Dr. Tim Ball:
I keep adding to my homemade list of aphorisms as events in this crazy world over take me. One I listed says,
Rules designed to facilitate operations bring them to a halt when people work to rule.
Misuse of rules was central to the corruption of climate science and, sadly but not surprisingly it continues.
We just passed the 6th anniversary of the release of emails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), an event James Delingpole called Climategate. I would like to say celebrated, but the full impact of the release did not affect science and society like its namesake. Instead, it is impacting in negative ways as the culprits continue their assault on the advance of knowledge and dissemination of information in a free and open society. Exposure of the cover-up was Watergate’s undoing, but the Climategate cover-up succeeded. The spin-doctors took over and orchestrated inquiries exposed later as a travesty but were effective. As Clive Crook, Senior Editor of The Atlantic wrote,
“I had hoped, not very confidently, that the various Climategate inquiries would be severe. This would have been a first step towards restoring confidence in the scientific consensus. But no, the reports make things worse. At best they are mealy-mouthed apologies; at worst they are patently incompetent and even wilfully wrong. The climate-science establishment, of which these inquiries have chosen to make themselves a part, seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause.”
This occurred even though Fred Pearce of the Guardian acknowledged that Andrew Montford made some effective points in an article titled “Montford lands some solid blows in review of ‘climategate’ inquiries.” Pearce tempered this for the regular reader in the standard way by noting that Montford received £3000 from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
About 30 years ago I gave a presentation at a large agricultural conference in North Dakota. I don’t normally stay for the formal dinner, but my travel schedule, the speaker, and the topic was intriguing. A US representative to the UN spoke presciently about an issue that is central to society and science in general but is already critical in the climate debate.
He said that a subtle but dominant battle would develop over the next 50 years as capitalism, the marketplace and society evolved. The central but simple point made involved a pen.
He held out a pen and said, “If I sell you this pen, you have the pen, and I no longer have it.” There is a complete transferal of property, and the pen retains most of its value.
He then explained that the world was increasingly one of ideas, and that creates a problem in the marketplace. If I have an idea and sell you the idea, you have the idea but I retain the idea. The minute you buy the idea it loses at least half the value. The challenge is how do you sell an idea and yet retain its value. How do you buy an idea and get intellectual and financial control? He predicted that the legalities of these challenges would alter every form of transaction and relationships at all levels. It would involve politicians and lawyers struggling to produce and apply legislation to protect the idea and the owner.
Most of these center round the idea of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that is one of the most contentious issues. As the National Law Review notes,
One of the primary U.S. trade negotiating objectives, as set forth in TPA, is “to further promote adequate and effective protection of intellectual property [IP] rights.” Free trade agreements (FTAs) to which the United States is a party therefore traditionally include robust IP protection and enforcement obligations. The final text of the TPP’s IP chapter remains broadly consistent with other U.S. trade agreements. However, the chapter does include some new, different, and in some cases controversial obligations and limitations.
The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a recent example of protecting ideas and their economic potential. Industrial espionage, especially by nations like China, is well known. It is so important and negotiated in such secrecy with the TPP that on 13 November 2013 Wikileaks published
“Advanced Intellectual Property Chapter for All 12 Nations with Negotiating Positions (August 30, 2013 consolidated bracketed negotiating text)”
Rules of Intellectual property are designed to provide credit and reward to the individual; a concept academics enshrine in condemnation of plagiarism. Despite this, the people associated with Climategate saw IP as a potential for hiding their malfeasance. They used it to ignore completely the most well known of all math exam instructions, “Show your work.” The entire mentality is encapsulated in this email exchange between ClimategateCRU Director Phil Jones to former CRU Director Tom Wigley, on January 21, 2005.
Wigley: I got a brochure on the FOI Act from UEA (University of East Anglia). Does this mean that, if someone asks for a computer program we have to give it out?? Can you check this for me (and Sarah). I will be at CRU next Mon, Tue, Wed in case Sarah did not tell you.
Jones: On the FOI Act there is a little leaflet we have all been sent. It doesn’t really clarify what we might have to do re programs or data. Like all things in Britain we will only find out when the first person or organization asks. I wouldn’t tell anybody about the FOI Act in Britain. I don’t think UEA really knows what’s involved. As you’re no longer an employee I would use this argument if anything comes along.
Wigley: Thanks for the quick reply. The leaflet appeared so general, but it was prepared by UEA so they may have simplified things. From their wording, computer code would be covered by the FOIA. My concern was if Sarah is/was still employed by UEA. I guess she could claim that she had only written one tenth of the code and release every tenth line.
Jones: “I wouldn’t worry about the code. If FOIA does ever get used by anyone, there is also IPR to consider as well. Data is covered by all the agreements we sign with people, so I will be hiding behind them. I’ll be passing any requests onto the person at UEA who has been given a post to deal with them.
“Hide the decline” to bypass evidence and hiding behind rules designed for openness was a favorite practice at the CRU under Jones.
There is another section in one of the emails from Wigley to Jones that reveals the thinking.
Let me fill you in a bit (confidentially). You probably know the panel members. We were concerned that the chair would be a strong person. It is Jerry Mahlman — about the best possible choice. (wonder how Mahlman feels as a “weak” person.) Richard Smith is the statistician — also excellent. Dave Randall, too — very good.