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Extraordinary developments in 'Climategate' affair

Susan Watts | 14:33 UK time, Friday, 12 February 2010

There were extraordinary developments last night (Thursday) over the inquiry set up to look into the global controversy sparked by the release last December of hundreds of emails and documents on climate science. Within hours of the inquiry team being unveiled to the media, yesterday morning, one of the six-strong panel had resigned.

This was Dr Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature magazine - a prestigious journal in which scientists publish research results. There had been questions over the appropriateness of his selection as soon as the panel was named.

First, one of the most widely quoted of the leaked emails referred to "Mike's Nature trick". The "Nature" in that case is Nature magazine.

Then, later in the day critics including Lord Lawson, the former chancellor who called for this inquiry, began to raise concerns - in particular about an editorial in Nature magazine which he claimed accused critics of the scientists of paranoia, and was supportive of the scientists under investigation.

Last night it emerged on a sceptical website that in an interview with China Radio International last December, Dr Campbell appeared to have pre-judged the very issues the inquiry is supposed to examine.

He said: "The scientists have not hidden the data. If you look at the emails there is one or two bits of language that are jargon used between professionals that suggest something to outsiders that is wrong."

He went on: "In fact the only problem there has been is on some official restrictions on their ability to disseminate data otherwise they have behaved as researchers should."

Then in a statement yesterday evening, Dr Campbell announced that he had stepped down.

"I made the remarks in good faith on the basis of media reports of the leaks. As I have made clear subsequently, I support the need for a full review of the facts behind the leaked emails. There must be nothing that calls into question the ability of the independent Review to complete this task, and therefore I have decided to withdraw from the team."

After the press conference yesterday morning I had suggested to Dr Campbell that there might be raised eyebrows over his appointment. I suggested that he may not best placed to judge the evidence before the inquiry since his own publication is part of that picture.

He said: "Where there's any conflict of interest that I perceive or anybody else perceives it right for me to leave the room then I will... And if it becomes so severe a conflict of interest that my continued presence becomes a problem, then I would step down from the whole thing - I don't envisage that..."

So where does this leave the inquiry? Apart from being one panel member short, it is still the subject of continuing questions from critics.

Last night Lord Lawson told Newsnight: "I am very concerned, and I wrote to Sir Muir about this but they're not going to do it, that the inquiry is not going to be held in public... the hearings will be held in private, and the evidence given at the hearings and the interrogation, the transcripts of that are not going to be is singularly lacking in transparency".

The chairman of the panel, Sir Muir Russell, had said that morning that he would be publishing written submissions on a website, saying there will be "no concealment".

He also set out what the panel will, and will not do. They will examine the way science was carried out at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA), but not the quality of that science or its conclusions.

In fact, in a separate and rather over-looked announcement yesterday, UEA said that it is now going to reassess the science involved, science at the heart of the whole climate change debate. And yes, they'll be using yet another independent team.


  • Comment number 1.

    yes but this 'science' is still being used as the trojan horse for carbon trading that transfers wealth from the many to the few. the same few who pumped the propaganda.

    ...A committee of UK MPs has proposed a carbon tax be placed on companies or the carbon trading pricing floor raised, to make inaction on climate change matter more expensive.....

    Cybercrims swipe carbon credits worth millions

    the big racket lives on.

  • Comment number 2.

    At risk of one man's critic (the descriptions of those who merely have questions seem to be getting milder each day) being accused as another's flat earther, it does all rather come across a bit shambolic, at best.

    I thought these efforts were meant to get at the truth and/or reassure the public and/or avoid repetitions of less than helpful scenarios being repeated in future.

    So far, the batting average on all counts seems... less than optimal.

    Maybe some of the major players could manage a tremulous lower lip on cue when the cameras pan across? Oh, silly me, it seems it will also be mainly in camera, too.

  • Comment number 3.

    Speaking (if not the requisite number of times) of the Candyman...

    And I do note the panel is getting good press elsewhere too...

  • Comment number 4.

    The BBC at its best (and most prescient - who needs the Met office?):

    Personally I think a good grounding in the classics can only help settle science, when required, and a lot of money is at stake.

