Select Committee on Economic Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum by Mr David Holland MIEE

  1.  I am a retired Electrical Engineer and claim no other expertise than having lived through many false hopes and despairs. Like Professor Lindzen, I am sceptical of IPCC predictions not because of the science but their processes and conclusions. I hope you will consider this lay view because there is a large and growing body of informed scepticism which will have to be overcome if governments are to successfully implement the policies deemed necessary by the currently claimed consensus. That said few would disagree that on the grounds of common sense alone we should conserve our natural resources and I was delighted to have been bought a woodland tree as a Christmas Present.

  2.  Lord Lawson of Blaby in Q16 went straight to heart of climate scepticism in his reference to the so called "hockey stick" graph of Professor Mann's MBH98 paper which is the basis of the IPCC TAR. It suggests that world temperature was little changed for a thousand years then shot up in the last century. This graph is in stark contrast to the consensus prior to 1998 and conflicts with historic evidence laid out by the late Hubert Lamb founder of the CRU. It also conflicts with the longest known instrument record of temperature in the world

  3.  The graph (dated 17 October 2003) below was sent to me by the Met Office, but as Dr Sophia Oliver of DEFRA told me last August, it apparently needs up to two more years of peer review before it will be used on government web sites. This graph relates to Central England only and the data prior to 1772 is considered less reliable than the later data. However, much anecdotal evidence for the Little Ice Age leaves little doubt that it is broadly correct. What this graph suggests is that, for Central England at least, there was a period of rapid cooling followed by one of rapid warming well in excess of what we experienced in the last century. There is historic evidence of the discomfort caused by the rapid cooling, but I am unaware of any complaint relating to the 2 centigrade degree temperature rise in less than 4 decades. Not only does this evidence suggest we can adapt to rapid climate change but as CO2 levels were smaller and believed to be fairly constant it demonstrates, on a regional basis at least, that temperature changes without anthropogenic forcing can be large.

  4.  Another long instrument record is to be found at the Observatory in Armagh. The graph below is published by them[31]. Of it they say "In the Armagh Observatory's records we already see the influence of Global Warming over the past century and they indicate strongly that changes in the Sun are at least partially responsible."

  5.  A plot showing the change in temperature at Armagh Observatory since 1796 and the simultaneous changes in the length of the "11-year" sunspot cycle, adapted from the article "A provisional long mean air temperature series for Armagh Observatory", Journal for Atmospheric and Solar Terrestrial Physics, Vol 58, p 1657-1672, 1996, by CJ Butler and DJ Johnston.

  6.  Squares represent the mean temperature at Armagh. The solid histogram represents the length of the sunspot cycle. I was taught that where two distinct phenomena correlate well, as these clearly do, then it is probable that one is caused by the other or some other phenomenon is causing them both. You will be told that, from what we know of solar variance, it is not enough to cause the warming we are seeing, but surely the rise of a degree centigrade at Armagh from 1800 to 1840 could not have been due to CO2. More to the point the Little Ice Age, when temperatures in Central England were lower than any time recorded since or inferred by historic accounts earlier, was at a time of very low sun spot count. This strongly suggests to me that not only are there well known aspects of climate science that are poorly understood but in the well quoted words "there are unknown unknowns".

  7.  You have heard that to get the sort of temperature increases of which we are being warned, substantial positive feedback or amplification is needed. You experience one significant feedback process any time you walk bare footed from your lawn onto your path or drive when the sun is shining. This feedback acts directly on incoming radiation. Mankind's construction of homes and roads has increased the amount of the sun's energy that is turned directly into heat at the surface of the earth, where incidentally the temperatures preferred by the IPCC are measured.

  8.  If you look at the USGS web site[32], which shows cement production statistics (and asphalt is very similar) and plot them you will have another hockey stick graph. Most of the cement and asphalt ever made was made after 1940. London and most of the world's large cities are several degrees warmer than the surrounding countryside. Many feel that the Urban Heat Island effect is a significantly underestimated factor in the recent temperature rise at the surface and explains why satellites and weather balloons record much lower warming. Intuitively most would say that if CO2 is the cause of rising temperatures we would see it throughout the atmosphere but we do not. Characteristically, climate scientists have devised a basket of "fiddle factors" that enable their models to live with this difficulty.

