Sunday, February 03, 2008

On the astounding DipPhil Courtney

Interesting byplay broke out last week on Ray Pierrehumbert has been replying to Marc Morano's fulminations by listing the qualifications of selected individuals in the 400 399 Club. Marc had put forth a short reprise of his most distinguished including (in #314)

Britain: Dr. Richard Courtney, a UN IPCC expert reviewer and a UK-based climate and atmospheric science consultant: “To date, no convincing evidence for AGW (anthropogenic global warming) has been discovered. And recent global climate behavior is not consistent with AGW model predictions.”

In a reply to Pierrehumbert's investigation of his qualifications, Courtney, who somehow forgets to tell everyone that he does not hold a doctorate (see below) made an astounding claim (#558 in a thread approaching usenet length):

Importantly, Pierrehumbert implies that I am not an IPCC Expert Peer Reviewer. I was appointed to peer review the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment Report by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and Rajendra Pachauri (IPCC Chairman) personally asked me to work on the current IPCC Synthesis Report.
NOAA and the IPCC issued blanket invitations to everyone to look at the AR4 and submit reviews. Besides the announcements on the net there may have been a mailings. Some that were returned were useful some not, but Mr. Courtney implies a higher level, so Eli would ask him for proof of that claim.

The claim that the IPCC Chairman personally asked Courtney to work on the current IPCC Synthesis Report is truly astounding and requires a much higher level of proof. This is a claim that Pachauri personally invited Courtney to be an author on the Synthesis Report which is the highest level of the AR4 and approved line by line by all governments. Nomination requests for authors on IPCC reports go to governments and international and national organization not to individuals.

IEHO unless Courtney can provide additional information, this has to be filed somewhere between an extremely self-generous interpretation or hallucination. Having dealt with the Moranos and Courtneys of the world Eli has little doubt there is some implausible, strange and complex justification out there, but would be amused to see it and it might even make a nice article in the NY Times. To paraphrase Eli's thoughts (this is an R-rated blog and we have to keep it clean for the bunnies) there is no way anyone would have asked someone like this guy to come anywhere close to an IPCC report.

Still, we should discuss what Ray found (#550) (Ray in blue, Courtney in red, Eli in black)
Part I: In search of Richard S. Courtney

Dear Mr. Morano,

Let’s talk about Dr. Richard S. Courtney, whom you list as an Expert Reviewer of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, and a “Climate and Atmospheric Sciences Consultant.” Dr. Courtney is one of your highlighted skeptics, featured at the top of your report, so I figure he must be something really special. As justification for the rather remarkable claims he makes, you provide a link to what turns out to be an op-ed in the newspaper Canada Free Press. I’ll come back later to the arguments stated in that article, but first it would be nice to know a bit more about Dr Courtney’s training and area of expertise.

Ray, is far too trusting. He should read Rabett Run. As Eli pointed out in December 2007 Richard is a charter member of Stoat's official nutters list. Belette mentioned that the rumor was that Courtney was skating about on his qualifications. Eli located them (page 17)
Richard is also an Accredited Methodist Preacher. He is a founding Member of the Christ and the Cosmos Initiative that explores the interactions of religious and scientific ideas. The Initiative started in the UK but became active in 28 countries.

Richard avoids confusion about him in his scientific and religious activities by rarely citing his academic achievements, but his material science qualifications include a DipPhil (Cambridge), a BA (Open) and a Diploma (Bath).
A DipPhil is not a Doctor of Philosopy, but a Diploma in Philosophy. The University of Cambridge offers one year postgraduate courses leading to Diplomas, but not in Philosophy, at least not now however there are other, less distinguished universities in Cambridge such as Anglia Ruskin.(corrected 2/5, Angelia weeps). It would be nice knowing what field and what University those Diploma's came from. Eli also notices that there are not a whole lot of references to DipPhil (170 in google), and it is very easy for the unwary to confuse this with a Doctorate in Philosophy or DPhil (277,000 in google) We could speculate further, but as Desmogblog put it with their usual delicacy
But Richard Courtney is hardly a source to be taken seriously. In fact, there is every reason to believe that if he has a Ph.D. at all, he got it out of a box of cracker jacks.
However, Richard has managed to get himself as an expert witness in front of a House of Commons Select Committee on Energy and also the House of Lords Select Committee on the Environment. Tim Ball is jealous. Ray continued

