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Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...


GEO COVER_DEC11JAN12 for web.jpgThis page has been created to facilitate rapid and timely interchange of opinion. Each month (space permitting) a selection of these letters will be published in Geoscientist Online , the colour monthly magazine of the Society Fellowship.

Correspondence strings are listed in the order that they are begun, the most recent string at the top. Within each string, letters are listed with the first letter of the string at the top, and subsequent letters below.

This page contains letters from the current year.  The archive of letters from previous years are accessible by clicking the links to the left.

If you wish to express an opinion, please email the Editor. Letters should be as short as possible, preferably c.300 words long or fewer. You may also write to:

Dr Ted Nield, Editor, Geoscientist, c/o The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG.
  • Please note that letters will be edited for publication. This particularly applies to versions  printed in the magazine.  The Editor reserves the right not to publish letters, at his discretion. Writers should submit their letters electronically to ensure rapid publication. All views expressed below are the responsibility of their authors alone.TN

Hutton and Browne - a reply to Rudwick 16 August 2017

Received 16 AUGUST 2017
Published 16 AUGUST 2017
From Mike Leeder

Sir, Martin Rudwick seems to miss the point of my article, which simply proposes that Hutton adapted Browne's beautiful words in the coda to his own opus.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I made no novel interpretations, simply stating what each quote might imply to any intelligent modern reader.

I would disagree with Rudwick’s assessments of both Browne and Hutton. The former seems against 'alpha and omega'; as the quote I unearthed emphasises, and as does the rest of Section 11 of 'Religio Medici'.  I would differ also from his opinion of Hutton's 'eternalism': the qualifier '...we find', which precedes his quoted aphorism, is surely quite enough to negate this view.

It is not enough to show that others misinterpreted Hutton's careful delineations of his position as 'eternalism'. To my mind, modern geology (in its fundamental ‘planetary recycling’ essence) stems far more from Hutton than anyone else among the 'savantiers', up until the times of Wegener and Holmes (the great modern 'savants' of physical geology).

Mike Leeder

Blue John mines - birthplace of geotourism 02 August 2017

Received 02 AUGUST 2017
Published 02 AUGUST 2017
From Mark Cope

Sir, I was delighted to read Nina Morgan's Distant Thunder article (Geoscientist 27.07 August 2017) concerning the Blue John Stone mines of Castleton Derbyshire.

The article seems to make reference to historical tourism inspired by Blue John Stone mining and the commercialisation of Blue John Stone ornaments as souvenirs. However no connection is made with the concept of geological tourism or 'geotourism'.

I refer readers to a research paper I wrote last year in which the connection between Derbyshire geodiversity, historical geotourism and the 'geocommercialisation' of tourists is explored, particularly with regard to the Blue John Stone mining industry that still exists in Castleton today (Cope, 2016). 

Derbyshire is the birthplace of geotourism (Hose, 2008), and the 250-year tourism interest in Blue John Stone demonstrates how geotourism has sustained, and continues to sustain, an industry that forms the basis of the Castleton economy.

  • Cope, M.A. 2016. Derbyshire geodiversity, historical geotourism and the 'geocommercialisation' of tourists: setting the context of the Castleton Blue John Stone industry. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 127, 738-746.
  • Hose, T.A. 2008. Towards a history of geotourism: definitions, antecedents and the future. In Burek, C.V.,  Prosser, C.D. (eds.) Appreciating Physical Landscapes: Three Hundred Years of Geotourism. Geological Society of London Special Publication, 417, 37-60.
Mark Cope

Hutton owes no debt to Browne 02 August 2017

Received 02 AUGUST 2017
Published 02 AUGUST 2017
From Martin Rudwick

Sir, Historical myths are hardy perennials, and myths about Hutton continue to be propagated in the media, in blissful or perhaps wilful (chauvinistic?) ignorance of a body of historical research that sets his ideas in their contemporary context. Briefly, the very words of Hutton's famous "vestige... prospect..." quote show what he himself was open about: that he was an *eternalist* - a position antithetical to modern geology's developmental model of the history of the Earth (and of the cosmos).

