Chair Announced For ‘Climategate’ Science Probe

  • Date: 22/03/10

A chairman has been appointed to an independent review into the science published by the research unit at the centre of the “Climategate” row.

Lord Oxburgh is a former chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology.

“The shadow hanging over climate change and science more generally at present makes it a matter of urgency that we get on with this assessment,” he said.

The Lord’s appointment was made on the recommendation of the UK Royal Society.

The e-mails issue came to light in November last year, when hundreds of messages between scientists at the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Climate Research Unit (CRU) and their peers around the world were posted on the world wide web, along with other documents.

Critics said that the e-mail exchanges reveal an attempt by the researchers involved to manipulate data.

Lord Oxburgh will lead the second independent review into the e-mail controversy and will scrutinise scientific material from the CRU.

The CRU Scientific Assessment Panel is distinct from the panel chaired by Sir Muir Russell, which will look at the methods and practices used by scientists at the research unit.

Sir Muir’s review will, among other things, examine e-mail exchanges for evidence of suppression or manipulation of data at odds with acceptable scientific practice and look into CRU’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Both inquiries are funded by UEA.

Ron Oxburgh trained as a geologist and has worked in academia, the civil service and in business. He has been chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and was non-executive chairman of Shell Transport and Trading until the Company merged with Royal Dutch Petroleum to form Royal Dutch Shell in 2005.

He is currently president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and chairman of wind energy firm Falck Renewables.

Picking the team

Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation think-tank, said he was “surprised” by the selection as he said Lord Oxburgh was “a representative of an energy company which promotes wind energy and campaigns on de-carbonisation”.

“We are a bit surprised that they couldn’t find someone who was completely independent of the debate. But perhaps we shouldn’t be, because the university has a track record of selecting some contentious panel members in the past.”

UEA will be aware of allegations of bias directed at the review chaired by Sir Muir Russell. Even before that review could begin its work, one of its members, Dr Philip Campbell, the editor-in-chief of Nature journal, resigned.

Dr Campbell stood down because of remarks he had made last year in the Chinese media in which he said the scientists mentioned in the e-mails had “behaved as researchers should”.

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see also: ‘The Boat is sinking’

[…] Just a couple of weeks ago Shell and 12 other signatories, including BP, sent an open letter to Tony Blair, in which they pointed out that “governments tend to feel limited in their ability to introduce new policies for reducing emissions because they fear business resistance, while companies are unable to take their investments in low-carbon solutions to scale because of lack of long-term policies,” and urged immediate action. Oxburgh advocates that government uses the controls at its disposal: “Regulate biofuels. Or subsidise. Or tax” – any incentive really, but “what we don’t want to see is in two years’ time the government simply becoming bored with climate change after we’ve invested a lot of our shareholders’ money. Remember, those shareholders are pension funds and other similar organisations.” …

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see also: Lord Oxburgh’s Greenpeace Business Lecture, 25 January 2005:

Warning against the ‘angry beast’ of climate change, Lord Ron Oxburgh, Chairman of the UK arm of Shell, argued that more determined government action was necessary to limit emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. Delivering the fourth Greenpeace Business Lecture on 25 January, Lord Oxburgh’s solutions focused on technological innovations from the corporate sector, coupled with a much tougher regulatory and tax regime from governments.

According to Lord Oxburgh, Shell has nothing to fear from the taxation and regulatory changes that are needed to avoid the potential consequences of climate change. “Shell is an energy company and I would be very surprised if Shell were doing business in the same way in 30 years time as it is today.” Governments in developed countries need to introduce taxes, regulations or plans such as the European Union carbon trading scheme to increase the cost of emitting CO2. This is the only way that technologies such as bio-fuel, carbon sequestration, the use of hydrogen as a fuel and wave, tidal, wind and solar power would displace the use of oil, coal and gas…..

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