Climategate, the Film: Boffins Turning Tricks

If I had my life to live over again, I wouldn’t change a thing, except I’d skip The Trick, a movie about the Climategate scandal that makes heroes of the villains.[1] The BBC aired it last year, and it’s finally accessible on Britbox via my Apple TV. It’s a thriller and the hero is Dr Phil Jones, who, in 2009 when the scandal broke, was a “world renowned” top scientist on a mission to save the planet from the perils of CO2.

He actually pestered UK’s Vox Pictures last year to make the BBC film about himself. It was rather as if Napoleon had pestered the BBC to make a film about his win at WaterlooThe Trick is an alleged “true story”. The real true story is marvellously encapsulated here. This is the BBC’s synopsis (Caution: Risk of nausea):

The Trick tells the story of world-renowned Professor Philip Jones, the Director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. Back in 2009, he found himself at the eye of an international media storm and the victim of cyberterrorism. The film charts the unjustifiedpersecution of Phil Jones and his wife Ruth’s fierce support of her husband alongside the fight for the ultimate exoneration of himself and the science…

With time running out against an unseen enemy, The Trick looks at the potentially devastating consequences to humanity from climate change denial – how a media storm undermined public confidence in the science and how the concept of ‘truth’ took a back seat causing us to lose a decade of action.  (My emphases).

I hate to spoil the movie’s plot but controversial emailer Dr Phil is triumphantly vindicated by tame-cat inquiries, although the UK Institute of Physics comments that “worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research and for the credibility of the scientific method.” [2]

Phil’s urgings for his cronies to big up the warming peril and stifle critics are sent down the memory hole. He is soon back at work adjusting raw temperature data to better inform policy-makers. Discomfited critics like Canadian ace statistician Steve McIntyre slink back to their lairs like the routed devils in Paradise Lost.

No-one involved in the film project has a friggin’ clue about the real Climategate parameters, but they leapt at the chance to trash those pesky fossil fuels. Pity about the UK households now facing $A8,000 annual fuel bills).

Actor George MacKay has a key role-playing Sam Bowen, an idealistic PR flack – is that an oxymoron? His job is to coach Dr Phil on how to look good before a House of Commons committee. Interviewed about the role, actor George said (I’m not making this up):

The nature of how we live our lives has changed including how we live and work. We cannot continue to be using plastic.[3]

Around my study, the synthetics from the wall paint to the carpet and my laptop are oil-based. George’s anti-plastic jihad “to ensure our long-term survival” is a tad misguided. But in the film, his character, Sam, reeks of goodness, especially as he has fathered (or adopted?) a brown baby whom he tenderly kisses a lot, while his father does the ironing and housework. It’s a double or triple triumph of BBC diversity. Where’s the brown mother? We’re not told.

Scriptwriter Owen Sheers’ job is to make us love the horrible Dr Phil Jones, played as the cliched other-worldly professor by Jason Watkins. (In real life, Jason’s a fan of Extinction Rebellion while Sheers imagines climate is “the most significant existential threat we face as a species”).[4] So Phil skylarks on Norfolk’s Happisburgh beach with cute granddaughter Lily, watched by adoring, laughing Ruth (Victoria Hamilton). He gambols with Lily amid the wavelets, in his shoes, slacks and jacket. Far from learning from a mistake (shoes are never the same after a sea dip), he repeats his feat (or feet) twice more in the film. I can imagine him squelching to the university’s climate super-computer, disgorging sand, crabs, starfish and the occasional small squid from his pockets. Only after being “utterly exonerated” does he finally take his shoes off before paddling. Some symbolism there?

The next scene is Phil backstage at Copenhagen Cop15, blushing to be announced as “a world-renowned climate scientist”. He hangs back but adoring Ruth pushes him into the spotlight, giggling, “Go on, Phil!” as hero-music swells. This scene’s a pinch from (in film jargon, ‘homage to’) that Nobel Prize movie The Wife of 2017.

We meet PR man Sam rushing out of his diverse household to a meeting about how to extract Phil from Climategate’s doo-doo when Phil has to appear before a House of Commons inquiry. We learn that the Climategate emails have generated a global scandal, pushed by TV fast-talking heads including sceptic US Senator James Inhofe, who correctly call it “junk science and part of a massive international science fraud.”

