08 October 2010

Willing Accomplices in the Hyper-Politicization of Climate Science

[UPDATE 10/10: Here is an example of a much better approach by a scientist to explaining why Cuccinelli's fishing expedition is a bad idea.]

There is an old saying in politics that the public gets the politicians that it deserves.  This of course is simply a reflection of the nature of democracy in which public views are in some sense supposed to be represented by the politicians that they elect.

A colleague has shared with me a fascinating story in the National Journal on the slate of Republican candidates for Senate.  He highlights this passage:
Nineteen of the 20 Republican Senate nominees who have expressed an opinion on the widespread scientific consensus that greenhouse gases are altering the world's climate have declared the science either inconclusive or dead wrong, often in vitriolic terms. (Kirk is the only exception.) Ron Johnson, a business owner who won his party's nomination in Wisconsin, says that accumulating carbon dioxide emissions are a less likely cause of any climate change than "sunspot activity or something just in the geologic eons of time where we have changes in the climate.
What explains this dynamic?  Politics of course.

The National Journal has tracked 23 issues on which (most off) these candidates have expressed views (a thumbnail image is shown above this post), and they find a remarkable conformity of opinion across issues among these Senate candidates.  The National Journal writes:
From repealing health care reform to extending the George W. Bush tax cuts, the leading Republican Senate candidates have displayed a remarkable convergence around deeply conservative positions. To assess the policy agenda of the 21 GOP Senate challengers with the best chance of winning in November, National Journal examined their websites and public statements and spoke with their campaigns. The results, displayed in the attached chart, show a potential GOP class of 2010 that is, as one veteran conservative activist put it, "more uniform in their philosophy, more populist and more anti-Washington" than even the landmark groups of Republican senators who flooded Washington after the party's landslide victories in 1980 and 1994.

The 2010 class's most aggressive members may envision a greater long-term rollback of Washington's role than many Republicans already in Congress. But on the most immediate issues facing Washington next year--from taxes and spending to immigration, health care, and energy--the class of 2010 has coalesced with lockstep consistency behind positions that promise repeated collisions with President Obama.
The reason for Republican uniformity of views on climate change in opposition to most scientists is thus not something intrinsic about the climate issue, or intrinsic to their Republican-ness.  Rather, it is an inevitable consequence of the politicization of the issue at the highest levels, meaning that opposition to action on climate (and to the justifications for that action) have come to be seen as part of what it means to be an American conservative.  This identity has been created and reinforced by those on the right and the left.

It is important to recognize that it didn't have to be this way.  As the National Journal notes on other environmental issues, which have traditionally had republican support:
All 18 GOP candidates who have taken a position support expanded drilling for oil and gas on public lands. All 19 who have taken a position want to expand construction of nuclear power plants. In each case, these positions represent a nearly complete rejection of the views of the leading environmental groups -- many of which worked closely with significant numbers of congressional Republicans in earlier decades.
The extreme politicization of policy that has come to characterize American politics has been a long time in developing.  I have no idea as to how that circumstance may have evolved differently.  But there are some issues that are at the center of that intense politicization (represented  by the list of 23 topics in the image above), but many others that are not so intensely contested.

It is worth asking whether the climate issue might have evolved differently such that it did not become so hyper-politicized. I think that to some degree the politicization could have been reduced, rather than exploited.

One thing is clear, however.  The issue of climate change will continue to remain hyper-politicized so long as the nation's most visible scientists continue to characterize the scientific issues in stark left-right terms as Penn State's Michael Mann does today in the Washington Post:
As a scientist, I shouldn't have a stake in the upcoming midterm elections, but unfortunately, it seems that I -- and indeed all my fellow climate scientists -- do.
Do Mann and the climate science community actually think that directly linking battles over climate science to upcoming national elections will depoliticize climate science?!

Not only does the public get the politicians that it deserves, but it seems that climate scientists get the politics that they deserve as well.  Until the scientific community shows some willingness to take actions that reduce rather than reinforce the political intensity of the climate debate, they are acting as willing accomplices in its hyper-politicization.


