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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. 301
  2. 302
    Craig Nazor says:

    Curious,

    The recent public “debate” about anthropogenic global climate change (and to a lesser extent, the “debate” about evolution) has made it painfully clear that most people do not understand the scientific process as it currently exists (or worse – they don’t understand science at all). This process has evolved over many centuries (with lots of fits, starts, and outright disasters) specifically to burn away the politics that crop up whenever two or more humans gather to discuss an important issue. The ideal scientific process should leave only the truth as best as we can now ascertain it. The increasingly rapid technological advances made by Homo sapiens in the past few centuries are proof that this process is working extremely well.

    The best scientific evidence tells us that the earth is warming, and that the human release of CO2 into the atmosphere is driving this warming. If this continues, it will very likely do significant damage to human civilization and the biosphere of the planet in the near future.

    Only a small minority of scientists disagrees with this very general statement.

    The details about exactly how AGCC will affect our planet are still emerging, and they are scientific questions, not political ones. That has not prevented politicians and corporate interests from trying to hijack the conversation, because they do not like the changes that will have to be made to avoid major upheaval.

    Exactly how we use this scientific information to plan our future is now mired in politics, but the time to do something is growing short. How short, no one knows for sure, but why take a chance, considering what is at risk? If the majority of the best doctors that you visit were telling you that you have cancer and that, without treatment, you have less than a ten percent chance of surviving for more than a year unless you get treated, what would you do? Some people seem willing to claim that the majority of doctors don’t know what they are talking about. The may claim they are not sick. They might even say that death is not as bad as it is claimed. These people won’t get any treatment, and they will probably die within a year.

    Unfortunately, in the case of AGCC, this will have to be a group decision.

    The richest companies that have ever existed have trillions of dollars (that is no exaggeration) invested in infrastructure to continue to make many billions of dollars profit each year by selling carbon fuels to be burnt, producing millions of tons of CO2. These powerful business interests and their political allies are spending billions of dollars to denying the science, and the Heartland Institute is one of their mouthpieces. The scientists here cannot possibly match their reserves of time and money, but the truth is on the side of science, by the very definition of what science is.

    Would you expect a scientist to think otherwise?

    So with which of the above statements do you disagree?

  3. 303
  4. 304

    #299–”Any increase in tax burden. . .”

    The British Columbia carbon tax has been slightly revenue-negative in practice, amounting to a tax cut. And since the “rebating” mechanism is a tax credit, the effect is arguably progressive rather than regressive, in that the credits generally give the largest proportional benefits to those with lower incomes.

    A lengthy discussion from an American perspective (and nearly a year ago):

    http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2011/03/22/22climatewire-british-columbia-survives-3-years-and-848-mi-40489.html?pagewanted=all

  5. 305
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    Curious,
    I hope you remain true to your handle and read fully the “Unsettled Science” link Gavin provided. What is a crucial point made in his post is that the idea of “settled science” is an oxymoron. The science of Gravity is not settled, yet we have put men on the Moon. So the refrain of claiming “the science is not settled” is a diversion from facts. Science will never be settled, that is the nature of science.

    Gavin says it perhaps more eloquently than I can: “The reason why no scientist has said this is because they know full well that knowledge about science is not binary – science isn’t either settled or not settled. This is a false and misleading dichotomy. Instead, we know things with varying degrees of confidence – for instance, conservation of energy is pretty well accepted, as is the theory of gravity (despite continuing interest in what happens at very small scales or very high energies), while the exact nature of dark matter is still unclear. The forced binary distinction implicit in the phrase is designed to misleadingly relegate anything about which there is still uncertainty to the category of completely unknown. i.e. that since we don’t know everything, we know nothing.”

    What matters with scientific understanding is not that it is “settled” but that it provides useful tools for understanding the world we live in. So next time someone tries to tell you that Climate Science isn’t settled, tell them they have said nothing meaningful.

  6. 306
    SecularAnimist says:

    Susan Anderson wrote: “Some otherwise thoughtful people have closed their minds because they’ve been told that the Union of Concerned Scientists is a ‘liberal’ organization.”

    With all due respect, people who have been programmed to reject out of hand any information from a source that they are told is “liberal” — for no other reason than that someone tells them it is “liberal” — are by definition not “thoughtful” and their minds are already closed.

