Friday, 9 April 2010

Richard Liddle, the sustainable designer

Richard Liddle, 32, is a designer whose RD (Roughly Drawn) Legs chair, made from 100 per cent plastic waste, was shortlisted in the innovation category for the V&A Design Awards last year.

By Jessica SalterPublished: 7:00AM BST 08 Apr 2010

He set up Cohda Design ( in 2006 and has worked on projects for clients including the UK Design Council and Tom Dixon. An experimental chair, the RD21, is on display at Plus Design in Milan (
"My father made the early mistake of giving me a tool kit when I was 10. Once I learnt how to take out a screw I started disassembling everything from video recorders to egg whisks. It was quite expensive for my parents to replace everything I had taken apart.

My interest in recycling came about 10 years ago when I was trying to get rid of my fridge. The council wouldn’t take it so I strapped it to the roof of my car and drove it to the recycling plant. When I got there I saw about three football fields full of white goods that nobody could do anything with.
We’re sweeping our waste under the carpet. Britain is running out of dumping ground and we’re shipping our waste to other countries like China. The energy used in shipping all this around is enormous.
When I started looking into sustainable design I found recycled wood panels and plastic sheeting, but you’re limited in what you can produce from them. So after studying design for a masters degree at Northumbria University I spent two years researching domestic packaging waste at the Royal College of Art.
The RD Legs are chairs hand-woven from domestic plastic waste. We grind down plastics, melt them and work with the molten plastic at temperatures of about 230C. As it cools it fuses together so there is no need for glue or fixings.
I’m not saying the RD chair will solve the world’s plastic problems but it has made a slight dent in the waste mountain. At the moment they are individually made, but I’m teaming up with a Japanese company to put them into mass production by the end of the year, which will use up more of our waste plastics.
I wanted to design something that enables people without design skills or tools to create their own product. Our Revive Coffee Legs are like DIY clamps on stilts that you can attach to any flat surface, from a sheet of glass to a book, to create a coffee table. It means an old product can have a new life.
I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. Eco products can’t just be reproductions of what is already out there – they have to work harder and be more innovative. Obviously the public will buy the cheaper version unless the eco product has something more to offer."

Cows absolved of causing global warming with nitrous oxide

Livestock could actually be good for the environment according to a new study that found grazing cows or sheep can cut emissions of a powerful greenhouse gas.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 08 Apr 2010

The research will reignite the argument over whether to eat red meat or not Photo: REUTERS
In the past environmentalists, from Lord Stern to Sir Paul McCartney, have urged people to stop eating meat because the methane produced by cattle causes global warming.
However a new study found that cattle grazed on the grasslands of China actually reduce another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide.

Authors of the paper, published in Nature, say the research does not mean that producing livestock to eat is good for the environment in all countries. However in certain circumstances, it can be better for global warming to let animals graze on grassland.
The research will reignite the argument over whether to eat red meat after other studies suggested that grass fed cattle in the UK and US can also be good for the environment as long as the animals are free range.
Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, carried out the study in Inner Mongolia in China. He found that grassland produced more nitrous oxide during the spring thaw when sheep or cattle have not been grazing. This is because the greenhouse gas, also known as laughing gas, is released by microbes in the soil. When the grass is long snow settles keeping the microbes warm and providing water, however when the grass is cut short by animals the ground freezes and the microbes die.
Dr Butterbach-Bahl said the study overturned assumptions about grazing goats and cattle.
"It's been generally assumed that if you increase livestock numbers you get a rise in emissions of nitrous oxide. This is not the case," he said.
Estimated nitrous oxide emissions from temperate grasslands in places like Inner Mongolia as well as vast swatches of the United States, Canada, Russia and China account for up a third of the total amount of the greenhouse gas produced every year. Nitrous oxide is the third most important greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane.
But Dr Butterbach-Bahl pointed out that the study did not take into account the methane produced by the livestock or the carbon dioxide produced if soil erodes. He also pointed out that much of the red meat eaten in the western world if from intensively farmed animals in southern countries.
He said the study does not overturn the case for cutting down on red meat but shows grazing livestock is not always bad for global warming.

