There was a long time during my life when I refused to read British newspapers. They irritated me. The stories hinged on the opinions of a few unresearched writers; facts were dubious; the ideological cultures distinguishing the publications were artificial; and the constructed narratives offended me.
I distinctly recall the day I decided I needed to read the newspapers again. It was a chance glance at the Guardian Weekly, on the shelf in an international bookshop in Brussels. In there, I read a piece by George Monbiot, and my reaction was, in paraphrase, “how can he be allowed to write such a thing for publication ?” I was impressed, both at his audacity and his plainspeaking, and the facts to back up his position looked credible.
In overview, it was a good thing that I started to read the newspapers again, even though I have had to wade through interminable barrelloads of rotten opinions and poor research in following the public story of Climate Change and Energy Revival. I have traced the emergence of some almost acceptable Science and Environment writing in the Press, but there has been a remarkable turnaround just recently.
I blame Climategate, and its arch-proponent James Delingpole, the Daily Telegraph bloggista, for puncturing good Climate Change Media, and leaving us with a very poor public representation of the Science, and the way Science works. False information and illogical writing has appeared on a regular basis in some of the newspapers and on websites, including the BBC. You would expect the Daily Express to be hamfisted with the story, but The Times and The Guardian have also taken pratfalls of late.
After so much good and challenging, speaking-truth-to-power writing from George Monbiot, it seems sad, and rather poorly thought-out, to have put on his football scarf and joined those out on the sceptic terraces shouting abuse and villifying Professor Phil Jones. After calling for Phil Jones to resign several times already, yet again George Monbiot hurls match slang at Phil Jones, completely unjustifiably :-
“The root of the climate email fiasco : Learning forced into silos of humanities and science has created closed worlds of specialists who just don’t understand each other : George Monbiot, The Guardian, Tuesday 6 April 2010 : The MPs were kind to Professor Phil Jones. During its hearings, the Commons science and technology committee didn’t even ask the man at the centre of the hacked climate emails crisis about the central charge he faces: that he urged other scientists to delete material subject to a freedom of information request. Last week the committee published its report, and blamed his university for the “culture of non-disclosure” over which Jones presided…”
“Hacked climate science emails: were requests for information vexatious? Original requests for information from the Climatic Research Unit appear to have been genuine, but there are later enquiries that could potentially be seen as aggravating : George Monbiot Thursday 8 April 2010 : This is probably the last piece I’ll write on the hacked emails saga. Unless the two remaining inquiries throw up something unexpected, there is not a lot more to say. The one remaining, interesting question is this: to what extent were the Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, which Phil Jones and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) handled so badly, vexatious? Were they genuine enquiries by seekers after truth, or were they designed only to mess the unit around?…”
George Monbiot appears to be unaware that the Climate sceptic-denier campaigns against Science have been waged for longer than the Internet has been in existence, and even before electronic mail existed, and that every single e-mail that Phil Jones ever wrote on the subject of Freedom of Information requests was in reaction to this ever-present sceptic-denier campaign, threatening to obstruct the course of Science.
Many enquirers after truth can vouch for ongoing Internet and e-mail wars in Climate Change Science that started way before the e-mails of Phil Jones that George Monbiot so criticises. George Monbiot’s interpretation of those e-mails is incorrect; to understand them, and the spirit in which they were written, he needs to have an appreciation of the context in which they were written.
George Monbiot writes, “The Canadian mining investor Steve McIntyre, who runs the website Climate Audit, was also fobbed off. In another email, Phil Jones reveals: “Think I’ve managed to persuade UEA [the University of East Anglia] to ignore all further FOIA requests if the people have anything to do with Climate Audit.” That doesn’t seem right either. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you can refuse to answer their FoI request.”
George Monbiot poorly interprets Phil Jones’ attitude, and seems to have no overview of the history of Steve McIntyre’s obstructive behaviour as regards Climate Change Science, which knowledge would definitely and clearly explain why Phil Jones would prefer the UEA to refuse to offer cooperation with ClimateAudit.
Phil Jones is innocent of wrongdoing. The Climate Change denier-sceptics have been waging a war against Science. Somebody needs to tell that story, and re-tell it, and keep talking about it until the Climate Change communications problem gets put right. Somebody who has done more research than George Monbiot.