East Anglia Uni boffin Trevor Davis (Aneiran Hughes) alerts Ruth, saying in incredulous tone, “They are accusing him of fraud, Ruth!” The film makes out, for suspense purposes, that the Commons committee is ravening for Phil’s blood: in fact only one member (Graham Stringer, Labour and a science PhD) gave Phil a hard time. Stringer later complained that the East Anglia University had done a con job on the committee. The Commons’ own terms of reference did not include investigating Phil let alone exonerating him. The parallel inquiry by Scottish senior bureaucrat Sir Muir Russell did investigate and reported that Jones’ (and Michael Mann’s) now-notorious Hockey Stick diagram was “misleading”, a serious slight on crucial “evidence” for unnatural warming.[5]

To build suspense, no-one’s sure if Phil has been naughty, and we bite our nails for half an hour. Phil has a breakdown and can barely speak. Says PR Sam; “Jesus they [the dons] weren’t joking, he’s broken.” Phil’s behaving oddly if, as the film believes, he’s as innocent as a suckling lamb.

The director’s problem is that spelling out the emails might alienate the audience from lovable world-renowned scientist Phil. So, in the middle of reading out the worst emails, the film inserts a scene break or adds an auditory distraction. Only a very alert viewer would understand Jones’ lines like

I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature Trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.

 And (to Australian climate scientist Warwick Hughes),

Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try to find something wrong with it?

Other Jones’ emails of course go unmentioned, like gloating over the fatal illness of Tasmanian sceptic John Daly (“In an odd way this is cheering news!”), and literally “making up” missing data.[6]

The film backtracks three months to Scotland Yard coppers sleuthing how 1000 emails were “stolen” by “cyberterrorists” (ie., hacked, leaked by a disgruntled insider or just left lying around on the internet).[7]

The top copper rates the case as “Category A”, literally worse than a homicide investigation because it could imperil the planet, you see. “So we can expect some additional support from national counter-terrorism, Scotland Yard,” he intones. A brown lady constable (two BBC diversity boxes ticked) interjects, “Sorry, boss, but who’s been murdered?” He snaps at her, “Look at the timing! Join the dots! Three weeks before COP15 [Copenhagen]. If this is someone trying to influence the global response to climate change, then I’d say Category A is not enough!” The now chastened lady constable nods: now she gets it.

A US forensic expert (black, another box ticked) called “Gareth from Kinetic” has a wonderful line putting down genuine Climategate hero Steve McIntyre. Gareth from Kinetic sneeringly calls him “a Canadian ex-mining consultant turned self-appointed climate science fact-checker”. Jones in 2002 initially gave McIntyre some of his data, “but then Mcintyre started using it to criticise Jones to undermine his career” — how shocking is that in the science world? Jones dug in and McIntyre allegedly persuaded his entire data base to flood Jones with FOI requests. “Sixty in a week, look it’s a bloody tsunami” [i.e., 9-12 a day].

Competent scientists would have their temperature stations, data and countries neatly archived and could have send the spreadsheet off in a quarter hour. The technical problem for Jones was that his data was a mess, with hundreds of individual files (he didn’t even know how to use Excel to show a trend)[8], and some were destroyed or gone missing.[9] As Melbourne climate scientist Dr John McLean[10]discovered in 2018 when he did the first-ever audit for his PhD of Dr Phil’s HadCRUT4 global temperature series, it was about the standard of a first-year uni student’s work. For example, McLean found that for two years Jones derived the temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere from just one site in Indonesia.

Gareth from Kinetic plants, then nixes, the suspicion that analyst McIntyre hacked the emails, explaining in a beaut put-down, “It was a relatively sophisticated attack, (so) he would not have the capability.”

At home with Ruth, Phil’s crack-up worsens.

Phil (screaming): I have not falsified any data!

Ruth: They can’t argue with the facts. 

Phil (sobbing): But that’s what they do all the time! (Weeping) I haven’t done anything wrong, Ruth.

It’s darkest-before-the-dawn stuff. Can decent but nearly ga-ga Phil get his act together before the Commons inquisitors?

Script maestro Sheers uses every filmic device to keep viewers on-side with Phil. In a maybe Oscar-inspiring episode, he scripts loving wife Ruth telling Phil,

You said when they finally came to act on it [alleged catastrophic warming circa 2100] they would need data they could trust. They need EVIDENCE. And you would be able to give it to them. Well, that time is now, and you were right. That’s why you can’t let those BASTARDS [sceptics like Quadrant readers] destroy all you have done. It is TOO IMPORTANT. (Sobs). YOU are too important. 