  1. This would be a good post if you hadn't chosen the example you did.

    You are entirely unfair to Mike Mann here, because you are citing him out of context. The quote was in response to explicit threats by the Republican leadership that they will further pursue him with legal action and other harrassment if they win a majority.

    That said, Mike probably should have anticipated his quote would be used to further cast blame for the politicization of science on the scientists, rather than the pundits and politicians.

    -Eric Steig

  2. -1-Eric Steig

    Michael Mann's research has nothing to do with climate policy, he says so himself in his op-ed. Republicans will be pursuing him for political gain whether they win a majority or not (and looks like they will).

    To wrap himself in the cloth of the national election on the basis of the need for emissions reductions (without which will hurt our children and grandchildren) is just absurd. This op-ed is about as boneheaded as the 10:10 video;-)

    Mann's issue is a matter of academic freedom in a university setting. It is not about the upcoming congressional election. It is not even about the reality of climate change or the evaluation of policy options (as he admits). Had he written an op-ed upholding academic freedom, I'd be his strongest supporter.

  3. "Ron Johnson, a business owner who won his party's nomination in Wisconsin, says that accumulating carbon dioxide emissions are a less likely cause of any climate change than "sunspot activity or something just in the geologic eons of time where we have changes in the climate."

    Mr. Johnson may well be wrong about this, but since his view roughly corresponds to those expressed by luminaries such as Lindzen, Bryson, Dyson, etc. you should not single this comment out as being hyper-political or beyond the pale in any way.

  4. It would seem that one could write nearly the same story about the democrats and their positions on most issues.

    Clearly it's a good idea to curb emissions. However, there are still many unanswered questions about CO2 and its effect on climate; such sweeping policy as that contained in Cap and Trade (which wouldn't work anyhow) should not be based on the precautionary principle.

    I suppose this gets back to your "small tax" on carbon. Once the camel gets its nose under the tent....

  5. The Realclimate gang characterise themselves as liberals with a venomous contempt for 'stupid' conservatives. Like Sarah Palin, Glen Beck and other cartoon characters.

    This isn't an environmental issue. Carbon trading is the biggest financial scam in human history. As every single corporation on planet earth supports carbon trading, one can only assume that Republican opposition is a result of a fear of the voters. The very working class Republicans Karl Rove dragged into the ballot boxes with gay marriage and other hokum to defeat John Kerry. Evangelicals amongst others. They know it will make them poorer. That is incredibly simple to understand.

    I am not a socialist and I don't have a sentimental view of the working classes, but I have regarded environmental politics as (academic driven) class warfare since the late 1980s. That is from personal experience.

  6. Eric,

    Mann has become a political target because the leadership within the scientific community have failed to demonstrate to the public that they are willing to strongly repudiate bad science when that science happens to support the political objectives of the IPCC.

    The initial failures when the issue first expoded have been compounded by numerous sham inquiries that make it clear that protecting the establishment from embarrassment is the top priority.

    It should come as no surprise that republicans feel that they have to use the justice system to get to the bottom of theses issues even though most sceptics again it is the wrong thing to do.

  7. Mike Mann claims that choices in a democracy should not concern Him. Correction sir: every citizen is a stakeholder. As a dog-catcher/scientist/street person, we each have skin in the game - in every election.

    www.wmbriggs.com posts a review of Sowell´s Intellectuals and Society. Mann´s assertion that he can ignore even one election validates Sowell: this self-annointed ´scientist´ wants a high perch from which he commands folk below.

    A commentator at Briggs pegs Mann: [an] ¨...intellectual will believe anything as long as it logical.¨ False premise, Mike: you have no argument, ´tho it may appear logical, even rational.

  8. When the early drafts of the Copenhagen accord included language that would have set up a world governing authority with the power to tax, climate science became more than political, it was an excuse to attempt a coup d' etat.

  9. Professor Pielke, I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned this statement by Mann:

    "It is leading to more widespread drought, more frequent heat waves and more powerful hurricanes."

