Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse examines why science appears to be under attack, and why public trust in key scientific theories has been eroded.
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So, we're descending deep into the basement here.
'My name is Paul Nurse.
'I've just taken over as President of the Royal Society,
'Britain's academy of science.'
And, um, this is where the main archives and books are held.
'The wonderful archives here
'bear witness to over 350 years of scientific achievements...'
This is Newton's great work on the laws of motion.
This is the great book, of course, The Origin Of Species.
'I find this an inspiring place
'for the challenges that science now faces.'
'I think that today, there is a new kind of battle.'
'It's not just a clash of ideas,
'but whether people actually trust science.'
'One of the most vocal arguments currently raging
'is about climate science.'
'Many people seem unconvinced
'that we're warming our planet
'through the emission of greenhouse gasses.'
Are you saying the whole community, or a majority of the community
of climate scientists are skewing their data?
Is that what you're claiming?
'And trust in other scientific theories has also been eroded,
'such as the safety of vaccines...'
'..or that HIV causes AIDS.'
You wouldn't see yourself as a denialist?
No, not at all. I mean, I don't even know what it is
that they would say that I'm in denial of.
'There have been angry protests
'against the use of genetically modified foods.'
It's time for us to say no,
we don't want it, we don't want their new technology.
'Science created our modern world.
'So, I want to understand why science appears to be under such attack...'
'..and whether we scientists are partly to blame.'
'For me, becoming President of the Royal Society
'has been the culmination of
'a lifetime's fascination with science...'
'..and my attempts to answer questions about the world around me.'
I've been interested in science, really, all my life.
It started when I was at primary school.
I had a long walk to school and I used to look at all the plants
and the birds and the insects, and I got interested in natural history.
I used to wonder about things.
I always remember, like, why, when a plant is growing in the shade,
are the leaves bigger?
You know, it's the sort of thing an eight or nine-year-old would ask.
'50 years later, I'm still trying to answer questions
'about the most basic processes of life.'
Probably what my lab is best known for
is discovering the control which regulates cell division,
which will lead hopefully,
to better understanding of diseases like cancer and, maybe, to cures.
'Ten years ago, I shared a Nobel Prize for this work.'
It... It's fantastic.
I'm... I'm really privileged.
I've been doing this for 40 years.
I sometimes wonder why people are paying me.
'But away from my lab,
'I've witnessed hostilities towards some key areas of science.'
'There is one issue that's of particular importance today...'
'..the question of man-made climate change.'
REPORTER 1: 'Scientists have been manipulating evidence...'
REPORTER 2: 'Evidence is unequivocal.'
REPORTER 3: 'There's no doubt about...'
PAUL: 'It's a subject that polarises opinion...
'not surprisingly, since climate science affects
'so many elements of our lives...'
'..from politics, to economics, to how we live.
'With so much at stake, scientists are rightly held to account.'
'But some of my colleagues feel not under scrutiny...'
'..but under attack.'
I was pretty disturbed by a letter I read a few months ago
in the magazine Science.
That's one of the most prestigious journals in science.
It was from 255, if I remember rightly,
members of the National Academy of Sciences.
That's the academy of science in the United States.
A very prestigious organisation.
And these 255 members had written a letter really expressing concern
about how climate scientists were being treated.
'The letter was about climate change and the integrity of science.
'Two sentences really stood out.'
The first sentence - "We are deeply disturbed by the recent
"escalation of political assaults on scientists in general
"and on climate scientists in particular."
That's pretty strong stuff.
And then a sentence towards the end -
"We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats
"of criminal prosecution against our colleagues,
"based on innuendo and guilt by association,
"and the outright lies being spread about them."
This is as tough as anything I've read in a magazine like Science.
'What worries me is not just that scientists feel under attack,
'but that many people think these attacks
'may be intellectually justified.'
'Recent polls suggest that nearly half of Americans
'and more than a third of the British
'believe climate change is being exaggerated.
'It's this gap between scientists and the public
'that I want to understand.'
'Are the public right not to trust science,
'or is there something else that's not working?'
'As always, the best place to start is with the scientific evidence.'
- Ah, good morning. How are you? - Good morning, good.
I want to go to the space centre, is that OK?
- OK. - I'll put my stuff in the boot.
'I've come to Washington
'to visit one of the most respected scientific organisations
'in the world - NASA.'
I'm really rather excited about coming to NASA.
I've always been interested in astronomy and in space.
The strange thing about NASA is
not only is it looking out into outer space,
like with the Hubble telescope,
but it spends a lot of its time looking down at the Earth,
cos satellites are very, very good at monitoring the changes in the Earth,
such as climate.
I think we sort of really don't quite fully recognise that.
Most of what NASA's doing is looking down rather than looking up!
DRIVER: Park here?
Yes, if you could park here, I can get out there. That would be great.
'NASA is a major centre for climate research.
'It spends more than 2 billion a year studying the climate.
'I've come to meet Dr Bob Bindschadler
'to see where and how they get their information.'
DR BINDSCHADLER: So, here, we can really visualise a lot of data sets,
and this is the one I really like,
because it shows us how scientists are getting their data.
I mean, NASA does a lot of stuff in the cosmos,
but we have half the satellites just looking at the Earth,
just looking down at the Earth.
