December 21st is an important date in the astronomical calendar, which marks the transition from darkening days to brightening ones in the Earth’s northern hemisphere. For three days around now, the Sun stands still, rising at the same point on the horizon at the most southerly point it reaches. Then on Christmas day, the Sun rises noticeably further north and so is ‘reborn’ to start the New Year.
For my good lady and myself, it has been a dark and difficult time over this last week. We have been raided by the police, had our main means of communication with the outside world confiscated and our telephone line ripped out, hounded by the press, libeled by a Harvard PhD and a Penn State professor among others and vilified by half the climateering blogosphere. We have cried tears of fear and frustration, endured quizzical looks from work colleagues and neighbours, lost sleep had to support worried parents and relatives.
But during the longest of nights some things have happened which I hope and believe marks the turning of the tide of darkness we were engulfed by. A non-environmental reporter from the BBC has started to take an interest in what has been going on in the climate debate. As well as being made aware of our plight, she has heard from another person who also had the temerity to send a request for information under the FOI legislation to the Climate Research Unit. He too was questioned by police without being arrested or formally dealt with. He has engaged the interest of his Member of Parliament, and questions are going to be asked.
My erstwhile Harvard PhD accuser has (after the prompting of a pre litigation letter from my solicitor Stephen Wilde) had something of a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment and moderated his tone. He has altered the original article he wrote to something which hints at a dawning realisation for the need for real, open and respectful debate about the content of the climategate emails. Perhaps further on, we will be able to debate such matters as energy policy and taxation which affects the fuel poor, such as pensioners, and low income workers.
The BBC reporter (you’ll know her name soon enough) said to me on the phone last night that the possibility is disturbing that ordinary upstanding citizens such as us should be targeted for our perfectly legally held and expressed views concerning climate science, and climate and energy policy. It is not only the climate debate which needs opening up to the public through the media, but there are also important principles of freedom of expression and freedom from the abuse of arbitrary power which need to be re-affirmed and fostered. Today I will have an opportunity to start that process, and I’m humbled and honoured to be the ‘man of the moment’. In the centre of the cyclone, surrounded by the whirling forces of movements with their agendas, policy agendas, international political pressure and internal domestic politics. In this maelstrom of conflicting and competing forces the point of calm I regard as my rock is the scientific method.
Scientific truth cares not for agendas, not even good ones. My fear has always been that should the science of ‘man made global warming’ turn out to be wrong or badly over-hyped, the environmental movement I used to hold dear will be set back by decades in the backlash. I’ve seen it hijacked by a range of forces with agendas which conflict with my own view of what looking after our environment should entail. I love the open countryside, and have been walking and camping since I was a child. I grew up to become a qualified engineer, and understand the principles of power generation and distribution, and peoples need for warm homes to keep them in health. I did a degree in the History and Philosophy of science, and learned how to assess scientific theories and the way the people who define them are embedded into the society which finances their work through funding agencies which in turn are paid or partly financed through government agencies. It is complex, but the scientific method’s simple formula will allow us to find what is real and accept the truth no matter where the chips fall, if only we are faithful to it.
The ‘Reconciliation in the Climate Debate’ workshop I attended in Lisbon as an invited independent researcher at the start of last year was a small beginning, among others. We need an open, respectful, honest and realistic public debate about urgent and important issues which affect us all. If half of the people who want to engage are frozen out of the process, it is a sham and a delusion, and it will lead to lopsided and unrealistic results.
We will not allow this to happen.