  10. Michael Mann has made very political comments in the past. Read his libelous letter to the editor in response to Lawrence Solomon http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2009/02/06/tabloid-fossil-fuel-shill.aspx

    Read this interview http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2010/07/01/interview-with-michael-mann-on-the-penn-state-final-report-and-the-war-on-climate-scientists/

    and this http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/2010/03/10/michael-mann-interview-denialists-are-waging-%e2%80%9casymmetric-warfare%e2%80%9d-against-climate-science/

    These are not the words of an apolitical scientist. A paranoid kook? Sure. Someone who has completely lost touch with reality? Absolutely. But one with very definite political views.

    And btw -- the Democratic Party got in lockstep on global warming first. Castigating the GOP for responding to the way the Dems politicized the issue is silly partisan re-writing of history.

  11. Along with model-methods I would like to know how Mike Mann the great scientist gets away with this statement:

    "It is leading to more widespread drought, more frequent heat waves and more powerful hurricanes."

    Dr. Pielke - you of all people should be concerned that such a piece of disinformation gets traction in such a prominent venue.

  12. Roger,

    This is one of the rare columns of yours that I strongly disagree with. When asked to spend literally tens of trillions of dollars on the reordering our economy, the level of evidence needs to be of the highest caliber. That can hardly be said for the IPCC's case. Add that to the fact that they will take arrows in their back from the large environmental groups for advocating nuclear and it is no wonder they don't support this line of thinking.

    Windmills won't cut it regardless of the fantasies of a 'green' economy.

    When the AGW crowd gets real about what we know and don't know, proposes a reasonable energy future, and is willing to support reasonable solutions regardless of which party offers them then that will be the time to criticize the R's/C's on this issue.


  13. Michael Mann "jumped the shark" in his interview with Discover when he suggested that CO2 represented an extinction threat:

    "[Q:]What is the worst-case scenario? Are we talking about the risk of our demise as a species?
    [Mann:]That’s what scares me, yeah."

    When I read that, I thought that surely the writer had misquoted him -- it's the sort of phrasing where Mann might well have been agreeing to something else said but omitted from the account. But as Mann has not (to my knowledge) objected to the article, I have to assume that he did in fact make that statement.

    One can have reasonable disagreements about, say, the extent of 21st century warming -- will it be 0.5 K? 1 K? But to claim that climate change represents a species-wide threat, is about as plausible as predicting a 100-ft increase in sea levels by 2100. A large asteroid impact could make us extinct. Maybe viral plague. Or nuclear war. But not CO2 emissions.

  14. Nicely put, Roger. Some of your posts sometimes have a superficial resemblance to Ben Pile of climate-resistance fame. The difference is, however, quite stark, in particular, in respect to Ben Piles main thesis - that the politics was always prior to the science and that this has corrupted the whole project. Do you think this thesis at least, in view of the history, for instance, of the IPCC, has at least some cogency? What you think?

  15. -14-Lewis

    Thanks ... just briefly, I do not think that the issue is so simple as politics driving science -- on any side of this issue. However, that is how people usually characterize their opponents. As this post (hopefully) hints at, reality is more complicated.

  16. I'm inclined to think the politicization of climate science was inevitable. In general, when you adopt a scientific research program, you buy into some hypothesis or other, and set about testing it. It would be nice to pretend the tests will be conducted objectively, but in fact, there are generally substantial incentives not to be objective.

    For example, let's say I get a major grant to test whether the industrial chemical 3,4,6-trimethylchickenwire binds to sex hormone receptors and lowers sperm counts. If I find it does, I can expand and extend my research program, hire more postdocs, get invited to talk at conferences and onto morning television to discuss the contamination of our Precious Bodily Fluids, and maybe spawn (so to speak) more grants to look at the entire inisidious chickenwire family of chemicals. Will I tend to push the research towards results that confirm the noxiousness of 3,4,6-TMC? Yes, probably.
    On the other hand, if I find that, in fact, 3,4,6-trimethylchickenwire is as perfectly harmless as the International Chickenwire Corporation claims it is, my grant won't be renewed, and I have to come up with another idea. Bummer.

