Climategate’s aftermath at UEA, inquiries and an apology

What was to become known as Climategate hit the School of Environmental Science at UEA like a blast from a twelve bore shotgun, causing damage everywhere, confusion and mad chicken flutterings. Few knew whether the emails were genuine or a gigantic smear job. Those that did know were keeping low. The few of us consulting sceptical blogs for information were advised not to race to conclusions because the veracity of the emails was still in question. But underneath a miracle was being perceived, growing ever brighter and more clearly defined. Threats to CRU, its enfolding School of Environmental Science (ENV) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) were becoming more apparent in our minds.

A meeting boycotted 

Two days after the email release, the Head of School hurriedly called an extraordinary School meeting to which all staff were to attend.

At that time I was Director of Admissions for the School and was anticipating an Open Day the following week at which I would need to answer questions from accompanying parents. I anticipated questions about the email release and so desperately needed to know what the School’s position was. I didn’t learn this at the meeting for two reasons. The first was because the School hadn’t formulated any coherent response and was imposing omertà. The second reason was that I had stormed out of the meeting in high dudgeon. The Head of School was on a rantfest against evil sceptics who had made the lives of members of CRU a “living hell”, then went on to attack those who were sceptical of the “magnificent work” being done within CRU. All the time she knew of my sceptical views. Finally I could take no more. I rose and left the staff room as loudly as I could. As I left, I saw Keith Briffa rise to his feet and begin to defend me and my scepticism. That cemented a long friendship.

The next day the Head of School visited my office and offered an apology. She basically asked me to shade the truth from visiting parents the following week. I refused to do this but no critical questions were ever asked. Having missed the end of the meeting where promises of abject loyalty were extracted from staff I indeed became a loose cannon. For some time afterward I was treated with kid gloves. To my utter astonishment I was called into the Head of School’s office and asked for my opinion about a letter to be sent to certain newspapers explaining the School’s position about what was now being called Climategate. Much later I came to believe I was considered, for a short time, not so much a loose cannon, but as a landmine, capable of inflicting further damage if I went off.  

In came the Science Bigwigs 

After the approach by Head of School I was even asked for my opinions by the Vice Chancellor’s Office regarding the makeup of the forthcoming inquiries. I wrote long and reasoned emails insisting that critics and sceptics must be included in order to confer credibility. But by then, whatever influence I had had diminished to a tiny spark. I received no acknowledgment nor feedback. The powers-that-be had regained control, had political and academic support of the first rank, and were confident that the rug that had been pulled was now firmly being put back in place.  

By this time I had reached retirement age (to which Phil Jones was so looking forward) but I worked full time for an additional two years, and then a further two years still teaching my Fossil Fuels module. I’m sure this went down a treat within CRU (not). During this time I pulled away from the Climategate controversy. I deliberately had not followed news about the CRU inquiries (it was too painful) barely noticing when they finished and their results were published. I got my information solely from sceptical blogs so have no new input to share here.

After Climategate much opprobrium was cast onto Professor Edward Acton, UEA’s Vice Chancellor, for failing to properly investigate CRU and stacking the inquiries to obtain desired outcomes. I had met him at various times at official functions and he seemed to me to be a pleasant, quiet-spoken man, a historian of Russia, and not at all the Machiavellian figure he was later portrayed as being. But who could tell?  

Without a scientific background he would have been totally reliant upon others for advice. The loudest voices would have been listened to and acted upon. I suspect, but have no proof, that the makeup of the inquiries was a product of the influence of a Pro Vice Chancellor (who at one time had once been head of CRU) and of outside forces, notably from the Royal Society and the Met. Office. It wasn’t just UEA that would suffer and be besmirched if CRU were found to be guilty of high crimes against Science. Recall also that the highly influential 2006 Stern Report had as one of its support legs the climate projections from CRU. Failure to support CRU, and the Stern Report could be dismissed or severely damaged, together with all the support from governments worried by the economic implications of climate change. The Tyndall Centre, also largely within UEA, was also dependent on “The Science” as produced by CRU. Remove the credibility of the CRU data and projections, and everything dependent upon it would crumble. The Tyndall Centre had been core-funded (£19 million) by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. Much egg would have landed on these organisations if CRU were to have been shown to have cooked the books, and many important reputations would have been trashed.  I suspect retribution from these granting bodies would have been significant. 

