the email hack at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University has caused somewhat of a stir for the climate change movement, and its opponents.  these emails purportedly point to a conspiracy on the part of climate scientists who have put forward arguments, research and papers as proponents of the theory of global warming.  many of the scientists and researchers alluded to and involved in the hacked email exchanges have produced research that have been used as sources for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports on climate change.  these IPCC reports are cited by nearly all sectors of the climate movement.  in response, right wing pundits and climate change deniers have seized on these emails as evidence that climate change is a hoax.

the following video undercuts the claims by these skeptics, addressing some of the specific emails that are being used as ammunition by these climate change deniers.

in his weekly editorial in the Guardian, George Monbiot notes a couple other facets of the “scandal”. criticizing the questionable behavior of Phil Jones, the now former-head of the CRU at the center of this “scandal,” the crux of Monbiot’s piece is that scientists need to hold to the highest ethical standards in their research.  there are, however, a few other points, which Manbiot raises, that deserve extra emphasis.

Monbiot argues that this editorial policy of Jones et al. should be understood within the broader history of the climate movement.  climate scientists have been in a defensive posture for some 20 years now, as various sectors of capital — particularly the energy industry — have been funded campaigns and research with the sole purpose of either disproving or casting doubt onto the idea of global warming.

Monbiot even criticizes how Jones and others at the CRU failed to respond in a strategically and timely manner to the hacks.  instead of debating his detractors, Jones disappeared and only offered a one-time rebuttal all too late.  this is important because it points to the fact that this is not just a battle for the “right” science, this is a political struggle.  climate scientists need to understand that they are in the fight for their lives.  their fate lies with the success and power of the climate movement as a democratic movement from below.

i emphasize from below because in the middle of the Copenhagen talks we’re already seeing how the rulers want to handle the climate crisis.  aside from the nefarious cap-and-trade system that’s being pushed as a solution to climate disaster, the advanced capitalist countries have mounted what’s being described as a coup at the COP talks.  the US, the UK, and Denmark are maneuvering to pass a resolution — known as the “Danish text” — that would role carbon emission regulation and climate change legislation out of the UN and into the WTO.  in addition, developing nations would only be allowed to emit half as much carbon as the advanced capitalist countries, contravening the demand that these advanced capitalist countries, as the leading emitters of carbon and after years of resource exploitation under imperialism, owe climate reparations to the Third World.

but even in the Third World there are divisions.  the shift from the European imperial model of colonial-periphery/metro-pole-center to the US model which manages multiple centers of capitalist accumulation throughout even the Third World, has meant that some developing nations have become economically subjugated by others.  in addition to this, capitalist development in the Third World, however uneven, has meant the increased exploitation of Third World peoples by states that at one point championed the cause of revolutionary independence.  the days of broad united fronts for national liberation that included the working classes, the peasantry and even aspiring middle class rulers, and  have all but ended.  today, some of these states are merely lackeys and thugs of US Empire, while others, while sincerely fighting for autonomy from US domination, offer only a nationalized version of capitalist exploitation.

these dynamics are important for thinking about how the climate movement should orient towards nations such as India and China who have been championing the cause of developing nations during the current round of climate talks against the advanced capitalist countries.  in the Third World, development from above — even “independent” of US and European imperialism — has meant the immiseration of millions of peasant and working class people.  solidarity should be extended to the oppressed in these developing nations to control their communities and resources, not to their rulers and state officials.  an anti-imperialist perspective is necessary for a successful climate movement, but supporting one set of rulers over another will only lead us right back to where we are now.

but the “ethical” application of the “right science” is also dependent on the success of democratic movements from below.  one aspect of this is tied to a broader conception of the role of the academy.  often times we’re told that science and the academy are committed to the search for “objective” truth, implying that research and the universities that house and host these studies are inherently non-partisan.  nothing could be further from the truth.  the rulers have used the university as the mouthpiece for the ideas of official society that keep them in power, keep them rich, and keep us oppressed.

during my undergrad i remember both students and professors would try to undermine an apartheid analysis of Israel because i wasn’t being “objective” and because i was “choosing sides.”  the only acceptable discussion of Palestine for them was a tally of the numbers and dates of those killed.  any notions that challenged the status quo of Israeli apartheid and occupation was deemed unacceptable.  through the academy our oppression is normalized, but at times students, university workers, and community members have successfully wrested control of the academy for the purposes of our liberation.  the creation of Black Studies departments are just some examples.  the academy is contested terrain.  the ethical application of the sciences depends on the ability of students, teachers and surrounding communities need to fight for democratic control over universities and the academy in order to give these institutions a democratic character.

every movement has included and produced new ways of thinking.  the fortunes of how we are able to think about things are tied to our own self-activity.  Murray Bookchin has noted that the breakthroughs of Copernicus and Galileo were tied to struggles against the authoritarian Church hierarchy that promoted an esoteric body of knowledge;  the French Revolution was philosophically rooted in currents of the Enlightenment, which included advances in physics and mathematics;  and the breakthroughs in political economy provided by Marx were a part of the mid 19th century working class revolts throughout Europe.

scientific integrity is important in any branch of scholarship, but the ability of these ideas to benefit the world will be determined by the social relations through which they are applied.  democratic movements from below will both yield scientific and philosophical breakthroughs, and provide the means for their ethical application.  this is vital if the climate and ecology movements are to be successful.