    Now I don't doubt the fundamental idea that CO2 is affecting climate and will affect it more in the future. But obviously, a research program that discovers these effects might be partially beneficial, negligible in some parts of the world, or less serious than predicted, will garner me less funding and publicity than results that indicate the mid-west will be turned into an uninhabitable desert, the gulf coast into a flooded tempestuous wasteland, billions of starved bloodthirsty migrants will be catapulting across the southern border, and puppies will die of heatstroke.

    So yeah, a lot of scientists in this field have a vested interest in disaster predictions. And conversely, people who don't like government policies that use these disaster predictions as justification may well feel disposed to doubt all the science. Few people have the background to be able to carefully comb through the vast literature and winnow out the hype from the solid science. The perverse incentives to politicize science are not outside influences, they come from the way we organize and fund science.

  17. I actually agree with you - 'that is how people usually characterize their opponents'! I think the debate is often infantile. And I think, also, that the presentation of the science is much, much more subtle. I just think the 'presentation' can't be, always, merely, 'presentation'! What I mean is, let us respect the 'electoral' generality - if people put an honest statement of the alleged dangers of climate change, the pros and cons, and gave, as you have tried, an honest, front up solution then maybe that 'electorate' would take notice. One has to be realistic and not indulge in adolescent auto de fe answers - isn't that what your saying? And, if it is, isn't that right? O well.

  18. The corporate wise guys better start collecting some dirt on this guy, quick. He's a scientist, not an environmentalist. He makes the management of the APS sound a lot more like the Sopranos than the esteemed heirs of Newton and Maxwell. No surprise over here.


    Hal Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society
    Friday, 08 October 2010 17:19 Hal Lewis .From: Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara

    To: Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society

    6 October 2010

    Dear Curt:


    I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

    It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford's book organizes the facts very well.) I don't believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

    So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

    1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

    2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer "explanatory" screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

    3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

  19. 4.So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind---simply to bring the subject into the open.

    5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members' interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.
    6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.
    APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

    I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people's motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don't think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I'm not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.
    I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

    Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President's Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making)

  20. Roger, it is this tendency of yours to berate scientists that makes me more-or-less a hostile reader. Mann has every right to speak out against a threatened witch-hunt. His statement is absolutely about academic freedom - the freedom to do research and publish results without intimidation and threats of Congressional inquisitions.

    On the main topic, I find these two statements in slight tension:

    It is important to recognize that it didn't have to be this way.


    I have no idea as to how that circumstance may have evolved differently.

    So which is it? Either you have some idea how it could have evolved differently or maybe it did have to be this way.

    The science has become politicized because it is easier to kill the messenger than to explain to your supporters why you are ignoring the message. It is easier to deride a century of climate science as 'bupkis' than it is to evaluate and analyze the possible policy responses to a range of climate sensitivities and emission scenarios. It is all about the politics.

    Take the politics out of it, and climate science would have about the same level of controversy as the discovery and classification of exoplanets.

  21. -20-Ron Broberg

    Thanks for the comment. Berate? Really?

    Mann could easily discuss academic freedom without invoking the upcoming election or the politics of emissions reductions. It was his choice to frame himself in those terms. That is not berating him, just giving some helpful advice ...

    On your question, one phase has to do with climate science the other with US politics overall.

    I like your last sentence. You should send it to Mann as useful advice for his next op-ed ;-)

  22. [UPDATE 10/10: Here is an example of a much better approach by a scientist to explaining why Cuccinelli's fishing expedition is a bad idea.]

