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The BBC's Nature trick

16 Jun 2021 | OP ED Watch

One of the most embarrassing moments for climate alarmism came when leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s premier Climate Research Unit revealed intellectual partisanship, shabby practices and outright manipulation of data, culminating in Phil Jones’ infamous reference to using “Mike’s nature trick” of mixing different data types “to hide the decline”. Sorry? Did we say shabby? Au contraire. The BBC is doing a documentary about Jones’ heroism in the service of a higher truth. To which Dave Burton of sealevel.info responds by suggesting they make it the start of a series, whose next instalment could celebrate Charles Dawson, perpetrator of the “Piltdown Man” hoax.

The language used by the BBC and its collaborators is remarkable for its fawning quality and its defensiveness. Writer Owen Sheers, for instance, says “The events that came to be known as Climategate were a powerful coalescence of forces that have since shaped much of our last decade. However, this is also a story about the people caught at the eye of a new kind of storm, and how in the end despite attack from all sides, the integrity and truth of their important work won through.” And Jason Watkins, in the lead role, says “It is a privilege to play the brilliant scientist, Phil Jones, whose own private world was so threatened from outside and whose research and efforts have been so vital globally in combating the effects of climate change.” Galileo, hit the showers.

The BBC itself, in a news story about its own excellence, said “An independent inquiry was held after the false claims circulated that the unit’s scientists had manipulated data to exaggerate evidence of human-induced climate change. The claims that the unit acted dishonestly were dismissed, but the scientists were criticised for a lack of openness.” Um yeah. You could say that.

Or not. After all the investigation did conclude that Jones’ handling of the data was “misleading.” All these years later there are lots of myths still kicking around. The Wikipedia article on the “Climatic Research Unit documents” unsurprisingly offers up its share: “Climate change deniers gained wide publicity for allegations that the hacked e-mails showed climate scientists colluded in manipulating data, withheld scientific information, and tried to prevent dissenting scientific papers from being published in peer reviewed journals. Academics and climate change researchers said that nothing in the emails proved wrongdoing, and dismissed the allegations. Independent reports said that the e-mails did not affect evidence that man made global warming is a real threat, and e-mails were being misrepresented to support unfounded claims of scientific misconduct, but there were disturbing suggestions that scientists had avoided sharing scientific data with sceptical critics.”

Just that? Well OK, to be sure, “The Information Commissioner’s Office stated that ‘the prima facie evidence from the published e-mails indicate an attempt to defeat disclosure by deleting information. It is hard to imagine more cogent prima facie evidence. ... The fact that the elements of a [FOIA] section 77 offence may have been found here, but cannot be acted on because of the elapsed time, is a very serious matter.’” But who really cares when motives are pure? “Precisely six committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged by the end of the investigations.”

We need hardly expand on what the consequences would have been if prominent skeptics had been caught exchanging emails about using a data-manipulation “trick” to “hide” a devastating factual result. Even Jones eventually allowed that “Some of the emails probably had poorly chosen words and were sent in the heat of the moment, when I was frustrated. I do regret sending some of them.” Probably poorly chosen words? What’s the alternative?

Oh dear. It’s accurate words about poorly chosen actions. Meanwhile predictably Michael Mann went on the legal warpath: “I’m not going to comment on the content of illegally obtained emails. However, I will say this: both their theft and, I believe, any reproduction of the emails that were obtained on public websites, etc, constitutes serious criminal activity. I’m hoping the perpetrators and their facilitators will be tracked down and prosecuted to the fullest extent the law allows.”

They weren’t. Perhaps because to any sensible person it was clear that the matter was just too awkward to claim vindication. The smoking gun was “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 decline.” And it would cheapen them and us to delve into the gyrations used to maintain that “trick” didn’t mean “trick” but “clever sophisticated honourable technique common among scientists with no sort of agenda”.

Look, everybody makes mistakes. They say words they regret and they do things they regret. That Phil Jones and others got carried away, and got caught, does not prove that they are bad people or that man-made global warming is not real. But the willingness of a government broadcaster, and many of their colleagues, to make them heroes for doing so, and deny that the episode is in any way embarrassing, does prove that if there was misconduct, and if the whole scare was a mistake, they would not tell us.

7 comments on “The BBC's Nature trick”

  1. What Climategate really showed was that once an ideology, in this case catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, has reached a certain level of acceptance it is almost impossible to let it go. That everybody in a position to do so bent over backwards to dismiss Climategate is not surprising. Too many reputations, not only in academia but also in the highest levels of government, were at stake. Even though Britain, not to mention most of the Western World, is in a lemming-like stampede into the Dark Ages that will be the inevitable result of a net-zero policy , nobody has the courage to say "wait a minute, what exactly are we getting ourselves into?"
    My advice to the British is to learn Chinese, so you can ask for help when you are shivering in the dark after 2050 when the lights go out.

  2. Well, we know they could not have conspired to manipulate data and suppress contradictory papers, because that would require a 'conspiracy' and we don't admit to those, do we? Conspiracies can't be real because.. reasons. (We don't like them is the reason).

  3. This western version of Lysenkoism is just more validation that the state and science should be completely independent of one another and the same goes for their lapdog media. When the state goes beyond being confined to the police , military and courts, the Gulags can't be far behind.

  4. The logic of conspiracy theory denialist: People who believe in conspiracy theories think that it is possible for largish groups of people to keep secrets and plan plots without ever being discovered, and we all know that that is impossible. After all, every conspiracy we know about has been exposed. (Um, but how does that prove that there are no conspiracies that have not been exposed?)

  5. Look I'm not a scientist but when the emails were made public they raised my suspicions - Michael Manns treatment of fellow scientists only serves to justify my suspicions as to his honesty and his continued refusal to disclose evidence to the court of his "hockey stick"
    As with the state of USA politics we are in a "1984" where truth is a Lie.

  6. " the e-mails did not affect evidence that man made global warming is a real threat"
    Well, yeah. You can't affect something that doesn't exist.

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