Home > Climate Change, Global Warming, Omniclimate, Science, Skepticism > Report From Climategate Guardian Debate with Monbiot, McIntyre, Pearce, Watson, Keenan and some uea guy

Report From Climategate Guardian Debate with Monbiot, McIntyre, Pearce, Watson, Keenan and some uea guy

As posted by Latimer Alder in my previous post:

Just back from the Climategate debate run by the Guardian tonight. We’re assured that the Guardian website will have a full video of the whole proceeding sometime tomorrow. So just some very sketchy impressions.

Steve obviously read the remarks from last night’s meeting and insisted on speaking from a lectern. This was a good move as it gave him more ‘authority’. And he was (mostly) crisper…making his points more directly. The others spoke while seated.

George Monbiot chaired the meeting and I think he did a fair job of it. He tried hard to be unbiased, and only once or twice strayed into partisan territory. And he managed to keep the speeches and questions mostly to time and to the point

Fred Pearce took a longer perspective than the others. He spoke well and described Climategate as a tragedy rather than a conspiracy…the tragedy being that the CRU guys had adopted siege mentality. Climategate has certainly widened his perspective.

Trevor Davies representing UEA/CRU was appallingly bad. He mouthed platitudes by the shedload, but was unfamiliar with the details of any of the subjects likely to be raised. And was several times embarrassed by doing so. Apart from the fact that he had a sharp suit. I can find nothing positive to say about him. Struck me as a devious smooth cove.

Bob Watson opening remark was that he hadn’t read the e-mails in question. This was a bad mistake – many in the audience were very familiar with them, and not happy to be lectured by somebody who wasn’t. IPCC was imperfect but the best that could be devised 95% of scientists agree…it is now just a risk management exercise. Errors corrected quickly…As good as having Ravendra, but no need for the extra slot at Heathrow for him to land his jet. Very much the Scientific Establishment figure.

Keenan was interested in research fraud and the lack of accountability in science as a whole. He accused Jones of committing fraud, even after being given a chance to withdraw the remark. Davies tried to defend Jones but had no details. Keenan showed a more street-savvy business approach than any of the other participants. I’d like to have heard him at greater length.

Overall conclusion: there was no conclusion. Everybody agreed that openness and transparency were good, that debate should be with all parties and that uncertainties should be made more clear.

But my own view is that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This one still has legs and will run and run.

  1. Malcolm Shykles
    2010/07/17 at 22:12

    The debate was a total waste of time.

    From data obtained from the International Space Station:-

    “Thus, the observed global warming on the Earth is not caused by human-induced greenhouse gases emission, but mostly by unusually high intensity of the solar radiation during the whole passed century. The coming decrease of global temperature will take place even if the anthropogenic CO2 emission will reach record high levels in the future. ”


    Also we require a minimum of 200- 350ppm CO2 to sustain Oxygen levels in the atmosphere. CO2 is at it’s lowest level for 250 million years.


  2. 2010/07/17 at 14:08

    This panel was rigged. Monbiot is trapped by his initial overreaction to the CRU emails, and is not the type to admit he was wrong. Davies was being strictly an administrator, obsessively neutral. Keenan is just another ill informed, boiler plate denier. Only Watson was present to stand for the truth- that the data from both CRU is solid, transparent, and irrefutable by any measurements or experiments known to man. He was feisty, and survived the ambush.

    Steve McIntyre was the most intriguing. Gone was the sleepy, perfunctory performance he gave at Heartland. Steve showed his humanity, and confirmed that he is beginning to back away from boilerplate denier talking points: the temperature data is wrong, CO2 is not a problem, etc. Maybe there is hope. If Steve accepts that CRU and IPCC provide him with the transparency he has been seeking- and he accepts the quality of the science that is being performed- maybe he will come around and admit that maybe we should focus a lot more effort on slowing global warming- and less on blogging about deceptive scientific practices. If this happens, there may be hope.