    A great deal of money has been spent over the last few decades to propagandize and brainwash a certain audience to unquestioningly and absolutely accept, embrace, believe, do and say whatever is branded “conservative” and to unquestioningly and absolutely reject, scorn, deny and abhor whatever is branded “liberal”.

    And once you’ve got a group of people programmed that way, it’s easy enough to tell them that climate science — or anything else that potentially threatens your profits — is “liberal” and that rejecting climate science is “conservative”. And as utterly nonsensical as that is, they will obey.

  7. 307
    Chas says:

    FYI,
    Peter Gleick has just confessed to being the solicitor and leaker of the Heartland docs.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/-the-origin-of-the-heartl_b_1289669.html

  8. 308
    simon says:

    peter gleik :(

  9. 309
    DGH says:

    @J Bowers. In the wake of Gleick’s confession, that’s quite a list of links you’ve posted. It seems there’s irresponsibility, disinformation, cyber-bullying, reckless disregard for the truth, etc, on all sides of the debate.

  10. 310
    DGH says:

    @J Bowers. In the wake of Gleick’s confession that’s quite a list you’ve posted. It seems there’s disinformation, reckless regards for truth, irresponsibility, cyber-bullying, and other unethical behavior on all sides of the debate. What a shame that this incident will only harden the various camps’ positions.

  11. 311
    dhogaza says:

    So on our side, the perp has revealed themselves.

    While on their side, the CRU hacker remains anonymous.

    Values, values, values …

    We know the denialsphere will lambast the self-revealing Gleick as being the epitome of evil.

    While they’ll continue to parade the anonymous CRU hacker as being the epitome of virtue.

  12. 312
    Curious says:

    Hmmm. In the wake of Gleick’s confession, I think that I’ll refrain from responding about debate, ethics, programmed people, settled science, lies, etc. Perhaps we should all sleep on it, eh?

  13. 313
    dhogaza says:

    DGH:

    In the wake of Gleick’s confession that’s quite a list you’ve posted. It seems there’s disinformation, reckless regards for truth, irresponsibility, cyber-bullying, and other unethical behavior on all sides of the debate.

    While Peter’s actions are indefensible, where’s the “reckless regards for truth”? Heartland has verified the meat of the revealed e-mails, and those named as being recipients of Heartland funding have confirmed that they’re receiving such funding.

    “reckless regard for honor” I can see, but the truth’s out, even if it was outed by a trick.

    :cyber-bullying: where’s the cyber-bullying? Specific examples, please.

    I’ll give you “irresponsibility” … he irresponsibly obtained the truth of Heartland’s funding of people, some of whom, have in the past denied being funded (Watts, for instance). Watts clearly is exposed of having a reckless regard for truth regarding funding.

  14. 314
    simon says:

    He was appointed to the AGU’s ethics committee in November http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011EO470009.shtml

    BTW, well done to realclimate for not getting involved in commenting on this mess, Koudo’s to Gavin & the others.

  15. 315
    simon says:

    @DGH 313

    This is a very sad event and really highlights the primary issue of distrust on both sides of the arguement. IMO your reaction fully illustrates the issues at hand, Gleick has stolen the documents effectively from HI, as to the memo he “received”, well, I feel this situation will only get worse for him as time goes on.

    There is no trust, you calls us fools, we call you fools the circus continues. This isn’t a game, somewhere between our polar views lies an answer I hope, I just can’t see it however.

    As for Watts, a $44000 or $88000 grant is the stuff of University projects, it is senseless to bring that up when one considers funding amounts for ANY science worldwide.

    Where will all of this end?

    And yes, the UEA emails were stolen, and this was wrong, its like nobody cares anymore, tit for tat, children, dogma are we really all that hopeless?

  16. 316
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.scambusters.org/pretexting.html

    “… You might be wondering: isn’t pretexting illegal? There is a law in the US, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. According to the Federal Trade Commission, this act makes it illegal for anyone to:

    – “use false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or documents to get customer information from a financial institution or directly from a customer of a financial institution.

    – “use forged, counterfeit, lost, or stolen documents to get customer information from a financial institution or directly from a customer of a financial institution.

