Comment: are leaked emails nail in IPCC coffin?

Mike Hulme, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia and author of Why We Disagree About Climate Change has weighed in with these thoughts about the significance of the leaked files and emails.

The key lesson to be learned is that not only must scientific knowledge about climate change be publicly owned – the I.P.C.C. does a fairly good job of this according to its own terms – but the very practices of scientific enquiry must also be publicly owned, in the sense of being open and trusted.

From outside, and even to the neutral, the attitudes revealed in the emails do not look good. To those with bigger axes to grind it is just what they wanted to find.

This will blow its course soon in the conventional media without making too much difference to Copenhagen – after all, COP15 is about raw politics, not about the politics of science.

But in the Internet worlds of deliberation and in the E-mood of public debate about the trustworthiness of climate science, the reverberations of this episode will live on long beyond COP15.

Climate scientists will have to work harder to earn the warranted trust of the public – and maybe that is no bad thing.

But this episode might signify something more in the unfolding story of climate change. This event might signal a crack that allows for processes of re-structuring scientific knowledge about climate change.

It is possible that some areas of climate science has become sclerotic. It is possible that climate science has become too partisan, too centralised.

The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organisation within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.

It is also possible that the institutional innovation that has been the IPCC has run its course.

Yes, there will be an AR5 but for what purpose?

The IPCC itself, through its structural tendency to politicise climate change science, has perhaps helped to foster a more authoritarian and exclusive form of knowledge production – just at a time when a globalising and wired cosmopolitan culture is demanding of science something much more open and inclusive.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie