Thursday, December 14, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: EU Climate Consensus Broken

Centre-Right Parties Reject Green-Left Policy Proposals

In this newsletter:

1) EU Climate Consensus Broken: Centre-Right Parties Reject Green-Left Policy Proposals
EurActiv, 10 December 2017 
2) Sources: Trump Supports Pruitt's Plan To Set Up Formal Climate Science Assessment
ClimateWire, 11 December 2017

3) The Crisis Of Policy-Science: Why We Need A New Body To Undertake Quality Control
Piers Larcombe and Peter Ridd, Marine Pollution Bulletin, January 2018
4) Fishy Science: Investigation Finds Swedish Scientists Committed Scientific Misconduct
Nature,7 December 2017 
5) Academic Lawfare Is Killing Trust In Climate Science
Editorial, Investor's Business Daily, 10 December 2017 
6) While The West Retreats, Asian Banks Are Pouring $600 Billion Into 1600 New Coal Power Plants
Financial Times, 11 December 2017 

Full details:

1) EU Climate Consensus Broken: Centre-Right Parties Reject Green-Left Policy Proposals
EurActiv, 10 December 2017 

A partisan divide has emerged in the European Parliament over proposals to beef up the governance of the Energy Union, with conservative and centre-right lawmakers rejecting what they described as an “outdated”, “inflexible” approach supported by the Greens and left-wing parties.

Members of the 8th European Parliament

Members of [two] European Parliament [committees] voted on Thursday (7 December) in favour of a new legally-binding framework designed to ensure EU countries follow a steady course towards meeting the bloc’s 2030 objectives on renewable energy and CO2 reduction.

The report on the governance of the Energy Union, by Green MEPs Claude Turmes and Michèle Rivasi, was adopted during an extraordinary joint session of European Parliament committees on energy (ITRE) and environment (ENVI), by 61 voices in favour, 46 against and 9 abstentions.

Lawmakers set a goal for Europe to become a net-zero carbon economy by 2050 and gave teeth to draft EU directives on renewable energy and energy efficiency with new legal mechanisms ensuring a regular review of the bloc’s ambition, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. […]

Tense plenary ahead

A plenary vote on the report will take place in January where it is expected to garner the support of the S&D (centre-left), ALDE (liberals), Greens and GUE/NGL (far-left). However, the centre-right EPP and conservative ECR groups mostly abstained or rejected the resolution, signalling a tense vote ahead.

“The difference is our vision,” said Angélique Delahaye, a French MEP who is EPP spokeswoman in the Parliament’s Environment Committee. “Nothing in the economy is linear,” she told, calling for an end to the “paperwork”.

In a statement before the vote, Delahaye pleaded for a “flexible approach” to meeting the EU’s energy and climate objectives “as opposed to the outdated inflexible planning proposed by the Greens”. The strides made by the renewable energy industry across Europe “are not the result of regulation, but of competition and well-designed incentive structures”, she argued.

Turmes for his part, decried the “lamentable attitude” of the EPP and ECR groups. “The very same people who declare themselves in favour of the Paris Agreement at home are undermining efforts in Brussels to achieve a European carbon budget consistent with mitigating climate change by the end of the century,” he said.

Full post

2) Sources: Trump Supports Pruitt's Plan To Set Up Formal Climate Science Assessment
ClimateWire, 11 December 2017

President Trump has privately said he supports a public debate to challenge mainstream climate science, according to administration officials. But there's infighting about how it should occur — if at all.

The president has told U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt during several conversations that he supports Pruitt's plan for a "red-team, blue-team" debate aimed at challenging the prevailing scientific consensus about humans' impact on climate change, a senior administration official told E&E News. Another administration official said that "there is support for the initiative at the highest levels."

Pruitt has been pushing the idea of a climate science critique for months, suggesting at one point that it could be a debate that's aired on television. Conservative groups and some Republicans have been eager for the EPA boss to get started; they see the exercise as an avenue to torpedo the so-called endangerment finding that underpins EPA's climate rules.

Pressed by a House Republican last week to offer a timeline for the red team, Pruitt said work on the initiative is "ongoing" but that details could be unveiled as early as next month. "We may be able to get there as early as January next year," he testified.

But the administration isn't unified behind the idea. "Pruitt has not been given authorization to go ahead with red team, blue team; there are still many issues to be ironed out," another administration official said.

It's the latest example of infighting within the Trump administration over high-profile energy and environmental policies. It follows internal clashing earlier this year over whether to exit the Paris climate accord. In that case, Pruitt's camp — the one pushing for withdrawal — came out on top, and Pruitt became the administration's spokesman for the Paris exit. […]

Pruitt was rumored to be considering Steven Koonin, a former Obama administration energy official, to lead the red team effort. Koonin said in an August interview that he'd consider it if certain conditions were met. His participation would allow Republicans to claim bipartisan support.

Koonin said in August that he's driven by science, not politics.

"I've got no dog in the fight about whether [climate change] is the greatest catastrophe that's facing the planet or this is a nothing burger," he said. "This is something that is a national issue, and I feel the scientific community has an obligation to see that this is accurately portrayed" (Climatewire, Aug. 7).