Satellite blasts off on mission to map the Earth's melting ice

CryoSat-2 to determine the effects of polar climate change
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Friday, 9 April 2010
A hi-tech European satellite designed to measure how fast the Earth's polar ice caps are melting was successfully launched into orbit yesterday, nearly five years after the first attempt at such a mission ended in spectacular failure.
CryoSat-2, which was designed and built in France and Germany but masterminded by British scientists, blasted off on a Russian launcher rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan shortly before 3pm yesterday afternoon. Some time later, a tracking station in Africa picked up the satellite's signal, confirming that it had gone into orbit.
It was a far cry from the last attempt in October 2005, when the original £100m CryoSat was lost after an apparently successful launch, when the Russian rocket failed to separate from its third stage, and the whole assembly, including its satellite, plunged into the Arctic Ocean – the very waters whose icy secrets CryoSat had been designed to uncover.
Yesterday there was jubilation among the scientists of the European Space Agency (ESA) who tracked the launch from the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
"If anything, this mission is even more important now than a decade ago when we first proposed it, as changes in the Earth's polar ice sheets are accelerating," said Professor Duncan Wingham of University College London, CryoSat's principal investigator and the man behind the whole enterprise.
CryoSat-2 is part of the ESA's Earth Explorers programme, involving seven spacecraft which will carry out innovative research about issues of pressing environmental concern. The melting ice of the poles and Greenland is considered one of the most pressing of all, with implications for ocean circulation patterns, the global climate and sea levels.
If the land-based Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, it would mean a global sea-level rise of 21 feet, while if all of the Earth's polar ice and glaciers were to melt, sea levels could rise by more than 10 times that amount.
Scientists have been observing significant changes in the polar regions in recent years which are generally ascribed to the warming climate, and in September 2007 the extent of summer ice cover in the Arctic Ocean reached a record low level.
However, too little is known about how thick the ice is, although surveys of sea-ice thickness undertaken by submarines suggest ice draft – the amount of water the floating Arctic ice displaces – may have reduced by about 40 per cent since the 1960s and 1970s.
The 1500lb satellite is designed to pinpoint the effects of climate change on Arctic, Greenland and Antarctic ice volumes, using sophisticated radar technology. Satellites have long been used to track ice extent, but calculating the waterborne ice thickness means the satellite has to gauge the difference between the top of the ice surface and the top of the water, which allows the overall volume then to be calculated.
The melting of the ice also changes the sea's salinity, which can affect long-range ocean currents. If the Gulf Stream became weaker, the British Isles and north-west Europe would experience more severe winters, even though the world as a whole would be warming.

Ecologists unveil plan for 'barometer of natural life'

Paper co-authored by E O Wilson calls for thousands of scientists to collect information on 160,000 species deemed representative of life on Earth

