AGW Climate Change Culture Data Global Warming Omniclimate Policy Politics Science

Live Microblogging Of "Evidence-based decision making: who's counting the evidence…" Tonight At UCL

Follow @mmorabito67 for live microblogging of tonight’s UCL event “Evidence-based decision making: who’s counting the evidence…” 5.15pm GMT in London

And here all the notes as written (oldest note first):

  • Starts right on time – speaker gets audience to move closer – who is the speaker?
  • It was a Sarah now it’s a Peter Piot of IGH presentation Lost In Translation
  • Evidence means many things. ‘Deadly delay’ from science to global action eg tobacco cancer link 1950 Surgeon General 1964 etc
  • Mentions climate change then antiretroviral prophylaxis for AIDS still only 35%
  • Bridges from evidence to policy to implementation importance of clarity
  • Example of condoms and other methods against Aids different efficacy theoretical vs actual
  • Science comms issue incomprehensible language
  • Policy not just based on evidence alone also preferences politics – progress depends on politics
  • Eg Cardoso of Brazil not stopping provision of Aids drugs
  • Don’t compromise on basic principle but need to pressure the right points
  • Mbeki did not follow advice not a problem of missing information
  • Not evidence-based but evidence-informed policy – don’t leave policy to technocrats
  • Implementation: guidelines simple, right costs and allocated resources
  • Community engagement then also dealing with beliefs eg polio vaccine leading to impotence and infertility
  • Sun-tzu quote shown in Chinese- people might have good reason to be suspicious- don’t get to war, yet to understand all people
  • Now director of NICE, Calypso ?, reader specialist in history of global health probs, senior health advisor Malcolm at DFID
  • Room is uncomfortably hot light comes on then fades first panelist
  • Talks of the way NICE works – on verge of dozing off
  • Not just what evidence but also whose
  • Problem: need policy-relevant evidence making? No, just evidence alone is not enough
  • Work on legitimacy, needs, values and also better processes
  • Second panelist historian issue of who distributes evidence question for students of international health
  • Social comms is key but whose voices are heard what is the effect of power relations? What voices are not been heard?
  • Invites to avoid generalizations at state levels internal imbalances do matter
  • Polio fear not just sex-related -talk to parents -example of Gates’ DVD reinforcing role of religion by selective translation
  • Guy that gist finished seems to have done his field job now last panelist
  • Claims DFID research strategy mentions already what we have been hearing – move to results-based funding
  • 10% research budget for comms – also capacity building – why so little implementation?
  • Bias against operational research still exists – lack of best practices – mentions prob of award funding to institutions
  • Distribution not just to peers even if some academics not naturals at that
  • Experts use opaque language – funding agencies now more cooperative and less technocratic
  • Panel convenes only 15 mins left – my question first on AGW Cassandras
  • Reply is do implementation research, talk to all, be open and engaging, build network of people with same goal even if different reasons
  • Also do not assume nobody is listening maybe their voices must be looked for and helped to gain prominence
  • Experts are sometimes part of the problem eg with infighting – put aside academic debates when not relevant
  • Suggestion from DFID guy is also to start with demo project taking on all declared constraints
  • Excessive engagement? It’s a developmental process
  • Problem of experts writing too much so stiff is not even read
  • Develop interpersonal and negotiation skills too quiet or aggressive – spread understanding of social sciences
  • Risk, statistics, how to read scientific results also important to learn even before uni
  • They are talking about medical education
  • Last question on bias – suggestion is to handle it rather than avoid – engage all stakeholders – vested interests too
  • Excessive passion and involvement can corrupt science – love/hate relationship with private sector – activist when needed
  • One tool is to threaten publicity – also need regulatory based
  • This is the end – climate and population symposium on March 1
AGW catastrophism Climate Change Data Global Warming Omniclimate Science

Lancet's Cryoagnosia: Health And Climate Change Report Between Citation Amnesia And Chinese Whispers

cryoagnosia: from cryo- (Cool, freezing) and
agnosia (Loss of the ability to interpret sensory stimuli)

Is a major new report about “the health effects of climate change” that describes “Climate” as the “biggest health threat” for the 21st century actually based upon a convenient forgetfulness of parts of the literature, and the scientific equivalent of chinese whispers?

It may never be possible to answer that question in full and in full confidence. But there is one interesting, major detail that relates to something I just blogged about.


