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Brian Hoskins was one of the first people that Fiona Fox went to for a testimonial to the supposed rigor of the execrable Oxburgh inquiry. Hoskins, presently Bob Ward’s supervisor at the Grantham Institute, shamelessly called the Oxburgh inquiry “thorough and fair”. Although no one has yet pointed this out (partly because of efforts to erase all copies), Hoskins turned up in a similar role in the promotional trailer for the Times Atlas, where he is described as endorsing it as a “useful tool against climate change skeptics.”

The public release of the Oxburgh report was accompanied by the following statement from Hoskins:

I welcome this thorough and fair review. The picture painted by it of a dedicated small group trying to do the best science and with no hidden agenda to their work is consistent with my knowledge of the people involved at CRU and of their research. The review should help shape aspects of the continuing progress of climate science, in particular the need to make use of the latest statistical techniques.


Afterwards, Hoskins asked Fiona Fox whether Oxburgh had “elaborated” at the press conference about his statement that the “blame for mis-representation of CRU’s work is spread very widely”. Fox replied that “he [Oxburgh] was specifically asked if governments have mis-used it and he ducked the question”.

Shortly afterwards, as a result of FOI requests, we learned that Hoskins performed the Royal Society “due diligence” on whether the 11 articles selected by Trevor Davies for review were representative. (They weren’t. CA readers are also aware that the Oxburgh Report untruthfully said that they were selected by the Royal Society, when, in fact, they were selected by Trevor Davies.) The FOI requests showed just how cursory Royal Society “due diligence” was. See here. After the list had been sent out to Oxburgh panelists (Oxburgh was very sly about this at Parliament), Davies asked the Royal Society to endorse the list. Thirteen minutes later, Rees said that he didn’t know anything about the subject matter and would defer to Hoskins. Twenty minutes after Davies’ inquiry, Hoskins said that he was not “aware” of all the papers that might be included, but he did “think” that they covered the “issues of concern”. No other due diligence. Hoskins was subsequently asked by Roger Harrabin whether he regarded himself as an “expert” in the literature and said that he didn’t. The eleven papers excluded most of the papers that had actually been criticized at Climate Audit.

Previously, Hoskins had been Review Editor for the Phil Jones and Kevin Trenberth chapter of IPCC AR4 (Chapter 3), where he was apparently unoffended by Jones and Trenberth’s efforts to “re-define” peer review. In an under-discussed FOI case last year – see Bishop Hill here here here – the ICO ruled against Hoskins and this led to Hoskins’ correspondence as Review Author being obtained by David Holland last year – see here or here – you’ll need Outlook for the *.pst file. There are some interesting points in it that remain undiscussed.

More recently, we’ve seen another example of due diligence Hoskins-style in connection with the Times Atlas’ erroneous conclusion of 15% loss in Greenland in only a decade.

Hoskins appeared in the promotional trailer for the Times Atlas. Concerted efforts seem to have been made to erase the inconvenient trailer – e.g. here here. However, one copy seems to have escaped – see here.

Hoskins is said by the narrator to “think that it [the Times Atlas] is a useful tool against climate change skeptics.” Not the first time that a Team scientist’s desire to show up “skeptics” has made them too quick to endorse something that shouldn’t be endorsed. Hoskins, recorded in a very pleasant courtyard in England:

Scientists like me will talk about a gradual melting of the ice sheet. But if you take a snapshot now and then, you suddenly see a bit of Greenland has gone green. That makes you realize something is happening in the frozen north. It’s not quite as frozen as it used to be.


At Cryolist, glaciologists, either unaware of Hoskins’ endorsement, complained that the Guardian had failed to talk to “scientists” before they publish:

However, I do have a much less severe admonition to the Guardian (and just about all other news media outlets). At a time when climate change issues are so politicised, including all the myriad impacts on the cryosphere and other components of the Earth System (that would include people), and science is so misunderstood by the public, news reporting outlets really need to be talking to scientists about science stories before they publish.


Glaciologist Liz Morris blamed journalists for not doing a commonsense back-of-the envelope calculation to see whether the story made sense.

What grieves me is that none of the journalists thought “Hang on… 15% is
about 1/7 and I’m sure someone said Greenland ice was about 7m of sea level rise …. that’s about 1m of sea level rise over 12 years…some mistake surely? ” Must have the attention span of a gnat!

But surely this criticism is far more telling against Hoskins than the journalists.

In passing, I note that Graham Cogley, who spotted the Himalaya error last year, was one of the glaciologists who tried to ensure that the record was corrected. Cogley is at Trent University in southern Ontario near Toronto. (Two of my nephews went there.)

Climate Audit, 22 September 2011