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Free speech and academic freedom

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 February 2012

Update: Some related concerns from, if these claims can be verified.

In a recent interview for a Norwegian magazine (Teknisk Ukeblad, 0412), the IPCC chair Rajendra Kumar Pachauri told the journalist that he had received death threats in connection with his role as a head for the IPCC. There have also been recent reports of threats and harassment of climate scientists for their stance on climate change (Kerry Emanuel. Katharine Hayhoe, Australian climate scientists, Phil Jones, Barton campaign, and Inhofe’s black list).

These incidents appear as an unpleasant deja vu from my past, smacking of attempts to suppress the freedom of speech. They remind me of the days when I did my national service as a border patrol at the Soviet-Norwegian border in 1988-1989 (Norway and Russia – then Soviet – share a 196 km long common border in the high north), where we stood up for our freedom and democracy. Freedom of speech was tacitly implied as one of the ingredients of an open democracy, which in our minds was the West. There was an understanding that the other side of the iron curtain represented an oppressive regime.

If the people who threat and harass climate scientists were to have their way, I fear we would be heading for a world resembling the other side of the iron curtain of 1989. The absence of oppression and harassment is a prerequisite for sound and functioning science. Oppressive regimes are not known for producing good science, and blind ideology have often been unsustainable. Therefore, threats and such dishonorable campaigns represent a concern.

Me at the Soviet-Norwegian border in the spring of 1989, where I served as a border patrol. The border was halfway between the yellow Norwegian and green/red Soviet borderposts seen in the photo, and the iron curtain involved a militarised zone on the Soviet side guarded by the KGB.

Another unpleasant aspect of the direction taken by the public discource is the character of the rhetoric, which too exhibit similarities to that of the cold war. I still remember some of the propaganda that could be heard on the radio – translated to Norwegian. Too often these days, the debate is far from being informative but has turned into something like a beauty contest and he-said-she-said affair.

So it is important to keep in mind: Don’t shoot the messenger who is only doing her/his job. It would really be a disservice to the society. Any open and free democracy has to be based on true information and knowledge. When big and powerful media corporations start to look like past state-run propaganda machines, where slogans have replaced common sense and expert knowledge, then we’re heading in the wrong direction.

In Norway, the there were calls for enhanced openness and respect (by our prime minister) after the terrible July 22 (2011) terrorist attacks (the terrorist also disrespected climate science). In this sense, the openness also means exposing all levels and all aspects of matters being disputed. As in sciences, it is important to elucidate the situation, and see if the arguments stand up to being critically scrutinized. This also means that all relevant information must be included – not just those which support one stand.

Flower response, more democracy, and more openness in Oslo after July 22, 2011.

I think that the science community needs a louder voice in the society, and there is a need for bringing some of the science-related debates closer to true science. We need to explain the virtues of the scientific method, such as transparency, replication of past results, testing and evaluating the methods and conclusions. These virtues lead to the most credible answers.

For example, we need to focus on question like the following: Is the strategy adopted objective? Does it give robust results? Or do the result depend on the context in which the analysis was carried out? In other words, we need to question whether the conclusions are generally valid.

Focusing on the real questions and doing science means being free, critical and sceptical – and not a climate of fear.

739 Responses to “Free speech and academic freedom”

  1. 1
    Kate says:

    A very thoughtful post, Rasmus. Thank you for this.

  2. 2
    Russell says:

    Lest we forget, climate modeler Vladimir V. Alexandrov was remanded into Soviet embassy custody in March 1985.

    He has not been seen since.

  3. 3
    Antonio Lorusso says:

    Anybody who makes death threats for any reason is an evil asshole. No question.

