In conversations with climate change deniers, I have had it explained to me that all the climate scientists in the world are on the bandwagon to keep themselves in cushy jobs, or to keep the grant money coming. All this illustrates is that these people know absolutely nothing about how science operates, nor how grant money is distributed. This is not surprising as those who know how science works, realise that it is impossible for a large-scale conspiracy to occur in science. There certainly have been some, but these tend to be at the level of the individual scientist.
There have been a couple of conspiracies that I can recall. One was the Wakefield affair1. This was supposedly an investigation which showed that the Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccine predisposed children to autism; and the original paper was published in 1998. It was eventually shown that the study was fraudulent and was undertaken for financial gain. While other studies had shown that the results were suspect, it was not initially exposed by scientists but by journalists. The Lancet, where the original study was published, completely retracted the paper in 20101. The second was the Gupta Affair2. Viswa Jit Gupta was shown to have collected fossils during overseas trips and then fraudulently stated that they came from the Himalayas. He also was shown to have copied illustrations from other geologists’ publications and used them in his own publications, again stating they came from the Himalayas. This fraud was first uncovered by John Talent from Macquarie University.
Such frauds as those by Wakefield and Gupta have been uncovered entirely by or, in part, by other scientists. Yet, this has not happened with all the studies which have demonstrated climate change, including the five large reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Given that hundreds of scientists were involved, it would be extraordinarily unlikely that a conspiracy of such a magnitude could be maintained over such a long period of time; just like it would be impossible to fake the moon landings and keep such a conspiracy secret. Of course, this doesn’t stop the conspiracy theorists attempting to find examples of conspiracies where none exist. Perhaps the most famous example is that of the hacked e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia3. Of course, the story was broken by climate change deniers who claimed it was evidence of some sort of scientific conspiracy. Eight committees investigated these allegations and published their reports, and none found any evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. However, the reports called on the scientists to avoid such allegations in future by opening up access to their data, their processing methods and software. Of course, the scientific consensus that global warming was caused by human activity did not change. Nor is it likely to, because it is based on decades of data, and an enormous amount of expertise and understanding of climate systems. It has even got to a stage now where the climate scientists are fighting back in the courts. After accusations of conspiracy by a climate change denier, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, producer of the ‘hockey-stick’ diagram, is suing him4.