Every 90 minutes, every one of these satellites orbits the Earth
and collects data, sometimes in a wide swathe,
sometimes in a narrow swathe.
This is our bread and butter, this is where all the information comes from.
So, how many of these satellites are there up there?
There's about 16, 17, 18 satellites right now, just that NASA operates.
There's at least as many from all the other space agencies -
the European Space Agency, India operates satellites,
Japan does, Canada does.
So, if you put that full constellation on here,
it would be so busy, it would just look like, uh,
New York streets in...rush hour.
But that's a gigantic amount of information being collected.
It's terabytes, it's petabytes of data, every day, coming down.
'NASA is just one of many organisations
'collecting global climate evidence.'
'This information has helped create a view
'of how our planet's temperature has changed in the recent past.'
Paul, I want to show you this science on a sphere,
- a fantastic way of looking at data. - Look at that!
Recognise that world?
And you can just walk around here, see the clouds moving around.
And it's an absolutely fantastic way of looking at data.
So, I guess what we all want to know is, is this planet warming up?
This planet is warming up. The climate is changing.
Just over the last 50 years, it's been about
three quarters of a degree centigrade,
which doesn't sound like a whole lot.
And we've been able to calculate that, over the next 50 years,
it's going to warm AT LEAST
another three quarters of a degree if we do nothing else,
if we don't even continue to modify the climate.
'So, temperatures are rising.'
'But what is really at dispute is the cause of that change,
'whether it's simply a natural temperature fluctuation.'
There have been times when the Earth has been warmer than it is today.
Less ice, higher sea level and colder than today,
with much more ice and lower sea level.
But an important thing to remember is that back in those times,
climate changed VERY gradually,
and now it's changing really fast, and that's a very important
characteristic of climate change that we're living through right now -
the pace of that change.
'NASA's data is not the only evidence that our climate is warming rapidly
'and that we are causing the change.
'There's also several decades of research
'from scientists across the globe.'
'The extent of the data suggests
'we should have a lot of confidence in this idea,
'yet this evidence is clearly not convincing
'a substantial part of the wider public.'
'And those who are sceptical turn to other scientists.'
There is no scientific evidence that greenhouse warming is occurring,
or if it is, that it would lead to disaster.
We see no evidence in the climate record
that the increase in carbon dioxide - which is real -
has made any appreciable difference in the climate.
'Prof Fred Singer has a reputation
'as one of the world's most prominent and prolific climate sceptics.
'He's an atmospheric physicist who's been studying climate science
'for nearly 50 years
'and has been battling against the consensus view for over 20.'
'Prof Singer's views influence sceptics all over the world.'
- Dr Singer. - Yes.
I'm Paul Nurse.
- I'm delighted to meet you, finally. - Come and sit down.
Could we have...an Earl Grey tea with milk, or...?
- With milk. - With milk.
- Green tea? - PAUL AND DR SINGER: Earl Grey.
- Earl Grey. Wonderful. - Great. Thank you.
PAUL: Here's your tea.
- Thank you very much. - You're welcome.
- Anything more you'd like? - No, I'm fine.
Not for the moment. Thank you.
They really don't know how to do tea in New York.
The water, of course, is not hot enough.
Not hot enough. God, I hate that.
We suffer that, we suffer that.
'The first thing I wanted to ask Prof Singer
'was his views on global temperatures.'
You're happy, or agree, that there has been warming in the last century?
A bit under one degree, 0.7 degrees, I think I've read?
Something of that sort.
Something of that sort. Whatever, yeah.
There's been warming and there's been cooling, and maybe warming again...
Uh, it's not a clear record.
'But where he differs from the view of the vast majority
'of climate scientists is the cause of this warming.
'He doesn't believe that humans are responsible.
'He attributes it to natural forces.'
I'm of the opinion that the major natural effect comes from the sun
and specifically from variations in what is called "solar activity".
That is not the total radiation from the sun,
but it is the emission from the sun
we call "coronal ejections", which produce the solar wind.
And the solar wind is a particle stream from the sun.
It pervades the interplanetary space
and can affect the situation near the Earth.
'A record of this solar activity can be read from deposits in caves
'by measuring the level of a type of carbon atom
'formed by the sun's rays.'
The good evidence we have comes from stalagmites in caves,
but it's published in Nature.
But there's a correlation,
so if you look at these estimates of solar activity
and the temperature of the globe, they're well correlated.
You cannot say the globe.
This refers to the local measurements in a cave
on the Arabian Peninsula.
'In our conversation,
'Prof Singer drew on this stalagmite evidence
'to support his conclusions about solar activity.'
'But it's important to consider how this specific finding
'fits into the wider body of evidence.'
An important aspect of science is it makes sense as a whole.
Just imagine this field of grasses and plants that we see here.
Imagine it as a scientific field.
Imagine that we're looking at a lot of ideas
or a lot of facts or observations.
You have to look at every each one of them
and make sure they make sense together.
It's no good cherry-picking one part of it
and just basing your argument upon that.
Look at this tree here.
That attracts your attention,
but if you just concentrate on that and ignore everything else,
then you're not going to make progress,
you're not going to make sense of what's going on.