The Browne "but five days" quote shows equally clearly that *his* cosmology was, within the limited time frame of his generation, a developmental one from start to finish ("alpha" to "omega").  By Hutton's time, geologists had adopted Browne's kind of model, having simply expanded it into a far longer - but still *finite* - time dimension.  Hutton's contemporaries criticised him for his eternalism, not his lengthy time. Modern geology therefore stems far more from them than from him.

This conclusion is now obvious to historians of geology, backed by a large body of historical research. Among many books that summarise this work, I dare to cite my own ‘Earth's Deep History’ (Chicago 2014) because it gives a brief bird's-eye-view all the way from Browne (and Ussher's 4004BC) to the present, and includes a "further reading" section that gives references to a lot of other historians' work. A fuller evaluation of Hutton is in my ‘Bursting the Limits of Time’ (Chicago 2005), pp. 158-172, with detailed footnoted references to primary and secondary sources to back it up.

Martin Rudwick

Coal lives! 28 June 2017

Received 28 JUNE 2017
Published 28 JUNE 2017
From Larry Thomas

Sir, I refer to your editorial in the June Geoscientist (Geoscientist 27.05), regarding the demise of coal as a fuel source for electricity in the UK.

The Coal Geology Group of which I was the first secretary was really created too late in that most UK coal geologists were employed by British coal which was in the throes of mine closures. This together with environmental opposition meant that ‘coal’ was a dirty word in western Europe.

However, other coal geologists such as myself who have never worked for British Coal have concentrated on coal geology in other countries. Although the UK is virtually ‘coal free’, other countries such as China, Colombia, Kazakhstan, India, Indonesia and Venezuela have still got an expanding coal mining industry and will continue for the foreseeable future. In addition, Australia, South Africa and USA have large geological departments working in the coal industry.  Over 5,500 million tonnes of commercial coal was produced in 2015, so it is still a significant business.

When you say the world still needs geologists, you will find that a good percentage of them will still be coal geologists for some years to come.

I am currently working on a 3rd edition of my text book ‘Coal Geology’ at the request of the publishers who are happy with the sales, so there are still some out there who are on the case.

Larry Thomas

First 'Student Instructional Tour', 1946 - a survivor writes 13 June 2017

Received 07 JUNE 2017
Published 13 JUNE 2017
From George Bennison

Sir, Please thank Geoff Townson for the most interesting article which reviewed the progress of the 'Student Instructional Tour' headed 'On seeing the most rocks'.  You will appreciate my particular interest as a member of that first tour in 1946.  It was a splendid geological tour and I was lucky having to be given a place. 

I was a lieutenant in R.E.M.E. from 1942-5 and was given an early release to finish my degree at Durham University.

I was a bit foolish.  I left the party two days early to go home to Newcastle where my wife was about to have our first child.  As I left early you would not find my name on the letter of thanks sent from Weymouth.

Of course I sometimes met colleagues who were on that first tour - Derek Ager, Charles Downie, Trevor Ford.  I will be 95 next month.  I expect I am the only survivor of that excursion.  I had lost touch and I am delighted to get so much information in Geoff Townson’s article

George Bennison

MSc courses in Geophysics - not that bleak 13 June 2017

Received 13 JUNE 2017
Published 13 JUNE 2017
From Clive McCann

Sir, John Arthur’s Soapbox 'What on Earth is going on?' (Soapbox, June, Geoscientist 27.05) deplored the closure of MSc courses in Exploration Geophysics at three universities and argued the undoubted importance of geophysical techniques for site investigations.

However, the situation is not as bleak as he portrays it. A review of current MSc courses containing the word ‘Geophysics’ shows that nearly all of them are taught in conjunction with named subjects such as Structural Geology (Leeds), Marine Geology (Southampton), Soil Mechanics (Imperial) and so on. The Departments have recognised the importance of providing geophysicists with a firm understanding of the geology, petrophysics and soil mechanics which our techniques can image so effectively.

Many years ago, Professor Perce Allen recognised this fundamental truth when he founded the Geological Geophysics BSc course at Reading University.  Sadly this course, with its many opportunities for graduates, was closed by the then Universities’ Grants Committee following the 1988 Earth Science Review. However, I think we may conclude that the teaching of Exploration Geophysics at MSc level is not dead, but exists very effectively in conjunction with detailed studies of the geological targets.

