On Friday I went to Norwich at the invitation of the Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia (UEA), home of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) which has been much in the news in the last twelve months.
I had been invited following a correspondence with one of UEA’s academic staff. A couple of months before, I had asked if I could bring a couple of colleagues. They said yes. A week or so later, they asked for the names (and any special dietary requirements). I replied Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and James Delingpole of the Daily Telegraph. For the next week or so I held my breath, fearing that they might not like to receive two prominent sceptics, but there was no further response. Not, at least, until a couple of days before the meeting, when I received an apologetic e-mail. They had just noticed who my proposed companions were.
Apparently protocol would not allow the VC to meet “political activists”. If Lord Monckton and Delingpole had any questions, they were free to approach the UEA’s Press Office. (In passing, I have to say it seems rather odd to describe Lord Monckton as a “political activist”. An hereditary Peer of the Realm, a former adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a highly respected commentator on the climate issue, and Deputy Leader of the party that came in second place in the 2009 euro-elections. In any case, I like to regard myself, in my small way, as a political activist, and the VC was prepared to see me.)
I replied that this was deeply embarrassing to me, as I knew that Lord Monckton had made extensive (and expensive) changes to his travel schedule, between a financial conference in China and a business meeting in New York, specifically to attend the UEA meeting. In reply, they made an extraordinary proposal: Lord Monckton could not meet the VC with me, but he could have a separate meeting after my meeting was concluded. I decided to invite, on my own initiative, another MEP, Stuart Agnew of Eastern Region. They could scarcely refuse another parliamentarian.
On arrival, I found Lord Monckton already there. Stuart Agnew and I were ushered into the VC’s office, where we found the VC with three CRU professors – though not Phil Jones, nor the others whose names have become celebrated in the e-mails saga. I immediately made one last appeal. It was absurd that Lord Monckton and I, who know each other well and have worked together on the very issue we had come to discuss, should have two separate meetings with the VC. But the VC was adamant: a joint meeting would create an unacceptable precedent. Monckton would have to come later. It was the VC’s university, so I reluctantly accepted his dictum.
Then we got to the business of the leaked e-mails. At one point the VC referred to sceptics as “climate change deniers”, and I pulled him up sharp. I have yet to meet anyone who denies the plain fact that the climate changes. Indeed if the climate never changed, we should hardly need a word to describe it. The climate is only interesting because it changes.
Meantime the VC and his colleagues simply denied that any wrong-doing had taken place. The quotes which seemed to imply guilt were “selective”, and had been “taken out of context”. The VC relied heavily on the several academic/legalistic reviews of the scandal, in which the establishment has striven at all costs to justify the e-mails, to deny any guilt, and to protect the current climate orthodoxy. The VC insisted that if I had not read all of these reports (the thickness of a telephone directory) then I was in no position to comment.
But the quotes are quite clear. The “Hockey Team”, which has a stranglehold on the IPCC process, and of which the UEA/CRU forms a key part, did indeed conspire to prevent the publication of dissenting opinions. They have indeed sought the dismissal of editors of learned journals whom they found insufficiently compliant, and too inclined to publish other views. They did indeed cobble together unrelated data sets (without explaining what they had done) to ensure that their “Hockey Stick Graph” complied with their expectations, and in order (in their words) to “hide the decline”. They conspired to subvert the peer-review process.
The e-mails are explicit. They are the smoking gun. They cannot be justified by any amount of context.
As I said to the VC, if I catch someone with their hand in my back pocket removing my wallet, I shall conclude that they are a thief and a pick-pocket, and I shall be unimpressed if they tell me that I have taken their actions “out of context”.
In a way I am reminded of a meeting earlier in the week, in Brussels, with three North Korean diplomats. They presented an entirely fanciful account of peace, freedom and prosperity in North Korea, and seemed uncomfortable when I explained that we knew, and they knew, that their description was nonsense, and hopelessly out-of touch with reality. But as we and they knew, they were obliged by reason of their positions and their employment to parrot the Party line. I fear that the UEA is under similar pressures.