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« House hearing reports | Main | Another anniversary piece »
Thursday
Nov182010

Raising the temperature

Science writer Francis Sedgemore has entered the climate fray, with a posting that seems calculated to raise the temperature of an overheated debate still further.

Jones may have committed a few minor transgressions, born largely of frustration with political obstructionists and time wasters, but this respected scientist did not deserve being hounded to the edge of his grave. The climate denialists responsible for Jones’ near demise are scum, and for them the writing is on the wall. But it will be scientific evidence that does for them, not threatened knocks at the door in the middle of the night.

Of course, the alleged transgressions were not minor. In particular there were allegations of fraud (not investigated), fabrication (no defence offered) and breaches of freedom of information legislation (not investigated). And of course the allegations of fraud and fabrication had nothing to do with anyone taking up any of Jones' time either.

It's a pity that David Adam's Nature article missed so many of the pertinent questions. It seems now to be misleading people like Sedgemore who are not close enough to the story to make a meaningful contribution. In these circumstances, Sedgemore's aggressive language seems rather foolish.

Note however that there is nothing to be gained by responding in kind.

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Reader Comments (25)

The reality is that Jones entered the political arena... and was burned by it... is being burned it.

Wearing naff jumpers with leather patches is not a super-hero suit, resistant to the power of politics.

"Scientists" beware...

Nov 18, 2010 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

Jones was a second rate academic at a second rate university.

He enjoyed they easy years when it was just another dead end subject like golf psychology and medieval textiles. They had conferences, wrote papers, wrote their crummy software. It was occupational therapy for them - on the taxpayer.

But suddenly the climate subject was needed to spearhead a new political/social movement: eco-socialism.

Jones was out of his depth. He knew he was out of his depth. His work was just not good enough to support any proposed action on any scale - especially a remodelling of everyone's way of life forever.

Climategate just brought this home to him. We know what he knows about his level of skill. He knows that we know. He's got nowhere to hide now.

Nov 18, 2010 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I've never heard of Sedgemore before and I can't see after this rant taking any notice of anything he says if I come across him in the future. He's yet another person who knows the emails were "stolen by a hacker".

You are right in that there is no point in responding in kind. He won't take notice of climate denialist scum like me, but I may formulate a response to him.

Nov 18, 2010 at 8:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

A fairly ugly piece of writing that speaks to me of a troubled mind – only ten sentences, with something wrong or unpleasant in each of them. Here they are:

(1) It is now a year since the release of a thousand emails and other documents stolen by a hacker from the server of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
(2) This gave rise to the manufactured scandal known as“Climategate”.
(3) The political fallout from the affair continues, including with the election this month to the US Congress of tea-potty representatives who insist that the leaked information reveals corruption at the heart of the climate science community.
(4) This, despite a number of inquiries clearing those involved of all but trivial offences of bad taste and uncalled for arsiness.
(5) The head of the Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones, was at the epicentre of a blogospheric shit storm unleashed by the forces of reaction.
(6) Jones received hundreds of abusive and threatening emails, and as a result suffered a nervous breakdown from which he is slowly recovering.
(7) In an interview published in this week’s edition of Nature, Jones talks about how he considered taking his own life, in much the same way that the Iraq weapons inspector David Kelly met his end after being sacrificed by the state he served.
(8) Jones may have committed a few minor transgressions, born largely of frustration with political obstructionists and time wasters, but this respected scientist did not deserve being hounded to the edge of his grave.
(9)The climate denialists responsible for Jones’ near demise are scum, and for them the writing is on the wall.
(10) But it will be scientific evidence that does for them, not threatened knocks at the door in the middle of the night.

Feeling Fisky anyone?

Nov 18, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

Not knowing Sedgemore myself, but he seems to be coming from a political angle that assumes all criticism of climate research is right wing ("tea-potty"), so that is obviously colouring his view.

Having looked a bit at his site, he seems to be quite experienced in real science and approaches some subjects from a considered view, for example I found this in relation to the Lancet Iraq body count study interesting.

What bothers me about [Tim] Lambert and others who support the Lancet study is the vitriol directed toward Iraq Body Count and others who have questioned the Burnham figures. It’s far more than the robust divergence of views that I experienced as a research scientist working on a particularly controversial topic within my own field of expertise.