These are factors largely ignored when casting blame for the subsequent whitewashing of CRU. I believe Ed Acton was placed in an almost impossible position, but at the end of the day he did lack the resolve to withstand external pressures. Perhaps his judgement was that less harm would be done to his University by supporting CRU and acquiescing to those external pressures. In the long run, who can say his judgement was incorrect?  
Nevertheless Acton was held personally responsible for the tragedy and travesty that the inquiries became, and opponents moved on to claim the whole University was at fault for the actions of its Vice Chancellor and his lackeys. It was argued that the whole university should be closed down as a tarnished institution; a view I considered then and now to be absolute rubbish.

When I tried to express this viewpoint at Bishop Hill after Climategate 2, suggesting that critics try to stand in Acton’s shoes with an entire University in his charge, I met complete resistance, with no one willing to support any part of the position I was taking. I doubt if this has changed much in the intervening years. Acton is still regarded in sceptic circles with no redeeming or mitigating features. Other actors disappeared smartish into the undergrowth.

Interviewed by the police

One person still well within the undergrowth is the person responsible for the email release. Naturally Norfolk’s Finest were put on their trail and everyone relevant was interviewed. That is except for myself and Paul Dennis. Odd because we both were avowed sceptics and therefore it might have been presumed that we were prime candidates for being the email releaser. Some considerable time later, after we had thought the inquisitions had concluded, we were asked to submit ourselves. Actually this was on the basis that Paul had contacted Steve McIntyre in the past and both of us had refused to sign a widely circulated petition in support of Phil Jones et al. I was told that Schmidt sicked the Fuzz on Paul.  

Not only did the Fuzz fail to identify a culprit, but they also failed to discover if the email release was the result of an external hack or an internal leak. But, given how it’s still being identified, there is no question that it is considered, by those that count, as a hack and a crime. The police inquiry was just as inept as all the other inquiries linked to Climategate.

A final surprise letter

A surprising aftermath of Climategate 2 occurred when I received a written letter of apology from Phil Jones in his role of (restored) Head of CRU. He apologised for the “unprofessional” way in which he and other CRU members had behaved in writing the emails about me. I wrote back asking if there might be further emails involving me that could be exposed at a future date, and whether or not it was within his power to apologise for others within CRU for their actions (I felt not). There was no response. I didn’t really expect one. I later discovered that Professor Jones had been compelled to write the apology by the then new Head of School and so it must have been written between gritted teeth. But for me it provided a half decent end to the whole business.

Finale

Climategate left a badly battered University and several research units that so easily could have been closed down. Instead CRU became like a phoenix, rising ever stronger and still pursuing goals that have IMHO no real meaning or validity. Other linked research units suffered no damage at all. To evaluate the significance of the two climategates, read what Wikipedia has to say about them. From my perspective it is a complete pack of lies. Reality has been buried deep.

38 Comments

  1. Fascinating and insightful.
    Thank you for reliving this and giving readers your unique perspective.
    The social madness of the consensus was firmly entrenched before climategate. The way it not only weathered what should have splintered the climate hype gang if not ended it altogether tells much.

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  2. Alan, I searched on Bishop Hill to try to find out which camp I was in re: Acton. But I couldn’t find anywhere that I had commented on him either way. I’m sure I would have been my usual respectful self if I had thought ill of him. But I can’t remember, nor find out. Oh well…

    Searching back through those old threads throws up the handles of lots of commenters that I remember but no longer encounter. Where do they comment now? Are some of them 6 feet under? Is it just that they changed their handle? I guess with BH moribund but for Unthreaded, maybe they went away. Or perhaps they have given up. Call us what you like, we had lots of smart folk on our side ten years ago. I guess we still have smart folk – but perhaps our numbers have dwindled.

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  3. thanks for posts Alan, not that you need it, but you have my respect your stance.

    re – JIT & Bishop Hill – “Dung” had always the best comments (IMO), Like you I often wonder what became of “Dung”

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  4. Fascinating. I’m still surprised they were so anxious to protect CRU, since, from what I remember, all the obviously bad stuff was sent by Jones, and the worst sin (the fiddling with dates to get a refutation of McIntyre &McKittrick into play in time) wouldn’t be obvious at a quick reading. I suspect Acton and others never read the emails, but just took Jones’ word for it that it was an attack on CRU in general. Monbiot saw the danger straight away and said Jones should resign, which would have saved a lot of face and time.

