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Free speech and academic freedom

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 February 2012

Update: Some related concerns from deepclimate.org, 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. 601

    #595 Michael W

    You are merely arguing a semantic perspective bias.

    Climate is both inherently stable and predictable whereas weather is chaotic.

    I think your reference to linearity is misplaced here.

    It is easy to predict that winters are generally colder than summers… or have you found it otherwise on the planet you are from?

  2. 602

    Maybe I should say becoming increasingly predictable, based on the aspect of climate in question, time parameters, forcing, and resultant expected.

    The word predicable seems to have become a topic of dispute and certainly indicative is a more accurate term, but still a particular regions winter is generally colder that it’s summer.

  3. 603
    dbostrom says:

    But in terms of stress to most ecosystems, the local and short term effects(maybe time frames of 2-10 years) matter more.

    The older we become, the more often a reasonable answer seems to be “it depends.”

    Global Extinction: Gradual Doom as Bad as Abrupt

  4. 604
    SecularAnimist says:

    Michael W wrote: “From what I see, there are actual studies that show positives.”

    And in your comments here, you have cited exactly how many of these studies that you “see”?

    Compared to how many studies cited (and linked) by other commenters here, showing that “negatives” will overwhelm any “positives”, which your comments have consistently ignored?

    Michael W wrote: “You just won’t get wind of them from people pushing for climate action.”

    Yes, you have made it quite clear that you are accusing the climate science community — or climate activists, or whoever it is you mean by “people” — of deliberately hiding all the studies that show global warming will be “positive”.

    But it’s hard to take that accusation seriously when you haven’t showed that such studies exist.

  5. 605

    Michael W. @596. Still trolling, I see. You’ve already been brought up short on your Liu study; why not take the good advice given by numerous others and stop being contentious long enough to do some serious study of the recommended resources?*

    *Rhetorical question. Serious answer not expected.

  6. 606
    flxible says:

    Michael W: “I would argue that the climate is not as stable as you portray. It is better characterized as chaotic, episodic, and nonlinear…. Especially at the local and regional level ….”
    The “local and regional level” isn’t the climatology discussed here, that’s “meteorology” – appears what you mean by “the climate” is actually the weather

    and “From what I see, there are actual studies that show positives. You just won’t get wind of them from people pushing for climate action.”

    Would you please give us some links to these studies “you see”? As an agriculturist who’d like to see some climate action, I’d very much like to “get wind of them”.

  7. 607
    Michael W says:

    #597 Richard, as long as there is expansion of arable land, yield per unit area doesn’t have to increase. Both, however, appear to be on the increase. (India is an exception – not much room for arable land expansion.)

    http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y3557e/y3557e08.htm
    “It is often suggested that the world may be heading towards shortages of suitable agricultural land. FAO studies suggest that this will not be the case at the global level, although in some regions and areas there are already serious shortages, and these may worsen.”

    As for the rest of your comments you may have good points, but they are rife with pessimism. With that mindset, you wouldn’t have been able to predict great strides forward like the Green Revolution (for instance).

  8. 608
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael W. says, “With that mindset, you wouldn’t have been able to predict great strides forward like the Green Revolution (for instance).”

    OK, I think I see your problem. You do not just “predict” something like the Green Revolution, because the Green Revolution doesn’t just “happen”. Scientists create it–and they create it because they see a threat, are pessimistic about the capabilities of existing techniques to meet it and work desperately to find ways to mitigate it. Some of those mitigations have unintended and undesirable consequences in and of themselves–e.g. accelerated depletion of one-time windfalls like aquifers and fossil fuels because what the Green Revolution did is turn these one-time windfalls into a one-time surplus of food. It is not sustainable.

    As to positives of climate change, yes there are a few. Growing seasons may be longer in parts of Russia. We will be able to ship across the North pole for part of the Summer, saving fuel. These advantages are very limited and mostly local. They do not offset the loss of much of the most productive lands for cereal production due to climate change–a threat, I notice, that your FAO blurb utterly failed to consider.

  9. 609
    Michael W says:

    #603 SA & 605 flxble the two studies I’ve been talking about are:

    http://www.geogsci.com/EN/abstract/abstract530.shtml …showing a warmer planet is a greener planet.

    and
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/JHM-386.1 …showing drought severity and its relationship with global warming.

