Don’t Blame the Victims: Why Public Outreach By Climate Scientists is More Vital Than Ever

In the last few years—and especially in the wake of the ClimateGate pseudo-scandal—climate researchers have become much more politically engaged. They’ve sought to become better at communication, and to have a greater influence on public policy. They’ve tried to establish rapid response capabilities, and also, better ways of protecting themselves from political harassment and lawsuits.

This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because there has been a long term campaign to attack and discredit climate science, and obscure what we actually know. Ultimately, researchers decided that they couldn’t just be silent as their knowledge was distorted, or as their colleagues were attacked.

So what did they do? Just what Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan would have done—and in fact, did repeatedly on the public issues of their day. They spoke out.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. In fact, it is essential. Scientific knowledge is a powerful thing, which is precisely why it is of vital importance that it gets communicated, accurately, in such a way as to influence public policy. If that isn’t happening, then not only is it natural for scientists to step up—they have a moral obligation to do so, and to do so effectively.

I say this, incidentally, because I was appalled by an article in the Washington Post today, which at least online was entitled “In climate wars, radicalization of researchers brings risks.” I know that reporters often don’t control their titles, so maybe the word “radicalization” was not Juliet Eilperin’s fault. But in the article itself, Eilperin also says that climate researchers have been “politicized,” which is also negative and judgmental, and misleading.

The thrust of the article is that the Peter Gleick-Heartland Institute affair is an indicator of growing scientist politicization around climate change. But just because one researcher (Gleick) did something that he now says  he regrets—soliciting documents under a false identity—does not mean that we get to tar climate researchers as radicals or political operatives.

Indeed, the quotation that opens the piece, from American Geophysical Union president Michael McPhaden, shows just how “radical” researchers are (not!):

Scientists today, they don’t just want to talk about it. They want to do something about it,” he said in an interview. “We’re the trustees of information which, in many ways, is of critical benefit to society.”

Exactly right. How this earns labels like “radical” and “politicized” is beyond me. There’s really nothing else in the article that justifies it either.

Nowhere, meanwhile, does the article make an absolutely fundamental distinction: Trying to spread an accurate understanding of climate science is not at all the same thing as lobbying for a particular piece of legislation, or for a particular political party. Scientists are rallying behind knowledge—not a bill on the hill, and not a particular politician.

What is happening in this Post article, in the end, is victim blaming. Completely innocent scientists who tried to learn about the world and help humanity were attacked because their knowledge was threatening to some. And yeah, some of the scientists were shocked by these attacks. Some were appalled; a few became leaders and activists (like James Hansen); and overall, the scientific community was definitely roused to do something–and to speak out.

But that doesn’t make scientists radicals. It only makes them citizens. 


“First, we implemented policy solutions. The “sin taxes” levied on tobacco in most states made it increasingly difficult to afford the habit and created incentives to quit. Yes, those were regressive taxes, but some of the tax revenue has been used to support health and smoking-cessation programs.

“Second, we used the courts to take on tobacco for willfully and knowingly hurting people. And we started to win those lawsuits.

“Third, we changed cultural norms through advertising, in many cases funded through tobacco taxes.

“And fourth, we embraced real, third-party, arbitrated science, blessed with the imprimatur.

“As to legal action, we are already seeing a burgeoning movement to use the courts to hold polluters accountable for the harm they have done — and continue to do — to the air, the climate and our health.

“Denial is rampant, and the money behind the effort to delay action is as plentiful as civilization has ever known. But one only need recall the despair of the “nonsmoking” section of an airplane to remember that often sea change laps at the edges of convention. It really is darkest just before the dawn.”,0,6134172.story

Some interesting (and useful) parallels here with historically controversial scientific ideas.

Quote (e.g.):

“Einstein…  wrote to his mathematician collaborator Marcel Grossmann: ‘This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation’.”

Clearly, whereas any delay in the general acceptance of heliocentricity or relativity had little effect on the practicalities of everyday life, any delay in reponding to the threat of human-caused warming is highly likely to have a serious and accumulating impact. Time is therefore of the essence. This puts pressure on scientists, who feel their professional objectivity being compromised by their natural urge as human beings to come out and comment on what we should do about this serious problem.

