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Following the latest release of leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), many people here in the department braced for the impact that the release would have on their work, their reputations and their university. Expecting a furore similar to that experienced in 2009, the hatches were battened down and the crew took shelter, weathering it as best as they could and waiting for the storm to pass. This time, the storm never came.
The UEA dealt with the leak quickly and much more effectively. Also, the emails aren’t new, they seem to have been stolen at the same time as the original hack, and you’d therefore expect that all the ‘juicy’ newsworthy media-bites had been fleshed out during the first round of the airing of scientists dirty laundry. As far as I can tell, the release was so anticlimactic that even notorious ‘sceptic’ Anthony Watts is struggling to extract much meaningful or significant smear-worthy material from an extensive database of boring personal emails. It’s almost embarrassing that it’s so pathetic; at least people were talking about the release before, it definitely put the UEA on the map and on the tip of people’s tongues in 2009 but this time round it’s dropped off the mainstream news radar quickly and in a big way. There is no substance and therefore no story. The Guardian and the BBC are still providing some minor coverage but even the Daily Mail, a British tabloid known for their extremely loose grasp of science (lest we forget the ‘Supermoon’) and climate denial (strange those two often go hand-in-hand?), seem to be growing weary of this seemingly endless tirade of guff.
What is obvious, as it has been to many before but is laid bare for all to see now, is the patently political motivation behind the release. It was obviously timed to coincide with the UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban on the 28th of November. The science, as many people know and accept, has been repeatedly vindicated by independent review and inquiry by scientific and parliamentary committees, most recently by the physicists of the BEST study, the results of which our friend Mr Watts famously claimed he would accept regardless of their findings. His lies aside, there was no ‘wheeling-and-dealing’ going on behind the scenes and no global scientific conspiracy was uncovered. It is no longer about the science, that much is evident. What is clearer now than ever before is that this is a smear campaign, pure and simple, employing immature character assassination in a rather desperate attempt to over-hype an already dead story. All the emails showed was that scientists are people too; they bicker amongst each other, their egos clash and they criticise one another’s work. This is what you would expect, and the more criticism the better – that’s how science gets done.
I assume that the point of this whole futile exercise is to attempt to undermine the scientific consensus and manufacture a debate that doesn’t exist. The motivation behind this comes from a number of areas I guess – fear, vested commercial interests, wilful ignorance, attention-seeking etc. If this was indeed the aim, their ploy has failed monumentally. The fact that no one seems to care may be a mixed blessing though. On one hand, the public are bored of this conspiracy and continuing to flog a dead horse isn’t inciting the level of backlash the denialists were attempting to produce, which is great and means that scientists can get on with their jobs. However, this may be the perfect opportunity to go on the offensive and expose the ‘sceptics’ for the delusional, corrupt trolls they are; the timing of the release is no coincidence, and as the science is sound it can no longer be a case of a noble whistle blowing minority speaking out against the engrained vested interests of career scientists. The painfully blatant, transparent and unequivocal fact is that is release is about politics, not science, and good scientists who are tired of having their names unfairly dragged through the mud for political gain should stand up and speak out against this juvenile smear campaign.