    How do you personally incorporate these examples of positives and negatives into your thinking?

  10. 610

    “From what I see, there are actual studies that show positives. You just won’t get wind of them from people pushing for climate action.”

    Hey, Michael, weren’t you asking us where the ‘positive studies’ were? If you don’t know *where* they are, how do you know *that* they are?

    In short, “cite, please!” I love to hear positive news.

  11. 611
    Unsetteled Scientist says:

    Michael W, I followed you link and continued to read after your quote.

    It continues: “Of course, much of this potential land is in practice unavailable, or locked up in other valuable uses. Some 45 percent is covered in forests, 12 percent is in protected areas and 3 percent is taken up by human settlements and infrastructure. In addition, much of the land reserve may have characteristics that make agriculture difficult, such as low soil fertility, high soil toxicity, high incidence of human and animal diseases, poor infrastructure, and hilly or otherwise difficult terrain.”

    They also write: “Data suggesting that food is getting cheaper may be flawed, because they do not reflect the environmental costs of expanding and intensifying agriculture; moreover, the failure to internalize resource costs may curb investment in agricultural research, holding back the potential for future growth in yields.”

    PS – gah, I may have duped again to forgetting the recaptcha

  12. 612
    dbostrom says:

    …you may have good points, but they are rife with pessimism. With that mindset, you wouldn’t have been able to predict great strides forward like the Green Revolution (for instance).

    Not even with the Haber process in plain sight, presumably? Too bad it can’t be invented again.

    Anyway, thanks for pointing out FAO. FAO’s own one-line summary of FAO’s thinking on climate change:

    “Ensuring food security will require substantial investments and action to adapt agriculture, forestry and fisheries to climate change challenges.”

    Rotten pessimists. Notice how FAO leans on the the phrase “will require,” as though even if climate change existed we might have to confront the problem or take some other such wet-blanket approach. “Action is needed now, inaction will significantly increase future costs” and other such defeatist thinking seems to pervade their worldview; they don’t seem at all infected with the sort of optimistic wishful thinking we all know will see us through.

    More pessimism can be found here.

  13. 613

    #608–Huh?

    All your ‘positive’ link shows is that there has been a smallish increase in the Leaf Area Index over the last few decades. It’s not linked to warming in the abstract at all. Yes, of course there has been global warming during the same time-frame, but the increase in LAI in North America and Europe, coupled with decreases in (for instance) Southeast Asia, seem to suggest that land use has more to do with it.

    Where’s the ‘beef’–or soy?

  14. 614
    SecularAnimist says:

    Michael W wrote: “SA & 605 flxble the two studies I’ve been talking about are: …”

    The first study, “Spatial and temporal variation of global LAI during 1981–2006″ (full text available here), finds that global “Leaf Area Index” data shows a very small increase (0.0013 per year) for the years 1981-2006, though with significant regional variations (e.g. strongly negative trends in areas subject to heavy deforestation like the Amazon and Congo basins, as well as “significantly” negative trends in “central Canada, west Canada, Alaska, Southeast Asia, southeastern China, central Africa, and central and eastern Argentina”).

    The study does not attribute the very small increase in global LAI to anthropogenic global warming. Nor does the study suggest that this very small trend is of any “positive” consequence to humanity.

    Nonetheless, this study has been widely cited all over the AGW denialist blogosphere as “proof” that AGW is a “good thing” because it will produce a “greener Earth” — all of which is hype, and none of which is supported by the study itself.

    The second study, “A Global Dataset of Palmer Drought Severity Index for 1870–2002: Relationship with Soil Moisture and Effects of Surface Warming” (full text available here), concludes, “These results provide observational evidence for the increasing risk of droughts as anthropogenic global warming progresses and produces both increased temperatures and increased drying … global warming not only raises temperatures, but also enhances drying near the surface, as is captured by the PDSI. The increased risk of drought duration, severity, and extent is a direct consequence.”

    Which is exactly what other commenters here have been trying to tell you. Why you think this study is an example of “positive” effects of AGW, I cannot imagine.

