The resignation of Philip Campbell from the Russell Review panel is indicative of the lack of depth, thought and objectivity going into the CRU inquiry. Dr Campbell was aware of what he had written in his Nature editorial and said in an interview to the Chinese media about his belief in the innocence of the UEA scientists. Yet despite his manifest prejudgement, Dr Campbell was invited to join the panel and accepted the invitation.
Was Sir Muir Russell unaware of his views? Was he even aware of the role that Nature has played in the whole Climategate affair? Either answer would cast doubt on Sir Muir’s qualifications to chair the inquiry.
Dr Campbell obviously had to go given his opinions. The excuses, however, he provided for his sudden resignation are disingenuous. He claims that his remarks to the Chinese media were in good faith based on news stories in the mass media. Yet on the same week his interview appeared he published a lengthy editorial in Nature pungently supportive of the CRU researchers and accusing their critics of being ‘paranoid’.
But the botched selection of the editor in chief of Nature is not the only slip up. There is additional cause for concern about the impartiality of the Russell Review. Professor Geoffrey Boulton is a distinguished geologist and the General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His biographical notes published on the Review’s website are very lengthy and impressive. What they fail to include, however, is what appears as a serious conflict of interest: Professor Boulton was an employee of the University of East Anglia for 18 years, from 1968 to 1986. It was in the UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, the very institute under investigation, that Boulton established his academic career. The CRU is part of the School of Environmental Sciences.
In a speech to the Royal Society of Edinburgh on 29 October 2009, Professor Boulton said: “We have the evidence, we have a consensus on scientific interpretation, we have the investment, we know (Stern) that mitigation now rather than later is cheaper. But, we have not sorted out the politics and started to adapt behaviour to minimize risks. We cannot do this without public support. If we fail, we will be risking the consequences of catastrophic climate changes.”
Was Sir Muir Russell unaware of Dr Boulton’s warnings about looming climate catastrophe and his campaign to galvanise public opinion? The Review panel claims that none of their team members “has a predetermined view on climate change and climate science” and that “they were selected on the basis they have no prejudicial interest in climate change and climate science.” Dr Boulton, however, is well known for his strong views on global warming that evidently go against the Review’s impartiality criteria.
A serious question now arises whether the panel in its current form has any credibility as a genuinely independent inquiry. It has already been exposed for not fulfilling its declared impartiality and is, in its present constitution, highly unlikely to inspire public confidence in its findings. The Russell panel is in need of a complete overhaul before it can be taken seriously.