'In the climate debate, some have placed a lot of emphasis
'on the evidence of solar activity,
'but this data needs to be looked at in the context of all research.'
'You cannot ignore the majority of available evidence
'in favour of something you would PREFER to be true.'
'Data that we are NOT warming our planet
'needs to be placed in the context
'of the greater body of evidence that we ARE,
'such as that gathered by NASA.'
But you know, when you actually look at the data,
the sun doesn't turn out to be that important.
On the historical scale, the paleoclimate scale,
the sun is important.
We know the sun is driving these long cycles.
But if you look at the small variations in the solar radiation
and the variations in the climate data that we have now
with these data sets,
they don't match up.
So, there's just no doubt that the sun is not a primary factor
driving the climate change that we're living through right now.
'The scientific consensus is, of course,
'that the changes we are seeing
'are caused by emissions of carbon into the atmosphere.
'But given the complexity of the climate system,
'how can we be sure that humans are to blame for this?'
We know how much fossil fuel we take out of the ground.
We know how much we sell.
We know how much we burn, and that is a huge amount of carbon dioxide.
It's about seven gigatonnes per year right now.
And is that enough to explain...? Is that enough...?
Natural causes only can produce... Yes, there are volcanoes popping off
and things like that, and coming out of the ocean.
..only about one gigatonne per year.
So, there's just no question that human activity
is producing a massively large proportion of the carbon dioxide.
- So, seven times more? - That's right.
I mean, why do some people say that isn't the case?
I-I don't know.
I think they get worried about the details of the temperature record,
or the...carbon dioxide record.
But again, you need to stand back and look at the big picture,
and there really is no controversy then, if you do that.
'In this marketplace of ideas, who do you believe?
'If you're not a scientist, then ultimately,
'it's a question of trust.'
'Despite the weight of evidence in its favour,
'the theory of man-made climate change
'is not bringing a large section of the public with it.
'I think some clues as to why
'may be found at the University of East Anglia,
'the scene of Climategate, a story that broke in November 2009.'
REPORTER: 'The work of one of the world's leading
'climate research units at the University of East Anglia
'is to come under unprecedented scrutiny.'
PAUL: 'Thousands of e-mails were taken
'from the computer at the Climatic Research Unit,
'also known as CRU, at the University of East Anglia and posted online.'
'According to the headlines, the e-mails contained
'one of the worst scientific outrages of all time.'
Just look here - Christopher Booker in the Sunday Telegraph.
"This is the worst scientific scandal of our generation."
Here, the Daily Express.
"Now there are lies, damned lies, and global warming,"
implying that global warming is nothing but lies and a sham.
Here from the Spectator,
an article by James Delingpole, "Watching the Climategate scandal" -
here, he says in the first sentence,
"This is the greatest scientific scandal
"in the history of the world."
'At the heart of the scandal was one e-mail in particular.'
'Correspondence from the head of CRU, Dr Phil Jones,
'talked about using "Mike's Nature trick"
'to hide the decline.'
'This seemed proof climate scientists were tricking the world
'into thinking our use of fossil fuels is warming the planet.'
'The news immediately went international.'
'The timing couldn't have been worse.
'It was just three weeks before the UN Climate Change Convention,
'what many saw as the world's best hope
'to reduce carbon emissions before it was too late.'
'And at the centre of it all was one man...'
'..Dr Phil Jones, head of CRU.'
'The unit's headquarters are tiny,
'yet Dr Jones and his colleagues have had a truly global impact.'
These are German books. There's Japanese books.
There's American books and there's a series of publications...
'CRU's library holds centuries' worth of temperature data,
'collected from instruments in every corner of the globe.'
'To look further back in history, climate researchers have to
'extrapolate information from the rings in ancient pieces of wood.'
This is a measurement from a tree from the Andes in Argentina.
This is a bog oak from Germany, which...
A bog oak, you mean it's been preserved in the bogs?
It's been preserved in the peat bogs.
So, how old is that piece of wood?
This is about 3,000 to 4,000 years old.
'Tree rings have been shown to be a good way
'of measuring ancient temperatures.
'And they've mostly matched instrumental measurements
'since the advent of thermometers.'
'However, after about 1960, some tree-ring data
'stopped fitting real temperatures so well.
'The cause of this isn't known.'
'When Dr Jones was asked by the World Meteorological Organisation
'to prepare a graph of how temperatures had changed
'over the last 1,000 years,
'he had to decide how to deal with
'this divergence between the data sets.
'He decided to use the direct measurements of temperature change
'from thermometers and instruments,
'rather than indirect data from the tree rings,
'to cover the period from 1960.
'It was this data splicing, and his e-mail referring to it as a "trick",
'that formed the crux of Climategate.'
The organisation wanted
a relatively simple diagram for their particular audience.
What we started off doing was the three series
with the instrumental temperatures on the end,
clearly differentiated from the tree-ring series...
..but they thought that was too complicated
to explain to their audience.
So... So, what we did was just to add them on
and to bring them up to the present.
And, as I say,
this was a World Meteorological Organisation statement,
it had hardly any coverage in the media at the time,
and had virtually no coverage for the next ten years,
until the release of the e-mails.