    Not really Roger. Both Democrats and Republicans should be delving deep in terms of 'fishing.' Climate science isn't really about climate science any more is it? It's become part of a socio-political movement to redistribute wealth and change behaviour, thanks to activist scientists who dominate the peer review and IPCC processes, not forgetting others who benefit financially from the huge global warming industry. Follow the money. The unjustified demonisation of CO2 is the ideal political vehicle. The Climategate emails gave us a largely unambiguous demonstration of anti-science behaviour. The president of the AGU seems to be part of the problem with his WaPo rant. The 'objective knowledge' disappeared some time ago for the reasons I described above. Mann et al's 'hockey sticks' don't represent objective science. If Michael J. McPhaden supports 'objective science' then let's hear him denounce the selected flawed data and methodology used to create 'hockey sticks.' Crickets chirping.

  23. Eric 144- you said "I am not a socialist and I don't have a sentimental view of the working classes, but I have regarded environmental politics as (academic driven) class warfare since the late 1980s. That is from personal experience." I am curious about those experiences- perhaps you could share more on this?

    Gerard Harbison- your post was the world as I know it. "The perverse incentives to politicize science are not outside influences, they come from the way we organize and fund science." Funny how the way we organize and fund science is never on the table to be examined critically.

  24. As Brian Schmidt notes, Michael Maan (and climate scientists in general) are *reacting* to the anti-scientific views of a political party rather than causing them.

    In his WaPo column, Mann tries to inform the readers of this dynamic.


  25. -24-Bart

    This is like two children fighting and one saying "But he started it!!"

    Scientists (and only a small subset) are of course not entirely responsible for the deep politicization of climate science, but they should understand their role in contributing to that state.

    To suggest that they are simply innocent victims is a form of denialism ;-)

  26. -24-Bart

    I looked up that Schmidt post, his reading comprehension is not so good!

  27. Your argumenet and the oped in the Post still seem to toe the same line.

    You silly people shouldn't be bothering these important academics. Just keep coughinh up your taxes for this very unimportant work, which you aren't able to understand so simply accept what we tell you about it's implications and keep quiet.

    You might have guessed. I don't buy it.

    The courts will decide whether Cuccinelli is acting inside or outside the consitutional rights of the electorate - remembering he is an agent of the populous and regardless of what you perceive to be his motives, if he is judged to be acting inside constitutional boundaries then he is doing the job he was elected to do.

  28. I suggest reading As the World Burns: How the Senate and the White House missed their best chance to deal with climate change. by Ryan Lizza at The New Yorker.

    Roger, the problem is that there are no statesmen on either side of the aisle. Republicans do not wish to do anything and Democrats are willing to water any bill down to almost "no impact" just to say that they got a climate change bill.

  29. BTW, I completely support Dr. Mann and his comments. Scientists have taken a beating by those that wish to delay action or do nothing because their wealthy donors are willing to make a buck today even when it means costing much more in the future. Dr. Mann should be applauded for his constant courage in the face of these relentless personal attacks.

    The sign of a true pioneer is the number of arrows in his back.

  30. For Michael Mann to pretend he does not play politics is laughable.
    The whitewash his own peers gave him made it clear that his highest qualification is his ability to get government money.
    If you want to annoy tax payers further, keep pretending that lying academics are immune to the law.

  31. SharonF

    I hung about in Scottish Green Party circles around that time. I had an extremely positive attitude toward them at the start. However, there was not only a clear agenda to substantially raise the cost of food* and fuel, but also create negative economic growth.

    Those who would suffer most from a roll back to a previous era would be those at the bottom. Ironic, but true. Poverty, deprivation and degradation in Glasgow in those days were horrific. These year zero idealists were not going to help that.

    Here is my links page on the leading role of the ruling classes in the environmental movement. Aristocrats dominated the environment pages of the Guardian until rude, obnoxious peasants like myself drove them away with sarcasm and ridicule. They were replaced by George Monbiot, a man with a top of the range ruling class, extreme right wing family with extreme right wing connections pretending to be a liberal. Also descended from French aristocracy.

    George constantly pleaded that he couldn't be held responsible for his high birth. I responded that I couldn't be held responsible for my low birth, rudeness and sarcasm. It was a highly effective, and in my opinion, totally legitimate tactic. Read the comments in the link below to see British class warfare in action. Those responsible for 10:10 and such like are generally from the top 1%.