Of course those in denial will play their card until the cows come home: the one that says that scientists should stick to science and leave politics to the politicians. This is rather like saying that your physician should stick to the diagnosis and not advise you how to give up that bad habit that’s killing you.      

Chris has marginalized dissenting scientists his whole career and did his best to fuel greater polarization of the science along political lines. I have seen him in videos he had posted at his Discover blog, proudly proclaiming his intent to win at all cost which has included portraying skeptical scientists and their supporters who would question problems with the science, as radicals and nuts. Chris suffers from a huge dose of hypocrisy in this article and is crying crocodile tears with regard to the WP article. I understand, it’s his job, and he is good at it.

Name the scientists you now accuse Chris of marginalizing… and specifically their pieces of science that Chris has attacked.

As you know what a scientist does outside of publication is totally up to them.  This is Bjorn Lomborg’s defence into an enquiry into the garbage he’s published.

“The DCSD had not properly documented that The Skeptical Environmentalist was a scientific publication on which they had the right to intervene in the first place”

Yup… its not a work of science. We’ll put that in fiction then?

Here you go oil man. Chris is fairly illiterate on climate science(probably the reason why he came here), so he isn’t knowledgeable enough to attack climate scientists’ individual studies thus his attacks are in generic broad stroke format.

Read for yourself Mooney’s efforts to marginalize scientists who believe that CO2 indeed causes warming but scientists who question exaggerated future claims based on diverging models and who do not conform to what Keith Kloor terms the “Climate Orthodoxy Police”.  You’re welcome.

I read that article.  He’s not trashing anyone.

Can you cite anything?  I dunno, maybe read it first?

Maybe citation is a new concept to you.

Who? Names be specific.  What did he say?  Be specific, quote him.

Name the scientist he trashed.  Where did he do it?

The most apropos comparison would be if politicians who don’t want government to fund medicare, and “think” tanks ideologically opposed to health care for poor people, started claiming this:

Doctors, especially oncologists and cardiologists, are making up medical problems where none exist because they are trying to get money for researching, diagnosing, and treating cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

Oh Yes!  There is an evil conspiracy in the entire medical community.  Don’t trust them! They feign concern for hearth but really, they just want money.

Why activists and climate scientists don’t use this obviously absurd but perfectly parallel analogy I don’t know.

If doctors were accused of this sort of mendacity, they would fight back.  The AMA would be running ads on national teevee, and rightly so.

It is a slippery slop when scientists wed activism and science together. There is nothing wrong with performing the research, explaining it and then leaving the policy objectives to politicians to determine. The james Hansens and Bill Mckibbens do not help at all. It is very difficult to argue that you are performing objective scientific research and then later in the evening you are organizing a protest rally to stop a pipeline. Tough to wed activism and objectivity.

The media is also part of the problem. Those that jumped on the Rah rah Peter Gleick bandwagon have really hurt the cause. Would it not have been better to say he is just one person and not even a cliamte scientist rather than to defend his actions? I see no real benefit to defending the actions of Peter Gleick when it sours the entire opinion of climate science.

My error regarding Bill Mckibben, but Peter Gleick is not a climate scientist, he is a hydrologist.

You said he wasn’t a scientist; I said he was. Now you’re saying he’s not a climate scientist. You’re changing the criteria. Seems devious to me.

You admitted you were wrong about McKibbern – why not also admit you were wrong about Gleick? 


Because John thats not what I said. Why would I admitt to being wrong when I am right? Perhaps you should reread my post.


I read your post before commenting. I don’t know why I misread it. [You shure you didn’t use the ‘edit’ button, like I’ve just done to insert this?] Anyway I apologise.

However, I think you’re splitting hairs in trying to do down Gleick’s expertise. 