    – “ask another person to get someone else’s customer information using false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or using false, fictitious or fraudulent documents or forged, counterfeit, lost, or stolen documents.”

    In addition, the Federal Trade Commission Act also basically prohibits pretexting for sensitive consumer information.

    Unfortunately though, the boundaries of these laws are ambiguous….”

    He was naughty. It was delicious.

  17. 317
    Russell says:

    I very much doubt Heartland was on Secretary Stimson’s mind when he observed that gentlemen do not read each others mail.

  18. 318

    Hank Roberts,

    I think the word you are looking for isn’t “delicious”, its “unethical”.

  19. 319
    Chas says:

    Politico writes;
    ” Two sources in California — longtime Democratic operative Chris Lehane and Corey Goodman, a member of the Pacific Institute board of directors — confirmed to POLITICO that Gleick authored the Huffington Post blog confessing to be the source of the leak.

    Lehane, Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign press secretary, is helping Gleick pro bono with communications issues. Gleick is represented by John Keker, a prominent San Francisco-based white collar criminal defense attorney.”

  20. 320
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Curious

    While you are sleeping I hope you don’t have nightmares about the frontiers of the “unsettled science”, the missing feedbacks from the climate models:

    methane emissions from Arctic wetlands

    substantial methane release from Arctic ocean hydrates.

    permafrost thawing releasing large amounts of additional carbon

    The science isn’t settled – it hasn’t caught up with the real world yet.

    My sleep is definitely unsettled.

  21. 321
    Neal J. King says:

    Susan Anderson, #285:

    “Bells labs at Murray Hill may have done some applied science but my family’s friends were mostly theoretical at a fairly high level. Not sure what all that was about.”

    Pauli was a famously persnickety character. Also, Pauli was a front-row participant in the invention of quantum mechanics, and taught Einstein a thing or two about relativity in his extensive “encyclopedia” article, published when he was 21. After that, almost anything else is going to look a little bit “applied”.

  22. 322
    Neil McEvoy says:

    Is there a Soviet equivalent of Godwin’s law? Perhaps we need a Godwin’s right-hand law and a Godwin’s left-hand law.

  23. 323
    J Bowers says:

    @ DGH

    Gleick says he altered nothing, and don’t forget that he was honest enough to own up. It would seem the list I posted is pretty spot on, in that case.

  24. 324
    MARodger says:

    The endemic phone hacking within UK tabloid journalism may provide some pointers on the H.I./Gleick affair.
    As well as the law, the public can also do a very good job of public prosecutor/executor. When it was the phones of bumptious politicians or footballer’s wives being hacked, the public didn’t care & the law was never set onto how the papers obtained these personal phone numbers. Yet the hacking process was all highly illegal.
    When the odd celebrity did take it to law, it would be settled out-of-court for undisclosed payments.

    Of course, this all changed when a young high-profile murder victim’s phone was apparently hacked. Newspaper owners now dance to the public tune, leaving their employees to defend themselves & the numbers facing prosecution and a holiday at Her Majesty’s pleasure are growing by the month.

    H.I. may have the inclination to prosecute but that will give Gleick his day in court. Would the H.I. be wise to grant Gleick such an opportunity? Their backers (like the newspaper owners) would find that most uncomfortable and the public may react badly putting the H.I.’s charitable status and their very future in jeopardy.

  25. 325
    Turboblocke says:

    If Gleick’s confession shows that the so-called fake memo was not fake aren’t the HI guilty of fraudulently soliciting donations to their legal fund?
    We are creating a legal defense fund to support litigation, starting immediately, to demand that false and defamatory material be removed from blogs and Web sites and publications, and that the true criminals in this case be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
    Can you make a charitable contribution to our legal defense fund?

    http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/02/heartland-institute-documents-climate

  26. 326
    Lotharsson says:

    …putting the H.I.’s charitable status and their very future in jeopardy

    If John Mashey’s investigations (that relied on publicly available documents) are correct, Heartland may have put their charitable status in jeopardy all on their own-some by apparently violating various 501c3 laws. And if that turns out to be the case the legal consequences for the responsible parties may be more severe than those for Gleick.