    • 2010/07/17 at 14:50

      > irrefutable by any measurements or experiments known to man

      Now, that would explain a lot. Apologies to all, I simply didn’t know AGW was competing with the Pope…

  3. Dung
    2010/07/17 at 00:04

    Latimer and I had a drink together after the debate (at the Mason’s Arms) along with Atomic Hairdryer and (I think) Cumbrian Lad?
    I have to disagree though about Monbiot. He very quickly called us climate deniers and climate sceptics. Monbiot told Steve McIntyre that he and “his accolytes” had been responsible for a lot of FOI requests, he then asked Steve if he had Harrassed them into making those FOI requests???
    Monbiot decided to give 50 % of the questions to women and 50% to men. The audience was largely male.
    When Monbiot decided which women would be allowed to ask a question, 100% of those women were young and attractive (some of them were unbelievably dumb and yes the most dumb was a blonde hehe).
    Trevor Davies (as The merry Environmentalist said) could not be found at fault just because he did not have a perfect memory. However when Mr McIntyre explained to him that Russell had not interviewed anyone at CRU once the inquiry panel was formed, he seemed incapable of admitting that despite the fact that his notes clearly told him that it was true.

    • Junkk Male
      2010/07/17 at 07:32

      Further to your aside (though meeting artificial targets over enviROI is also an area of concern in matters climatic), I was wondering if the ladies blessed with more attention were members of the public, or press?

      If the former, well, Mr. Monbiot is only human.

      If the latter, I have to say it suggests at least a smart play by editors beyond what I presumed was a way to tart up the byline with a pretty picture or ensure the Breakfast TV guest slot was as attractive as possible.

      However, one would hope the calibre of question invitation ability was matched by commensurate competence once so favoured.

      • 2010/07/17 at 09:17

        Junkk Male – when I went to the Monbiot-Delingpole December 2009 debate (don’t think I was into Twitter yet), I had the distinct, slightly unsettling feeling that part of the audience was there just to cheer for whatever the Moonbat had to say. Now, I might have been mistaken, or perhaps simply the good looks, self-beliegf and prominence at the Grauniad are enough to guarantee a steady supply of female supporters in the 18-30 age group…

        ADDENDUM: there is also the Christine Ottery mystery, the Monbiot researcher that doesn’t want people to talk about Monbiot in her blog (even though he’s mentioned in the About box and Profile page) and is the only person to have ever blocked me on Twitter. Obviously I must have said something she really did not like (but Christine doesn’t want to tell me, either via e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or her blog). However, since I cannot recollect making any statement about her in particular, whilst there are many, many by me about George (and not all of them supportive), an inquisitive mind that has been left in the dark may be forgiven to think there is some kind of “lèse majesté” at play here.

  4. 2010/07/16 at 23:57

    “Reputation preservation” says Trevor Davis Pro Vice Chancellor at University of East Anglia, and so it is and was and will be. Phil Jones, Climate Research Unit, and most important, the University of East Anglia, their reputation is considered above all else, including: “the science.” Three commisssions in the UK, and one at Penn State, all designed to propogate the reputation of the email authors and their respective institutions. Anybody in academia is not surprised. Everyone else, well, you shouldn’t be surprised. There is a reason for the saying: “science advances one funeral at a time.” The hallowed halls do keep their knights in shining armor, protected (ie Phil Jones not let loose amongst the media), and surrounded by “yes men” ala Trevor Davis.

    • Feet2theFire
      2010/07/25 at 12:29

      “Science advances one funeral at a time” – while I’ve heard something of the sort, that is not one I’d heard. It’s a good one!

      7 years ago I was interested in the PDO and got to emailing with George Taylor, who was then the Oregon State Climatologist. Amazingly for a super-green state, he was a skeptic on AGW, for which he got a massive amount of grief by the in-state warmers.

      Professor Taylor has since then retired from OSU. He told me then two things. One was that he had run across the PDO before the biologist Hare (who is credited with discovering it due to efforts to track the salmon catch in the northern Pacific), but had not made any effort to publish on it. I did not get the impression he was trying to take credit for it, just something he noted in passing. The second thing he told me was that the older climatologists around the country were vastly against the warming “consensus,” but that most were reasonably close to retirement and didn’t want to muck that up by voicing what they really thought.

      So, science may advance one funeral at a time, but it also nosedives that way, too, when the younger generation goes off half-cocked hitching their wagon to the wrong star. They ignored all the wiser and older minds.

      Do you think evolution skeptics were all the old guard? I know a bit about it, and I do believe that is where the concept of your truism came from. But I am not sure.

      BTW, I also recall talking with a brand spanking new geologist in the early 1970s who was all hot to trot about some “newfangled” idea about continental drift and some guy named Wegener. In school, we’d always been taught that mountains had formed because as the Earth cooled it shrank, and its surface wrinkled like an orange does as it dries out. 70 years after Wegener, continental drift was still making its way through the schools. It took a lot of funerals evidently.

