Great news: climate scientists have decided they no longer will tolerate truth-besmirching, anti-science, fossil fuel industry-supported global warming deniers.
Unfortunately, the campaign to bring more facts and less irrationality into policy debates isn't quite as aggressive as the LA Times story said (which was reprinted in the Portland Oregonian, where I read it this morning).
Faced with rising political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control of the House in Tuesday's election.
On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.
My wife and I thought that sounded great. And I'm confident that the reporter who wrote the story actually did talk with scientists who are eager to go toe-to-toe with the many crazies in Congress who ignore solid research in favor of their own right-wing dogmatism.
However, the American Geophysical Union issued a press release saying that they aren't campaigning against climate change skeptics or congressional conservatives. They just want to provide accurate answers to questions from journalists about climate science.
Well, that's better than nothing. More encouraging, because more aggressive, is a separate effort by John Abraham that's also mentioned in the LA Times story.
John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a "climate rapid response team," which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.
"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," said Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk CountyCommunity College in New York.
"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."
A distressingly large percentage of so-called conservatives in the United States aren't interested in conserving. Nor, in reality. This is exceedingly dangerous to the nation's health, along with the world's.
It's an only in America thing.
Conservatives in Britain recognize the serious threat global warming poses. For some reason -- likely our excess of fundamentalist religiosity -- lots of people in the United States are afraid of truths revealed by science.
This morning I read a chapter in Bruce Hood's "Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable" called Who Created Creationism? Hood says:
The problem is that the majority of U.S. adults believe that a supreme being, namely God, guided the origin and diversity of life on earth. They believe that in the beginning God created earth and all its life forms and that there has been no significant change since that day.
...The reason this is a problem is that it highlights a paradox of modern America. The United States is one of the most scientifically and technologically advanced nations on the planet.
...Yet less than half of the U.S. population accepts a comprehensive scientific theory that explains the origins and diversity of life on earth. When it comes to the general public's acceptance of Darwin's theory of natural selection, the United States is second from the bottom of the list of the top thirty-four industrialized nations.
This helps explain why facts about global climate change are met with a similar head-in-the-sand attitude by a large proportion of both the American citizeny and their elected officials.
They don't trust science because it is viewed as threatening their religious beliefs. I can sort of understand this fear when it comes to evolution (though God could have used natural selection as His means of creating us Homo sapiens).
But it's difficult to see how climate change research undermines anyone's faith-based beliefs. Apparently a mistrust of science is so pervasive among fundamentalist folks, it carries over to scientific facts that have nothing to do with God.
Whatever the reason, the rest of us reality-loving citizens have to take a stand against global warming deniers.
Like Abraham said, it isn't enough to present factual truths. When someone has his or her head in the sand, they can't hear what you're saying if you speak normally. You've got to raise the volume, matching their obtuseness with your assertiveness.
Abraham recognizes that scientists have a duty to stand up for our children, grandchildren, and irreplaceable planet.
On the other hand, the general public and members of government are split on this issue. Half are concerned about global warming, half are not. Why is that? A major reason is that there is a great deal of bad information which typically germinates in the blogosphere and is created by people with little or no real expertise.
We know that solving this problem will require real effort. We are on a path to cause real destruction to our planet and even if we were only interested in self-preservation we should take action.
We are also not naive in recognising that there is a political aspect to this. It is well known, at least in the United States, that conservatives tend to be much more sceptical about climate change than liberals. We need to move beyond partisanship toward co-operation. Conservatives care about the environment too and there have been many who have made comments about the need to act on climate change. History will look unkindly on those who have stood in the way of saving the planet, which will be an enormous political liability – although by then it will be too late to fix things.
The timing of these campaigns was not linked to the recent elections in the US. The American Geophysical Union's effort coincides with the Cancún climate conference, a timing that is primarily motivated by a recognition that scientists have an obligation to defend the science and engage with the public.
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.
It is a shame that scientists have to take personal and professional risks in order to be good citizens of the planet. It doesn't have to be this way.
Here's an extensive slide presentation by Abraham where he debunks a presentation by Christopher Monckton, a noted global warming denier who screws up the science big time.
And the link below leads to a report where Abraham and others respond to Monckton's erroneous testimony this year before a congressional committee dealing with climate change.
Download Response to Monckton
Briefly, Mr. Monckton makes a number of scientific assertions about (1) the efficacy of warming from CO2, (2) the benefits of elevated CO2, (3) the relationship between CO2 and ocean acidification, (4) recent global temperature trends, (5) and the sensitivity of the climate to CO2. He has also claimed that (6) there is no need to take quick action to address the changing climate. In all cases, Mr. Monckton’s assertions are shown to be without merit – they are based on a thorough misunderstanding of the science of climate change.
We believe the responses contained here strongly refute the statements made by Mr. Monckton. It is our hope that this document will be of use to members of Congress and their staffs as further hearings and debates on climate change and energy policy take place. We would be pleased to respond to any inquiries and offer necessary clarifications.