Science and policy

Tamsin Edwards wrote an article for the Guardian yesterday called Climate scientists must not advocate particular policies. After reading the article, I largely agreed and wrote the first comment. My main issue with the article was the idea that scientists who have been advocating various policies may have damaged the public’s trust. I find this a little unlikely. It seems, to me at least, that the main reason why there is a lack of trust is because there has been a campaign by some to convince the public not to trust climate scientists. They may have used campaigning by climate scientists as one reason why they shouldn’t be trusted, but that doesn’t mean that the public would have concluded this without these prompts from anti climate science campaigners. You may think I’m being a little insulting to the general public, and maybe I am, but I’m really just saying that without some form of prompting I don’t think people would thought anything of scientists expressing their views about policy.

The article, however, prompted some quite interesting discussions on Twitter. There was also an apparent split between those in the UK (Doug McNeall, Tamsin Edwards, Richard Tol) and those in the US (Peter Gleick, Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann). Those in the UK seemed to largely agree with the views expressed by Tamsin Edwards, while the US scientists seemed to quite strongly disagree. O. Bothe wrote what he called some random thoughts on advocacy that highlighted some of the subtleties of this issue and made me realise that this topic is probably much more nuanced than Tamsin’s article indicates.

As an individual I like Tamsin Edward’s viewpoint. If I was presenting evidence to someone (or to a group) so that they could make some kind of decision, I would want to be as neutral and objective as I could be so that they could make the best possible decision. I would not want to use some status that I may have (I don’t by the way) to try and make my evidence seem more credible than someone else’s evidence. So, I can see scenarios where Tamsin Edwards would be completely correct.

However, scientists aren’t simply a resource for society to use. Scientists are members of society. They do have a right to have a view about policy, just like any other member of society. I agree that they do need to be a little careful. When acting in a professional capacity, they should not use that platform to put forward a particular belief. But I see no real problem with scientists talking publicly about their views on what the evidence suggests should be done. Some might argue that they could get a bigger audience for their views because they’re a scientist than they would if they weren’t, but I doubt this is all that relevant. Yes, some scientists have a few thousand followers on Twitter, but celebrities can have many more and noone says that they shouldn’t advocate or campaign for certain policies. At least scientists would, in general, be campaigning based on evidence that they understand better than almost anyone else.

The other issue I have is where you draw the line and how you decide if something is appropriate or not. Climate scientists have been – as far as I can tell – quite poorly treated in the recent past. They’ve been accused of fraud, bad scientific practice, being involved in a massive conspiracy, to name but a few of the accusations leveled at them. Now, I do think that scientists should aim to hold the moral high ground. But, if scientists start obeying certain rules, what about the other players in the game? Should a scientist employed by the Global Warming Policy Foundation or the Cato Institute follow the same rules? Does a non-scientific representative of a think-tank have to obey these rules or not? Personally, I think everyone should be as honest and open as they can be, so I’m not suggesting that scientists should do anything that would be regarded as morally questionable. I’m simply suggesting that a scientist expressing their opinion on a topic about which they have a great deal of knowledge should not be seen as something that is wrong.

Now, I’m not sure if I’ve explained myself particularly clearly and I certainly haven’t completely made up my mind about this topic, but I do think it is much more complex than I first thought. I think Tamsin Edward’s article is very interesting and thought provoking, but possibly doesn’t take into account that we don’t live in an ideal world where we can trust our policy makers to make unbiased decisions based only on the evidence. There are also some more fundamental issues. There are clearly examples in the past where scientists have become involved in advocating for policy related to their research. Medical researchers arguing for vaccination programmes. Scientists on the Manhattan project arguing against the development of nuclear weapons. When the evidence becomes strong, then it would seem wrong if scientists didn’t get involved in advocating for something to be done.

One could argue that once a scientist starts campaigning, it then suggests that their research may be influenced by their campaigning. In the case of one individual, there may be some truth to this. However, any individual who is publishing flawed work to suit their campaigning will be caught out by others in their field. When a large group of scientists start to advocate for action, it seems much more likely that the science is driving their campaigning than the campaigning is driving their science. So, again I’m still not completely sure that I understand what would be appropriate or not, but I do think that when people look back on the early 21st century, there will be two things they are likely to ponder. Why didn’t the public and policy makers listen to the climate scientists? Why didn’t the climate scientists kick up more of a fuss?

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80 Responses to Science and policy

  1. Tamsin has made a quick comment about this post on Twitter in which she says

    it’s not just that i have more followers. it’s that people would give my opinion (undeserved) weight & credibility.

    I was trying to respond on Twitter, but found it a little too difficult, so thought I would write this comment that Tamsin could read. Not intended to be a underhand way to get Tamsin to comment on my blog though :-)

    As an individual, I would indeed worry about exactly this. I don’t want people to decide something because they thought “that person’s a scientist, they must know what they’re talking about”. I would – as I indicated in the post – be much happier if people considered the evidence I presented and made up their minds based on the evidence. So, in a sense I agree with Tamsin. The subtlety though is that if you’re concerned about this you’re much more likely to present your opinions in a manner that made it clear that it was your opinion and not something that was absolutely certain. So, for example, given that I’m aware that Tamsin is concerned about exactly this means that I would be much more likely to consider what she says than consider the views of someone who claims that their opinion is essentially a scientific fact.

    So, I would argue, that overall this is consistent with my general view that the goal should be to be as open and honest as you can be. You should willing to distinguish between the conclusions you’re drawing from your scientific evidence and your opinions as to what should be done based on that evidence.

  2. Tamsin Edwards says:

    I would add: open, honest … and humble. Being self-aware about our limitations is essential.

  3. Thanks for the comment (really wasn’t trying to force you into commenting :-)). Indeed, I completely agree about the humility as well. In fact, if more people could be more openly humble and acknowledge their limitations (or that they might have limitations) the entire debate would be much more pleasant and effective – in my opinion at least.

  4. Thanks for summing up coherently what I spent a good part of yesterday thinking about! Nice job Tamsin for writing such a thought provoking article. I can also see scenarios where she is absolutely correct, such as in an educational setting where the scientist may be seen as the font of all knowledge. But I also agree that as scientists we should be honest about our policy views. I feel that politicians need people to advocate particular policies in order for them to feel that people care about the issues. There are many interested parties who advocate policies they think are right without necessarily having a complete grasp of the implications, and I’m not sure scientists should be treated any differently.

