‘Scandal’ over hacked climate-science emails at UEA: Don’t believe the hype

The ‘scandal’ of the hacked emails from Environmental Science at UEA (http://www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/homepagenews/CRU-update – this includes a direct rebuttal of the single seemingly most-damaging email, the ‘trick’ email), my University, has been gotten out of all proportion in some of the right-wing media, old and new. I have now read a good number of the ‘worst’ of the hacked emails. I also know a few of the protagonists personally, and for human-interest value the hacked emails certainly do offer some tidbits. But: When the dust settles, I predict that the climate-deniers will be left holding onto hardly anything, here. There is so far as I can tell at this (still-admittedly-early) stage no significant scientific scandal, and most importantly absolutely no reason to doubt any of the fundamentals of the science of manmade climate change here, just a few unpleasant or silly or (at worst) unwise and bad-practice emails. Scientists aren’t angels; like the rest of us, they sometimes get angry with their detractors, and even work to marginalise them, and so on.
Some good that may come out of this is:
1) For more people to realise that scientists are simply human, and that science is not holy writ, but to realise too that these facts and the poor behaviour at times of some scientists doesn’t in itself cast any doubt over the central findings of their research. To doubt the greenhouse effect or to doubt manmade contributions to dangerous climate change is about as sensible as doubting manmade contributions to lung cancer (The two cases are actually quite similar – both involve pollution of a finite air-system; and both have seen long well-funded campaigns of denial… The smoking companies got away with manmade-lung-cancer-denial for a whole generation, before they were finally ‘smoked out’.)
(2) There are quite a lot of calls now for the full data-sets which the best British climate scientists base their work and their predictions on to be made fully public. That would I think be welcome – it would among other things dispose of the climate-sceptics’ silly accusations of there being a conspiracy here, of something big being hidden.
(3) There do seem to be a few instances in the hacked emails – if these particular ones are genuine – of clearly unethical and possibly unlawful behaviour. If this hacking episode means that there is less of that in future, then that will of course be a very positive result.

As a philosopher of science, it worries me to see the level of ignorance displayed by many of those who are jumping all over this leaked information as if it undermines the science around global over-heat. Except possibly in some literally marginal ways, it simply does not, once you understand the context of most of these emails.
But changes (1) thru (3) are nevertheless potentially good news for science and for all of us.

This is so sad. This is what we are doing to the innocent creatures of our world. This is the carcass of a baby albatross; filled with plastic junk that it was mistakenly fed as food…

You can find many more similar images, at:


This is the world we have to change…

Free Screening of ‘The Age Of Stupid’

Come to a FREE screening of the seminal film “The Age of Stupid” from Midday to 2pm on Tuesday 24th November in the Thomas Paine Study Centre lecture theatre at UEA, Norwich.

The film stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as a man living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change when we had the chance?

The film will be followed by a Q&A session.

Places will be on a first-come, first-served basis, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.

A Simple Explanation of Climate Change Science

‘The fossil fuel lobby repeatedly misrepresent science. One misrepresentation is the claim that the science of global warming is dependent on computer models. This is a total misrepresentation of the truth! The models are dependent on the science NOT the other way round.

The science is simple and based on measurements.
1. The global temperature is 30C higher than it should be based on radiation balance.
2. The 30C temperature rise can only be explained by the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Without those greenhouse gases most of the Earth would be covered in ice.
3. If greenhouse gases increase the temperature will rise.
4. Greenhouse gases have increased.
5. The temperature has increased.

These all involve simple measurements that have nothing to do with models. The science is so basic that most of the work was not done in the 21st century, nor even in the 20th century but in the 19th century.’

Check this out if you haven’t seen it yet

Watch this!
This is going to be an important film. The filmmaker overstates somewhat his point about poverty vis a vis global over-heat, because the latter will impoverish or eliminate all future generations, unless we stop it.  But the general point he is making is nevertheless extremely powerful, and must provoke us to action.