Piers Richard Corbyn (born 10 March 1947) is an English astrophysicist, weather forecaster and businessman who owns WeatherAction, which makes weather forecasts. He is the older brother of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Early life and education
Corbyn was born in Chippenham, Wiltshire, and began recording weather and climate patterns at the age of five, constructing his own observation equipment. He attended Castle House School and at 18 he went to Imperial College of London, being awarded a first class BSc degree in physics in 1968. He commenced postgraduate research there into superconductivity, but then went into student representation and politics for some years. In 1979 he returned to postgraduate study at Queen Mary College, University of London, being awarded an MSc in Astrophysics in 1981.
In 1969 he became the first president of the Imperial College Students' Union to be directly elected by the student body. As president until 1970, Corbyn was successful in establishing a sabbatical union president, enabling the elected student leader to be registered at the college without having to study or pay fees (in fact they received a grant from the college and union).
Corbyn set up a short-lived Imperial College Representative Council, seats on which were distributed between members of the college on the basis of their numbers, a system that almost gave students a majority. The ICAUT, a staff union, refused to cooperate with this student-led initiative. Although this particular council did not survive, increased student representation on college boards and committees became, like the sabbatical president, a lasting success of Corbyn's time as ICU president.
Corbyn, together with the rector at the time, Lord Penney, received the Queen, when she opened a new administrative building in 1969, wearing a cravat, long hair and a beard for the occasion. During the visit Corbyn petitioned the Queen in front of 900 people, asking for students to be given greater say in the governance of the college.
Corbyn was a housing and squatters' rights activist in the north Paddington area of Westminster in the mid-1970s. In 1974 he fought for a seat on the council as a "Squatters and Tenants" candidate; in 1978 he and a colleague fought as 'Decent Housing' candidates. In the 1977 GLC election he was the International Marxist Group candidate for Lambeth Central. He and some of the squatters in Elgin Avenue were, as a result of their campaign which included the building of barricades against eviction, rehoused by the GLC in 1975 spread out between Westminster and in other London boroughs to discourage the risk of further united action. He later moved from that rehousing in Rust Square to the Alvey Estate in Southwark where he became a leader of the tenants association.
Corbyn was a member of the Labour Party and served as a councillor in the London borough of Southwark, Burgess Ward, between 1986 and 1990. In 1987, Corbyn was arrested for the defacing of an Alliance poster; he was subsequently released without charge. For seven years he was an unpaid campaigns organiser in Bermondsey and Southwark, being thanked by Tony Blair in 1998 at Downing Street. Piers Corbyn left the Labour Party in 2002 in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, and stood as an independent candidate on housing issues in the Southwark election in 2015.
His brother, Jeremy Corbyn, has been Labour MP for Islington North since 1983 and in September 2015 was elected leader of the Labour Party. In August 2015, Piers Corbyn supported his brother's campaign in Labour Party leadership election, on the basis that he stood for proper debate and accountability, including on climate. He tweeted: "ONLY poll that counts open14Aug. Back #JeremyCorbyn 2lead Labour! Register 2vote by Midday12Aug #Corbyn4Labour #Piers". According to The Sunday Times in September 2017, his attempt to rejoin the Southwark Constituency Labour Party in January 2017 was blocked.
Corbyn's denial of current global warming has tended to find more favour in right-wing Conservative circles, however. The Mayor of London Boris Johnson has repeatedly suggested in his Daily Telegraph column and elsewhere that Corbyn might be correct. Corbyn has, however, criticised Margaret Thatcher's promotion of man-made global warming (also saying that she later recanted her doom-mongering) around the time of the UK miners' strike (1984–85), judging it a disingenuous attempt to justify shutting down coal mines.
Following some years of weather prediction as an occupation, he formed WeatherAction, a business, in 1995. WeatherAction is the business through which Corbyn sells his predictions. He has in the past bet on these predictions. His betting attracted much interest in 1990, when his predictions of severe weather were met by a year of the "worst extremes".
WeatherAction was formerly listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) as 'Weather Action Holdings plc' in 1997, and was transferred back to private ownership in 1999, primarily because of sustaining increasing losses and the impact of costs related to listed status (around £70,000 annually) compared to annual revenues of £250,000. Corbyn reacquired the weather prediction business; the listed shell was taken over by investors and changed its name to 'InternetAction.com', with the intent of researching potential net-based takeover targets.