Juliette Jowit, Thursday 8 April 2010 19.00 BST
An ambitious project to create a "barometer of life" to track the changing fortunes of the natural world will be set out tomorrow by some of the world's leading ecologists.
The plan is for thousands of scientists to collect information on 160,000 of the world's nearly 2 million known species - from great mammals, fish and birds to obscure insects and fungi - chosen to be representative of life on Earth.
The index would more than triple the scope of what is alreadythe world's biggest scheme - the "red list" of extinct and endangered species published by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) - and would be updated every five years.
The cost of building the database would be about US$60m (£39.3m), but this would be "one of the best investments for the good of humanity," says the proposal, published in the journal Science and co-authored by the great American ecologist and writer E O Wilson.
The figures could be used to help companies carry out environmental impact assessments, allow national and international organisations to prioritise spending, and draw public attention to problems as a way of building support for policies to protect and improve biodiversity, said Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN's species survival commission, and the paper's lead author.
"Just think of the other uses $60m are put to by the world, and the amount of money spent on wars or banks, or advertising," Stuart told the Guardian. "We can put our hands on our hearts and say this would be better for the good of humanity. First of all it's an indicator of the health of the planet. Secondly in many parts of the world people depend on biodiversity for food or clean water or living wages. Thirdly I'd say because of their intrinsic value: there's something inspirational about ecosystems and species being in good shape, and the diversity of it."
The idea – informally titled the "barometer of life" – is supported by the IUCN and nine partner organisations, including Kew Gardens in London, and the Zoological Society of London.
The IUCN's red list has so far assessed more than 47,000 species, but is heavily biased towards a few groups of animals – mammals, birds and amphibians – and does not adequately represent the whole of life on Earth, says the paper.
Only half of all vertebrates and "an extremely small proportion" of plants, invertebrates, fungi and other groups like seaweeds have been assessed, and species from marine, freshwater and arid environments are also "poorly covered", said Stuart.
"There are good reasons for believing you are going to get different results in different groups, which is why we have got to extend what we have got already," he added.
Using the hundreds of experts in the partner groups, and guidelines set down by the IUCN, Stuart estimates the first barometer could be published five years after receiving funding – probably from a private source. After that it could be updated every five years, for an annual cost of – at a "guess" - $5m, said Stuart, little more than is spent on the red list by global governments.
The headline figure for all life on Earth could be modelled on the IUCN's extinction risk rating of 0-1, where 0 is all species in the group are extinct, and 1 means there are no threats. In addition, the index could be broken down by region, species group, and by type of threat, said Stuart.
The 160,000 species proposed is a "provisional" figure, and includes almost all the nearly 65,000 species of vertebrates, and representative samples from the other groups. The scheme is being proposed to mark the International Year of Biodiversity in 2010.
Scientists have so far described 1.9 million of the estimated up to 10 million species of vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, fungi and other groups on Earth, and possibly tens of millions more bacteria and archeans.
Ten of the most endangered species in the world
Florida bonneted bat - Eumops floridanus was thought to be extinct until 2002, when a small colony was discovered in a North Fort Myers suburb of Florida, US.
Saola – The cow-like Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, which occurs only in the Annamite mountains of Vietnam and Laos is in protracted decline.
Kakapo or owl parrot - In 2008, the total population of this large, flightless nocturnal parrot (Strigops habroptila) from New Zealand was 93, including the seven hatched that year.
Golden arrow poison frog – With the chytridiomycosis epidemic spreading from west to east through Panama, populations of Atelopus zeteki are now at severe risk.
Jamaican iguana – There may be no more than a hundred adult Cyclura collei remaining in the wild, and juvenile recruitment appears to be minimal.
Chinese paddlefish - Only two adult specimens of Psephurus gladius (both females) have been recorded since 2002. It is expected there are fewer than 50 adults left in the wild.
Chinese giant salamander - The largest of all amphibian species, sometimes growing to more than 1m long, Andrias davidianus is widespread in southern China, but its range is very fragmented
Sicilian fir - Abies nebrodensis trees are presently limited to the steep, dry slopes of Mt. Scalone in the Madonie Mountains of Sicily.
Sumatran orang-utan - The majority of surviving Pongo abelii live in the province of Aceh in northern Sumatra, Indonesia.

World Bank's $3.75bn coal plant loan defies environment criticism

US, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway abstain from vote in protest

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 9 April 2010

The World Bank approved a controversial $3.75bn loan to build one of the world's largest coal plants in South Africa yesterday, defying international protests and sharp criticism from the Obama administration that the project would fuel climate change.
The proposed Medupi station, operated by South Africa's state-owned Eskom company, was fiercely opposed by an international coalition of grassroots, church and environmental activists who said it would hurt the environment and do little to help end poverty. As planned, tIt would put out 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and would prevent South Africa making good on a promise to try to curb future emissions.
The bank said it had acted to help South Africa escape a crippling power shortage. "Without an increased energy supply, South Africans will face hardship for the poor and limited economic growth," said Obiageli Ezekwesili, the World Bank's vice president for Africa.
But the bank's approval for the Medupi station, though expected, was overshadowed by dissatisfaction from American and European donors, as well as a groundswell of protests.
America, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway registered their opposition to the loan by abstaining from the vote, the traditional method of dissent on the board which operates by consensus.
In a statement, the US treasury department said the loan was incompatible with the bank's stated commitment to promoting low carbon economic development.
"We expect that the World Bank will not bring forward similar coal projects from middle-income countries in the future without a plan to ensure there is no net increase in carbon emissions," it said.Britain, registering its abstention, noted the controversy surrounding the plant. "
"The project raises several sensitive and potentially controversial issues which it has not been possible to resolve before this period began." a statement from Dfid said.
However, a World Bank official said the strong wording of such statements did not carry over to the Board's discussions of the loan. "It was not an easy decision," he said. "Everybody recognised the concerns about climate change, but this was a balancing act."
The vote by the World Bank had been widely seen as a test of the Obama administration's commitment to new guidelines put forward barely three months to shift aid to the developing world away from coal and fossil fuels to less polluting energy sources.
The administration had come under strong pressure from Democratic leaders in Congress as well as environmental organisations to try to block the loan.
Environmental organisations said its decision to abstain fell short.
"I am not going to give them points for abstaining. This was totally the easy way out," said Karen Ornstein of Friends of the Earth. "If the US were to follow its own clean coal guidance for multilateral development banks it would have had to vote no on this loan."
Michael Stulman of Africa Action said the entire project was misguided, and would do little to help poor South Africans. "This is one of those stereotypical development disaster stories," he said.

