The Sciences

Attacks on Climate Science Now "Completely Out of Hand"

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyFeb 20, 2010 3:32 PM


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This is one of the main stories here at the AAAS meeting in San Diego:

SAN DIEGO—A symposium organized here at the last minute by two of the world’s most prominent scientific organizations addressed recent attacks on an increasingly beleaguered climate science community. The panel met in the uncertain aftermath of the release of e-mails stolen from prominent climate scientists and critiques of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The panel of academics was convened by National Academy of Science President Ralph Cicerone, in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW), which is holding its annual meeting here. At a time when the biggest headlines on science have been over the flaws or legitimacy of climate science, said Cicerone, recent skirmishes over climate research “have really shaken the confidence of the public in the conduct of science [overall].” He cited a number of recent polls, which show a “degradation” in the respect of the public for science in general.

Climate researchers have taken the biggest hit. They are feeling the brunt of what IPCC author Chris Field has described as a “feeding frenzy” since the November e-mail release. “The situation is completely out of hand,” said Texas A&M climate scientist Gerald North. “One guy e-mailed me to say I'm a ‘whore for the global warming crowd.’ ” His PowerPoint presentation included a slide quoting conservative talk show host Glenn Beck: “If the IPCC had been done by Japanese scientists, there's not enough knives on planet Earth for hara-kiri that should have occurred.”

I get the sense that scientists and their institutions are so concerned over what has occurred in the past few months that there are going to be very real changes made, so as to ensure that better defenses of science are mounted in the future. It will be very interesting to watch what develops on this front...

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