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Scientists: Resolve to Protect Yourself from Harassment in 2019

Filed under: — group @ 6 December 2018

Guest commentary by Lauren Kurtz

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) protects the scientific endeavor from anti-science attacks. Since our founding in 2011, we’ve assisted hundreds of scientists with issues ranging from invasive open records requests to death threats.

As part of this work, our staff will be at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting from December 10-14, offering free legal services to scientists and leading sessions on how to get involved in the policymaking process and how to be an expert witness.

For those who won’t be at the meeting — and with 2019 around the corner — we put together a list of suggested New Year’s resolutions for scientists. Adopting these best practices will help you reduce your risk of being harassed or attacked.

  1. Separate personal and professional correspondence and activities.

    Do not use professional email accounts for personal emails and vice versa.

    Climate scientists and other researchers have been increasingly targeted via misuse of the legal system. Separating personal and professional emails can reduce the likelihood that your personal correspondence will be caught up in legal actions. For example, many publicly-funded scientists have been targeted under open records laws, which only affect records related to government-funded work. Keeping personal and professional correspondence separate helps ensure that your personal communications stay private.

    It’s also important to be clear about when you are operating in your personal capacity versus your professional role. If you give an interview, post on a blog, write an op-ed, or sign a petition or open letter, make it obvious if you are speaking for yourself and not as part of your professional role.

    In particular, any advocacy or activism that is not done on behalf of your institution should be done on your personal time, on your personal email account and personal devices, and without using your work affiliation (if possible). If you must state your title or employer for identification purposes, clarify that you do not speak on behalf of your institution. This will help to prevent any allegations of misuse of grant funding for non-grant related purposes, and help avoid allegations of employment violations.

  2. Know your rights.

    In general, the First Amendment limits the government’s ability to suppress speech. It protects public employees who speak (i) in their private capacities, (ii) on their own time, (iii) about matters that concern the public, against improper censure by the government; it does not constrain private employers from disciplining employees for their public speech. (Public employees include federal agency workers, public university professors, and sometimes others who receive government funding.)

    To better understand your legal rights, and legal obligations, please visit the resources section of our website, which has a variety of educational materials for scientists. If you would like printed copies of these resources, we’ll have some available at booth 1047 in the AGU Exhibit Hall.

  3. Call CSLDF if you have a legal question related to your work.

    Seek counsel if you’re worried you’re becoming the target of harassment or intimidation (including receiving a legal notice that seems politically motivated), or if you want to better understand the legal landscape as it relates to your work. Your institution likely retains legal counsel that you can contact, but it is important to remember that your institution’s counsel represents the institution’s legal interests, which may differ from your own.

    You can always contact CSLDF, where our mission is to provide free legal counsel to scientists targeted as a result of their work. Call us at (646) 801-0853 or email lawyer@csldf.org.

We look forward to seeing many RealClimate readers at our AGU sessions and booth, and thank you for your continued support of our work.

78 Responses to “Scientists: Resolve to Protect Yourself from Harassment in 2019”

  1. 51
    Keith Woollard says:

    You know Ray, the beauty of science is that I can say “I don’t know but it will be great to find out”
    It isn’t saying “I don’t know therefore it can’t happen”

    We already know that we have not modelled water vapour or clouds at all well, and their effect is two to three times that of CO2. We have absolutely no real planetwide history of their concentration over the last 20 years, let alone 150 years. I also think it is fair to say that we do not fully understand how the sun’s effect on the magnetosphere affects our climate.

    The simple answer to your question is that there are many ways, just ask Mars

  2. 52
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith Woolard: Y’ou know Ray, the beauty of science is that I can say “I don’t know but it will be great to find out”’

    Except you aren’t trying to find out. You are throwing a bunch of shit against the wall to see if any of it sticks. Is that really the best you can do? Really?

    So, let’s see why you are wrong, shall we?

    Your first candidate: water vapor. You seem to be suggesting that the laws of physics have changed and that somehow the Clausius-Clapeyron equation no longer holds. Funny, I must have missed that paper in…what journal was it? Science? Nature? JGR? Because the only place I’ve come across such a suggestion is among the innumerati frequenting climate crank blogs. And another mystery, given that water stays in the atmosphere only in a timescale of weeks and doesn’t even have time to mix well with the other constituent gasses of the atmosphere, how does it sustain a global, 40-year warming trend?

