We have seen a wave of anti-climate change hysteria in the last few months – coinciding with the stealing of emails from the East Anglia Climate Centre and the UN Copenhagen Conference. Posts and comments on internet blogs and forums have been particularly extreme. And for many scientists, who usually don’t have to involve themselves in such irrational debates, the hostility, even hatred, towards scientists and scientific finding has been somewhat of a shock.
We are so used to debating, even emotionally debating, evidence – not personalities. But in this global debate personalities have been demonised and defamed. Mud is being thrown – and of course mud has the problem that it sometimes sticks. While most of this hysteria has been coming from the usual conspiracy theorists and conservative political activists many of the non-aligned public may be left with the feeling that there is something wrong in the scientific community. Or that scientific findings should not be easily accepted, perhaps they should even be rejected because they are scientific. Science itself is being demonised.
It’s an ongoing battle, I guess. These sorts of conflicts are inevitable and just have to be fought out.
Local conspiracy theorists
Our local conspiracy theorist, conservative Christian activist Ian Wishart, is again promoting personal attacks on a New Zealand scientist. In his article NZ scientist at centre of Pachauri allegations refuses to talk, Wishart, together with a UK conspiracy theorist group, EU Referendum, is accusing Andy Reisinger* of involvement in money laundering (see Pachauri: money laundering? Part II – by Richard…). Wisharts links with overseas conservative groups are enabling this story to be spread more widely. For example American Thinker (sic) and UD/RK SamhÃ¤lls Debatt are repeating it in their posts When it comes to the IPCC, follow the money – if you can and Climate Gate — All the manipulations and lies revealed 219 . (For some strange reason EU Referendum and UD/RK SamhÃ¤lls Debatt attribute an Open Parachute post to Andy Reisinger – I would love to get hold of the emails between Ian Wishart and these groups).
This, of course, parallels the articles Ian Wishart ran last November/December attacking our scientists at NIWA. This started with his peddling of the discredited (see New Zealand’s denier-gate and New Zealand’s climate change deniers’ distortions exposed) report (Are we feeling warmer yet?) written by Richard Treadgold for local climate change denial groups. Overseas conservative blogs and newspapers repeated Wishart’s biased reporting, further demonising our local scientists. Despite the basic flaws in the report Wishart and local conservative bloggers persisted with their attacks and displayed some of the lynch mob mentality towards science and scientists locally. See for example:
I confess I now believe in manmade Global Warming; Three Questions for NIWA; Auckland Public Meeting: Climategate, NIWA and the ETS; NIWA, Climategate and Evasive Fallacious Answers; The NIWA Emails; NIWA ClimateGate link hits MSM in NZ [Update 3]; Climategate — How the scientific community is responding; Climate scientists caught lying; New Zealand not warming?; CLIMATEGATE — A better study than NIWA, by an 11 year old! and Kid and his dad: 1, Global Warming: 0.
There have been a number of good blog articles internationally putting the whole UK email issue into its correct perspective. I think this does demonstrate the importance of science blogging because only good science communicators can really do this job. Particularly as science journalism is a dying profession.
Its worth reading a couple of articles written by scientists who have been targets for the internet lynch mob. Micheal Mann, particularly vilified for his working on global temperature changes over time, was one of the email writers. His article Climate expert in the eye of an integrity storm from the Philadelphia Inquirer explains the phrases used in the emails and his opinion of the attack. And another email author Kevin Trenberth makes some brief comments in The truth about carbon dioxide, climate and the weather.
*By the way Andy Reisinger is a senior research fellow with the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University of Wellington. He has worked in climate change science and policy as a research scientist and senior policy adviser on climate change to the New Zealand government. From 2006 to 2008, he was responsible for managing the production of the Synthesis Report of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He is author of the book Climate Change 101 (see A good climate change book) and blogs at Sciblogs NZ (Degrees of Change).
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