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  5. Geoff, perhaps you forget that Universities are commonly ranked (or otherwise assessed) by reputation and by research income. UEA was (and still is) a small, rather provincial university with two acknowledged first-rank Schools – Creative Writing, and Environmental Sciences with the latter heavily supported by CRU. CRU also shone in terms of attracting research income, and importantly income from the USA. So important was ENV (+CRU) that it was once proposed that the entire school be packed up and shifted to Cambridge.

    I am not at all surprised that this excision was resisted and that later CRU was defended, not only by the University but by the scientific powers that be in the U.K. and further afield.

    As to putting most of the blame on Jones, remember that the release was mostly of emails that were directed at other CRU members or people from abroad who had their fingers in the same pies. I always wondered if the focus upon Jones could be explained in other ways. Could the releaser have a particular animus against Jones, or was it even more simple than that – the releaser had greater access to the Jones emails? For me, the emails anyway were subordinate to the comments of “Harry”. Those did more damage to CRU’s reputation as an honest broker of other people’s data.

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  6. ALAN KENDALL
    Perhaps I expressed myself badly. Wouldn’t it have been easier to ask Jones to resign and thus protect the reputation of CRU? Then the media attention would have been drawn to the obvious bad stuff “..good news in a way,” “..if we have to change the definition of peer review,” “I’d rather destroy the data..” etc. (I’m quoting from memory) and away from the wider questions about the work done at CRU. The story would then have been about an irascible grunch shooting his mouth off and not about the science. As it turned out, the media focus was largely on defending “the science” (after Monbiot’s initial burst of clarity) and Jones’s worst outbursts (apart from “Mike’s Nature trick”) hardly got any attention.

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  7. Geoff. I believe you are overestimating the “crimes” of Jones and grossly underestimating the spread of the rot, emanating from the whole of CRU. Picking upon Jones and treating him as a lone scapegoat would not have sufficed. Climategate revealed an entire network, heavily involved in controlling the message coming out of the ISPG and broadcast to the world in instalments, much originating from CRU itself. CRU needed to be shown whiter than white, and so it was. What was done was riskier and that was to hold the line, repeat over and over, “nothing to see here, move on”. This strategy could not have been accomplished by Ed Acton, which is why I’m convinced the movers and shakers of the policy lay elsewhere and have been essentially hidden from public gaze by misdirection.

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  8. @ DFHunter, it didn’t help that so many commenters did not use their real names. I always went by Jit which was semi-anonymous anyway I suppose. But we had The Leopard in the Basement, The Big Yin James, Justice 4 Rinka plus a load of others I can’t name at this second….. we even had someone called Supertroll. Wonder what became of him? 🙂

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  9. Thanks for a fascinating post.

    Ah, Yes – “Leopard in the Basement” – wish I’d thought of it.

    I always thought that blaming UAE as a whole for the CRU’s scientific corruption was as lazy as it was absurd. Recall that it was also the home of what is now “The School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing” which developed from a pioneering course founded by Angus Wilson and one of my favourite novelists, Malcom Bradbury. That said, I wonder what as witty a satirist as Bradbury would have made of this:

    “Ground-breaking UEA PhD scholarships to bring together climate science and creative writing”

    https://www.uea.ac.uk/news/-/article/ground-breaking-uea-phd-scholarships-to-bring-together-climate-science-and-creative-writing

    Words fail me. Anyway, it’s the wider context of the Climategate affair that is surely critical, especially its financial and political aspects. These went way, way beyond internal spats at or the financial health and prestige of, with respect, a provincial university. All that mattered was to get the ship back on course. (See also, of course, Michael Mann.)

    As we all know, the scandal broke on the eve of 2009’s COP15 in Copenhagen. The Western left/right political concensus on climate was to be severely tested especially by the countries we now know as BRICS. I’d argue that the Western polities have never really recovered from the loss of face and ‘scientific’ authority that followed Climategate and subsequent revelations that the UN’s prestigious IPCC based key predictions about the fate of millions of people on junk science – fiddled temperature records, lost pauses, Indian glaciers, Amazon forests, African rainfall, Bengali islands, the biz.

