Letter to the Editor of New Scientist

From Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen

  • New Scientist for 12 December 2009 wrote an editorial comment supporting the Climategate emailers and saying they were not part of any kind of conspiracy.

Dear Editor

Your piece Insight: Why there is no sign of a climate conspiracy in hacked emails (12 December, p. 16) was disappointing. A conspiracy was never alleged by the better informed commentators. Rather, CRU and its collaborators were condemned for the ‘massaging’ of data to suit a cause – the hypothesis of dangerous , anthropogenic global warming – and also for discouraging the publication of material doubting this hypothesis. I am writing as an interested party: The journal Energy & Environment which I now edit, was much maligned in the published emails because it published a number of the papers offensive to the ‘warmers’ and was at one stage threatened with libel.

In my opinion, what we observe is not an unusual event in the short history of environmental science and policy, my research area. The purpose of the efforts of this small group of mainly UK and US/Australian researchers – rather than academics – was to remove the Medieval Warm Period from the recent historical temperature record by using the persuasive power of the infamous ‘hockey stick’. Without this curve of rapidly rising surface temperatures since the 1850s, global warming enthusiasts and the supporters of the Kyoto process would have lost a major propaganda tool with which to frightening politicians and the public by combining ‘rising’ observed temperatures (from complex proxy data) with even faster rising computer generated temperatures. The ultimate purpose of this persuasion is not the concern of natural scientists but that of social scientists like myself.

What has been revealed, so far, is a not uncommon occurrence in contemporary science: an ‘epistemic community’ intervening in peer review and publication processed to further its own interests and beliefs. From my experience, this involves ensuring the continued funding of a research agenda that has become closely identified with a cause and has attracted much government support because of its policy relevance. In this case this involved considerable support for and collaboration with the IPCC and Hadley Centre.

Serious questions about the funding of ‘policy-relevant’ science should now be asked. The belief that the emission of greenhouse gases, especially from energy use, has been enshrined as ‘fact’ in international law since 1992. Scientific research was required to support this claim and hence its associated ‘solutions’ or responses. To the best of my knowledge, the CRU-hack story is not over yet and serious implications for climate ‘alarmism’ are still possible. Any enquiry should go beyond the people directly involved and include senior government figures responsible for funding and advocacy of a cause science was expected to serve.

Sincerely

Dr. Sonja A.Boehmer-Christiansen

Reader Emeritus, Department of Geography formerly Senior Research Fellow, Sciecne Policy and Tech nology Unit, Sussex University

Hull University
Editor, Energy & Environment

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