Monday, May 17, 2010

To the Letter

In the May 7th issue of the journal Science a letter signed by 255 prominent scientists was published. This letter, "Climate Change and the Integrity of Science," speaks to "the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular." The letter states that many of these attacks are "driven by special interests or dogma, not by an honest effort to provide an alternative theory that credibly satisfies the evidence." And although all of the signers were not climate scientists (they were all members of the National Academy of Sciences and some Nobel laureates), they all agreed that the mis-framing of climate science and the questioning of scientists' motives is disturbing. This mis-framing and questioning coming from as high up as the U.S. Congress.

"Statements by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), accusing climate scientists of fraud and calling 17 of them ... potential 'criminals', helped provoke the response..."

"Inhofe has claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore, is a deliberate fraud. He has called for investigations of possible violations of federal law by some climate researchers."
The letter calls for an end to threats of criminal prosecution and an end to the lies being spread about scientists, likening it to McCarthy-like witch hunts. It lays out what is science and what is not. It also lists the accepted, fundamental conclusions about climate change:

"(i) The planet is warming due to increased concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere. A snowy winter in Washington does not alter this fact.

(ii) Most of the increase in the concentration of these gases over the last century is due to human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

(iii) Natural causes always play a role in changing Earth's climate, but are now being overwhelmed by human-induced changes.

(iv) Warming the planet will cause many other climatic patterns to change at speeds unprecedented in modern times, including increasing rates of sea-level rise and alterations in the hydrologic cycle. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are making the oceans more acidic.

(v) The combination of these complex climate changes threatens coastal communities and cities, our food and water supplies, marine and freshwater ecosystems, forests, high mountain environments, and far more."
(which I just had to quote because it was put so well)

Throughout the letter, and again at its closing, society's role in the treatment of their scientists and responsibility to themselves is emphasized.

"Society has two choices: We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively."
This is an intreguing publication. One, I might add, that was rejected by most major newspapers (likely because they have taken a chopping knife to their science sections). I suggest reading the actual letter, and I've also included an editorial and a policy/society article.

Here's the story:

and here's the letter:
Climate Change and the Integrity of Science (2010). Science: 328(5979), 689-690. (DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5979.689)

Hanson, Brooks (2010). Stepping Back; Moving Forward. Editorial. Science: 328(5979), 667. (DOI: 10.1126/science.1190790)

Jasanoff, Sheila (2010) Testing Time for Climate Science. Science: 328(5979), 695-696. (DOI: 10.1126/science.1189420) (Summary)

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