The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial

OK, this cartoon is lampooning extremest attitudes within the US Republican Party. But I think it is also very relevant to this whole “climategate” hysteria.

Relevant because some of the most extreme pronouncements from climate change deniers do smack of McCarthyism. To be honest they also remind me of the campaigns against scientists and intellectuals launched by Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot.

Have a brief look at some of the pronouncement in denier blogs and twitter tweets. The description of climate change science as a conspiracy. The accusations that honest scientists have lied, hidden and distorted data and interfered with scientific publication processes. And all on an international scale. The huge and authoritative IPCC reviews are being discarded unread as rubbish and lies.

The accusations that these honest scientists are criminals, that they should be prosecuted. Some of these bloggers and tweeters want immediate  punishment – they can’t wait for a trial, let alone an investigation.

And as for the official investigation of charges of violation of freedom of information laws, let alone scientific ethics, these critics scream “whitewash” beforehand. Justice and truth is the last thing they want.

Persecuting climate scientists

The label “McCarthyism” is so obvious, down to McCarthy’s tactics of persecution of victims and hearings. US Senator James Inhofe is actually demanding criminal investigation of climate scientists. He has even named 17 US and UK climate scientists he wants to prosecute.

Michael Mann, one of the US climate scientists Inhofe wishes to imprison or otherwise punish, has warned about the climate denier hysteria:

“I think the following quote characterises the situation best: ‘Continuous research by our best scientists … may be made impossible by the creation of an atmosphere in which no man feels safe against the public airing of unfounded rumours, gossip, and vilification.’ The quote wasn’t made during the last few months. It was made by US president Harry S Truman in 1948, in response to politically motivated attacks against scientists associated with the dark era of McCarthyism.”

Mann added:

“I fear that is precisely the sort of atmosphere that is being created, and sure, it impacts research. The more time scientists have to spend fending off these sorts of attacks and dealing with this sort of nonsense, the less time is available to them to actually do science, and to push the forefront of our knowledge forward. Perhaps that is the intent?”

He is right to warn us about the nature of the current anti-science hysteria.

But I think the cartoon also conveys an important point. These days McCarthyism (and Stalinism, Maoism and Pol Potism) is a sign of weakness. It is an extremely weak and rickety bandwagon to jump on to. These extremists sail so close to the wind that they will inevitably be exposed. Their whole edifice will collapse.

I suspect this collapse will become more and more obvious as we get the results from the current investigations into the “climategate” issue. It is likely that any real unethical or illegal activity found will be no greater than interference with freedom of information requests. And these may relate only to emails rather than data. After the dust is settle, after any real inappropriate behaviour has been dealt with, many people are going to look ridiculous.

Demand transparency from deniers

I only hope that we can spend some time investigating these people. What has been their attitude towards revealing their own sources of funding and treatment of data? How have they responding to information requests? How have they behaved ethically toward reporting scientific facts, let alone reporting the behavior of honest scientists?

Some of these people are journalists. Others bloggers. The there are the denier organisations and their websites. Should we place any trust in such people in the future?

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9 responses to “The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial

  1. Great article, and I have to say some very salient points. It’s time to examine not just their claims, but their methods with a forensic attention to detail.

    They’ve been allowed to play fast and loose with the truth. Now it’s their turn to have their claims critically examined.

    Let’s ask them to give us their data, their emails and logs of their conversations. Let’s look at how they share information across blogs and websites. How about they disclose their funding?

    More importantly, let them give us their research: the science that is supposed to contradict the consensus…

    I’ve blogged a very similar conclusions a few weeks back: http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/mann-scientists-need-help-combating-the-climate-denial-industry/

    http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/climate-sciences-day-in-court-whats-the-worst-that-can-happen/

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  2. Hey Mike. Thanks for your comment and making contact.

    I agree completely with your point about demanding transparency from these denier groups. They seem to be able to get away with slander almost unchallenged.

    Especially when they actually use data obtained by public resources.

    Recently I put together some “deniergate” emails (https://openparachute.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/emails.pdf). These record my exchanges with a local denier group requesting information from them on an article attacking our scientists. They proved completely unwilling to cooperate, provide methodology , spreadsheets or data.

    meanwhile they were making FOI requests on NIWA!

    I believe part of making public research activity more transparent should be accompanying mechanisms ensuring transparency from the critics and deniers.

    Interestingly, this point of view also was promoted by the Institute of chemistry at the recent Parliamentary “climategate” Hearings in the UK

    (The report from these hearings is out tomorrow).

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  3. Cheers Ken, also thanks for the heads up about the climategate report… I anticipate a firestorm of activity on both sides. Warmist and denialist alike will be pulling the thing apart.

    Let’s see what the fall out is. However I’m reasonably confident it would (mostly) exonerate the CRU guys. However no doubt there will be a few “juicy” out-of-context comments the denial movement will spin.

    No doubt the claims of “the conspiracy” will ring loud.

    Re your email exchanges: how fascinating! Shall take the time to read.

    Cheers mate.

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  4. Pingback: Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated « Open Parachute

  5. Hey Ken,

    You’ve no doubt seen it by the report is in. A vindicaiton of the science:

    On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

    Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

    The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

    http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/climategate-inquiry-no-proof-of-fraud-better-disclosure-called-for/

    Now, watch the spin begin…says the Deniers, “We’ve been asking for more disclosure!”

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  6. Joyce Dewitt

    Warmists and deniers, gossips and liars. There is so much name calling. I don’t have the answer but what can we do about the government’s poor record on this file? No one believes a word anymore, everything is suspect. In Canada for instance, the media recently reported that the UK high commission had such a hard time selling the merits of the policy that it had to give up on its media shop and spend additional sums on a specialist in cancer fundraising who really knows how to leverage coverage. Is this what we are down to now? The use of communications experts over scientists?

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  7. To be taken in by denier argument says a lot about the knowledge held or mindset of a person or group.
    Ignorance can be changed but dogged adherence and obdurance towards holding an obvious fabrication is not arguable territory.
    Some just don’t want to know.

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  8. The best conclusion you can draw is that it is that there remains signifigant doubt to redirect billions or trillions of dollars to combating climate change. It is tough to play the victiom when you have spent years persecuting disenting scientists by comparing them to holocaust deniers.

    In the end some actual evidence or proof regarding global warming would always be helpful.

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  9. What is your specific point Don?

    You are making specific claims about me which just aren’t true. So what are you on about?

    Like

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