Clive McCann

Careers advice - too rosy? 09 June 2017

Received 09 JUNE 2017
Published 09 JUNE 2017
From Jon Noad

Sir, I read with interest the ‘Pathways into geology’ section of the 2016 Annual Review. I live in Calgary, where around 30% of geologists are unemployed, with even higher figures for geophysicists. While I applaud initiatives to attract young students to study geology, I feel there is a certain lack of balance, and of cautionary advice, regarding this topic. I see many young geologists, mostly recent graduates, struggling to find work of any kind in Canada. This is mainly a result of low oil prices, exacerbated by the current slump in mining and mineral prices. They are doing all the right things (volunteering, networking, etc.), yet there are simply no jobs out there.

To my mind, there is a need to show both sides of our industry to budding geologists. Currently the dilemma of ‘no job without experience, no experience without a job’ is compounded by the lack of jobs, and even summer positions for students, currently.   I would urge you to include at least one speaker at the Careers and ‘Girls in Geoscience Days’ who can highlight the fact that not everyone studying geoscience-related subjects is likely to end up working as a geologist. I suggest that you should also flag up this fact on your new Geology Career Pathways web page.

I have written an online article providing advice for new graduates:

I hope I don’t sound preachy!  I just want younger readers to be aware that it is currently pretty desperate out there, with many scientists in the oil industry losing their jobs, sometimes their houses, with consequent stress on their relationships. Things can only get better!

Jon Noad


New CPD System - reply 08 June 2017

Received 08 JUNE 2017
Published 08 JUNE 2017
From David James

Sir, I would agree entirely with Mr Talbot and Mr Eccles (Readers' Letters, June 2017) that professional geologists, ie those offering expert services for payment, ought both ethically and in their own business interests to undertake CPD and that where they seek to advertise such services by joining a Chartered body, that body is entitled to insist on this. Whether or not such body has the right to set itself up as a professional regulator is another matter; my preference would be that this function is better performed by public authority / government agency to avoid the 'closed shop' danger. However I believe that the Society has a unique role to play in advising any regulator and setting standards; it was for this reason that I became a professionally active CGeol in 1991.

I am now retired and self-funded; I do not offer service for payment so there can be no legitimate public interest in what CPD I undertake. By most normal definitions (not the circular definition offered by Mr Talbot and Mr Eccles) I am not a professional. When I put data and opinion into published work it benefits from peer review to ensure that it is neither unsubstantiated nor outdated and that my discussion of the views of others follows due courtesy. That production of such work has necessitated CPD should be obvious, the need to report it to central bureaucrats is not.

The GSL code of conduct is, since 2015, presumably that of the AGI Guidelines  (a decision of Council not by poll of the Fellowship I believe). These make no distinction (as worded) between 'professional' and 'scientific' activity and by implication 'Chartered' or Non-Chartered'. Seemingly the only difference between Chartered and Non-Chartered Fellows is by now the requirement for a centralised registration of CPD. However I have always believed that, to the outside world, the designation CGeol adds something that is not immediately obvious in FGS alone, just as a senior degree adds to a first degree. It reflects a qualification milestone and demonstrates one's support (not least financial) for  the Chartership structure as a means of improving professional standards.

Academic degrees are also milestone qualifications that reflect knowledge relevant to the time of their award but universities do not require evidence of continued further study to allow the degree continued validity. The point of any collection of data is surely that there is a use for it. It seems to me that those having attained CGeol status  should be offered a choice, tick the 'non professionally-active' box and save the submission and storage of CPD data that is of no use to anyone (nor their business), or tick the 'professionally-active' box and ensure that their CPD data can be independently corroborated on enquiry for those investigating the possible use of their services (the only legitimate use for it). In the latter case they are surely entitled to the safeguards for use of their data that my Soapbox article mentioned.

The Chartered Geologist movement arose when a group of 'applied' geologists perceived, arguably correctly at the time, that they were somehow less valued than 'academic' geologists and they managed successfully to shanghai a learned society to further their drive for recognition. Much good has come of this but it goes too far when it attempts to regulate serious scientists not offering professional services in the public realm. Many highly qualified academic geologists are not Chartered but earn their living providing a societal benefit with their teaching and research. Does the Chartership Committee consider them professionals or that their standards are inferior to those of Chartered Fellows ?  If so the Society has double standards in its self-stated role.