Some critics of mainstream climate science have said they'll only participate if they see it as a serious effort with researchers they deem credible.

"The big question in my mind is to what extent the Heartland Institute has the ear of Scott Pruitt," said Judith Curry, a former professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech whose name has been circulated as a possible red team member.

She has said that having Heartland's name affiliated with the effort detracts from its credibility.

"I hope this is set up with sensible high-level people who are outside the everyday fray of the debate," she said.

There's also uncertainty about a possible "blue team" that would defend the mainstream science. Scientists may refuse to participate, arguing that it's an insincere effort or a waste of time. And the Trump administration may not want those optics. […]

Even some who welcome the debate say it comes with pitfalls.

"It's a very complicated thing, and it has to be gotten right or it won't have credibility and it won't produce a good product," said Ebell.

He doesn't think EPA is the correct agency to lead the charge, he said, suggesting instead that it be situated within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where the president's top science adviser typically works.

But Trump hasn't nominated a leader for his science shop yet. Pruitt, meanwhile, appears eager to get started.

"It's something we hope to do," he told lawmakers last week. "That would be a process where we would focus on objective, transparent, real-time review of questions and answers around the issue of CO2."

Full story (subscription required)

3) The Crisis Of Policy-Science: Why We Need A New Body To Undertake Quality Control
Piers Larcombe and Peter Ridd, Marine Pollution Bulletin, January 2018

The ‘replication crisis’ has exposed serious quality flaws in a wide range of sciences. Environmental science used for public policy is rarely tested and may have significant flaws. Present approaches to science Quality Control risk failing policymakers and the environment. A new body is needed to undertake Quality Control of policy-science.

Fig. 1. A graphic illustrating 22 factors that can influence the decisions taken by UK government ministers (after Larcombe, 2007).

The need for a formalised system of Quality Control for environmental policy-science
Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 126, January 2018, Pages 449–461

Piers Larcombe and Peter Ridd


Research science used to inform public policy decisions, herein defined as “Policy-Science”, is rarely subjected to rigorous checking, testing and replication. Studies of biomedical and other sciences indicate that a considerable fraction of published peer-reviewed scientific literature, perhaps half, has significant flaws.

To demonstrate the potential failings of the present approaches to scientific Quality Control (QC), we describe examples of science associated with perceived threats to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), Australia. There appears a serious risk of efforts to improve the health of the GBR being directed inefficiently and/or away from the more serious threats. We suggest the need for a new organisation to undertake quality reviews and audits of important scientific results that underpin government spending decisions on the environment. Logically, such a body could also examine policy science in other key areas where governments rely heavily upon scientific results, such as education, health and criminology. […]

5. How to achieve rigorous technical scrutiny for policy-science?

The above example illustrates how poor QC mechanisms for policy-science put at risk effective direction of resources regarding dealing with the GBR’s environmental problems, but it is logical that a similar problem may also exist for many other environmental issues. This is not a new observation.

Commenting on general matters of science credibility, Duarte et al. (2015) called for a “systematic audit” of ocean calamities, and Browman (2016) suggested the need for organised skepticism. Given that governments often use the results of environmental science to make important decisions, it is for them to commit appropriate funds to the task.

Therefore, we propose that governments should establish a new independent organisation to undertake quality reviews and audits of important scientific results which underpin government spending decisions. Here we have named it an “Institute for Policy-Science Quality Control” (IPSQC), but the name is far less important than its intended role, and the way it is structured and funded. Although the focus in this paper is on the environmental sciences, there are similar problems with policy-science in other areas where governments rely upon scientific results, such as education, health, and criminology. The IPSQC would thus not necessarily be restricted to environmental policy-science.

Regarding the role of a new body, we suggest it would conduct a system of guaranteed and organised technical debate, with the aim to specifically and rigorously test for any significant deficiencies in the scientific work upon which the major public expenditure is based. It would appear inevitable for some early focus to be on existing policy-science associated with policy driving current public spending, and that over time the focus would shift more towards assessing the quality of policy-science relevant to the development of new policy.

There also seems a clear potential formal role supporting the process of setting environmental regulations and in performing reviews as policy options are considered. Whilst some policy-science is used in these processes, it is not routinely rigorously checked, and funds are almost never set aside to replicate important work. Again, rather than acting to form policy, the intended role is to check the veracity of the science being used by policymakers.

Clearly, any such organisation performing such a role would need significant resources to fund external scientists or to employ its own. Viewing the Australian GBR example at least, if these roles are the implicit role of any existing organisation or organisations, the evidence regarding GBR policy-science indicates to us that it is not working. The precise mechanisms used by this new organisation could take a number of different forms. There are pros and cons to adversarial models (i.e. using a classical legal approach of prosecution and defence) and to ‘truth commission’ models (as used in post-apartheid South Africa).