So, why do you think so much fuss was made about the e-mails
and this graph, rather than the peer-reviewed science?
I think it's that a number of the climate change sceptics -
or doubters, deniers, whatever you want to call them -
just wanted to use these e-mails for their own purposes
to cast doubt on the basic science.
The basic science is in the peer-reviewed literature
and I wish more people would read THAT than read the e-mails.
'As well as the e-mails,
'much criticism of Dr Jones centred on his reluctance to hand over data.
'The team at CRU had been receiving requests
'under the Freedom of Information Act -
'also known as FOI requests - for access to their scientific data.'
Well, we started getting some requests in about 2007
and we responded to those.
These are Freedom of Information requests?
Yes, and they were specifically for the basic station temperature data,
and also for the locations of the stations.
The situation got a bit worse in July 2009,
when we got 60 requests over a weekend.
- Over one weekend? - Over one weekend,
where there was clearly some sort of coordination between...
- Was that from different people? - Different people, but there was
clearly some coordination of the requests,
because they each asked for five countries in alphabetical order.
I thought at the time it was just to waste our time
in order to deal with these requests
and maybe to get the data together.
So, this is an interesting dilemma that we have here, really,
because obviously science is based upon open access to data,
but obviously, you can also be disrupted by having,
if you like, more legalistic attempts to get data,
or simply trying to waste people's time.
How do you sort of balance that?
Well, sometimes we get requests,
and sometimes not through FOI, just from other scientists.
We point them in the right direction
as to where you might be able to get the data.
But when it became more, sort of... through the FOI,
it really then became clear that it was some sort of harassment.
'This event raises questions about the openness of scientific research.
'Dr Jones and his team clearly felt persecuted.
'However, scientists do have to be open with their data.'
It might be useful to think about the Human Genome Project,
where similar issues came up about a decade ago
and there was clear discussion about this
and in the public genome sequencing laboratories,
a real commitment, dedication to getting that data out
into the public as soon as possible,
and I think maybe there's something to be learnt from that
for climate science.
'There were at least four independent reviews of the work of CRU.
'The reports found there was no evidence of dishonesty.
'They said splicing the temperature data wasn't misleading...'
'..but this technique should have been made plain.
'They said, generally, the unit should have been more open.
'But, crucially, they found no evidence
'of deliberate scientific malpractice.'
This seems to have been
the greatest scientific scandal that never really took place.
I mean, it just doesn't make sense to me at all
why it got blown out of proportion.
It makes me wonder whether us scientists
are not perhaps well-suited for dealing with situations like this
and we perhaps let them run out of our control.
I mean, the world is changing,
the digital world, with blogs, with tweets and so on.
We're perhaps not used to dealing with that,
not able to cope with the sort of maelstrom of media attention
that fell upon UEA during this event.
I think there's something to be learnt here.
We've got to think about how we defend our science,
how we project ourselves to the public.
'In the end, the integrity of climate science was not faulted,
'but somehow a leak of some ten-year-old e-mails
'did real damage to its reputation.
'In all the clamour, the science seems to have been left behind.'
'I've come to meet James Delingpole, one of those who led the campaign.'
I want to tell you a story about something extraordinary
that happened to me late last year.
It was an ordinary Thursday morning and I was sitting at my desk...
..and into my lap fell the story that would change my life,
and quite possibly, save Western civilisation
from the greatest threat it has ever known.
That story? Climategate.
- Sir Paul. - Hello, you must be James.
- I am. - I'm very pleased to meet you.
- Pleased to meet you as well. - Do call me Paul, though.
'James Delingpole is an online journalist
'for the Telegraph newspaper.
'He picked up the leaked e-mails from a denier's website,
'and ran with it on his Telegraph blog under the name Climategate.
'That week, his page got an extraordinary 1.5 million hits.'
The suggestion of the scientists in the Climategate e-mails
was that you hide the decline
using "Mike's Nature trick", which I think is some sort of fudge.
This very fact
of splicing two different sorts of data together on a graph -
apples and oranges -
scientists don't do that,
they don't try to hide the decline by using "Mike's Nature trick".
What they do is they admit to the flaws in their data
and don't try and disguise that fact.
'James told me the independent enquiries
'into what happened at CRU were a whitewash.'
'He also said scientists fall too easily into a consensus
'and fail to be critical enough of the data.'
I've been following this Climategate story
very, very closely for the last year,
and I think that what is being done in the name of science,
is essentially advancing a political agenda,
and that political agenda has much more to do with...
with control, with governments intruding further into our lives.
"Consensus" can be used like a dirty word.
Consensus is actually the position of the experts at the time
and if it's working well - but it doesn't always work well -
but if it's working well, they evaluate the evidence...
You make your reputation in science by actually overturning that,
so there's a lot of pressure to do it.
But if, over the years, the consensus doesn't move, you have to wonder,
is the argument, is the evidence against the consensus good enough?
Science has NEVER been about consensus
and this is, I think, one of the most despicable things
about Al Gore's so-called consensus...
Consensus is not science.
I want to give an analogy, which, in a different situation...
Em... Say you had cancer...
..and you went to be treated,
there would be a consensual position on your treatment
and it is very likely that you would follow that consensual treatment
because you would trust the clinical scientists there.