Phil puts on his stunned-mullet look, as violas swell. Then they both sob together. They’re soon at it again.

Phil: They have finally found a way to get me. They have won, Ruth.

Ruth: No, they have not. They know the truth is out there now [i.e., truth about climate Armageddon etc in 2100]. All they can do is try to find ways of delaying how soon it reaches everyone. That is the desperation of people who have lost!

Phil: You are forgetting something. Not everyone wants to the truth to reach them.

Phil and Ruth hold hands, the music throbs, they gaze into each other’s eyes and as Oscar Wilde wrote of the death of Little Nell, you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh.[11]

PR Sam laments that “the blogs” and “American right-wing media” are pursing the scandal, and he adds, “The BBC [too], for Christ’s sake!” Personally, I’d intuit that if even the BBC and The Guardian were putting the boots into Phil, he was letting the side down big-time.

The PR team laboriously coach Phil on how to look good, or at least not too ga-ga. To show that even PR presstitutes are not cynical talents-for-hire, the film cuts to Sam’s flat, with Pop doing the ironing and Sam cuddling motherless brown baby, furnished with both a dummy and a teddy bear. Son and Pop discuss how dastardly sceptics are, using ancient talking points about tobacco liars, “Exxon knew” about the CO2 peril but hid it, and vast funding of sceptics by oil companies (we wish).

The film hasn’t finished dealing sympathy cards to Phil. Next up are ‘death threat’ emails, the usual deplorable stuff. But as I heard US pundit Tucker Carlson say the other day, get over it, it’s everywhere. The authentic death threats come from Koran-toting Islamists, as Salman Rushdie learnt, and ideologically driven bureaucrats financing their vendettas on the public teat, as our late, great cartoonist Bill Leak discovered. The e-threats cause Phil to — you guessed it — walk into the sea with his briefcase, but he walks out again with shrimps in his cuffs. In reality, he said he’d only contemplated suicide.

I can find no instances of any violence against orthodox climate scientists, apart from someone allegedly throwing eggs at someone’s Canberra house. But immediately after an Alabama weekend Earth Day procession in April 2017, someone fired seven Belgian 5.7mm rounds from 70 yards range which hit the fourth-floor offices of sceptic climate scientist Dr John Christy. Incredibly, local police couldn’t figure out any motive.

Next in the film is a vignette of Ruth and Phil’s early romance, mercifully minus a nude bed romp. Ruth says,

Just show them [Commons] who you are. Do you remember when we first met? [Violins]. The Halls of Residence. It was dark, your room was on the other side of the wall. And you came out to ask us to be quiet. [Her tears well up]. The way you acted and carried yourself, I could tell straight away he was a good man, a kind man, a man of integrity. [Oh, go on! And do fix the grammar] All the pieces of that man are still here today. Which means so is he.

Phil orates about imminent climate doom if we don’t heed and believe his dodgy data:

Phil: CO2 emissions and temperatures rise by 1.5 to 4.5degC by 2100 [hey, that’s quite a range!) and the poles by maybe 10deegC. By 2100 dust bowl conditions across North America and Africa and Asia too. Sooner than that, massive reduction in agricultural production [yields are annually hitting new records], less access to drinking water, migration in huge numbers [none to date], and bushfires on a massive scale in Australia and the West Coast. And melting of the poles and the West Antarctic ice sheets causing global sea-level rise of metres [on a thousand-year time scale]. In this worst-case scenario [never mind plausible scenarios] 20% of the habitable world will no longer be able to sustain human life. Millions of species will become extinct. Coastal and delta cities will be under water, and more – if methane in the permafrost and sea-beds releases, the results will be…

PR man: What?

Phil: The climate will collapse and the world as we know it will be gone.

Phil gazes sternly at the camera with the all-seeing eyes of a world-renowned climate scientist. The face of PR Sam displays six varieties of shock.

Then comes the climactic Commons hearing. The director can’t ignore the money-quote from Phil. Waving his hands, Phil says in the film (and in actual transcript), “Uh. Yes, I’ve obviously written some very awful emails.”

