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Climate debate gets ugly as world moves to curb CO2

Posted by on Apr 26th, 2010 and filed under Climate Change. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Skeptics also accused the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of supporting flawed science after several errors in a major 2007 report surfaced.

The errors, including a reference to a non-peer reviewed study that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, represent a fraction of the conclusions in the report, the main climate policy guide for governments, which is based on the work of thousands of scientists.

The IPCC has defended its work and has ordered a review. Many governments, including the United States, Britain and Australia have also reiterated their faith in the IPCC.

For climate scientists, truth and trust are at stake.

“In general, the battle for public opinion is being lost,” said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. His emails were also hacked in the CRU incident.

“There is so much mis-information and so many polarized attitudes that one can not even hold a rational discussion or debate. The facts are certainly lost or glossed over in many cases. The media have been a bust.”

Schneider said the mainstream media had failed to do “its job of sorting out credible from non-credible and not giving all claimants of truth equal status at the bargaining table.”

Across the Internet, the climate science debate is being played out in a myriad of climate skeptic sites and blogs as well as sites defending the science of human-induced climate change.

One high-profile site is climatedepot.com, run by Marc Morano, a former aide to Republican Senator James Inhofe, who is an outspoken critic of climate change policies.

Morano, who told Reuters he had also been the target of abusive emails, has been quoted as saying that climate scientists should be publicly flogged.

“The global warming scientists need to feel and hear the public’s outrage at their shenanigans like “climategate” … There is no advocacy of violence or hint that people should threaten them,” Morano said, adding: “Public outrage is healthy.”

“THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES”

Another prominent climate change denialist, Christopher Monckton, who’s associated with the U.S.-based Science and Public Policy Institute, told Reuters he doesn’t condone the coordinated attack on climate scientists, saying that he, too, was a victim.

He said his main aim was to expose what he calls the “non-problem of global warming” and in an email interview with Reuters accused climate change scientists of being “increasingly desperate to discredit anyone who dares to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.”

Media commentators have added their voices, polarizing public opinion further. In the United States, conservative radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh said on the air last November that climate change was a massive hoax and that all climate scientists involved should be “named and fired, drawn and quartered, or whatever it is.”

In Australia, just as in the United States, the level of abuse also coincides with media appearances or the release of peer-reviewed scientific work on climate change.

“Each time I have a media profile in terms of media reports on scientific papers, major presentations, there is a flurry. So if I am on TV, or radio there ends up being a substantial increase,” said David Karoly of the University of Melbourne.

“One of the purposes for the attacks is either an intention to waste my time or to distract my attention essentially from communication about climate change science or even undertaking research, and it’s also perhaps intended to make me concerned about my visibility.”

ABSOLUTE PROOF

“We get emails to say we’re destroying the Australian economy, we get emails to say it will be our fault when no one in Australia can get a job. We get emails just basically accusing us of direct fraud and lying on the science,” said Andy Pitman, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“My personal reaction to them is personal recognition that this means we are a threat to the sorts of people who would be trying to prevent the finding of solutions to global warming.”

Pitman said a major problem was trying to satisfy demands for absolute proof of human-induced global warming.

“There is no proof in the context that they want it, that the earth goes around the sun. They are demanding a level of proof that doesn’t exist in science.

“And then they say when you can’t prove it to the extent that they want, then clearly that means there isn’t any evidence, which of course is a logical fallacy.”

Better communication about the science is key, scientists say, even if they complain that many Skeptics are reluctant to debate the science on a level playing field.

“One of the ways I describe it (the debate) is it’s very asymmetric,” said Roger Wakimoto, director of NCAR in Colorado.

“It’s very difficult to counter someone who just says ‘you’re wrong. I think this is a scam’. How do you respond to that? … They haven’t done any research, they haven’t spent years looking into the problem. This is why it’s asymmetric,” he said.

“We like to go into a scientific debate, show us you’re evidence and we’ll tell why we agree or disagree with you. But that’s not what the naysayers are doing,” Wakimoto added.

“We’ve never experienced this sort of thing before,” he said of the intense challenges to climate science and the level of email and Internet traffic.

All the climate change scientists with whom Reuters spoke said they were determined to continue their research despite the barrage of nasty emails and threats. Some expressed concern the argument could turn violent.

“My wife has made it very clear, if the threats become personalized, I cease to interact with the media. We have kids,” said one scientist who did not want to be identified.

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