  9.  This is a point directly relevant to your main enquiry. The design of most cities and roads unquestionably (only the extent is debated) add to global warming. Careful design, as in the case of Canberra can minimise or reverse this at modest cost.

  10.  DEFRA have a web site[33] to inform the public on matters of climate change and show the graph below on it. They are selective as to what they show of what they know and this totally alters the impression that the common man gets when shown it. It shows that in recent years Central England is similar to the global average. Clearly the vastly greater number of temperature readings that have gone into the global average have had a smoothing effect. No one disputes that regional variations occur and that "ups and downs" in the trends can be skewed in time by regional effect. Given that, I believe it is fair to say that the CET is broadly representative of global temperatures. I would, however, argue that the half degree that Central England is above the global average at the end of the graph supports the exaggerated claim that we have concreted it over and it is now one large heat island.

  11.  What DEFRA do not show (but as the Met Office graph on page 1 shows they have the data for) is that Central England, in 1738, was probably warmer than today's global average. At the time 1738 was the sixth warmest year on record and seven out of the eight hottest years on record had occurred in that decade. Does that sound familiar? Nor do DEFRA go even further back and show the Little Ice Age for which they have data albeit with less confidence. They certainly do not show the solar cycle length with its exceptional Maunder Minimum or today's exceptionally short solar cycle.

  12.  This brings me back to the famous "hockey stick" that Lord Lawson raised in Q16. Around 40 of the years deemed by DEFRA to be unsuitable for public viewing until peer reviewed, are incorporated into the peer reviewed paper, (MBH98), of Professor Mann that the IPCC used to such great effect that I would argue it is the most recognised graph in the world. It is in fact their trade mark.

  13.  The blade of the hockey stick is designed (and I suspect designed is not an exaggeration) to shock, but it is the shaft where the real mischief lies. The extra years Professor Mann used (as compared to what DEFRA and the Met office show on their web sites) began in the 1730's and were far hotter than the previous decades which were part of the Little Ice Age. In his peer reviewed paper Professor Mann does not offer any justification for not using the full CET data set or using data DEFRA think unreliable or even mention that it is truncated. He uses a statistical process known as Principle Component Analysis in which a number of data series, some physical temperature readings but mostly proxies, are reduced to data that is shown in the "hockey stick".

  14.  Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick wrote a paper[34] (M&M2003) that exposed what they considered serious defects in the MBH98 paper. They published the graph below. In their "corrected version" the little ice age is colder and the mediaeval warm period that had disappeared in the MBH version reappears.

  15.  Arguments followed as to whether it was peer reviewed and a proper understanding of the difficulty in dealing with climate science is incomplete without reading a recent paper, Kyoto Protocol Based On Flawed Statistics Proof That Mankind Causes Global Warming Is Refuted, published in Natuurwetenschap and Techniek and for which a translation[35] (with poor graphics) is available.

  16.  Eventually Professor Mann and his co writers were obliged to publish a corrigendum[36] in Nature and, more importantly, more of the data and methodology that has enabled McIntyre and McKitrick to update their analysis of MBH98 and the argument can now be reduced to just two questions.

    (i)  Is it statistically correct in PCA to centre the proxy data around just a part of the time period covered by the data rather than the entire period?

    (ii)  Are the Bristlecone Pine series of tree rings used by Professor Mann as proxies representative of the temperature at the time of their growth?

  17.  The first question may sound difficult to understand, but is not. From just a few hours study of the mathematics which was unknown when I qualified, I am satisfied that M & M may well be right. It is frequently necessary to standardise or normalise data to make it suitable for processing. Subtracting the average so the numbers all sit above and below a mean sounds reasonable whereas subtracting the average of a part of the series seems odd. When that part corresponds to the time span of what turns out to be the blade of the "hockey stick" it begins to look like a design feature. I would think that we have enough statisticians in the UK to answer the first question.