I’m not trying to down Gleicks expertise, but I do think he has put his own ego far ahead of the public interest in this matter. Every group he belongs to is trying to put distance between themselves, him. I’m not sure why some people want to throw the credibility of an entire field under the bus to defend his indefensible actions?

Just my opinion.

Why do deniers always lie? I checked  Anthropod’s post and when I first checked he only claimed that Gliek was a scientist. Since then he has gone back and edited in “climate” scientist. That is why deniers get such a hard time, they do all sorts of despicable things then deny that they ever did. Wattsuphisbutt is a classic example. Anthropod, did you learn how to be a dishonest liar there?

Thanks, Ian.

Anthropod: I withdraw my apology. Here I was thinking I was losing my marbles – I can distinctly remember checking what you’d written before I posted the comment – and then you carry out such an underhand trick. Not only did you edit what you’d written, you then had the gall to question my integrity. You shit (and please interpret that as an ad hominem comment). 

Isn’t this a perfect expample of the denial mindset? It explains a lot. The reason they go round accusing climate scientists of lying is because they they find it so easy to lie themselves. The reason they accuse climate scientists of distortions and subtefuge is because they find it so easy to do that themselves. They’re dishonest and they assume that everyone else must be dishonest too. 


Wow. I have done no such thing and you can hardly call me a denier. What on earth would be the point of editing posts? I am always free to admit when I am wrong as I did previously.

Thanks, for the ridiculous discussion. 

They suffer from a serious ability to discern fact from fiction.

Are we looking at Guiness Beer ads or scientific work?  WHO CARES!

Scientists are allowed to do what ever they like in their spare time.   Its called the Lomborg Defence.

That’s why Lintzen can publish acceptable work… yet still lie like a cheap suit?

As for the Lomborg Defence, remember tha Bjorn argues that his publications aren’t works of science.  Neither are opinion pieces or other garbage.  I don’t see anyone calling for the castigation of Lintzen for his tripe.

Here’s the response from actual scientists for something Lintzen signs up to;

regarding the complete misrepresentation of Climate Science;

The National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. (set up by President Abraham Lincoln to advise on scientific issues), as well as major national academies of science around the world and every other authoritative body of scientists active in climate research have stated that the science is clear: The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible. Impacts are already apparent and will increase. Reducing future impacts will require significant reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases.

If climate scientists want to make their case to the public, they need to get out there and debate. The fact that the vast majority of them are in agreement about it, is a debating point, not an excuse to duck debate.

In 2009, there was an Intelligence Squared debate with Peter Huber, Bjorn Lomborg and Philip Stott against Hunter Lovins, Oliver Tickell and Adam Werbach over whether major CO2 reductions were worth the money. I was a lot more impressed by the side for the motion (especially Peter Huber). Over at the Climate Progress blog (I’m getting McAfee warnings from there–what’s up with that?), Joe Romm criticised his team for being unprepared. Fair enough–so how about getting well prepaired, and going out there and debating. It seems to me that if you care so much about this issue, you would be itching to get out there and attack the other sides arguments.

But the issue clogging the air waves is all the anti science from Heartland etc.  They are trying to prevent people from debating at all and they are try to make believe that there is some sort of confusion within the scientific community.

Honestly… I ain’t the guy to talk to about statistical methods of measuring damage from climate change.

Do you have any examples of scientific debate.  The one you mentioned seems to involve a lot of non-science.

I would happily point out that Bjorn considers his work fiction and not science or factually based.  That is his defence for his work to date.  (Then again… I have no idea who or what Romm is.)

Actually you have it backwards as the facts show that Heartland offered a forum for Peter Gleick, Mike Mann, James Hansen and most other prominent climate scientists, to present and or debate at all Heartland institute conferences on climate. One scientists did participate but most refused.

In lightof actual facts can you still maintain your belief that Heartland wanted to prevent debate? To the objective/logical/normal mind it would seem that an anti-science anti-debate  mindset is one that refuses to debate upon invitation and then breaks the law in order to circulate falsified material.

“Peter Gleick said in his confession that “a rational public debate is desperately needed” to expand the understanding of climate science and implied The Heartland Institute is among those working to “prevent this debate.” That is yet another lie. The exact opposite is true.