  27. 327
    Dan H. says:

    Curious, et. al.,
    I am not sure who originated the phrase, “the science is settled,” but it has been attributed to both Al Gore and Tim Wirth. Some of you may remember this:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/unsettled-science/
    As Gavin said, scientists have probably never said that. However, that has not stopped politicians and activists from using that term, and it is not primarily used by contrarians. This term is misused almost as much as “consensus.”

    Politicians and activist like to use these terms to defend their actions. Groupthink and appeal to authority seem to gather more followers that way. The other tactic used by this group is to call their opponents ignorant, misinformed, or liars. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into the scientific community, such that ethics seems like a medieval religious following that can be ignored.

    Is HI any worse than ATI, 350.org, the Global Warming Coalition, Greenpeace, The John Locke Foundation, The Citizen Engagement Lab, Oxfam, or any number of other activist organizations? There is a ton of money being spent by many activist groups to sway the politicians and the public to see things their way.

  28. 328
    Hank Roberts says:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=pretext+obtaining+information turns up quite a bit worth reading.

    Spoofing, phishing and other kinds of pretext are described as ‘little white lies’ — naughty but not illegal — to legitimate investigative techniques.

    That search will find discussions of pretext in, e.g., a 1950s FBI instruction manual; Hewlett Packard’s investigation of their own Board, which led to recent law penalizing pretext used in obtaining financial institution customer records; use by attorneys and investigators generally under their professional codes of conduct; and many more.

    “Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice, shame on you” seems to cover most situations — it’s something you have to watch out for because people do it and you as an individual or company have very little protection under the law if you let someone fool you by pretending to be someone else.

    “… as long as investigators contact low level employees and approach the target of their inquiry as any other consumer would in asking about the sale of goods and services (even if they use a pretext identity) then the courts have said there is no violation of law or ethics….”
    http://www.dbaip.com/monthly_cle/2010%20Materials/Taylor%20Paper.pdf

    Glieck did something you’d expect from a lawyer or phone-sales person. Which is sinking qlow. As a journalist by profession, I gather he may indeed catch heck for doing it. Seems journalists aren’t supposed to do that. Could’ve fooled me, I thought journalists were like other investigators, who may do that sort of pretext routinely.

    _____________________________

    This Is Just To Say
    by William Carlos Williams

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    saving
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold

  29. 329
    Martin Vermeer says:

    > Is HI any worse than

    Yes.

  30. 330
    MARodger says:

    Dan H @327
    It may not be a very scientific thing to say that “the science is settled.” Yet there are scientific findings that are sat on very solid foundations and such findings can be said to be “settled.”
    This is true enough for many of the findings of climate science, such that when commentators are heard repeatedly contradicting those findings, these commentators can be considered as “ignorant, misinformed, or liars.” So why not call it how it is?

    Perhaps we should run a little test to seek the limits of this “settled” climate science. Perhaps thses ignorant misinformed liars need better labelling.

  31. 331
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Dan H: “Oxfam, or any number of other activist organizations?”

    Oxfam is a humanitarian organization, orginially faith-based. Oxfam helps people who are starving or chronically malnourished. And you dare to compare it to Heartland? Unbelievable!

  32. 332
    DGH says:

    Warren Meyers posted a thoughtful comment on the Gleick incident here…

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenmeyer/2012/02/21/peter-gleick-admits-to-stealing-heartland-documents/

    He writes, “When we convince ourselves that those who disagree with us are not people of goodwill who simply reach different conclusions from the data, but are instead driven by evil intentions and nefarious sources of funding, then it becomes easier to convince oneself that the ends justify the means. And before skeptics revel in too much schadenfreude here, they are susceptible to falling into exactly the same trap.”

    [Response: Schadenfreude is a cheap thrill: fun but ephemeral. Gleick's actions were completely irresponsible and while the information uncovered was interesting (if unsurprising), it in no way justified his actions. There is an integrity required to do science (and talk about it credibly), and he has unfortunately failed this test. The public discussion on this issue will be much the poorer for this - both directly because this event is (yet) another reason not to have a serious discussion, but also indirectly because his voice as an advocate of science, once powerful, has now been diminished. - gavin]

  33. 333

    “Is HI any worse…” Love the false equivalency. The difference between 350.org and HI is that 350.org isn’t attempting to deceive the public regarding global warming.

