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28 names to save the world

Blogger Tony Newbery of Harmless Sky tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to get the BBC to reveal who were the people present at a certain seminar whose advice led the BBC to decide to adopt a pro-AGW stance. The BBC described this decisive seminar as being graced by ‘some of the best scientific experts’. Newbery had a suspicion that there were many fewer experts and many more activists than the BBC made out. One out of the few – and I think that means one out of the one – people present at the seminar with views outside the consensus, Richard D North, said as much. Presumably North either had kept no record of the exact attendance list or had an obligation to keep it confidential.

The BBC really did not want to say. Representing himself, up against the BBC’s six lawyers, Newbery, not surprisingly, lost his case at the Information Tribunal. The fact that one of the lay judges had strong views against “deniers” probably didn’t help.

Though he had started an appeal, the point became moot when Maurizio Morabito of Omnologos found the list anyway by clever use of the Wayback Machine.

Watts Up With That, Bishop Hill, and Guido all have posts. Summary: Newbery was right.

They’re all there; Greenpeace, the New Economics Foundation, the Gaian branch of the Church of England, someone from Greenpeace China, bods from Stop Climate Chaos and Tearfund, Jon Plowman, Head of Comedy…

What? Head of Comedy? Yes. One of the aims of this series of seminars was to “take this coverage [international affairs, including climate change] out of the box of news and current affairs, so that the lives of people in the rest of the world, and the issues which affect them, become a regular feature of a much wider range of BBC programmes, for example dramas and features.”

Note that even some of the sciency sounding names and job titles listed are not exactly the hardest of the hard. According to the comments at Bishop Hill among the list there is a Senior Lecturer from the OU focussing on environmentalism and politics, a Geography PhD with an interest in conservation and human rights and a lucky undergraduate from Harvard specialising in documentary film making.

Why it matters.

Fun fact: all the four big-name resignations from the BBC over the last few days (Peter Rippon, Steve Mitchell, Helen Boaden and George Enwistle) were present. Someone somewhere (I’ve lost the link, I’m afraid) mentioned the Private Eye occasional feature “Curse of Gnome”.

Balen Report next, then!

14 comments to 28 names to save the world

  • Dave Walker

    A very fine example of digital detective work :-).

    Another condemnation of the BBC, too.

    It is indeed a very curious mix of attendees. I wonder what a representative of the Church of England was doing there – to apologise on behalf of their deity for being remarkably bad at planetary engineering, perhaps? ;-)

  • I logged into Samizdata to write a quick post flagging this for anyone who hadn’t seen it, but Natalie beat me to it. Twenty seven cheers to Maurizio Morabito for digging this up.

  • Michael Jennings,
    Indeed. Forza Maurizio!

    Dave Walker,
    God only knows. As I said in a completely different context but I feel like plugging anyway,

    Have these “working groups” of bishops no other work to do? Is the Gospel so widely followed in this realm that the Lords Spiritual can spare the time to waffle on about matters about which they are no better informed than the average middle manager? “The harvest is plenteous but the labourers few.” Yea verily, and the few we have can’t be with us at the moment because they are discussing sustainable energy, or the Ghanaian agricultural subsidy regime, or whether Jacksonian nationalism is a good influence on American foreign policy.

  • Alsadius

    Wait, other people are pro-AGW? I’ve been trying to convince Canada that causing global warming is in our best interests for years. Glad to see we might have some support.

    (Yes, I know what you meant, but mine’s funnier)

  • mdc

    This is worrying, but not so much for the conspiracy theorist reasons. The panel is actually reasonably balanced; there’s a heavy preponderance for left wing politicos but there are also some pretty hard line right wing politicos: the name of Richard D North jumps out, for instance. And there are as many businessmen as NGOs.

    What’s worrying about this isn’t bias but the fact that they invited a bunch of what are essentially lobby group staff to decide a highly technical empirical question of fact. Even most of the people with university affiliations are humanities/”history of science” “specialists” with absolutely no specific knowledge on whether the AGW claims are true or not.

    The only people with real scientific relevance on this list are:

    Professor Robert May – a real physicist albeit one who is now mainly a politician
    Professor Dorthe Dahl-Jensen – a professional climate physicist; the only one on the list
    Dr Steve Widdicombe – a real scientist whose research is directly relevant, but only to the potential effects of climate change, not whether the effect itself is significant

    There are more people on the list with “geography” qualifications than there are physicists. Among those not explicitly working for lobby groups, there are more people whose interest is in communication/history/philosophy than in science.