Today (May 14) the “Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission” launched a report titled “Managing the health effects of climate change” (Lancet 2009; 373: 1693–733).

I looked at the report in terms of cold- and warm-weather related deaths and this is what I have found: 

The Lancet/UCL 2009 report’s claim that warming is worse than cooling is based on a single book chapter from 2003 that forgets to mention two very relevant articles; and that disregards exactly the effect used in one of those two articles to demonstrate that cooling is worse than warming.


Here’s how I started: having had read that at least in Europe, cooling kills more than warming, I looked with interest for any mention of that aspect in the report. My search brought me to page 9:

From a conservative perspective, although a minority of populations might experience health benefits (mostly related to a reduction in disease related to cold weather), the global burden of disease and premature death is expected to increase progressively.(ref. 16)

That looked like a peculiar statement indeed: sporting a reference to “health benefits” for the few (all of them, in Europe?), but suddenly making warming a bigger killer than cooling on a global scale.

When was all of that discovered, I wondered? Thankfully, I could find reference 16 on the web:

16. Campbell-Lendrum DH, Corvalán CF, Prüss Ustün A. How much disease could climate change cause? In: McMichael AJ, Campbell-Lendrum DH, Corvalan CF, et al, eds. Climate change and human health: risks and responses. Geneva: WHO, 2003.

Relevant quotes from Campbell-Lendrum DH et al. (curiously, again from page 9):

[…] Direct physiological effects of heat and cold on cardiovascular mortality – Strength of evidence

The association between daily variation in meteorological conditions and mortality has been described in numerous studies from a wide range of populations in temperate climates (16, 17). These studies show that exposure to temperatures at either side of a “comfort range” is associated with an increased risk of (mainly cardio-pulmonary) mortality.

Given the limited number of studies on which to base global predictions, quantitative estimates are presented only for the best supported of the direct physiological effects of climate change—changes in mortality attributable to extreme temperature for one or several days. For cold and temperate regions, a relationship from a published study was used (24) […]

The mystery was just deepening, with people suddenly dying not because of warmth or cold, but due to daily meteorological changes, and in particular because of “exposure to temperatures” outside of a “comfort range”.

It was time then to take a look at what those numerical references were about:

16. Alderson, M.R. Season and mortality. Health Trends 17: 87–96 (1985).

17. Green, M.S. et al. Excess winter-mortality from ischaemic heart disease and stroke during colder and warmer years in Israel. European Journal of Public Health 4: 3–11 (1994).

24. Kunst, A. et al. Outdoor air temperature and mortality in the Netherlands—a time series analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology 137(3): 331–341 (1993).

And what was even more notable were the “forgotten” references:

In summary: the Lancet/UCL 2009 report claims warming is worse than cooling on the basis of a single book chapter from 2003 that mentions: a very old article from 1985; a 1993 research on Israel; a single 1994 article about the Netherlands to represent “cold and temperate regions“.

And that very same single book chapter avoids any reference to two much more recent works, form 2000 and 2002, covering the whole of Europe, and pointing in the direction of…cooling being worse than warming.

The “forgotten references” from 2002 may as well have been unknown to the authors of the 2003 book chapter. But that is no excuse for the authors of the 2009 report.

Also, the fact that those articles were forgotten is obviously due to pure chance: because otherwise, it would be an unfortunate case of foul play in citation“, a.k.a.“bibliographic negligence” or “citation amnesia.


But that was not all. Here a bit more from Campbell-Lendrum DH et al. (2003):

There also is evidence for a “harvesting effect”, i.e. a period of unusually lower mortality following an extreme temperature period. This indicates that in some cases extreme temperatures advance the deaths of vulnerable people by a relatively short period, rather than killing people who would otherwise have lived to average life expectancy. However, this effect has not been quantified for temperature exposures and is not included in the model. As there is large uncertainty about the number of years that the casualties would have lived (i.e. the attributable years which are lost by exposure to the risk factor) the relative risk estimates will be used to calculate only attributable deaths, not DALYs. […]

That is not the way Keatinge WR et al (2000) presented their results three years before:

Some of those who died in the heat may not have lived long if a heat wave had not occurred. Mortality often falls below baseline for several days after the end of a heat wave, and this has been interpreted as indicating that some of the people dying during the heat wave were already close to death.