WeatherAction exited the Alternative Investment Market in 1999 after reported losses incurred during its time as a public company of £480,000 and its share price dropped from 79p a share to 24p.
Corbyn's predictions are based on what is called "The Solar Weather Technique". The technique "combines statistical analysis of over a century of historical weather patterns with clues derived from solar observations." He considers past weather patterns and solar observations and sun-earth magnetic connectivity. Conventional meteorology claims that such influences cause minimal impact on the Earth's atmosphere. Corbyn has declined to publish the details of his method.
The only study involving Corbyn's work published in a peer-reviewed journal was in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics (2001). Its investigation was limited to Corbyn's 'likely damaging gale periods' predictions for the island of Great Britain for October 1995 to September 1997. Corbyn's enlisted work (carried out for a consortium of insurance companies) was only for the most likely periods of the strongest winds and specifically not a full forecast to include lesser winds:
- "Forecasts prepared by WeatherAction would repay further attention. The results provide little evidence to dismiss the observed success rates as being attributable to mere chance or good fortune. Indeed the balance of evidence indicates that the system performs better than chance although it is recognized that the margin of success differs greatly between the seasons and is lowest in winter when gales are most frequent."
- "This analysis has been wholly empirical in nature, seeking only to establish the success levels of the gale forecasts. Other aspects of the forecasts have not been considered in this evaluation. Inevitably however these results draw into the debate questions surrounding the methodology by which the forecasts are prepared. This is not, however, the arena in which such issues should be taken up."
Researchers also stated of Corbyn's predictions that:
- "It is unusual for most of the detail to be completely correct, but equally it is rare for nearly everything to be wrong ... Some forecasts are clearly very good, and a few are very poor, but the majority fall in the grey area in between, where an optimistic assessor would find merit, but a critical assessor would find fault."
Critics have pointed to inaccurate predictions, such as a white Easter in 1989, and "raging weather" in September 1997. WeatherAction predictions have sometimes been contested by the Met Office, such as in 2008.
Following criticism of WeatherAction's forecasts in The Times and The Guardian, in particular from journalist Paul Simons, Piers Corbyn forbade the use of any extracts of them in any articles unless he had approved them. In addition, he also forbade newspapers and any publication which carried articles by Paul Simons from quoting them.[verification needed] It is not clear what authority Corbyn's proclamation was based on, and neither The Times nor The Guardian have ceased the practice.
In an article in the technology magazine Wired entitled "The Fraudulent Business of Earthquake and Eruption Prediction", Erik Klemetti, an assistant professor of Geosciences at Denison University, accused Corbyn of "cherry picking" and said people who claimed to be able to forecast earthquakes were "faith healers of the geologic community and should be seen as such".
Stance on global warming
Corbyn has stated his belief that the anthropogenic contribution to global warming is minimal with any increase in temperature due to increased solar activity. In 2008 Corbyn went even further than being sceptical, and took an absolutist, certain position by stating, "CO2 has never driven, does not drive and never will drive weather or climate. Global warming is over and it never was anything to do with CO2. CO2 is still rising but the world is now cooling and will continue to do so." In 2009 he attended the International Conference on Climate Change organised by the Heartland Institute.
He writes about his views, including the idea that the world is experiencing cooling, on his website and appears on talk shows to discuss what he considers to be weaknesses of the argument for man-made global warming. He featured in a Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle in 2007; a scientifically-reviewed complaint to Ofcom noted that he was introduced as 'Dr Piers Corbyn, Climate Forecaster' despite not having a doctorate nor any qualification specifically in climate science or environmental science. In 2015 BBC Radio 4 apologised for an “unfortunate lapse” of a documentary, presented by Daily Mail journalist Quentin Letts, which featured Corbyn in a critique of the Met Office's views on climate change while failing to mention the scientific consensus.
His first papers were published as an undergraduate in the Royal Meteorological Society's magazine Weather discussing his brine-filled barometer; in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association for his home-based measurements of the eccentricity of the earth's orbit; and in the Geographical Journal (of the Royal Geographical Society) for a study on the size of pebbles along Chesil Beach.
- Wired: "Everyone Complains About the Weather... Piers Corbyn Is Doing Something About It." Tom Standage, February 1999. URL accessed 14 March 2007.
