17 December 2009

More Wisdom on Activist Climate Science

In the FT today Tom de Castella has a worthwhile piece on the lessons that the climate science community should draw from the aftermath of the CRU email hack/leak. Unfortunately, from my vantage point the community is far from learning these lessons. Here is how de Castella ends his piece:

In short, the e-mails do not undermine the CRU’s surface temperature record or the wider science. But that is not the point – it is the culture of climate science that has been tarnished. A picture emerges of experts who relate tribally, avoid transparency and worry too much about getting a good press. The perception is perhaps unfair, based as it is on a small, activist-minded band, but it goes back to Adam Smith’s remark about producer interests: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public.”

Mr Trenberth insists the e-mail hack equated to a “swiftboating” of climate scientists, a reference to the smearing of John Kerry’s presidential campaign. He argues there is nothing wrong with scientists advocating policy: “I’m a scientist but I’m also a citizen of the world.” He is right that society wants more guidance from scientists. But what we need most is a more nuanced understanding of the risks and probabilities. That requires an intellectual elite who are climate sceptics in the true sense, rather than busily applying blue facepaint and reaching for a placard.