  15. 615
    Jim Eager says:

    Michael W, would you be so good as to take a look at this map (scroll down) and venture a guess as to how much of the blue hatched area is actually be suitable for growing wheat?

    Before you give us your best guess you might want to look up something called the Canadian Shield and contemplate the fact that Canada’s first export to the United States was most of the topsoil that once overlaid the shield.

    Next, could you take a look at this map (scroll down) and hazard a guess as to how much of the dark green area not coinciding with the blue hatched zone in the first map will actually be suitable for growing wheat within the next 30 years?

    But before you do you might want to consider how much carbon is presently sequestered in the boreal forest and it’s muskeg and peat soils.

    And finally, could you hazard a guess as to how much wheat that portion of the blue hatched area that would actually be suitable for growing wheat will in fact be able to produce in 2050 compared to how much wheat the yellow hatched area currently produces?

  16. 616
    dbostrom says:

    With regard to helping Michael W., we’re taking the wrong approach but unfortunately due to circumstances of reality beyond our control it’s likely impossible to fix the problem.

    Based on experimental results, Michael’s basic problem appears to be that his brain is plugged in backwards, that his perceptions are nearly perfectly out of phase.

    Knowing as we do that all inputs to Michael’s primary cognitive functions end up pointing 180 degrees in the wrong direction, we may conclude that we need to provide Michael with extensive cites showing the significant positive benefits of climate change. Michael’s processing would then behave predictably, leading him to conclude that climate change will have significant negative, detrimental effects. Via this tortuous path Michael could then experience the world in a way that will stop him doing the equivalent of plunging off a precipice when he imagines he’s about to climb a staircase.

    Lacking the necessary research findings to provide the necessary opposite inputs needed for Michael’s net understanding to be synchronized with the real world, it’s a sad conclusion that Michael must remain stuck in his strange, confusing rut.

    On the other hand, it seems that Michael’s quite happy so perhaps it’s all for the best.

  17. 617

    #613–My first thought was the same, SA, but I believe upon reflection that the second cite was the ‘negative’ one. Michael has been calling for ‘balance.’

    Personally, I don’t find much balance between the two–the latter has much more bad news than the former has good.

  18. 618
    Hank Roberts says:

    > cites showing … benefits

    No problem with that. The benefits have been enormous, and they’re going to be paid for by the world’s grandchildren.

    I’ve been raking in the benefits my whole long life. Drive across the country as a youngster, gas three gallons a dollar. Food cheaper than dirt.

    Ignorance was bliss, history was being written by the survivors, and whatever happened to get _us_here_now_ was all right with us.

    Ignorance was bliss while it lasted.

    Omelas

  19. 619
    Jim Eager says:

    I wrote “dark green area not coinciding with the blue hatched zone in the first map

    Sorry, that should have been “not coinciding with the Canadian Shield.”

  20. 620
    flxible says:

    Michael W – those links are a fail, nothing positive there.
    As someone with actual experience of agriculture in one area cited to have 0.0013 increase in the LI, I can assure you there have already been more than enough negatives to offset that “positive”. One case being that years of increased lush leafage in southern Canada easily result in lavish propagation of tent caterpillars and leaf rollers, and attendant loss of tree crops – and the milder winters involved aid the over-wintering of said pests. Another major case in point is the Mountain Pine Beetle, steadily killing a lot of Canadian forests and aiding attendant forest fires, which of course could make turning the land to some type of subsistence agriculture easier, if you consider that “positive”.

    Others above have said it well enough, but I can’t imagine there’s going to be much advantage in the future to a climate where it’s difficult to produce the crops we need to produce in the places we’ve established to produce them – think infrastructure, the cost to establish a productive [if not profitable] orchard isn’t something many farmers can do every few years.

  21. 621
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yup.

    Read it and weep. Benefits of global warming?
    Why of course.. They were excellent.
    I’m afraid we haven’t left much for you.

  22. 622
    William P says:

    Climate Progress has apparently cut out comments. I will be coming to Real Climate now because I like to comment and read other comments of the community – instead of the ideas of one person. This should be a community effort and treated as such. I hope Real Climate accommodates feedback from readers in new and welcoming ways. Thanks.

  23. 623
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    flxible @ 620, Mountain Pine Beetle, steadily killing a lot of Canadian forests and aiding attendant forest fires….