  5. Peter B
    2010/07/15 at 10:33

    I was there and had a nice beer with Latimer afterwards as well.

    I agree with everything Latimer said. I would add that my impression of Steve McIntyre is that his intelligence and integrity make it difficult for him to get down to the level of stupidity, and nastiness, of some questions. A guy asked him something like, “where did the energy that heated the Earth in so-and-so period came from” etc. The way the question was put – and the heckling that followed – showed that it wasn’t a honest question, but rather meant as “ok smart guy if you’re a skeptic then explain me this”. Steve seemed puzzled that someone would even ask him that question and started to explain his general views on policy – which led some people to heckle “answer the question” in a hostile way. The proper reply, in my opinion, would have been something like, “radiative physics is not part of my specific interests and not part of my criticisms of the CRU” etc. He did say, a few times, that his focus had always been the hockey stick, far more so than Jones’s temperature data and he should have replied in that way again.

    I think Keenan made a very strong impression when he repeatedly accused Jones of fraud and said he’d do so in a court of law. To me he seemed obviously contemptuous of the CRU people, both intellectually and ethically, and that may have diluted his message for some people – and reinforced it for others.

    Trevor Davies was ridiculous. He had a “emperor had no clothes” moment when he was obviously clueless about the details of the Muir inquiry and was reduced to asking Steve McIntyre for help as to when it had started!

  6. 2010/07/15 at 09:20

    One other minor point – this blog says “Steve obviously read the remarks from last night’s meeting and insisted on speaking from a lectern. This was a good move as it gave him more ‘authority’.”

    I thought it was a terrible move! No reflection on the content, but it seemed distant and impersonal to my mind, compared to the more chatty style of the rest of the debate.

  7. 2010/07/15 at 09:04

    A different take, from Deltoid

  8. 2010/07/15 at 08:57

    Latimer Adler: I agree that it is reasonable to do some homework, but I wouldn’t expect Davies to have detailed knowledge of the points on Keenan’s website any more than I would expect Keenan to have read through back issues of journal articles Davies had even written (books by Fred Pearce or pieces of analysis by Steve McIntyre). I would really appreciate it if someone in the climate “consensus” community took the time to look at these kinds of questions more seriously, though from what he said I think Davies would agree with me there. Davies’ failure to be across Keenan’s argument was not ideal, but hardly a travesty. It also wasn’t the central plank of the debate: questions about Phil Jones’ historical integrity did have some relevance, of course, but this was not the did-Phil-Jones-respond-appropriately-to-chinese-weather-data-over-the-last-ten-years debate.

    I completely disagree about Bob Watson. In the first place his (admittedly rather unwise!) early statement he hadn’t read the e-mails didn’t look good, but presumably he wasn’t completely ignorant – it wasn’t clear if he hadn’t ploughed through the back catalogue or if he hadn’t so much as picked up a newspaper quoting the key e-mails. I’d be astonished if he hadn’t read the key e-mails (the “the nature trick” one, for example). If so, I would be shocked, but I don’t think that was clear from what he said, and wish to withhold too much judgement.

    In the second place I felt Watson was their more for the big picture and the context than he was for detail on the e-mails: though he has UEA connections, climategate detail isn’t his speciality. He did contribute usefully on things like the parallels in recent IPCC coverage.

    The result was that the debate took place slightly at cross-purposes, Keenan and McIntyre tending to talk to specifics that Pearce, Watson and Davies didn’t know so much about, and Pearce, Watson and Davies tending to talk to the big picture (what lessons for climate science, what validity of peer-review) that McIntyre and Keenan were less interested in.

    • Junkk Male
      2010/07/15 at 09:23

      Given what I presume to have been the main point of the evening, and the calibre and qualifications of folk speaking and present, as a comparative layperson I would have thought specifics were still pretty key.

      Frankly, I am wee bit concerned about all that gets lobbed out under ‘big picture’ umbrellas, when some very big decisions are being and need to be made, but surely better based on reliable parameters in matters of detail.

    • Latimer Alder
      2010/07/15 at 09:51

      OK Merry. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

      I just kind of think that it is arrogant and discourteous in the extreme to turn up to a debate (for which I assume at least expenses were paid) – and for which the public have paid good money – without having done some basic homework.

      The two publicly paid professionals on the panel (Davies and Watson) had not bothered to do this. In Watson’s case he said so up front..in Davies’ case it was embarrassingly wrung from him in a public humiliation.