That isn’t exactly easy to find out. The article you link provides a bio of Courtney’s co-author, but not of Courtney himself. Courtney’s former organization (the “European Science and Environment Forum”) has vanished without a trace. For what it’s worth, the Sourcewatch article on Courtney describes him as:

“a Technical Editor for CoalTrans International (journal of the international coal trading industry) who lives in Epsom, Surrey (UK). [1] In the early 1990s Courtney was a Senior Material Scientist of the National Coal Board (also known as British Coal) and a Science and Technology spokesman of the British Association of Colliery Management.”

Courtney’s consulting business seems to have no web presence. No CV or bio has turned up, and it appears to be unknown whether he really does have a doctorate, and if so where it is from and what field it is in. Heartland Institute lists him as a global warming expert here but the link to the bio appears to be a completely different Richard S. Courtney — a young associate professor in urban studies who lives in Pennsylvania, not the UK. Will the real Richard S. Courtney please stand up? The fact that your own Richard S. Courtney was an IPCC “Expert Reviewer” tells us little about him since almost anybody can request a draft of the report, submit comments, and count themselves as an “Expert.” This is good, because it opens up the reports to comments from a wide audience, but it also means that the term “Expert” here conveys little information.

Courtney responded in # 558
Re: #550 By Pierrehumbert

I see no reason to defend myself against the slurs and falsehoods presented by Pierrehumbert. Those who want correct information on me can get it from page 17 of the item at

This is the same source that Eli found earlier at Heartland and says no more or less other than Richard is currently an inhabitant of Cornwall a point of great interest to Courtney who puts on the harumphing cloak and rises in high dudgeon to berate Ray Pierrehumbert for falsely accusing him of being an Epsomite or a Surrey Man, Eli forgets which, it being of no import.

The veracity and value of Pierrehumbert’s comments is demonstrated by his claim that I live in Epsom. My complete address is stated in the above reference that he could have found merely by googling. (In fact, I have never lived in Epsom, never visited or passed through Epsom, and – to my knowledge – never flown over there.)

We would count our ears before betting on the last with DiplPhil Courtney. There follows more irrelevancy as Cortney sets the mark up.

However, he does correctly say I do not have a website and do not advertise my services. I mostly work for politicians (several countries) and my client list is confidential. I have good reasons not to advertise.

His attack on my credentials is a scurrilous smear that I reject with contempt.

Importantly, Pierrehumbert implies that I am not an IPCC Expert Peer Reviewer.

What Pierrehumbert SAID was that Courtney was not an expert

The fact that your own Richard S. Courtney was an IPCC “Expert Reviewer” tells us little about him since almost anybody can request a draft of the report, submit comments, and count themselves as an “Expert.” This is good, because it opens up the reports to comments from a wide audience, but it also means that the term “Expert” here conveys little information.

and then Courtney makes the same empty claim that Morano made and Ray P. pointed out

I was appointed to peer review the recent IPCC Fourth Assessment Report by the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA),

and the extraordinary one.

and Rajendra Pachauri (IPCC Chairman) personally asked me to work on the current IPCC Synthesis Report.

It seems that Pierrehumbert is not very good at what he does. He cannot even mount an effective or reasonable smear campaign. I shall take no notice of him or any further smears he cares to proclaim. Entering a defence of myself would require that I lower myself to his level.

However, I would accept his apology if he were man enough to provide it.

All the best


And Ray is silly enough to fall for this rather than challenging it


Dear Mr. Courtney,

I appreciate the additional information you provided, but you make several untrue statements in your comment #558. First, I did not say or imply that you weren’t an Expert Reviewer. What I said was that the designation in itself does not provide a great deal of information. I will naturally take you at your word as to how you came to be a reviewer, but that is not information that I could have been expected to know from any public sources.

Further, you say that I claimed you live in “Epsom, Surrey.” I said no such thing. Having failed to find biographical information in either the Free Press biographical link or by other means, I quoted the only other biographical information that I could find, prefacing it clearly with “for what it’s worth,” since I could not substantiate it independently. In fact, that biographical information turned out to be largely correct, except for your address.

I will admit that I did not think to check your report on wind power for biographical data, since the report was posted on Heartland and I assumed their bio of you would be correct if it were available. Perhaps that link has been corrected by now. For that one oversight alone, I will offer an apology. The main new bit of information in the bio, which I did not have from other sources, is that it clears up the confusion expressed on SourceWatch as to what subject your degrees are in.

But my main point all along, has been to examine the actual arguments people have made about climate, not to quarrel with their qualifications (though knowing something about educational and professional activities does provide useful background, which I am now grateful to have in more complete form.) So, since the quotes that Mr. Morano featured in his listing of you dealt with climate predictions, I am really eager to know what is the scientific basis of your claims. Based on the additional biographical information you pointed me towards, I am happy to defer to your expertise in matters of mining and coal engineering, but I am still looking for some basis for your statements on climate.

In my Part II, I discussed my reading of all of your published journal writing which I could find, and did not find any support for your statements there. In the bio you provide, by the way, you claim to have published “papers” in Nature, but all I found there were two Letters to the Editor. Have I missed something?

Now about that word “smear.” I really don’t know how anybody can construe my curiosity about educational background, publications and scientific arguments as “smear,” but if anybody has taken it that way, it was certainly not my intent. In some cases, I do take issue with the way Mr. Morano has described some of the people on his list (particularly the overly broad designation “Prominent Scientists” at the top), but many of the people on the list did not ask to be put there, and cannot be faulted for the way Mr. Morano has described them.

But please let’s try to remember the main thing I’m trying to dig out: Anybody can express an opinion — but on what arguments are those opinions founded and to what extent have they stood up to the test of review by the scientific community? In focusing on that, I believe I am completely in accord with what Roger Pielke Jr. wrote in his blog about the recent exchanges here.

— Posted by Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

Of course, there are a lot of places that refer to Our Dick as Richard Courtney, Ph.D., Dr. Richard Courtney. You would think that Richard would be writing them to correct this error. The Heartland paper is interesting, others would do well to read a response from the American Wind Energy Association. Give Ray credit, he did eventually get Andrew Revkin to post Part II #578.
#578 ——-Richard S. Courtney Part II: The arguments

Now let’s take a look at what Richard S. Courtney has written. A search of Science Citation Index under “Courtney RS” turns up a total of seven written documents (excluding another RS Courtney who has worked on personnel management).

One of these is a two page discussion summary on Environmental Economics in a 1995 issue of the Journal of Power and Energy and all the rest are Letters to the Editor. Three of the Letters to the Editor are in the popular science magazine New Scientist. The most recent of these is on butterfly wings, and the next most recent concerns a patent dispute over a wind energy generating device. The oldest letter in New Scientist (1991) is titled “Not So Little.” I haven’t read that and can’t comment.

There is one Letter to the Editor that appeared in the journal SPECTROCHIMICA ACTA PART A, pertaining to an article that appeared in that journal that claimed to prove that neither water vapor nor CO2 could act as a greenhouse gas. The article itself was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of local thermodynamic equilibrium. This was set right in a reviewed Technical Comment in the same journal by Houghton. There are several other reviewed technical comments on the paper, but Courtney’s comment for some reason was published as a Letter to the Editor instead. I’ve read this letter and it doesn’t say much. It criticizes an analogy used in one of the technical comments and basically praises the original paper without addressing Houghton’s rebuttal. In any event, the original paper, like the opus by Gerlich, would — if true — disprove all greenhouse effects of water vapor and CO2 everywhere, not just the anthropogenic greenhouse effect. If either Mr. Morano or Richard S. Courtney know of some way to account for the temperature of Venus or the Earth without any greenhouse effect whatever, I would be delighted to know of it.

