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 40-55)


1 MARCH 2010

  Q40  Ian Stewart: I understand that.

  Dr Peiser: Unless you have that, even if you publish the raw data, unless you actually provide independent researchers with the methodologies that were used to adjust the data, it will be very difficult to test and to check.

  Q41  Ian Stewart: Can I take you on to the final part of my question, if you do not mind?

  Dr Peiser: Yes.

  Q42  Ian Stewart: In its submission the Global Warming Policy Foundation appears to be casting doubt on the reliability of the data sets, as we have heard you say today, held by NASA and the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Are you saying that that data is faulty or that the world's leading climate scientists are misleading us? Why should they do this and what evidence do you have?

  Dr Peiser: This is not a question of what I believe or not, it is a question of whether that data should be available and whether the methods should be available for independent inquiries and testing. You have to ask yourself: do you want this information to be out in the open? If it were in the open, we would not be sitting here discussing that, and so really I need to ask you the question: do you want the public to believe that the science is absolutely transparent and open and everyone can check the conclusions?

  Q43  Chairman: We are asking you a question at the moment.

  Dr Peiser: Yes; okay.

  Chairman: We try and answer things later, unless you would like to swap places. I think Ian Stewart's question has not been answered.

  Q44  Ian Stewart: I will only ask you it again. I am waiting for an answer.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Ask it again. What is the question? I do not quite see it.

  Q45  Ian Stewart: In the Global Warming Policy Foundation's submission it appears to be casting doubt on the reliability of the data sets held by NASA and the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Where do you find that?

  Q46  Dr Harris: Paragraph five of your submission.

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: What we are saying here, which is quite important—

  Q47  Chairman: That is why we are asking the question!

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: ---is that you have these surface sets which all draw from the same basic source. You also have two satellite sets, the UAH (University of Alabama at Huntsville) set and the Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) set, and it is actually clear from the evidence that the Met Office put in that the temperature trends picture—the pages are not numbered, but in their evidence—shows considerably smaller warming in the satellite tropospherical temperature records than the surface data, and there is obviously a question, therefore, which is touched on, which is one of these, as to whether the surface data are in any way corrupted. I do not mean deliberately corrupted, but corrupted by the urban heat island effect and so on.

  Q48  Ian Stewart: So is the answer to my question, Lord Lawson, as to whether these two American bodies are misleading us, no?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: The answer is that we need to have further investigation into these data sets; absolutely.

  Q49  Chairman: We have to move on. We could clearly go on on this for some time. The fundamental issue is that the NOAA data sets and the NASA data sets are freely available to scientists?

  Dr Peiser: Yes, but they are based—

  Q50  Chairman: No, are they freely available, the data sets? How you model them and how you use them is entirely an issue for individual scientists, is it not?

  Dr Peiser: Yes. What is not available, again, are some of the methodologies they arrive their conclusions at.

  Q51  Ian Stewart: Dr Peiser, the question you were asked was: was that information available? We now hear from you that it is.

  Dr Peiser: Yes.

  Q52  Ian Stewart: Are you prepared to do your own modelling? Do you intend to use that data?

  Dr Peiser: No, I am not in the climate modelling business. My concern is about availability of all the information that is important to replicate the conclusions, and that is the basis of this inquiry.

  Q53  Dr Naysmith: Both of you are making a great big thing of the necessity for information to be available almost immediately. It is this insistence that you have got that it should be available immediately which is not true of much of science. I have been a scientist all my life. When I had a proper job, I was a scientist! I know of two really world-shattering discoveries that resulted in Nobel Prizes where there were two or three groups researching in the same area and both of them kept data back until they were ready to publish and get it out. One of those was DNA, the original Crick and Watson stuff on DNA and the Wilkins stuff, and the second one was thymus and the role of the thymus in the generation of lymphocytes. There was an Australian group and two American groups who were competing, and both of them had data available for quite a long time until each group was ready to publish and put it out, and there were Nobel Prizes awarded in both cases. The idea that data must be immediately available is not necessarily true. In the area that we are talking about today, the complexity from all the different sources that this data comes from, is it reasonable to say that it should be produced immediately and the conclusions drawn?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: Let me say three quick things. The first is that it is not a question of immediately. It took 10 years, I think, before the Yamal data was made public: so this is not a question of whether it is immediately, this is a question of whether this was held up as long as they possibly could. That is how it seems.

  Q54  Dr Naysmith: Was it done deliberately?

  Lord Lawson of Blaby: It seems that it was done, for whatever reason, but it was a decision to do it. I cannot recall anything else in science like this, and I have had dealings with scientists. I am not a scientist myself, of course, unlike you, but when I was Secretary of State for Energy, I used to have a lot of dealings with scientists. I cannot recall anything remotely like this. There is also the fact that these issues are particularly important because they feed into the IPCC process on which huge policy decisions, both nationally and internationally, are based and, therefore, it is more important in this area than in most areas that we do have full openness and transparency.

  Q55  Chairman: On that note, I am going to have to finish this session. May I thank you very much indeed, Dr Peiser, for coming, and thank you very much indeed, Lord Lawson.

  Dr Peiser: Thank you.

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