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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. 51
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Bern says: 13 Feb 2012 … I believe there was a recent study
    > that said you need about 17 years of data to establish a trend in climate.

    No. That’s way overgeneralizing and will confuse people.

    There’s a method in statistics — used when collecting any kind of data by measuring something over and over — to decide how many measurements you’ll need to make to say whether what you’re measuring is changing over time.

    This is basically arithmetic.

    Something goes up and down over time. Is it slowly going more up, or more down, or just up and down around the same number?

    This isn’t magic, it isn’t something mystical that can be changed by someone’s new study.

    If what’s happening in reality is changing, how will you be able to tell?

    Cite sources instead of telling people what you believe.

    Nobody cares what any of us “believe”

    Some people care about arithmetic; those will pay attention to how trends are detected. Those who can’t understand will just “believe” what they want.

    If you’re flipping coins, you’ll need a number of coin-flips before you can say with confidence that the coin is, or isn’t, fair.

    If you’re collecting global annual temperatures, you’ll need a number of years’ numbers before you can say with confidence that that particular measure is, or isn’t, changing over time.

    Yes, it’s complicated.

    “Monday, November 30, 2009
    Data set reproducibility
    Data are messy, and all data have problems. There’s no two ways about that. Any time you set about working seriously with data (as opposed to knocking off some fairly trivial blog comment), you have to sit down to wrestle with that fact….”
    http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2009/11/data-set-reproducibility.html

    But it’s doable. It’s done all the time. Most of what you use every day is built using these sorts of methods. http://boards.fool.co.uk/grumbine-science-11185921.aspx

  2. 52
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dirk H., Sweetie, calling for a trial of those who are ultimately responsible for the deaths of millions isn’t a death threat. Waving a noose around in front of a speaker–that’s a death threat. Sending an email saying that you are going to shoot the recipient–that’s a death threat. Rush or Glenn Beck calling for their minions to kill climate scientists–that’s a death threat, especially given the mental stability of the average dittohead.

    Frankly, though, I think Nuremberg is not a good model. I think things will go the way of the tobacco trials. We even have industry documents showing that the oil companies opted not to heed the advice of their own scientists that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change was incontrovertible. I suspect that by 2030 or so, oil and coal companies will be held financially responsible for all damage that could have been mitigated had we started taking the threat seriously in the 1990s. The lawyers are already salivating for a piece of that class action.

  3. 53
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #14 & “I had to argue with my son’s teacher some time back that certain glaciers would not disappear by 2035.”

    So glad to see someone else was reading Ch. 10 Asia of AR4′s WGII on impacts BEFORE the mistake was found. And I had thought I was the only one who really cared about CC’s impacts on Asia, that the rest of the developed world had written off Asia & Africa. This sort of helps restore my faith in humanity….at least a tad. What a great and humanitarian teacher.

    I my case I had been working on a futuristic screenplay earlier, and had contacted climate scientists directly about sealevel rise, etc, so when I read “2035″ on page 193, I thought it seemed questionable. I looked up the source, WWF, which got it from a New Scientist editorial, so I decided NOT to include that tidbit in a paper I was writing — so no harm done in my case.

    However, I’m sure your son will eventually recover from hearing that mistake. Of course, if he was extremely concerned about climate impacts on Asia, it might take him some time to recover from his initial shock and horror that the glaciers would all melt by 2035 to a modicum of relief that it would take much longer for them all to melt. I’ll be praying for his speedy recovery. And tell him I really do appreciate his concern about Asia. There should be more people like him.

  4. 54
    flxible says:

    Dirk@46 – Very poor attempt, the request was to provide an actual death threat, not a proposal to hold denialists to account when it has become obvious they’ve been obstructing the response to an existential threat. Various people, like Fred Singer who make a living “spreading the joyous news” that there is no risk, should be held to account.

  5. 55
    SecularAnimist says:

    Bob B wrote: “… 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.”

    I look forward to deniers being held accountable for the astronomical financial losses that will result from the generation-long failure to address global warming, that is the direct result of their deliberate deceit, denial and obstruction.

  6. 56
    Jim Eager says:

    DirkH, perhaps you missed the words death threat?

    Otherwise it’s difficult to fathom how you could possibly compare them with a speculative, albeit intemperate, call for some future legally constituted tribunal.

    Your reply did not come anywhere near meeting David Miller’s challenge, which still stands.

