Letter to British PM from climate scientists authored by Bob Ward?

Climate scientists are fond of signing their name to activist letters. Usually, these letters end in some fiasco or the other. The latest, the Guardian has reported, is one written by ‘leading scientists’ to British PM Theresa May asking her to persuade Donald Trump away from climate skepticism. The letter  (alternate link: here) was ‘delivered to Downing Street on Friday,’ the Independent informs somberly, after being signed by ‘100 of the world’s leading climate researchers working in the UK.’

Not unexpectedly, contained within was the usual combination of admonishments, pleas for funding and veiled threats one has come to expect from climate science nowadays, and sadly enough from the science establishment in general. The tone is dismally poor and presumptuous, a familiarity to anyone associated with the climate debate.

Checking the letter’s metadata in Acrobat showed the letter’s author was one ‘WARDRE.’

'WARDRE' - Bob Ward author of letter to Theresa May

That’s right. It is climate activist Bob Ward, ‘Policy and Communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics’ whose name is listed as the document’s author. Ward lists his email address as ‘r.e.ward@lse.ac.uk’ at his employer’s web profile. I think it is fair to conclude Bob Ward wrote the entire letter, though other conjectures are possible.

What’s more, Ward signed on the letter himself though he is no scientist. That close to a hundred professors and leaders in UK climate science would sign off on such a poor letter can at best mean they did not read its contents. At worst, they actively worked with an activist Ward and are happy to be tarred by his political brush.

How is this all presented, in the media, to the outside world? Here’s Ward himself on his Twitter feed:

ward-tweet

More accurately put, it would read ‘Bob Ward urges Theresa May to pressure Trump on global warming.’

In large part, letter campaigns do not befit science. These types of documents seem to represent the views of small cliques in any discipline, the kind that will not do science and instead spend time in activism. Such letters, usually on a politically sensitive topic, then get passed around head to head and people simply sign off to avoid confrontation, keep the peace and be seen as doing the right thing. Their prestige is used to score political points or ride the news cycle.

UPDATE: It appears the letter is set to ‘private’ on the Scribd document hosting platform. If you travel to this page on the Climate Home website and scroll down, it remains available to read.

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15 comments

  1. Scottish Sceptic

    “Science” these days doesn’t mean someone who uses the scientific method. instead, it refers to anyone (including Ward) who thinks they do anything remotely “sciency” and works for the public sector. In the Brexit debate the same people were the “experts” – the academics whose left wing idiotic economics had led us into such a mess and who had obviously failed to predict the banking crisis. The same as the climate “scientists” had made such a mess of climate and failed to predict the pause.

  2. Richard Drake

    Good sleuthing, mini-Mosh 🙂

    I agree with the opinions expressed by others but I think it’s also worth thinking about the reaction of the recipient. Climate concern is still widespread enough among the electorate, across many types of marginal seats, that nothing public will be said of the “What a load of arrogant tosh” type.

    However, after Trump’s interview with Michael Gove on Sunday (who Theresa May made a political enemy within Cameron’s cabinet) in which the president-elect again praises Nigel Farage (who is a full-blown climate sceptic and poison to May) the last thing the UK government is going to do is create distance with the new American administration on climate and energy policy. Their internal reaction will have been not just “What a load of arrogant tosh” but “These guys are really losing it.” It’s a desperate measure.

  3. TinyCO2

    There’s no reward in championing climate change and a government trying to launch the UK outside the EU would be mad to make it any kind of priority. A government that is threatening to be a lean, mean, tax light nation, should be making energy cheap first. Reducing CO2 is at complete odds with that. CAGW is a useless money pit but I’m afraid you have to be fairly clued up to know that.

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  5. Richard Drake

    Tiny: You’re right, the post-Brexit context is extremely interesting. It boils down whether this government or any UK government can stomach the following “The Climate Change Act, which only five of us MPs voted against at the time, is a total disaster.”

  6. Shub Niggurath

    This is the key thing for me:

    “It did seem a bit unlikely to me that even the most politicised UK climate scientists would be so arrogant as to write to May urging her to ‘press’ Trump.”

    If we step outside the climate bubble for a moment, a letter from scientists with such a bizarre stated purpose seem absurd. Why would scientists think this way?

  7. TinyCO2

    True Shub. We’re told often enough that the scientists aren’t political. It doesn’t seem that way to me.

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