Then there are two Letters to the Editor in Nature. Note that these are correspondence, not the short reviewed articles which in Nature go by the name of “Letters.” The first letter, titled “On Changing Water into Wine” deals with the psychological basis for religion. The second is a five-paragraph comment concerning the procedure the IPCC used to handle a flawed chapter in the Working Group III economics report, at the time of the Second Assessment report. This may be a useful statement of Dr. Courtney’s opinion on one facet of long-past IPCC procedure, but it provides no justification for the rather remarkable opinions about climate science voiced in the quotes you reproduce on the Inhofe 400 web site.

So, failing to find any sound published basis for Courtney’s skepticism — indeed hardly any published basis of any sort — I turn at least to the arguments expressed in the two paragraphs of the Canada Free Press op-ed which dealt with climate science and which presented arguments rather than just making declarations. The arguments amount to the following: (a) Global Warming stopped in 1998, and (b) Antarctic cooling is inconsistent with anthropogenic global warming. The first is a common fallacy that arises from fitting a trend line to the endpoints of a short time series. For a discussion of this point, see the recent article “Uncertainty, noise and the art of model-data comparison” on . The statement about Antarctica is just untrue; the small Antarctic interior cooling seen in a relatively short recent part of the record can be adequately accounted for in terms of ozone depletion and atmospheric circulation changes, even in the face of increasing CO2. That is discussed in the article “Antarctic Cooling, Global Warming,” Dec. 3,2004, on And you needn’t believe RealClimate; you can just go directly to the peer-reviewed articles cited there.

So that sums up what I have been able to find of Richard S. Courtney’s arguments. No peer reviewed articles in any journal that shows up in Web of Science, two marginally relevant Letters to the Editor, of which one is essentially an endorsement of a paper proved to be wrong, and two fallacious arguments expressed briefly in a Canada Free Press op-ed.

If I have overlooked anything I should have discussed, please do let me know and I’ll have a look at it.

— Posted by Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

Eli has taken out his flamethrower. Let's see if it gets posted at


bigcitylib said...

Two things

1)Courtney is the guy I caught several months ago saying that carbon sequestion was a lot of crap and the coal industry promoted it just to have some kind of vaguely pro environmental positionyo appear to embrace.

2) You don't get anymore right wing nutty in Canada than "Canada Free Press". They've got connections to Canadian Nazis, UFO cults (not kidding) name it.

Anonymous said...

Non Angelia sed Anglia.

Anonymous said...

Richard Courtney visited The Scotsman (daily newspaper, Scotland) blog following an article entitled "Climate change destruction 'to accelerate'" dated 2nd April 2007, here:

Mr Courtney's contributions started at post 37 and were answered by myself (Slioch), Guthrie and Fred Bloggs, taking up much of the rest of the thread to the end at post 66. The discussion may be of interest: not least because it confirms Mr Courtney's dislike of being identified as an Epsomium.

I am not aware of Courtney commenting on climate related matters in the Scotsman at any other time.

Simon Donner said...

As we've talked about before, the IPCC reports are public documents open to public review. Anyone with a pulse can be an "expert reviewer".

Anonymous said...

... and (facetiously, I admit) the brain dead can also partake in this "expert" reviewing.

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

RE: "The Christ and the Cosmos Initiative"

If I am not mistaken, that was a (now scrubbed) NASA initiative to send Jesus Christ into outer space strapped to the side of a Saturn V rocket.

The Christians in the US objected on the grounds that it would undermine the faith of some churchgoers, since they might think Christ actually needs a rocket to ascend into the heavens (ie, can't do it on his own). Hence the cancellation.

Personally, I think it would have been pretty cool.


guthrie said...

I could have sworn that i posted on here earlier, but it seems to have disappeared.

Anyway, thanks SLioch, I'd forgotten how odd but fun that thread was. Courtney seemed to cherry pick and was basically looking for insults, which I admit I gave him. He's one of a number of people I'd like to meet in real life to see if they are stupid as they come across.

Also, a few weeks ago now, someone calling themselves Monckton of Brenchley posted on the Hootsmon. I missed the actual day, so didn't tangle directly with them, but had a laugh at them anyway. I wonder if that was the real Monckton?

Anonymous said...

Nice summary. Indeed, I have an altogether too trusting view of human nature, which makes me an unsuitable candidate for debate against opponents such as Courtney.

