Oral evidence session for HoC IPCC Review

Following the submission of written evidence, the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry into IPCC AR5 is having its first session of oral evidence today. Here’s the schedule:

Panel 1 at 9.30am:

  • Prof. Sir Brian Hoskins, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London
  • Prof. Myles Allen, Oxford University
  • Dr. Peter Stott, Met. Office

Panel 2 at 10.30am:

  • Donna Laframboise, author
  • Nicholas Lewis, climate researcher
  • Prof. Richard Lindzen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

It’s worth pausing to reflect on what’s happened in the last few years. Who would have thought, at the time of the last IPCC Report in 2007, at the height of the hype following An Inconvenient Truth, that the UK Parliament would be holding an inquiry into the IPCC, and would have an evidence session in which time is equally divided between mainstream climate scientists and sceptics?

Climate activist Bob Ward is furious. He allows his own obsession with politics to come through, claiming without any justification that the debate in the UK is becoming as politically polarised as in the US. He neglects to mention that leading parliamentary sceptic Graham Stringer is a Labour MP. His rant descends to irrelevant fumings about the Tea Party, Senator Inhofe and the Heartland Institute. His article is a fine example of what he calls “the disreputable campaigns of misinformation by lobby groups and their cheerleaders in the media”.

Judith Curry also discusses the hearing in a recent post on expertise. She notes the broadening concept of ‘expertise’, extending beyond the traditional ivory towers of academia towards blogs and independents, and welcomes this, saying that it enriches the debate.

The session will be broadcast live and at some later stage transcripts of the discussion will be posted. This is probably the first of several such sessions. For the previous inquiry into public understanding of climate science, there were seven sessions. In that case it was a rather different story – only one sceptic (Andrew Montford) was invited to give evidence, out of a total of 30 witnesses.

9.30 Session

First impressions are that the MPs have done their homework and are asking tough questions. John Robertson MP asked why the range of climate sensitivity values was so high. Myles Allen replied that climate sensitivity was not so important – rather like Katie Price, it wasn’t clear why people were talking about it so much. The climate scientists seem to be saying that “transient climate response” is more important.

Peter Lilley raised the Swanson et al paper, suggesting that while models are converging with each other, they are diverging from reality. Peter Stott and Myles Allen insisted that models are doing a good job of representing reality. Lilley also raised questions about poorly understood aerosols.

Lib Dem MP Robert Smith asked about uncertainty and the IAC review. He also asked a good question about what has got more/less certain since AR4. Stott quoted the 95% claim, Allen acknowledged the less certain CS. Smith pushed the question of how confidence has increased.

Allen said that there was increased confidence that the cooling effect of aerosols was less than previously thought meant that the man-made warming effect had to be stronger. Peter Lilley was shaking his head and Robert Smith didn’t seem impressed either.

Following a question about IPCC processes and the IAC review, Myles Allen said it was unfortunate that the focus on the IPCC actually distracted attention from the key scientific evidence, and said he hoped it would be streamlined in future.

Graham Stringer asked about the Himalaya glaciers error etc – Hoskins pointed out that this was one small error, and in WG2, whereas the hearing is about WG1. Stringer also mentioned Monckton’s submission and the claim that the IPCC report is political. He also asked about the accusation that some involved in the IPCC are activists (eg Greenpeace). Stringer again raised the question of increased confidence, alongside the hiatus in warming.  Hoskins acknowledged that models probably don’t have enough variability (which he’d mentioned earlier as well).

Overall, I was impressed with the MPs who seemed well informed and asked tough questions.  Hoskins and Allen came across quite well, though Stott seemed to be promoting a party line.

Second session (start about 11.08)

First question: what aspect of AR5 do you have most concern with? Lindzen said it’s a translation problem, and there’s nothing to worry about. Nic Lewis said there was a concern over model/observation divergence.

Donna Laframboise said that human judgement is used in going from scientific papers, to the  main report, and then to the SPM.  She asked why the meeting at which the SPM is agreed is behind closed doors.  ‘There is a potential for political interference’.

Tim Yeo asked if there were scientists who were complaining that their views had not been properly represented.

Responding to a question about whether we should take action, Lindzen said any UK action will have no impact on climate but will damage economy.

Nic Lewis tried to explain objective Bayesian priors.

Robertson asked if the IPCC’s assessment of natural variability was adequate.

Do you think the models are reliable? Lindzen: “Of course not!”

Nic Lewis said that if natural variation is playing a role in the current ‘hiatus’ then it probably also played a role in previous warming.  Lilley picked up on this later.

Tim Yeo asked if they were saying that CO2 had no influence on the climate. That misrepresentation rather flummoxed Nic Lewis. Lindzen made it clear that wasn’t what they were saying.

He then followed this with another misrepresentation about global warming having stopped. At least this had the effect of getting Lindzen to raise his voice a bit.

Stringer: Is there no way to distinguish natural from man-made warming? Lindzen: there’s no good way to do this.