  7. 57
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Thanks very much Rasmus for addressing this important topic. You express everything so mildly in proportion to the attacks on scientists, leaving the stronger words to your linked references , for instance:

    A number of Australia’s leading climate scientists have been moved into safer accommodation after receiving death threats,….

    The professional deniers and their allies go after scientists and their families. I have not kept a list of incidents but I recall many more than Rasmus gave. Disagreeable bloggers have published scientists email addresses, phone numbers and even home addresses along with language that could incite violence.

    As Rasmus indicates,
    http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2010/02/25/205560/sen-inhofe-inquisition-seeking-ways-to-criminalize-and-prosecute-17-leading-climate-scientists/

    influential government officials are also involved. And our major news outlets seem to be significantly influenced by thier advertisers – Big Carbon and auto makers. And one defective personality controls much of the “news” throughout the English speaking world. These things combine to make free speech not so free and public understanding suppressed.

  8. 58
    Dan H. says:

    Balazs,
    The 17-yr claim was presented by Santer in this paper:
    http://muenchow.cms.udel.edu/classes/MAST811/Santer2011.pdf
    The conclusion at the time, was that “temperature records of at least 17yrs in length are required for identifying human effects on global-mean tropospheric temperature.”

    For those unfamiliar with this work, they calculated that 17 years was the minimal timeframe necessary to seperate a warming signal from the noise. The work was also performed on data during the period of rising temperatures only (1979 – present). Using data through 2010, they found the lowest range of 20-year trend was 0.151 – 0.257C/decade. Adding data from 2011, the most recent 20-year RSS trend falls to 0.117C/decade, which is lower than the lowest range in the data they reported, not significantly different from 0.

    The temperature trend of the lower troposphere for the past 17 years was 0.05C/decade from RSS and 0.12C/decade from UAH. It is appararent from the data, that while human effects could be identified at the time of his work, recent data do not show that a signal can be seperated from the noise during the most recent 17-year interval.

  9. 59
    SecularAnimist says:

    DirkH:

    David Roberts’ call for “Nuremberg-style” trials to hold deniers legally accountable for the consequences of their deliberate deceit is not a death threat, any more than wrongful death lawsuits against tobacco companies are “death threats”.

  10. 60
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Big Tobacco knew for decades that their product gave their customers cancer. They lied and set up fronts (so called think tanks, foundations and so forth) to lie for them. Can anyone suppose that Big Carbon doesn’t know?

  11. 61
    Edward Greisch says:

    46 DirkH: Calling for Nuremberg-style trials for David Koch, Exxon-Mobil, the CRU crackers/hackers, etc. is not a death threat. They could be acquitted. And they would clearly get a fair trial. But David Koch will probably die of old age before Americans will start dying of GW induced starvation. David Koch is over 70 years of age now. Is it fair for David Koch to cheat the hangman by dying of old age?

    This is in support of the scientists.

    As for the average humans, see “Religion Explained” by Pascal Boyer. Just take out the word “Religion” and you have an explanation of all kinds of nonsensical thinking. Boyer doesn’t go for the insanity model. Instead, Boyer says that nonsense is caused by the fact that the human brain has sub-processors that act below the level of consciousness. In particular, the human brain has a very powerful sub-computer for dealing with social interactions. It is the “If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” problem.

    Science is a new method of thinking; and guess what: Science actually WORKS! Science was invented only 400 to 500 years ago. Very few people are able to learn to do science, and it takes about 10 years after high school. Science is not easy.

    Most people find nonsense much easier than science, even if they can do science. So, most people do the easy thing. The problem is that the problems we face right now can only be solved by doing science, yet scientists are a small minority. Is it possible for scientists to rescue civilization in time, or will civilization fall into disaster?

    Will Homo “Sap” survive and evolve into a sapient species?

  12. 62
    Annabelle says:

    To those who want examples of threats made against “deniers”: how about James Jay Lee, who took hostages at gun-point in 2010 because he believed the Discovery Channel was not doing enough to highlight various environmental problems, including global warming?

    Or the Greenpeace activist who said “We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few”? Rapidly removed from the Greenpeace website after an outcry, but not very charming all the same.

    As I said, there are nutters on all sides.

  13. 63
    Steve Fish says:

    Some of the commentary here should be great data for someone interested in studying irrational thought processes. One winner should be DirkH (at ~#46) proclaiming that an emphatic suggestion that someone should be brought to trial is equivalent to a direct death threat. Sheesh!

