Saturday, 23 February 2013

Hiding The Decline

I’ve just finished Andrew Montford’s book Hiding The Decline, about the Climategate affair, its background, impact and the various inquiries it stimulated. The author is of course the chap who runs the well-known and respected climate blog Bishop Hill.

As with Montford’s earlier work, The Hockey Stick Illusion, Hiding The Decline is clearly written with technicalities kept to a bare minimum, making it easy to read if a little dry in places.

The two books complement each other, but it is not essential to have read the earlier book in order to understand Hiding The Decline. In fact the first part of Hiding The Decline covers the Hockey Stick story in order to set the scene for those extraordinary Climategate revelations.

Most people interested in the subject will already know something of the Climategate affair where thousands of University of East Anglia emails highly embarrassing to mainstream climate science were released onto the internet by person, or persons unknown.

Although the story is familiar to me, it was interesting to have it so clearly laid out in book form and in particular it was interesting to read about the subsequent Science and Technology Committee, Russell, Oxburgh and Penn State inquiries, all of which seem to have been the most shameful whitewashes. The UK establishment comes out of it all very badly indeed.

On a personal note, there were times when I had to put the book to one side. The grotesque corruption of scientific integrity, the casting aside of five centuries of scientific progress, the lies, evasions, distortions and insular pettiness of climate scientists were not just shocking but at times too much for me to carry on reading.

I once believed in people like this. I trusted them and relied on their integrity. There was a time in my life as a professional scientist when, cynical as I am and allowing for human frailties, I believed in the scientific enterprise as one of the greatest of human achievements.

So it once was of course, and could be again, but climate scientists may well have ruined it beyond repair. There is no easy way back from what is by far the biggest scientific fraud in history. There is no way back if scientists can be so ready and willing to sell their science to political coercion and personal ambition.

Yet life must go on and lessons must be learned, so I heartily recommend Hiding The Decline. It’s a good but disturbing read.

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