  34. 334
    Edward Greisch says:

    Peter Gleick has nothing to apologize for. Remember this: The jury has the right to nullify any law it deems wrong. Get on Peter Gleick’s jury and assert that the Freedom Of Information Act applies to corporations.

  35. 335
    jgnfld says:

    agree with gavin @332

    No one with half a brain is unaware of the political campaign against the science of global warming. What this event will do is sidetrack the whole discussion into purely the public/political arena even more so.

    The only possible response is to stick entirely with climate facts–as many here did after the 2009 release–and completely ignore the HI release.

    Fat chance of that happening in enough numbers, however.

  36. 336
    Edward Greisch says:

    Gavin: Gleick’s actions should be construed as self defense. GW may kill or injure Gleick’s descendants. There comes a time when strong action is called for. That time is now.

  37. 337
    SecularAnimist says:

    Unsettled Scientist wrote: “The science of Gravity is not settled, yet we have put men on the Moon.”

    I would say:

    The science of Gravity is not settled — but apples fall.

    Likewise, the science of anthropogenic global warming and climate change is not settled — but CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and anthropogenic emissions of CO2 are warming the planet.

  38. 338
    SecularAnimist says:

    jgnfld wrote: “What this event will do is sidetrack the whole discussion into purely the public/political arena even more so.”

    “The whole discussion” is already in the “public/political arena”.

    “The whole discussion” is not really about science. There is, in fact, little to be “discussed” about the science at this point — except to say that THE SCIENCE IS OVERWHELMINGLY CLEAR, AND THE DENIERS ARE DELIBERATELY LYING ABOUT IT.

    And that’s the point that I believe Gleick wanted to make.

    Scientists need to stop playing by the rules of legitimate scientific debate in this “discussion” — for the simple reason that it is NOT A LEGITIMATE SCIENTIFIC DEBATE.

    It is about entities like the Heartland Institute, with millions and millions of fossil fuel corporation dollars to spend on nothing but LYING.

    Gleick has dragged the Heartland Institute’s heartless lies out into the light of day.

    That’s not “sidetracking the discussion”. On the contrary, it’s getting to the heart of the matter.

  39. 339
    SecularAnimist says:

    Warren Meyers was quoted above: “When we convince ourselves that those who disagree with us are not people of goodwill who simply reach different conclusions from the data, but are instead driven by evil intentions and nefarious sources of funding …”

    That’s nice. At least it sounds nice. But it’s an utterly dishonest false equivalency.

    The paid propagandists at the Heartland Institute are NOT “people of good will who simply reach different conclusions from the data”. They are professional liars.

    And they ARE driven by evil intentions. And they ARE driven by “nefarious” sources of funding.

    Those are objective facts. Period.

  40. 340
    David Miller says:

    Dan H once again tries to muddy the issues. Once again he applies the standard tactic of ‘we don’t know everything so we don’t know anything’.

    I am not sure who originated the phrase, “the science is settled,” but it has been attributed to both Al Gore and Tim Wirth. Some of you may remember this:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/unsettled-science/

    Yes, I remember that well. What you’re deliberately missing, Dan, is that the phrase “the science is settled” is used in two very different contexts by scientists and public policy advocates. Scientists know that everything is not settled. The exact climate sensitivity remains to be seen, though it’s very likely to be about 3oC. Responses to increased CO2, changes in weather patterns, melting of glaciers – the scientists all say they need more research.

    The policy advocates, such as Gore, realize full well that the temperature is going to rise with increased CO2. Furthermore, they realize that betting civilization that climate sensitivity is a low and manageable number is a real long shot.

    Similarly, they realize that if the timing and distribution of precipitation changes much, agricultural output will decline, just as population is peaking. The scientists don’t know how much it will decline, or exactly which areas will be desertified or when, but it’s not that hard to figure out that any changes will be bad.

    As Gavin said, scientists have probably never said that. However, that has not stopped politicians and activists from using that term, and it is not primarily used by contrarians. This term is misused almost as much as “consensus.”

    So, Dan, do you really believe that if scientists say “the science is unsettled” that the climate could cool in response to increased CO2?