    Steve

  14. 64
    Simon says:

    Is the vitriol, and the skepticism real? I guess that’s the minor issue I have about this post. From the perspective of the individual receiving the smears it really doesn’t make a difference if it’s some shadowy organization smearing them by email and on the web, or if it’s individuals, concerned (and, potentially misinformed) about climate change and the implications of policy meant to minimize its effects. But it does make a difference from a policy perspective. If all this vitriol is being generated by individuals, then we have free (misguided) speech being practiced (in an anti-social manner), and it indicates that there is a potential solution through continued outreach and education. If it is being generated by vested interests then it may well be the other side of the curtain, as you so rightly put it since it is more about economic goals than scientific reality. Of course, it is more than likely a mixture of the two.

    (shameless plug) I’ve got a post up on my blog that presents a few scenarios with regards to trolls and threats that might shed some light on where the harassment is coming from. Of course, it’s not exclusive to threats to scientists by skeptics, the same methodologies could be applied to threats on skeptics, as these do exist (pointed out earlier in the thread). Maybe it’s all been done before, but it’s an interesting mental exercise.

  15. 65
    J Bowers says:

    >i>some sort of climate Nuremberg.”

    Not a death threat, and would allow for a full legal defence and due process in a court of law.

  16. 66
    PaulM says:

    ” This also means that all relevant information must be included – not just those which support one stand. ”

    Is this why you have such a wide spread of views represented in the blogs linked in the right hand panel?

  17. 67
    LdB says:

    Climate change debate has extremists from both sides that need to be bought to heel.

    It is unacceptable to have climate scientists receieve death threats but it is also unacceptable to have oil company executives, politicians and even the much hated Anthony Watts receive then either which a few in the green groups would have no problem with.

    Freedom of speach cuts each and every way, no one should face death threats.

    Read the “climate of fear” article again how many of those issues have been addressed … exactly none.

    UAE exchanges still not fully investigated, I know Gavin and the team have attempted to provide background here but that really isn’t good enough given the issues.

    On the other side the article is quite correct the basics of AGW haven’t changed and it should be more rigorously defended by politicians and public officials.

    The problem is that many of them dont trust climate scientists and that underlies the real problem. Some may never be convinced because of beliefs of vested oil interests etc but those not in that position should have absolute faith in climate scientists and they simply don’t.

  18. 68
    Balazs says:

    Dhogaza:

    “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?”

    I am in the science business long enough to know that one study is by no means the last word on most issues. I will read the “17 year” study, when there will be other ten suggesting different time spans. Quoting the 17 year to dismiss the lack of warming in the last 15 years (at least the muted warming compared to climate predictions despite carbon emission exceeding all expectations) is just as boring ignorance.

    At current warming rate, we might be well within the feared 2 degC temperature rise for a Century or so without cutting carbon emission. It might turn out that Spenser, Lindzen and other skeptics were right about positive feedbacks, which does not mean that we are off the hook. Even if tripled or quadrapuled CO2 concentrations was not enough to cause dangerous climate change, I would still wonder how far burning fossil fuels can go. I suppose, we could burn all the oxygen in the atmosphere as one extreme, but more imminent might be the exhaustion of the existing carbon sinks. So far, we were lucky that exponential growth in carbon emission did not lead to exponential growth in CO2 concentration. Much of the released CO2 is captured by various carbon sinks that are likely fill up some day.

    By no means, I would dispute the necessity to decarbonize our economy, but it is clear that move will be difficult. Particularly, if we want to allow 75% of the population (which is responsible only to 1/3 of the current global energy use) to have civilized life. The life style choices are not whether some drives a Toyota Prius or an SUV, but if you live in heated room and take shower every day or you live in a slum without electricity.

  19. 69

    #29–”And yes since you can’t answer a simple question and have to answer with Ad homs I am out of here.”

    I will try manfully to contain my sorrow.

  20. 70
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    This is hardly a full solution, just a nice thought. HT Romm.

  21. 71

    #46–So, in your mind, suggesting the possibility of a fair trial for unnamed individuals in an unspecified future is the same thing as issuing anonymous death threats to specific individuals now?