    Death threats by individuals is not government oppression. In making the comparison to government oppression you skip over the fact that many climate scientists are government funded. Many climate scientists advocate government action against people. Not persuading people to change their ways, but persuading government to force people to change their ways. Or punish them if they don’t. Try suing someone for harm from CO2 emissions in a court of law, based on facts and not any special laws and see how far you get. Whereas heavy metal poisoning in your water would be a legal cakewalk in comparison, based on facts without any special laws. Your analogy of government oppression is at best hollow, at worst hypocritical.

    “the terrorist also disrespected climate science”

    All your fine words against propaganda and then you mention that a murderer, a terrorist (but I repeat myself) “disrespected climate science”.

    If you want the conversation to be about facts and calm and rational and free from propaganda, don’t engage in it yourself. Don’t ratchet up the rhetoric yourself. Color me not impressed by your objection to propaganda and rhetortic.

    Consider this fellow:

    “It is time we had a law against climate change denial, in the same way we have laws against holocaust denial. Both of these things can cause real harm to others by propogating untruths.”

    [Response: No-one here is calling for such a thing, and we are repeatedly on record as supporting the idea that the best way to oppose bad information is with better information.- gavin]

    Oppression and aggression have nothing to do with what you believe on any issue. And everything to do with the person you are. Aggressive people use arguments to justify their aggression, but their arguments are not the cause of their aggression. They are.

  4. 4
    Michael says:

    I think comparing death threads with the Soviet Union oppression is way off base. Western governments guarantee freedom of speech and prosecute people who utter death threads. Whereas in Soviet Union all levels of government, law enforcement and the legal system worked hand in hand to oppress freedom of speech.

    The situation of climate scientists is in no way similar to those who had to suffer under Soviet oppression.

  5. 5
    Bob B says:

    Freedom of speech does not involve the IPCC chairman making inaccurate, incorrect statements which can affect government decisions without being held accountable!

    [Response: Actually freedom of speech allows anyone to say almost anything, whether true or not – and this facility is often taken up even by politicians who can affect government decisions. On the other hand, people have the same freedom to call BS on inaccurate statements whoever they are by. – gavin]

  6. 6
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rasmus, while I appreciate the sentiment, I’m not sure how profitable it is to compare the denialati to soviets, communists, fascists or nazis. The fact is that these idiots demonstrate that despite the profound economic and even social revolutions attributable to science, scientific thinking has only penetrated a tiny bit into the human psyche. For most of the human species, ideological purty–whether that ideology be political, religious or economic–trumps truth.

    Ideological purity has the advantage that adherents can tell each other the same comforting lies and project the same fears onto the same enemies–forming a basis for social cohesion. Science offers truth, and truth is often neither comfortable nor comforting. It is, however, the only antidote to the opiates that currently blind the majority of humanity to both the perils that threaten them as well as the beauty that surrounds them.

  7. 7
    Snapple says:

    Here is a photo of Alexandrov on page 10.

    The FBI seems to think they are experts on nuclear winter. Who knew? They cite a really ignorant journalist’s book in an FBI white paper. The anonymous FBI “expert” even mischaracterizes the journalist’s dumb book. The book cites a KGB defector who claims that nuclear winter was a KGB hoax. an old KGB guy is what passes for an authoritative FBI source on climate science? It makes me want to put my head through a wall every time I think of it.

    Russian scientists aren’t the big stooges some people claim. That’s why Pravda has to get a 9-11 Truther to write about climate science and Russia Today has to get John O’Sullivan, Pat Michaels, and some other weirdo from England with big hair named Piers Corbyn.

  8. 8
    Laogai says:

    Free speech must include the freedom to offend, else the oppressors can simply declare speech they don’t like – that insults them or threatens their continued domination – to be offensive, and hence to be outlawed.
    Free speech must include the freedom to lie, else the oppressors can declare our truths to be untrue, and silence the truth. All voices must be heard, and the truth must join the race “where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat”.

    Free speech must include the freedom to hate, else the hate-worthy can hide their crimes and escape justice. Or else hate can fester in resentment, hidden and secret, its fallacies and errors left unchallenged. Wickedness thrives in darkness. Rumours whispered uncontrolled.

