The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia - Science and Technology Committee Contents


Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 20-39)

RT HON LORD LAWSON OF BLABY AND DR BENNY PEISER

1 MARCH 2010

  Q20  Chairman: Lord Lawson, you are not going to give us those.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, when the Annual Report comes we will ask our donors if they wish to be named. Some may; some may not.

  Q21  Mr Boswell: I have slightly broken the drift, but I think it enables us to take up events down the track. After those initial requests, which, as you say, set off what you might call a malign cycle, a number of other things have happened in relation to CRU, there has been the alleged theft of material and subsequent disclosure and then selective quoting of the emails. Would you see those as representing a series of attacks on the climate scientists working at the CRU? Would they have been co-ordinated? Would they have been conceived only for that purpose?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: I will ask Benny to say something. The only co-ordination that I am aware of is the co-ordination among the scientists at the CRU and some of their correspondents.

  Dr Peiser: Of course, once the emails became public, the climate sceptics had a field day, there is no question about it, because it confirmed what a lot of them had wondered for a long time, and you cannot really be surprised that the critics used these emails to the full extent. The interesting fact is not that the sceptics were so euphoric; much more interesting is that people who were not sceptical became much more sceptical as a result. You just need to follow the media reporting on Climategate. It has been reported around the world, it is tarnishing the image of British science around the world, and unless we get to the bottom of this it will continue to be a problem, because at the core of this whole scandal is, as I said, the issue of how science works or does not.

  Q22  Mr Boswell: One final question. I am trying to read an inference from what you have just said. Among those who you rather, I think, would have described as converted to climate scepticism as a result of these revelations, would you take the view that was on the merits of the underlying science as revealed?

  Dr Peiser: No.

  Q23  Mr Boswell: Or on the process?

  Dr Peiser: Yes.

  Q24  Mr Boswell: Which was the master concern?

  Dr Peiser: Personally I do not think that the disclosure of these emails makes a big difference to the overall scientific debate—that is not the issue—but people have become extremely concerned about the way the issue is dealt with and the science has been worked on, and that is the underlying issue. I do not see that people have been converted—that is not the issue—but you can see people are disillusioned. You know the journalists who basically say this is not how this should have been done, and it is disappointing to see scientists engaging in that type of activity.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: There is one other thing, if I may add to what Benny has said. It is certainly nothing to do with the basic science—that is not the issue at all—but it is more than just the process. There is another thing, which is not new perhaps, and that is the question of the paleoclimatic record, the historic record over a long period of years of the global temperature and the hiding of the decline, the hiding of the divergence problem. This was not new—in fact I wrote about it in my book which was published in 2008—but, nevertheless, it brought it to the attention of many, many more people that there had been this fudge done and, of course, it has a strong bearing on the reliability of the paleoclimatic record, and the reliability of the paleoclimatic record raises the question of how unusual is the warming that we have seen in the latter part of the twentieth century. It is actually quite important from that point of view as well as from the process point, which I agree with Benny is the main issue.

  Q25  Chairman: Lord Lawson, on 16 November 1999 there is the famous "trick" referred to in the email. Do you not feel that was simply a colloquialism of people exchanging emails rather than anything more sinister, or do you genuinely believe there was something more sinister in that?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: This bears on what I was saying a moment ago. The sinister thing is not the word "trick". In their own evidence they say that what they mean by "trick" is the best way of doing something.

  Q26  Chairman: You accept that?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: I accept that. What they are saying is: what is the best way of hiding the decline, or what is the best way of hiding the divergence? It does not make it any better; it does not make it any better at all. The thing which is reprehensible is the fact that when the proxy series, which is a very curious proxy series incidentally, based on tree rings, departed from the measured temperature series, a normal person will say maybe that means the proxy series is not all that reliable. They wanted the proxy series for an earlier bit, even though for a long period before 1421 they relied on one single pine tree, which is more than it could bear. But anyway, the fact is that they wanted the proxy series for a particular period in order to show the so-called, which has now been demonstrated by various committees who have looked into it, largely fraudulent "hockey sticks".

  Q27  Chairman: Misconceived.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, largely fraudulent, I think; certainly misconceived. You ought to read, as I do, the Wegman Report, which is a very powerful report by distinguished statisticians on the so-called "hockey stick". The fact that they were using a procedure for hiding the decline, rather than a trick, does not make it any better.