Heartland invited “warmist” scientists to each of our six international conferences of climate change. All declined, except one: Scott Denning, a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.

In the video below, Denning thanks The Heartland Institute for inviting him to its fourth conference — and urges his colleagues to accept invitations to future conferences.”

…about POLICY, for cryin’ out loud.  About WHAT EXACTLY the public policy should be to deal with the perils of climate change.

NOT a debate about whether climate change is real, is happening now, is caused by humans or is a threat to our very existence!

A debate about what to do about droughts, floods, violent weather (tornadoes and hurricanes anyone?) rising sea levels, the unfair impact on the undeveloped countries who contributed almost nothing to the problem, and how to put a price on carbon so it gets phased out.

Personally, I think fuel use should be outlawed for anything but essential purposes, and then rationed, just like it was during WWII.

That would be a start, anyway.

I don’t have time to educate you. Research missing heat, diverging climate models, earth’s radiation budget problems. If you actually begin to read the scientific literature you will find many unknowns in the science. I suggest you read the peer review comment s of IPCC AR7 and test the climate models for accuracy. There are several areas where the predicted signals and intensity of future events is just not materializing. You need to go to the physics discussion boards and also speak directly with climate scientists. Look in the Climategate 2.0 emails and you will find several scientists who disagreed with Mike Mann’s manipulation of the Briffa tree  data. I’m done here for now as you have demonstrated why you don’t understand the need for further scientific debate. A recent survey at the AMS meeting is further evidence that 97% of climate scientists are not completely on board with the notion that man is the predominant contributor to recent warming. There are many other factors to warming that have been overlooked

Yahoo is not an authority.  And what you are looking are not science or papers.  Here is what a real paper is that takes your stance (and no this doesn’t disprove anything);

The reason I ask for citations is that it is a painstaking process to track down a source and read through what it says and actually grock it.

And you only need one paper that disproves global warming, and there are none.

The conclusion is obvious.  You are not listening to scientists, you are listening to crack pots and sucking it up.

Why is it that none of your ‘scientists’, can read or write?

There are junk journals (run by non-scientists) willing to publish what ever gets shoveled in front of them.  (Look… she knows nothing about what she publishes.  You guys can do anything with that!)

This hasn’t slowed down Loehle and he is getting read.  I’ll let you know if he finds anything useful OK?

Both examples I provided are based on peer review research and of course you refuse to acknowledge the problems inherent in the CO2 only view of climate science and default to appeal to authority because it suits your POV which is the debate (which never happened) is over. Your position isn’t effective with the American public and such appeals to authority are failing. The science is passing you by and for  those who approach climate as you do, anyone with questions is crazy and a crack pot and only you are to be believed in the matter. You can keep beating that dead horse of a strategy and hide from debate that already is occurring on the internet between scientists. I sited the emails that show debate within the emails. I know for a fact that the scientists are less sure about the science than they are willing to admit in public. If you think Ed Cook (see emails) is a crack pot, that’s fine. We’ll see how the strategy of refusal to publically debate strategy works for Mann and Hansen and these others that are losing credibility with the public.  I will go on and monitor the data, test numerous parameters of falsification, and form my own opinion.

“Both examples I provided are based on peer review research”

Windy, there is peer review science journals and there are top quality top ranked journals. Similar to comparing a group of guys kicking the ball down at the park to major league A ranked football. Deniers seem to think, as long as you are kicking the ball….that counts just as much…….it doesn’t.

Deniers rely on bottom of the pile science journals to get their works published. Journals where there is less stringent checks. Like Energy & Development. It is why the remote sensing editor quit after it was discovered they let through a poorly researched paper with few little cross checking.

Yes the guys at the park & the A leaguers are both playing football, but only one is considered a professional by observers in the know. Here are the top ranked climate journals:

Top Institutions & Journals:

“to appeal to authority because it suits your POV “

I mostly go to a medical specialist if i have a specialised medical problem, rather than a mates mum who is an accountant, but reads a lot of google. I gather you go to the mates mum.