Man's puny attempts 02 May 2017

Received 02 MAY 2017
Published 02 MAY 2017
From Andrew McMillan

dgyukSir, Nina Morgan’s interesting discussion (Geoscientist 27.4, May 2017) of the original marble tombstone commemorating Joseph Black (1728-1799) in Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh reminds me of Archibald Geikie’s eloquent comment in the 3rd and best edition of his volume The Scenery of Scotland (Macmillan, 1901): “As I examined the marble of the tomb and its Latin inscription that records the genius of the discoverer of carbonic acid, I could not but reflect on the curious irony of Nature, that has furnished in the corrosion of this monument her own testimony to the truth of his discovery.”

j,l,.I am pleased to say that the replacement sandstone tomb (1894) for Joseph Black (left), although needing some attention, is in reasonable condition. A more pressing concern is for the nearby sandstone memorial to the Balfour family related to James Hutton through his mother, Sarah. A spout draining the roof of an adjacent building (image, right) regularly wets the surface of this stone and the inscription is fading fast. Fortunately the adjacent plaque erected in 1947 commemorating Hutton as the Founder of Modern Geology is of a polished granite but the inscription still needs attention. Efforts have been made to contact the owners of the building to take remedial action.

As always, maintenance of monuments and buildings is crucial. But as the dear late Norman Butcher was once heard to comment about some crumbling building: ‘……another example of Man’s puny attempts to compete with nature.”

Andrew McMillan

IPCC Consensus and the Geological Perspective 02 May 2017

Received 02 MAY 2017
Published 02 MAY 2017
From Colin Summerhayes

Sir, In response to the letter by Howard Dewhirst (8 March, 2017), I would like to draw readers’ attention to a recent paper by Foster et al (2017) in Nature Communications (details below). Their careful geological study demonstrates that the evolution of our climate on geological timescales is largely driven by variations in the magnitude of total solar irradiance (TSI) and changes in the greenhouse gas content of the atmosphere. The slow increase in TSI over the past 420 million years was almost completely negated by a long term decline in atmospheric CO2, which was most likely caused by negative feedback from increased silicate weathering plus the expansion of land plants, which worked together to ensure Earth’s habitability.

Foster et al’s geological data and conclusions are amply supported by the palaeoclimate literature, which I recommend to all Geoscientist readers. Examples include one by the GSL’s Lyell medallist for 2010, Bill Ruddiman (see short list below).  Indeed, it is fair to say that several of our recent GSL medallists wholeheartedly agree with Ruddiman’s (hence also Foster’s) take on how our climate system works, and the role of greenhouse gases in it (e.g. Lyell medallists Nick Shackleton, 1987; John Imbrie, 1991; Al Fischer, 1992; Mike Leeder, 1993; Harry Elderfield, 2003; Nick McCave, 2009; and Eric Wolff, 2012; Wollaston medallists Wally Broecker, 1990; James Lovelock, 2006; and Maureen Raymo, 2014; and Murchison medallist Bob Berner, 1996).  

This is not new science – indeed among the first geologists to explore the link between CO2 and climate were Sweden’s Arvid Högbom and the USA’s T.C. Chamberlin, in the 1890s. Much of our understanding of the role of CO2 in contributing to the control of our climate comes from the publications of geochemists (e.g. Bob Berner) and palynologists (e.g. Dana Royer and Dave Beerling, FRS), which may be unfamiliar to our ‘regular’ geologists. Indeed, much of this new understanding was unknown when, like Howard Dewhirst, I studied geology in the 1960s. CO2 and its potential effects on climate rate hardly a mention for example in the great Arthur Holmes’s Principles of Physical Geology (1965).

