If you were planning to do a spot of DIY over the weekend you may encounter a problem – an acute shortage of whitewash in your local store, as it may have been appropriated for more urgent purposes. The estimable Bishop Hill is reporting he has heard on the grapevine that the publication of the review into the Climategate emails conducted by Sir Muir Russell is “imminent”. The prospect seems to have provoked an acute absence of hysterical excitement.
This is the third investigation into Climategate and the universal expectation is that it will be as much a snow job as the previous two, though those precedents will be hard to beat: not since Tom Sawyer manipulated his friends into whitewashing his aunt’s fence has a team worked harder than the successive establishment figures who have exonerated the Decline Hiders from any culpability.
The Russell review got off to a bad start. Within hours of its launch last February, Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature (the magazine referred to in “Mike’s Nature trick” which also published the Hockey Stick graph), had to resign from the inquiry because of remarks he had made in an interview on Chinese State Radio, in which he said: “The scientists have not hidden the data. If you look at the emails there is one or two bits of language that are jargon used between professionals that suggest something to outsiders that is wrong. In fact the only problem there has been is on some official restrictions on their ability to disseminate data otherwise they have behaved as researchers should.”
Some people took the narrow-minded view that this suggested Campbell had prejudged the issue, so he had to go. Why did Sir Muir Russell think that Campbell was a suitable person to have on the inquiry panel in the first place? A press release claimed of the panel members: “They were selected on the basis that they have no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science and for the contribution they can make to the issues of the review.”
Is there anybody from the establishment who can be relied upon to approach this issue with an open mind? Some of the observations emanating from the climate change industry suggest it has already anticipated the verdict of the inquiry. For example, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, complained: “Some commentators have already taken on the role of judge and jury (like Philip Campbell, does he mean?), pronouncing on the guilt of those involved and calling for their resignations. The Review team need to be fair to all concerned, but they may ultimately have difficulty persuading people to accept a verdict that does not match the conclusions that they have already reached themselves.”
That sweetly reasonable call for open-mindedness appears to have a sting in the tail, when it anticipates the likelihood of a verdict “they may ultimately have difficulty persuading people to accept”. That suggests the inquiry is expected by the climate change establishment to reach a conclusion that will invite widespread scepticism – like Lord Oxburgh’s verdict, for example. How imminent the Russell verdict may be remains to be seen; but, just in case, forget about attempting any whitewashing activities in the near future – better stick to ordering a few cans of creosote instead.