The Trick reveals more about ‘Climategate’

Monday: The Trick; (BBC One, 8.30pm)

By Claire Cartmill
Sunday, 17th October 2021, 5:00 pm

From Extinction Rebellion’s disruptive protests in London and Greta Thunberg snarling at world leaders and uttering “blah, blah, blah”, to devastating fires and floods happening across the globe, there’s no escaping the problem of climate change.

This November, all eyes will be on Glasgow as the UK hosts what could be a crucial Cop26 climate summit.

But did you know a cyber hack on a Norfolk server was responsible for catapulting the issue onto the world’s front pages and even contributed to the speedy signing of the Paris Agreement?

Phil Jones and Ruth Jones

This one-off drama, written by Bafta-nominated Owen Sheers, looks back at the events of 2009, when Professor Philip Jones, director of climate research at the University of East Anglia (UEA), ended up at the centre of a media maelstrom.

Dubbed Climategate, it blew up after thousands of emails and documents were stolen by hackers from the University’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) before being leaked online.

The information was pounced on by climate change deniers, who used it to question and undermine climate science as a whole, as well as sabotage a UN summit in Copenhagen, deemed at the time to be one of the most important of its kind.

The CRU came under incredible pressure to demonstrate the truth behind its research, only for what would later be regarded as one of the most rigorous investigations in UK academic history to declare their findings to be correct.

This drama charts how a media storm undermined public confidence in science and how the concept of ‘truth’ took a back seat, causing humanity to lose a decade of action.

It also chronicles the unjustified persecution of Jones (Jason Watkins), coupled with his wife Ruth’s (Victoria Hamilton) fierce support of her husband and their fight for the ultimate exoneration of himself and the scientific community.

Watkins says: “It is rare that a drama marries the personal and the public in such a compelling way – the urgent need to tackle the effects of the Earth’s warming is not going away and the research into this project has been sobering.

“It is a privilege to play the brilliant scientist, Phil Jones, whose own private world was so threatened from outside and whose research and efforts have been so vital globally in combating the effects of climate change.”

Writer Owen Sheers adds: “The events that came to be known as Climategate were a powerful coalescence of forces that have since shaped much of our last decade.

“At its heart, however, this is also a story about the people caught at the eye of a new kind of storm, and how in the end despite attack from all sides, the integrity and truth of their important work won through.”

Asher Minns, executive director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at UEA and the university’s former envoy for UN climate summits, says: “Ten years on you look at what is happening with the climate around us, and broadly there is a global acceptance that there is a climate emergency. If anything good came out of this terrible, stressful thing, it showed that we were right.”

Jerome Flynn, Adrian Edmondson, Aneirin Hughes and Pooky Quesnel are among the supporting cast.

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