It never occurred to me that a man of the cloth might fabricate his Cambridge degree, still less fabricate something so audacious as having been asked to review by Pachauri himself. With I bit more reflection, I now have my doubts.

Anonymous said...

Note Andy Revkin's request, made in that thread: if you spot fraud, or maybe he said accusations of fraud, in the thread, to email the info to the management at They have as much trouble reading the word salad as anyone else, seems.

This info likely qualifies.

Poor Mr. Revkin.

guthrie said...

Some department of energy bloke was refusing to engage with me because he didn't know who I am. I was merely pointing out that he was implying that scientists who did measurements of CO2 absorption and radiation etc were liars.

Also, the trolls on there are really ****** dim, aren't they? They've had stuff explained to them 3 or 4 times and they still claim there is no evidence that the "greenhouse effect" is real.

If anyone can get me some crude oil I can make some greek fire for Eli's flamethrower.

Anonymous said...


I tried

"Richard S. Courtney" "Marshall Institute"

And found a long list of skeptics including this one:

Richard S. Courtney, Ph.D. Geography, The Ohio State University, USA

Which Courtney is which?

The whole huge list including that name (uncited) is here:

EliRabett said...

That's the Courtney who teaches at Kutztown State. Believe me, from his CV he ain't Coal Board Courtney

Richard encourages the confusion

EliRabett said...

Guthrie, Eli and Ethon prefer Geek Fire

Anonymous said...

Sorry Eli for posting this at too but this is too good a discussion to miss out on .....

I came across the above discussion about Richard Courtney quite by chance. However, I did learn several years ago that he was an accomplished expert in both invention, obfuscation and bluster - see:

He also does an entertaining, though rather unconvincing, line in threatening litigation .....

Chris_Winter said...

RE: "He is a founding Member of the Christ and the Cosmos Initiative that explores the interactions of religious and scientific ideas. The Initiative started in the UK but became active in 28 countries."

Are these people Cosmo Christers? (Ref: Rendezvous with Rama, a novel by the late Arthur C. Clarke)

willard said...

Eli might be interested by this update, made by Richard S. Courtney himself:


There is this intriguing bit:

> In June 2000 I was one of 15 scientists invited from around the world to give a briefing on climate change at the US Congress in Washington DC, and I then chaired one of the three briefing sessions.

Wishing you the best,

w, pre-scientist

robert gallacher said...

some interesting comments here,mostly from pseudonyms.i would suggest richard s courtney takes a rational inquisitive approach to climate change as opposed to the dyed in the wool blinkered view of the warmists on here.
one states they would like to meet him in person.
i can assure everyone on here,if my personal integrity had been called into question in the manner visible here,meeting any of you in person would not be something you would enjoy.
i would be quite happy to meet any or all of you in the company of richard s courtney to discuss any problem you have with him

EliRabett said...

Richard S. Courtney? The same fellow who got especially testy when accused of being from Epsom (where the coal industry magazine he worked on, Coal TranInternational, was published), Of course, that is just further proof he is absolutely open minded.

Or perhaps you mean Prof. Richard S. Courtney of Kutztown University who somehow is listed as a scientific adviser for EIKE, a German group that denies we have a climate change problem. Eli rather suspects they mean the other Richard S. Courtney.

But seriously, which Richard S. Courtney?

Still as a great fan of one of the Richards, perhaps you can find out exactly what he bases his claims on of being personally invited by R. Pachauri to work on the IPCC report and the SPM. Interested bunnies are all atwitter.

Oh yes, thanks for helping with this Mr. G.

willard said...


Is that you?

You see to have lost weight.


I encountered this wight at the first and last Heartland conference I ever attended- when cornerd he said his D.Plil ( no ip after the D) was from Balliol, so I asked him who was Master when he was there. The erstwhile Balliol man replied " I have a diploma fom Baliol, but when Iescalated a little to asking him which quad his rooms were in , he said it was a correspondence degree, excused himself and left the room never to return.

EliRabett said...

Interesting. Eli would only point out that there is another university in Cambridge, the former Poly, and it is not unlikely that the wights degrees, if they exist are therefrom:)