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.’
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 ‘email@example.com’ 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:
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.