Chevron's solar panels won't clean up its filthy oilfield

Chevron plans to use solar energy to power pumps at one of the oldest and dirtiest oilfields on the planet

Fred Pearce, Thursday 8 April 2010 12.16 BST
Project Brightfield has a nice ring to it. Chevron, the California-based oil giant, is turning the site of an old oil refinery into an eight-acre field of solar panels, showcasing seven new technologies from an array of cutting-edge companies. It seems to fit the company's current online slogan: "Finding newer, cleaner ways to power the world".
But there is a problem for Chevron, which has over a thousand Texaco filling stations in Britain. It plans to use the solar energy to help power pumps and pipelines at what will remain one of the oldest, dirtiest and most greenhouse-unfriendly oil fields on the planet – the Kern River heavy oil facility near Bakersfield.
The company is proud enough of the solar panels to have a promotional video on Operation Brightfield. Chevron's local vice president, Bruce Johnson, calls the solar facility "a clear example of Chevron's efforts to find ways to integrate innovative technologies into our business."
But the Rainforest Action Network, a California-based NGO, put out a natty little video of its own charging the company with "greenwash" in the California sun.
Chevron is the biggest greenhouse-gas emitter in California, according to RAN. And its global green reputation could do with some refurbishing. The company is still living down the environmental damage caused by past involvement of Texaco, a company it bought in 2001, while grabbing oil from the rainforests of Ecuador.
And it faces new criticism for its prominent role in developing tar sands in Canada. This latter is a big problem, as the California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, seeks to cut the state's carbon dioxide emissions.
RAN says last year Chevron hit a "new all-time low in renewable energy investments", with just 1.96 per cent of its capital and exploratory budget going green.
So the plaudits Chevron has won for its Brightfield test rigs, along with a planned solar project in New Mexico, are green gold dust.
But its dirty old ways still look like the main game at Chevron. You can see its real business down the road from the shiny new solar panels, at the Kern River heavy oil facility. The field is more than a century old and contains some 10,000 "nodding donkey" rigs pumping away. The field is largely exhausted, with production declining every year, but Chevron is reluctant to call a halt to its ancient money-spinner.
But bringing the oil to the surface is increasing difficult, and energy-intensive. The thick tar-like dregs of the oilfield won't flow on their own. They have to be heated first. So Chevron burns natural gas to make steam, which it pumps underground to raise temperatures and get the gunge moving. They call it "steam flooding". One reporter invited to Kern River by the American Petroleum Institute describes the scene on The Oil Drum.
Chevron is a specialist in extracting heavy oil round the world. In Venezuela and Indonesia, for instance. But bringing the stuff to the surface has a very large carbon footprint, according to Tony Kovscek of Stanford University's Energy Resources Engineering department, who has studied Kern River.
He estimates (pdf) that the carbon footprint of producing heavy oil at Kern River is around 50kg of carbon dioxide for every barrel of oil.
That is only half the footprint of tar sands in Alberta, he says, "but the carbon footprint of conventional oil is a great deal smaller."
The company spokesman Alex Yelland said the 750-kW solar facility, which has an expected lifetime of 25 years, is intended "to evaluate competing next generation solar technologies". He denied any attempt at greenwash. "That the oil field nearby produces heavy oil was not relevant to the siting of the solar test."
Kovscek says, "some of the largest point sources of carbon dioxide in California are from these types of oil field operations." Solar panels powering the pipeline pumps won't change that.
But, if Chevron wants to carry on pumping heavy oil from Kern River, there would be a way for the company to make a serious difference, he says. It could harness the power of the sun big time to make the steam.
A lot of entrepreneurs in California want to develop what they call "concentrated solar thermal power". Rather than covering the desert in photovoltaic panels, they want to install mirrors to concentrate the sun's rays and boil water to make steam. Their main idea is to use the steam to run turbines. But why not, says Kovscek, use it directly to free up the heavy oil?
"Relatively conservative designs could reduce the heavy-oil carbon footprint by at least 30%," he told the Guardian. "More aggressive designs could achieve even greater reductions." Yelland said that the company plans a "solar-to-steam" demonstration facility to replace some of its natural gas needs at another oil field in California.
Now that really will "integrate innovative technologies" into Chevron's business. It would put Project Brightside in the shade. Until then, Chevron seems to be using a few solar panels to greenwash a thoroughly filthy oilfield.

