23 June 2010

Frustration with the "Climate Deniers"

If you want to know what is wrong with the most visible element of the climate science community, you need only read this quote from Steve Schneider, a co-author on the Anderagg et al. paper discussed here and at Kloor's:
Climate scientist Stephen Schneider of Stanford, who worked on the new analysis, admits that it is born of frustration with "climate deniers," such as physicist Freeman Dyson or geologist Ian Plimer, being presented as "equally credible" to his peers and granted "equal weight" as science assessments from the IPCC or U.S. National Academy of Sciences, both of which ascribe ongoing climate change to increasing concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases due to human activities. "We wanted to ask by objective measures, 'Who publishes the bulk of the new science in the refereed literature and gets cited the most: those who accept anthropogenic global warming or those who deny it?'" Schneider says.
The paper, which marks the ignominious introduction of the term "climate denier" as a keyword in the PNAS, represents the triumph of blog war politics into mainstream academic publishing. The blog wars over climate change are notable for appeals to authority and efforts to delegitimize. For some in the scientific community the focus is, not just as Schneider states, on the "climate deniers" but also anyone who has a slightly different scientific or political perspective.

That these wars have influenced how academics behave was revealed in the stolen/leaked East Anglia emails. The PNAS paper takes the effort to an entirely new level by taking the work of a blogger seeking to delegitimize "climate deniers" and ginning up a-fancy-looking-but-deeply-flawed- impression of social science methodology and then getting it into PNAS. We see the IPCC being used not as a summary assessment of the community's views, but rather as a narrow litmus test of allegiance. In the bizzaro world of climate science one's credibility is judged by oaths of allegiance to the IPCC rather than having the IPCC reflect a distribution of individual views.

The bottom line here is that if you want to engage in public debates over climate change, you had better get ready to wrestle in the mud (note that the image above is not a real climate scientist, but for illustrative purposes only). Avoiding the blogosphere, including efforts to delegitimize for expressing certain views, is less and less of an option because the blog wars are moving into academic discourse.

PS. Late addendum ... Note that Schneider wants to use the analysis to discredit specific individuals (Dyson, Plimer). Creating a list and then using it to discredit individuals based on the characteristics of the list is of course what it means to create a blacklist. Should individuals be judged individually?