“The science is passing you by and for  those who approach climate as you do, anyone with questions is crazy and a crack pot and only you are to be believed in the matter. You can keep beating that dead horse of a strategy”

Blah blah blah. Wow, you guys certainly don’t mind that tired old mantra do you? Ive been hearing it for 10 years now. You guys need a new broken record… *yawn*.

I guess thats why recent polls showing more people belieing in AGW than ever.


I saw the second one first and assumed you found the usual drivel.

I don’t care what happened 4 billion years ago.  That article (assuming its based on science) is pure drivel.  It starts with the assumption that all climate science is driven by green house gases. No one has said that, and its not true.  Why anyone would argue against something that wasn’t said, is silly.  If you want an entertaining time, read the Paleoclimate science in the IPCC reports.  The further back you go, the harder is is to figure out.

Now Kramm, Dlugi… stiff read until you figure out that they are really just going on and on.. 

Why else would they rederive the formulas for planetary motion? (Of course… that contradicts the second ‘article’ you found which assumes its all GHG.)

Then they go on to what debunk the WMO website?  Hmm.. serious stuff here… all scientsts at WMO I bet?  The scientists must be just writting the web site with all their spare time AND peer reviewing it! (Personally, I think Kramm etc, couldn’t find a paper to debunk…)

Hmm… What kind of paper is this, I wonder?  Where is it rambling off to?  Looks like they are just looking for bits and pieces that are not terribly important (including non-science) and arguing that they are in fact not right.

I have no issues with this.  But it doesn’t support its conclusions.

Got anything more?  Meaty maybe?  Useful?  Accurate perhaps?

Is Windy just here for entertainment purposes or does anyone think he is serious?

For example, he asks us to read “the peer review comment s [sic] of IPCC AR7” That would be quite a feat since AR5 isn’t out yet and we have no way of knowing when, or in fact if, AR6 and AR7 will be published. If they are to be published it will probably be at least 10 or 15 years from now.

Scientists need to debate climate deniers like:

1.  doctors needs to debate tobacco industries shills whether smoking causes cancer

2.  oncologists need to debate homeopathologists whether it will cure cancer

3.  geologists need to debate christian fundamentalists about evolution, the age of the earth or plate tectonics


THERE IS NOTHING TO DEBATE.  There are scientists, and then there are ideolgogues, liars, and industry shills.


Thanks for responding everyone. Here is Joe Romm’s post on the debate I described:

Public figures involved with climate issues, from Al Gore on down, climate scientists and non, have a history of avoiding public debates IMO. The reason they usually give is that the science is settled. Well, what to do about climate change is certianly not settled science.

In his recent ‘Point of Inquiry’ interveiw with Chris Mooney, Michael Mann compared debating to fighting with a pig. “You’ll get dirty and the pig likes it”.

A freindly and informative debate, that took place on  Feb.15 2000, between Peter Huber and Bill McKibben can be downloaded as an MP3 at:

HEY CHRIS! You had Bill McKibben on ‘Point of Inquiry’. How about trying to get Peter Huber.

Please stay on topic.  Can you find an actual example?

Bill Mckibben… journalist right?  Gore?  Yer nutes. Lomborg?  He argues he isn’t doing science when he opens his mouth or writes.

Quote from Romm:

NOTE #1 TO ALL PRO-CLIMATE-ACTION DEBATERS: It is very hard to win a staged debate with people who make stuff up.

You don’t need to be a scientist to argue about whether it is worth it to enact expensive climate mitigation policies.

Debate ducker, Joe Romm, says it is Hard to win a debate. Does that mean he should not even try?

You said scientists needed to debate publicly.  (Who, What or why is not substantiated.)

You then provided examples where non-scientists are arguing amoung themselves.  Not really sure why you’d go in that direction.  Its totally off topic.  “Here we have an estemed scientist arguing… with some crackpot.”

I don’t understand what the value is of speaking with someone like Bjorn is valuable.  Bjorn stipulates that he does not use science in his work.

