Climategate 10 years on: what lessons have we learned?

(The Guardian, 9 Nov 2019) A series of leaked emails was leapt on by climate-change deniers to discredit the data, but their efforts may have only slowed the search for solutions.

The email that appeared on Phil Jones’s computer screen in November 2009 was succinct. “Just a quick note to encourage you to shoot yourself in the head,” it said. “Don’t waste any more time. Do it today. It is truly the greatest contribution to mankind that you will ever make.”

Nor was it very different from the other emails that were arriving in Jones’s inbox. Others described the climate scientist as the scum of the earth. Some authors promised to kill him themselves. Most of the messages were riddled with obscenities. All made troubling reading.

As to the cause of this outpouring of hatred, that was straightforward. Jones headed the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, from which a tranche of emails had just been hacked and made public. These, it was claimed, showed that he and fellow researchers were faking the evidence that suggested our planet was heating up dangerously.

The affair was dubbed Climategate by those who deny the existence of global warming and it remains one of modern society’s most troubling affairs. Many observers believe it helped delay measures that might have slowed climate change and given humanity more time to cut atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, its key cause.

Climategate marks its 10th anniversary this month – an opportune moment to reflect on just how serious was its impact on society, and to look at the effect it had on those who were trying to stop Earth from being ravaged by rising seas, spreading deserts, disappearing coral reefs and suffocating heat.

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The Guardian, 9 Nov 2019: Climategate 10 years on: what lessons have we learned?