Note his surprise about how controversy generates "vitriol", exceeding the "robust divergence of views" he sees in his own work:

So I guess he must have just been expressing a "robust divergence of view" when he said:

Climate scepticism and denialism’s strength derives from their skill with PR and spin. Forget postmodernism; scientists would do well to study Machiavelli if they wish to understand and combat the anti-scientists currently dominating the public debate on climate change.

http://sedgemore.com/2010/10/climate-denialism-more-machiavelli-than-derrida/

Nov 18, 2010 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

I remember Sedgemore from his involvement in Comment isn't Free's 'Big Blogger' beauty contest in mid 06. Despite losing that he wrote a few pieces for the Guardian website until Sept 07, then wandered off into well deserved obscurity and has not been heard from since. I believe he has a doctorate in something or other but rather than being a 'journalist and science writer' he is basically a leftist saloon bar bore with a blog, one of thousands, and I don't understand why the tendentious ramblings of this irrelevant individual warrant the publicity they have been given here.

Nov 18, 2010 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil D

Sedgemore has obviously run through the gamut of honest responses to debate i.e
brains/facts = wit/humor = obsession/conviction = and finally he's ended up at insults/smears !
I feel pity for him as there's no where to go but down his own fundamental I'm afraid .
Oh and as for Jones if he really meant to do himself harm why did he save it to tell the weekend supplement ? and the linking of this sad man with Dr David Kelly is in my mind pathetic Sedgemore!

Nov 18, 2010 at 10:37 AM | Unregistered Commentermatty

"Note however that there is nothing to be gained by responding in kind."

On the contrary, I will gain personal satisfaction in calling Jones and Sedgemore scum.

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Interesting mindset here, a person who has obviously embedded themselves in science research, but then turned to science 'writing'. I'm not sure this adds anything to the debate. As per my posts yesterday on the house hearings, its difficult to make assertions about somebody's work in science, when the judges avoid talking about the core science. Therefore the final assertion regarding 'evidence' is contradictory. As the post of Josh some months ago, this is probably position 2 on the Kubler-Ross scale.

SDCS

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterSir DigbyCS

Bish,
It is always interesting to note the contours and currents in how things are reported or 'framed' as some of these people openly and shamelessly call it.

After November 17th last year, for about a month, the 'prestige press' maintained silence on Climategate, the event. Save for small snippets virtually no information even seeped out. This was their "let-us-see-if -this amounts to anything at all", 'let us not stick our neck and get caught on the wrong side of things" phase. The only respectable exception to this was Monbiot - a man, who knew something, to see why things looked bad. I clearly remember the frustration at several blogs that none of the mainstream press and TV outlets were talking about Climategate. The proof for this? Today, when sources write articles referring to the alleged 'bad behaviour of the press' - they link to Delingpole and Booker - because they have no one else to link to.

Then came Fred Pearce' glacier drama and his 'mutation', and his pretentious "let us really figure out what Climategate is" crowd sourcing effort,after the crowd had sourced itself and cleaned everything up. Mosher and Fuller' had written a slim book, for heavens' sake. The HSI was out. There were enough people who had followed this for years.

Around the time, it was "Oh. my heart's aflutter Copenhagen has failed" time, but accompanied by "Climategate is hardly responsible for it" clarifications.

Even then, the mainstream press did no original digging of its own - it blindly followed the various 'gates exposed by North, operated only in reaction mode: "Dr Pachauri, is it true that there are many errors in the IPCC report?", "Dr Pachauri, is it true that you stand to make financial gains from your links to various companies around the world?" The Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph were the exceptions; magazines in India - India Today, and Outlook magazines did their bit. For example, India Today exposed that even as they denied everything upfront, TERI-India was talking calls about 'club memberships' at their Retreat golf course. There are rumours that journalists bribed Pachauri's dry cleaners to ascertain that he possessed Armani suits.

This was followed closely by the parroting on the findings of the various inquiries and investigations - at every turn - again operating in reaction mode. "There was something called Climategate, we hardly even knew about it, but apparently the officials have asked each other all kinds of questions, and it is over now". One notable propaganda effort during this time, was the attack of the twitter butterflies on Sharon Begley's article on Newsweek. Another was Monbiot's premature exultations. Both of these followed the Sunday Times-issued retractions on Amazongate.

Now, after a year, it is "it is time to wrest back the narrative and the lost ground" time - the utterly shameless capitulation of a press that never asked its own questions, for a year. Simon Lewis has appeared on the Guardian and Nature, telling scientists they are in a "street fight", Nature magazine tells scientists they are in a "street fight", Mandia and Abraham are organizing the neighborhood watch, Mann is galloping hither and thither on his steed armed with stick.