Now, the analogy is that you could say,
"Well, I've done my research into it
"and I disagree with that consensual position,"
but that would be a very unusual position for you to take.
And I think sometimes the consensual position can be criticised,
when in fact, it is mostly likely to be the correct position.
Shall we talk about Climategate?
I don't accept your analogy, really.
I think it's...
I think it's very easy to caricature
the position of climate change sceptics
as the sort of people
who don't look left and right when crossing the road,
or who think that quack...
You know, the quack cure that they've invented for cancer
is just as valid as the one chosen by the medical establishment.
I think it is something altogether different
and I do slightly resent the way that you're bringing in that analogy.
'For many, the Climategate debacle
'is the embodiment of our current relationship with science.'
'The anger it generated reveals the tensions,
'and the widely divergent views, that exist on both sides of the debate.'
'And through all this noise,
'people are left to try and make sense of it all.'
Good morning. Could I have... a Times and an Independent, please?
- That's £3.10, please, my man. - There you go.
I think the public have got every right to sometimes feel confused
about the reporting of science in the media.
Let me just show you some reports of different scientific issues.
Starting with Climategate,
the Daily Mail, reporting this issue, concludes in its headline,
"Secretive and unhelpful.
"But scientist in Climategate storm STILL gets his job back."
Completely different tone about this news item in the Guardian.
"Climategate scientists cleared
"of manipulating data on global warming."
It's difficult to imagine it's reporting the same thing.
But it's not just reporting news events to do with science,
but the science itself.
Let's look at what the Daily Express is saying here, for example,
about the effect of the sun on global warming.
They have their provocative headline, "What a climate con!"
but, specifically, they say here, that the sun is the major cause
of temperature variation, and sunspots in particular.
If we now look at the Independent, almost the same day, we have,
"Sunspots do not cause climate change, say scientists."
I mean, what is going on here?
This is just reporting science coming to completely different conclusions.
It's not surprising that the public are confused
reading all of this different stuff.
There's these lurid headlines,
and there's political opinions, I think, filtering through,
which probably reflects editorial policy within the newspapers.
And we get an unholy mix of the media and the politics
and it's distorting the proper reporting of science,
and that's a real danger for us
if science is to have its proper impact on society.
'Somehow, science has got to get through all these competing agendas.'
'I wonder if part of the problem
'lies with communicating the complexities of science.'
'What it is we understand and what it is we don't understand.'
'We're mainly taught science at school
'as if it's made up of immutable facts.
'Such as Einstein's theory of relativity...'
'..or Newton's laws of motion.'
Hi, how are you doing?
'And it was seeing these theories being translated into the real world
'that first got me hooked as a child.'
One of the most exciting things was seeing Sputnik 2, 1957-'58.
It was going across the streets of London.
I got so excited, I was in my pyjamas,
and I ran out and saw this satellite going across the sky.
Everybody thought I was crazy, of course.
But that was the beginning of the space age and I was there.
'I want to enthuse a new generation with the optimistic belief
'that science is a force for progress.
'However at the cutting edge of science, where I work,
'the truth is not always so obvious.'
We often have to deal with uncertainty in science, but I think
it helps to think of uncertainty in two different sorts of ways.
There's uncertainty that often happens
at the beginning of a research project
when we don't know what's going on
and by testing and doing experiments, things get more and more certain.
Knowledge becomes less and less tentative.
And there's another sort of uncertainty
which is more probabilistic.
Like, for example, if we treat somebody for a certain disease,
we don't know whether that individual will be cured or not,
though we do know probabilistically, over 100 individuals,
that 20 will and 80 won't, for example.
And that uncertainty never goes away.
'Thanks to decades of research and experimentation,
'our knowledge about the fundamentals of climate science
'has become less tentative.'
'But there are uncertainties that won't go away,
'especially in our ability to predict the future,
'where scientists can only talk in terms of probabilities.'
'Does this uncertainty mean that the science is flawed?'
'Some of the biological problems I study are complicated...'
'..and so is climate science.'
'Clouds, ice, chemicals in the air, plants and the sun
'all interact with one another to affect our climate.'
'Clouds are one of the most significant of these,
'yet also one of the most complex.'
'Depending on their height and their make-up,
'they can either warm or cool the planet.'
'So, it's difficult to represent them correctly in the climate models.
'But if the scientists don't get them right,
'then quantifying what the temperatures might be in the future
'is very hard.'
'However, through enormous amounts of data collection and research,
'climate scientists are reducing the uncertainties in our climate system
'all the time.
'Back at NASA,
'Bob Bindschadler showed me just how much progress has been made.'
Just to emphasise how good these models are,
Here is data, actual observations.
And this is what the computer is generating,
predicting what should be happening.
And you look at one, you look at the other,
these major systems, it's there.
These cumulus clouds popping up in the tropics.
And this is all happening in the same timescale,
but one is just built on observation,
what we actually see,
and below that is data and the modelling that that produces.
Exactly, so we're just testing a model here.
We've got data, we've got a model.
How good do the model predictions match the data?
And your eye will just tell you the answer.
You see these great things swirling here, and then they swirl up there,
then little puffs there, and little puffs there.