Much suspense and sad music ensues until the committee report comes out. Ruth reads (my emphasis), “As far as we have been able to consideraccusations of dishonesty, for example, Professor Jones’ alleged attempt to ‘hide the decline’, we consider there is… [Ruth pauses to sob] … no case to answer.” [sobs and weeps].[12] Six other tame inquiries are said to have cleared Phil, including of course by Obama’s dark-green Environmental Protection Agency.

Thus vindicated, Phil climbs the local lighthouse to embrace Lily and point histrionically at nothing. PR Sam’s brown baby has now grown up into a brainwashed teenager toting school-strike placards, “There is No Planet B”. Plastics-hating actor George intones,

It only took one generation to break the planet [what? It’s never been in better shape, apart from Ukraine and President Biden] so why can’t it take just one generation to fix it? I know we should have more time but at least we still have time — just! 

In Britain’s case, just time to wreck the economy with renewables and get clobbered by Putin’s gas crunch.

The on-screen wrap-up reads:

Today Phil Jones is one of the world’s most cited and respected [what?] climate scientists. He still works at CRU [albeit demoted] where he continues to measure the increase in global temperature.

Actually, that’s zero rise for the past eight years and one month, according to the reliable UAH satellites.

Anyway, after all the inquiries, Phil was asked by a Nature interviewer why he’d urged deletion of info subject to Freedom of Information requests. An attempt to thwart critics, perhaps?

That was probably just bravado at the time. We just thought if they’re going to ask for more, we might as well not have them.”

Bravo, world-renowned climate scientist!

Tony Thomas’ essay collection “Foot Soldier in the Culture Wars” ($29.95) is available from publisher ConnorCourt. A new book, “Anthem of the Unwoke —Yep! the other lot’s gone bonkers”, is in production

[1] I think this witticism originates from Woody Allen in respect of the movie “Titanic”.

[2] And written evidence submitted to the Commons committee by the Institute of Physics in London claimed the hacked emails had revealed “prima facie evidence of determined and coordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions” through “manipulation of the publication and peer-review system” and “intolerance to challenge”.

[3] Some have suggested he is merely condemning plastic bags on environmental grounds. But plastic bags have nothing to do with humanity’s “long term survival”. He really does condemn “plastic”.

[4] Jason also played PM Harold Wilson in The Crown

[5] One of the inquiries was led by Ronald Oxburgh, a member of the House of Lords and honorary president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association. Oxburgh “has paid directorships of two renewable energy companies, and is a paid advisor to Climate Change Capital, the Low Carbon Initiative, Evo-Electric, Fujitsu, and an environmental advisor to Deutsche Bank.” In other words, Oxburgh stood to make a lot of money off AGW and could not, under any circumstances, be seriously considered an independent investigator.

[6] Jones: For much of the SH [Southern Hemisphere] between 40 and 60 [degrees] S[outh] the normals are mostly made up as there is very little ship data there. And “For the 1940-1960 period if the SSTs [sea surface temperatures] were adjusted they would look much better. Here’s another one: … I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is! 

[7] The still-unidentified perp actually said his motive was to help divert useless trillions for renewables towards doing genuine good for the world’s poor. Melbourne climate scientist Dr John McLean says that the CRU documents first appeared from website That address was very similar to www.toms.cru.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that the CRU people were trying to hide emails away, maybe onto an old PC used by CRU analyst Tom Wigley (hence ‘toms.cru”), in order to avoid disclosing them under Freedom of Information requests.”

[8] Jones: “I’m not adept enough [he means totally inept] with Excel to do this now as no-one who knows how to is here.”

[9] One email from a university staffer himself reads, “I do hope all these emails are just staying within UEA because it really makes us (UEA as a whole) look like a bunch of amateurs”

[10] The multiple requests occurred largely because a lot of Jones’ data files weren’t aggregated so requests might have gone in for say, Australian data 2008, NZ data 2008, Fiji data 2008, Vanuatu data 2008 etc.

[11] Dickens, Old Curiosity Shop:

“She was dead. No sleep so beautiful and calm, so free from trace of pain, so fair to look upon. She seemed a creature fresh from the hand of God, and waiting for the breath of life; not one who has lived and suffered death … Dear, gentle, patient, noble Nell was dead.”

[12] The Commons findings read: “In addition, insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty-for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline”- we consider that there is no case to answer. Within our limited inquiry and the evidence, we took, the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact.” (My

via Climate Scepticism

November 7, 2022

Climategate, the Film: Boffins Turning Tricks ‹ Climate Scepticism ‹ Reader —