    Politicians and activist like to use these terms to defend their actions. Groupthink and appeal to authority seem to gather more followers that way. The other tactic used by this group is to call their opponents ignorant, misinformed, or liars. Unfortunately, this has spilled over into the scientific community, such that ethics seems like a medieval religious following that can be ignored.

    So what do you suggest we call those people and organizations that spend millions of dollars promoting non-science to the detriment of all humanity?

    What would you call these same people when they spend decades denying their own research showing that tobacco is both addictive and carcinogenic? What do you call these people who absolutely, positively know better but who are willing to sacrifice millions of lives in order to make a profit?

    Is HI any worse than ATI, 350.org, the Global Warming Coalition, Greenpeace, The John Locke Foundation, The Citizen Engagement Lab, Oxfam, or any number of other activist organizations? There is a ton of money being spent by many activist groups to sway the politicians and the public to see things their way.

    Yes, without any question.
    Were the tobacco companies any worse than the ‘activist’ groups who said smoking causes cancer? Were they worse than the politically appointed Surgeon General who took a stand based on the science (never settled, of course. Science wants to know why only some people get lung cancer)?

    Of course they were. There was an objective right and wrong; even if the science wasn’t ‘settled’ to the scientists minds it was certainly settled enough to know that many people who smoked were going to suffer serious, life changing, health effects.

    In the same way today there’s an objective right and wrong. Increasing CO2 will lead to global warming. Global warming inevitably leads to changing weather patterns, sea level rise, migrating species, and declines in production of food.

    There’s the science that makes this all very clear, even if it’s ‘unsettled’ to the point that we don’t know if we’ll have 3oC or 6oC temperature increase this century. To equate groups raising awareness of the consequences of our actions to those who are designing programs for grade-schoolers denying the things that we completely understand is morally repugnant.

  41. 341
    Chris Crawford says:

    I suggest that we consider the comparison between Mr. Gleick’s actions and those of Mr. Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

  42. 342
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://ebyline.biz/2011/12/what-a-private-investigator-can-teach-you-about-interviewing/ — by a working journalist — is worth reading, as a reality check. “They can’t do that, can they?” isn’t realistic; they can and do pretext calls, and you have to check. Get a number, call back, verify who you’re talking to. Because this stuff gets imitated when it succeeds.

  43. 343
    Horlinrot says:

    @Edward Greisch # 336: I agree with the principle of self-defense, but I fail to see how shooting oneself in the foot accomplishes that goal.

  44. 344
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dan H wrote: “Is HI any worse than …”

    Yes, in fact the Heartland Institute is “worse” than the advocacy groups you list. Those groups advocate policies for dealing with anthropogenic global warming. The Heartland Institute, in contrast, simply LIES.

    Just as you are worse than a long list of other commenters who post here frequently — and for the same reason. They discuss climate science, while you tell lies.

  45. 345
    Dan H. says:

    DGH,
    I agree with Gavin. Gleick’s action will undermine his credibility.

    Several posters seem to think that those activist groups which oppose their views are spreading misinformation, while those that support their views are beyond reproach. All these activist groups are spreading information that lies on the extreme ends of the scientific understanding (and quite possibly beyond).

    [Response: That's nonsense. Activism does not equate to extremism. - gavin]

  46. 346
    Septic Matthew says:

    Chris Crawford: I suggest that we consider the comparison between Mr. Gleick’s actions and those of Mr. Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.

    Ellsberg was indicted and tried, but the Nixon administration had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office and the prosecution was unable to prove that its case was totally independent of the illegally obtained information from the psychiatrist. So you might want to consider the parallel between Gleick and the administration agents who broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrists office, as well as the fact that Ellsberg was probably guilty of the crime for which he was indicted.

  47. 347
    deconvoluter says:

    Re : Comparisons with the USSR..

    It was not a perfect analogy because, fortunately, the anti-science forces have not won in the US and the UK and they could not send climatologists to the Gulag, but that does not mean that there are no similarities.

    In the USSR there was the promotion of an ambitious, ideologically motivated non expert into a position of great power where he would systematically undermine one of the countries’ best research organisations and replace it by an empty shell doing bogus experiments of no practical or theoretical value. Soviet agriculture was badly weakened.