So, even that kind of detail about clouds,
models are getting it right now.
And, you know, visually, I think this is just so stunning
because seeing is believing.
Climate science is sort of moving from more tentative knowledge
to more certain knowledge.
It still has uncertainties, but they're getting less as time goes on.
There will always be a little bit of uncertainty,
because there are some processes that we don't fully understand.
But we measure scientific progress in our ability
to reduce the uncertainties
and by that measure, we're making extraordinary progress.
'All the information we have today helps us predict our future climate,
'but the more we learn, the more complex the climate system becomes.
'This doesn't mean the science is flawed or that we shouldn't act,
'but there may be a problem in the way those uncertainties
'are communicated to the public.'
'Scientists may not be willing enough to publically discuss
'the uncertainties in their science
'or to fully engage with those that disagree with them,
'and this has helped polarise the debate.'
'Making this film has made me think about the place of science
'in the modern world and whether we scientists are keeping pace.'
'Free and open access to information
'means our voices are no longer the only ones people hear.'
What I think is changing in the way that we're talking about
science in the public sphere, is the fact that now almost anybody
can say whatever they like on the blogosphere
and this is getting read,
and I'm really used in my science -
which I've done for 30 or 40 years -
for a sort of much more cooler approach.
When I read these blogs, I mean, they're full of righteousness,
full of zealousness
and they're clearly trying to persuade you very, very strongly
of their point of view.
They cherry-pick data.
They don't seem to be always completely consistent.
And what I get the sense of
is that they don't actually try and put a reasoned argument here.
There's a case here on the left, there's a case here on the right.
It's always very strongly on one side.
'Searches on the internet do not differentiate between
'thoroughly researched evidence and unsourced uncorroborated assertion.
'Conspiracy theories compete on level terms
'with peer-reviewed science.'
'In this new world of information overload,
'we look to people we trust to find those answers.
'And these days, it's not necessarily the scientists.'
One question I would ask
as somebody who has done quite a lot of scientific publishing,
is are you looking mainly at peer-reviewed material
or non peer-reviewed material?
Peer-reviewed being material that in principle, and flawed as it is,
- cos I know it can be flawed... - Yeah.
..has been looked at by other scientists and the case said,
"Well, there is an argument here worth publishing."
One of the main things to have emerged from the Climategate e-mails,
was that the peer-review process has been perhaps irredeemably corrupted.
What I believe in now,
and I think we are seeing a shift in the way science is conducted
and, or at least transmitted to the outside...to the wider world,
is a process called "peer-to-peer review".
The internet is changing everything.
What it means is that... ideas which were previously
only able to be circulated in the seats of academia, in private,
in papers, read by a few people,
can now be instantly read on the internet
and assessed by thousands and thousands of other scientists
and people with scientific backgrounds,
and people like me who haven't got scientific backgrounds,
but, you know, are interested.
Just back to the evidence again, though, because... So, you...
We get... Obviously, there's a source of evidence through the internet.
Books, primary publications probably is not your thing?
It is not my job to sit down
and read...peer-reviewed papers
because I simply haven't got the time,
I haven't got the scientific expertise.
What I rely on is people who have got the time and the expertise to do it
and write about it and interpret it, you know.
I am an interpreter of interpretations.
'As a working scientist,
'I've learnt that peer review is very important to make science credible.
'The authority science can claim comes from evidence and experiment
'and an attitude of mind that seeks to test its theories to destruction.'
Scepticism is really important.
We are often plagued with self-doubt.
I always tell my students and postdoctoral workers -
"Be the worst enemy of your own idea. Always challenge it, always test it."
I think things are a little different
when you have a denialist or an extreme sceptic.
They're convinced that they know what's going on
and they only look for data that supports that position.
And they're not really engaging in the scientific process.
'There is a fine line between healthy scepticism -
'which is a fundamental part of the scientific process - and denial,
'which can stop the science moving on.'
'But the difference is crucial.'
'Denial is not just a feature of the debate over climate change.
'People deny the evidence in favour of many things,
'like certain vaccines,
'or that HIV causes AIDS.
'I want to understand better how people reach this state of mind.'
- Paul? - Hi, are you Tony?
- I am! - I'm really pleased to meet you.
How do you do? Pleasure to meet you as well.
I was taking a routine physical and my doctor said,
"I've got some bad news for you, you're HIV positive."
SERVING ASSISTANT: Hey, what's going on, you guys?
TONY: How are you?
My name is Sparkles. Have you been here before?
- Yes. - You want to try something new?
It's my first time, though.
TONY: My doctor said,
"Look, if you don't take these drugs,
"you're going to be dead in two years."
So, he handed me the prescriptions,
I walked out the door, and on the way to the car I passed by a trash can,
ripped them up, threw them in, and never went back.
APPLAUSE That was... That was 13 years ago.
That was the last time I went to a doctor for anything HIV-related.
You pick a size, then you pick a flavour,
but I usually go with the original,
but you can get different flavours. And then you pick tops...
'Tony Lance does not believe a virus causes AIDS.
'And rather than take anti-retrovirals,
'he treats himself using probiotics...like yoghurt.'
Now, this is not a vanilla flavour, it's more like a tartness.
- Hey. - There's a little bit of...