[…] Falls in temperature in winter are closely followed by increased mortality, with characteristic time courses for different causes of death. The increases are of sufficient size to account for the overall increase in mortality in winter, suggesting that most excess winter deaths are due to relatively direct effects of cold on the population.

Campbell-Lendrum DH et al. (2003) may as well have had a disagreement with Keatinge WR et al (2000): but if that were the case, they should have referenced to it and discussed however briefly the reasons for their disagreement. And of course the authors of the 2009 report should have included some remarks on why they would care not a bit about the “harvesting effect”, since the…effect of that effect directly relates to people’s health (well, it kills them…)

In summary: the Lancet/UCL 2009 report claims warming is worse than cooling on the basis of a single book chapter from 2003 that disregards the “harvesting effect”, the very same effect used in a 2000 article to demonstrate that cooling is worse than warming.

It looks as if the information was available out there, but reached the authors of the 2009 report distorted by the opinion of the 2003 book chapter’s authors .  One may be forgiven to equate that with a game of..Chinese whispers (a.k.a. Telephone)!


Obviously there are so many claims one can investigate.

But the fact that I was able in a few minutes to identify what are potentially major flaws in the estimation of the net benefits of CO2, suggests that more problems may lurk somewhere else, in the Lancet/UCL report.

Climate Change Data Omniclimate Policy Science

"Climate and Uncertainty Symposium" – London, Feb 16

Sounds like a great idea…but there isn’t actually a lot about uncertainty, in the programme (look at what session A is supposed to be about, and what the speakers will in fact cover)

Climate and Uncertainty Symposium
Date and time
Monday 16th February 2009, 10:00-17:00 with poster session and drinks to follow.
Wilkins Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre (UCL, London).

The aim of this meeting is to bring together a wide spectrum of UCL researchers to discuss issues of uncertainty in climate predictions and the impact of those uncertainties on our ability to accurately forecast the effects of climate change on urban and natural systems, human health and public policy. The meeting will encompass perspectives and open discussion on climate uncertainty from information providers (e.g. climate / ocean modellers), method providers (e.g. statisticians) and users of outputs (e.g. climate impacts and policy researchers).

SESSION A – CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS: talks articulating the issues and questions arising in different application areas. Talks focus on what are the key questions about future climate in the different areas, how climate information is used, what sources of uncertainty have been identified as being of particular concern and what steps are being taken to address this.

SESSION B – INFORMATION PROVISION: talks focusing on research that aims to meet the needs of the applications community: what information and techniques are available, what are the limitations, where is the potential for improvement in current practice?

Climate Change Global Warming Omniclimate

"Climate Change: Science and the Way Forward" Lecture – London, Feb 4

From my Inbox —-

UCL Environment Institute – Public Lecture Series 2008-09

“Climate Change: Science and the Way Forward”

Professor John Beddington
Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government

4th February 2009 6 – 8pm, Chadwick LT (Click here for map location: E4)

Over the coming decades, humankind will be presented with some enormous and interlinked challenges such as population growth, urbanisation and food, water and energy security; and the enormity of the task to address these linked issues will be made all the greater by changes to the Earth’s climate. A successful strategy will take the form of a co-ordinated, holistic and integrated approach. This lecture will outline these challenges, focus on the importance of collaboration between science disciplines and between countries and describe a number of the science and technology solutions available to us.

To register please click here:

Professor John Beddington was appointed as Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) on 1 January 2008. John’s main research interests are the application of biological and economic analysis to problems of Natural Resource Management including inter alia: fisheries, pest control, wildlife management and the control of disease. He started his academic career at the University of York and spent three years on secondment from York as a Senior Fellow with the International Institute of Environment and Development. He has been at Imperial College since 1984, where he headed the main departments dealing with environmental science and technology. He was Professor of Applied Population Biology at Imperial until his appointment as GCSA.

He has been adviser to a number of government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (on Antarctic and South Atlantic matters), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (where he chaired the Science Advisory Council), the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office. He was for six years a member of the Natural Environment Research Council.

He has acted as a senior adviser to several government and international bodies, including the Australian, New Zealand and US Governments, the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. In June 1997 he was awarded the Heidelberg Award for Environmental Excellence and in 2001 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 2004 he was awarded the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George by the Queen for services to fisheries science and management.