  5. Latimer Alder says:

    ‘there has been a campaign by some to convince the public not to trust climate scientists’

    Didn’t need a campaign by anybody to persuade the public that many are deeply untrustworthy.

    The ‘climate scientists’ did it all by themselves and to themselves.

    In any other field they’d be kicked out for bringing the profession into disrepute. And the louder they shout about ‘smears’ and ‘deniers’ and ‘BigOil’ the slipperier and shadier their reputations become.

  6. Your opinion. Do you, however, dispute that creating the distrust required some people telling the public about all the supposedly terrible things that climate scientists had done? Also, do you dispute that – as yet – there is no major formal procedure that has actually confirmed that these accusations are true?

  7. Thanks, Peter. I too spent most of yesterday thinking about this. I think it’s a very complex issue and – as I mentioned in the post – found Tamsin’s article interesting and thought provoking.

  8. chris says:

    One needs to be careful here. Scientists that make discoveries about issues with societal important are often advocates for policy and in my opinion that may be entirely appropriate. Where I disagree with Tamsin (at least upon my superficial reading of her comments) is that she underplays the fundamental issue of evidence in science-related matters. So one needn’t be so concerned that people might give a scientists opinions “(undeserved) weight and credibility”, since that credibility would be seen to be deficient without an underpinning evidence-base. In any case, assuming that one is an expert having what might be a priviliged insight into a problem informed by scientific evidence, a scientists opinion may be especially deserving of particular credibility.

    The devil’s in the detail and it depends entirely on the specific instance. When Doll and Peto, or Rowland and Molina uncovered evidence for links between ciggie smoking and lung disease/ CFC release and catalytic ozone destruction, respectively, their wider dissemination of their work constitutes a form of advocacy. Quite rightly so.

    Here’s Richard Doll taking a strong stance of advocacy in relation to his expert insight into the dangers of ciggie smoking:

    Death in old age is inevitable, but death before old age is not. In previous centuries 70 years used to be regarded as humanity’s allotted span of life, and only about one in five lived to such an age. Nowadays, however, for non-smokers in Western countries, the situation is reversed: only about one in five will die before 70, and the non-smoker death rates are still decreasing, offering the promise, at least in developed countries, of a world where death before 70 is uncommon. For this promise to be properly realised, ways must be found to limit the vast damage that is now being done by tobacco and to bring home, not only to the many millions of people in developed countries but also the far larger populations elsewhere, the extent to which those who continue to smoke are shortening their expectation of life by so doing.”

  9. bratisla says:

    sorry, but the Heartland Institute billboard campaign with Unabomber *did* exist. So someone at least “helped” to cast doubt on climate science and climate scientists – saying that climate scientists did that “all by themselves” does not reflect the total picture here.

  10. I agree that one has to be careful and that this is a very complex issue. Given that it is complex may be sufficient reason to suggest that trying to design a set of formal rules doesn’t really make sense. As you mention, how a scientist behaves will depend quite strongly on the circumstances and – I would argue – on the strength of the evidence.

    Again, my view – at the moment at least – is that scientists (if they do start to get involved in public discussions about policy) should be willing to differentiate between the conclusions they’re drawing based on the scientific evidence and their opinions about what should be done, given that evidence. Openness, honesty and (as Tamsin points out) humility should be the main goals of those engaging in this debate.

  11. andrew adams says:

    Yes, and look at the way the likes of John Houghton and Stephen Schneider have had their words twisted in the past as well as the general tendency to view scientists’ actions in the most prejudicial light.
    I’m fed up with people potraying the skeptics’ actions as purely reactive, as though they have no moral agency themselves.
    I’m afraid that much as I like Tamsin she has fallen into this trap and she has a very naive view of the skeptics.

  12. Tom Curtis says:

    Latimer Alder evidently has no problem with lie after deliberate lie from so-called skeptics, but thinks that because a few emails can be spun out of context, “The ‘climate scientists’ did it all by themselves and to themselves.”

    Bullshit! If the public cared about issues of honesty and trustworthiness, they would see through the shonky “science” of the “skeptics”, which Alder cares not one whit about, and absolutely reject the campaign against climate science and climate scientists.

    Those who don’t trust climate scientists are in fact basing their distrust on lies told to them, and which they find convenient to believe because the alternative is that they would have to accept the science, and do something about global warming.

  13. Latimer Alder says:

    Sure. They did bad things and those things got wide publicity. Blame publicity on the existence of the internet and the press and e-mails and people who pay attention to these things if you will. But they are only secondary reasons for the public believing they are untrustworthy. They would still be untrustworthy if their antics had received no publicity at all. How much is publicly revealed does not change their nature.

    The primary reason is their own actions and e-mails. Anybody can read them. They are freely available and form a sufficiently large corpus of evidence (1,000+ documents) over a long period (nearly 10 years) to form a clear view of their modus operandi.

    And their pattern of behaviour shows that when faced with a choice between integrity, straight dealing and honesty or manipulation, hiding and disingenuousness, they have a distressingly high propensity to choose the latter over the former.

    This would be totally unacceptable in other professions and I find it startling and depressing that many who claim to be ‘scientists’ are so sanguine about it’s blatant occurrence within their ranks.

    Have their been any ‘formal proceedings’?

    Other professions have such mechanisms well-established to weed out the dodgy guys, and ways for them to be removed. It seems ‘science’ does not. So – no such mechanisms exist. If they did I doubt that the perps would be favourably looked upon by an impartial tribunal. The errors are too many and the pattern of behaviour too well-established to turn a blind eye.

    There have been a few inadequate and one-sided ‘investigations’, but one of them rise much above self-assertion of their own innocence. Inadequate for doctors or accountants or engineers or social workers,,,,equally inadequate for ‘scientists’

    As to what an American think tank may or may not have done on billboards in Illinois 2 years after the original release of e-mails, I have no opinion. Such billboards did not appear in the UK where some of the perps were based and can have had very little effect on the UK public’s consciousness.

    To reiterate: It was not any amount of publicity that brought the Climategaters and their hangers-on into disrepute. It was their own actions. Without their misbehaviour, none of the rest would have happened. They sowed the wind..and then they reaped the whirlwind.

  14. So, we partly agree and we partly don’t. You seem very certain though, which is always a little concerning – in my opinion. However, given that we’re unlikely to actually reach agreement (and there’s no reason that we should) I can’t see any real reason for discussing this for the next hour or so.