A vast body of geological, geochemical and palynological literature bearing on past climate change and its implications for the future has emerged in the past 30 years, much of it shut away in the scientific journals and so unfortunately available only to those few with paid access. It was to remedy that deficiency that a group of us helped the GSL to put together its climate change statements in 2010 and 2013 (which the reader can access on the GSL web site’s Policy page), and that I summarised much of the relevant literature in my book ‘Earth’s Climate Evolution’, in 2015.  None of this has anything directly to do with the so-called IPCC consensus, nor is it informed by what the IPCC has to say. It is geologically based, as are the publications listed below, and as is the work done by the medallists listed above. So before we opt for Howard Dewhirst’s suggestion that the GSL hold a meeting on the topic, perhaps we could persuade him to catch up on the geological literature, rather than worrying about whatever the IPCC may say.

Allow me to finish by pointing out one of the key findings of that recent literature. In 2013, Frederic Parrenin and colleagues reported in Science that a careful re-examination of the ages of ice and air bubbles in Antarctic ice cores demonstrated that there was in effect zero delay between warming and the natural emission of CO2, not the 800-year delay in CO2 emission quoted by Howard Dewhirst. The old paradigm has been overturned.

That helps to underline the point that while scepticism does indeed have its place in science, our geological knowledge is moving on. We must all keep up, or our scepticism will be misplaced. Let’s all read the relevant and up-to-date geological literature on climate change, starting with the GSL statements.

Colin Summerhayes, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge

Further reading

  • Foster, G.L., Royer, D.L., and Lunt, D.J., 2017, Future climate forcing potentially without precedent in the last 420 million years. Nature Comms. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14845.
  • Ruddiman, W.F., 2014, Earth’s Climate: Past and Future.  W.H. Freeman.
  • Beerling, D., 2007, The Emerald Planet. Oxford Uni. Press.
  • Bender, M.L., 2013, Paleoclimate. Princeton Primers in Climate. Princeton Uni. Press.

Anthropocene urban geology 02 May 2017

Received 02 MAY 2017
Published 02 MAY 2017
From David Nowell

dsthjSir, From the perspective of the next species to evolve geologists, within the next hundred million years, what will they make of our Anthropocene geological record?  From their point of view within the geological time scale, these geochemically distinct Asphaltian deposits will have ubiquitous sediments derived from brick and concrete rubble with occasional asphalt concrete (and occasional tarmac) pavements preserved beneath disconformities such as this set of cross-cutting relationships.    What on Earth will they make of a water trench cutting across a pavement, in turn cut by a cable duct 14cm wide?

David Nowell

A new CPD system - official response 19 April 2017

Received 19 APRIL 2017
Published 19 APRIL 2017
From John Talbot Chris Eccles

Sir, We write in response to David James (Soapbox, Geoscientist 27.4 April).  From his article, it seems to us that he misunderstands CPD, and how the new system is intended to function. Mr James raises a number of issues to which we respond via bullet points.

  • Firstly, from a comprehensive global survey of professional organisations across the English-speaking world, it was found that CPD is a universal requirement, to the extent that a simple definition of any professional is, inter alia, someone for whom CPD and its recording is a necessity.
  • All Fellows should have been carrying out CPD in line with the Code of Conduct, and the new system brings its ongoing practice into the C21st.
  • Before its approval by Council (see November 2016 Minutes, available at the new system was approved by both the Chartership and Professional Committees in March 2016. The report’s recommendations were also reviewed by teams appointed by each of the Regional Groups.
  • The announcement to accept the new CPD recommendations was delegated to the Chartership Committee.
  • Being ‘retired’ does not necessarily equate to being professionally inactive. What about occasional consultancy assignments, or pro bono advice to, say, charities?
  • Mr James’s research activities most certainly come under professional activities; thus, they qualify as CPD.
  • All CPD should be designed by the individual to suit his or her own needs and never for central bureaucrats – this latter has never been part of the old or new systems!
  • While CPD most assuredly does not ensure competency, it is self-evident that competency demands that CPD is undertaken.
  • Checks are made by an annual audit of 3-5% of Chartered Fellows CPD, selected at random, and to a set formal procedure.
  • All CPD information submitted by Fellows remains strictly confidential to themselves, apart from information essential to be able to perform an audit.
  • The new CPD is designed to be simpler and wider -ranging and will not need many hours of recording. It should take not more than 2-5 minutes per event, additional to planning and reflecting time (say 1-2 hours per year).