    That does not mean it is good, or wise, or right to say these things. That does not mean we should pass over it in silence. We have free speech so that we may expose it, challenge it, offend it, hate it ourselves. And know that they may feel the same about us because of the way we respond.

    People fear to speak their minds in public, self-censoring, for this is their oppressors dream:

  9. 9
    Snapple says:

    If you really study how the Russian political operatives manipulate mass opinion, it’s not so different than what some politicians and their operatives do here. They put lies in the paper and incite the public so that “the people” demand government action. Climategate is exactly like Russian kompromat.

  10. 10
    Snapple says:

    Correction–the FBI doesn’t actually say nuclear winter is a KGB hoax. The book they cite has a KGB defector make this claim. Still, the FBI white paper seems to accept the defector’s view. I complained and the FBI guy said that I should complain about the KGB instead of the FBI. Well, I was complaining about both of them.

    The FBI white paper doesn’t really have an accurate history of the nuclear winter research at all. It’s a kind of smear of “gullible” climate scientists who are supposedly duped by the KGB.

    I told an FBI guy who bragged about this paper that it was ignorant. He told me that I couldn’t prove that nuclear winter was true. Well, gee, maybe the FBI should get out a little more and see what the government and scientists say.

  11. 11
    esop says:

    Good to finally see some decent climate reporting in Teknisk Ukeblad, as it has catered heavily towards denialism over the past few years. The readers are not happy, it seems, as the comments section is filled with drivel from the usual suspects. Norway probably has more deniers per capita than any other nation on earth. Being a major exporter of fossil fuels probably explains some.

  12. 12
    Bob B says:

    Gavin, you can speak freely but also be held accountable for what you say, especially if there is a huge financial loss linked directly to your free speech.

    [Response: Your imagining of the power of words from climate scientists is flattering, but not tightly coupled to reality. But here’s a hypothetical for you though: Imagine for an instant that mainstream climate science is basically correct, and that the costs of climate change in future decades are large and dramatic. How would you suggest we ‘hold accountable’ the people who kept stating loudly (within the earshot of politicians!), that climate change science was a ‘hoax’ that was not worth paying attention to? I’m not interested in arguing with you whether you think this hypothetical is likely, but I am interested in what mechanisms you have in mind for this accountability. – gavin]

  13. 13
    Snapple says:

    The annoying FBI official is in Florida. He has a newsletter that offers prophylactic national security advice to gullible climate scientists so they won’t be duped by the Russians who somehow put propaganda in Ambio. I don’t know what the Russian disinformation in Ambio was because the FBI kept that part secret. They just say a Swedish journal, but they mean Ambio.

    If there is propaganda in Ambio, just come right out with it and tell what the propaganda is. That’s what correcting disinformation is all about–telling what is true.

    I am all for good national security information, but this isn’t it.

    The FBI writes: “”The KGB had the report published in a Swedish journal. In the intelligence world, this is called disinformation.”

    Somehow, the FBI could never say what the disinformation was or what the Swedish journal was. Still, they are hinting it is Ambio. You can look at the book Comrade J and see what is going on.

    Here is his newsletter and contact information on the lower left. The top item links to the white paper. Read it and my criticisms.

    The FBI should fix this white paper on the nuclear winter “history.”

    If you know about nuclear winter, maybe you can ask him some good questions so he will see through this silly paper that is an embarrassment for a security agency. The white paper’s big source is nothing but a dumb book by a journalist who hasn’t researched the topic. If nobody in Moscow believed in nuclear winter, how come Gorbachev talked about it when he made a weapons treaty?

