We’re not going to take it. NO! We ain’ gonna take it! We’re not going to take it anymore!
With apologies to Twisted Sister. But this is the impression one gets from the latest leak of emails. Scientists are mad. They are mad that the reporting of climate change has gone from bad to abysmal, that deniers get away with saying obvious untruths, yet every single error made by scientists no matter how minute is made out as the death-knell of global warming, when in reality the science has never been clearer, that US senators are calling for criminal charges against leading climatologists, and they are mad that their fellow scientists are receiving death threats for simply doing their job. And they are not going to take it anymore:
U.S. scientists are planning to counter criticisms directed at them during the “Climategate” scandal and congressional debates, saying conservatives and industry groups have waged a “McCarthyite” campaign, according to e-mails exchanged by the researchers…
Stephen Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University, wrote that the scientific community has been subjected to “neo-McCarthyism” fueled by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and his staff. “I am hopeful that all the forces working for honest debate and quality assessments will decry this McCarthyite regression, and by name point out what this Senator is doing by a continuing smear campaign,” Schneider wrote.
Schneider was among 17 scientists whom Inhofe said may have violated federal law in connection to last year’s hacked e-mail controversy, which has been called “Climategate.”
There is talk about everything from an advertisement in the New York times, a prime-time science show on PBS, as many public lectures explaining the science behind climate change as possible, and even a report by the National Academy of Science summarising the science in a manner accessible to the layperson. And while this may not seem like drastic steps for those familiar with the political world, this is a huge step coming from scientists who tend to prefer staying out of the public discourse. The question is what should they do? What would be effective?
Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight…
Scientists must not be so naive as to assume that the data speak for themselves.
The response to the [email] vandals is to bury them with the data and experience of a century of scholarly research and analysis. The information that is important in making the decisions as to how to manage our world is unequivocal and must be advanced, not as questions at the edge of scientific knowledge where scientist like to dwell, but as the facts that they are, facts as immutable as the law of gravity. The climatic disruption is not a theory open to a belief system any more than the solar system is a theory, or gravity, or the oceanic tides, or evolution. This approach is uncompromising, partisan in the sense of selected for the purpose. It is not a lecture to undergraduates; nor is it ecology 101. It is a clear statement of what is required for government to do its job in protecting the public welfare. The scientific community has a firm responsibility in this realm now. This is not the time to wring our hands over the challenges to hyper-scientific objectivity, the purity of scholars, and to tie ourselves in knots with apologies for alleged errors of trifling import.
We are dealing with an opposition that is not going to yield to facts or appeals from people who hold themselves in high regard and think their assertions and data are obvious truths. There are lessons to be learned from the legal profession for defending one’s professions. Take any challenge, not as something to be addressed directly, but as an opportunity to add substance to the case. If the opposition opens an issue, make the issue theirs, and so hot that they have to let go.
“Most of our colleagues don’t seem to grasp that we’re not in a gentlepersons’ debate, we’re in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules,” wrote Paul Ehrlich, a biologist at Stanford University.
“Science is getting creamed with no effective response, and our colleagues involved with the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] are getting threatened with prosecution by the likes of Inhofe. It is not clear whether the NAS can ever be an effective voice, but if we don’t start some action it surely never will be.”
The realization that and attack on climate science is an attack on science itself, is finally sinking into the minds of many scientists, and it may be enough to wake the sleeping giant of thousands of scientists fighting back against misrepresentation and unjustified attacks on the science. This is exactly what happened in the tobacco wars, and it played a key role in ending them as Eli points out:
It is instructive to look at the tobacco wars. For a long time a small group of former scientists and a few wanna bes provided cover for the public relations types who ran the disinformation campaign. Just to name two, Fred Singer and Fred Seitz [both of whom are also climate change deniers] provided ammunition that the tobacco companies used to make sure that millions of additional people died. That anyone takes Singer seriously is evidence of a moral failing.
It was only when the biomedical scientific community decided to cease extending any respect to those providing cover for Big Tobacco that any progress was made. It took a long time, but you stopped seeing “Prof. X disagrees because Prof. X was simply read out of respectable company if he tried to deny the obvious in the New York Times while attempting to publish in Nature.
Scientists have sat idle while science has been trashed by deniers. The sooner they fight back the better.