If you rely on the national newspapers and the BBC for all your news, you may well have missed it completely. But on Thursday 19th November 2009 the world of climate science changed forever. Something happened that, just over a week on, still seems incredible. Sometimes I find myself with lingering doubts as to its authenticity: surely it could all be a cunningly contrived hoax? But so far there has been, to my knowledge, no detailed refutation from the scientists involved. It looks increasingly likely that most or all of the material contained in file FOI2009 is genuine.
Rather than going over the history of the “CRU hack” or leak, as I think it might better be described, I’ll point you to some sources on the internet. Firstly, this Wikipedia article (although the usual Wikipedia caveats apply.) Secondly, this article on Wattsupwiththat (currently one of my favourite websites), and this post on the excellent Bishop Hill blog. Thirdly, a very good searchable online database of the CRU e-mails here.
What can it all mean? It is virtually impossible at this early stage to say just what all the implications might be, or what new revelations may emerge from all the files and e-mails revealed hitherto. But from what I’ve seen so far, these are my conclusions:
1) The climate science reset button needs to be pressed. So many of the assumptions made by scientists, journalists and politicians all over the world are based on the published work by the scientists involved in this scandal – Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Ben Santer, Keith Briffa – that rather than proceeding as if nothing serious has happened, there should be a hiatus while these assumptions are challenged, and while the science is independently audited. By independently audited, I mean put under complete scrutiny by a group of independent scientists who understand what they are looking at, and whose own methods and communications are utterly transparent. So much is at stake here, in terms of the future wellbeing and prosperity of the human race, that an independent audit of the scientific work done by CRU so far is essential and, in my opinion, a minimum requirement.
2) The talks in Copenhagen scheduled for December 2009 (under a month from now) should be put on hold, or if they cannot be put on hold, it should be made clear that no legally binding agreement on carbon emissions can be imposed on the world’s nations until an independent audit of the science is carried out, as per (1).
Will this audit actually take place? There is little sign of this happening so far in official circles, although I think the The Global Warming Policy Foundation now being set up by Lord Lawson is a welcome sign of progress taking place on this front. You can find an online petition here to request the current British government to place CRU on hold until an investigation takes place; there are no guarantees, of course, that the petition will achieve anything much, but if enough people sign, hopefully someone in Whitehall will sit up and take notice.
With regard to the apparent evasion of Freedom of Information requests by Dr Phil Jones and his fellows, I will be writing to Sir Brandon Gough, Chancellor of the UEA, and will be sending a copy of my letter to Charles Clarke, current MP for Norwich South. I will be calling for the University to investigate the matter, and if the University has evidence that Dr Jones et al were in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, to treat this as potential law-breaking and turn the matter over to the police and the courts. I’ll publish my letter on this blog, in due course, with any replies that I receive.
The picture I have posted with this blog entry is of the tarot card known as The Tower; it is generally considered a very unsettling card to find, should it show up in a tarot reading. Here’s a very good and rather relevant description of The Tower from the Aeclectic Tarot website:
“False structures, false institutions, false beliefs are going to come tumbling down, suddenly, violently and all at once. What’s important to remember as a tarot reader is that the one you’re reading for likely does not know that something is false. Not yet. To the contrary, they probably believe that their lover is being faithful, that their religious beliefs are true and right, that there are no problems in their family structure, that everything is fine at work…oh, and that they’re fine. Just fine, really.
Alas, they’re about to get a very rude awakening. Shaken up, torn down, blown asunder. And all a reader can really do to soften the blow is assure the Querent that it is for the best. Nothing built on a lie, on falsehoods, can remain standing for long. Better to tear it all down and rebuild on the truth. It is not going to be pleasant or painless or easy, but it will be for the best.”
Thinking about this card, I am also reminded, alternatively, of the tower as a symbol of civilisation. Civilisation rises up from the earth, with each storey resting on the one beneath, each part of the superstructure (accumulated wealth and knowledge) depending on the one below, all the way down to the foundations. Stoutly and cleverly built, it has a good chance of withstanding the forces of entropy and chaos. Weakened and damaged by its enemies (which is what I anticipate will happen should the world’s nations expend huge efforts and divert sorely needed resources into combating what I suspect to be the monstrous non-problem of climate change) the odds begin to tip towards entropy, chaos and ruin.
Two towers – the edifice of climate science, as it now stands, and the structure of modern civilisation itself. Which will prevail?
When writing this blog post, I hadn’t read this BBC news item from Friday evening stating that the UEA will be making an inquiry into the Climategate e-mails and that more details will emerge next week. I note that the BBC’s Roger Harrabin is still referring to these e-mails as “stolen”, when “leaked” is just as likely a possibility. Anyway, it looks as though there will be little point now in writing to the Chancellor; I shall be directing my efforts elsewhere.