    Cloud cover? Contrary to your suggestion, we have modeled clouds well enough to know that it cannot explain the trends. And then there is the mystery of why it would change all of a sudden and why the effect would be global and persist over 40 years. Any suggestions? Anyone? Beuhler?

    The sun influencing the geomagnetic field? Now here you are just being silly. You don’t even have a mechanism in mind?

    Seriously, dude, up your game.

  3. 53
    nigelj says:

    The most obvious effect of the sun is solar irradiance, and the recent evidence doesnt support the recent warming trend. Trying to find obscure alternative mechanisms of very dubious merit like magnetic fluxes looks a bit like it violates Occams Razor. Why look for complicated dubious explanations when we have proven and simple ones. Past periods of climate change do correlate with sunspot cycles, so are explained quite well without having to invoke dubious things.

    Is it not possible to get an even better understanding of clouds by building a huge enclosure and generating small clouds etc? You could try to duplicate the earth as much as possible.

    I do quite well for a layperson. Just imagine if I had a physics degree.

  4. 54
    Keith Woollard says:

    I am not trying to unify gravity either Ray, but I watch with bated breath.

    I will completely ignore your paragraph “Your first…” utter rubbish. I had no idea that humidity was just a function of temperature. Strange because where I live the humidity (both RH and AH) can vary by several orders of magnitude in a matter of hours. Obviously I was wrong

    And I am glad you are comfortable with the modelling of clouds because the IPCC isn’t “Climate models now include more cloud and aerosol processes, and their interactions, than at the time of the AR4, but there remains low confidence in the representation and quantification of these processes in models.” The IPCC has them as a net negative since pre-industrial. I just find it odd that the biggest GH effect is so poorly understood

  5. 55

    #54, KW–

    Strange because where I live the humidity (both RH and AH) can vary by several orders of magnitude in a matter of hours.

    “Several orders of magnitude” brings up a metrology issue, but leaving that aside, I’d say you just made Ray’s argument for him.

  6. 56
    nigelj says:

    KW @54, I would have thought local variations in RH are due to the passage of saturated air masses, so weather not climate.

  7. 57
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith Woolard: “Strange because where I live the humidity (both RH and AH) can vary by several orders of magnitude in a matter of hours.”

    Orders of magnitude? Really?

    And while I agree that water vapor content of the atmosphere is variable–on long-term timescales, the ones that count, it doesn’t. Nor is there any suggestion that relative humidity is varying anything like the drastic amount you’d need to explain the warming.

    And then there’s the fact that if the warming we are seeing is not due to CO2, you have to come up with an explanation for why CO2 stops warming the planet at concentrations above 280 ppmv.

    So, on the one hand, we have a self-consistent, detailed theory with many confirmed predictions under its belt. And on the other, we have you and the other denialati saying, “Well, it could be something else.” Let me know how it goes getting that one published in Nature.

  8. 58
    Keith Woollard says:

    “several” may be a stretch but 2 certainly happens in an extremely dry environment (sorry)

    “And while I agree that water vapor content of the atmosphere is variable–on long-term timescales, the ones that count, it doesn’t.” based on what? Back to my #51 statement. In fact to have a positive feedback from water vapour, it must increase over time

    Here is a nice simple mathematical exercise for you (I did it so it can’t be hard) Go and grab the CET data since 1880 when they had min/max for every day. Graph the diurnal range as a function of time. There has been a 0.28 degree/century increase. There could be lots of reasons for this. One is UHI, but that would have the reverse sign. Another could be cloudiness. Clouds reduce diurnal range so this COULD be indicating reduced clouds. This is only one dataset from one spot (well area really) on the earth but it does show a trend.
    What I am saying is that the earths climate is thousands of times more complicated than we are modelling and certainly no place for Occam’s razor

  9. 59
    nigelj says:

    Keith Woolard @58,

    “What I am saying is that the earths climate is thousands of times more complicated than we are modelling and certainly no place for Occam’s razor”

    Have you ever looked at a climate model? I downloaded a research paper on one out of curiosity. These guys (and gals) have thought of literally everything that affects climate. I don’t know most of the equations and how they are derived, but I certainly understand what they are attempting to do and include in the model!

    You are looking at 100 pages of equations. They have simply not missed anything, not of significance. The areas of specific uncertainty are meticulously analysed and documented.

