Accusing a scientist of falsifying data is a grave and professionally damaging charge, about the worst one can make. Michael Duffy was careless and wrong to allege that Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “fudged” climate data during his recent public lecture in Sydney (“Truly inconvenient truths about climate change being ignored”, November 8).
Duffy said he was shocked that Dr Pachauri displayed a graph of average global temperatures erroneously showing a sharp climb in the past decade, when in fact there had been a “plateau”.
I have checked the graph in detail and watched the lecture on YouTube. It’s clear that Dr Pachauri was truthful and Duffy made a naive error: he did not, or could not, see from the body of the hall that the graph showed his “plateau” because he was looking at a longer-term trend line – a running average of the yearly figures. That line includes the figures for the past decade, and it does rise sharply.
It is ridiculous to suggest that Dr Pachauri should have focused attention on the past decade when discussing a climate system that operates on a much longer timescale. The graph shows many other plateaus, peaks and troughs. Over the past century, they amount to a rising trend.
Whatever the short-term picture, it is no comfort that 11 of the past 12 years were the warmest on record. Mr Duffy neglected to mention that truth.