    Or is warming stimulating fire, not insects?
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/pine-beetles-and-fire-hazard-in-the-black-hills/

  24. 624
    flxible says:

    Or is warming stimulating fire, not insects?

    Both elevated temperatures and dead stands “stimulate”, or as I put it “aid”, neither are likely to be the proximal cause, which would mostly be increased lightening extremes and drying – talking about Michaels’ concerns, there are really no net positives for the forests in climate change.

    [Response:That's not true. There are several potential positive effects of climate change on forests, depending on location, forest type and climatic variable. It's not all negative.--Jim]

  25. 625
    dbostrom says:

    Climate Progress has apparently cut out comments…

    Are you sure? Comments at CP are working for me, anyway.

    Climate Progress does have a baroque design, is not so rarely loaded with scripts, extraneous DNS lookups etc. to the point that it’s effectively borked. Maybe there’s some bit of fluff or tinsel hanging up display of comments for you?

  26. 626
    DGH says:

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

    Indeed. And given that this comment thread was hijacked by the Gleick incident one wonders why Rasmus hasn’t amended the post or provided comment on the matter. Heartland Institute may not have been focused “on the real questions and doing science,” but does HI have the right to operate in a climate free of fear?

    Friends and colleagues of the contributors to RealClimate argue that Gleick’s tactics are ethically justifiable. Scott Mandia laments the fact that it was a scientist as opposed to a journalist who perpetrated fraud against HI. He recently tweeted, “Yes, but wish it were not a well-known climate scientist. Journalist would be so much better.”

    Gavin Schmidt has condemned Gleick’s behavior, “Gleick’s actions were completely irresponsible…” See above. IMHO, rightly so.

    Does Rasmus endorse Mandia’s position or Schmidt’s?

  27. 627
    Ray Ladbury says:

    DGH,
    Many here have said Gleick’s impersonation was unwarranted and ill advised. This should be about the science. Having said that, I notice that all those who are “Shocked! Shocked!” were at best silent and in most cases actively gloating after the hack at UEA/CRU. I wonder at their newly found capacity for outrage.

    What is more, I would be interested in your take on what the documents reveal about Heartland–the narrowness of the financial support, the lack of scientific integrity and the plans to lie to children…well, they all sound just like the Discovery Institute’s campaign against evolution. I wonder where the outrage is wrt that. So, while were all expressing outrage care to comment on your feelings about UEA/CRU and the Heartland strategy for lying?

  28. 628

    #627–”I notice that all those who are “Shocked! Shocked!” were at best silent and in most cases actively gloating after the hack at UEA/CRU.”

    Yes. I haven’t actually ‘done the math,’ but I suspect there are those who have, against all odds, managed to increase their HQ–’hypocrisy quotient’–yet further.

  29. 629
    Phil Mattheis says:

    DGH
    Gleick’s primary error was to do the dirty himself. Had he passed the first post off to an effective investigative journalist for fact-checking and expansion, the “irresponsible” charge” would not have been relevant – he’d still be doing all his day jobs; ‘Deep Throat undiscovered’. The comparison/contrast to East Anglia’s circus would have been even more stark. Heartland’s legal and moral failings would have been the focus, rather than sideshow.

    This society functions best with lots of sunlight shining into the dark corners. Scientific method is one source of that light; scientists do best when they look beyond expectations, at everything within and around the beam, observing, tweaking the model, making an adjustment and watching reactions…

    On a sporadic basis (no clear pattern), the things discovered accumulate into shifted paradigms for those paying attention. When the impact extends beyond the narrowed sphere of the investigators and across disciplines, the implications may be more political than scientific, and the non-scientists start asking questions (“global whatnow?”)..
    When political games appear to trump consistent, accurate, and honest science, the impact of powerless frustration can be intense.

    Besides, how do you go about finding an “effective investigative journalist” these days?

  30. 630
    Hank Roberts says:

    > about finding an “effective investigative journalist” …?

