BBC Pulls Off “The Trick”- Climate-Gate Drama Scores

April 25, 2022

I mostly wanted to see if they could simplify the issue enough for a general audience, and, amazingly, they pulled it off.
It’s on Amazon Prime if you missed it.

New Scientist:

It sounds trite to say that stories will save us, especially from a threat as existential and immediate as ecological collapse. But at this crucial juncture in the climate crisis, there is increasing understanding that it isn’t enough to simply state the facts and figures: people need narratives and characters to root for, to feel the sense of urgency with which we must act and to picture the scale of the devastation if we don’t.

The challenge is: how to tell a story about climate change that will not only engage audiences, but move them to act?

The BBC has interpreted the brief literally with The Trick: a 90-minute drama of the so-called Climategate scandal of November 2009. A tranche of thousands of hacked documents and emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) was circulated by climate deniers to claim that scientists were faking evidence of global warming.

At the centre of the scandal was CRU director Phil Jones, forced to defend his findings through a media firestorm and in the face of death threats (before social media made them de rigueur). The title refers to Jones’s reference in an email to a colleague about a research method or “trick”, which was taken out of context to argue that Jones was manipulating the data.

The Trick focuses on the pressure placed on Jones (Jason Watkins) to be a convincing and likeable advocate for his own research against pernicious and shadowy efforts to undermine it. With his integrity under attack, Jones must convince the public that not only can they believe his findings, the fate of humanity depends on them doing so.

But Jones, stricken and under siege, believes that the damning “hockey stick” graph of skyrocketing temperatures should speak for itself – much to the frustration of the crisis communications team (George MacKay and Jerome Flynn) sent by the university to help him shape a narrative.

Watkins gives an affecting performance of a man pushed almost to suicide in the face of sinister threats and shifting demands, as does Victoria Hamilton in her portrayal of Jones’s wife Ruth, desperate to support her husband but unsure of how to reach him. “They can’t argue with the facts,” she says. “But that’s what they do all the time,” Jones explodes.

The brutalist architecture of the University of East Anglia campus and scenes of the sweeping Norfolk coastline contribute to the sense of isolation and foreboding.


Professor Phil Jones was the director of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (UEA) at the time of the Climategate controversy in November 2009.

Played by Jason Watkins in The Trick, Professor Phil Jones faced unjust persecution following the hacking of the emails and the feature-length drama charts the exoneration of himself and science as a whole. 

Born in Redhill, Surrey in 1952, Phil Jones has dedicated his life to researching climate change and has been a part of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at UEA since 1976. 

Over a career spanning 45 years, Phil Jones has published over 450 research papers on topics related to climate change.

Jones has held a number of roles within the CRU over the decades, beginning as a Senior Research Associate before moving on to become a Reader, Professor and later the CRU’s director.

As of 2021, Professor Phil Jones is still working at the University of East Anglia.

Following the Climategate scandal in 2009, Phil Jones resigned from his position as director of the CRU but following an inquiry into the incident, it was recommended that Jones should be reinstated. 

In July 2010, Professor Phil Jones resumed his work at the CRU with the newly created role of director of research, which he held until he resigned from the role in 2016. 

The now-69-year-old became a professional research fellow in 2017 to allow him to continue his research into climate change.

5 Responses to “BBC Pulls Off “The Trick”- Climate-Gate Drama Scores”

  1. Jim Torson Says:

    You can also watch this on the PBS website:

  2. redskylite Says:

    Long over due, but never too late, damn all those people still harping on the illegal and shady actions of the illegal hackers, cherry picking and trying to justify further denial at this very late stage..

  3. ubrew12 Says:

    “[the]… “trick”… was taken out of context” It sure was: Jones was discussing the Cover Art (!) for the World Meteorological Organizations 1999 statement on climate change. If only he’d proposed putting a photo of Marilyn Monroe there, none of this would have happened. ‘Mikes Nature trick’ is referring to ‘Nature’ magazine, where the trick was discussed openly in exhaustive detail, while the decline in tree ring temperatures was discussed by Jones himself in a 1998 article in the same magazine.

    The Scientists speak in magazines like ‘Nature’, but what the fossil-fueled climate deniers are demanding is “defend my misreading of what you said, made because I’m too lazy to read Nature magazine! Also, what is wrong with Marilyn Monroe as Cover Art?”. And they got away with it. And it’s hard not to draw a direct line from that to today MAGA culture wars: “defend my misreading of what you said, when you said ‘gay’ in class, made because I’m too lazy to figure out the context. Are you now, or have you ever been, a groomer for pedophiles?!”

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