“The Trick”: ‘Climategate’, the movie

The BBC have announced they have commissioned a movie about the 2009 Climategate controversy. Filming for “The Trick” will be starting shortly and some of the cast have been announced. The scriptwriter is Owen Sheers, author, poet and playwright and Professor of Creativity at University of Swansea, a position that “allows for research to be expressed through creative projects”.

To mark the 10th anniversary of Climategate, the BBC broadcast its own documentary about the controversy “Climategate: Science of a Scandal” which featured the views of some of the real-life cast of people involved. It will be interesting to see how a screenwriter dramatises the events of that autumn. But as with NetFlix’s dramatisation of the life of Queen Elizabeth, ‘The Crown’, Sheers’ “The Trick” will inevitably frame historical events to impute a particular meaning to the Climategate controversy. But as with the idea of climate change itself, we know that there is a complicated relationship between ‘facts’, whether scientific or historical, and meaning.

On 19th November 2019, the tenth anniversary of the release of the CRU emails, I posted this essay on my web-site which captured some of my thinking at the time about the events surrounding the controversy and also some of the things about it I wrote later. To best understand the significance of the Climategate controversy for the relationship between science and society, Sujatha Raman and Warren Pearce’s review article in WIREs Climate Change from 2020 – ‘Learning the lessons of Climategate: A cosmopolitan moment in the public life of climate science‘ – is the best place to go.