[Coral-List] Leaked e-mails from Climate Research Unit - University of East Anglia
RichardPDunne at aol.com
Fri Dec 4 10:45:55 EST 2009
Yesterday (Thursday 3 Dec 2009) a prominent British newspaper - The
Times (London Times) published an Editorial on the recent debacle
surrounding the leaked Climate Research Unit e-mails about which there
has been much debate and which the IPCC has now decided to investigate.
The editorial is pertinent for it clearly reflects an unease concerning
the role of scientists. The Times is an influential publication.
The original article can be found at :
Here is the text:
Scientists must resist the urge to become partisan in their work.
Whatever one thinks of climate change, the leaked University of East
Anglia e-mails are a scandal
"If we are uncritical,” wrote Karl Popper, “we shall always find what we
want: we shall look for, and find, confirmations, and we shall look away
from, and not see, whatever might be dangerous to our pet theories.”
Most probably, Professor Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia,
never expected to be a public figure. As the head of the Climate
Research Unit, his may have been an unglamorous life, of data, computers
and number crunching. Then his e-mail was hacked. Overnight, an online
army of climate change sceptics rose up and declared him a villain.
They should not be alone. The charge against Professor Jones is that he
was unscientific, by virtue of being uncritical. In one e-mail, he wrote
of keeping two papers out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC). “I can’t see either . . . being in the next
report,” he wrote. “Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we
have to redefine what the peerreview literature is!”
In another, he discussed modifying a graph. “I’ve just completed Mike’s
/Nature/ trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last
20 years (ie, from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the
These were informal e-mails and Professor Jones may have been less
flippant had he known that they would be published. Even so, this is
dismal stuff. Try as we might, most of us will never fully understand
the science behind climate change. Thus we are forced to trust in those
who do. Professor Jones’s e-mails are a betrayal of that trust. They
strike a blow against the relationship between science and the public,
whether we believe in anthropogenic (man- made) climate change or not.
In the run-up to the United Nations summit on climate change in
Copenhagen next week, global warming is a hot topic. For those who
believe that the world’s temperature is changing, and that humanity is
at least partly responsible (a group that includes the IPCC, every major
government on Earth and this newspaper) the conference represents a
major opportunity to limit worldwide CO2 emissions. Any agreement could
have major ramifications on the GDP of nations and the lives of
billions. The actions of Professor Jones must give pause not just to
those who seek to cut emissions, but to everybody who seeks a scientific
basis for their arguments.
This leaves us in a poor place. Scientific scepticism is always
admirable and vital. Unscientific denial is a different matter. It is
important that we are realistic about the scale of the things that we do
not know, but the views of those who simply disregard the accumulated
evidence for global warming should be of no interest to any scientist,
save perhaps for a psychologist.
Of course, not all sceptics are worth listening to, either. If we are to
be sceptical about the work of reputable and learned meterologists and
palaeoclimatologists then we must be all the more so about the
counter-claims of their armchair critics. No impartial observer could
fail to note that this debate has a formidable array of international
scientists on one side, and (with some notable exceptions) noisier, less
qualified pundits on the other. The latter group is nonetheless growing,
possibly in response to the anticapitalist and hairshirt mindset of some
who believe that CO2 emissions must be curbed.
Many scientists may be appalled by this. Nonetheless, they must resist
the temptation to become not just researchers but also advocates. They
must be engaged in what Richard Dawkins called “the disinterested search
for the objective truth”, not the grubby business of partisan lobbying.
Their work and motives must be as pure as the driven snow. Whether it is
melting or not.
Richard P Dunne
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