    The claim that climate is too complex to understand, so we aren’t in a position to reach any conclusions is typical denier clap trap

    You are right the effect of clouds is uncertain to some extent, but the consensus is they are either mildly positive or mildly negative, so the range is at least constrained to that, and neither position would lead to low climate sensitivity. That’s what count’s.

    I also think you confuse clouds with water vapour. The effects of the later on warming are actually reasonably well calculated while the former are more challenging because they modulate the balance between the greenhouse effect and greater or less reflectivity and empirical data on what is changing with clouds is not great.

    Changes we have observed with diurnal range of temperature are exactly what you would expect from an increasing greenhouse effect, so I don’t see why you invoke alternative mechanisms. Nights warm faster than days because of the increased greenhouse effect at night and the layering effect of CO2 changing and compressing at nights.

    I dont think you can pick and choose what theory you apply Occams Razor to. Its applicable to any science by definition.

  10. 60
    Keith Woollard says:

    Nigelj, I’ll keep this brief as you got most things wrong.
    I understand models and their limitations
    I never claim the climate is too complex to understand
    I don’t care which way you claim clouds feedback, just that we don’t have any global, long term data
    I am not confusing clouds and water vapour
    And finally you have described a reduction in diurnal range, my example gave an increase

  11. 61
    nigelj says:

    Keith Woolard @60

    Well I don’t think I got most things wrong.

    I also said we don’t have much long term data on clouds, so I’m not sure how Im wrong there.

    Not sure what you are getting at with diurnal range. I thought I was describing an increase.

    “What I am saying is that the earths climate is thousands of times more complicated than we are modelling ”

    Try it another way. Where is you evidence the climate is thousands of times more complicated than the models? The models include hundreds of processes that drive the climate. I know enough to know they have thought of everything conceivable. There are areas of uncertatainty about some of the processes, but that does not make the climate thousands of times more complicated…

  12. 62
    jb says:

    Ray at 57, nigelj at 56, 59, KW at 58, 60 and anyone else:

    I don’t want to get involved in this argument, but I would like to ask if any of you have citations (or at least titles) for recent literature (peer reviewed articles) on the effect of water vapor and clouds on climate.

  13. 63
    Al Bundy says:

    Keith W: This is only one dataset from one spot (well area really) on the earth but

    AB: but you decided to not do the logical thing, which would be to widen your search by including other datasets, especially since the best datasets are recent and the fastest increase in temperature is recent. Why?

  14. 64
    nigelj says:

    JB, no, but skepticalscience.com prints a list of the latest climate research once weekly on their website. Easy to find on their home page in the list of articles.

  15. 65
    Ray Ladbury says:

    jb,
    Recent citations? For something that has been basically worked out for 30 years? The IPCC provides a pretty good treatment of the state of the art. I’d start there.

    Do we understand water vapor feedback? Yes, very well.

    Do we understand clouds? Not as well–clouds are a more complicated feedback, contributing both positive and negative terms. However, it strains credulity that clouds could change the picture enough to revolutionize our understanding of Earth’s climate at this point.

    Keith Woolard,
    Here’s the thing. There is a very good model of Earth’s climate. If you want to overturn it, come up with a better model. Your harping continually that, “Well, it could be something else,” is not merely unscientific. It is anti-scientific, because neither you nor any of the other denialati follow up on any ideas you might have. The question is: Can you? Do you have the ability? Is what you are proposing even possible, given the advanced state of our current understanding of the planet’s climate?

  16. 66
    Romain says:

    Ray Ladbury,

    The knight of the truth against the evil (and stupid) « denialati »…
    Look, I cannot propose a better model than the ones used by astrologers. So I cannot call them out for BS??
    I cannot propose a better weather forecast model so I cannot be sceptical in front of a 20 days forecast???
    Ludicrous!
    « However, it strains credulity that clouds could change the picture enough to revolutionize our understanding of Earth’s climate at this point. »
    Saying that CO2 might not be so influent on climate after all is not exactly a revolution. This is just a tiny correction. That will not change our general understanding of the climate…

    Nigelj,
    So they have 100 pages of documented equations. And they should. It IS complex. Because you are impressed they must be right? Now THAT is an argument…

  17. 67
    nigelj says:

    Romain @66,

    “So they have 100 pages of documented equations. And they should. It IS complex. Because you are impressed they must be right? Now THAT is an argument…”

    That is not the argument I put, so you are shoving words in my mouth. Once again, if you look through those equations, you see how many things they have included in climate models, namely a vast range of physical and biological processes, even things that clearly have a minor impact, certainly everything one would expect to be included, so its absurd when some people say that climate models haven’t considered anything near the total complexity of the climate (ie the forces that influence it).