    I’d start by asking for ideas and help from these guys, they’ve proven they can do it well.
    http://theyesmen.org/

  31. 631
    Hank Roberts says:

    P.S., be careful who you ask for help, some journalists are already ‘taken’:

    “… alliance between Stratfor and a number of mainstream journalists ….” http://theyesmen.org/stratfor

  32. 632
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, and the YesMen page also leads to much else of interest.
    For example, about intentionally faking documents:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/16/anonymous-internet

    “… the firm proposed to (according to a leaked document) “create a false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information, …. “create a fake insider persona and generate communications” …. even “create two fake insider personas, using one as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the legitimacy of the second”….. passing off the faked documents they’d created as the fabrication of Change to Win.”

  33. 633
    SecularAnimist says:

    DGH wrote: “does HI have the right to operate in a climate free of fear?”

    A liar is never free of the fear that his lies will be exposed.

  34. 634
    dbostrom says:

    Lots of distracted flailing on Gleick. James Annan seems exemplary of many who have laid down law to the effect that sanctity of property trumps the value of lives and that we must defer to the wisdom and will of our politicians even when our politicians cannot or will not help us:

    His transgression cannot be condoned, regardless of his motives.

    I’m not going to bother rewriting comments I made at Annan’s site because the topic is growing stale, for me anyway:

    Even if one takes the position that the threat posed by climate change is exaggerated tenfold, the amount of dislocation imposed on subject populations will be notably costly in terms of additional misery and unhappiness. Heartland is selling the increased probability of such poor outcomes. We see that Heartland is not inclined or compelled to behave better, our politicians are no protection against Heartland’s transgressions. When is it permissible to commit acts of civil disobedience against Heartland of the most mild and nonviolent style, such as purloining documents?

    On a continuum of suffering imposed by the activities of an outfit of Heartland’s type, when -would- it be permissible to act against them, using deception if necessary? Is anybody willing to cast a judgement on that, in dollars or lives? Or is James’ requirement for virginal ethics absolutely binding in all cases?

    If it were not Gleick who’d done this but rather the outfit “Anonymous” (thus allowing the rest of us to arguably remain as anonymous cowards) would James object?

    and in response to a comment on my comment:

    “Can I can burgle Greenpeace if I happen to think they’re bringing misery on poor South Africans for opposing a coal-fired power station. We can’t be our own judge and jury on these things.”

    If our politicians refuse to protect us even while the preponderance of evidence says significant harm is being caused, there’s a case to be made for civil disobedience. That’s the situation at play here, while your hypothetical case does not compare to the case at hand. I’m sure there are better models you could use for comparative purposes.

    A simple reading of James’ rules seems to say that it would have been wrong for kulaks to have stolen documents from the NKVD in order to protect innocent lives. The risks in terms of lives at play in this case are similar.

    So, to be a complete jerk, I’ll ask if Stalin’s sanctity of property was more important than the lives of kulaks? If not, why is Heartland different?

  35. 635
    dbostrom says:

    Shorter Gleick: There’s a difference between Rosa Parks and a disruptive drunk on a bus. Refusal to acknowledge this is peculiar.

  36. 636
    DGH says:

    @Ray Ladbury

    If you haven’t seen it, check out Andy Revkin’s post with the illustration of the activist pushing the Status Quo boulder up hill. http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/the-other-false-balance-in-the-climate-fight/

    I like the simplicity of the drawing, but I disagree with the illustrator’s description that the opponent on the high side of the boulder has anything to do with the difficulty and that the activist experiences. The boulder has its own tremendous momentum that overwhelms any force the opponent might apply. The frustration with the opponent that the activist experiences is misplaced.

    More than a billion people live off the grid, billions more suffer a standard of living below mine and yours. Will they be denied access to light, heat, healthcare and communications? The grids in China and India are expanding. So what’s going to happen as more people, outside theinfluence of HI, gain access to electricity? Status quo seems tame compared to the potential of just that portion of a large boulder.

    In the case of CAGW, the Heartland Institute is but an ant beneath the boulder – Anthony Watts another ant, the Koch foundation another. You might be impressed by the ant army’s strength and organizaiton, but push as they might all of the ants in the ant hill couldn’t affect that mass. Along with the ants, you’d be advised to keep your eye on the threat of the boulder.

    According to consensus science, catastrophe looms for the village below. Yet, many activists and activist scientists demand to know “who is pushing the boulder” instead of worrying about how to save the village. Peter Gleick sacrificed his career on that point; he finds like minded people on this thread and elsewhere.