  14. 14
    Bob B says:

    Gavin, it depends if you are in a position of power or authority. Certainly someone working at NASA would be held to a higher standard. If someone like yourself for instance worked for a drug company, say J&J and you stated a drug was safe and ended up killing someone, you would be liable. If the Chairman of the IPCC made a statement of fact in his capacity and it turns out to be false and there is a financial loss, he should be held accountable. Right now there is no accountability at all in “Climate science”
    I had to argue with my son’s teacher some time back that certain glaciers would not disappear by 2035. So there is now a whole class of children repeating climate garbage. In many industries someone prominent like the IPCC chair would be fired. But like I said there is NO accountability in climate science!

    [Response: Nonsense. First off, no ‘huge financial decision’ was ever made based on that single line in the (3000 page) IPCC report, and the amount of media attention to that error (and tedious repetitions of the point in blog comments everywhere) demonstrates plenty of the consequences of making mistakes in such a high profile document. However, many glaciers will disappear by 2035, so I hope you were properly contextual and specific in your arguments – though frankly I’m unaware of any school curriculum that ever included that factoid. But you didn’t answer my point – so try again: If someone claims that the science is a hoax but in fact it turns out to very real and very impactful, what ‘accountability’ should be applied? Surely you must be claiming that all untrue statements from public figures should be held to the same standard? In which case what should happen? – gavin]

  15. 15
    Bob B says:

    So Gavin, when is the sky going to fall exactly? When will your models actually be testable? Please define impactful. It is impactful right now that so much money was lost on the carbon trading markets. I am waiting for the lawsuits to start.

    [Response: Well technically the sky has been falling for a while now… And the models are testable, and have been tested since the beginning. But you still didn’t answer my question. I imagine any readers of this exchange will notice and draw their own conclusions. – gavin]

  16. 16

    when is the sky going to fall exactly?

    The sky falls all the time, Bob, it’s called precipitation, or more precisely, rain and snow. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon your preference or perspective) we live on a planet where carbon dioxide doesn’t precipitate out of the ‘sky’.

    Can you tell us why that is, Bob?

  17. 17
    flxible says:

    Yes, Gavin, readers are drawing conclusions from the objections some are posing here. This is a question I’m hopeful of living long enough to see answered – where accountability resides when it comes to folks like Inhofe, Monckton, Wegman, Mc & Mc et al. I am interested in hearing your answer BobB, if it turns out that the delay in addressing mitigation and adaptation results in immense costs on every level, will you blame the collapse on science? Lax risk assessment by insurers? Misdirection from your financial advisor? “Natural variation”? Or are you assuming it can’t create any problems in your lifetime?

    CAPTCHA wonders and howebru

  18. 18
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bob B., you must have missed these:

    Also, do you realize that 27% more of the planet’s land area is in drought than 30 years ago. That doesn’t concern you?

  19. 19
    Ole says:

    The first RealClimate post where I feel the need to complain :)
    The thick feather effect around the pictures is a bad artistic choice in my opinion. It makes them visually unstable, the viewer’s eye feels like sliding off and grabbing for something bold and sharp again, like the text. Sorry for being smug and artsy-fartsy :) Love the site.

  20. 20
    Bob B says:

    Gavin, I asked you to define impactful in your question. I can point to billions of dollars spent based on CAGW predictions. No one here can point to “PROOF” there has been any impact from AGW.

    [Response: Oh well, it was fun for a while. Now you are back to trolling, which kind of precludes any kind of grown-up discussion. Have a nice evening. – gavin]

  21. 21
    Hank Roberts says:

    Folks, look up the “Bob B” userid and climate.

    That userid has been used to flood discussions to the point everyone else gives up — it’s been done for years now.


    That’s the Bob B approach to free speech.

    Eschew. And bless you.

  22. 22
    VM says:

    This is an interesting and informative article – kudos to Rasmus.

    A couple of typos, though: ‘prerecuisite’ should be ‘prerequisite’, and ‘discource’ should be ‘discourse’.