  18.  The second is straightforward. Without these Bristlecone Pine tree ring series there is no hockey stick. If MBH98 has solid foundations, the removal of these series should not affect it, but they do. The Bristlecone Pine series are anomalous. They show, according to M & M, a spurt in growth in the 20th Century which is not matched by contemporary temperature readings from nearby stations. Other things including CO2 concentration affect ring growth and the growth spurt occurs at a time of rising CO2.

  19.  What excites those with a leaning towards conspiracy theories is that Professor Mann appears to have experimented with data series and had at one time some data remarkably similar to that M&M produced in the FTP location:—1400-CENSORED

  20.  I have pressed DEFRA to the point of becoming persona non grata on the issue of checking the IPCC hockey stick but, as other testimony seems to suggest, there is a culture of "group think" which I find disturbing. The constant reference to peer review and consensus is as irritating as it is nonsensical. A single paper can change the consensus just as Professor Mann's did. In 1932 a consensus, which included Einstein, and was as solid and as important as today's on climate change, was quickly reversed almost without a murmur when James Chadwick presented his paper on the neutron which led the way to nuclear fission. On other occasions peer review has been hoaxed or defrauded. It is unrealistic to expect that every science paper will be independently replicated but the standard should be that all data and methodology is available to allow it and government departments that sponsor research should replicate the most important and a random sample of the rest.

  21.  If I may turn to a further issue that greatly worries me, in December I attended a meeting at which presentations were given by three distinguished scientists with hundreds of peer reviewed papers between them.

  22.  Dr Paul Reiter gave a compelling explanation as to why suggestions of an increase in vector born diseases was unsupported by the known and published data. He also told us that he had resigned from the IPCC working group he was on because they wanted his name included in the list of contributors but would not include his views.

  23.  Professor William Keatinge gave a clear and authoritative explanation of why even in the hottest countries deaths due to cold exceed vastly those from heat. I accept his view that the sad loss of life in Europe in 2003 due to the exceptionally hot summer was a failure of systems and is unlikely to happen again. Any increase in heat related deaths is bound to be more than offset by the reduction of cold related deaths.

  24.  Professor Nils Axel Mörner gave a well reasoned explanation as to why alarmist fears of rising sea level are misplaced.

  25.  I mention these presentations because I found what happened at the end shocking. It was a polite, friendly, private "learned" meeting in which all were free to disagree and debate the science. Yet a group of individuals from a well known environmental organisation found it necessary to infiltrate and hijack the meeting to harangue the speakers and organisers as stooges of the Oil Companies. Two of the three had absolutely no connection with the oil industries and what funding was readily admitted to by the others was neither recent nor of any size.

  26.  While not violent, the outbursts were intimidating and clearly pre-planned. I have no doubt that if the arguments start to run against them, as we have seen in other areas, hard core activists will increase the vigour of their approach and adopt the tactics they use in other fields. So vehement are accusations of Oil Industry funding that no respected scientist dare avail himself of this source of perfectly legal and proper funds.

  27.  Climate Alarmists are, so to speak, the incumbents and will be difficult to dislodge even if overwhelming evidence emerges that CO2 is not the main driver of climate change. Professor Robinson mentioned in answer to your Q4 how difficult it was to accept that Nuclear Energy might not be all that was claimed of it. In that case there were powerful commercial lobbies and industries that worked to reverse the consensus. Despite the alarmists' myth, there is no contrarian industry secretly funded by the oil industry. I receive no income whatever from my interest in this area. If I were beginning my career I cannot imagine that I could make a living in climate science without accepting the current consensus and therein lies the real risk.

  28.  There must be sceptics in DEFRA and the Met Office but it is hard to see why they would make public their views. At the moment there seems to be a competition to see who can publish the most scary scenario.

  29.  If there were just one outcome from your enquiry I would hope that it would be the unfettered availability of all papers, methodology and data pertaining to matters that involve significant public expense. If there were a second it would be to elevate auditing or replication above peer review or reputation.

3 February 2005

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