  15. andrew adams says:

    There is a great deal I feel I could say on this, but due to lack of time and not wanting to end up writing an essay twice as long as Tamsin’s I’ll restrict myself to a few brief points for now.

    I think that individual scientists will have different views on how much they like to discuss the wider implications of their scientific activities and they should generally go (only) as far as they feel comfortable with. So if Tamsin wants to steer clear of any policy relevant topics that’s fine but she doesn’t have the right to dictate what other scientists must or must not do.

    To the extent that it is is possible to say that there are certain collective responsibilities on the part of scientists, my perspective as a non scientist is that one of the most important is to both improve public understanding of science and defend it when it is unfairly criticised. And standing up for the integrity of science is more important than trying to win the good opinion of its critics. If you can do both then fine but if you fail to do the former that will only persuade the undecided that the critics may have a point.

    Climate science inevitably has implications for our lives and civilisation (regardless of the specific questions around AGW), that’s why we fund all of this research into it. So I don’t see how we can ever pretend that the science can ever be completely divorced from the wider political issues.

    I think we have to define what we mean by “policy”. There is a difference between saying “we need to reduce emissions” and advocating specific policies to achieve this. Some scientists (Ed Hawkins is an example) who have applauded Tamsin’s article would draw the line at the latter but not have a problem with the former. But Tamsin seems to not even want to go that far.

    Obviously Tamsin is correct to say that discussion of the consequences of AGW involves making value judgements. But as I’ve said here before there are some values which are sufficiently widely shared that they can and should be taken as given.

    I don’t know of any scientist who wears their heart on their sleeve and is as open a policy advocate as James Hansen. Yet my perception is that his honesty and integrity are not seriously doubted even by those who disagree with him.

  16. Latimer Alder says:

    @tom curtis

    ‘Those who don’t trust climate scientists are in fact basing their distrust on lies told to them’

    Not me. I’ve read pretty much all of the e-mails. I needed no interpreter. The primary evidence is there and obvious.

    Re: ‘Shonky’ science of the sceptics

    Sure, I care very little about most of those.. If and when they become the dominant paradigm in ‘climate science’ then they’ll deserve just as much consideration and examination as the current one does.

    But until then, the current theory is the only game in town worth spending time and effort on. And the more I look and probe and poke, the shakier and weaker the (C)AGW alarmist case becomes.

    Final thought. I do hope that you are not falling into the fallacy of believing that

    ‘Because Mr X’s theory is wrong, mine must be right’

    That would indeed be a grievous and anti-scientific error.

  17. Thanks, Andrew. Yes, I agree with much – if not all – of what you say. There may well be circumstances where we think a scientist has crossed a line and expressed a view that they’re not really qualified to express or used a platform to present their opinions when they should have stuck to expressing their views about what the scientific evidence is telling us. In other circumstances, they may be perfectly entitled to express their opinion or the opinion may be an entirely reasonable one to express given the evidence (i.e., claiming that we should reduce emissions without expressing a view as to the best way to do so). However, deciding in advance where this boundary lies seems virtually impossible and so it seems that we simply have to encourage honesty, openness and humility (in everyone – not just climate scientists) and judge people by their actions.

  18. Marco says:

    Latimer Alder, I have no expectations that you will ever be convinced of anything related to AGW that does not suit your ideology, as has been clear from the many comments you have made over the years.

    So, for the benefit of others who might be reading this: the e-mails, those thousands that are available, involve perhaps 10 climate scientists, a very small proportion of the tens of thousands all over the world. What Latimer Alder attempts to tell you is either that those few are indicative of all, or that those few have an inordinately large influence on all others. Both involve a conspiracy. Do you want to believe in such a conspiracy?

    This, notably, is independent of whether there was indeed anything nefarious in those e-mails (which, in my personal evalution, is not the case).

  19. Tom Curtis says:

    In this context, I think it appropriate to quote from Justice Greene’s recent decision in the Michael Mann defamation case (p 21):

    “Plaintiff has been investigated several times and his work has been found to be accurate. In fact, some of these investigations have been due to the accusations made by the CEI Defendants. It follows that if anyone should be aware of the accuracy (or findings that the work of Plaintiff is sound), it would be the CEI Defendants. Thus, it is fair to say that the CEI Defendants continue to criticize Plaintiff due to a reckless disregard for truth. Criticism of Plaintiff’s work may be fair and he and his work may be put to the test. Where, however the CEI Defendants consistently claim that Plaintiff’s work is inaccurate (despite being proven as accurate) then there is a strong probability that the CEI Defendants disregarded the falsity of their statements and did so with reckless disregard.”

    Other scientists associated with the climate-hack emails have not been investigated quite as frequently as Michael Mann, but the universal opinion stemming from those investigations that the scientists did nothing wrong (ignoring only Steve Jones’ actions on FOI requests) places them in a similar situation. Claims of wrong doing made by “skeptics” should be regarded as “provably wrong” and stemming from “reckless disregard for the truth”.

    And to avoid the habitual misrepresentation by Alder – no I am not basing my opinion that the scientists did nothing wrong on the reviews, having looked at the evidence (and the way it has been misrepresented by “skeptics” myself. However it is very clear that to accept Alder’s take on these events, you have to assume that not only are climate scientists involved in a conspiracy to lie, but that various and diverse investigative bodies have been in on the conspiracy, and now the courts.

  20. Fragmeister says:

    Was Richard Doll wrong to become an advocate for controlling tobacco consumption following his discovery of the link between smoking and lung cancer? I think it is important that scientists be allowed an advocacy role so long as their advocacy can be supported by evidence. Scientists are human after all and it would be most unlikely that some do not get involved in a more political manner.

  21. bratisla says:

    “As to what an American think tank may or may not have done on billboards in Illinois 2 years after the original release of e-mails, I have no opinion. Such billboards did not appear in the UK where some of the perps were based and can have had very little effect on the UK public’s consciousness. ”

    This is not an opinion problem, my point was that, contrary to what you induced, there *is* indeed a campaign by some people to bring mistrust on scientists. Take James Delingpole in the Telegraph. Take The Australian.
    Saying that climate scientists are bad people and were brought to light by their own actions is painting half the picture. There is an active media campaign aimed at describing climate scientists in their worst light. Defamation actions are being brought to justice, we will have the justice opinion if this campaign is defamatory or not.