    Domestically, the Renewables Obligations (RO/ROS) were even in those days a significant cash cow for the power supply sector and promised to be long-lived provided only that targets were continuously raised. As I wrote back in 2003:

    “UK demand is increasing by one per cent a year and could be 325,000 GWh by 2010, when the [Renewables Obligation] will be ten per cent. A premium of £10/MWh would thus be worth some £350 million annually. Clearly, if every supplier meets its target there will be no ROC Pot [traders’ term for Renewables Obligation Certificates trading]. All suppliers will benefit equally from the renewables subsidies: the trough will be just as full but there will be no battle of the snouts. However, given the pressure to increase ‘renewable’ targets to increasingly dangerous levels, traders do not anticipate this in the medium-term future. Why should they? Scottish New Labour has already set a totally unviable 40 per cent renewables target for 2020 and the SNP has called for this to be increased. The smaller parties (Greens, SSP) seem unable either to evaluate New Labour’s energy policies or to develop their own. Ironically, they have become part of the problem.

    “And in the longer term, as conventional and nuclear plant is phased out due to its age? Well, that’s not what traders are paid to think about.”

    It was dispiriting but unsurprising that one of the two cover-up inquiries was chaired by Lord Oxburgh of Falck Renewables and the other, University of East Anglia’s independent-but-behind-closed-doors review, by the widely mistrusted Sir Russell Muir. He was either already or soon became a ScottishPower board member. (I’d need to check.) If you think you really couldn’t make that up, recall that the then chair of the Scottish Government’s “Committee on Climate Change” was also CEO of Scottish and Southern Energy. Mercifully, I forget his name.

    In short, too much was at stake for everyone who was anyone to give a hoot about CRU staff.

    Dave

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  10. I read the piece twice looking for a valid piece of evidence from the emails that proved scientific wrongdoing, or which cast the reality of AGW into doubt, or which could reaonably be expected to change policy.

    A simple question and one I’ve repeatedly asked elsewhere to no avail.

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  11. Just checked (it has been nearly 15 years) – Sir Russell Muir was a member of ScottishPower’s ‘Advisory Board’, not SSE’s proper board, when he chaired UEA’s ‘independent’ inquiry into Climategate. Don’t tell me that no decision maker at UEA was unaware of that fact or its implications. Nine-bob notes don’t come into it.

    https://www.scottishpower.com/news/pages/scottishpower_appoints_new_advisory_board.aspx

    No, I haven’t a clue what an ‘advisory board’ is for but don’t worry – the link includes a pic of some important chap meeting Alex ‘Big Eck’ Salmond in his prime. Treasure it.

    I’d been frustrated for years by the general silence on the issue but I now find (or am reminded?) that one Susan Ewens commented sensibly on the conflict of interest to the HoC’s Science & Technology Select Committe. Great! No doubt Lord Deben of Trough sorted it all out. See:

    https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/climatedata/uc1302.htm

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  12. Phil: “I read the piece twice looking for a valid piece of evidence from the emails that proved scientific wrongdoing”.

    Andrew Montford’s “Hiding the Decline” is a wordy but useful account of the affair that, in my view at least, demonstrates scientific wrongdoing beyond any reasonable doubt.

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  13. Phil
    Strange to see you here, but AFAIC you are welcome.

    My article was about Climategate from my viewpoint, and because I played little part in the inquiries I have nothing to add. We are most unlikely ever to agree about the rectitude of activities of CRU as revealed in the emails, or in the rigour of the various inquiries “investigating” them. I’ll not waste my time nor our readers by indulging you.

    Quoting from the Guardian here does not earn brownie points.

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  14. Phil Clark wrote, “…looking for a valid piece of evidence from the emails that proved scientific wrongdoing…”

    You’re joking, right?

    You don’t think fudging temperature data to support an activist agenda is scientific wrongdoing, as when Tom Wigley proposed adjusting-down the “1940s warming blip” by 0.15 degC?
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1254108338.txt

    You don’t think “Mike’s Nature trick” (to “hide the decline” which showed that their proxy methods were untrustworthy) is scientific wrongdoing?

    https://sealevel.info/climategate.html

    You don’t think blackballing skeptics is scientific wrongdoing?
    https://www.google.com/search?q=blackballing+site:sealevel.info/FOIA/&filter=0&biw=1736&bih=842

    How about flouting FOIA laws to hide data from skeptics, or even destroying data & emails subject to FOIA, to keep skeptics from getting ahold of them? Do you not think even that is scientific wrongdoing?
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1107454306.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/2368.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1212063122.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1212073451.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1231257056.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1473.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1577.txt
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/2440.txt

    How about UK climate organizations coordinating to resist FoIA requests — and getting advice about how to do so from the Information Commissioner! Do you not think such corrupt practices constitute scientific wrongdoing??
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/1219239172.txt

    and lots, lots more:
    https://sealevel.info/FOIA/

    Phil Clark wrote, “…looking for a valid piece of evidence… which cast the reality of AGW into doubt, or…”

    “The reality of AGW”? Please try to be serious! Surely you must know that the climate debate has never been about whether AGW is real.

