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December 07th 2009 print

Christopher Essex

Sceptics in Wonderland

A milestone in this mess can be said to be when John Houghton of the IPCC said it was the IPCC’s job to “orchestrate” the views of science. Everything that has happened flows as an inevitable consequence of that. 

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article by Daniel Henninger critical of scientists who allowed the culture of Climategate to develop in their professions.

Christopher Essex, a leading Canadian applied mathematician and award-winning author, has written to Henninger. 

Dear Daniel

My friend Willie Soon passed on an article from your “Wonder Land” column. It’s very good. It is an angle that I have anticipated for a very long time.

Wonderland is certainly where I have been trapped for more than twenty years. But it is not nearly as nice as Alice’s version. Thoughts of the inquisition come to mind instead.

Many of we scientists have been ringing the alarm bells from the beginning on this. We have been telling everyone who would listen about who we were dealing with. We have known all along.

Climategate is no surprise at all to us. Evidence for this is in my book with Ross McKitrick from 2002, Taken by Storm. It won a $10,000 prize, and is now in a second edition. But few were listening. If my book had a title like Oh, my God, we are all going to die, I am sure that it would have been on the NYT bestseller list at once.

Even though I understand where you are coming from, I find it rings flat with me to have to face people asking where the scientists were when we were overcoming so many many obstacles to get a rare fair hearing. The scientists have been tied up and gagged in the back room. I hate that. We were there screaming our lungs out all along.

Damn it all, my friends Ross McKitrick and Steve McIntyre had to have a hearing before US congress to get that ridiculous hockey stick broken! It should have been a simple matter. The thing could hardly hold together under its own weight.

Ross and I had a whole chapter on the hockey stick in our book, long before that controversy came to light. We used similar techniques to compute the US GDP with tree rings back to the year 1000, and we got a lovely hockey stick.

I did not want in on the original hockey stick paper, because of my objections to the merits of the underlying physics, but I did comment on the drafts. In the second edition, there is an account of how the thing got broken by Ross and Steve.

That science needed to get settled in Congress should have got people’s attention right there that there was something seriously wrong.

Science is alive and well in the individual scientists who are not caught up in gaming the system for bigger grants. I call it small science. Many of them are doing very unfashionable things, and are happy to get no recognition for it.

That is where you can find the real scientists. That is where the future will be.

A milestone in this mess can be said to be when John Houghton of the IPCC said it was the IPCC’s job to “orchestrate” the views of science. Everything that has happened flows as an inevitable consequence of that.

Some important research fields have been “orchestrated” out of existence. Even before Climategate, I have been saying that we have set ourselves back a generation by taking the money from governments with so many strings attached.

Governments leaders wanted something where they could absolve themselves of the responsibility for making informed decisions. They would have to read science stuff otherwise. They ordered up a kind of unnatural scientist that would tell them precisely what they wanted to hear.

But they gave the puppeteers clubs to deal with those of us who remained true. And the perps of Climategate are what they got. All of my colleagues have had to endure these bullies and criminals for a very long time.

You should understand that (real) scientists have had to pay the heaviest price for the creation of these monsters for decades. And they were not created by us.

Best wishes,

Christopher 

Christopher Essex is Professor and Associate Chair of the Department of Applied Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario.

See also Christopher Essex on “COP15 and Climategate