    The problem ? Right wing, conservative with a sinister interest in Eugenics, unaffected by fuel price increase with shares in the banking industry who are the principle sponsors of the scam. The Rothschild family is the former owner of Standard Oil, Esso, Exxon and are now in banking and environment pressure group sponsorship. They had the cheek to buy a few shares and turn up at an Exxon meeting demanding they save planet. Smart cookies, these plutocrats.

    *When I asked my ex (aged 22 to be fair) what she thought the poor should eat, she replied 'less'. This budding neolithic farmer now churns out AI research (patents) in the USA for one of the world's biggest corporations.

  32. Roger,

    This is not like a children's fight. It is about one political party flushing science down the toilet. If anything it's caused by the perceived policy consequences of the science clashing with that party's political ideology.

    Perhaps a small minority of scientists has linked the science to certain policy consequences, which could have contributed to this dynamic. Whether Mann did so I don't know and I don't really care. In any case that's no reason to discard the science, but rather to discuss the merits of the policy response while leaving the science for what it is. That would have been the mature way to handle it.


  33. Thanks, Eric. I see a bit of that in my world with foundation funding for certain groups. Certainly they have the right to fund what they want- and we have the right to question whether some kind of class bias is inherent in those choices.

  34. Re: 14/15. My argument is not that politics drives the 'corruption' of science as such. What I've argued is that the premise of climate politics are presented as the conclusion of climate science, whereas a lot of the time, the reality is that much science works from distinctly political presuppositions. I'm not talking about questions such as "is CO2 a greenhouse gas", or "is the global temperature rising", but questions about the possible impacts of climate change on human society. That's not a corruption of science -- it's perfectly good science to work from 'what ifs' and assumptions. But it follows that a prevailing anti-humanism will produce assumptions about the inability of technological and/or economic development to cope with small, incremental changes in climate.

    For instance, that is why the WHO/GHF produced their reports which emphasised 150,000 / 300,000 theoretical deaths from Nth-order effects of climate change, at the expense of highlighting the 10million+ deaths that are actual and lower-order effects of poverty. Development is simply shoved off the agenda by a preoccupation with security/biopolitics.

    /Apologies for the derail/off-topic comment.

  35. Sharon F.

    I should have said that all the senior Green Party members I met were academics (by coincidence, the chairman was a senior lecturer in the dept. where I was a PhD student). I also remember numerous apocalyptic scare stories in the 1970s, including the new ice age, all from scientists.

    Here is the problem with Monbiot.

    Today's blog.

    It goes against our nature; but the left has to start asserting its own values


    Does he come across as a left wing liberal from his profile below ?

    George Monbiot grew up in Henley-on-Thames, in a large country house. The Monbiot family, descendants of French aristocracy, fled the French Revolution. He went to the very expensive and elite Stowe public school.

    His father Raymond was deputy chairman of the Conservative party and was notorious for stamping on individual members' voting rights, George spoke at a Conservative party conference, his grandfather was a right wing Conservative MP, his mother was an extreme right wing Conservative councillor who led South Oxford district council, his mentor Sir Crispin Tickell, Margaret Thatcher's ambassador to the UN is an extreme right wing eugenecist who believes that the UK population should be a third of its current level.

    His friend Paul Kingsnorth is an associate of the ultra right wing Goldsmith family (deputy editor of The Ecologist) and the leader of the blatantly fascist Dark Mountain project (Monbiot attended their festival and publicised it in the Guardian !). He writes ultra conservative, backward facing, ecological articles for the Guardian. His researcher Christine Ottery also worked for the Goldsmith family at the The Ecologist.

    He claims that trans Atlantic travel is worse than molesting children (despite flying to Canada for a paid engagement last year, while initially claiming it was to attend a demonstration), the UK must reduce its greenhouse emissions by 90 percent, UK flights must be reduced by 96 percent. He also wrote that every time someone dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged out of his office and drowned.