One of the many podcasts I listen to is Point of inquiry, the “radio show” for the Centre for Inquiry a US based humanist/sceptical think tank. For years they have been producing brilliant podcasts exploring the evolution debate, philosophy, science, pseudo science and scepticism. Anyone with an interest in science or scepticism should add this one to their library of podcasts.
Recently host Chris Mooney had noted climatologist Michael Mann appear on the show to talk about the “unprecedented attacks” on climate science and scientists. Mann, to those not already familiar with him, is the scientist whose research produced the famous “hockey stick” graph demonstrating the reaility of global warming.
These are dark times not only for climate scientists but science as a whole. The effectiveness of the denial industry can’t be denied. Public opinion is shifting in the wrong direction. Since November 2009 deniers have been able to capitalise on the CRU stolen emails, minor errors in the IPCC report and receive an unprecedented free pass in the general media.
Several things in the interview with Mann are worth noting, as he directly answers some of the more absurd charges thrown at him personally and at climate science generally;
- The abuse of the stolen CRU emails and how they where effectively quote mined to call into question the motives of scientists
- The effectiveness of denial industry in harnessing the power of “new media” through blogs and online forums
- How the use of the term “trick” in one of the CRU emails was a commonly used term by scientists to describe a clever approach to problem solving, however this was cynically used by the deniers to imply deliberate deceit
Mann admits scientists need help
Mann also admits that scientists underestimated just how ferocious the attacks on science would be. Scientists are woefully ill-equipped to fight the hordes of PR professionals, lawyers and lobbyists employed by the denial industry. According to Mann they have had “decades” to perfect their machinary, while the scientists themselves lack the resources, time and ability to “fight” them in the political arena.
In Mann’s words scientists are “cub scouts” going up against “marines”.
Guess who will win?
Scientists, according to Mann, are trained to do one thing: science. They where naïve in believing that simply presenting the “facts” would convince most people that global warming was happening.
What was needed, in Mann’s opinion, was help from policy makers, NGO’s and concerned individuals in blunting their attacks.
I couldn’t agree more.
Climategate follow up: Mann cleared of wrong doing
It should be noted that following the release of the CRU emails into the public domain, Mann’s employer the University of Pennsylvania conducted an investigation into charges of manipulating data and fabricating evidence. Suffice to say, there was no evidence for this, despite the shrill claims from sceptics.