  22. Paul Matthews says:

    I’m on record as saying that climate scientists behaving like political activists was one of the factors that converted me to scepticism. I am probably one of the people Tamsin is thinking of when she says that advocacy has damaged trust, and then backs this up in the comments with “My statement that trust has been damaged referred to my (fairly extensive) discussions with climate sceptics, both online and in person”. I’m also the author of the favourite quote on her web page (“If most climate scientists were like Tamsin, there’d be hardly any sceptics”).

    So I’m obliged to agree with her entirely. It’s a fundamental principle of science that every question needs to be approached objectively, and when climate scientists start saying things like “I’ve signed my department up to 10:10 campaign and have a taskforce of staff and students involved in it”, they’ve lost it. I appreciate that this may be seen by some as a naively idealistic view for such a politically charged issue.

    You say that you find her view unlikely, and give your own opinion. Her opinion is based on talking with (and listening to) sceptics. What is yours based on? Let’s put it another way. It has been established that there has been a decline in trust (eg ‘Climategate, Public Opinion, and the Loss of Trust’, Leiserowitz et al). Now if you wanted to find out why there had been a decline in trust, how would you go about doing that?

  23. BBD says:

    This is too much.

    The “sceptics” have essentially only one tactic: FUD. They have no scientific argument, so this is what you get instead.

    Delegitimisation of scientists by false accusation has been a constant thread from Ben Santer in 1995 to Mann after MBH98/99 then Jones and CRU all the way to the quite vile attempts to undermine Marcott et al. (2013) and throughout it all, endless attacks on Hansen.

    The supposed lack of trust in climate scientists has been engineered by the fake sceptics. It is what they do. It is their obligate tactic.

    If Tamsin cannot see this, well I don’t know how to fix that perceptual lacuna.

  24. Rachel says:

    I definitely think climate scientists should be free to express their opinion. If I visit the vet with a sick dog, I don’t just want the current scientific view on his possible treatment, I also want the vet’s opinion. I actually find fence-sitters rather frustrating. What’s so wrong with saying, this is what’s happening and here’s what I think we need to do about it? Then provide some solid reasons for this view.

    And as for the earlier comment that climate scientists have brought themselves into disrepute, if this is in relation to the climategate emails then the main accusations (which can be found on any climate science contrarian blog) are very few and lacking in substance. Out of more than 10 years worth of emails, the same three or so emails are parroted over and over again by contrarians. It would also seem that these emails were taken out of context as numerous investigations have failed to find any evidence of fraud or misconduct on the part of climate scientists. No, I think there has been a malicious campaign to discredit climate scientists. Michael Mann calls it the Serengeti strategy, where one scientist is picked from the herd and attacked just as lions on the Serengeti plains pick a vulnerable member of the herd to isolate and consume.

  25. BBD says:

    It’s all confected nonsense. A smear campaign from start to finish. First steal the emails, then misrepresent them for ever and a day. Bingo! Distrust and doubt created with the aid of a credulous/incompetent media and naive commentators.

    There is nothing there. Never was. There is a balanced and fair overview by Zeke Hausfather at Yale forum on Media & Climate Change.

    Time Latimer read something not written by Andrew Montford or Steve McIntyre. But no. We get the same old lies, again and again and again. And the worst thing of all is that it works. As we can all see, very clearly now.

  26. chris says:

    “Her opinion is based on…… What is yours based on?”

    Evidence, I would say in my case. I’ve listened to and read the work of lots of climate scientists. I’ve also listened to and read the assertions of many “skeptics”. The work and statements of the scientists broadly seem to be self-consistent and supported by evidence. That’s not the case with assertions of skeptics in my experience.

    So I’d say my opinion is evidence-based. Of course we’d have to discuss specific examples to dig deeper into this, but you are asking about “opinions”.

    “It’s a fundamental principle of science that every question needs to be approached objectively…”

    That sounds like it must be a “mothers and apple pie truism”! But it’s debatable. The fundamental principles in science relate more to honest appraisal of the observations and evidence and that seems to be where so-called “skeptics” (again we would really need to discuss specific examples) are often deficient.

    In fact many questions in science aren’t approached “objectively”…it’s not clear whether that is even possible, since even though we’re scientists, we’re not automatons. I don’t think I ever start a series of experiments without some expectation (sometimes quite a strong desire!) of a particular outcome. You deal with that by being careful and honest. Quite a few of the papers I’ve published are the result of observations and conclusions that were quite contrary to the expectations.

    Of course in the physical sciences (like climate science) reality is a strong arbiter of potentially conflicting viewpoints and erroneous or hopeful expectations, and that’s another reason I prefer the statements/opinions of scientists on matters scientific (rather than those of so-called “skeptics”). Again we’d have to discuss specific examples especially when referring to the amorphous species “skeptic”!

  27. BBD says:

    Hello again Paul

    I’m on record as saying that climate scientists behaving like political activists was one of the factors that converted me to scepticism.

    This is an awful reason for altering your view on a matter of science. In fact it is not a reason at all. I am saddened to see you write these words.

    May I ask what were the other reasons?

  28. Paul, I must say that I am somewhat impressed that you’ve made a substantive comment. It’s a nice change. As you appear to be acknowledging (or maybe not) in an ideal world I would tend to agree with Tamsin that scientists should aim to be objective. As I think I made clear in the post, as an individual I would not want my status (if I had any) to influence how others interpret any evidence I was presenting. Ideally, policy makers should use evidence to make informed decisions without being unduly influenced by the personal opinions of those presenting the evidence. There is certainly circumstances where this should be the case. If a scientist were called before a parliamentary/senate committee I do think it would be unprofessional for them to present their opinions if only asked to present what they can infer from the scientific evidence.

    However, as I think I make clear in the post, this is unrealistic and assuming that scientists should refrain from having personal views, given that they are expert members of our society, seems unreasonable. You may judge a scientist poorly if they start to publicly express their opinions about policy. Although there may be circumstances where this may be a valid judgement, I think there are circumstances where this judgement would be unfair. I find it hard to imagine that – as a society who funds scientific research – we would be getting best value if scientists didn’t make it clear that the evidence (assuming it does) strongly suggested that we should act to prevent some future problem.

    As far as your last paragraph is concerned. I may not have expressed this clearly, but I was trying to refer to the general public rather than to those who are sceptical and involved (in some way) in the climate science debate. I’m sure there are some (yourself included) who have looked at the “evidence” and made what they think is an informed decision about the trustworthiness of climate scientists. However, my opinion is that if the general public do distrust climate scientists (and I don’t actually know if they do) then it seems more likely that this is because they’ve read James Delingpole’s Telegraph articles – for example – than because they’ve looked at the actual evidence (I’m not trying to insult the general public here – so apologies if it seems that way). I may be wrong of course and I can’t prove that I’m right. That’s why I tried to make sure that it was clear that it was my opinion rather than something I could prove.