    The debate is over whether AGW is harmful or beneficial. The best scientific evidence is that the warming effect of anthropogenic GHG emissions is modest and benign, and CO2 emissions are beneficial, rather than harmful. Here are a few relevant papers:

    Dayaratna, K.D., McKitrick, R. & Michaels, P.J. Climate sensitivity, agricultural productivity and the social cost of carbon in FUND. Environ Econ Policy Stud 22, 433–448 (2020). doi:10.1007/s10018-020-00263-w

    Uddin S, Löw M, Parvin S, Fitzgerald GJ, Tausz-Posch S, Armstrong R, O’Leary G, Tausz M. Elevated [CO2] mitigates the effect of surface drought by stimulating root growth to access sub-soil water. PLoS One. 2018 Jun 14;13(6):e0198928. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0198928

    Fitzgerald GJ, et al. Elevated atmospheric [CO2] can dramatically increase wheat yields in semi-arid environments and buffer against heat waves. Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Jun;22(6):2269-84. Glob Chang Biol. 2016 Jun;22(6):2269-84. doi:10.1111/gcb.13263.

    Donohue, RJ, Roderick, ML, McVicar, TR, and Farquhar, GD (2013), Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments, Geophys. Res. Lett., 40, 3031–3035, doi:10.1002/grl.50563.

    O’Leary GJ, et al. Response of wheat growth, grain yield and water use to elevated CO2 under a Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) experiment and modelling in a semi-arid environment. Glob Chang Biol. 2015 Jul;21(7):2670-2686. doi:10.1111/gcb.12830.

    Loehle, C., Idso, C., & Bently Wigley, T. (2016). Physiological and ecological factors influencing recent trends in United States forest health responses to climate change. Forest Ecology and Management, 363, 179–189. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.12.042

    Zhu, Z Piao, S, Myneni, RB, et al (2016). Greening of the Earth and its drivers. Nature Climate Change, 6(8), 791–795. doi:10.1038/nclimate3004

    Those are all recent papers, but studies measuring the benefits of elevated CO2 go back more than a century; for example:
    Gradenwitz A. Carbonic Acid Gas to Fertilize the Air. Scientific American, November 27, 1920. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican11271920-549

    eCO2 is measurably greening the Earth, and NASA measures it from satellites:

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  15. “Andrew Montford’s “Hiding the Decline” is a wordy but useful account of the affair that, in my view at least, demonstrates scientific wrongdoing beyond any reasonable doubt.”

    I haven’t read it, however I have read some of his blog posts and frankly, from a formal statistics point of view, they are laughable. But if you want to get your climate science from an accountant, do carry on.

    https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-montford-delusion/

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  16. Professor Kendal,

    I appreciate your laying out of your experience at CRU as valuable colour and texture. However your reluctance to engage over the substance (or lack thereof) of what is in the emails bemuses.

    As a professor, what would say is the aim is of the scientific endeavour? I ask as a layman.

    We have the emails so we can dispense with the investigations and go direct to the source. For sure there are examples of less than optimal scientific rectitude. Nobody is perfect and I suspect a 10 year trawl of my emails (or Stephen McIntyre’s or Andrew Montford’s) would throw up some examples of imperfect conduct. Phil Jones probably escaped prosecution for FOI offences on a technicality. But big picture, you assert that:

    ” Much egg would have landed on these organisations if CRU were to have been shown to have cooked the books, and many important reputations would have been trashed.  I suspect retribution from these granting bodies would have been significant. ”

    Which is undoubtably the case, however where is the evidence that CRU did ‘cook the books’? The emails are out there, answer or indeed evidence came there none.

    “I got my information solely from sceptical blogs”

    Not sure this is in line with the best traditions of enquiry. In fact, paradoxically it seems to be the opposite of scepticism.

    “Myth: The University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails prove that temperature data and trends were manipulated.