  22. 72
    dbostrom says:

    “Millions if not billions have been spent on research grants, conferences…”

    Accepting for a moment the numbers Annabelle conjectures, let’s remember that in the first 10 years of this century the top five global petroleum firms alone enjoyed profits of ~$1 trillion. In 2011 this same fraction of the global fossil fuels industry spent some $65 million on lobbying the US Congress, in self-interest and undoubtedly not with the disinterested pursuit of knowledge as their central intent.

    Just as a point of reference for those of us with a fuzzy grasp of magnitudes, $1 trillion is one thousand billion dollars.

    Annabelle’s remark is ruefully amusing even as it is informative. We may be thankful for the perennial use of her line of argument, instantly reminding us as it does of the vastly larger incentives for the fossil fuel industry to mount much more easily constructed and maintained campaigns of deception than the far less likely hypothesis she presents.

    One of the few bright spots in this dismal scenario is the axiomatic recruitment of incompetent defenders of the fossil fuel industry thanks to that industry’s tendency to deceive in pursuit of their interests. Volunteers inspired to rise to the defense of the status quo by uncritical acceptance of deceitful propaganda are automatically poorly equipped to competently perform the sort of detail work needed to sustain the industry’s campaign.

  23. 73
    Andy Stahl says:

    “Free speech” is by no means a universal tradition. Within western democracies, its precise contours vary from country to country. In the U.S., for example, the “right of free speech” is actually a limitation on the government’s ability to regulate private citizen speech. Consider, for example, an employee of a private timber company who writes a letter-to-the-editor criticizing his company’s forestry practices. The company can fire the employee for her speech. She has no government-protected right that protects her speech from private party sanction.

    On the other hand, her employer cannot use the government-created court systems to extract financial damages or injunctions against her speech critical of the company’s practices. The courts would refuse to hear the case because doing so exceeds the limits on government regulation of speech imposed by the U.S. Constitution.

    But what if the employee resides in Canada? There she could be prosecuted in a government court by a private party for “hateful” speech. Canada simply has no robust constitutional limits on the government’s ability to regulate private citizen speech.

    When most academics talk about “free speech,” they are not referring to the law or the constitution. They think of free speech as an ethical norm to which they and their intellectual colleagues subscribe. They also (sometimes naively) think their employers subscribe to the same high principles of academic freedom to say what one thinks. One hopes that is so. But no where is the academic’s notion of “free speech” codified in law.

  24. 74

    “Grist Magazine’s staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the “bastards”

    Just for the fun of it I googled that phrase, and it turns out that it’s a meme that has been repeated verbatim across the web literally hundreds of times.

    HERE is the original short article.

    HERE is the article he was responding to.

    Here is the exact quote :

    “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.”

    That is not a death threat first of all, and secondly, when we finally got serious about the tobacco industry, they were suedhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tobacco_Master_Settlement_Agreement to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars. I notice they still sell tobacco though.

    Now do you think lawsuits will compensate the public properly for the loss of agricultural productivity, existing shorelines and glacial ice when we finally maybe in a few decades get serious about global warming?

    If you are innocent, you have nothing to worry about. Where have I heard that before?

  25. 75
    David Miller says:

    So, DirkH, you equate a magazine writer saying
    “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.”

    with specific threats of death and violence against the scientists?

    Really?

    A magazine guy says “after it’s clear to all what destruction these bastards have caused we should try them” and you equate it to “I’m going to kill you” ???

    Get real.

  26. 76
    Jason says:

    I agree that mutually respect is essential to any truly open debate. Intimidation only squashes the opportunity to hear all sides, but this is not a science debate, this is a values debate. Something that science is ill-equipped to deal with. Here is where I believe have a hard time with the current attacks on climate science. They respond with answers about the inherent logic of the scientific method and the objective of science, but that is not really what the debate about climate change is about. It is about human’s relationship to the earth, future generations, uncertainty, and who’s voices should guide our decision-making. These are value decisions that don’t have black and white answers. Since the enlightenment, science has gained more and more prominence in our societal decision-making creating the illusion that many of our societal decisions are based on hard numbers of scientists, engineers, and economists, but in reality decisions are informed by those hard numbers as well as the values that decision-makers (e.g. politician, bureaucrats, business leaders, etc.) bring to the decision. I believe we need to return to a discussion of those values, because that is our path forward. Until we can agree in some way on the values that inform our decisions it really doesn’t matter what hard numbers we bring to decisions.