  29. chris says:

    Isn’t there an elephant in the room .. or perhaps better put “..an elephant not in the room”?
    Tamsin suggests climate scientists shouldn’t be advocates (debatable but an acceptable personal principle), believes “advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science”, and recounts her experience of environmentalists suggesting she advocate on behalf of her science and some of its potential implications.

    But who are these advocating climate scientists? I can’t think of a single Brit climate scientist that I would recognise as an advocate of climate policy. Tamsin doesn’t give a single specific example in her article although she does mention a twitter engagement with Gavin Schmidt. I would have thought by far the overwhelming number of advocates for climate policy were non-scientists. I can think of loads of British climate policy advocates but these are all bloggers, politicians or their aides, journalists and assorted Viscounts. Where are those British climate science advocates that are so damaging trust in science? Personally I think it’s rather sad that we don’t hear the thoughts of UK climate scientist in the UK media…

    The situation is a little different in the US, but still the most vociferous advocates are a similar group of non scientists that differs from the British climate advocate pool by having a high proportion of “think tank” spokespersons (“spokesmen” is actually more appropriate here)… a smattering of academics that one would consider to be in the so-called “skeptic” group as Paul Matthews might identify.

  30. Yes, that is something I hadn’t really considered. I can’t really name an active climate scientist in the UK who is openly advocating for particular policies. So, not really any reason to criticise climate scientists for doing so, unless there are a whole bunch who are doing this without the rest of us noticing.

  31. I’m also the author of the favourite quote on her web page (“If most climate scientists were like Tamsin, there’d be hardly any sceptics”).

    Sorry, but this is nonsense. Or it it’s true it makes skeptics look even more ridiculous than they already do.
    So you’d all change your opinions on an important and complex issue not because you
    were actually persuaded by the evidence but because scientists flattered your egos and took you seriously.
    Well there’s a reason that most of them don’t.

  32. Not just in the UK. I mean Gavin has been one of Tamsin’s strongest critics on this question and is one of the most high profile climate scientists in the US, but I couldn’t tell you what his views on carbon taxes or nuclear power are.

  33. toby52 says:

    If scientists are destroying science by advocating policy then we are lucky it survived the devastating assault by Albert Einstein and Betrand Russell in advocating nuclear disarmament..
    http://www.umich.edu/~pugwash/Manifesto.html

  34. If I were me, I’d follow this guy:

    Since I am, I already do.

  35. And I started doing so today :-)

  36. If I may quote what I said at Judy’s:

    I don’t think there’s a general solution to this quandary. I think all these discussions on advocacy are mostly rationalizations of personal preferences. Not engaging in policy is still a policy, and there’s no real views from nowhere

    I don’t think we should generalize Tamsin’s stance to score brownie points. Tamsin is more than welcome to go from “I, as a scientist” to “all scientists”. But if she does that, she has to include herself in the preference judgements we’re discussing,

    Ideology is always what the Other entertains.

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/07/31/tamsin-on-scientists-and-policy-advocacy/#comment-357885

    I wrote this because I was not sure Tamsin were prescribing that every scientist to follow on her path. Perhaps she does mean that, but it is still unclear to me. I’d rather see this as the expression of a personal testimony. As such, we should respect it.

    But as soon as she promotes her personal claim to a deontological prescription, then I’d be more than happy to point out that her prescription might very well be self-refuting.

    There’s a nice example of a policy-free scientist in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Craddle, btw.

  37. Tom Curtis says:

    James Annan has a thoughtful blog on Tamsin’s article, and raises several of the issues I would raise. These are:

    1) Scientists in general, and climate scientists in particular, did not sign their citizenship away when they chose their career. I would go further than James and say that suggestions that climate scientists not be able as citizens to participate in a political debate are morally offensive, and contrary to the nature of democracy in which all citizens have a right to participate in policy debate.

    2) It is special pleading to direct this injunction at scientists (or climate scientists) only. Surely of non-participation in policy debates is a prerequisite of the appearance of objectivity, then economists, sociologists, political theorists etc should also be precluded from such participation as a mark of their objectivity. The consequences would be absurd, with governments unable to ask the advice of economists on economic policy, sociologists on social policy, political scientists or lawyers on constitutional issues and so on.

    A further issue, not raised by James, is that there are many scientists, (climate and otherwise) who have gone so far as to form think tanks with the explicit purpose of influencing government policy in favour of free market fundamentalism. One example is Fred Singer who even declined a job offer from the White House because the offered position had insufficient influence on policy (mentioned in Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes). The effect of Tamsin’s advise would be that the sole policy advice on climate change from scientists available would be that from scientists who have abandoned research in favour of a career attempting to influence policy, ie, from the Fred Singers, Patrick Michael’s and (now) the James Hansen’s of this world (and please note that this career move is the only commonality between Hansen and Singer and Michaels IMO). That is not a situation with improved advice.

    Having said that, I do agree that policy should be kept out of the science itself (except for the technical matter of research of what the actual impact of particular policies would be). Further, I also think scientists should be very clear when they are speaking as a scientist, and when they are expressing a personal opinion as a citizen which goes beyond their expertise as scientists (as, for example, Hansen’s various comments on the relative virtues of carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes).

    I further think that when reporting to a non-expert audience (whether the general public or officials), scientists should very clearly delineate the mainstream view in the science, in addition to their own personal understanding of the evidence. Scientists should also indicate approximately how unusual their view is relative to the mainstream view, ie, whether the science is mire in controversy with no view having a significant majority support, or whether their view is particularly controversial, with most other relevant scientists disagreeing. Failure to do this is the real stealth advocacy.

  38. Tom Curtis says:

    I’ll just add that William Connolley also has a blog on this issue, that is worth a read. He is, perhaps, not as polite as James Annan.

  39. dana1981 says:

    I have two big problems with Tasmin’s article.