- Usborne, Simon. "Is there trouble ahead for Jeremy Corbyn? Enter sibling Piers, the wacky weatherman.." The Independent. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
- INTERVIEW: PIERS CORBYN 1 June 2007 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
- Whether the weather be... QUAD Magazine, 2007, Queen Mary University of London
- The History of Imperial College London, 1907–2007, Hannah Gay, p. 437
- Gay, Hannah (2007). The History of Imperial College London, 1907–2007. London: Imperial College Press, 437, 477 and Illustration 102. ISBN 978-1-86094-708-7.
- Harrow Road ward election results
- "Greater London Council Election results: Lambeth".
- Ex-Labour councillor Piers Corbyn to stand in Chaucer by-election Friday 3 April 2015, Bankside Press
- "In Brief". The Glasgow Herald. 11 June 1987. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
- Paul Vallely He visited in glory days of '97, but has Blair kept his vow to Aylesbury Estate? The Independent, Tuesday 12 April 2005
- Wheeler, Caroline; Leake, Jonathan (24 September 2017). "Jeremy Corbyn's brother Piers rejected by Labour". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 24 September 2017. (subscription required)
- Will climate-change denier Piers scupper brother Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid? Tom Batchelor, Jul 25, 2015, Express newspaper
- Piers Corbyn denies claims that he opposes brother Jeremy’s Labour leadership bid Southwark News, 20 August 2015
- Corbyn, Pier (11 August 2015). "ONLY poll that counts open14Aug. Back #JeremyCorbyn 2lead Labour! Register 2vote by Midday12Aug #Corbyn4Labour #Piers". Twitter. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
- News from Jenny Jones AM: Boris Johnson’s climate sceptic views will not help London for profound climate challenges 27 September 2013, Assembly Member press releases, London.gov.uk
- Boris Johnson's climate change "scepticism" is an embarrassment to London's scientists The New Statesman (date?), by Bob Ward, London School of Economics and Political Science.
- The man who repeatedly beats the Met Office at its own game The Daily Telegraph, December 2010
- Piers Corbyn: the other rebel in the family The Observer, Tim Adams, 24 January 2016
- Weather: The man who makes money out of sun-spots, The Independent, 24 October 1997.
- Haven't the foggiest? Read on, The Independent, 22 November 1998. Said to be listed "13 months" prior to publication, ie 1997.
- Atkinson, Dan (24 November 1999). "Weather goes private again". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- MacAlister, Terry (21 December 1999). "Netvest shows 500% return". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
- WeatherAction: "WeatherAction" URL accessed 14 March 2007
- Black, Richard (10 June 2007). "'No Sun link' to climate change". BBC. Retrieved 7 January 2008.
- The Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Vol 63, Issue 1, January 2001, p. 29-34:  URL accessed 8 September 2015. DOI 10.1016/S1364-6826(00)00155-3
- How Good Is He, Anyway? – Wired, Issue 7.02, Feb 1999
- Feedback – 15 April 1989 – New Scientist (Subscription only)
- Rowan, Matthew (22 November 1998). "Haven't the foggiest? Read on – Business, News – The Independent". London: www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
- Guardian "Prediction of −17 °C freeze cuts no ice with Met Office" Helen Pidd, The Guardian, January 2008
- Killer Storms To Lash Britain Daily Express, Jo Macfarlane, 17 October 2007. URL accessed 20 November 2007.
- Whatever happened to the 'coldest May in 100 years'? Leo Hickman. The Guardian, 1 June 2012
- Hottest August in 300 YEARS on way as jet stream BOILS Britain Daily Express, Nathan Rao, Jul 31, 2014
- Rao, Nathan (27 November 2014). "Now even MORE forecasters warn of Arctic freeze: Britain to plunge into severe cold winter".
- "WeatherAction home page". Retrieved 5 March 2008.
- "Comments from Piers". 11 January 2012. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012.
- "The fraudulent business of earthquake and eruption prediction".
- "THE ROLE OF THE SPOTLESS SUN - Climate Realists".
- Think-tanks take oil money and use it to fund climate deniers The Independent, 7th Feb 2010
- Response to BBC2 "Climate Wars" 2008.
- on YouTube 2009
- "Full Ofcom Complaint, Table of Contents, page i".
- What’s The Point of… the Met Office? Ian Burrell, October 2015, The Independent