  23. 23
    Balazs says:

    I grew up the other side of that Iron Curtain, where the state religion was atheism (dialectic materialism), which “scientific” basis of the Marxism and Leninism ultimately lead to the inevitable victory of the proletariat’s revolution. Perhaps this experience made me to be very sensitive to the abuse of science as a means to make scores in ideological disputes (evolution disproving religion or climate science dictating our lifestyle choices are obvious examples). I would just as vehemently oppose religious people to assume monopoly on morale.

    Nürnberg type trials don’t strike me as particular good examples of defending free speech and trials could go both ways. How about a trial on behalf to those millions who die of hunger as a consequence of growing use of biofuels.

    As far as I understand, the so call deniers are not immune to death threats either, which tells me that there are idiots on both sides of this debate.

  24. 24
    Chris Crawford says:

    Speech must be free because society needs the fullest expression of information in the marketplace of ideas. This talk of accountability is a transparent attempt to stifle freedom of expression. The Iraq War cost the US taxpayer more than a trillion dollars — should we require those who supported that war to pay a trillion dollars to those who opposed it? Of course not!

    In like fashion, scientists present their best judgement on the issues before them, and so long as they do so in good faith, the notion of accountability is inapplicable to them.

    The only time that accountability applies to speech is when a person makes statements in a legally defined forum with legally defined standards of truth. If a person lies in such a context, they are subject to various sanctions including obstruction of justice and perjury. In the absence of such a legally defined context, claims of accountability amount to harassment.

    There is, however, a softer criterion. I would never tolerate sanctions against these despicable liars who deny climate change, nor would I tolerate any threats against their well-being. But I strongly encourage the opprobrium that they so richly deserve. It’s perfectly appropriate to call Mr. Monkton a charlatan and Mr. Inhofe a prostitute to the oil industry.

    This applies in both directions. Denialists are welcome to hold science in contempt and to verbally abuse scientists in public statements. But denialists who attempt to threaten or harass scientists (such as the Virginia Attorney General) are contemptible, as are those who defend these people.

  25. 25
    Balazs says:

    Hi Gavin,

    “First off, no ‘huge financial decision’ was ever made based on that single line in the (3000 page) IPCC report”.

    That 3000 page IPCC report is the basis of all renewable subsidies (including biofuels). Developed countries already devoted significant resources to wind turbines, solar panels etc. Several countries already set up carbon trading schemes that largely became the source of vast corruption. All these action was the result of politicians “listening” to climate scientist.

    [Response: Not really. These decisions were made by policy makers taking science into account, but they were not dictated by any of the science, nor by the scientists as a whole (obviously individual scientists have personal policy preferences like everyone else). Climate science has correctly (IMO) highlighted (for instance) the role of increasing CO2 emissions in causing climate change that will likely be deleterious in years and decades to come. Policymakers can choose to act (in the EU) to try and reduce the emissions, or not (in the US). The idea that climate scientists suddenly deprive policymakers of their free will is a little odd. – gavin]

  26. 26
    michael sweet says:

    Bob B:
    What about the $50 billion dollars in damage from extreme weather in the USA alone last year? Who should be held responsible? As these real damages continue to accumulate when will you admit that Gavin’s models have been to optimistic, as they were designed to be. The deniers are responsible for these damages.

    It is a scandal that scientists are threatened by politicians and nothing is done. Good luck to all on the Real Climate team!

  27. 27

    Bob B., what legal theory do you imagine exists which holds all speech to create a contract? I’ve never heard of even such a theory much less an actual element of law. (Either statutory or common.)

  28. 28
    Balazs says:

    “It’s perfectly appropriate to call Mr. Monkton a charlatan and Mr. Inhofe a prostitute to the oil industry.”

    Just as a thought experiment, how many years of no warming would justify calling James Hansen a charlatan.

    The sad part of the story is that I am convinced that warming will resume sooner or later, but the rapid backslash as a result of overblowing climate change in the last 20 years will be difficult over turn. I think, climate change was prematurely over hyped and by the time the climate science community sorts out uncertainties nobody will listen.