Google urges Barack Obama to promise smart meters for every US home

Internet giant joined by Nokia, General Electric and Intel in calling on US goverment to upgrade electricity grid using IT
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Thursday 8 April 2010 11.02 BST

American presidents used to promise a chicken in every pot. If it were up to Google it would be a smart meter in every home.
In an initiative with the Climate Group, the company this week wrote a letter and hosted a summit at its Washington DC offices to urge Barack Obama to adopt a goal of providing every household with real time information about their electricity use.
"By giving people the ability to monitor and manage their energy consumption, for instance, via their computers, phones or other devices, we can unleash the forces of innovation in homes and businesses," says the letter, signed by more than 40 leading businesses and environmental groups.
As the roster of signatures - which includes Nokia, General Electric, AT&T, Intel and Hewlett Packard - suggests Google is not the only company to see huge potential in upgrading America's antiquated grid with modern information technology.
More than 200 start-ups are now working on energy information devices to provide consumers with actionable information on how their electricity is generated, eg coal or solar; the cost of running appliances; and the price according to the time of day.
Google has already launched its PowerMeter, a free web device that allows people to track their electricity use from their computers.
The companies claim devices such as these can make an immediate difference in behaviour, getting people to switch off lights or do their laundry at night, when electricity is cheaper.
Charlene Begley, the chief executive officer of GE's home and business solutions, said they were finding a 7% to 10% reduction in energy use after installation of real-time metering devices.
But there is a lot the companies still don't know. How much information do consumers really want? Do they want to be nagged to switch off the lights every night, or will they rebel? It's not even clear how they want that information delivered: by smart phone, computer widget, or television (if at all). "We are not ready to place a bet on any one format," said Lorie Wigle, the head of Intel's eco-technology unit.
Who owns the highly personal information collected in private homes? How do you protect consumers' privacy? "It could be very attractive to package this and sell it in all kinds of ways," said Leslie Harris, president of the Centre for Democracy and Technology. Then there is the problem of hackers.
And, even as the Obama administration funds the roll-out of some 18 million smart meters (with some $3.4bn alloted under last year's economic recovery plan) it remains unclear who is to pay for the transition.
The summit was told the administration has to do more to promote the deployment of new technologies, such as offering rebates to consumers and helping companies with the initial expense of smart technology.
Begley said it could cost GE more than $200m to develop a refrigerator capable of automatically adjusting functions according to the time of day. "We have to be able to show shareholders a promising return," she said.
It is also crucial to reassure consumers that they will indeed be better-off having the new technology in their home. In Texas and California, initial limited rollouts of smart meters have generated thousands of complaints and even lawsuits claiming that the meters led to much higher electricity prices.
California's regulatory authority ordered an independent audit of the smart meters deployed by one company, Pacific Gas & Electricity. In some cases, customers reported bills three times higher than normal even when they were away on holiday.
For the rollout of a new technology that doesn't look very smart.

Hacked climate science emails: were requests for information vexatious?