  Q28  Graham Stringer: What Mosher and Fuller say on that point is it is not just that they were using a strange procedure, but they did not explain it in footnotes or anywhere else in the literature. Do you agree with Mosher and Fuller?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Yes, I do, and that is the significance of the word "hide". Again, we are talking about openness, which is an essential element of integrity in science. If they had said openly that the proxy series does not fit—they say in their evidence here that it was only after 1950 or 1960 it did not fit, and that is actually not true, it is not a good fit in the latter half of the nineteenth century either, but, anyhow, if they had said it does not fit—so what we are going to do is have the proxy series for the period before the temperature readings were available and then, after that, splice on the temperature readings, and we admit that there has been a complete divergence of the two series since 1950 or 1960, if they had said that and been out in the open, it would be one thing, but they did not, they hid it.

  Q29  Dr Harris: You do not have an issue with the word "trick".

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, that is colloquial.

  Q30  Dr Harris: Exactly, and I would tend to agree with that. Is it fair to say that your view is that if the review panel decide that they have been clear in the literature that what hiding the decline meant was a legitimate way of treating the data to show, with an explanation, that a better way of looking at the data was not to allow the later tree ring data to influence the overall position—if they could show that that was argued in the publications; if the review panel comes to that conclusion—then you would be satisfied on the second point as well? It is just the obverse of what you have just said.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: I am not quite sure what you mean by "clear from the data".

  Q31  Dr Harris: Clear from the publications. There are two separate questions, are there not: whether scientifically discarding or trying to disregard some data is legitimate; secondly, the question that you quite interestingly raised about, if they are going to do that, it ought to be clear in the publications that they are doing it, otherwise it is a question of hiding rather than a question of them treating the data in a way that does not allow it to impact on the observed data series in the way it is portrayed.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: You are quite right, you have disentangled the two points, and the second point, I think, so that it is absolutely clear, we are ad idem on. But also, if it is clear that where you do have, for a huge stretch of time, both proxy series and, as it were, a real series, a series of surface temperature measurements, and they diverge wildly, this would suggest to a normal, rational human being that maybe the proxy series was not very reliable.

  Q32  Dr Harris: That is a separate question.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, that is an important question.

  Q33  Dr Harris: It is an important separate question, but that goes to the science, not to allegations of the suppression of something.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: No, it is not.

  Q34  Mr Boswell: This is a kind of "show your workings" requirement.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Yes, but integrity means you show everything, absolutely, and it also means that, if you do show everything, that opens it to analysis in a way that, if you do not show it, it does not.

  Chairman: I am going to stop that line of argument there. This is clearly something that Sir Muir Russell needs to examine. The last word goes to you, Ian Stewart.

  Q35  Ian Stewart: Good afternoon, gentlemen. Both of you asserted that the unit was not transparent with either the data or the methodology, but they assert that the data has been freely available. Is it the data or is it the software methodology that you are really concerned about?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Benny might like to say something about this, but I will add something after him.

  Dr Peiser: My understanding is they have promised to make the data available. You have to ask them. They say they will make sure now that the data will be available, and they are asking all the organisations they work with to give this allowance. Also, if I may add, there is still outstanding information on the adjustments, the methods used—not just the raw data but the methods used too.

  Ian Stewart: We will come to that.

  Chairman: Can we just follow this argument.

  Q36  Ian Stewart: Could I press you a little further? You were very clear, both of you, earlier that it was both the data and the methodology. Are unsure about whether they have placed the data in the public domain?

  Dr Peiser: No.

  Q37  Ian Stewart: They say they have. Are you saying they have not?

  Dr Peiser: No, they do not say they have. They say they will. They promise that they will now make public the remaining data.

  Q38  Ian Stewart: Lord Lawson?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Also, they have said that they have lost some of the data, so they cannot make it available. May I read what used to be on their website? It has been taken off their website, but this was on their website for a very long time until recently: "Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added, i.e. quality controlled and homogenised data." Some of the data they were saying at that time was lost. They are now saying it was not lost. I do not know whether it is lost or not, but they keep changing their minds about that. The fact of the matter is that they were reluctant, to say the least, to provide data for a very long time. That is whether they had it or not. I do not know, but they were reluctant for a long time. That is why you had all these Freedom of Information Act requests and this is why, incidentally, it is quite clear from the evidence of the Information Commissioner that, in fact, there is prima facie evidence that they were committing a criminal offence which only ceased to be a criminal offence because the time limit had elapsed, and that is a very serious allegation.

  Chairman: We are going to take that issue up.

  Q39  Ian Stewart: I am not finished with you on this one yet, if you do not mind. The UEA say that the primary data has been available to anyone. They say that anyone doubting their analysis can compile their own data set from material publicly available in the US. Have you plans to do this?

  Dr Peiser: Again, the issue is—apart from the data which is not fully published yet and they have promised to publish what remains outstanding—the problem of the methods used to adjust the weather station data.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 31 March 2010