      Chelsea do not go and play an unknown team like Manchester United FC and then get all excited when they discover that W Rooney is playing centre forward for the opposition.

      Being professionals, they study his strengths and weaknesses and alter their plan accordingly. And so, I expected that Davies representing the University would be totally familiar with chapter and verse and all the ins and outs of all the enquiries..that is what he is being paid to do. That he didn’t was pathetic.

  9. 2010/07/15 at 07:05

    A fascinating occasion and well worth the price of entry; very glad I went. One thing that wasn’t done, and which might have been interesting, was a show of hands at the beginning and end to see how many of the audience tended towards either the “greatest scandal” or “storm in a teacup” side.

    I agree with Dominic that it was a shame that Steve McIntyre was less than succinct re the question about how he accounted for the warming; in a way, though, his response did chime with the “acknowledge the uncertainties” theme, and was a kind of answer, in itself, to one of the other questioners who asserted that sceptics had an inflated sense of certainty. In fact, I thought that Steve McIntyre and Doug Keenan fared better than I had expected, and that George Monbiot, as master of the proceedings, came across as even-handed.

    One thing was very clear, though, the inquiries were shown to be less than satisfactory and to have barely scratched the surface of the issues; no way have they drawn a line under the affair or signalled a return to climate science “business as usual.” To quote Churchill: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

  10. geoffchambers
    2010/07/15 at 06:53

    The Guardian’s first reaction is here
    totally one-sided, and by a deputy environment editor who doesn’t usually touch climate change (“Monkey-eating eagle attacks BBC cameraman” is his usual beat).
    Guardian Environment have half a dozen journalists who specialise in warming v scepticism. Pearce and Monbiot were on stage. Where were Hickman, Randersen, Vidal or Adam?

  11. Latimer Alder
    2010/07/15 at 06:51

    @merry environmentalist

    Though I agree with much of what you say…there was a lot more agreement than I expected..and this can only be a good development all round, I have to disagree about Davies (and Watson). Surely it is not unreasonable to do a little homework before such a debate and to study the topics most likely to come up. In parliament, all recent incumbents have studied hard and rehearsed before PMQs. These guys failed to do it.

    Keenan’s remarks about Jones and the Chinese temps are freely available in a prominent position on his website. Davies either failed to read them or to understand them.

    The discussion about whether Russell attended the interviews with Jones has been headline news at CA since 9 July and attracted much attention. Davies either failed to read them or to understand them.

    And Watson, by his own admission in his opening sentence, had not read the Climategate e-mails, which have been available since Nov 09. Surely not great preparation for this event…and led immediately to the question…’so why are you f…g on the platform then?’.

    Dd they really think that they could just turn up and wing it – before an audience of intelligent and well-informed people motivated enough to shell out £12 and travel to Central London to listen and contribute to the debate?

    Or, as they had obviously never met any sceptical people before, did they believe their own propaganda and expect half the audience to be slavering skinheads with Big Oil pay cheques clasped in their hands…knuckles dragging along the floor and capable only of denying any rational statement about weather or climate.

    If they did, I think they will have had a rude awakening. The UEA would be very unwise to let Davies loose at a public forum again, as it was clearly beyond his capabilities.

  12. Latimer Alder
    2010/07/15 at 06:32

    @junkk male

    Yes – Steve is McIntyre. My post was originally at Climate Audit and was part of a long thread which made this apparent by context. Having found itself an orphan over here, the obviousness got lost. Ciao

    • Junkk Male
      2010/07/15 at 09:06

      Many tx.

      I was prompted by the earlier noting of an incomplete attendee list, linked to what currently seems to be a page in error. With luck being updated to reflect who was there and spoke more completely/accurately.

      • 2010/07/15 at 09:11

        Yes that page has gone. People with “Site Previews” on will still be able to see a partial screenshot of it.

  13. Phillip Bratby
  14. 2010/07/15 at 01:34

    Keenan definitely the best communicator, though I don’t blame Davies or any of the others for not knowing that kind of detail – it doesn’t obviously come under his job description to know that kind of detail on arguments like Keenan’s.

    I don’t think the debate really shook down along sceptic-“consensus” lines: McIntyre and Kennan made some criticisms of the inquiries, yes, but it wasn’t a full-blown shootout between sides, which I was very pleased about. As Fred Pearce said, both sides can be as bad as each other for closing ranks and defending the wagons rather than having a productive exchange of views. This was a much more civilised and wide-ranging affair. I’m glad to see the likes of Davies, Pearce and Watson calling for more open debate. Though not a sceptic myself, I recognise much of the sceptic community has been wrongly vilified and sidelined.