    The rest of your comments are sophistry.

  18. 68
    Al Bundy says:

    Nigel: Try it another way. Where is you evidence the climate is thousands of times more complicated than the models? The models include hundreds of processes that drive the climate.

    AB: Nature is fractal. There will always be thousands of times more going on than any model can reproduce, simply because a model that was 1/10,000 the computational size of the actual planet would fit his gripe. But the first approximation, one that has held up for well over a century, is that CO2 heats the planet somewhere around 3C per doubling. Scientists are to the point that the biggest unknowns are carbon and ice tipping points. Yeah, clouds could nudge the number a bit, but tipping points can multiply. And since tipping points CAN’T have a positive effect, the uncertainty skews severely and long-tailedly towards catastrophic results.

  19. 69
    nigelj says:

    Romain @66, you provide no proof anything is wrong with the models. You are all empty rhetoric and hot air, probably dimissing the science because it upsets you for some reason.

    Don’t bother posting a whole lot of pseudo science. If you have some real point to make, you would already have published something in a journal. Have you?

  20. 70
    Keith Woollard says:

    Al @63 and 68 – sorry for not replying to your 63. I took the longest record available, I have a job and trying to pay the bills, I was just pointing out the obvious (to me at least) I had actually looked at the figures for Perth where I live but the downloadable data only had monthly averages rather than daily ones. Also for the first 100 years of that record the station was in the middle of a rapidly growing city, and then it moved to a parkland. Sydney has the same issue except they built a freeway around the station.
    and regarding your 68 – no, the warming from a doubling of CO2 is 1K to get to 3 you need models and feedbacks

  21. 71
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Romain
    Really? You cannot propose a better model than astrology? How about random chance? And you really cannot think of a way to test predictions of a weather forecast against random chance?

    Saying CO2 is less of an influence a tiny change? Remove all the CO2 from the atmosphere and watch Earth freeze.

    Are you really that abysmally stupid or was this merely a lame and ineffective attempt at sophistry?

    Be skeptical all you want. Just don’t call your ignorance-based skepticism scientific.

  22. 72

    #66, Romain–

    Actually, the purported ‘demotion’ of CO2 you suggest would be a “revolution” (could it happen). As Ray has already said, without CO2, the planet would freeze. Or so says our current “general understanding of climate.”

  23. 73
    Keith Woollard says:

    I am going to re-write my #90 – it was a little garbled.

    Al, as a bit of a re-cap, Nigelj said the sun can have no impact on the current warming because temperatures are going up and TSI is going down. I simply pointed out that there are many possibilities and wedon’t have all the historical data we would need to fully understand all the interactions. Ray then said that there was no trend in cloudiness, a very bold statement directly at odds with the IPCC. All I did was provide a simple way of looking at one dataset that could show there is a trend. I am not proposing a new climate model, I am not saying that CO2 has no influence. However it would be a very brave scientist that thinks the models are accurate enough in their present form.

    All I have done is point out demonstrably false statements made by commenters

  24. 74
    Al Bundy says:

    Keith,

    Thanks for your honesty and attitude. refreshing.

    The problem can be illustrated with an old word problem that’s given to school kids. You are in a two-lap race and you want to average 60MPH. The first lap doesn’t go so well. You average 30MPH. How fast must you go to complete the race on time?

    The expected answer is 90MPH. Newton’s answer is that you’ve used up all your time so there’s no way to finish on time. Einstein says to hook your wagon to a photon.

    You’re stuck at the expected answer stage. You see, all that wiggle room you are insisting must be there, and it is, has already been used up. Yep, humanity will never know ever so much. But we DO know that if you flip a coin 10,000 times you will NOT get all heads. But but but but it’s possible!!!!!

    Yeah, but it’s possible to drop a pen and have it fall through the floor. One type of Magical thinking is the belief that the technically possible is actually possible. The Secret is that “the possible” is caveated with “if you drop the pen repeatedly from now until bazillions of bazillions of bazillions of universes have lived and died”.

    In science “It’s possible” has very little to do with what’s ever gonna happen in this universe. 99.99999999999999999999… and so on percent of possible things will NEVER happen.

