New Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project graphs emerge as Richard Muller prepares to give evidence

  • 31 Mar 2011, 11:00
  • Christian

Professor Richard Muller at the University of California at Berkeley will today give evidence about his 'Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature' project to the US House of Representatives Science Committee.

There is widespread scientific agreement that the temperature datasets which track rising global temperatures give an accurate view of how the planet is warming. But they are the subject of fierce criticism from climate sceptics, who argue that methodological flaws or scientific conspiracy to massage data mean they cannot be relied upon.

Muller calls the surface temperature record 'very contentious' and argues that climate sceptics have raised 'legitimate concerns' about the way that temperature data is handled. He recruited a team of statisticians to re-assess temperature data, promising a totally revised approach to understanding the raw data from global temperature stations.

We are publishing for the first time a graph showing preliminary results from this reassessment which show a temperature trend closely in accord with the other three main temperature datasets. The preliminary results are based on an analysis of 2% of the data the BEST project will consider.


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The Spectator debate: A victory for reason?

  • 30 Mar 2011, 17:00
  • Robin

Debater Simon Singh.

Opinions in the audience for last night's well-attended Spectator debate titled 'The global warming concern is over: time for a return to sanity' seemed pretty set. As I went in, the steward commented that it's "all the young people who are against the motion," but the room at the Royal Geographical Society was dominated by an older crowd who appeared very much in favour, and it looked as though the speakers against the motion might be in for a rough ride.

Speaking for the motion were ex-Chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson and Dr Benny Peiser, both of the climate sceptic think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, with Labour MP Graham Stringer. Opposing the motion were climate physicist Tim Palmer, ex-Chief Government Scientist David King and popular science writer Simon Singh. Each of the presenters was given nine minutes to present their case, before a short period of questions from the floor and a final vote.

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Government scientist's warning on Lord Lawson's climate claims

  • 28 Mar 2011, 14:00
  • Christian

(c) The Observer

Lord Lawson invited the chief scientific advisor to the government, Sir John Beddington, to analyse his first book on climate change, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. Beddington was able to identify 20 significant scientific errors in the first section of the title.


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Letters from UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor reveal critical view of Lord Lawson's climate arguments

  • 27 Mar 2011, 00:00
  • The Carbon Brief

On the 31st March 2010, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee heard evidence for an enquiry into the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit's E-mails. Present to give evidence were Lord Nigel Lawson, founder of climate sceptic think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and Sir John Beddington, the government's Chief Scientific Advisor.

In the same month, Lord Lawson asked John Beddington to review his bestselling book about climate change: ' An Appeal to Reason, A Cool Look at Global Warming'. Beddington obliged, sparking an exchange of official letters between the two over the coming months - released to Spinwatch under freedom of information legislation and seen by Carbon Brief.

The tone of the letters is polite, and Beddington's criticisms are restricted to the scientific statements Lord Lawson makes in his book.

On some issues - the importance of improved water management for example, he makes clear his agreement with Lord Lawson. However, his assessment of the material in the book which discusses climate science raises serious questions about the validity of the arguments Lawson makes, and his interpretation of scientific material.

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Weekly Science 23rd March

  • 23 Mar 2011, 11:20
  • Verity

Here's our summary of the useful and interesting papers, letters and commentaries that have been published over the past week in the scientific literature...

Policymakers need to think in terms of probabilities

Climate change is evidently affecting plants and animals, but according to a new scientific commentary, there's too much focus on defining the contribution of human-induced climate change to these biological responses.

According to the authors, Politicians in particular want to know how much climate change is responsible for changes in biological systems, but this can be difficult to determine as climate change acts at the same time as other effects (both natural and man-made).

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Johnny Ball in talks with GWPF over teaching of climate change in schools

  • 22 Mar 2011, 12:06
  • Luke

Johnny Ball may be commissioned by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) to investigate the teaching of climate change in British schools. The two parties have not yet confirmed a deal but GWPF director Benny Peiser has told the Carbon Brief that the foundation are in the "discussion process with Ball and another researcher".

He said the study will not contest the basic physics of climate change but how the range of impacts are being taught. Peiser added that he wanted the study to be "as objective as possible" and that the GWPF do not have a clear idea of what they expect to find. Ball's research will include scrutinising text-books and exam papers.