However, whatever the mechanism(s) used, there must be independence, openness and transparency in all aspects. As an example, in an adversarial model, the organisation might act like a defence attorney in a court trial, challenging the scientific evidence being used to support the government decision or intended decision. Depending upon the specific cases, this is likely to involve open questioning of scientists, commissioning attempts to replicate previous work, reanalysing data, checking experimental design, analytical methods and results, and ensuring that alternative interpretations are thoroughly considered and described.

A copy of the full paper is available from the lead author on request.

4) Fishy Science: Investigation Finds Swedish Scientists Committed Scientific Misconduct
Nature,7 December 2017 

Two Swedish scientists have been found guilty of "misconduct in research" in a paper that they published in Science and later retracted. Their highly publicized work had suggested that tiny particles of plastic in the ocean harm fish.

The misconduct ruling was made by an investigative board from Uppsala University in Sweden, where the researchers work.

Marine biologist Oona Lönnstedt and limnologist Peter Eklöv originally reported in their 2016 paper that microplastic particles had negative effects on young fish, including reducing their efforts to avoid predators. The duo's report described a series of experiments on an island in the Baltic Sea. After other researchers raised questions about data availability and details of the experiments, Uppsala conducted an initial investigation and found no evidence of misconduct.

However, an expert group of Sweden’s Central Ethical Review Board, which was also tasked with vetting the study, concluded in April 2017 that Lönnstedt and Eklöv “have been guilty of scientific misconduct”. The researchers defended the paper but requested that Science retract it in light of questions about their findings.

To settle the controversy, the university’s vice-chancellor, Eva Åkesson, subsequently handed over the case to the newly established Board for Investigation of Misconduct in Research at Uppsala University for further scrutiny.

Charges made

In its decision, announced on 7 December, the board finds Lönnstedt guilty of having intentionally fabricated data; it alleges that Lönnstedt did not conduct the experiments during the period — and to the extent — described in the Science paper.

Full post

5) Academic Lawfare Is Killing Trust In Climate Science
Editorial, Investor's Business Daily, 10 December 2017 

Whatever the intent of these lawsuits, the effect is to chill scientific research and debate. Scientists will think twice about challenging any aspect of climate science if the result could be an expensive lawsuit.

We keep hearing how climate change is “settled science,” even though science is never settled. But if it were, why are scientists going to court to intimidate those who would dare challenge the global warming dogma?

Back in June, the National Academy of Sciences published a paper with a typically bland title: “Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar.”

The paper, which had 21 authors, was a robust critique of work done by Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, whose widely cited research claimed that the U.S. could easily switch to 100% renewable energy in as few as 35 years.

In their response, the authors said Jacobson’s work suffered “significant shortcomings” including “invalid modeling tools … modeling errors, and … implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”

Tough words to be sure. But hardly out of the norm for scientific debate. Indeed, this kind of back and forth serves as the very heart of science.

But instead of simply defending his own work, Jacobson decided to file a $10 million lawsuit against the National Academy of Sciences and the paper’s lead author, Christopher Clark, for defamation of character.
This, mind you, is after Jacobson tweeted that his science critics were being “intentionally scientifically fraudulent with falsified data.”

Jacobson isn’t the first such scientist to sue his critics. Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann sued Canadian climatologist Tim Ball several years ago for defamation of character after Ball challenged Mann’s famous global warming “hockey stick” paper.

In that paper, Mann purported to show that the current warming trend looked like the working end of a hockey stick compared with global temperatures stretching all the way back to year 1,000. Ball and other scientists wanted to see the data Mann had used, suspecting that he’d “adjusted” the temperature record to make the present look unusually warm. Ball’s version of the temperature record showed the medieval period as warmer than the present. At one point, Ball said that Mann “should be in the State Pen, not Penn State.”

Now another scientist finds himself being sued by environmentalists because his results failed to conform to what they wanted. In this case, the highly respected geoscientist Ricardo Villalba conducted a scientific survey of Argentina’s glaciers.

Green groups said that his survey favored mining interests, and so filed suit against him. Villalba now faces criminal charges for violating a 2010 law meant to protect Argentina’s glaciers.

Full post

6) While The West Retreats, Asian Banks Are Pouring $600 Billion Into 1600 New Coal Power Plants
Financial Times, 11 December 2017 

Environmental campaign groups have accused many of the world’s largest banks of actively undermining the Paris agreement on climate change by pouring billions of dollars into coal plant developers.

Between January 2014 and September 2017 international banks channelled $630bn to the top 120 companies planning to build [1600] new coal plants around the world, according to research by campaign groups including the Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack and Friends of the Earth.

The researchers highlighted Beijing-based Industrial and Commercial Bank of China as the biggest underwriter for bond and share issues of coal plant developers, providing more than $33bn over that period.

The researchers also found that nine western banks increased their financing of coal plant developers in 2016: Citi, UBS, Barclays, Société Générale, BNP Paribas, ING, JPMorgan, Standard Chartered and Crédit Agricole.

The campaign groups said the figures were startling against the backdrop of the two-year anniversary of the Paris accord, where 195 countries agreed to fight global warming.

Full story (subscription required) 

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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