  27. 77
    Radge Havers says:

    I have to say, as I hear it, much of the current rhetoric has unpleasant echos from other eras. Frame it as best you can, those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it…

    “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.”

    Amen. But good luck with that. How to effectively triage the morbidly obtuse once and for all? In the press, for instance, there’s a recognition that decision making has an emotional component, but better for the business model to coddle it rather than work like the dickens to offset it.

  28. 78
    one step beyond says:

    Richard Black gives a more balanced view here
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2010/07/the_apologies_issued_by_two.html
    and here
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2010/09/something_new_and_not_altogeth.html
    There are seldom just saints on one sdie and only sinners on the other in these matters

  29. 79

    Bob B

    Points to ponder:

    1. You have not answered Gavin’s question and I’m confident many here would like to hear you’re answer. If all those, or even just those in a position of power such as politicians are wrong about calling human climate change a hoax. How should they be punished?

    2. If you’re such a fan of accountability, why don’t you post your full name and take public responsibility for your own words?

    3. Most people here in this thread can point to proof of impacts form global warming. Here are a few though:

    - Accelerating sea level rise
    - loss of Arctic Ice Mass
    - shifting temperature zones
    - seasonal shift
    - temperature trend changes
    - acceleration in global land based glacial ice mass loss
    - PH balance changes in the ocean

    et cetera…

    In your post #29 you bring up the fact that congress is not great and making smart decisions. What you don’t realize is that what congress does due to their own issues is a separate issue. Math and physics are not partisan and you are trying to judge science by political interpretation. Ever heard of a non sequitur?

    That only makes you look foolish though. Try to separate the different realities of
    politics and science. You will feel better.

    One more question, why is it that persons such as yourself exhibit little to no integrity and love to call out others about your perception of their faults and yet can not recognize the log in your own eye?

  30. 80
    Nuremberg says:

    @DirkH #46,

    Threats of trials are not threats of death. In fact, the point of the Nuremberg Trials was to avoid execution “for political purposes” as Churchill put it. Churchill denounced the idea of “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country” and that he’d rather be “taken out in the courtyard and shot” himself than to partake in any action. Note that not everyone tried in the Nuremberg Trials were found guilty, and not everyone found guilty was executed. Sorry, your example doesn’t count as a death threat.

  31. 81
    Charlie H says:

    #46, DirkH,

    As I read it, that was not a death threat. He was threatening Denialists with a trial as a way of getting some accountability, the same as advocated by Bob B and the implied outcome would be to expose them.

    I can see where it would throw some folks into a panic, though.

  32. 82
    CM says:

    Andy Stahl wrote:

    Consider, for example, an employee of a private timber company who writes a letter-to-the-editor criticizing his company’s forestry practices. (…I)n Canada (…) she could be prosecuted in a government court by a private party for “hateful” speech.

    No, she couldn’t. A timber company is not “distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation”, and criticizing its forestry practices is not incitement to hatred or genocide. Besides which, truth and public interest are both valid exeptions under Canadian hate-speech law.

    When most academics talk about “free speech,” they are not referring to the law or the constitution.

    You’d be surprised. Academics look stuff up.

  33. 83

    I’m sort of thinking about those death threats — which have to be taken seriously and cause great upheavals in a person’s life.

    It sort of fits that those who would risk killing off life on planet earth through CC, would also be into willy nilly killing people. It seems the denialists have a penchant for killing.

    It’s sort of an unfair battle, bec those who value life would be more likely to accept climate change and into mitigating it, and less into sending out death threats or killing people….but more likely to receive death threats for their stance on the side of life.

  34. 84
    John West says:

    “The absence of oppression and [harassment] is a [prerequisite] for sound and functioning science.” [typos corrected]

    I couldn’t agree more! I would characterize peer-pressure, ad hominem attacks, attempts to get scientists/editors fired for “skeptical” conclusions/views, machinated funding competition, and McCarthy style lists [edit] as oppressive and harassing. Since these harassment techniques have been employed by “main stream” climate scientists and those that desire the actions supported by their conclusions, how could one be confident that sound science is functioning in the field?

