Guest essay by Dr. Tim Ball
There is a large group of scientists who rarely express their views on climate change. They are scientists mostly working in the private sector whose ability to speak out is more limited than government scientists for two reasons. One is Upton Sinclair’s observation
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
I am not sure “understand” is fair, because many understand but often don’t have the time or the inclination. The other is that for many their salary is from some part of the demonized energy sector, which means they understand but are unable to speak.
About the closest they come to direct, or indirect expression of their opinion usually occurs without their knowledge or approval through the statements issued by their professional society. These organizations, like the national science societies were purposely co-opted by the British Royal Society to promote the deceptive and at best totally inadequate climate science of the IPCC. The battle for the voice of science societies continues as Judith Curry explains with the American Meteorological Society (AMS). Leaders of the AMS showed they are not persuaded away from their position because they enlisted George Mason University to carry out a slanted survey.
Some society members realize what is going and demand full disclosure based on science. This was the case for Professor Emeritus of Physics Hal Lewis of the University of California and the actions of the American Physical Society (APS). He knew the challenges of balance between science and society as he explained in his letter of resignation from APS.
As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists.
As he points out, it is very different today, especially with the climate issue. He wrote:
It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
Professor Lewis understood clearly, but in explaining, he also indirectly identifies the challenge. He says “any real physicist, nay scientist”, but that only applies to some 20 percent of society and to only a few of them who, even if they read what was going on, would or could speak out. The challenge is to make changes in the education system so all can understand how science is corrupted without requiring a science degree.
The Challenge In Context
For 25 years I taught a Science course for Arts students that was a required credit for their degree program. Its inclusion was part of the ongoing discussion about what constitutes a traditional, well-balanced, liberal arts degree. Science students were required to take two humanities courses. It was an attempt at producing a well-rounded person with a broader context of knowledge and society. The decline of this objective is part of the shift from generalization to specialization, a trend that in my opinion is at the center of the challenge society faces over global warming. Climatology is a generalist discipline; Climate Science is an amalgam of specialists each studying one small segment of a large complex system. We saw the problems recently at the Cruz Senate Hearings with people talking but not understanding. It created a vacuum ideal for the demagoguery of Senator Markey.
Some University faculty complained about these required courses. For example, one Physics professor wanted his students to take all 15 credits in Physics for a complete degree program. The University chose to placate the complaints by creating courses that downplayed emphasis on science. I became involved in two such courses listed as Science credits. I made the course I taught about the way the Earth works for students who were future citizens of the world. I explained how they would make political decisions in a world embracing environmentalism that required a basic understanding of the science. I also worked as a teaching assistant for and later gave guest lectures in a History of Science course. Anyone who took such a course would more readily understand what is going on with the global warming deception, even if they didn’t understand the science. In the case of global warming, all they need to know about is the scientific method and how that was bypassed to achieve a predetermined result. I think the history of science should be a mandatory course in all High School programs.
If the public understood the scientific method, the challenge skeptics face today would not exist. There was no need for the appearance of climate science specialists Professors Curry, Christy and Happer before the Cruz Committee. All it would need is a person to explain how the IPCC set out to prove rather than disprove the AGW hypothesis. As Douglas Yates said, but few understand,
“No scientific theory achieves public acceptance until it has been thoroughly discredited.”
Richard Lindzen’s comment made several years ago that the consensus was reached before the research had even begun would have been unnecessary. It is a measure of the lack of public knowledge of scientific method that few understood what he meant then or now.
Some People Worked To Bridge the Gap: FOS Is One Effective Example.
Lack of scientific knowledge was one of the several problems confronting a group of mostly retired scientists in Calgary, Alberta, who were concerned about the science behind the proposed Kyoto Protocol. They decided to create an organization to inform the public of the improper scientific method used and the inadequate and inaccurate science applied. They called me, and I met with them at Calgary airport to discuss their plans. The first problem was where most of them lived, locations synonymous with the evil energy industry. Even more problematic, many of them, though now retired, worked in the “oil patch.” The issues grew from there and amounted to a history of the challenges faced by global warming skeptics and climate change deniers everywhere.