  29. 29
    Bob B says:

    Gavin, you asked me a question and I asked you to clarify as to what meant impactful? I don;t believe you can answer with any real impactful results from climate skeptics, but I can point to direct $$ results from rampant CAGW. And yes since you can’t answer a simple question and have to answer with Ad homs I am out of here.

    [Response: Impactful. I can’t find a definition for “rampant CAGW” though. – gavin]

  30. 30
    Billy says:

    So you think Skeptics don’t get threatened?Didn’t Santer want to beat the crap out of Pat Michaels?And why shouldn’t skeptics be allowed free speech instead of the warmists trying to silence them?

  31. 31
    Annabelle says:

    Sorry, but trying to paint climate scientists as persecuted victims won’t wash. There are crazies on all sides who make death threats – who knows, one day one of them may even be crazy enough to carry it out (and it could be a nutcase from either side). I am not making light of death threats or condoning them in any way.

    But to present climate scientists as a persecuted group bravely speaking up in spite of assaults on their freedom of speech – please. Millions if not billions have been spent on research grants, conferences, the IPCC etc etc etc. The media has latched on to climate change and it is taught in schools, climate scientists have the ear of the most powerful people in the world (even if they don’t seem to take what they are hearing very seriously). On the other hand, those of us who are sceptical about what we see as alarmist hype get branded “denialists” or “deniers”.

    Sounds like you are trying to make people feel sorry for you now that the tide of public is turning.

  32. 32
    Bern says:

    Balazs: Well, I believe there was a recent study that said you need about 17 years of data to establish a trend in climate.

    And even then, I’d only consider calling Dr Hansen a “charlatan” if he stuck with his current predictions of imminent strong warming and never once changed his opinion, despite evidence to the contrary.

    In the (extremely) unlikely event we got a whole 17 years of stagnant or declining temps, I’d expect Dr Hansen to be among those scientists trying to figure out what was going on with the climate, and proposing better models to explain what was happening. In that case, he’d definitely not be a charlatan.

    In any event, I don’t think he’d come anywhere close to Lord Monckton’s position of being proven to be wrong in nearly every statement he made to support his position.

  33. 33
    Martin Vermeer says:

    > Death threats by individuals is not government oppression.

    It quickly becomes that when the individuals gain political power. Is James Inhofe an individual? Is Ken Cuccinelli an individual? Are any of the Republican presidential candidates individuals?

    Currently they are stopped by a functioning judiciary. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  34. 34
    Martin Vermeer says:

    It seems clear enough to this casual observer that Bob B isn’t going to answer Gavin’s question.

    But both Bob B and Gavin seem to be missing one pertinent point: isn’t is relevant, for the issue of accountability, whether the statements in question were, or were not, made in good faith?

    I for one don’t see how it could not be relevant…

  35. 35
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Just as a thought experiment, how many years of no warming would justify calling James Hansen a charlatan.

    More years than there will be, as you yourself know damn well too:

    The sad part of the story is that I am convinced that warming will resume sooner or later,

    Yep, the house wins in the end. Get statistics literate. Your intuition already is.

    …and you might want to address the ‘good faith’ issue when comparing Hansen and Monckton.

  36. 36

    Intimidation by violence (or the threat of violence) or by harassment (legal or otherwise), and the use of the repeated Big Lie are both good old Fascist techniques–all of which makes it more ironic that the likes of Rush Limbaugh have long ago played the (eco)-“Nazi” card.

  37. 37
    Jaynicks says:

    In the UK, Phil Woolas was ousted from Parliament and banned from running for office for three years, and subject to criminal punishment, for knowingly uttering falsehoods about another candidate before the election.

    How refreshing. If we had this law in America, do you think there would be more than or fewer than a hundred new by-elections in Congress?