    Of course that was Lysenko. His modern ideological and commercial counterparts in the US and UK do not have so much power , but they do have wealthy and often bullying supporters who promote PR outfits such as Heartland, until their influence is out of all proportion to the significance of their ‘research’. On the other hand, another breakdown of the analogy is that the damage done by such anti-scientific activity will not be restricted to the host countries such as the US and UK.

    Reference

  48. 348

    #322 Re. Gavins response

    Gavin, In part I agree and in part I disagree. If I may parse issues to give context. From a scientific perspective it was irresponsible. but from other perspectives it can be seen as responsible, because it’s not the same as publishing a false scientific paper, though it will be painted that way by some.

    - Peter brought truth to light.

    I interpret that as a responsible action. Heck, that’s even what science is about. True he did it in an unorthodox manner from the perspective of the scientific community.

    There is an integrity required in doing science, but Peter getting an e-mail has nothing to do with the scientific method.

    1. Heartland is not doing science, while claiming they are representing science

    2. Peter did not do any scientific fraud or attempt to publish or push any unscientific information in science journals.

    3. Peter effectively did what any ‘good’ reporter would do and verify the origin of the material by means that are typically employed.

    His method has in fact resulted in revealing that the claims that the documents were fraudulent as stated by Heartland, is an incorrect assertion as well.

    I’m against scientific fraud on every level, but I don’t see this as scientific fraud, I see Peters’ actions as standing up for honor and integrity by bringing truth to light, if in fact the documents are from Heartland. At this point I see no reason not to believe the documents are authentic.

    As to double standards, I think what climate scientists do in science, is different that what they might do in what little personal life they get these days.

    The CRU was hacked. Peter may have deceived Heartland into giving him evidence, but as far as I know can tell the calibers are different and context is key. One is a 44 magnum hollow-point crime and Peter seems to be using a BB gun.

    The worst part is that now everyone will try to make the BB welt look like it’s worse than being hit with a 44 magnum hollow-point center mass.

    I don’t know the legal issues, but in my view Peter has not committed any scientific malfeasance in this particular action. I do understand your point of view and respect it. At the same time, I’m glad Peter brought this to light and if the documents are verified as authentic, there is value in knowing the true intentions of the Heartland Institute in a bonifide evidentiary manner.

  49. 349
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    SecularAnimist,

    While your analogy is also valid, I chose putting men on the Moon for a specific reason. As your analogy and subsequent application to climate illustrate, incomplete understandings of Nature allow us to explain natural phenomena. I was making the point that incomplete scientific understanding allows us to utilize the natural phenomena.

    Let me use another physics (because it’s my background) analogy to illustrate this point. Anti-matter always existed, even before Paul Dirac’s Equation suggested its existence. Currently we still don’t quite understand the differences between matter and anti-matter. However, after Dirac wrote his equation, positrons (anti-electrons) were discovered in cosmic rays. This fits with your analogy… positrons were always raining down on Earth from cosmic rays and still do even with our incomplete understanding, our “unsettled science.” Cosmic positrons are apples falling. Putting men on the Moon, in the anti-matter analogy, would be PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans. Although the science of matter and anti-matter is “unsettled”, we can use positrons to create images of people’s brains while they are lying on their backs in a tube.

    I wanted to make this point because even with an incomplete understanding of climate science we can not only explain the natural phenomena of CO2 and other greenhouse gases trapping energy and warming the planet, but we can also use the tools this understanding gives us to avoid the excessive warming that is an unintended side effect of industry.

  50. 350
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    I have another point about “unsettled science” that I would like to make. It is rare that greater understanding, even revolutions in scientific thought, lead to a complete reversal of the conclusions of the previous ideas. Again, I’ll use a physics analogy.

    When Newton came up with Universal Gravitation, that is gravity is not just something that applies to us here on Earth but extends throughout all of space and acts on all bodies, gravity did not suddenly become a known attractive force. That gravity pulled things together was already known. Similarly, when Einstein came up with the idea that gravity is a warping of Spacetime, Newton’s relationship of the inverse square of the distance between the bodies was not tossed asunder.

    Greater understanding of the climate is not going to suddenly make CO2 not a greenhouse gas that causes the Earth to warm. Like Newton and Einstein, our future advancements will extend the knowledge further, and explain corner cases that currently pose as fascinating questions to the scientific community.


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