Johnny Ball is a former children's TV presenter and famous for engaging kids with science. He made headlines last month when he expressed fears that he was a victim of an internet smear campaign as a result of his climate scepticism. The claims were picked up by the Times, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Express.

Ball outlined his position on teaching in schools in a piece for the BBC's Daily Politics show:

"How are your kids, your grandchildren, the next generation? Their potential is incredible. In a few years' time, the world will be their oyster. So why are we filling their heads with doom and gloom?"

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New profile: the Hadley Centre

  • 22 Mar 2011, 10:55
  • The Carbon Brief

The Met Office Hadley Centre is the UK's most prominent climate change research centre. The Hadley Centre is integrated with the Met Office and funded largely by Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It is a key climate advisor to UK government departments and a chief contributor to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports.

The Exeter based Hadley Centre has been described by Nature as a "world-class climate modelling institute". The centre also collaborates with the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to maintain one of the longest running and most important global temperature datasets, HadCRUT3Dr Chris Gordon is head of the Met Office Hadley Centre.

The centre was opened in 1990 in the wake of prime minister Margaret Thatcher's 1988 speech highlighting climate change as an issue of concern and a 1989 announcement by the UK government that it was committed to supporting research into climate change.

Sir John Houghton was the director-general of the Met Office at that time. Houghton was also chair or co-chair of the Science Working Group of the IPCC from 1988-2002, when the first three IPCC assessment reports were published.

Read more about the Hadley Centre in our full profile.

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Conservative Lord John Gummer on climate change: 'In the end, we all have to face the facts.'

  • 22 Mar 2011, 00:00
  • Robin

Tory peer and former Shadow Environment secretary John Gummer came out to bat for right-wing advocacy on climate change, with an op-ed piece yesterday in the Australian:

"The battle against climate change in Europe is led from the Right. David Cameron, Conservative Prime Minister in Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy in France, and Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany."

The Australian has hosted a vitriolic debate about the existence and impacts of climate change, which has been raging for months.

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New profile: the IAC review of IPCC procedures

  • 18 Mar 2011, 12:06
  • The Carbon Brief

The IAC review

The InterAcademy Council (IAC) was established in 2000 to "provide high quality advice to international bodies" and brings together national science academies from around the world. The Royal Society is the British representative on the council

Advice is provided to the United Nations and World Bank among other international bodies. The IAC describes itself as "client-driven" and "works on a project-by-project basis". According to its website, the IAC "has developed mechanisms and procedures to guarantee the scientific quality of its reports, the policy-relevance of its recommendations and the absence of regional or national bias."

The review

An IAC investigation,lead by Princeton's Harold Shapiro, was commissioned by the IPCC in response to mounting criticisms of the use of 'grey literature' in its reports. Grey literature is non-peer reviewed material and includes "technical reports, conference proceedings, statistics, observational data sets, and model output". Grey literature can be considered by the IPCC in order to better inform its assessment reports but should be clearly signposted.

Read more about the IAC review in our full profile.

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This week’s climate science

  • 16 Mar 2011, 10:35
  • Verity
 CIAT International Centre for Tropical Agriculture

This week sees the online launch of a new journal from the Nature Publishing Group, Nature Climate Change, paving the way for its paper launch in April 2011. The journal will be publishing weekly articles online. This week's offerings include "research highlights" focusing on the positive effects of climate mitigation on the water cycle and the likely increase in hay-fever resulting from climate change.

African maize crops affected by heat exposure

The main research article presented by Nature Climate Change is: " Nonlinear heat effects on African maize as evidenced by historical yield trials". The study investigated the effect of daily temperature on maize yields in Africa, comparing how yields were affected under droughts and rain-fed conditions. The researchers took a new approach, using records of the daily weather for historical crop trials. Maize crop yield was found to be adversely affected by the number of days the crops experienced high temperatures. For every day spent at above 30°C, maize yield was reduced by 1% in rain-fed trials, and by 1.7% in drought trials. This research is important because maize had been assumed to be relatively heat-tolerant.

Both the Daily Mail and London freesheet Metro ran nice articles summarising the findings of this study.

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