A Most Important Interview

Source:  http://web.me.com/sinfonia1/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Clamour_Of_The_Times/Entries/2010/2/13_A_Most_Important_Interview.html

?I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.? [Professor Phil Jones (pictured right) answering questions put to him by the BBC?s Roger Harrabin (left) in a key interview, in this instance: ?When scientists say ?the debate on climate change is over?, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean??]

The BBC’s environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, has been permitted to carry out a most important interview with Professor Phil Jones, the beleaguered Director [currently stepped down] of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has been at the centre of the row over hacked e-mails. I must congratulate Roger over this, and on the way that he has presented the outcome, both online and on air. There are three main items that people should read, or listen to, and, I might add, preferably with an open mind. These are as follows:

(a) The most detailed is ?Q&A: Professor Phil Jones?. The questions put to, and the answers provided by, Professor Jones were facilitated with the co-operation of UEA’s Press Office;

(b) Roger Harrabin?s online report: ?Climate data ?not well organised??; and,

(c) Roger Harrabin?s excellent on air report [5.57 minutes] for this morning?s ?Today? programme on BBC Radio 4: ?Climate scientist rejects fraud claims?.

Brief Comments

I should like, at this stage, to make only a few brief observations on these fascinating reports:

(a) First, if I were asked what has been one of the most worrying, and disgraceful, aspects of recent climate-change science, it has unquestionably been the conscious attempt to bury the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) to ensure that there is not a significant historical phase warmer than the present. This is not the way science should work, and, in this context, Phil Jones? cautious, and most welcome, replies are extremely pertinent:

?There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia. For it to be global in extent the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern Hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions.

Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today (based on an equivalent coverage over the NH and SH) then obviously the late-20th century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm that today, then current warmth would be unprecedented.

We know from the instrumental temperature record that the two hemispheres do not always follow one another. We cannot, therefore, make the assumption that temperatures in the global average will be similar to those in the northern hemisphere.?

(b) Secondly, Phil Jones? reply to the vital question, ?When scientists say ?the debate on climate change is over?, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?? is salutary, and surely correct:

?It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.?

Scientific Catharsis

(c) Thirdly, I believe this interview undermines completely the outrageous attacks on critical scientists by people who should know much better, namely the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and his Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Miliband. Indeed, it is of some significance that Roger Harrabin says precisely this in his ?Today? broadcast [4.18 minutes in, and following], noting that the tone of the debate will change as a result of this interview with Jones. The warning is clear. There has been a dangerous ?politicisation? of science, which must be resisted at all costs; and,

(d) Fourthly, this interview further convinces me that there are quite a number of people out there, in both the UK and the USA, who are far too willing to let Phil Jones take the wrap for all of the mess, and to make him a convenient scapegoat. This must not be allowed to happen. There has been a collective failure through the dangerous ?politicisation? of science, and what is happening now is that scientists of all persuasions are beginning to reclaim cautious and critical science from the political quagmire.

In a deeper sense, we are starting to experience a form of catharsis for ?science?. This can only be good.

We are talking once again like scientists, not like propagandists.