[Coral-List] Leaked e-mails from Climate Research Unit - University of East Anglia

Richard Dunne RichardPDunne at aol.com
Fri Dec 4 10:45:55 EST 2009

Dear Listers

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:

  Science fictions

    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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