The meeting began with questions about climate to confirm that their positions were valid and worth pursuing. We then discussed the problems of communicating with a population divided between 80 percent arts and 20 percent science mindsets. The group was almost 100 percent in the science group who believe in the ideal that, properly, science is amoral and apolitical. The reality was that the Kyoto Protocol was a political response to a manufactured issue based on bad science.
The decision was taken to stick strictly with the science. I warned them about personal attacks and especially the career and money connections. I urged them to set up an arms-length funding process. They arranged this through a political scientist, Barry Cooper, at the University of Calgary. Commendably, he believed and taught that all sides of a public issue require exposure. Hence, the group formed the Friends of Science (FOS).
The group struggled but survived through the determination of a few individuals such as Albert Jacobs (still active) and Len Maier (recently passed). They were undermined, albeit unknown to most of the members, by a $12,000 donation from an energy company. That became the focal point of attacks and was instrumental in the University throwing them off campus. This is how political attacks are carried out. You find a small flaw and expand it into the justification for throwing out the entire agenda. It is why the law is fundamentally flawed. The conundrum is that nothing is perfect, but the law requires a perfect case. Defense lawyers easily find a real flaw or, more often nowadays, speculate about one sufficient to create doubt. They think it is clever, but it is the difference between the law and justice. Worse, the flaw depends on society’s prejudices. A flaw is devastating for one group but of no consequence for another. In climate, Al Gore’s major scientific errors in his movie An Inconvenient Truth continue uncorrected or even prejudicial to his political positions, while the smallest error in other documentaries is identified and exaggerated with demands for complete rejection. A similar double standard exists with funding. Government funding is neutral and without strings like money from an environmental group. Money from energy companies is, even more, perplexing. If they fund an environmental group, it is ‘clean money,’ but if it goes to a skeptics group like FOS, it is controlling and directing. None of this is new, but the contradictions and hypocrisies are stark.
Despite all the attacks FOS survived and made major contributions. They stuck with the science and produced some interesting work of their own; I am mindful of Ken Gregory’s work on the weakness of Canadian Climate models or his contribution to WUWT on climate sensitivity. In 2006, they enlisted Madhav Khandekar to prepare a list of peer reviewed anti-AGW articles to counteract Al Gore and the media touting Naomi Oreske’s argument that none existed.
They also carried out some very effective media work. For example, I wrote several short radio draft comments that were purely factual questions, such as “Did you know that CO2 is approximately 4 percent of the total greenhouse gases.” These were played in Ontario and were so effective they garnered a charge through the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) that it was political advertising. Surprisingly, the CRTC eventually rejected the charge.
Over the years FOS used much of their money to hire full-time assistants to provide continuity and do the leg work for the retired membership. It also helped the membership achieve its goal of sticking to the science by hiring a person with media and political abilities. Right now they have a first class person in Michelle Stirling, who produces excellent Press Releases, maintains an informative web page, and carries out very effective billboard advertising campaign across the country. They are effective because of the attacks from people using the false science for a political agenda.
I am very proud of my association with this group having helped them get started. Over the years, I contributed many articles, appeared on their behalf, such as at the Alberta Government hearing on Carbon Sequestration, and was honored three times as keynote speaker at their AGM. The truth is most of the contributors could have gone into peaceful retirement and avoided the abuse from political operatives Instead they chose to use their skills and knowledge to keep people informed.
This group deals with the challenge of communicating science to a predominantly arts comfortable science averse society. They are effective, as the nastiness of the attacks reflect but unlike their attackers who only seek to silence and destroy they produce valuable information for people to reach their own conclusions. They do it with a minimal budget supported by professional people who are passionate about science and the truth. In doing so, they provide a vehicle for the large group of “working scientists” essentially without a voice.