  15. Bernie
    2010/07/15 at 00:39

    George Monbiot is an impportant pro-AGW voice. COuld you get a read on how he reacted in the here and now to the debate. For example, is he likely to see Davies the same way as you did? How did he respond to Steve’s presentation? Respectfully? Condescendingly?

    • Latimer Alder
      2010/07/15 at 07:12

      I couldn’t read anything particular into Monbiot’s demeanour. There was no obvious bias towards either side and I think he genuinely tried to act as an impartial chairman (think Jonathan Dimbleby on Any Questions).

      He certainly did not try the help Davies as he publicly floundered under Keenan’s barbs, nor when he was completely unprepared for the question from the Sunday Times about Russell’s non attendance in the Jones interviews. He listened to all the debaters with ‘firm respect’. He is also a very eloquent and fluent speaker, and I thought that overall he did a pretty good job. 7/10.

      (I write as one who has been barred from CiF for disagreeing with the CAGW religion. So not a natural fan)

  16. Dominic
    2010/07/15 at 00:20

    I was there and had a good seat near the front.

    I had never seen Keenan before but I thought he was excellent. He was easily the best communicator on the sceptic side. He appeared knowledgeable and was not afraid to voice strong opinions about the quality of the science and his claims about Phil Jones and the Chinese weather stations.

    Steve, much as I admire what he does and what he had done, was not a great speaker. His slides were too busy and he tried to say too much. But more than that I think he lost a lot of people when he refused to answer the audience question about whether he believed in AGW. Why he could not have claimed an agnostic position or even one of scepticism I do not know. It looked bad. It was an unnecessary own goal.

    However he did blow Trevor Davies out of the water completely regarding the details of the Russell inquiry when he it appeared that TD did not know the details about when the Russell inquiry took place. I am hoping that the journalist from the Sunday Times will follow up the story of Muir Russell not being present at the Phil Jones interview.

    Overall an interesting evening.

    • 2010/07/15 at 06:49

      Steve M, does stuff like that all the time and kills his case by not taking a firm position on things like this. He did not want to pile on Phil Jones when the CRU hack broke news. Even after it was clear Jones was shown to insult him repeatedly in the emails. He defended Mann when he was being investigated? I mean WTF? I understand being respectful to those who deserve it but these guys do not deserve any of it.

      • Latimer Alder
        2010/07/15 at 07:38

        He is from Canada, They overdo courtesy. Go and watch old copies of Due South and you will see what I mean. Perhaps Steve needs a Wolf called Diefenbakker 🙂 Or a Rottweiler

      • Populartechnology
        2010/07/15 at 12:58

        Maybe but I am getting tired of it.

      • Dominic
        2010/07/15 at 14:16

        Tempted to agree. Also doug Keenan is canadian yet it didn’t stop him.

      • 2010/07/15 at 18:47

        I think Steve works hard never to have doors completely shut against him, to have the chance to keep human contact open. After all, Steve was hoping to have a chance to see Jones on this visit.

      • 2010/07/16 at 01:05

        Lucy, I completely understand this but you have to punch bullies right in the face before you can even consider talking to them.

  17. 2010/07/14 at 23:51

    The Guardian Climategate debate was well attended. The presenters were competent, apart from the ones trying to defend climate ‘scientists’. The questions were intelligent. Because George Monbiot was fair, and the sceptics’ arguments are better, they more or less won the debate. Thanks for coming, Steve. Thanks, too, George.

  18. 2010/07/14 at 22:54

    Nicely done on getting the first (I think) online summary of the evening up online – I was hoping to nab that one for my own blog!

    Good summary too, though I think Keenan strayed frequently into the territory of grandstanding, even when his points were good.

    • 2010/07/14 at 23:06

      thank you Merry Environmentalist. It’s all because of Latimer’s kindness. Funny isn’t it, there is no much on the Guardian site about that debate (have just added a link to a page with an incomplete list of attendees)

      • Junkk Male
        2010/07/15 at 06:08

        An interesting review, all the more valuable for the input from others present.

        I will also look forward to the ‘official’ version. It will be interesting how many ‘takes’ there are, and to what extent they are guided by oversight.

        May I clarify ‘Steve’ is Macintyre?

  1. 2010/07/16 at 00:09
  2. 2010/07/15 at 15:41
  3. 2010/07/15 at 00:45

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