  • Comment number 5.


    We poorly educated folk have an advantage over those schooled in 'Science Truth', we can consider a new paradigm. I have tried to get Susan to take on board the 'Electric Universe' but I don't think she is paying any attention to me. Can you believe that?

    Anyway. There is gathering evidence that weather has an electric component - it follows that this would be true for climate as-a-whole; hence my title. If this is correct, and we don't include electrical forces and effects in our climate modelling - it can never be right.

    Susan. If you want to get ahead (it might even count as edgy) search 'Electric Universe' and poke round for stuff on weather.

  • Comment number 6.

    barriesingleton #5.

    "Anyway. There is gathering evidence that weather has an electric component.."

    for the last 250 years only. ;)

    "In 1752 Franklin proved that lightning and the spark from amber were one and the same thing."

  • Comment number 7.

    barriesingleton #6.

    'Electric Universe' -- I like 'psychodelic trance' projects.

    I think you meant to refer Susan Watts to Plasma cosmology.

  • Comment number 8.

    ..Phil Jones, the professor behind the "Climategate" affair, has admitted some of his decades-old weather data was not well enough organised...

    like the missing weather stations?

    if one is talking about climate change then even 200 years of records is a mere drop in the ocean in climate time? given they are working from a tiny data set its seems preposterous to make claims about things that can take 100's of years in themselves to manifest?

    all we seem to hear is its got warmer since 1979. which is hardly a statistically significant time length?

    we have been told there is no doubt on the conclusions and on that [iraq style] 'no doubt' billions of pounds are being extracted from the poor and given to the rich via carbon trading. Of that there is no doubt.

    as for the promotion of one worldism with specially trained 'leaders' along the maurice strong ranch model isn't that just cultish?

  • Comment number 9.

    RE DEFINING (#7)

    If you can get the 'Ear of Susan', then how you choose to define is of little account, jr.

    Incidentally, what you have NOT defined, is your purpose in posting. (:o)

  • Comment number 10.


    With a few notable exceptions, Professors profess the current 'givens'.

    I suggest it is a term that should never leave the walls of Academe. Teachers can teach from books and notes - or just a good memory and some blag.

    To the general public, 'professor' implies great knowledge - even wisdom. It is not a good premise on which to start any enquiry (any more than 'Prime Minister' implies first class ministrations!)

  • Comment number 11.

    barriesingleton #10.

    "Teachers can teach from books and notes - or just a good memory and some blag."

    appears to have worked for your teachers when you were taught whether " has an electric component..".

    "To the general public.."

    scientific and/or professional expertise is not usually subject to concensus (by the lowest common denominator).

    (#9)"..what you have NOT defined, is your purpose in posting."

    [argument removed to protect the ignorance of readers]

  • Comment number 12.

    our weather has been getting warmer since the industrial that still the case...discuss

  • Comment number 13.

    Urbanization of rural weather stations has made a mockery of the so called scientific data collection. So, it looks like we Flat-Earthers were right after all. Time to chase the green tax collectors, and get our money back.

    Why is it that this year's climate conditions is 'weather' next years will be weather, yet 10 years worth is called climate, yet there are cyclic patterns of the order of 20 years or 50 years or 1000 years, or a million years, so why isn't everything less than say 1000 years, merely weather? Why is it down to these two-bit scientists/weathermen with media degrees to proclaim what is weather and what is climate?
    Mr Fish, or Mr Frost would never have made these proclamations, nor these recent year long weather predictions... Shame on the bunch of current amateurs.

  • Comment number 14.

    So Dr Campbell has stepped down, an honourable decision.

    Can anyone help me with names and pen portraits of the other six members?

    Perhaps the next programme follow-up should look critically at the make up of the panel as the current government has a track record of setting up inquiries to generate just the result they happen to seek.

  • Comment number 15.

    7 - Something decent please

    Air - Moon Safari

    'All I need is a little time
    To get behind this sun and cast my weight
    All I need's a peace of this mind
    Then I can celebrate'

    Air all I need -

    The Sun :


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