WaPo: Climate Schemers 'Under Attack' By Skeptics Who Dare to Question

November 23rd, 2009 2:58 PM
The release of internal emails from Britain's University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit shows scientists plotting to ostracize and marginalize other researchers who question their assumptions on anthropogenic global warming. Yet the Washington Post finds that such a strategy is but a natural reaction to attacks on these scientists by climate skeptics.

The Post characterizes the CRU, and the larger circle of scientists pushing the global warming theory, as "an intellectual circle that appears to feel very much under attack." Readers must be forgiven for their confusion about who exactly is being attacked, as the Post goes on to detail CRU communications calling for a boycott of academic journals that publish articles critical of the supposed "consensus" on global warming. (Noel Sheppard reported on these and other incendiary statements in a Friday post.)

"I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report," CRU director Phil Jones wrote of two skeptical academic works. "Kevin and I will keep them out somehow--even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"

"Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," wrote Penn State's Michael Mann, in reference to a journal that published works by climate skeptics. "I will be emailing the journal to tell them I'm having nothing more to do with it until they rid themselves of this troublesome editor," Jones replied.

So who exactly is being attacked? It seems from the Post's own coverage that it is the climate alarmists attacking the skeptics, not the other way around. In fact, the latter are doing what scientists do: present alternative views that must be disproved before they are cast aside. They are not attacking anyone, they are vigorously pursuing scientific truth. The CRU staff are the ones doing the attacking.

But the Post seems determined to portray the folks at CRU as victims of an ideological assault bent on ignoring the global consensus on human-induced global warming.
"It is incontrovertible" that the world is warming as a result of human actions, [Kevin] Trenberth said. "The question to me is what to do."

"It's certainly a legitimate question," he added. "Unfortunately one of the side effects of this is the messengers get attacked."

In his new book, "Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save the Earth's Climate," Stanford University climate scientist Stephen H. Schneider details the intense debate over warming, arguing that it has helped slow the nation's public policy response.

"I've been here on the ground, in the trenches, for my entire career," writes Schneider, who was copied on one of the controversial e-mails. "I'm still at it, and the battle, while looking more winnable these days, is still not a done deal."
This is the problem with approaching the issue as a win/lose scenario, rather than a quest to find scientific truth. The Post feeds into this unhealthy win/lose narrative. Since it has apparently picked sides, it is prone to seeing climate skeptics as "attacking" the CRU staff.

Were it to characterize debate as a healthy means of truth-seeking, the Post might conclude that skeptics were not attacking a consensus, but rather demonstrating that the consensus does not exist. If it did, there would be no skeptics. But the Post's chosen narrative--the one promoting the win/lose dichotomy--sees the CRU as trying to root out the hostile opponents of settled fact, not individuals posing legitimate arguments against the incontrovertibility of anthropogenic global warming.

The Post quotes Mann excusing the CRU emails as a form of "vigorous debate" among climate scientists. But debate about how to silence debate is antithetical to the scientific method. The Post has fed into this damaging characterization of the scientific discussion surrounding climate change by portraying those who would stifle reasoned dissent as victims of the skeptics' "attacks."