Anyways.. all I asked for was an example that was on topic.  Your topic.


Oh yes. I see that in my first comment, I said “climate scientists”. I suppose I could have included all climate activists. But whoever debates, policy actions are not science.

Bjorn Lomborg brings up good questions about the economics of climate action.

He argues that he’s not using facts for his work.

“The DCSD had not properly documented that The Skeptical Environmentalist was a scientific publication on which they had the right to intervene in the first place”

And what does his dealings with Denmark’s science bureaucracy over a previous book have to do with it. He now has a later book, not to mention a movie specifically on climate change. He also often takes part in public debates on climate change policy.

The first sentence should have a question mark instead of a period. The title could probably use a period. I learned my punctuation from Floyd R. Turbo:


Bjorn’s work caused considerable anger in the scientific community, because it was so wrong.    The dutch reviewed his book on knowledge of science.  Bjorn argues its not a scientific publication based on sound science or facts.

So… is it fiction or non-fiction?  Bjorn says his work is fiction, just like Lord Of the Rings or Hairy Potter, and the Tooth Fairy.  Its non-science… no sense..

Why would I consider Bjorn to have a valuable opinion?  Its not like he’s willing to use facts in his work.  What did he make up?  Do you know?  How do I know?  I know he makes stuff up by his own admission.  Here’s a pathological lier… or maybe he isn’t?  Please tell me how I’m supposed to unravel that logic bomb.

Appart from the simple question, “Should we spend money, and how much?” he has nothing further to offer, except conservative bed time stories.

The Wiki quote you cite, looks like it says that the book is not peer reveiwed science.  That would probably apply to just about every one of Carl Sagan’s popular books. I still find them worth reading.

Don’t you think the name “ Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty” sounds a bit Orwelian?

Which is why your stance is so funny.  A scientist caught in dishonest activities stands to loose everything.

(Funny how your heros keep showing up on that side…)

I know of several professors or fraudulant professors at UVic that were tossed out for faking their work. i.e. inventing or lieing about sources, or falsifying credentials.

Here’s what happens if you do have peer review (someone read this guy’s papers and noticed they were fake);

Here’s what happens when you don’t have peer review (its a crap shoot  Math = Politics got published);

In any case given that Bjorn likes to pretend to be an expert, don’t you find it odd that he’d argue that he’s not using science in his work?  I mean… why isn’t he arguing that? (…because its not science.)

“Bjorn Lomborg brings up good questions about the economics of climate action.”

No he doesn’t. His whole schtick is “there are other important things we should be spending our money on” e.g. aids, starvation, heart disease, diabetes, malaria etc etc.

Anything where he can use his bait & switch technique. Bait…..AGW is real…switch….but it is too hard to tackle & there are other important things to spend our money on.

It appeals to those who don’t like to think too deeply and to those that like false dichotomies.

“There is a limited amount of funds in the world, and choices must be made as to what are the higher priorities.”

So you then proceed to fulfill the false dichotomy. In your eyes, there are only 2 choices. Spend money on AGW mitigation or spend money on higher priorities. You believe the 2nd choice no matter what it is, should be embraced because you rate AGW mitigation measures along side with the need to wallpaper your fence.

Obviously there are more choices. We can address all. When a government is faced with a natural disaster or an economic one, they don’t stop everything else and divert all funds to that one endeavor.

The U.S seems to have plenty of idle cash to be able to spend $1 Trillion a year on their military.


You guys really like to criticize Borjn Lomborg. One argument he often makes is that it is better to spend money on research than on ineffective action now. Recent events may have given us an example that bares this out.

GM, the bankrupt car company, has been bailed out by the goverment to help prop up it’s desire to have people drive electric cars. Their car, the Chevy Volt, has been a flop and production has been halted. The government has also been doling out money for research into batteries for electric cars. A recipient company called Enviro has recently anounced a breakthrough in Li ion battery technology that substantially increases energy density and reduces cost:

Money spent on research appears to be better spent, just like Borjn Lomborg says.