    1) She claims we need to restore trust in climate science. No, trust in climate science hasn’t been lost. In poll after poll climate scientists are the most trusted sources of climate science information. There is of course an exception to that – climate contrarians. But they will never trust climate scientists, because climate scientists tell them what they don’t want to hear and refuse to believe. So I think Tasmin is way off base with that point. Her belief that advocacy has damaged trust in climate science has no supporting evidence. As chris asked, who are all of these climate scientist advocates, anyway? Which brings me to problem #2:

    2) She’s too vague about how ‘advocacy’ is defined. If she’s talking about specific advocacy, like Myles Allen advocating for carbon capture and storage, I don’t have a big problem with that criticism. I don’t agree (as long as they make it clear they’re putting their ‘advocacy hat’ on and not speaking as climate scientists, they shouldn’t have any worries about expressing their opinions), but it would be a valid perspective. I could see her point if that’s the point she’s making.

    But is that how Tasmin is defining “advocacy”? Given that there are very few climate scientists who fit this definition (maybe 2 – Allen and Hansen?), perhaps not. Maybe she’s using a more general definition, for example, “we need to reduce emissions by ‘x’ to avoid dangerous climate change and current policies are insufficient to accomplish that.” More climate scientists would fit that definition, but that’s the sort of “advocacy” we need climate scientists to engage in. That’s their area of expertise! If that’s what Tasmin is saying climate scientists can’t do, I think she’s totally wrong. So either her argument is invalid (criticizing something that is almost non-existent), or it’s completely wrong (IMO).

    Sorry, I wasn’t a fan of the article :-)

  40. I personally would also prefer that my person is irrelevant and that only my arguments count. But I guess we have to face the fact that the general public holds our opinions as scientists to be highly credible.

    Even we cannot check all the arguments, life is short and you cannot look at all the evidence and weigh all the arguments, in the end you have to place your trust somewhere.

    That trust is a precious gift and a reason to be very careful and not to overstate our confidence.

  41. Depends what you call advocacy. Some climate ostriches probably feel that claiming the CO2 is not life, but a greenhouse gas, is advocacy.

  42. Marco says:

    Paul, allow me to ask you a few questions:
    1. Could you please name the specific climate scientists who have called for advocacy (see 2)?
    2. What specific policies did they recommend?
    3. Which climate scientists do you still trust? Please provide names!

    Your quote “I’ve signed my department up to 10:10 campaign and have a taskforce of staff and students involved in it” would have been better if it had been followed by a name. So I did some googling and found this to be a quote from professor Graham Haughton. A simple look at his homepage shows Haughton is not a climate scientist…

  43. Pingback: Two opinion pieces. Or three, if you count James. But that’s four if you count me. Oh hang on, I’ll come in again. – Stoat

  44. andrew adams says:

    Willard,

    I wrote this because I was not sure Tamsin were prescribing that every scientist to follow on her path. Perhaps she does mean that, but it is still unclear to me. I’d rather see this as the expression of a personal testimony. As such, we should respect it.

    I think she really does expect every scientist to follow on her path, or at least that’s how her article reads to me. Yes, she starts off by relating her personal experience of being pressed to express a view on carbon taxes, and I totally sympathise with her on this point. But after that she constantly refers to the behaviour of scientists collectively rather than flagging instances of individuals overstepping the mark (which no doubt they have) or making it clear she is voicing her own personal preferences.

    Apart from the title of her piece, which she may not have been responsible for, here are a couple of quotes to illustrate my point –

    To me, then, it is simple: scientists misuse their authority if they publicise their preferred policy options.

    Science doesn’t tell us the answer to our problems. Neither should scientists.

    I would certainly be inclined to interpret those arguments as a deontological prescription, although I’m not sure it necessarily makes her argument self-refuting.

  45. bratisla says:

    I concur with dana about the problem with the lack of definition of “advocacy”. Does saying that CO2 emission levels will lead to 2°C and more represents “advocacy” ? For many at WUWT and consort, it sure is.
    Whatever the scientists will say about the likely outcome of climate change, they will be branded as “partisans” by the usual. Look at what happened to Muller. If we have to consider them in this matter, the only possibility for scientists is then to shut up entirely – they do that too much already.

  46. Yes, I made a comment on Doug McNeall’s blog that was making a similar argument. It did seem as though much of the disagreement is because people are not defining clearly what they mean by advocacy and defining precisely where they would draw the imaginary line that scientists should not cross.

  47. Pingback: Can scientists have opinions on policy? | quakerattled

  48. Paul Matthews says:

    duh. We’re talking about reasons for loss of trust, not general climate science

  49. Paul Matthews says:

    There are plenty of blog pages where I and other sceptics give their reasons, such as the recent one at WUWT and the Reader Background at the air vent blog.
    It’s not an ‘awful reason’ at all. As well as the concern about objectivity, there is the concern that the political activism may have preceded the climate science.

  50. Fair enough, you have reasons and they’ve been explained elsewhere. I don’t really want to start a lengthy debate about who’s right and who’s wrong – I suspect we’d simply continually disagree with each other and reach no real agreement. However, do you accept that your concerns imply that you think a conspiracy is a possibility? If you think the political activism preceded the science, then presumably you’re implying that the science is now being driven by the advocacy and I can’t see how any reasonable person wouldn’t describe that – if true (which I think it isn’t) – as being a conspiracy of sorts.

  51. chris says:

    Hi Paul,

    I was hoping you’d return and expand on your views. I think Tamsin’s views have a less than tangible focus for a couple of reasons. First she gives no examples of the climate scientist “advocates” that she consider are causing a loss of trust. It’s not obvious to me (see my post below and responses) as a quite well informed Brit that there are any of these so called “advocates” amongst Brit scientists ‘though of course there are gazillions of advocates on the so-called “skeptic” side.

    The other problem is that it’s not obvious that there is a loss of public trust. The most recent UK poll on this shows exactly the opposite as you can read here:

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2013/04/polling-reveals-public-trusts-scientists-most-on-climate

    Not surprisingly social media and blogs are considered to be by far the least trustworthy sources of info on climate science. That’s pretty encouraging I think Paul, since it shows that the UK public seem not to be taken in by some of the appalling agenda-led nonsense from so-called “skeptics”. Likewise the Government minister in charge of Energy and Climate Change policy (Ed Davey) has shown in his TV discussions that he sources his information from science and scientists.

  52. That is another communication “problem”. At WUWT everyone who says something “stupid” about climate change, its consequences or mitigation is a “climatologist”.

    Because policy is much more uncertain as the causes of climate change, that is part of their strategy to of discrediting the basic climate science.

  53. BBD says:

    It’s not an ‘awful reason’ at all. As well as the concern about objectivity, there is the concern that the political activism may have preceded the climate science.

