Thursday, 19 September 2013

Institutional warmism

Following yesterday's post about serialising some of John Cook's rebuttal pieces, the comments have persuaded me that I should continue putting them up in the shooting gallery.

But before I do, some other points and a request:

1. First, I need to make it clear that the comments I received privately were certainly not aimed at censoring Cook. But the depth of feeling in them clearly signalled that something has gone wrong in the academic debate on climate change.

2. As he himself says, Cook himself is not a climate scientist - his specialism is physics - and his site was set up pro bono by his lights as a convinced global warmist. Further, he says he "has no affiliations with any organisations or political groups." So he is not to be accused of having stymied anyone's career in climate science, or taking some rich man's shilling. When one glances around the internet he does seem to polarise (that wasnt intended as a pun) the participants, because of his (as some see it) excessive assertiveness; but one has to remember that Skeptical Science is intended for the public and so oversimplification is bound to be a hazard.

What gave me pause was the obvious - and surprising to me - strength of sentiment provoked by Cook, who appears to stand as a symbol of the triumphalism of the pro-warmist camp generally. And even in the comments to my related post yesterday, there are mutual insults and imputations of improper motive and so on. There is a level of tension that makes liberal suspension of judgement and bilateral respect very hard to sustain, and so I wondered whether it was worthwhile airing the discussion if all it achieved was to see the air thick with brickbats - "hooligan's confetti".

But this has led to another issue: what is causing this level of acrimony? There is smoke drifting over the hedge, and I'd like to see where the fire is.

I don't think it's just to do with disagreements over the truth. It's something to do with vested interests of various kinds, that's clear enough, and I'll be glad if anyone is willing to get down to specifics rather than generally tarring the other side as mercenary scoundrels.

That's my first request: specifics on conscious bias. While keeping an eye on libel laws, can anybody really show that soemone has sold their integrity, instead of simply being funded for an opinion they had anyway?

And my second is about bullying and skulduggery. What evidence (if any) is there that people on either side have been leaned on or otherwise unfairly treated for not toeing the line? Is there any case where fervent revolutionaries or cold reactionaries have gone too far, and (in career terms) employed Stalin's maxim "no man, no problem"?

If you feel you can help, please contact me in confidence at It will be very useful in getting the background - or the underlay - to this most contentious subject.

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