Stringer asked Donna L why she thought the IPCC should be disbanded. She talked about the IAC review, saying that they said the review process is not independent. She said there should be a “team B” putting the alternative view.

Lindzen seemed to suggest that people in climate science were not as smart as those in other fields! That will go down well with his climate science colleagues.

The review process was discussed, with Donna saying that criticisms were ignored.

There was some discussion of the role of activist groups in the IPCC process. MP Albert Owen didn’t seem to be worried by this. It was noted that these concerns related to WG2, not WG1.

Ended at 12.36

There’s another report on the proceedings at RTCC


Judith Curry has a very detailed report.

The whole thing is now on available on youtube.

James Delingpole gives his view, picking up on the Lindzen comment that climate scientists are second-raters.

Simon Carr at Guido Fawkes says “The Chairman asked a number of leading. loaded or frankly loopy questions.”

Andrew Orlowski at The Register : “Tell us we’re all doomed, MPs beg climate scientists”.

The transcript of the session is now available (published Feb 4th).

22 thoughts on “Oral evidence session for HoC IPCC Review

  1. Funny how, now that estimates are falling, CS is deemed to be “unimportant”. Another of those climate science “it doesn’t matter” moments. And what’s “transient climate response”? Wind, rain and polar vortexes by any chance?

  2. Many thanks for doing this, since I haven’t been able to follow the whole thing. (Since I got chucked out of the university because of my advanced age, I have to work for a living).

  3. Lindzen didn’t just suggest that people in climate science weren’t as bright as those in other fields, he flat out said it. When asked if that was what he meant to say, he said “Yes”. Hilarious.

  4. I thought all three of the sceptics performed well, but Lindzen was in a class of his own. Added bonus of Yeo making himself look stupid in his spat with Lindzen over the “hottest decade” meme. Are people honestly that dim?

  5. Re the RTCC thread, I was pleased to see Barry Woods’ comment neatly scotching the “warmest decade” = temperatures still rising nonsense.

  6. Allen said that there was increased confidence that the cooling effect of aerosols was less than previously thought meant that the man-made warming effect had to be stronger. Peter Lilley was shaking his head and Robert Smith didn’t seem impressed either.

    Myles Allen was going through contortions to avoid the obvious conclusion that less aerosol cooling meant less AGW warming ! I noticed also he was making a plea to be made FRS. We also had Stott justifying the increased confidence in human attribution because of “multiple independent lines of evidence” – but couldn’t even explain just one of them.

    There was some discussion of the role of activist groups in the IPCC process. MP Albert Owen didn’t seem to be worried by this.

    So seemingly it’s OK if you work for Greenpeace or WWF then. Except – can you imagine the fuss if say a geologist working for Exon contributed to the IPCC ?

    The correct answer to Yeo’s trick put down about the last decade being the hottest ever is.

    If you have just climbed up a hill to reach the plateau at the top then it is blindingly obvoius your current altitude is higher than your average height while going up the hill.

    The disappointment for me was what was left unsaid. For example :
    – Climate models cannot explain dynamics of glacial cycles. Human civilization all fits into this last brief interglacial. Before that much of N.America and Europe was uninhabitable. Sea levels rose 100m not 30cm. Previous interglacials were several degrees warmer than this one etc.
    – UK unilateral action to “tackle climate change” by taxing fossil fuels and subsidizing wind is both futile and stupid. It just damages our economy while cheap coal is increasing dramatically to power Asian economies. The UK may even be better off if temperatures do rise another 1C by 2100.
    – Extreme weather events is not science – it is alchemy. The 1953 flood killed 300 people on the East coast and 1400 people in Holland. Like the coastal flooding this year it was mainly caused by spring tides rather than storms.

  7. – Key questions are useful
    E.g. If the UK at 1% of world popn unilaterally abolished CO2 what effect on UK weather and extremes do you forecast ?
    – OK what about it was whole of western Europe ie 10% of world popn ?

  8. @stewgreen

    If the UK switched off all power tomorrow and returned to neolithic living by camp fire it would make no difference whatsoever to the climate. although millions would die. However, I expect the political elite would still be driving around in Bentleys with well fed bodyguards to protect them.

    The reason is that an additional half million tonnes of annual carbon emissions from coal are added to the atmosphere in Asia each and every day. It would only take 2 years for China and India to effectively neutralize our noble national suicide.

    60% of CO2 emissions are due to coal burning in Asia.

    worth reading this IEA speech

  9. Paul M

    Thanks for putting this all together.

    Have now switched to the more detailed summary on Climate Etc.


  10. The next session of oral evidence will be Feb 11th.

    Sir Peter Williams, Royal Society
    Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Royal Meteorological Society;
    Guy Newey, Policy Exchange,
    Jonathan Grant, PricewaterHouse Coopers
    James Painter, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford

    The balance this time seems to be 5 – 0.

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