    I restated myself above. It’s not an awful reason, it is no reason at all. If you have allowed your paranoid fantasies to compromise *your* objectivity to such an extent, you have suffered a gross error of judgment. You DO NOT judge science by your (loopy and incorrect) opinions of a few scientists. You judge the work itself.

    You have excised yourself from the realm of rational debate and entered the alternative universe of denialism.

  54. BBD says:

    I cannot, at this point, adequately express just how fed up I am with all these Galileos.

    Who – just who – do these people think they are?

  55. BBD says:

    dana

    1) She claims we need to restore trust in climate science. No, trust in climate science hasn’t been lost.

    Exactly. She’s doing a Curry. And she’s carrying water for the contrarian in the process by rebroadcasting the meme – the *lie* – that climate scientists are not trustworthy.

    Too much time spent listening to the misinformers.

  56. Paul Matthews says:

    I don’t have time to respond to all the basic questions being asked here (which bring to mind my usual comment on this blog – very little understanding of the issues). Some come from familiar names who ought to know better.

    If you want to understand the various reasons, which you ought to even from a ‘know your enemy’ point of view, read this recent thread at WUWT, and the ‘Reader background’ thread at the air vent.

    Mr Wottsup, please note that there is nobody there saying ‘I read this article by Delingpole and was convinced’, in fact the opposite, the original poster says Delingpole makes him cringe.

    if you want a name of an activist climate scientist, try Kevin Anderson. Obviously Tamsin is too tactful to name names.

  57. BBD says:

    I don’t have time to respond to all the basic questions being asked here (which bring to mind my usual comment on this blog – very little understanding of the issues).

    Self-aggrandising and wrong.

    Who do you think you are?

  58. BBD says:

    This is you:

    “I’m a (fake) sceptic because Kevin Anderson”.

    It’s not even funny, Paul.

  59. Thanks, Andrew.

    Perhaps I should pay more attention to the end of the article.

    I had the impression that “Neither should scientists” was a way to express her own way of seeing her role. It is unclear how a policy prescription can be seen as a solution. There are ways to say “we should do P” that do not sound like it follows from your expertise. This could mean that Tamsin’s prescription could apply only to scientists who make believe that their suggestions are conclusions following from their expertise.

    Let me think about examples. OK. Suppose you are a zoologist Z and say “we should not eat pigs, as they are more intelligent than 3 yo”. Z knows his schtick, but what he says implies an ethical argument, so honest broker J tells Z that he’s no real authority on what people should eat. Z could reply, “oh, I did not meant it as a universal claim, as I do eat bacon from time to time”. Z is thinking out loud, expressing a wishful thought, which could still orient his actions.

    But imagine that Z really wants people to stop eating pigs. Z becomes an ethicist. Z studies animal rights. Z graduates in policy analysis. Z collaborates with economists, pcommunicators, lobbyists, engineers, neuroscientists, and what not. Every claims on which Z constructs his argument is covered by sufficient expertise. Now, interpret Tamsin’s claim maximally: does it mean that Z cannot tell anything anymore about our eating pigs?

    Bypassing this limitation would be easy, BTW. It’s done every day. A journalist could report on the pig industry. He could interview Z, who only says that pigs are more intelligent than 3yos, an economist, who tell him how expensive eating meat is, and a a policy analysts, who tells him about hidden subsidies. The segment ends up with Jamie Oliver, who proposes a recipe with free-range tofu. No prescription there, is it?

    A more direct way to refute T’s claim would be to observe that “Scientists should not prescribe anything” is itself a prescription. T is herself a scientist. She does take her microphone to promote her own personal views.

    I stop. Tablets were not made for thought experiments.

  60. Marco says:

    Paul, I find it extremely disappointing, but not unexpected, that you do not want to answer my three simple questions. After all, I already showed how you blamed your disbelief of climate scientists by referring to a quote of a scientists who isn’t a climate scientist.

    Your reference to Kevin Anderson is another shot in the foot: he’s specifically *asked* to comment on policy by the government and his research field *is* the science-policy interface. In many ways he’s not a climate scientist, in that he does not investigate the evolution of climate as a function of forcings. He takes that information from others and then investigates whether policies supposed to address a certain issue fit with the science.

  61. Paul, you’re mis-understanding the point I’m making. I’m not referring to people who will be reading and commenting on blogs. I’m referring to the man in the street who may have a view about something, but not be actively involved in anything with regards to this. If this type of person does have a sense that climate scientists cannot be trusted (and I’m not sure if this is true) then, it is my opinion, that they will have got this view because they’ve been told that it is so, not because they’ve investigated directly themselves. As I said before, I can’t prove this is true – hence it is my opinion.

  62. chris says:

    Is there a point at which a blog post might be amenable to a sort of “summing up”?

    I think we might do so on this particular thread bearing in mind that my summing up may not agree with yours…

    1. Dr Tamsin Edwards raises some useful points about “advocacy” on the part of scientists.

    2. Taking the Scottish approach to evidence in relation to a prosecution, I think we might deliver a verdict of “not proven” with respect to her assertions…

    3. Dr Edwards asserts that “advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science”, but gives us no examples of her “advocates” nor any evidence that “climate scientists have damaged trust”. In fact the evidence, such as it is (polls) indicates that climate scientists are the most trusted source of information about the climate amongst the UK public. Reasonably well informed Brits
    are at a loss to come up with examples of these so called “advocates”.

    4. We can certainly applaud Dr Edward’s personal stance about her position with respect to advocacy. Dr. Edwards declines to give her opinions on policy.

    5. Other scientists may be more vociferous about their views with respect to their privileged knowledge arising from their research and consider it appropriate to speak forthrightly about their views.

    6. Ultimately, we should be guided by the scientific evidence and anyone (scientist or other) that represents this faithfully according to an honest appraisal is deserving of kudos.

    7. Ultimately (2!) we (as scientists or otherwise) can do or say pretty much whatever we like. It would be excellent if the public and policymakers were sufficiently aware to recognise what is an isn’t a realistic portrayal of scientific evidence.

    8. The evidence from polls and public utterances of policymakers (aka Ed Davey the UK government minister for Energy and Climate Change) supports the conclusion that the climate science and their science underpin perception and policy (in contrast to Dr Edwards’ unsupported assertions.

    9.. etc. ad tedium

  63. Good idea to make a summary. There are so many aspects that it is to keep an overview.

    To 3. There is evidence that advocacy reduces trust. No idea how strong this evidence is and how much counter evidence there is. On the other hand, even if the evidence would be clear, scientists would still have human rights.