    Fact: Not true. Petitioners say that emails disclosed from CRU provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate data. The media coverage after the emails were released was based on email statements quoted out of context and on unsubstantiated theories of conspiracy. The CRU emails do not show either that the science is flawed or that the scientific process has been compromised. EPA carefully reviewed the CRU emails and found no indication of improper data manipulation or misrepresentation of results.”

    From

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  17. Phil,

    Thank you for your response, Phil, and apologies for the delay in your latest comments appearing on this thread. However, you should be aware that this article is a personal account of Dr Kendall’s involvement at UEA and he has already explained that he is neither able nor inclined to engage in further debate upon the content of the emails or the subsequent investigations. I believe you should also respect his advice that no meeting of minds can be expected from further debate on this subject. Differences of opinion on this matter are already well documented. You have nothing new to say here, and I suspect neither would anyone who chooses to respond. I respectfully request, therefore, that we either leave the matter here, or take the debate elsewhere in order that this thread may concentrate directly upon Dr Kendall’s reminiscences.

    I appreciate that you might have seen an ideal opportunity to discuss the emails with someone who was involved at UEA at the time of Climategate, but I don’t think you should be bemused by Dr Kendall’s reticence to accommodate your interest. To you and I, this is a matter of academic interest. To Dr Kendall, Climategate was a cause for personal regret and his article explores the reasons for that. It wasn’t, as I see it, an invitation to restoke the fire.

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  18. “if you want to get your climate science from an accountant, do carry on.”

    * As a layman, I get my climate science from texts written by those qualified in the field;

    * Montford is a chemist by training, not an accountant;

    * The review by Tamino you linked to is of a different book;

    * The book I cited describes moves to discredit a competent statistician but is not about statistics as such. Montford’s competence in the discipline is marginally relevant at best;

    * Beyond thanking AK again for an insightful contribution (and apologising for not spotting that he referred to UEA’s pioneering role in creative writing as a discipline before I did), I’m going to take John R’s advice and say no more.

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  19. Phil. I am neither a Kendal, nor at UEA was I a Professor (although I was one at Toronto). As to the content of your posts, ‘What John Ridgway said”.

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  20. John,

    It was a ‘reminiscence’ that included speculation about what would have happened in the counterfactual case that the CRU was found to have ‘cooked the books’. It also used the loaded term ‘whitewash’. I think that these bring the question of what the enquiries did and did not find, based on what evidence, legitimately into the scope of discussion.

    But as requested I will leave it there.

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  21. Phil,

    Thank you for your considered and considerate response. Perhaps it would have been better had I said ‘concentrate upon the article’s main themes’ rather than ‘reminiscences’. As I understand it, those main themes are:

    a) Dr Kendall’s reasons for protecting the reputation of the ENV at the time.

    b) The importance of understanding the relationship between the CRU and the rest of the UEA.

    c) The pressures that individuals were placed under and the impact this had on personal and professional relationships.

    d) What it was like to promote an open-minded and agnostic viewpoint when working in an organisation that existed to promote a particular thesis.

    e) The extent to which Climategate was a human and political drama that, to a large extent, transcended or obscured the scientific arguments.

    I hope I did not come across as too disapproving before. Your views are welcome here, but on this occasion I think that discussions over questions such as whether or not the emails were harmless banter were bound to be inconclusive, and they were in danger of eliciting a response from the forum that may have detracted from the author’s main messages.

    Once again, I thank you for your consideration.

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  22. Hi Mr. Clarke, the research we did for our book uncovered no signs of scientific wrongdoing. What we found were ample incidents of ‘bad behaviour’ by many of the parties involved. Plus of course, the one crime–purposeful evasion of FOIA.

    Some of the ‘bad behaviour’ was (I think) typical of academic infighting. But some of it was really bad.

    I feel more than a bit sympathetic towards Jones. His ‘original sin’ was in Jones 1990, where he was apparently blindsided by a co-author of the paper regarding station histories in China, which messed up his calculations of UHI. Something he tried to correct in 2005, changing his estimates of UHI from 0.05C to 0.5C, if memory serves. But he knew about the problems with his 1990 paper early on and I think that put him on edge throughout the Climategate period. But he seems like a good man who got caught out on a limb.

