Tenacious sceptic clings to Climategate

Retiree challenges UEA v-c in tribunal hearing over FoI requests. David Matthews reports

January 31, 2013

Source: David Rose

Driven: “I’m a very bad loser,’ says David Holland, but ‘the idea that I do this for fun is ridiculous’

What drives a man to spend his retirement trying to refute the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet?

“I’m a very bad loser. They chose the wrong guy to screw,” explained David Holland, a climate sceptic who has taken the University of East Anglia to an information tribunal in the Climategate saga’s most recent twist.

Climategate erupted in 2009 after emails were stolen from the university’s Climatic Research Unit. They contained discussions that, in the view of sceptics, showed that scientists had manipulated data to fit the theory of man-made global warming.

Although inquiries by the university, the Commons Science and Technology Committee and various inquests in the US found no evidence of a scientific conspiracy, Mr Holland is still pursuing the university because he believes it withheld emails from him following a Freedom of Information request in 2008.

At the tribunal on 15 January in London, Mr Holland questioned Edward Acton, UEA’s vice-chancellor, for more than an hour, in an exchange that was heated at times and appeared on occasion to exasperate the university leader.

Mr Holland alleged that the institution had conspired to neuter the review it set up into Climategate, ensuring that it would not investigate what he claims were criminal breaches of the FoI Act, an accusation Professor Acton repeatedly denied.

During the tribunal it became clear that Mr Holland’s disbelief stems not only from his own analysis of climate data but also from a more general scepticism towards scientists, raising the broader question of trust in the academy.

“I’m a graduate engineer so I trained for A levels in maths, physics and chemistry, which is more than some of the climate scientists can say,” he told Times Higher Education afterwards.

He said he does not trust the UEA to carry out a review into its own science because academics, “like most professions, will close ranks”.

Mr Holland accepts that the world has been warming over the past century but argues that there is little correlation between greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the rise in temperature.

Why then do scientists continue to claim man is warming the planet? Mr Holland’s explanation is a common one among sceptics: researching climate change helps them to win grants.

But Mr Holland does not believe in a “conspiracy” by climate scientists as such. They are true “believers” who, he thinks, have staked their professional lives on the existence of man-made climate change and cannot go back on this belief.

Many of those warning of the dangers of climate change are “religious people”, Mr Holland claimed, and so have an apocalyptic mindset and think “the world is going to Hell in a bucket”.

“There was a time when we were all hippies and Greens but some of us grow out of it,” he added.

Mr Holland denied that he got a thrill out of grilling Professor Acton: “The idea that I do this for fun is ridiculous.”

But he admitted that his campaign takes up “more [time] than I have”. His wife, Kathleen, sat beside him during the tribunal helping him with his notes, but in truth she is “sick to death of it”, he said.

“We got retired to do things, but this has sort of taken over.”

The tribunal decision is pending.


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