Tag Archives: James Hansen

Scientists, political activism and the scientific ethos

The recent decision of the Hamilton City Council to stop fluoridating its water supply caused a bit of discussion among New Zealand scientists. Discussion of the ethical and practical questions related to scientist involvement in political activism.

The Hamilton City council had been exposed to large numbers of submissions from anti-fluoridation activists. Most of them misrepresented the science and gave misleading, often incorrect, information. Scientists could have corrected these mistakes and distortions, but the job was left to a few representatives of the District Health Board and the Ministry of Health.

Many scientist think, as do others in the community, that they must play a greater role countering distorted information and pseudo-science. But the scientific ethos of objectivity, evidence-based debate and peer review conflicts with the political nature of such activism.

It’s a problem that scientists, especially younger scientists, will have to face increasingly in the future. Quite a few of us have solved the dilemma for ourselves by blogging – a sort of half way point between ivory tower science and political activism.

But here is something to think about. Climatologist James Hansen has thought about this issue throughout his life. Sometimes he has opted for pure science, these days he is opting for pure activism. Here’s an excellent video of one of his talks from February 2012 explaining his motivations and history on this issue. It’s also a simple and clear explanation of the climate change problems we are facing now and in the future.

James Hansen: Why I must speak out about climate change 

Hansen has also written about these issues in his book   Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. Have a look at  Global climate – and your grandchildren for my review of the book.

See also: Fluoridation

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Friday follies – what happened to the “official AGW hypothesis?”

Now that the potty Peer, Christopher Monckton, is packing his bag to depart our shores, the band of climate change deniers/contrarians/pseudosceptics who micro-managed his “Freedom Tour” might be looking around for a new project.

richard1

Richard Treadgold

Richard Treadgold, whose blog Climate Conversation Group is one of the echo chamber nodes local climate change deniers/contrarians/pseudosceptics gather at, may have let slip details of a possible project. In a blog comment today he revealed:

“I referred earlier to the “AGW hypothesis” and its falsification. Astute readers will note there is officially no such hypothesis. No paper has been located (to my knowledge) which proposes one and sets it out in scientific terms. So, of course, no falsification has been possible. The entire AGW “debate” is built on shifting sand, as protagonists on all sides are at liberty to describe the theory as they please. No falsification is possible.”

Notice the word “officially” – that reminds me of the argument these character used in their attempt to get NIWA to give up their findings on the temperature record in New Zealand. They based this on a claim that NIWA did not use the “official” methodology in correcting temperatures for site changes at the weather stations.

Can’t you see it – a new case to the high court (or perhaps the International Court of Justice) demanding that climate scientists around the world stop advising their governments about climate issues because there is “no official AGW hypothesis.”

Mind you, Richard is not the only one entertaining the little group there. One of his other commenters claimed recently:

“It was in ca 1980 that James Hansen gave his famous talk to Congressmen on global warming. He picked the day of the year with the warmest average temperature and snuck into the building the night before to disable the air conditioning.”

Without these honourable gentleman to keep scientists in check just imagine what we would get up to. Sneaking into the US House of Representatives, disabling air conditionaing and gerrymandering their meeting days would be the least of it. Crikey, we might even start considering unofficial hypotheses! Ones that Richard knows nothing about!

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Global climate – and your grandchildren

I am spending some time dealing with family business so am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few day.

Another excellent book about climate change – by a climate science who has been centrally involved from the beginning. His book provides a lot of the science, but also the history of the science..


Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
Hardcover:
320 pages
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
1608192008
ISBN-13:
978-1608192007

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

Continue reading

Christmas gift ideas: Thinking of our grandchildren

Books are ideal Christmas presents. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

Climate change is a pressing issue – and one which attracts a lot of politically inspired misinformation. Hansen’s book provides a lot of the science, but also the history of the science..


Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
Hardcover:
320 pages
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
1608192008
ISBN-13:
978-1608192007

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

Continue reading

Climate change lectures in Auckland

Two well-known personalities in the world of climate change science are in Auckland this month. Naomi Oreskes, Co-author of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming.

And James Hansen Author of Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity.

Oreskes will give the Michael King Memorial Lecture at the 2011 Auckland Readers and Writers Festival on May 14.

THE MICHAEL KING MEMORIAL LECTURE

Naomi Oreskes

“Doubt is our product,” ran the infamous memo written by one tobacco industry executive in 1969, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.” There’s no denying “doubt” is crucial to science and drives it forward, but it also makes science, and scientists, vulnerable to misrepresentation. Naomi Oreskes co-wrote Merchants of Doubt with Erik Conway: an important and absorbing history of a group of high-level US scientists and advisers with deep connections in politics and industry. The same individuals surface repeatedly: claiming that the science of global warming is “not settled”, denying the truth of studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole. We are honoured to have Naomi Oreskes give the Michael King Memorial Lecture, with an introduction by the Science Editor of the New York Times Barbara Strauch.

Event Details

Date: 14 May

Time: 01:00 p.m. – 02:00 p.m.

Venue: ASB THEATRE, AOTEA CENTRE

Category: SCIENCE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

via 28 NAOMI ORESKES AND THE MERCHANTS OF DOUBT – Auckland Writers & Readers Festival.

See Also: An anatomy of denial

James Hansen tours New Zealand

James Hansen (Credit: Guardian)

James Hansen is touring New Zealand this month, giving a public lecture entitled “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue” in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Dunedin, Gore and Christchurch.

Coal and lignite will be a major focus of his visit, and he’ll be participating in a symposium on “the future of coal” in Wellington on May 17th.

Hansen’s tour is being sponsored by a number of groups, including 350.org, Greenpeace, Organic Systems NZ, Oxfam, The Pure Advantage, the Institute of Policy Studies, and a number of interested academics and individuals.

Auckland Public Talk: “Climate Change: a scientific, moral and legal issue”

When: Thu 12 May, 6:00pm – 8:00pm

Where:  University of Auckland School of Business, 12 Grafton Rd, Grafton Show map

Tickets: Free Admission

Website: www.facebook.com/#! … our?sk=info

Thinking of our grandchildren

Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
Hardcover:
320 pages
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
1608192008
ISBN-13:
978-1608192007

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

Continue reading

Swiftboating science

“Swiftboating” is a new term for me – and for science, I guess. But it is part of US political jargon.

To quote Wikipedia:

“Swiftboating . .  is used as a strong pejorative description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue—for example, an ad hominem attack or a smear campaign.

The term comes from the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth (formerly “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth,” or SBVT) and that group’s widely publicized campaign against 2004 US Presidential candidate John Kerry.

Originally, terms like “swiftboating”, “Swift Boating”, “Swift Boat tactics”, etc. were mostly used by people who disapproved of the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth. It is now in mainstream use. Some American conservatives have strongly objected (see below) to the criticism of SBVT implied by such negative usage.”

It appears, mainly, to be a tactic of political conservatives. So it’s not surprising they describe the process differently. This from Conservapedia:

Swift-boating is an idiomatic catchphrase generally taken to mean exposing hard truths about Democrats who have distorted the truth or lied about their own activities.

Here on Conservapedia, the term is used to mean exposing hard truths about liberal editors who censor, distort the truth, or engage in deceit.”

So – its a synonym for “character assassination” and “smear.” With particular connotations of calling into question one’s honourable status.

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