  37. 637
    DGH says:

    @Phil Mattheis

    Except investigative journalists who have commented on the matter indicate that Gleick’s technique, being illegal, is beyond what would be sanctioned by their employers and their trade. His style is more the stuff of the Murdoch rags that were hacking phones and such. How did that work?

  38. 638
    Phil Mattheis says:

    DGH:
    “Except investigative journalists who have commented on the matter indicate that Gleick’s technique, being illegal, is beyond what would be sanctioned by their employers and their trade. His style is more the stuff of the Murdoch rags that were hacking phones and such. How did that work?”

    You make my point for me so well… thanks. An effective investigative journalist would have done it legally, and probably more completely, without all the distraction.

    But, would that have changed _your_ opinion of Heartland in any way?

  39. 639
    Ray Ladbury says:

    DGH,
    I commend your concern for those less fortunate. What specifically have you done about their plight? Personally, I lived for 2 years in Africa doing development work.

    I will turn your question around. What are those newly on the grid to do when we run out of fossil fuels? How shall they cope with respiratory illnesses and heavy-metal poisoning brought on by burning of coal so they can be on the grid? And what good will being on the grid

    Ever seen the sun come up over an Indian village full of smelters? I have. The colors of the sun were pretty, but I coughed for days. Ever see what happens to a stream in Appalachia near a coal mine? I have. Ever hear of the Broadform Deed? Everybody in Appalachia has.

    The contention that we cannot deal with climate change and development is simply false. Hell, development is part of dealing with it. And it is not as if we have the choice of staying on fossil fuels indefinitely–they are finite. If we want civilization to last beyond the end of this century, we’d better figure out how to do sustainability. Climate change is part of that. Development is part of that. Maintaining economic growth with static population and limited resources is part of that. It is the way things have to change–and soon.

  40. 640
    Hank Roberts says:

    > investigative journalists who have commented on the matter
    Who?
    Where?

    > indicate that Gleick’s technique, being illegal
    Are you’re assuming this?
    Did you get a legal opinion from those journalists?

    Citation lacking.

  41. 641
    Hank Roberts says:

    Has anyone read Mashey’s recent report yet?
    Heard anything about it in the media?

  42. 642
    Craig Nazor says:

    DGH,

    Gleick’s recent actions are going to be a very, very small footnote in history.

    However, recent history is FULL of egregious examples of unethical leaders and powerful political interests making claims that directly contradict known scientific facts to support their own grasp on political and/or economic advantage, usually to the detriment of all of those people about whom you claim to care. The Heartland Institute is a tool of those who wish to manipulate society for personal advantage by disseminating scientific misinformation. I find such acts far more despicable than anything Gleick may have done.

    The Heartland Institute, of course, is legally permitted to lie just as much as they would like, as are we all. However, I’m really suprised that you would defend such action, and one has to wonder why.

  43. 643
    Dan H. says:

    I have to agree with DGH here. Looking at this incident from a public relations standpoint, it was a major case of self-destruction. Relate this to a political campaign. What causes more damage to an individual’s run for office, what his opponent says (which is often a wide stretch of the truth), or his own personal gaffes? The opposition is expected to present only that which supports their case. These types of mistakes only fuels their case. What is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Rick Perry? IS it something an oppenent said, or does it have something to do with three government agencies?

  44. 644
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dan H., The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Rick Perry is that we have something in common: We’d both like to rescind the Treaty of Apamattox.

  45. 645
    SecularAnimist says:

    DGH wrote: “More than a billion people live off the grid …”

    Fortunately, there is a revolution in rural electrification in the developing world going on right now — with low-cost, village-scale solar photovoltaics bringing electricity to places in in rural Africa, India and elsewhere that have never had electricity before, and bringing with it enormous improvements in health, access to information, and economic opportunity.

    Electric lights instead of kerosene lamps. Refrigeration for food and medicines. Cell phone charging. Satellite radio and TV — and even computers and Internet access. Distributed, locally-owned solar power makes all of this possible for hundreds of millions of people in rural areas of the developing world who have NO prospects whatsoever in their lifetimes of getting grid-distributed power from large centralized power plants.