  38. 38
    Mike H says:

    I don’t believe that society is prepared to make significant sacrifices in the short term, and the fossil industries take advantage of this. People’s beliefs tend to align neatly with their interests, and in the absence of indisputable proof (and to non-scientists that means the equivalent of a ten-foot rise in sea level inundating South Beach) it is more “convenient” for people to use cheap oil, natural gas and coal.

  39. 39
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    and related to this topic, there was a study done by the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire where they measured americans knowledge about the polar regions and also their global warming. Conclusion there was a very modest improvement in people’s knowledge about the poles but absolutely no change in peoples concern about them which putting it politely has always been lacklustre. The disinformation mob have done their job very well haven’t they! America seems to be well and truly bogged down in a quagmire of scepticism, falsities, mistruthes, downright lies and malignant cynicism. Now the waters are soo completely muddied it will be almost impossible to clear them again. So shall we look outside of the US for leadership in this issue of paramount importance?. The europeans have a much better understanding of climate change and it’s current and future impacts on society.
    As a scientifically inclined layperson what I perceive to be the biggest ‘fault’ in the whole argument is this. As scientists you are quite correct in saying one cannot be 100% sure that this or that causes climate change. Or that the current deep freeze in europe is caused by less sea ice etc. There is no one single cause to anything in this field. One event causes to ‘greater or lesser’ degrees forcing to everything else onh this planet. People take this as uncertainty or vagueness on the part of scientists. Sorry but in this instance we have all got to be a hell of lot more decisive..scientists understand the uncertainties of climate..the man in the steet does not!. I’m afraid it is very much up to you to unequivocally nail your flag on the post and state that Yes modern climate change IS manmade. Climate IS changing at an accelerating pace. Sea level rise IS locked in now for centuries to come and we all have to help to try to reduce it’s future impacts by acting now as a unified people, in a unified voice.
    No more technowaffle by scientists! The head climate scientists of the world should be allowed to directly address their respective nations on as many media outlets as possible.

  40. 40
    Balazs says:

    Bern: “Well, I believe there was a recent study that said you need about 17 years of data to establish a trend in climate.”

    I won’t be surprised if 4 years from now, there will be a new study that will state that 21 years of data are needed. I did not look at the particular study that claimed 17 years, but it sounds somewhat arbitrary.

    Bern: “And even then, I’d only consider calling Dr Hansen a “charlatan” if he stuck with his current predictions of imminent strong warming and never once changed his opinion, despite evidence to the contrary.”

    James Hansen indeed changed his position on “renewable energy”. His book “The Storm of my Grandchildren” indeed endorses nuclear power and his blog recognizes that the main reason for the lack of progress in decarbonization our economy is chasing the renewable “tooth fairy”. Unfortunately, I did not see him in front of German anti nuclear protesters telling them to go home.

    Martin Vermeer:
    “…and you might want to address the ‘good faith’ issue when comparing Hansen and Monckton.”

    Perhaps the mutual respect could start with good faith in both. I have no doubt that Hansen is absolutely honest driven by good faith but I would not question Monckton’s motivations either.

  41. 41
    Dr Tom Corby says:

    “Annabelle says:
    12 Feb 2012 at 11:35 PM
    Sorry, but trying to paint climate scientists as persecuted victims won’t wash […]
    Sounds like you are trying to make people feel sorry for you now that the tide of public is turning.”

    Infofe is a political bully of the worst type. So you don’t think that’s worthy of comment or even slightly worrying?
    As for the tide of public (what?) turning. You’re welcome to your fantasies.

  42. 42
    turboblocke says:

    Mike H @ 36: “I don’t believe that society is prepared to make significant sacrifices in the short term, and the fossil industries take advantage of this.”

    What is it that makes that true for the USA, but not for other countries?

  43. 43

    28: “The sad part of the story is that I am convinced that warming will resume sooner or later”

    Resume? When has the Earth quit warming?

  44. 44
    David Miller says:

    Annabelle says in #30:
    Sorry, but trying to paint climate scientists as persecuted victims won’t wash. There are crazies on all sides who make death threats – who knows, one day one of them may even be crazy enough to carry it out (and it could be a nutcase from either side).