    To 5. In most cases climatologists will not have privileged knowledge about policy due to their work. It is natural that they are interested in the topic, thus some may be relatively knowledgeable, but not professionally. That is a problem because many people trust scientists and that trust should not be abused.

    To 7. This is clearly a role for scientists.

    To 8. Just because a minister or politician understands the science does not mean that there is no problem. A politician should have the perception that he will be able to build a coalition to get a proposed action passed and he should expect to be rewarded for taken some sort of action. In both cases, the (perceived) public opinion and balance of power is important.

  64. chris says:

    Paul, we’re really more interested in what you might have to say than your ability to link to stuff. Why can’t you respond in your own words to questions that several posters have posed directly to you on this thread? You link to a 12 year paper by some Larry Neilsen. It’s an underwhelming paper – it’s engendered around 10 citations in 12 years. Please, please say something in your own words! Tell us what you think is so valuable about the Neilsen paper. Tell us what you think is so valuable about Paul Voosens’ inarticulate article you link to. Surely you have your own opinions.

  65. chris says:

    Hi Victor,

    “There is evidence that advocacy reduces trust”… Maybe. Remember that Dr Edwards doesn’t give us any insight into the existence of this “advocacy”, and posters here can’t come up with a meaningful number of climate science “advocates”, so it’s not obvious if this “advocacy” exists anyway, let alone that it is perceived by the public.

    The blog post you link to isn’t terribly helpful I think. It suggests that educated individuals are not influenced by putative advocacy “First, educated or wealthy viewers had no significant reaction to the political call and seemed able to parse the difference between science and a personal political view.” A conclusion from that might be that it would be helpful if the public were more educated, not that “it would be a good idea to make less than honest statements about our beliefs as climate scientists since the public isn’t well enough educated to parse our statements”. In any case Tamsin Edwards is speaking (I think – she doesn’t make his clear) as a Brit, whereas Krosnick is speaking from a US perspective ( I think).

    So personally I’m undecided as to whether “advocacy reduces trust”…I align with the Scottish “not proven” verdict on this.

  66. Marco says:

    I’d like to offer an alternative interpretation to Krosnick’s findings: the low-income, low-education have little affinity with science, often not realising what it means and already having a negative view (note the 48% at the start)…until someone then comes with policy options, which makes them realise that this science-stuff is having an impact on their life. And when that impact is not clearly positive, they are the first to complain (because they are already under pressure). More people trying to trample them!

    It has some similarity with the research that shows that some people with strong beliefs get even more confident of those beliefs when confronted with information that contradicts those beliefs.

  67. One should take E&E articles with a grain of salt, but at least is it some evidence. I hope someone more knowledgeable can comment on the full range of evidence.

    In the E&E article, they tested a science story with and without advocacy. I wonder what the results would be if after the science story the journalist asked about policy implications and the scientist would refuse to answer the question, multiple times. I wonder what that would do to the reliability ratings. Such as scenario also does not sound good to me. Then it might be better to answer something vague and careful.

  68. Thank you for these resources, Paul M. Perhaps you may take a look at this:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/legal-obligation/

    Among these different flavours, which one do you prefer?

    Many thanks!

  69. Tried to post this at Doug’s:

    Suppose a designated reporter DR from a daily magazine DM asks you about a problem P.

    You pause.

    Do you stick to facts? Perhaps not: you may believe that your judgement J is involved.

    How to decide if J is the best available, or even authoritative?

    If DR contacts you, is it not because he already knows this J?

    If DR had no remorse to advocates what helps DM to gain eyeballs, who cares about the legitimacy or not of J?

    Do you really believe that by not wish to advocate for anything, your J won’t be taken as such?

    The most important thing to what I’m saying right now is this: what you, the scientists, say matters n.

    As Frank Lunz says: it’s what people hear that matters.

    ****

    Hope you don’t mind the rhetorical questions, Wott.

  70. Matters not, of course, which is as overblown as T’s ALL scientists MUST NOT.

    ***

    Another counterexample. Define advocacy as telling others what we should do.

    Imagine a scientist who says what she would do.

    “I don’t know about you, but *I* beware of second-hand smoke”.

    Do you hear the prescription?

    Cf. with PaulM’s switch of faith.

  71. If the experts, the scientists, weren’t to advocate we would leave ourselves open to inexperts and charlatans. We need expert advice.

  72. I agree. That is the big worry. I tried to express this view in the post, but didn’t quite do it as well as you have. If you hamstring the experts (by creating rules that they must follow when engaging) then – as you say – we will open ourselves up to being unduly influenced by those who either don’t understand the science well enough to give the advice they’re giving or by those who have an underlying agenda.

  73. Rhetorical questions are fine :-)

  74. Thanks for the summaries. They seem to largely capture what I think are the important points.

  75. Zen says:

    As a lay person, I would like to see more of climate scientists explaining the science through the media. I am fed up of hearing politicians and journalists discussing the climate change issues and not the people who know most, are the real experts and authorities on the subject. As good a job as Ed Davey did in defending the science, I feel it should be a climate scientist being interviewed and given the opportunity to explain the facts, not a politician.

    In one respect, I think scientists have a moral duty to get the information out there when they know the seriousness of the situation. At the same time, scientists are just people, some will be more confident than others, some will be better communicators, and it would be unfair to expect someone to put themselves forward when they really aren’t comfortable with it. However, it would be really nice to see more scientists speaking up and being brave enough to step up to the plate, despite the accusations and vilification, that is sure to follow, from the sceptic.

    Just my opinion

  76. Thanks for the comment, and I largely agree. I am not a climate scientist, simply an interested bystander who is an active scientist. I, too, am starting to think that it would be good if more active climate scientists were included in public discussions about climate science. They’re the experts and their views are valuable and important. That doesn’t mean we have to give them undue weight, simply that knowing their views would be good. I’m starting to think that some climate scientists are trying too hard to be reasonable when in fact that should start to object more about how they’re being characterised by some in the media. They should start, in my opinion, making the case that they are professionals who understand best the science associated with global warming and climate change.

  77. Zen says:

    I am glad we are in agreement. Thankyou.

  78. I think no one at this blog would object to scientists explaining climate science. The question is whether they should/may also go beyond that.

    That a politician is interviewed about climate science is weird. It would be logical to ask a politician about politics. That is his trade.

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