    [Response: We can all agree that ad hom attacks and McCarthyite persecution should not be part of the debate. Though I think we might disagree on where they are coming from. However, no-one is immune from criticism and re-framing the debate so that justified criticism of poor science (Soon and Baliunas, McLean et al, Scafetta, Michaels etc.) is supposedly 'oppression' has a large degree of chutzpah. Nonetheless, we can either spend all the time upping the levels of faux outrage over something someone once said to someone (a game anyone can play!), or we can try and move forward. - gavin]

    “I think that the science community needs a louder voice in the society”

    Yes, scientists should get two votes! /sarc

  35. 85
    Holly Stick says:

    #73 Andy Stahl: I’m a Canadian though not a lawyer and this quote appears to be incorrect:

    “…But what if the employee resides in Canada? There she could be prosecuted in a government court by a private party for “hateful” speech. Canada simply has no robust constitutional limits on the government’s ability to regulate private citizen speech…”

    Hate speech is usually defined as being hatred promulgated against an identifiable group, based on colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation:

    http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/online_hate/when_is_hate_a_crime.cfm

    There are examples of hate speech litigation; I don’t think there have been that many cases. Canadians’ right to freedom of expression is protected in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but with reasonable limits.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/10/12/f-free-speech-hate-crimes.html

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/there-are-limits-to-free-expression/article2216380/

  36. 86
    one step beyond says:

    Comment from Greenpeace former India’s communications director, Gene Hashmi
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/apr/06/greenpeace-gene-hashmi-climate-sceptics
    Relevant part is
    “The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and scepticism. If you’re one of those who believe that this is not just necessary but also possible, speak to us. Let’s talk about what that mass civil disobedience is going to look like. If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fuelling spurious debates around false solutions and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this: We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work. And we be many, but you be few.”
    The Real Climate article is taking the moral high ground, the last sentence being ‘Focusing on the real questions and doing science means being free, critical and sceptical – and not a climate of fear.’ It perhaps needs to look closer to home before casting the first stone.

    [Response: How is the Greenpeace office in India 'close to home'? Let's be extremely clear here, threatening people has no place in scientific discussions. But mainstream climate science is not the world's policeman, nor is it responsible for what any individual says. Those individuals are responsible for their own words, and in that case, the apology from Greenpeace was sincere, and the original statement ill-advised. - gavin]

  37. 87
    Holly Stick says:

    There is a good post here about the different viewpoints of climate analysts and climate activists:

    http://greenpolicyprof.org/wordpress/?p=790

  38. 88
    Dan H. says:

    John,
    I agree with your assertion that we seperate politics and science. Few politicians know very much about science. Indeed, math and physics are nonpartisan. However, mathematicians and physicists are. I know many a scientist who could not see past their own blinders.

    While many of us can point to proof of all of your items during the 1980s and 90s, there is less evidence to confirm them since. For instance:
    While sea level rise accelerated during the 80s and 90s, it has decelerated since. (still rising thought).
    Arctic ice loss is one of the few that accelerated during the 2000s. While we did experience some seasonal shifts, namely earlier thaws, there has been very little shift in actual temperature zones. While there was a significant loss of glacial ice starting around 1980, the loss has slowed in the recent decade. Measurements of ocean pH are still in their infancy, with uncertainties exceeding measured changes.

    Few would question that the greatest warming occurred in the 1990s. The results you listed are a consequence of such. However, few would maintain that warming has continued, except for the Arctic regions. During the previous warming episode, the Arctic was the last to warm, and the last to start cooling. Whether this pattern continues, we will have to wait and see.

  39. 89
    Hank Roberts says:

    agricultural libel is also a concern.

  40. 90

    #84–Yes, I think the Charter has proven quite robust in practice. Perhaps Andy is living in the early 80s?

    And just what is a “government court?” The only alternative I’m aware of is Judge Judy, et al., so the term seems redundant at best.

  41. 91
    SecularAnimist says:

    Balazs wrote: “I would dispute the necessity to decarbonize our economy, but it is clear that move will be difficult … The life style choices are not whether some drives a Toyota Prius or an SUV, but if you live in heated room and take shower every day or you live in a slum without electricity.”

    Absolute rubbish.

    People post utter nonsense like that, and have the nerve to accuse climate scientists who make careful, cautious, conservative understatements about the seriousness of AGW of being “alarmists”.

  42. 92
    Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, Rasmus, and I disagree with the commenters here who don’t see the similarities between Russia in 1989 and the US today. Yes, we have the rule of law here, but if the real powers in this country- the fossil fuel companies, banks, and media who obey them- act to suppress knowledge, the result is the same.