There's actually active culture in this, right,
so it's got a little bit of...
Hey, it's good.
'There is such an overwhelming body of evidence that HIV causes AIDS,
'I really want to understand how Tony has reached his opinion.'
I came to the conclusion that much of what is called AIDS -
at least as it appears in gay men -
is the result of severe dysregulation of intestinal microflora
and the causes of that being...
That's all the microbes growing in the gut?
I mean, we have in our gut, a very complex and rich ecosystem.
These microbes live in a symbiotic relationship with us.
They directly affect our immune system.
They directly affect our uptake of nutrients.
And it occurred to me after many, many years of reading
and self-analysis and observing the gay community
that there really are some very good reasons why certain subsets
of gay men would have intestinal microflora that are, um, abnormal.
- To get right down to brass tacks... - Yeah.
..I think HIV is a marker
for immune dysfunction as opposed to being a cause.
I think immune dysfunction actually precedes HIV positivity
and makes it possible.
'Holding these views puts Tony in a very small minority.'
So, what is it like, psychologically,
for you and for people who think like you
to be on the outside?
Um... It's isolating.
One of the labels that gets tossed at me and others like me
- is a denialist... - Yeah.
..and that's actually kind of hurtful, to tell you the truth.
You don't like... You wouldn't see yourself as a denialist?
No, not at all.
I mean, I don't even know what it is that they would say
- that I'm in denial of. - Yeah.
I mean, you know, I've lost many scores of friends to AIDS,
so, I'm certainly not in denial of the actual illness,
I just... I just view the cause and effect differently.
I found that discussion with Tony really interesting.
I mean, I'm completely mainstream about HIV, AIDS.
AIDS is caused by the HIV retrovirus, no question about that.
He doubts that.
He's sceptical about whether it's causal,
you could say he denies that it's causal.
But he's at the end of the spectrum
where you can have a conversation with him.
'As a scientist, I find Tony's views hard to understand.'
'However, I think there may be a link between how he approaches
'the evidence for the causes of AIDS
'and how some climate sceptics may look at the causes
'of global warming.
'Problems arise when you're studying complex data
'and trying to distinguish cause from effect.'
Understanding what causes what in complex systems
like biology, that I study, or climate, can be really difficult.
Let me sort of illustrate that here.
Imagine that each of these poles are different events -
events A, B and C -
and we have time running up here on the floor.
Event A causes event B.
Event A also causes event C.
But if you're a scientist and you don't know anything about event A
and you're simply studying B and C,
then what you'll see is that after a certain period of time
you will see B, and always or nearly always,
you will see C a certain time afterwards,
it would be a natural consequence to think that B might cause C
when that is absolutely not the case.
I'll think of a concrete example, for example,
smoking and lung cancer.
Let's imagine event A, here, is smoking.
Let's imagine event B is yellow teeth
that occurs after a certain amount of time.
And let's imagine event C is lung cancer.
You could perhaps imagine, as a scientist,
that you observe yellow teeth and then you observe lung cancer
and maybe yellow teeth causes lung cancer,
and that's obviously nonsense, but if you didn't know about smoking,
then you could perhaps be led into that erroneous conclusion.
So, that's the problem with complexity,
that's the problem with working out what causes what.
'There's an overwhelming body of evidence that says
'we are warming our planet,
'but complexity allows for confusion
'and for alternative theories to develop.'
'The only solution is to look at all the evidence as a whole.'
'I think some extreme sceptics decide what to think first,
'and then cherry-pick the data to support their case.
'We scientists have to acknowledge we now operate in a world
'where point of view - not peer review - holds sway.'
'I think part of the problem may be past controversies,
'where mainstream science has failed to win over the public.'
'There is one such subject where the research has to be carried out
'under strict security because feelings are still running high.'
'Isolated in a remote corner of the country,
'a highly contentious scientific trial is being conducted.'
We're not protecting the public from them.
We're protecting THEM from the anti-GM activists
who have been very keen to disrupt GM trials.
'This field is home to a large experiment
'in genetically modified food.
'Prof Jonathan Jones is working to create a new kind of potato
'that would be resistant to a mould called late blight.
'Alongside standard potatoes,
'he also planted two GM varieties and waited to see what would happen.'
This is perfect blight weather, actually. This is just...
If you're a late blight pathogen you would be very, very happy today.
Potato blight is a disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine.
It causes £3.5 billion a year
of losses in potatoes and tomatoes.
Um... It's a fungus-like organism,
but it makes spores that can blow around.
We didn't inoculate this, it blew in from somebody else's field probably,
you know, 20 to 30 miles away.
And it can rip through a crop in a week.
'The trial is at an early stage, but the GM varieties seem to be
'standing up to the blight much better than the standard ones.'
Farmers actually spend about £500 a hectare controlling this disease,
so if you had 100 hectares of potatoes
that's £50,000 out the door for spraying 15 times a year
to control the disease.
So, what we're trying to do here is to get genes into these potatoes
that would mitigate the need for all those spraying.
'But it's this manipulation of genes that's the source of contention.
'Critics have objected on several grounds,
'from safety issues to environmental concerns.'
It's time for us to say no, we don't want it.
We don't want their new technology.
