My Beef With The Climate Consensus

As a Lukewarmer I should detail some specifics of the differences I hold with the activist consensus, on the one hand, and the skeptics on the other.

I am more frequent and usually more vehement in my criticism of the activist consensus. I think this is appropriate for two reasons. The first is the consensus holds all the levers of power. They are educating our children, hold the decision-making votes for funding of research, they have instant access to a compliant media (well, outside of Fox), etc. They need to be held to account for mistakes and misjudgments, and the skeptics aren’t really doing a good enough job of that.  And sprinkling their essays with the occasional Latin phrase doesn’t change it.

The second reason is that the consensus activists have personally and professionally attacked anyone who opposes the consensus, using crude and vicious tactics and unethical behavior. From Ben Santer threatening to beat the crap out of Patrick Michaels to Peter Gleick’s theft and forgery of opposition documents, they have misbehaved. As they are not cleaning up their side of the fence, I and others will continue to oppose them vigorously.

Here’s a selection of what I’ve written on the subject, taken from comments on other weblogs:

“As long as ‘communication’ means nothing more to the consensus than finding the most persuasive argument or choosing the right channel for their messages, those repeating these arguments will sound exactly like the marketing and advertising moguls I have advised since 1996.

But something happened since then and some of these moguls noticed. They found Web 2.0 tools gave them a chance to listen to what their customers (and more importantly the people they wanted to become their customers) were talking about. What was important to them, their opinions on things that weren’t related to the marketers’ products, etc. And some of these people ventured to actually engage in a dialogue with them. And a funny thing happened. Many of them began to win in the marketplace.

But the fact remains that in April of 2012 none of you show any signs of having listened to either your opponents or the vast majority of people who are steadfastly staying out of this argument.

Scientists are not necessarily bad communicators. But they have abdicated their chance and disastrously have let people like Eli Rabett pretend they can communicate on scientists’ behalf. For every good scientific communicator like  James Hansen and Bart Verheggen, there are covens full of Eli Rabett,Michael Tobis, Tim Lambert and Joe Romm. Not to mention their groupies. The result is what you see around you.

Scientists have to grab the microphone out of the clutching hands of the wannabees and politically motivated.

Some, especially tricksters like Eli Rabett, want to blame journalists.

It was no journalist who made the No Pressure video. It was no journalist who told skeptics that Green Peace knew where they lived. It was no journalist who wrote Anderegg, Prall et al. It was no journalist who ignored an IPCC scientist and continued to insist that Himalayan glaciers would disappear before 2035–while bidding on a project to study melting Himalayan glaciers. It was no journalist who said that the streets of Manhattan would be underwater in either 20 or 40 years. It was no journalist who told fellow scientists to delete all emails regarding AR4. The list could go on for days.

The consensus apologists have run out of feet to shoot themselves in, so they frantically cast about looking for scapegoats. And after 25 years of journalists from the BBC, the Guardian, the NY Times and every other major media outlet printing their screeds and screeches on demand, why it must be their fault!

What’s going on is no fault of the journalists (there are a handful of exceptions out of thousands writing on the subject). Overall, there is no public issue that ever received more of a free pass than climate science did from the overwhelming majority of journalists and media outlets. To say otherwise is basically an attempt to perpetuate a big lie, which I won’t capitalize in deference to Mr. Godwin.

Most people believe in the basic science of global warming. Most people are not certain about the effects of global warming predicted by people like Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Peter Gleick and Eli Rabett. And that’s due to what these people write and say.

I believe that the consensus side needs to adhere to much higher standards of ethics, behavior and, yes, manners than those who oppose them, and I certainly don’t believe the consensus side has succeeded in that. The consensus side holds the positions of authority, holds the data, holds the levers of power. The consensus side decides what research is funded and performed and which is publicized in a largely complaisant media. But instead of acting like grownups, they pretty much fit Donna LaFramboise’s skeptical description as spoiled teenagers.

Finally, I personally think the real avoidable tragedy that has led us to this impasse has been the willingness of climate scientists to allow others to speak for them. I fully understand that they are busy and that they didn’t become scientists because they wanted to stand in front of a microphone or under klieg lights. But the fact is that the people who jumped on stage in their absence did an absolutely horrible job–and are still doing so.

I think the best thing that could happen would be for scientists–and only scientists–to organize a media team that wasn’t searching for climate heresies but was actively promoting real research results. And their first order of business would be to clear out the stables of the so-called champions who in fact have just about wrecked any chance of moving forward.

I would offer the reminder that we have had people in the past who were able to communicate science effectively, ranging from scientists (Sagan et al) to science writers to science fiction writers.

They were able to both engage and transfer knowledge on subjects as varied and controversial as eugenics, nuclear war and racial equality to topics as arcane and (at first glance) un-noteworthy as demographics.

Some of the topics were very much in dispute at the time of discussion by these communicators–some just as vehement as the current discussion of climate change.

I see no evidence that would-be communicators of the climate consensus have even referred to the available lessons from the past, let alone adopted them.”

4 responses to “My Beef With The Climate Consensus

  1. It was Hansen that predicted that Manhattan would be underwater in 20 (or 40) years, in 1988.

    While he is a good communicator, what he communicates is as important as how he does it.

  2. hansen is a ‘good’ communicator? ‘The oceans will boil’? ‘death trains’?

  3. It seems to me that existing communication/messaging is distributed by a select group of scientists in a fashion designed to elicit more research funds. Am I wrong? Unless I am wrong, who in the science community will be willing to risk funding cuts to challenge or change the messaging? While those that have retired and are already insulated from retaliation, what active researcher wants to risk not being able to put food on the table for his family?

    • You’re right. It’s about who controls the money. Who is going to fund someone who might prove that most of the previous funds were misspent. The whole system has an enormous inertia.
      Two years ago I had a visiting appointment at a school where a young PhD in meteorology was just starting. She was an excellent teacher. Students loved her. She stated what shouldn’t have been controversial, that there was no climate consensus, that climate has always changing, and the debate was just starting. You couldn’t believe the flack she got and how she was treated. She was not rehired and she is still being bad mouthed in her job search. Free speech in academia ain’t what it’s cracked up to be.
      Joanne Simpson spoke out the week she retired.
      I won’t go into my personal experiences. I’m retired and I can say what I want.

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