    This is one of the most important applications of distributed, low-cost, mass-produced PV — and it is occurring largely “under the radar” of most people in the developed world.

  46. 646
    Phil Mattheis says:

    645 comments (and counting), and still very much on topic! Good on us all.

    Dan H -
    Public relations consequences may be interpreted variably, but have most impact on those new to whatever the topic may be.
    Personal ethics of one man vs self-serving ethics of an institute is a standard American plot line and usually favors the man as underdog.

    I suspect Heartland would prefer to have avoided the mess, rather than have to spin the notion that it’s all Dr Gleick’s fault, somehow.

    Absolute personal tragedy for him; Too. Much. Sunlight. for Heartland. By next week, ‘Gleick’ will have faded into background, while ‘Heartland’ is likely to dance around on the desktop for a while longer, as should be.

    (I should note that my previous comments about Dr Gleick should not be taken as assigning guilt for illegal actions – that still seems pretty unclear to me…)

    I’m hopeful that there are in fact a few “effective investigative journalists” now hard at work aiming to keep Heartland Institute in view, without distractions of layman like us arguing legalities, as if we knew. “Legal” these days seems to boil down to ‘whatever you can get away with’.

  47. 647
    Craig Nazor says:

    Dan H,

    I think that politicians and/or corporate interests trying to force scientists and/or teachers to teach lies in a science class is far worse than anything you have mentioned in your post. So I would say that you and I have a substantial difference of opinion.

    Rick Perry is the governor of a state which is facing the severe effects of drought caused by anthropogenic global climate change. Yet Perry will not allow any scientist working for the state to mention this in any of their reports that provide information for intelligent planning of the use of water resources. This will severely impact Texas in very bad ways, and the process has already begun.

    So I would say that Rick Perry is the best example of scientific ignorance and denial among political leaders in the US today.

  48. 648
    Phil Mattheis says:

    By this point in a comments section, I have to wonder if there is anyone still out there…and had decided to leave it be. But, it really is too much of a perfect fit for the purpose, with Academic Freedom, Free Speech, Heartland, and Climate Change all in equal measures. It could even be taken as closure for this section; a logical extension of unmitigated contrarian escalation.

    ClimateSight.org has the story (among other places), about Carleton University in Ottowa (“Canada’s Capital University”, ranked as 7th in comprehensive universities in the country).

    CASS (Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism) released on Tuesday (2/28), an audit of a course at Carleton on “Climate Change: the Earth Sciences Perspective”. Their report can be found at their website: http://scientificskepticism.ca/sites/default/files/pressreleases/CASSREPORTClimateChangeDenialintheClassroom.pdf

    The CASS authors ( _legally and without pretense_) obtained transcript/video of the 12 lecture course by one Tom Harris, who counts among his credentials: Heartland Institute, Expert (as well as oil industry lobbyist…)

    They found 142 examples of unsupported claims about climate change made by Mr Harris or guest lecturers (each with his own Heartland connection), and have provided an extensive bibliography to counter the arguments, many of the same old we see here and elsewhere…

    Page 12 is the most directly relevant to this discussion, as it includes the university definition of academic freedom, which is meant to ensure that no one is prevented from expressing an opinion. However, that policy includes a responsibility, “Academic freedom carries with it the duty to use that freedom in a manner consistent with the scholarly obligation to base research and teaching on an honest search for truth.” The CASS authors released their audit as a way to bring some peer review into the process.

    Student responses credited the class for its clarity.
    No response was provided from the University, I imagine they’ll be a few minutes…

  49. 649
    dbostrom says:

    Phil Mattheis says:
    1 Mar 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Harris:

    Over $1100/credit hour to be fed rubbish from a person not remotely interested in conveying reliable information. A cursory check before giving Harris this responsibility would have avoided the fraud. Carleton ought to volunteer a refund for students who were victimized in this way.

  50. 650
    Dan H. says:

    Craig,
    I have a big problem with politicians forcing teachers to teach lies in a classroom. While I cannot say what is happening in your state with this regard, Michigan is taking a more objective stance. Recently, a text book was removed from classrooms because it promoted an activist’s agenda, rather than the science. Sounds like you may be dealing with the opposite extreme.


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