Facing an onslaught of anti-science culture warriors (see accompanying story), 700 scientists from the American Geophysical Union have announced they will fight back.
Hard on the heels of the GOP victory in Congressional elections, scientists now say they can no longer avoid politics and the media.
“This group feels strongly that science and politics can’t be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists,” Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York, told the LA Times.
“We are taking the fight to them because we are … tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed.”
Scientists are even more blunt in private. The conservative Washington Times published private emails from climate scientists like this one from Paul R. Ehrlich, a Stanford University researcher:
“Most of our colleagues don’t seem to grasp that we’re not in a gentlepersons’ debate, we’re in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules.”
What are they up against? Blatant bullshit spewed as fact, and nobody to call the deniers on it. In the same story, the LA Time’s also quoted James M. Taylor, a “senior fellow and a specialist in global warming” at the conservative Heartland Institute in Chicago:
“People who ask for and accept taxpayer dollars shouldn’t get bent out of shape when asked to account for the money. The budget is spiraling out of control while government is handing out billions of dollars in grants to climate scientists, many of whom are unabashed activists.”
But the LA Times didn’t call him on the ludicrous idea that “billions of dollars” were being given to climate scientists. While billions in research money are being given for alternative fuels like solar and wind power, grants for climate research are orders of magnitude smaller.
Just the facts, m’am
One element that is now up and running: a Climate Q & A service that allows reporters to quickly check scientific information (but not, alas, policy or political info – reporters are still on their own when it comes to that).
“AGU’s climate science Q&A service addresses scientific questions only. It does not involve any commentary on policy,” the AGU’s Peter Weiss told The Guardian (UK). “There is no campaign by AGU against climate sceptics or congressional conservatives.”
A “rapid-reponse” team is also being organized by John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota. There are plenty of climate change skeptics making the rounds of talk shows and cable news, but until now there was no organized effort to rebut them or get the truth out there.
“We have assembled a group of world-class climate scientists who are able to field questions on virtually any topic of climate change. Our goal is not to be a partisan group, our goal is to focus on communicating the science,” wrote Abraham in an e-mail to ScienceInsider. “Some people have wondered if this effort is in response to the elections. The answer is, categorically, no.”
“Our goal is not to become partisan. But if we are going to respond to denialists’ claims which are unfounded in science then perhaps we are going to be viewed as going toe-to-toe with critics,” he said.
In an op/ed for the Guardian, Abraham adds, “We are both scientists and human beings. As scientists, we need to find ways to communicate accurate scientific information to a wider audience in a way that is policy-neutral. As humans, we are concerned not only for ourselves, but also for our children and for people in the world who don’t have the necessary resources to adapt to the coming change. As a human, I have an obligation to speak up for them.”
(300 image copyright 2006 Warner Brothers Pictures)