    BTW, I’m… pretty sure it was a leak, not a hack. 🙂

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  23. Thomas, thank you for your contribution. Your conclusion that there was no evidence of scientific wrongdoing within CRU fits well with my own views, in that I could never believe that they would manufacture or deliberately distort evidence. They were scientists; scientists I knew and in a few cases became friends with. That is not to say that they haven’t changed data, but they feel they can justify such manipulations as removing bad or misleading data to achieve their goals – goals that they consider laudable. Some of them were great sweepers under carpets of ideas, criticisms or even data, that they didn’t like.

    I would however take issue with your characterisation of their “bad behaviour” as typical of academic infighting. You really believe that discussions about getting academic opponents fired from their
    Journal editorships or even their academic positions is normal academic infighting? Not in my discipline.

    Nor can I reconcile your description of Phil Jones as “a good man” given how he behaved towards opponents.

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  24. “the research we did for our book uncovered no signs of scientific wrongdoing”

    It’s been a while since I read “Climategate (The CRUTape Letters)” but the above rather sanguine conclusion wasn’t what I took from it. As you know:

    “Climategate” shows the extraordinary lengths The Team, a small, elite group of climate scientists, would go in order to frustrate McIntyre’s requests for data and the effect this scandal has had on the global warming debate, government policy and perhaps the future of the world.

    The Team, led by Phil Jones and Michael Mann, in attempts to shape the debate and influence public policy:

    * Actively worked to evade McIntyre’s Freedom of Information requests, deleting emails, documents and even climate data

    * Tried to corrupt the peer-review principles that are the mainstay of modern science, reviewing each others’ work, sabotaging efforts of opponents trying to publish their own work and threatening editors of journals who didn’t bow to their demands

    * Changed the shape of their own data in materials shown to politicians charged with changing the shape of the world, ‘hiding the decline’ that showed their data could not be trusted.

    As you also know, I didn’t write that.

    You did. It’s from the book’s back-cover blurb and is a fair reflection of the contents. One therefore has to ask what Jones and colleagues at IPCC, Penn State and elsewhere would have had to do to be labelled as scientific wrongdoers. See page 61 for starters.

    In any case, Montford’s book “Hiding the Decline”, which I’m now re-reading, uncovers a great deal that can reasonably be – can perhaps only be – described as scientific wrongdoing.

    As I tried to suggest above, the mistake IMHO is to try to assess CRU malfeasance in and only in its local context and by the now widely mistrusted quality control standards of academic culture generally and of peer review in particular (or, in this case, pal review).

    Global Warming hysteria has already had social, environmental and political consequences that make it one of the worst scandals of the post-war age. I presume I don’t need to outline them here though I will if anyone is genuinely ignorant of them. Those who suffer them directly are surely entitled to ask, if the perpetrators of crap like Climategate are not to be challenged, then who can be.

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  25. Even after all this time, when climate “science” is clearly winning the battle for political acceptance, the “climate enforcers” are still actively patrolling sites like this, displaying blundering oafish stupidity and inability to construct logical arguments. What incites morons like Phil Clarke to make themselves objects of ridicule everywhere they go?

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  26. MIAB,

    Whatever else Phil Clarke is, he is certainly not a moron. I have had several useful and even enjoyable encounters over the years with Phil, and I have learned from him. We continue to disagree, profoundly, but mostly we do so politely and, I think, with mutual respect.

    My personal view is that I would not like this site to become like many alarmist sites, where opposing views aren’t welcomed, and are often rudely rejected. There is always a danger of being an echo chamber, as many alarmist sites are. We learn by considering alternative views, and if we’re correct, by successfully rebutting them. If we can’t immediately rebut them, we need to go away and think a bit more deeply and perhaps carry out more research.

    The difficulty is distinguishing between a troll and someone with opposing views who genuinely wishes to debate. At his worst, Phil strikes many sceptics as a troll. At his best, Phil can be informative, interesting, and can force us to make our grey matter work much harder. I don’t think his visit on this discussion thread saw Phil at his best, though I certainly give him full marks for his gracious final response.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. As far as I’m concerned Phil Clarke should be welcomed here and I did just that. I echo and endorse Mark’s comments above. There should be room for people like Phil, with different beliefs to the majority within these debating chambers. I have long argued that a site such as ours gains much from having a resident “troll”, they act as a stimulant. We had one, Len, but somehow lost him. Not that Phil always displays trollish behaviour. As Mark wrote, he can be a valuable source of information and a skilled debater. I would consider his continued presence here as a definite asset.

