the sense you mean. It is above politics because the decisions we make should be based on a cool-headed assessment of the science, not driven by panic, emotion or a political agenda.

  3. Tom J. Arnold. says:

    Anyone who is a rational and cogniscent human being cannot fail to appreciate the depth of feeling in the above address by Lord Turnball.
    His entreaty is heartfelt and appeals to logical people whatever their thoughts and beliefs.
    I think that they are the finest words spoken on the AGW controversy and a breath of fresh air and an appeal to reason, which all too often is fallen by the wayside amongst the vitriol.

    The whole process has become unreasonable and we need a return to rationality and pure science without the BS, else this disagreement will lose its focus but if people will not listen to reason where can the debate go next?
    In the end the politicians have ruined the debate, I only became involved because the politicians have hijacked the agenda for their own aggrandizement and political ends, the science thus was always likely to be corrupted and this has been PROVEN to be the case.
    I have studied science for 30+ years and watched the screaming grow into a frenzy of monstrous proportions, the AGW battle was between Scientists.
    I always knew that modelling dynamic systems despite the enormous increase in computer calculation capacity was NEVER a pure and unequivocal discipline.
    This has proved to be the case but people think and particularly politicians computers can solve and predict the worlds ills but this is a dangerous myth and AGW is the perfect scenario.
    I’ve read too many doomsday science fiction novels to believe any of the hype now and this is what AGW is yes! science fiction – and know that the world is a dynamic, chaotic system and we understand darkly its driving forces.
    Any person who says different is lying through his teeth.

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