Climatge scientists: blood on their hands?

The climate change debate can certainly be ugly, with both sides throwing mud and attempting to discredit the “opposition” with wild accusations. Constructive dialogue between the two sides seems to be receding even further into the distance.

There have been some really low ball attempts to discredit scientists during over the years, but I think the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt has managed to reduce the quality of the debate even further.

Turning the climate change debate into a “law and order” issue?

Perhaps one of the most disingenuous attempts to smear the reputation of a prominent climate scientist can be seen in one of the recent posts by Bolt on his blog.

In commentating on East Anglia’s Phil Jones appearance before a British parliamentary committee (regarding the CRU hacked emails) Bolt makes reference to his “light treatment” and contrasts that with a tragic-murder suicide in Argentina. The original story was reported in the UK’s Telegraph, and was a brief piece of reporting with sketchy details:

Baby survives parents’ global warming suicide pact

The Telegraph 1 March 2010

Francisco Lotero, 56, and Miriam Coletti, 23, shot their daughter and her toddler brother before killing themselves.

However, their unnamed daughter cheated death after the bullet from her father’s handgun missed her vital organs.

Police were alerted by worried neighbours who discovered the massacre three days after the shooting and the girl was taken to hospital.

The youngster is recovering in hospital in the town of Goya in the northern Argentine province of Corrientes, where doctors say she is out of danger.

Her parents said they feared the effects of global warming in a suicide note discovered by police.

I think anyone with any insight in to the issue would understand that suicide is actually a mental health issue, and nothing to do with climate science.

However, as far as Bolt is concerned this tragedy is simply grist for the mill. Here is the full post from Andrew Bolt:

Climate balmy for Jones

Andrew Bolt
Tuesday, March 02, 2010 at 08:33am

Even Fred Pearce of the New Scientist is astonished by how gently Climategate ringleader Phil Jones was questioned by a parliamentary inquiry:


Jones did his best to persuade the Commons science and technology committee that all was well in the house of climate science. If they didn’t quite believe him, they didn’t have the heart to press the point…

Jones’s general defence was that anything people didn’t like – the strong-arm tactics to silence critics, the cold-shouldering of freedom of information requests, the economy with data sharing – were all “standard practice” among climate scientists…

And he seemed to be right. The most startling observation came when he was asked how often scientists reviewing his papers for probity before publication asked to see details of his raw data, methodology and computer codes. “They’ve never asked,” he said.

He gave a little ground, and it was the only time the smile left the face of the vice-chancellor, Edward Acton: “I’ve written some awful emails,” Jones admitted. Nobody asked if, as claimed by British climate sceptic Doug Keenan, he had for two decades suppressed evidence of the unreliability of key temperature data from China.

But for the first time he did concede publicly that when he tried to repeat the 1990 study in 2008, he came up with radically different findings. Or, as he put it, “a slightly different conclusion”. Fully 40% of warming there in the past 60 years was due to urban influences. “It’s something we need to consider,” he said.


This sweet concern to be nice to Jones is at odds with the insane fears he so recklessly stoked:

A seven-month-old girl survived for three days alone with a bullet in her chest after being shot by her parents as part of a suicide pact over their fears about global warming.

Francisco Lotero, 56, and Miriam Coletti, 23, shot their daughter and her toddler brother before killing themselves.

Their son Francisco, two, died instantly after being hit in the back…

Her parents said they feared the effects of global warming in a suicide note discovered by police.

Bolt’s intent is clear: he alludes that Phil Jones is receiving “light treatment”, despite the magnitude of his “crimes”. He then contrasts with the “suffering of his victims”. The forum commentators easily make the connection, linking Jones to these deaths and calling for his prosecution.

As a piece of propoganda it’s effective, if somewhat crude. It’s a shameless attempt to turn climate science into a law-and-order debate.

Blood on their hands?

It’s a very long stretch to link Jones to these appalling events, and it’s an even longer stretch to somehow connect this tragedy to climate science.

Can we really believe that climate scientists have blood on their hands?

Other anti-science movements frequently use the same tactic. Perhaps the best example I can think of is the creationist attempt to link the Darwin’s theory of evolution with Hitler and the holocaust. Again, there is no actual link, however it does not stop the creationist movement from attempting to tar Darwin and science with the the Nazi/Hitler brush.

We can easily see how Bolt’s blog post is utilises a similar tactic: his intent is to discredit the reputation of not only Jones but the entire science behind climate change with this facetious link to these tragic deaths.


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