    It’s not so much that they stacked the deck for one side or the other, which maybe they did but certainly not that blatantly, it’s that the conclusions of this panel are largely worthless on their terms.

  • mdc

    *my apologies, Professor Mike Hulme is also a professional climate physicist. Contrary to some here, I don’t now regard UEA/CRU as a fake institute!

    If the BBC had really cared to get to the bottom of the matter, they would have had Hulme or Dorthe Dahl-Jensen duke it out with Professor Richard Lindzen. They would likely have arrived, not just at a “balance” of airtime for “competing views”, but something close to a real understanding of the issues: what is near-universally accepted among people who have any understanding of physics, what is not accepted, and where the uncertainties originate. That two or three person panel would give off far more light than this mess of averaging the opinion of a thousand blind Tibetans to find the length of the Emperor of China’s nose.

    Why didn’t they? My view is not because they are biased against the skeptics, but because the BBC is staffed with humanities graduates who don’t understand what science is or how it works, and polling a room of powerful lobbyists is how truth really is determined in their world.

  • Tedd

    It’s not so much that they stacked the deck for one side or the other, which maybe they did but certainly not that blatantly, it’s that the conclusions of this panel are largely worthless on their terms.

    I’m not sure there’s a functional difference between those two things. When there are two opposing sides to a scientific question, at least one of them is wrong. Forming a committee of people clearly not equipped to make that determination, and who almost certainly have a statist political bias, will produce the same result as biasing the committee toward the scientific position that’s most amenable to statist policy proposals.

    …the BBC is staffed with humanities graduates who don’t understand what science is or how it works, and polling a room of powerful lobbyists is how truth really is determined in their world

    That, too.

  • mdc

    The distinction is they could have done the same thing with a lot of right wing people. They could have taken Richard North and the Director of the CBI and made their views the policy. Not saying there was ever a chance of that happening, but duff committees can produce right wing answers as well as left wing ones. So can rolling a dice.

  • Regional

    Global warming would be good Canada with the North Pole no longer hindering navigation and when Germany rises again or maybe we’d better not go there.

  • Bruce Hoult

    “my apologies, Professor Mike Hulme is also a professional climate physicist.”

    No he’s not. He’s a social scientist, not a physicist.

    “My research interests are therefore concerned with representations of climate change in history, culture and the media; with how knowledge of climate change is constructed and the interactions between knowledge and policy more generally (especially in the IPCC and IPBES); and with the construction, application and evaluation of climate scenarios for impact, adaptation and integrated assessment.”

  • Andrew Duffin

    “polling a room of powerful lobbyists is how truth…is determined in their world”

    Amen to that.

    Theirs is the only world in which the “concensus” is regarded as having any validity.

    Any real scientist faced with a concensus, merely says “so what?”, but the Political Class (which includes the bbc) thinks it proves something.

  • Andrew Duffin

    Uh… consensus.

    Apologies, pedants.

  • lucklucky

    And there are as many businessmen as NGOs.

    As if it means something different. I think you’ll be surprised by statist and socialist views of many businessmen. Usually follows this rule socialism(read: taxes, rules) to everyone else but for me.

  • mdc

    Bruce Hoult: “No he’s not. He’s a social scientist, not a physicist.”

    He has a PhD in Climatology with what sounds from the title of the thesis to be a real physics topic. Admittedly his first degree was in geography and he has now moved into politics (though the latter is true to that extent of anyone who is a director of a lab or high ranking in a university, and isn’t necessarily suspect). So maybe I’d say he’s half a climate physicist. Still, for this list, he’s the fourth best at worst.

    lucklucky: “As if it means something different. I think you’ll be surprised by statist and socialist views of many businessmen. Usually follows this rule socialism(read: taxes, rules) to everyone else but for me.”

    Sure; businesses don’t care about science either and now they’ve seen there’s a subsidy gravy-train to be slurped from they seem to have lined up with Greenpeace et al. But they are a different constituency to the quangocrats with different motivations, and they’re not the people the BBC naturally listens to.