It doesn't benefit us, it doesn't benefit the environment,
in fact, it threatens us and the environment.
'The GM debate once again raises the question of public trust in science.'
'There's a gap between the fears of some sections of the public,
'and the opinion of scientists that what they are doing
'is both useful and safe.'
I think my primary emotion is bemusement.
Where are they coming from?
What is going on in their heads that they feel SO strongly
that this must be campaigned against?
They often assert that this is a failed technology.
If it's failed, why do 14 million farmers
plant 134 million hectares of it?
You know, they do so because it works, farmers are not stupid.
'There seems to be a mutual misunderstanding
'from both the scientists and the public.'
'The controversy surrounding GM
'was something I really wanted to understand.'
I went and talked to members of the public
to find out why they were so against it,
and one thing that came up very often
was that they were against eating food with genes in it.
And that's something that would never occur to a scientist
because a scientist obviously knows that all food has genes in it.
But, I mean, why should a member of the public know that?
What had happened here, is that we scientists hadn't gone out there
and asked what bothered the public.
We hadn't talked to them about the issue.
We'd not had dialogue with them.
'Scientists had forgotten that we don't operate in an isolated bubble.
'We cannot take the public for granted.
'We have to talk to them, we have to communicate the issues.
'We have to earn their trust
'if science really IS going to benefit society.'
'Over the next few years, every country on the globe
'faces tough decisions over what to do about climate change.'
'I've been thinking how scientists can win back the confidence
'we're going to need if we're going to make those choices wisely.'
Quite a grand door.
It is, to a rather workman-like area, we're going down to the basement...
'Before I started my presidency of the Royal Society,
'Keith Moore, the head librarian,
'wanted to take me on a tour of the archives
'to give me a glimpse of some of the jewels they contain.'
So, here we hold some of the genuinely rare materials
from the book stock.
'Being surrounded by the products of so many brilliant minds
'is quite a humbling experience.'
These are the minutes of meetings.
Is this all the notes of the Society's...!
That's right, yes, so this goes right back
to the very, very first meeting of the Royal Society.
- What, really? What year is this? - Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
- So this is 1660. - 60? 60!
So here we have the memorandum, done on 28 November, 1660.
"These persons following met at Gresham College."
So, this is the first meeting of the organisation.
Look at that.
It's not even called the Royal Society at this point.
At that point, no.
And here's what they thought they were doing -
"Founding a college for the promoting of
physico-mathematical experimental learning."
Is that Wren? Is that Christopher Wren?
That's Christopher Wren, yeah. mm.
Robert Boyle, here. Yeah, they're all present.
You know, this has...
This has made me feel a bit starstruck here,
I have to say.
I'm here in the Royal Society,
350 years of an endeavour which is built on respect for observation,
respect for data, respect for experiment.
Trust no-one, trust only what the experiments and the data tell you.
We have to continue to use that approach
if we are to solve problems such as climate change.
'It's become clear to me
'that if we hold to these ideals of trust in evidence
'then we have a responsibility to publicly argue our case.'
'Because in this conflicted and volatile debate,
'scientists are not the only voices that are listened to.'
When a scientific issue has important outcomes for society,
then the politics becomes increasingly more important.
So, if we look at this issue of climate change,
that is particularly significant
because that has effects on how we manage our economy
and manage our politics.
And so, this has become a crucially political matter
and we can see that by the way that
the forces are being lined up on both sides.
What really is required here is a focus on the science,
keeping the politics and keeping the ideologies out of the way.
One of the things you can't get away without seeing
is Sir Isaac Newton, of course.
Is this Principia?
Indeed, this is the manuscript version of Principia Mathematica,
so this is Newton's great work on the laws of motion.
Of course, this was the book that laid the foundation for gravity...
So, this was a standard text for scientists for like 200 years.
It was really not until Einstein came along
that people began to seriously re-evaluate
the way the universe worked.
- I need to touch it! - Yes, do.
Maybe just finally...
This is the great book of course, The Origin of Species.
This was the one that Darwin presented to the Royal Society.
Always nice to have a presentation copy.
Oh, did he? Did he... Is he...
- It just says, "From the author." - Oh, look at it. "From the author."
- Rather overwhelmed by the... - By nasty '80s biro!
Yes! THEY LAUGH
'Earning trust requires more than just focusing on the science,
'we have to communicate it effectively, too.'
Scientists have got to get out there.
They have to be open about everything that they do.
They do have to talk to the media, even if it does sometimes put their
reputation at doubt, because if we do not do that,
it will be filled by others who don't understand the science,
and who may be driven by politics or ideology.
This is far too important to be left to the polemicists and commentators
in the media, scientists have to be there, too.
Nobel Prize winner Sir Paul Nurse examines why science appears to be under attack, and why public trust in key scientific theories has been eroded - from the theory that man-made climate change is warming our planet, to the safety of GM food, or that HIV causes AIDS.
He interviews scientists and campaigners from both sides of the climate change debate, and travels to New York to meet Tony, who has HIV but doesn't believe that that the virus is responsible for AIDS.
This is a passionate defence of the importance of scientific evidence and the power of experiment, and a look at what scientists themselves need to do to earn trust in controversial areas of science in the 21st century.