by Andrew Montford
Foreword by Lord Turnbull
We have to take a self-critical view of what happened. Nothing ought to be swept under the carpet. Some of the inquiries – like in the UK – did exactly the latter. They blew an opportunity to restore trust.
--Hans von Storch, Professor of Climatology, 2 August 2010
When in November 2009 a large archive of emails and files from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia appeared on the internet a number of serious allegations were made including:
• that scientists at the CRU had failed to give a full and fair view to policy
makers and the IPCC of all the evidence available to them.
• that they deliberately obstructed access to data and methods to those
taking different viewpoints from themselves;
• that they failed to comply with FOI requirements;
• that they sought to influence the review panels of journals in order to prevent rival scientific evidence from being published.
Even if only some of these accusations were substantiated the consequences for the credibility of climate change science would be immense. This was at a time when the international negotiations on climate change were foundering (though not to the extent that they have done subsequently), and when, in the recession, the public and businesses were beginning to question the costs they were being asked to bear in order to achieve fundamental changes in our society.
One would therefore have expected the relevant “authorities”, Government/Parliament, the University of East Anglia (UAE) and the Royal Society, to have moved fast and decisively to get to the bottom of the matter. There was indeed a flurry of activity and three inquiries were set in train, inlcuding a hearing by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee; the Climate Change E-mails Review (CCE) set up by UAE and chaired by Sir Muir Russell; and the Scientific Assessment Panel (SAP) set up by UAE in consultation with the Royal Society and chaired by Lord Oxburgh. Sadly, as the report by Andrew Montford clearly demonstrates, all three reports have serious flaws. His report shows that:
• these enquiries were hurried
• the terms of reference were unclear
• insufficient care was taken with the choice of panel members to ensure
balance and independence
• insufficient care was taken to ensure the process was independent of
those being investigated, eg the Royal Society allowed CRU to suggest the
papers it should read
• Sir Muir Russell failed to attend the session with the CRU’s Director Professor Jones and only four of fourteen members of the Science and Technology Select Committee attended the crucial final meeting to sign off their report.
• record keeping was poor.
But above all, Andrew Montford’s report brings out the disparity between the treatment of the “incumbents” and the “critics”. The former appear to have been treated with kid gloves and their explanations readily accepted without serious challenge. The latter have been disparaged and denied adequate opportunity to put their case. The CCE report stated that holding public hearings “would be unlikely to add signifi cant value”, thereby assuming that critics would not be able to provide any additional information that would help assess the validity of CRU submissions.
This failure to accord critics rights of audience was despite the fact that Lord Lawson wrote to Sir Muir Russell when the review was first announced specifically urging that his panel should take evidence from those outside CRU who may have been wronged. The result has been that the three investigations have failed to achieve their objective, ie early and conclusive closure and restoration of confidence.
The reports have been more Widgery than Saville. Writing in an article The Atlantic, Clive Crook of the Financial Times referred to “an ethos of suffocating groupthink”. That is exactly what Andrew Montford has uncovered, with the reviewers as much part of the group as the scientists.
You can download the rest of the report here.
An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.
Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind.
Did you think you were put here for something less?
Chief Arvol Looking Horse