Sunday, November 05, 2006

Silencing the consensus

It begins.

Denialists are fighting back with gusto following the release of the Stern Review. This article in New Scientist details multiple attacks on individual scientists who support the consensus that current climate change is predominately caused by human activity.
Kevin Trenberth reckons he is a marked man. He has argued that last year's devastating Atlantic hurricane season, which spawned hurricane Katrina, was linked to global warming. For the many politicians and minority of scientists who insist there is no evidence for any such link, Trenberth's views are unacceptable and some have called for him step down from an international panel studying climate change. "The attacks on me are clearly designed to get me fired or to resign," says Trenberth.

The attacks fit a familiar pattern. Sceptics have also set their sights on scientists who have spoken out about the accelerating meltdown of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and the thawing of the planet's permafrost. These concerns will be addressed in the next report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global organisation created by the UN in 1988 to assess the risks of human-induced climate change. Every time one of these assessments is released, about once every five years, some of the American scientists who have played a part in producing it become the targets of concerted attacks apparently designed to bring down their reputations and careers. At stake is the credibility of scientists who fear our planet is hurtling towards disaster and want to warn the public in the US and beyond
Does this behaviour fit a pattern? Looks that way:
One of those who knows only too well what it is like to come under attack from climate change sceptics is Ben Santer of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California. The lead author of a chapter in the 1995 IPCC report that talked for the first time about the "discernible human influence on global climate", he was savaged by sceptics and accused of introducing this wording without consulting colleagues who had helped write the chapter. One sceptic called it the "most disturbing corruption of the peer-review process in 60 years". Another accused him of "scientific cleansing" - at a time when the phrase "ethnic cleansing" was synonymous with genocide in Bosnia. The IPCC investigated and dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Another scientist to suffer the ire of the sceptics was Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. He was attacked after the IPCC assessment in 2001, which highlighted his "hockey stick" graph showing that temperatures began a rapid rise in recent decades and are now higher than at any time over the past thousand years. The sceptics accused Mann of cherry-picking his data and criticised him for refusing to disclose his statistical methods which, they claimed, biased the study to show recent warming (New Scientist, 18 March, p 40). Last year, Texas Republican Congressman Joe Barton, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, ordered Mann to provide the committee with voluminous details of his working procedures, computer programs and past funding. Barton's demands were widely condemned by fellow scientists and on Capitol Hill. "There are people who believe that if they bring down Mike Mann, they can bring down the IPCC," sSanternter at the time. Mann's findings, which will be endorsed in the new IPCC report, have since been replicated by otstudies.The.

The article goes on to detail Pat Michael's activities as a paid shill, but that's old news.

By far the most worrying aspect of the article is the implication that US scientists working with the IPCC may be investigated and loose their job for doing so.
For the majority of climate scientists, who are convinced that global warming is a real and present danger, the most alarming outcome of this discord is that federal funding could be withdrawn from those who work on IPCC reports. Here Trenberth may find himself caught in the headlights. The US Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee under its chairman James Inhofe has begun investigating NCAR, Trenberth's employer. Inhofe has repeatedly written to NCAR and other agencies demanding details about financial and contractual arrangements with their employees and with federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF). In a letter to the NSF in February Inhofe said he needed the information to help him in "researching, analyzing and understanding the science of global climate change". Inhofe has a record of hostility to the idea of climate change, having asked on the Senate floor in July 2003: "Could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it."

NCAR is not commenting on Inhofe's investigation, but many climate scientists contacted by New Scientist regard it as a tactic designed to intimidate those working on the IPCC reporInhofe'sfe's actions appear to be an effort to discourage leading US scientists from being involved in international scientific assessment processes such as the IPCC," Msays.And.

And finally, some idiocy from Michaels. You'd think it would be embarrassingsing to come out with the following, wouldn't you?
Michales has analysed publications by climate scientists in the journals Nature and Science between mid-2005 and mid-2006. He found 115 articles of which 83 said that the likely impact of the greenhouse effect was going to be worse than previously suggested, 23 saw no change and only 9 said that things were not as bad as previously thought.

To most researchers this is solid evidence that the prognosis for the planet is worsening as new science comes in. Michaels rejects this interpretation. To have any faith in the forecasts of climatologists, he argues, "we should expect that new research should have an equal probability of being better or worse [for Earth's climate] than previous research."