The new get-tough campaign from the American Geophysical Union will feature a “climate rapid response team”
Update 11/8/10 6:30 p.m.: Today, the American Geophysical Union issued a press release to make it clear that it has organized what it calls a “Climate Q&A Service,” but that it is not involved with the so-called “rapid response team” that some scientists are organizing. The service “aims simply to provide accurate scientific answers to questions from journalists about climate science,” the press release states. Meanwhile, the independent response team is being organized by scientists to counter what Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York, calls “the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists.” (See below.)
The AGU release says the L.A. Times simply got the story wrong. Here’s a quick excerpt:
“In contrast to what has been reported in the LA Times and elsewhere, there is no campaign by AGU against climate skeptics or congressional conservatives,” says Christine McEntee, Executive Director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union. “AGU will continue to provide accurate scientific information on Earth and space topics to inform the general public and to support sound public policy development.”
Update 11/7/10 5:30 p.m.: Some additional thoughts at the bottom, and a link to Andy Revkin’s post about this at DotEarth.
The original post begins here:
Check this out from today’s Los Angeles Times:
Faced with rising political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control of the House in last Tuesday’s election.
“This group feels strongly that science and politics can’t be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists,” said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York.
Does anyone else think there’s a big risk of this ending badly?
A scientist surely has every right to respond vigorously when he or she has been unfairly attacked. But correcting the record and protecting your reputation is one thing; thinking that you’re going to successfully combat the likes of Marc Morano and James Inhofe and thereby help insure passage of legislation to rein in carbon emissions is another thing entirely.
Start with this simple fact, from the recent report of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication: ” . . . despite the recent controversies over “climategate” and the 2007 IPCC report, this study finds that Americans trust scientists and scientific organizations far more than any other source of information about global warming.”
I think they trust scientists because they see them as working in the world of verification, not in the looney-tune world of Marc Morano, James Inhofe, Glenn Beck, et al. But if scientists wade into the mud-wrestling ring, is there any reasonable expectation that they will not get dirtied up pretty darn good?
In this arena, scientific verification simply doesn’t count. To offer one example, at the extreme it’s a world where people claim without any evidence whatsoever that Barack Obama is spending $200 million a day and requiring one tenth of the resources of the U.S. Navy just to travel to India. And it gets worse. Much worse, as this video dramatizes so alarmingly:
Some will applaud scientists for tackling this craziness head on. And goodness knows, someone has to do it. But if your opponents are willing to say anything at all (including that you’re a “lesbian vampire,” in the case of Rachel Maddow — seriously, watch the video) so that they can tear you down, eat you for lunch, then regurgitate you, and eat you again, are you really going to win that match by wielding an updated hockey stick graph?
Andy Revkin has posted on this at DotEarth. Definitely worth reading!