  25. 75
    Al Bundy says:

    70 Keith: I had actually looked at the figures for Perth where I live but the downloadable data only had monthly averages rather than daily ones. Also for the first 100 years of that record the station was in the middle of a rapidly growing city, and then it moved to a parkland. Sydney has the same issue except they built a freeway around the station.
    and regarding your 68 – no, the warming from a doubling of CO2 is 1K to get to 3 you need models and feedbacks

    AB: You’re re-inventing the wheel. A standard check is to run stuff with only “solid gold” stations and compare it to stuff with issues. They twist and turn the data every which way so as to find the stuff you’re describing and adjust things to compensate. The key is that they are NOT motivated by “winning the argument” you are having with them. They’ve moved on…. decades ago. Climate scientists, nearly all scientists are motivated more by what happens in the future than what happens today — and I’m not talking about climate but reputation. Give a scientist a choice: You can be wrong and you will be exposed as completely wrong in 30 years as you lie in your deathbed. But until that time you will be honored. Your projects will be funded. You will get tenure.

    ____OR_____

    You can be right and you will be exposed as completely right in 30 years as you lie in your deathbed. But until that time you will be ridiculed. Your projects will not be funded. You will not get tenure.

    So, guess which future a Scientist would choose.

  26. 76
    Al Bundy says:

    Keith,

    Yeah, they figured in water vapor feedback back in the 1800s. I haven’t delved deeper than what is said here, but 3C per doubling AFTER ALL IS SAID AND DONE —- except long term effects —- has not changed in over 100 years. So quibble about whatever, the number hasn’t changed. My definition could be off. Yours could. BUT THE NUMBER, LINKED TIGHTLY TO THE CORRECT DEFINITION, HAS NOT CHANGED IN A CENTURY.

    Do you disagree with any of that? I mean, seriously, debate stuff that MATTERS.

  27. 77
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Keith Woolard: ” I am not proposing a new climate model, I am not saying that CO2 has no influence.”

    No. Given that you don’t have the courage to accept the science, I wouldn’t expect you to stick your neck out and produce anything useful, either.

    Keith: “However it would be a very brave scientist that thinks the models are accurate enough in their present form.”

    Accurate enough? For what purpose? They are certainly accurate enough to confidently predict that further greenhouse emissions will result in more warming, more impulsive rainfall events, etc.

  28. 78
    nigelj says:

    Keith Wollard @ 73

    “Al, as a bit of a re-cap, Nigelj said the sun can have no impact on the current warming because temperatures are going up and TSI is going down. I simply pointed out that there are many possibilities and wedon’t have all the historical data we would need to fully understand all the interactions.”

    I look at it this way. The sun is a giant nuclear reaction generating heat and light and we know its energy output fluctuates a little over time, with higher sunspot activity indicating more heat energy hitting the earth. Currently over the last 3 decades the sun has been in a slight cooling phase of lower sunspot activity, so its direct energy output cannot explain the recent warming trend. These fluctuations tend to have a fairly rapid effect on temperatures, no huge delays.

    Climate records going back several hundred years show a good correlation of sunspot numbers and global climate change. There are no periods or warming in hundreds of years that cannot be explained by sunspot numbers and / or CO2 from natural sinks of various kinds.

    What you are appearing to say is there might be some other solar mechanism we are not aware of, driving global warming, and ok fair to postulate this. One known alternative mechanism is the cosmic ray effect, but this doesnt explain the current warming trend either, on pretty solid evidence. It is a weak effect at best. I have seen other speculative ideas about sunspots, and magnetic forces but they are fantasy theories without convincing mechanisms and correlations.

    I mean how long to we keep looking for something that is very unlikely to exist?

    We have a good mechanism with sunspots and solar irradiance. Occams razor says look at the simplest explanation as the most likely answer, the explanation that requires the least speculation and assumptions. and we have the known change in solar irradiance and the greenhouse theory that explains things. The mechanisms you think might exist require a lot of assumptions and speculation so risk violating occams razor.

    Its also impossible to see how any form of magnetic or similar idea would explain the sort of changes seen for example nights warming more than days, something easily explained by the greenhouse effect.

    Time is not on our side because, we either act soon to mitigate climate change or we are in huge trouble. We don’t have any more time to speculate about hidden, mysterious and unlikely solar influences. You are basically GAMBLING on something with a very low towards zero probability.