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If You See Something, Say Something

Filed under: — mike @ 17 January 2014

Gavin provided a thoughtful commentary about the role of scientists as advocates in his RealClimate piece a few weeks ago.

I have weighed in with my own views on the matter in my op-ed today in this Sunday’s New York Times. And, as with Gavin, my own views have been greatly influenced and shaped by our sadly departed friend and colleague, Stephen Schneider. Those who were familiar with Steve will recognize his spirit and legacy in my commentary. A few excerpts are provided below:

THE overwhelming consensus among climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a fringe minority of our populace clings to an irrational rejection of well-established science. This virulent strain of anti-science infects the halls of Congress, the pages of leading newspapers and what we see on TV, leading to the appearance of a debate where none should exist.


My colleague Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who died in 2010, used to say that being a scientist-advocate is not an oxymoron. Just because we are scientists does not mean that we should check our citizenship at the door of a public meeting, he would explain. The New Republic once called him a “scientific pugilist” for advocating a forceful approach to global warming. But fighting for scientific truth and an informed debate is nothing to apologize for.


Our Department of Homeland Security has urged citizens to report anything dangerous they witness: “If you see something, say something.” We scientists are citizens, too, and, in climate change, we see a clear and present danger. The public is beginning to see the danger, too — Midwestern farmers struggling with drought, more damaging wildfires out West, and withering, record, summer heat across the country, while wondering about possible linkages between rapid Arctic warming and strange weather patterns, like the recent outbreak of Arctic air across much of the United States.


The piece ends on this note:

How will history judge us if we watch the threat unfold before our eyes, but fail to communicate the urgency of acting to avert potential disaster? How would I explain to the future children of my 8-year-old daughter that their grandfather saw the threat, but didn’t speak up in time?

Those are the stakes.

I would encourage interested readers to read the commentary in full at the New York Times website.

Constructive contributions are welcome in the comment section below :-)

606 Responses to “If You See Something, Say Something”

  1. 601
    Walter says:

    Hank Roberts says: “Please email me about your concerns.”

    I have no ‘concerns’. I have no interest in, nor reason to email you Hank. And won’t.

    I responded to your other comment in this vein before ‘directly & nicely’ in a few words, but the Mod deleted it.


  2. 602
    Walter Pearce says:

    When did RealClimate become RealWalter?

    It’s gotten RealTedious.

  3. 603
    Susan Anderson says:

    Tedious indeed. I come by here when I have time to learn stuff (when it’s not over my head; I do like sinning about my station) and see what’s up, and perhaps get a few pearls from the keyboard of Ray Ladbury. Aside from a delightful excerpt from the IgNobels and a zinger from the aforementioned, this is not what those of us who are interested in the topic came here for. And it seems a shame to further insult Dr. Mann who deserves better.

  4. 604
    Walter says:

    Walter Pearce, don’t cry, I’m done

    Have at it.

    The floor is yours Walter. Contribute something.

    Go out on a Limb. Even GetReal, if you want to.

    (thx again to the mods)


  5. 605

    #597–Er, Walter, have you forgotten that the AR 5 release is a draft, and that one of the main processes going on leading up to the official publication (next month, I think?) is in fact proof-reading?

    [Response: The official publications are now available. – gavin]

  6. 606

    [Response: The official publications are now available. – gavin]

    Gavin’s Link:

    Missed that (obviously!)

    Awesome, as the kids say! It will be great, when referring to the report in future, to have the figures *with* the relevant text…