EurGeol Eur Ing John Talbot, Chartership Committee Chair; Professional Accreditation Committee

EurGeol Chris Eccles, Vice-President, Chartership; Chairman, Chartership Committee

Of cricket and rocks 18 April 2017

Received 18 APRIL 2017
Published 18 APRIL 2017
From Bryan Lovell

This morning I put down a copy of Nature Geoscience and picked up the new Wisden, which arrived last week to join the previous 153 editions. For the first time in print these two huge chunks of my life came together. Here are the words that did it:

"But something is missing, something that more than 97% of climate scientists agree on - from NASA to the Geological Society of London, and the nearly 200 countries who signed the Paris agreement in December 2015. Climate change is real, and it is extremely likely to be man- made."

Tanya Aldred, Cricket and Climate Change: How green is your sward?, Wisden 2017, pages 65-70.

To be picked out alongside just one other organisation in the specialist literature on climate change would be deserved recognition of our leadership, but still good going for our Society. To be picked out in Wisden really is remarkable.

Despite the summer conflict of the two field seasons, there are quite a few geologists who play cricket, and many more who follow the game.  Would a geological devotee of Wisden even go so far as to choose cricket rather than rocks as a preferred topic in a quiz?

In 1973 I told my head of department in Edinburgh, the redoubtable Professor (later Sir) Frederick Stewart, that I intended to appear on a Yorkshire Television quiz show hosted by Hughie Green. Fred at first looked apprehensive: this was not the style of television to which a serious scholar should give much attention. Then he relaxed when I reassured him that my subject would be cricket not rocks. Did I have his permission? "Yes, providing you win."

The tax-free top prize was equivalent to a year's salary for a Lecturer in Fred’s department in those heavily taxed days. The pressure was the greater, in that the quiz show involved, Sky’s The Limit, was a successor to Double Your Money. If you made the least error in attempting to double your money, you lost. Week by week during the autumn term the pressure built. Sedimentology and Siccar Point were intercalated with scores and Sydney Cricket Ground.

Lloyd’s, who were snooty, refused insurance on the notoriously difficult final question. I declined the unfavourable odds quoted by friendly Ladbrokes, and quit after winning the penultimate round. I pocketed a cheque for £1050 handed to me by Green, telling him I wanted to buy a new rear wheel for my bike. The next day I cycled up West Mains Road to tell Fred I was even more keen than usual to run his practical on evaporite petrography.

I also bought some earlier Wisdens, to sit with the heavily worn 1973 copy, and now with the Geological Edition of 2017.

Bryan Lovell

A new CPD system 18 April 2017

Received 18 APRIL 2017
Published 18 APRIL 2017
From Tony Bazley

Sir, David James is quite right of course that Fellows CPD forms should be confidential and marked as such. As I read it, they can be kept by the CGeol concerned and just produced on demand by authorised Society members. He is not correct that the new system will take many hours of work. I have tried it as a retired but now consultant CGeol and the new system is really simple. Once the log book is downloaded, the work categories are to hand and you have your own work diary it takes less than an hour a month.

I welcome the change and the recognition that not everyone is in a big company, in their youth (40-60 years of age) or full-time. When I stand in a court as an expert witness and that eagle-eyed barrister asks about the CGeol qualification I want to be confident it is professionally respected. Personal intentions for the future? A grave question indeed for those over 75.

Tony Bazley

IPCC and consensus 08 March 2017

Received 08 MARCH 2017
Published 08 MARCH 2017
From Howard Dewhirst
Sir,  Nobody can disagree that there is climate change. As geologists, we know about the continual, and even continuous changes, that are the stratigraphic record; none would deny there has been an increase (but of ~1oC) in average world temperatures since ~1880, nor that CO2 is increasing; but many geologists and other scientists, do not accept that there is a proven, and unique scientific and unbreakable link, between CO2 and catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change. And it is far from clear that this ~1oC rise is not primarily a product of the repeated fluctuations in temperature recorded over the last 10,000 years - since the ice last retreated.

