Wie dacht dat heksenjacht tot een duister verleden behoorde, heeft het mis. Wanneer het om die verschrikkelijke opwarming van de aarde gaat (die maar steeds niet wil komen) bloeien obscurantisme en inquisitie als nooit tevoren.

In een brief heeft een twintigtal klimatologen president Obama onlangs verzocht om klimaatsceptici te vervolgen op basis van de RICO–wet. RICO staat voor ‘Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act’ en was oorspronkelijk bedoeld als wapen in de strijd tegen de activiteiten van criminele organisaties, zoals de maffia.

Vanuit de politiek wordt het initiatief onder meer gesteund door de democratische senator Sheldon Whitehouse. Onlangs publiceerde de Washington Post een opinieartikel van zijn hand. Hierin draaide hij weer de grijsgedraaide plaat als zouden de klimaatsceptici door de fossiele brandstoffenindustrie worden aangestuurd en betaald. Ik citeer:

Fossil fuel companies and their allies are funding a massive and sophisticated campaign to mislead the American people about the environmental harm caused by carbon pollution.

Their activities are often compared to those of Big Tobacco denying the health dangers of smoking. Big Tobacco’s denial scheme was ultimately found by a federal judge to have amounted to a racketeering enterprise.

Het is de permanente, weerzinwekkende roddel om klimaatsceptici in een kwaad daglicht te stellen – gretig verspreid door degenen die een onberedeneerde angst koesteren voor een opwarming van de aarde, die maar niet wil komen.

Mijn persoonlijke indruk is precies tegenovergesteld. De fossiele brandstoffenindustrie wil zo weinig mogelijk met klimaatsceptici hebben te maken. Vele bedrijven wensen een groen voetje te halen bij de milieubeweging en betalen graag ‘protectie’geld om gevrijwaard te blijven van hun ‘ludieke’ acties.

Voor zover mij bekend hebben sommige klimaatsceptici inderdaad fondsen gekregen van de industrie om hun onderzoek te financieren. Maar de bedragen waar het om gaat, staan in geen enkele, maar dan ook geen enkele verhouding tot dat wat jaarlijks door overheden wordt betaald aan pro–AGW (AGW = ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’) onderzoek.

Deze actie van de 20 volgt op een eerdere poging van de democratische senator Raúl Grijalva en anderen om de klimaatscepticus Willie Soon en zes van zijn collega’s te discrediteren, waarover ik hier eerder rapporteerde en hier nadere details te vinden zijn.

Ik pik een aantal passages uit de boven aangehaalde brief.

Dear President Obama, ….

As you know, an overwhelming majority of climate scientists are convinced about the potentially serious adverse effects of human-induced climate change on human health, agriculture, and biodiversity. We applaud your efforts to regulate emissions and the other steps you are taking. Nonetheless, as climate scientists we are exceedingly concerned that America’s response to climate change – indeed, the world’s response to climate change – is insufficient. The risks posed by climate change, including increasing extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and increasing ocean acidity – and potential strategies for addressing them – are detailed in the Third National Climate Assessment (2014), Climate Change Impacts in the United States. The stability of the Earth’s climate over the past ten thousand years contributed to the growth of agriculture and therefore, a thriving human civilization. We are now at high risk of seriously destabilizing the Earth’s climate and irreparably harming people around the world, especially the world’s poorest people.

We appreciate that you are making aggressive and imaginative use of the limited tools available to you in the face of a recalcitrant Congress. One additional tool – recently proposed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse – is a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change. ….

The methods of these organizations are quite similar to those used earlier by the tobacco industry. A RICO investigation (1999 to 2006) played an important role in stopping the tobacco industry from continuing to deceive the American people about the dangers of smoking. If corporations in the fossil fuel industry and their supporters are guilty of the misdeeds that have been documented in books and journal articles, it is imperative that these misdeeds be stopped as soon as possible so that America and the world can get on with the critically important business of finding effective ways to restabilize the Earth’s climate, before even more lasting damage is done.

Climate scientist Judith Curry believes that if climate scientists more readily would acknowledge the inherent uncertainties of the issue, skeptics would more likely accept the established central tenets of global warming

De Amerikaanse klimatologe, Judith Curry, reageerde als door een wesp gestoken.

My first reaction was that this was some kind of joke, or that some of these individuals didn’t know what they were signing. The document originated from the Institute of Global Environment and Society, of which Jagadish Shukla is President (and first signatory, and presumably the instigator). …

After reading Senator Whitehouse op ed in the Washington Post, I thought the senator should be supported by the scientific community. Similarities with the tobacco industry are compelling. This is just a small step for me to get engaged with social/policy relevant issues. …

Well, that letter reflects, at best, a great deal of naiveté by the signatory.  Perhaps some of them had their arm twisted by the instigators/advocates, and were just trying to be collegial.

Dear signatories of this letter:

I will try to clarify here what you have done, and why it is wrong.

First, you have been duped by the Merchants of Doubt book/movie. See my previous blog post Bankruptcy of the ‘merchants of doubt’ meme, which includes reviews by other social scientists. [Noot HL: Dit is ook het verhaal waardoor Jan Paul van Soest zich heeft laten inspireren in zijn ‘Twijfelbrigade’.  Hoe triest!]

Second, the consensus on human caused climate change is not as overwhelming as you seem to think.  See my recent blog post The conceits of consensus, which includes a detailed analysis of an extensive survey of climate scientists (not to mention extensive critiques of the Cook et al. analysis).

Third, the source of funding is not the only bias in research, and the greatest bias does not necessarily come from industry funding, see these posts …:

Fourth, scientists disagree about the causes of climate change for the following reasons:
◾Insufficient observational evidence
◾Disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence (e.g. models)
◾Disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence
◾Assessments of areas of ambiguity and ignorance
Belief polarization as a result of politicization of the science

The biggest disagreement however is about whether warming is ‘dangerous’ (values) and whether we can/should do something about it (politics). Why do you think your opinion, as scientists, matters on values and politics?

Fifth, what you have done with this letter is advocacy.  This is a very dicey role for a scientist to play, fraught with reputational and ethical land mines.  Here are several essays on this topic, written from a range of perspectives …:

What you have done with your letter is the worst kind of irresponsible advocacy, which is to attempt to silence scientists that disagree with you by invoking RICO. It is bad enough that politicians such as Whitehouse and Grijalva are playing this sort of political game with science and scientists, but I regard it as highly unethical for scientists to support defeating scientists with whom you disagree by such methods. Since I was one of the scientists called out in Grijalva’s witch hunts, I can only infer that I am one of the scientists you are seeking to silence.

Peter Webster did not exaggerate when he wrote:

You have signed the death warrant for science.

Lees verder hier.

Een triest dieptepunt in de Amerikaanse klimaatdiscussie! En weer een geweldige, moedige en intelligente riposte van Judith Curry!

Maar hoe het ook zij, klimaat maakt meer kapot dan je lief is.

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.