    Scientists are already justifiably frightened today, and are only a Republican president away from a crackdown on their work. It will become politically correct to always feed the controversy, something our media is already quite adept at doing.

    [edit - please stay substantive]

  43. 93

    #88 Dan H.

    Dan, as usual you are having trouble seeing the forest because all thosue darn trees are in your way.

    1. TEN YEARS IS TOO SHORT A TIME SPAN TO DISCERN THE HUMAN CLIMATE SIGNAL FROM THE SHORTER TERM NATURAL VARIATIONS.

    2. Sea level rise has multiple factors, which include La Nina and other related factors, which distribute more water over land thus causing a variation in the sea level rise signal.

    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-262

    http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/whatonearth/posts/post_1323211578062.html

    3. Arctic ice MASS loss is continuing at a strong pace and ice extent is scraping the 2007 minimum line:

    http://ossfoundation.us/the-leading-edge/projects/environment/global-warming/current-climate-conditions/arctic

    4. temperature zone shifts continue on trend and I was at a nursery recently where it was pointed out to me that the types of plants they sell have had to change due to the zonal shifts.

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/blogs/earthmatters/2012/01/29/news-roundup-a-less-hardy-hardiness-map-arctic-freshening-and-more/

    5. How is it that you think glacial ice mass has slowed?

    http://ossfoundation.us/the-leading-edge/projects/environment/global-warming/current-climate-conditions#section-17

    6. on ocean acidification, keep your erro bars close, but keep your trends and observations closer

    http://www.climatewatch.noaa.gov/image/2010/ocean-acidification-today-and-in-the-future

    7. As far as you’re ‘wait and see’ attitude… is it possible you were reincarnated from a lemming?

    8. It would nice just for once to see you raise an actual valid point.

  44. 94
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Scientists doing science:
    New NASA study of global glaciers
    http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-036#4

    February 08, 2012

    PASADENA, Calif. – In the first comprehensive satellite study of its kind, a University of Colorado at Boulder-led team used NASA data to calculate how much Earth’s melting land ice is adding to global sea level rise.

    Using satellite measurements from the NASA/German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), the researchers measured ice loss in all of Earth’s land ice between 2003 and 2010, with particular emphasis on glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica.

    The total global ice mass lost from Greenland, Antarctica and Earth’s glaciers and ice caps during the study period was about 4.3 trillion tons (1,000 cubic miles), adding about 0.5 inches (12 millimeters) to global sea level. That’s enough ice to cover the United States 1.5 feet (0.5 meters) deep.

    “Earth is losing a huge amount of ice to the ocean annually, and these new results will help us answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change,” said University of Colorado Boulder physics professor John Wahr, who helped lead the study. “The strength of GRACE is it sees all the mass in the system, even though its resolution is not high enough to allow us to determine separate contributions from each individual glacier.”

    Glaciers on youtube.

  45. 95
    flxible says:

    Andy Stahl @73 appears to not be aware of the existence of the Labor Relations Boards in Canada …. when an employee of a private timber company who writes a letter-to-the-editor criticizing his company’s forestry practices is fired for it, that employee has the right to file a complaint with the Board, and beyond that, initiate civil action for wrongful dismissal – “whistleblower” protections may also apply. One would expect the same remedies/protections of “free speech” would be available in some form in the US.

  46. 96
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Onestepbehind@86
    Oh FFS! Dude, you you even know what civil disobedience is? We are not talking firebombs here. We’re talking sit-ins. The fact that you equate this with scientists getting death threats for doing their fricking jobs speaks volumes about you. Jebus!

  47. 97
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Dan H …
    > … many a scientist …
    > … many of us …
    > … point to proof …

    “us”?

  48. 98
    dhogaza says:

    Andy Stahl @73 appears to not be aware of the existence of the Labor Relations Boards in Canada

    Why would you say that? He did preface that example with “in the US …”.

    Nice to see Andy Stahl here …

  49. 99
    dhogaza says:

    Eh, didn’t read all the way through Andy’s post …

  50. 100
    dhogaza says:

    Those individuals are responsible for their own words, and in that case, the apology from Greenpeace was sincere, and the original statement ill-advised

    Also, Greenpeace India is not Greenpeace, International. Nor Greenpeace USA. Nor Greenpeace Germany. You get the idea.

    One spokesperson for one national chapter of Greenpeace doesn’t speak for Greenpeace, per se, much less the community of climate scientists …


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