Himalayan Glaciers, the UNIPCC response and an Inquiry

The response of the UNIPCC to the revelation that its 2007 prediction that the Himalayan Glaciers would disappear by 2035 has been

  1. To claim the allegations are voodoo science.
  2. To apologize, but say it is a one-off and insignificant.

 

Most reporters accept this response. For instance The Economist.

Let up put this into context.

Consider three (hypothetical) scenarios form the UK.

1. The police investigation into a (possibly) racially-motivated murder is flawed, leading to the acquittal of the accused. The Chief Superintendant blames it on lack of funds for staff training, having previously said race was not a motive.

2. A profitable, listed company goes bust as a result of long-term massaging of the figures. This occurs three months after a respected accountancy firm signs off the annual accountants with no adverse comments. A senior partner says that the auditors were denied access to certain data, but had a signed note from the CFO that another accountancy firm had reviewed that data as part of a management-consultancy exercise. The CFO claims that the company was sound, and has an independent audit to prove it.

3. A highly-rated hospital turns out to have significantly higher death-rates than the average. The hospital chief executive says that it is due to having to cut back on the cleaning, having previously stated that the figures were flawed and politically biased.

In every case, the press and opposition politicians, would be asking for independent enquires (to assess the extent of the problem and to make preventative recommendations for the future), the suspensions of those involved and the sacking of the top person in the organization. So why no such questions, when there is a serious procedural failing in (probably) the most important scientific report of all time? A report that could adversely impact the living standards of billions of people should be to the highest scientific standards ever achieved.

It is not a minor mistake to misquote and embellish a tract from a campaigning group – and then say the forecast is highly likely, without any statistical analysis. This report is written by top Phd’s in their field, not first-year undergraduates. They should know how to assess reports, and draw accurate conclusions based on the evidence.

Further, whilst it is right for the UN IPCC to recognize the error and apologize, it is not for that organization to say, without internal investigation, that this is an isolated incident.

There should be an independent audit of all the report, to make sure that it is uniformly based on clearly-defined scientific standards. The starting point of an audit should be an evaluation of the laid-down scientific standards, and the documented internal control procedures for evaluating the adherence to those standards.

Areas of a full audit might include:-

  1. That the report is a balanced assessment of the current state of the science, at least noting competing views where it comes down on one side.
  2. Any statistical probabilities to be verified by trained statisticians.
  3. Assumptions, where made, should be identified.
  4. Measurement errors compared to the changes measured.
  5. The robustness of conclusions over differing timescales. For instance the correlations between increase in CO2 and temperature changes should not be over a defined period, but should test for a decade
  6. Gaps in the knowledge identified and put into the context of known factors and measurement errors.
  7. To note the relative standpoints of lead authors of parts of the report in respect to the established science. That is to whether they have recent, novel or controversial standpoints. And to the extent to which this influenced their review comments.
  8. For recently published peer-reviewed articles central to the aspect, whether it firmly establishes new ground in the debate.

Government is no longer New Labour of the 1997 Manifesto

The Government is now further from the “New” Labour in the 1997 Manifesto, than “New” Labour was from the traditional Labour party.

These extracts from that 1997 Manifesto demonstrate the point.

Spending and tax: new Labour’s approach

 

“The myth that the solution to every problem is increased spending has been comprehensively dispelled under the Conservatives.”

That is as true for investment as for current spending. It is certainly true for increased current spending, even if you attempt to re-define as investment. It is also true for spending your way out of recession, or a fiscal stimulus during a boom. As the manifesto goes on to state:-

“The level of public spending is no longer the best measure of the effectiveness of government action in the public interest. It is what money is actually spent on that counts more than how much money is spent.”

“The national debt has doubled under John Major. The public finances remain weak. A new Labour government will give immediate high priority to seeing how public money can be better used.

The national debt had indeed risen, and was coming down during a boom. It came down even further during Labour’s first term, due to their adhering to the Conservative’s policy. This high priority has been dusted off again, as a way to reduce spending, having failed for over twelve years to implement it.

New Labour will be wise spenders, not big spenders.”

Not for the last nine years they have not. By any measure, they have been big spenders, not wise spenders. Increased expenditure on the NHS has mostly been wasted on exhorbitant pay rises, and much expenditure of very expensive hospitals. However, the sharp end of survival rates from strokes to cancers is still amoungst the lowest of the OECD countries. That is lower productivity, or less value for money.That is less value for money. In Education, there has been a lot of new schools built, lower staff to pupil ratios, but little evidence of improving standards. That is lower productivity, or less value for money.

To be wise spenders you must first acknowledge your limits and seek counsel from those who have a track record in these matters. The Taxpayer’s Alliance has some good ideas, supported by Wat Tyler at Burning Our Money. John Redwood draws on his experience in government, along with his time in business. The Adam Smith Institute also provides some thoughtful pieces at times. Further, you should ignore the master’s of spin. That is the Mandelson’s, or the Campbell’s of this world. And treat as lepers the Mcbrides and the Drapers, who will only serve to destroy good government.

 

“No risks with inflation

We will match the current target for low and stable inflation of 2.5 per cent or less. We will reform the Bank of England to ensure that decision-making on monetary policy is more effective, open, accountable and free from short-term political manipulation.”

In the last year the Bank of England has pumped £200bn of money into the economy. They have reduced interest rates to 0.5%, a record low in over three centuries. Although nominally independent, are very much in line with Government policy, and would have been leaned on heavily if they had disagreed. Sound money has gone. In so far as it existed since 2001, it was despite of deficit-funded spending boom. The risks taken with future inflation are huge, and prices are already rising.

“Strict rules for government borrowing

We will enforce the ‘golden rule’ of public spending – over the economic cycle, we will only borrow to invest and not to fund current expenditure.

We will ensure that – over the economic cycle – public debt as a proportion of national income is at a stable and prudent level.”

Another policy that was shelved in the second term by pretending current expenditure is investment. Also by believing that the government had “ended boom and bust”. At the peak of the cycle in 2007, the deficit was about 4% of GDP, despite a long period of historically-low interest rates. At such a long-term peak, there should have been a surplus of around 2% of GDP. The differential – the structural deficit is around £80bn. With the collapse in the financial sector, that structural deficit now exceeds £100bn.

“We will clean up politics”

 After twelve years of government, the expenses scandal erupted. The headlines were grabbed by rich Tories (for cleaning the moat, a duck house, and manure), but the biggest monetary claims were mostly Labour MPs, including government ministers. It was kicked off by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith claiming her main home as her sister’s house in London, not her family home in her constituency. The Labour party have not just failed on this policy. Many members of that party have helped bring it lower than at any time since the 1832 Great Reform Act abolished pocket boroughs.

NB – My thoughts were prompted by John Redwood’s short piece today on Labour’s Pledges. He says

“Keep this card and see that we keep our promises” says my copy of Labour’s pledge card from the start of the government. I did:

“Get 250,000 under 25 year olds off benefit and into work

Set tough rules for government spending and borrowing; ensure low inflation; strengthen the economy”

We all look forward to those. Any chance any time soon?

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