Climate modellers in the late 1970s changed from prophesying a nuclear winter, which for many years had been the buzz phrase linked to the global cooling that had taken place between ~1943 and ~1973, and particularly so while I was studying geology in the 60s, to warning about anthropogenic global warming. This claim appeared increasingly justifiable as the century aged, for the thirty years of warming showed an increasingly clear trend. Linking this rise to the undeniable rise of CO2 was certainly something to consider, but what was not considered, was that half of the increase in temperature recorded since ~1880, had already happened by 1943, during a period when CO2 increased hardly at all. 

More geologically pertinent perhaps, is that the world’s supply of CO2 has declined steadily for the last 150 million years and that, after the last ice sheets withdrew, was lower at 280ppm, than it has ever been in the history of life since the Cambrian explosion. Global warming sceptics noted that during the Pleistocene glaciation, the apparent link between CO2 and temperature was that, as temperature rose or fell, CO2 moved up or down on a similar trajectory, but only after a lag of up to 800 years.  This simple observation was denounced by the IPCC and others, as demonstrating the mendacity of ‘global warming deniers’, who did not care about the world’s health. This observation has now been accepted as mainstream climate doctrine, even by anthropogenic CO2 driven climate change proponents.[1]  Other inconsistencies suggest that the IPCC hypothesis could be wrong; after the last ice age ended, temperatures rose ~8oC, and CO2 100ppm; since 1880, CO2 has risen by 120ppm, but temperature has barely managed 1oC; how does this fit the IPCC hypothesis of climate change?

As geologists, but not ‘real’ climate scientists perhaps (?), we also know that there is never complete consensus on any hypothesis, and new, initially unpopular ideas – such as plate tectonics, can become mainstream, and increasingly supported by new evidence, or can disappear, like miogeosynclines. Scepticism therefore does seem to have a valued place in science - but not, it seems from your editorial, in the science of anthropogenic climate change?

Looking further at the record of CO2, one third of the total increase since ~1880, has taken place since ~1996, during a time of slow-down, or hiatus in global warming – partially obscured by El Nino warming effects. IPCC’s response to this slowdown, was to drop global warming as a catch phrase, and substitute climate change instead. Is it not reasonable to question why these two examples of CO2 increases not affecting temperature changes, seem to have been studiously ignored in the vast amount of current climate change publications? Put another way, is it not more reasonable to ask, if CO2 does not always result in warming, how does it produce climate change?

Scepticism it seems, is never tolerated by consensus holders, so it is no surprise that a Google Search only produces articles that pay homage to the IPCC position. Popularity however – which is all Google search demonstrates, has, like consensus, never been equated with scientific accuracy or probity. Perhaps President Trump’s new EPA will look more carefully at both sides of the debate before committing the world to a potentially futile but very costly attempt to reduce CO2, which will achieve nothing but a reduction of the recent greening of the planet, and the increased crop yields that are measurable benefits of the increasing CO2 content.

If the sceptics are wrong about everything, let us hear them, so we can put them to shame and get the world’s EPA organisations back on track. I therefore call on the GSL, as representing all of its members, to convene an open climate change conference to hear, without rancour and personal innuendo, the present state of the argument. Failing this, I would like to present you and your colleagues some of the data that concern the many sceptics whose voice is rarely heard. This is not about ‘alternative facts’ but about some unpalatable facts.

Your telling quotation, “In an age of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act” is proof of nothing, as it could just as easily be applied to much of what the sceptics say about what IPCC puts forward, and also to the gagging order which prevents sceptical views being expressed in print, even after they have turned out to be correct, as is implied in the article referenced above “On paleoclimate time scales, however, the cause-effect direction is reversed: temperature changes cause subsequent CO2/CH4 changes.”  It seems unreasonable to accept that these paleoclimate effects have been vanquished by humanity’s 125ppm contribution to atmospheric CO2.

And as to whether or not speakers, geologists and other attendees will be suitably ‘qualified’ to speak, it might be useful to remember that the politicians who are going to have to implement whatever changes are called for, and journalists who write about them, are mostly unqualified scientifically, yet their combined voices carry more weight than those of the scientists whose work they rely on.

