Spinning the Climate
Climate scientists must be absolutely honest about data | David Colquhoun | guardian.co.uk
If we want the public to continue to trust us as scientists, we must be absolutely open and never resort to spin or PR
It is no excuse, but it is perhaps a reason, for misconduct that the pressure to publish and produce results is now enormous in academia....Application of Thatcherite principles to science results in dishonesty, just as it does among bankers. That is what happens when science is run by people who don't do it.
It is not uncommon to read that science needs better PR. That is precisely not what is needed. PR exists to put only one side of the story, which makes it an essentially dishonest occupation. Its aims are the very opposite of those of science. The public aren't stupid: they often recognise when they are getting half the story.
It is particularly unfortunate that many universities have developed departments with names like "corporate communications".
The answer for climate science and indeed science in general has to be total openness. There is a growing trend for researchers in a variety of fields to place all original data and analysis methods openly on the web. That trend does not yet seem to have reached all of climate science yet, but it is the only way forward. Some people object to total openness on the grounds that the other side tells lies. In the case of climate change (and in the case of junk medicine too) that is undoubtedly true. The opponents are ruthlessly dishonest about facts. The only way to counter that is by being ruthlessly and visibly honest about what you know, and why.
Undaunted by a rash of scandals over the science underpinning climate change, top climate researchers are plotting to respond with what one scientist involved said needs to be "an outlandishly aggressively partisan approach" to gut the credibility of skeptics.
In private e-mails obtained by The Washington Times, climate scientists at the National Academy of Sciences say they are tired of "being treated like political pawns" and need to fight back in kind. Their strategy includes forming a nonprofit group to organize researchers and use their donations to challenge critics by running a back-page ad in the New York Times.
"Most of our colleagues don't seem to grasp that we're not in a gentlepersons' debate, we're in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules," Paul R. Ehrlich, a Stanford University researcher, said in one of the e-mails.
Sceptics are fighting a billion dollar industry aligned with a trillion dollar trading scheme. Big Oil's supposed evil influence has been vastly outdone by Big Government, and even those taxpayer billions are trumped by Big-Banking.
The big-money side of this debate has fostered a myth that sceptics write what they write because they are funded by oil profits. They say, follow the money? So I did and it's chilling. Greens and environmentalists need to be aware each time they smear with an ad hominem attack they are unwittingly helping giant finance houses.
The US government spent $79 billion on climate research and technology since 1989 - to be sure, this funding paid for things like satellites and studies, but it's 3,500 times as much as anything offered to sceptics. It buys a bandwagon of support, a repetitive rain of press releases, and includes PR departments of institutions like NOAA, NASA, the Climate Change Science Program and the Climate Change Technology Program. The $79 billion figure does not include money from other western governments, private industry, and is not adjusted for inflation. In other words, it could be…a lot bigger.
What the US Government has paid to one side of the scientific process pales in comparison with carbon trading. According to the World Bank, turnover of carbon trading reached $126 billion in 2008. PointCarbon estimates trading in 2009 was about $130 billion. This is turnover, not specifically profits, but each year the money market turnover eclipses the science funding over 20 years. Money Talks.
Unpaid sceptics are not just taking on scientists who conveniently secure grants and junkets for pursuing one theory, they also conflict with potential profits of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, and every other financial institution or corporation that stands to profit like the Chicago Climate Exchange, European Climate Exchange, PointCarbon, IdeaCarbon (and the list goes on… ) as well as against government bureaucracies like the IPCC and multiple departments of Climate Change.
Ultimately the atmosphere is what it is regardless of fiat currency movements. Some people will accuse me of smearing climate scientists and making the same ad hominem attacks I detest and protest about. So note carefully: I haven't said that the massive amount of funding received by promoters of the Carbon Catastrophe proves that they are wrong, just as the grassroots unpaid dedication of sceptics doesn't prove them right either. But the starkly lop-sided nature of the funding means we'd be fools not to pay very close attention to the evidence. It also shows how vapid the claims are from those who try to smear sceptics and who mistakenly think ad hominem arguments are worth making.