Original requests for information from the Climatic Research Unit appear to have been genuine, but there are later enquiries that could potentially be seen as aggravating
This is probably the last piece I'll write on the hacked emails saga. Unless the two remaining inquiries throw up something unexpected, there is not a lot more to say. The one remaining, interesting question is this: to what extent were the Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, which Phil Jones and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) handled so badly, vexatious? Were they genuine enquiries by seekers after truth, or were they designed only to mess the unit around?
The UK Information Commissioner's Office has published five criteria for judging whether or not a request is vexatious:
• Can the request fairly be seen as obsessive?
• Is the request harassing the authority or causing distress to staff?
• Would complying with the request impose a significant burden?
• Is the request designed to cause disruption or annoyance?
• Does the request lack any serious purpose or value?
The hacked emails reveal that the Climatic Research Unit knew that the UK's FoI Act could cause problems even before anyone had used it. In one email, Jones warns that it could prevent him from blocking requests for information:
The two MMs [I think this means Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick] have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone … We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind. Tom Wigley has sent me a worried email when he heard about it – thought people could ask him for his model code. He has retired officially from UEA [the University of East Anglia] so he can hide behind that. IPR [intellectual property rights] should be relevant here, but I can see me getting into an argument with someone at UEA who'll say we must adhere to it!
He expands on this argument in another email, which suggests that CRU's main defence – the data couldn't be released because it was covered by other people's intellectual property rights - isn't as pure as the unit makes out:
If FoI Act does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them.
In a third email, Jones reveals:
I'm getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don't any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!
Since I began writing about this issue, I've been assailed by climate scientists and environmentalists, all insisting that Jones did nothing wrong. If these emails meet their standards of professional rectitude I dread to think what else they would find acceptable.
You could argue, as many have, that Jones was responding to a campaign of harassment by climate change deniers. It's true that he was being badgered, and that some of those doing the badgering seemed to be motivated by something other than the unsullied spirit of scientific inquiry. But there was a simple means of getting the hasslers off his back: release the sodding data.
In 2005, Jones made it clear to one of his petitioners that he wasn't going to do that:
Even if WMO [the World Meteorological Organisation] agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.
This cuts to the heart of the matter. Science must be falsifiable: otherwise it's not science. Those who seek to find something wrong with your data are the first people who should have access to it, not the last. Challenging, refining and improving other people's work is the means by which science proceeds.
Whatever the motivation of the questioners might have been, the original FoI requests appear to have been genuine attempts to obtain information. As the replies sent to one enquirer, Willis Essenbach, show, they were fobbed off in a way guaranteed to make anyone seethe with rage. The letters sent to him by CRU epitomise bureaucratic obfuscation of the kind that anyone who believes in democracy should challenge.
The Canadian mining investor Steve McIntyre, who runs the website Climate Audit, was also fobbed off. In another email, Phil Jones reveals:
Think I've managed to persuade UEA [the University of East Anglia] to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.
That doesn't seem right either. Just because you don't like someone doesn't mean you can refuse to answer their FoI request.
Now we get to the potentially vexatious requests. Frustrated, reasonably enough, by CRU's blocking tactics, McIntyre made the following proposal on his website:
I suggest that interested readers can participate by choosing 5 countries and sending the following FoI request to david.palmer at ***:Dear Mr Palmer,I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect to any confidentiality agreements restricting transmission of CRUTEM data to non-academics involving the following countries: [insert five or so countries that are different from ones already requested]1. the date of any applicable confidentiality agreements;2. the parties to such confidentiality agreement, including the full name of any organisation;3. a copy of the section of the confidentiality agreement that 'prevents further transmission to non-academics'.4. a copy of the entire confidentiality agreement,I am requesting this information for the purposes of academic research.
The last line is, at best, disingenuous. His readers sent 58 such requests, each with a random selection of countries. Hilariously, one of them forgot to change the wording:
I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect to any confidentiality agreements restricting transmission of CRUTEM data to non-academics involving the following countries: [insert five or so countries that are different from ones already requested1]
Hat tip: johntherock.
These enquiries could meet at least the last two of the commissioner's criteria - is the request designed to cause disruption or annoyance, and, does the request lack any serious purpose or value? They could potentially be seen as vexatious.
But this doesn't exonerate the Climatic Research Unit, for the following reasons:
1. These requests were made a year after Jones sent the most damaging of his emails:
Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? ... Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same? I don't have his new email address. We will be getting Caspar to do likewise.
This appears to refer to material relevant to FoI requests, although Jones says that no deletions occurred in response to the email.
The deputy information commissioner has said that FoI requests were "not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation" but the six-month time limit for prosecutions under the FoI Act has passed. Those who seek to excuse this email by maintaining that Jones was responding to vexatious requests have got the sequence wrong.
2. If the original requests for information had been answered properly, Jones's critics wouldn't have scented blood.
3. If the press officers at the university had even the slightest inkling of how to handle this crisis, they would have made these FoI requests public, to show that not everyone hassling CRU was acting in good faith. But they continue to sit like rabbits in the headlights, waiting for the next truck to run them down.
Yes, some of the requests appear to have been vexatious. No, this doesn't justify the way that CRU has behaved. The solution to both problems is the same: if you want to show that your science is sound and if you don't want to be hunted from pillar to post by baying hounds, your work must be open and transparent. Those of us who rely on good science to guide us must stop excusing secrecy and obfuscation.