Howard Dewhirst FGS

[1] 'On the causal structure between CO2 and global temperature'; Adolf Stips, Diego Macias, Clare Coughlan, Elisa Garcia-Gorriz & X. San Liang Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 21691 (2016) doi:10.1038/srep21691:


Code buried 06 March 2017

Received 06 MARCH 2017
Published 06 MARCH 2017
From John Heathcote

Sir, Martin Shepley’s Soapbox (Geoscientist 27.02 March 2017) raises some interesting points.  I searched on our website for ‘ethics’ and found nothing.  By diligence I found our Code of Conduct, but not by following any obvious link and it was not found anywhere near the top of the list by the search engine; but at least this alerted me to its title.  The Code is binding on all Fellows, not just CGeols.

I wrote to Professor David Manning when he was President, drawing attention to the difficulty in finding the Code of Conduct on the website, and also to the lack of real guidance on how to deal with certain ethical issues.  (I no longer have his reply to hand, but it was along the lines of ‘noted, but not high priority’.)

We are in exactly the same position in 2017 – the Code remains  buried, and there is no useful guidance on how to tackle unreasonable requests to disguise the scientific truth or even to ignore illegal acts. I still find myself in ethically uncomfortable places, even as recently as this week.

The article also discusses the need not to stray from one’s area of expertise - which the Code also stresses.  However, how is one’s area of expertise proved?  My formal qualification in hydrogeology is a PhD.  This means that I was supervised rather than taught, and did not have to demonstrate to my examiners a grasp of all areas of hydrogeology to be awarded my degree in 1981. It was actually about inorganic hydrochemistry. 

I was able to demonstrate a wider grasp of hydrogeology when I applied for my CGeol in 1993.  I learned about groundwater modelling (which is the capacity in which I worked with Martin Shepley) ‘on the job’. Nowadays I do radioactively contaminated land, also worked out on the job. No-one offers a formal qualification in this, although I teach about it.

I can see the point in having a formal approval system for certain limited areas, but I am wary of trying to approve everything formally.  The scope of geological expertise is too great.  In any event, a formal qualification means only that you passed the exam, not that you have a thorough understanding of the topic.

No amount of formal framework will eliminate the possibility of fraud, which appears to be what Bre-X was about, or errors resulting from unknown unknowns, i.e. a professional being unaware of his ignorance of a topic. UK statute law already covers fraud, although professional ignorance involves the grey area of civil law. To what extent is ignorance negligence?

In the era of ‘post truth’ and also of more litigation, can we please have an accessible Code of Conduct and some guidance on its use?

John Heathcote MA PhD FGS CGeol

Hammer horror 01 February 2017

Received 01 FEBRUARY 2017
Published 01 FEBRUARY 2017
From Henk Schalke

Sir, Reading Geoscientist , December/January, 26.11, my particular attention was drawn by the article Tools of the Oldest Profession by Douglas Palmer .  

During fieldwork in the Cantabrian Mountains (N. Spain) I had the bad luck to break my hammer’s hickory shaft. Far away from the possibility of buying a new one (not to mention that my student allowance was gone already!) a local blacksmith offered to repair the hammer by first making 2 extraordinary iron pins and using these to reconnect the shaft to the head. With this hammer all my subsequent fieldwork was done.

In the 1990s that I met, at a geological conference, Giselle d’Ailly - a Dutch painter (once married to the mayor of Amsterdam) who had been asked by our Royal Geological Society here in the Netherlands to paint a portrait of her farther – none other than Willem van Waterschoot van der Gracht, godfather of geology in our country.

Willem van Waterschoot van der Gracht (1873-1943) studied Law, Geology and Mining respectively in Amsterdam and Freiburg (after his stay at the Jesuit College, Stonyhurst, in the UK).

Giselle asked me if it would be a good idea to paint her father in field gear. After some discussion we agreed  - and then she said: “But - I don’t have a hammer, which he always carried with him when doing fieldwork’.  I replied - “Don't worry I will bring you mine!”.

sdgukThe finished portrait was presented to the Geological Survey when their new building was opened by the Royal Prince Clause in 1990 in Haarlem.

You can imagine that we all were very pleased with this portrait, which is shown on the biography of van der Gracht, written by a good friend of mine (picture).

Nowadays the portrait hangs in the building of the Survey in yet another new building in Utrecht, with the real hammer also on display next to it.  (I was asked to donate the hammer so the visiting public could see how a used hammer looks like!).

Dr Henk J W G Schalke,  Oegstgeest.