    I just didn’t want to turn my reminiscences of my time spent at UEA into a debating shop about the results of the Climategate inquiries nor the appropriateness (or otherwise) of the research conducted by CRU. They can be, and have been, discussed elsewhere.

    Phil, as a new member of the Cliscep Team (Junior Author, Third Class, in training) I now take full responsibility for inviting you to write for us an article that we can all discuss. Take it as a challenge and/or an opportunity. And I trust that, if you do this, and you forego trollish behaviour (which I acknowledge has commonly been your reaction to the way you have been treated) your views will be properly respected, but probably vigorously opposed, by the majority here, How about it Phil?

    [ I may be in hot water from my seniors. Pray for me]

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  28. I’m afraid that I have to disagree with you. Climate enforcers are mentally impaired morons. There is no value in entering into debate or discussion with them, anymore than there is in debating with a Jehoveh’s Witness. Their minds are closed to evidence that is not supplied by the gods of their religion. Debating with them lets them imagine that they possess intellect and powers of thought. It gives them a toehold into respectability. They are the intellectual equivalents of invasive weeds. We see their pernicious effect in every news bulletin and government announcement. Don’t debate them: just call them what they are. Laugh at them. Scorn them. Do not treat them as rational or respectable human beings.

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  29. MiaB.
    Let’s agree to disagree.
    One man’s flower is another man’s pernicious weed. It often depends on the setting.
    Phil’s gracious withdrawal on this thread does not seem to fit your characterisation.

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  30. Alan,

    Not an article, however I wrote a response to Tony Thomas’s 15th April piece that somehow ballooned to 1,000 words. Once again, It has gone from ‘In Moderation’ to disappeared.

    Another glitch, no doubt.

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  31. Thomas,

    I am not an academic, however I did work for five years at a major UK University in Administrative Data Processing. One application I designed was an undergraduate admissions system, which we made available for Departments (Schools) to run on their local networks. The software was supplied on subscription with each school paying for a single ‘licence’.

    This worked well for the thirty-something Schools, all except for Metallurgy and Materials. Although for admissions (UCAS) purposes this was a single School, internally they were two schools in one, split down the middle, to the extent that as UCAS forms arrived they were curated into two different piles and processed by either Metallurgy or Materials, each with its own admissions officer and staff. We found this a source of amusement, however the split touched on all aspects of the Department’s activities and caused major inefficiencies and problems for staff.

    Turned out the Heads of the respective departments, both authorities in their fields, had had some kind of academic falling out which over a period of years had escalated to the extent that they had literally stopped talking to one another and insisted their staff had no dealings with the other’s team. This was the 1990s and they could get away with stuff like that, I believe it is better now.

    So I can readily believe tales of bad, not to say infantile, behaviour in academia. I encountered several, no doubt brilliant, individuals who would be frankly unemployable outside of a seat of learning. I’ve worked in corporates, financial services, private and public sector, UK and Europe and by far the most difficult client group were the academics.

    Present company excepted, naturally.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Phil. I also have had a varied and checkered work history, gaining employment in a government agency, industry and academia. My experience is that there are mavericks everywhere, the incompetents, the boastful, the downright annoying and the unnecessarily officious. Certainly in the field of geology, academics with particular specialisations may work alone only meeting others with the same interests occasionally at meetings.. This isolation tends to bring out bad characteristics, creation of little empires and attempts to stultify growth in other parts of the School. I remember being admonished for talking to a technician who’s salary, I later found out, was being paid out of the admonisher’s grant money.

    This didn’t happen at UEA because there were three of us working in the same field (carbonate sediments and speleothems), one of whom was my wife (with whom I worked very, very closely).

    I have perhaps been fortunate in that I never encountered any of the shenanigans that afflicted denizens of CRU. What they did still seems to me to be rogue and in part inconceivable in a civilised setting.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Alan, thanks for a most interesting post. For how it looked to someone in the middle of the fight, I wrote the first FOIA request that unwittingly set off the chain of events that became “Climategate”. The story is here. As you say, “rogue and inconceivable”.

    My best to you,

    w.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Willis I cannot fully express how much I value your comments. Your articles at WUWT were a major source of support prior to and after Climategate. As a mere geologist I often wavered in my belief that there was something wrong with product coming out of CRU and the implied necessity to do something about it (after all, they were considered the experts). Your articles and attitude to science often steadied my ship and I am most grateful for that.

    Liked by 2 people

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