The final phase is the "Oooh, they drove Jones to suicide and left a rat on Santer's doorstep" sympathy-mongering - more shameless sciencexploitation drama-queen tantrums.. The most famous rat in all of the climate debate must be the dead one on Santer's door step - it is a posthumous star.

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Sedgemore specialises in this sort of intemperate language, on this subject. His post is, however, content-free, so it's nothing to get too worked up about.

As an aide, it's remarkable how many technically capable people swallow the idea that the emails etc were hacked. I'd like to get the hacker to fill in my lottery tickets for me. There can be no luckier person on the planet - a climate sceptic who managed to log into a server at UEA, only to find a zip file of relevant emails and scripts waiting there, all bundled up and ready to go!

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Risdon

Sedgemore may claim to be a science writer, but his recent postings are almost entirely about politics.

And judging by the low number of followup remarks.have gone largely (and rightly) unnoticed by the blogocommentariat. We are in danger of bringing undeserved publicity to this guy.

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

aide = aside

Nov 18, 2010 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Risdon

He has replied,

It's odd, he says that he agrees that climate scientists have been left wanting but finishes with...

"Jones would I’m sure not thank me for this, but I cannot help but enjoy baiting the deniers. They are beyond reason, and are thus fair game."

?

Nial.

Nov 18, 2010 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Just another alarmist numptie angry about the demise of the grand narrative that was Global Warming Hysteria.

Nov 18, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I agree with Sedgemore on one thing. "it will be the scientific evidence that does for them", but not in the way he envisages.

Nov 18, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

"The climate denialists responsible for Jones’ near demise are scum, and for them the writing is on the wall."

What "near demise" is he referring to?

Why did Jones say he contemplated suicide if he was so sure he was in the right?

There have been few MSM attacks on him, almost all of it has come from blogs, and even then it has hardly been vitriolic. Who are these denialists he refers to? let's have some names please?

Also, When Norfolk police went to investigate the death threats, neither Jones nor CRU were able/willing to provide email containing death threats to the police. There has been absolutely no investigation into death threats- it seems this was just another lie from Jones and has been quietly dropped by his supporters.

Nov 18, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Cooper

Mark Cooper

I hadn't heard that about the police investigation into the death threats. Do you have a source?

Nov 18, 2010 at 10:06 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Mark is right. You cannot read comments on the Internet and become sad - only celebrities do that.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

-Longfellow

Nov 19, 2010 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

On November 24, 2009, David Adam reported that Jones' had "threats which he has had to pass on to the police".

Presumably these were the emails Jones had to print out and hand over, according to the Nature article?

Guardian Article with interview

Apologies for double post.

Nov 19, 2010 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

I now almost expect the denialist label to appear in any mainstream piece on AGW, not that it makes it any less offensive. But it is very sad to see one of the few UK journalists with a scientific background resorting to labelling sceptics as scum. I won't reply in kind but neither will I forget. I have not and will not forgive Gordon Brown for his 'flat-earther' comment, nor Ed Milliband for his assertion that 'war' should be declared on non-believers. But I suppose these attacks are not that surprising when one considers the context; despite billions of dollars spent on AGW research in the US and EU over the last 20 years, there is still no empirical evidence to validate the CO2 hypothesis, bar dodgy GIGO computer models, and even they didn't predict/project the last 10-15 years of stasis. Hence they have to resort to slurs and threats. At least the persecution of sceptics nowadays is only verbal, unlike how things were a few hundred years ago, as summarised by Dr Sallie Ballunis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8C1CKKhN7ng

Nov 19, 2010 at 4:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

" ... and breaches of freedom of information legislation (not investigated) ..."

I thought that the FOI Commissioner had looked at the case and said there was a case to answer but that the gap between his review of the issues and the time at which the actions had occurred was too long.

Nov 19, 2010 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Diffenthal

"Note however that there is nothing to be gained by responding in kind."

Nothing to be gained from responding at all.

Nov 21, 2010 at 7:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaddkJ

But it did just occur to me: Since someone mentioned that "he has a Ph.D in something," is this guy the UK's very own Joe "That's Dr. Romm to you, punk" Romm?

Well, we all have our embarrassments.

Nov 21, 2010 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaddkJ

RE Death threats. Anyone can telephone the main police station at Kings Lynn and ask- there is no ongoing investigation into death threats against Dr Phillip Jones, and there is no record of any investigation being initiated. End of story. (Actually there is a lot more story if you can get to talk to one of the police involved in the CRU leak)

Nov 21, 2010 at 9:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark Cooper

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