    OK, I have to call you on this one. The OP links to a number of death threats against climate scientists.

    Please document for us here a single instance of ‘the other side’ receiving a death threat for their position on climate change.

    Recaptcha: which knonis. Indeed

  45. 45
    Martin Vermeer says:

    … but I would not question Monckton’s motivations either

    There’s one born every minute. Sigh.

  46. 46
    DirkH says:

    David Miller says:
    13 Feb 2012 at 8:30 AM
    “Please document for us here a single instance of ‘the other side’ receiving a death threat for their position on climate change.”

    “Grist Magazine’s staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the “bastards” who were members of what he termed the global warming “denial industry.”

    Roberts wrote in the online publication on September 19, 2006, “When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards — some sort of climate Nuremberg.” ( )

  47. 47
    dhogaza says:

    Bob B’s gone so it’s too bad he wasn’t called on his baloney while he was still here:

    That 3000 page IPCC report is the basis of all renewable subsidies (including biofuels).

    No, in the US, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil is cited by many as being the major reason for increasing biofuel production. The same argument is made (but less dominantly) for other renewables.

  48. 48
    dhogaza says:


    I won’t be surprised if 4 years from now, there will be a new study that will state that 21 years of data are needed. I did not look at the particular study that claimed 17 years, but it sounds somewhat arbitrary.

    Arguing from ignorance is *so* boring. No, it’s not arbitrary. At least you’re honest enough to admit that you couldn’t be bothered to look at the study before pontificating on something you have no knowledge of. Do you really expect serious people to pay attention if you can’t bother to take the time to learn at least enough to not make silly claims of arbitrariness?

  49. 49
    Leland Palmer says:

    It’s a complicated situation. Certainly death threats are totally unacceptable, especially toward people who are just doing their jobs, like the vast majority of climate scientists.

    There are however, a very small minority of climate scientists who appear to have become the captives of the oil corporations, and who have become climate propagandists. This report lists several such scientists:

    Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air- How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science

    Those scientists should not be able to hide behind academic freedom to escape criticism for their misdeeds.

  50. 50
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE “I think comparing death threats with the Soviet Union oppression is way off base”….

    Rasmus is speaking of all aspects of climate repressive denialsphere — individuals (including the ones making the death threats) AND government officials openly silencing and intimidating scientists.

    People in the Soviet Union were afraid to speak out about injustices and other issues that threatened the party line. It’s getting to be that way with climate scientists and climate change accepters, at least in the U.S. (I can’t speak for other countries). Aside from government-ordered muzzling on climate scientists (as happened to Hansen and others), there is a “chilling effect” on people’s speech regarding climate science. They are bullied, harrassed, job & life threatened, and made to endure ad hominem insults and verbal attacks. The perps are both individuals acting on their own behalf (some funded by big business) and by government employers, co-workers and officials supposedly acting on behalf of the government or the government-funded institutions to which they belong. It has happened to me, and it is exceedingly deplorable. This is NOT open and honest debate as to whether climate change is happening and what its effects are when people who are not climate scientists have louder voice on the science.

    We live in a repressive society that aims to suppress the truth, an Animal Farm with mannerless goats bleating falsehoods about climate change accepters being out to destroy the economy and bring about a totalitarian regime.

    Wake up! We already live in a totalitarian regime controlled by the multinationals — big nonliving beasts (but granted rights as persons) rapaciously consuming resources and excreting products and pollution. They have bought and paid for the politicians, the government, the media, the educational institutions, and the churches. And they are out to cover up the truth about climate change and anything thing else that is seen to threaten their very short-term profits.

    I ask, how is getting into alt energy and living off the grid, or buying a Chevy Volt and plugging into $100 wind-generated electricity (we just got our Volt!!!) taking away our freedoms or harming our livelihoods?