Guest opinion by James Wanliss
When I first attended the Fall American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in 1995 it was undoubtedly one of the goals of many of the PhD students and postdocs at the meeting to land a job at a corporation involved in earth science and mineral exploration.
How times have changed.
Today those who work for, say, an oil company may have to cover their conference badges to hide their affiliation. Although an oil company like ExxonMobil contributes over $400 billion annually to the global economy, and employs over 80,000 people, it is considered by many to be part of the problem.
And what is the problem? The supposed problem is global warming and climate change.
From my perspective, the problem is rather that the AGU is in danger of becoming a one trick pony, incapable of remaining neutral in the face of environmental activism that threatens to overwhelm the organizational brand.
I received in my email today an apologetic letter, written in an embarrassed tone, explaining that the AGU Board will continue to accept money, if offered, from ExxonMobil. The letter, addressed to AGU membership, is in response to a demand sent by climate activists within the membership that the union sever ties of any kind with “climate deniers”. The epithet “denier” is a typical ugly attempt to tattoo anyone who disagrees with their opinion on the climate as guilty or immoral, in the Nazi sense.
Once again, how times have changed.
When I began attending AGU meetings climate science was just at the start of massive infusions of government funding but not yet enough to dominate discussion. For the next ten years or so I faithfully attended meetings, presenting my research to colleagues, and enjoyed the thrill of the scientific pursuit.
That all changed in 2006 when former U.S. Vice President Al Gore presented his theory of global warming at the annual Fall AGU Meeting. Up to that point I had studiously avoided politics. Geophysical data was far more exciting. I was (and still am) a member of no political party and had voted only once for anything in my life.
But Gore rocked my world. I was shocked that he was asked to deliver a plenary speech. It suggested AGU leadership was cynically jettisoning a prime commitment to science in favor of a commitment to the politicization of science.
Gore did not disappoint. He begged the audience – all scientists — to become activists in his crusade against global warming, to use their influence and position to get his message out in schools, in the media, to shout it from the rooftops, particularly to politicians and decision makers. Scientists, he said, have a responsibility to communicate the global warming ecopalypse “in ways that arouse appropriate alarm that can motivate changes in behavior.”
Many scientists have been eager to oblige and the $1.5 trillion-a-year climate industry now only lubricates the path, making it awfully difficult to question the Pied Piper of global warming. The global warming industry offers environmentalist activists a path to pecuniary enrichment but also a peculiar sense of moral superiority.
Dare to promote a view different from these “scientists”? Then be warned that you are spreading misinformation and misleading the public. It seems anyone who doesn’t agree with ideas of catastrophic warming is at once found guilty or immoral. Threats of jail time are increasing in frequency.
Such threats are not without teeth; ExxonMobil is now under investigation by the New York and California Attorneys General. The crimes – uncomfortably close to Orwell’s thoughtcrime — are acts of holding beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party. A recent Rasmussen poll reports, “Just over one-in-four Democrats (27%), however, favor prosecuting those who don’t agree with global warming.”
And that possibility, the possibility that others might think they hold incorrect thoughts, is what causes the AGU board to agonize about what to do if ExxonMobil or another oil company offers them money for a student breakfast.
While the AGU has for decades enjoyed sponsorship from geophysical companies, such as ExxonMobil, the union now walks a fine line between the laudable wish to encourage real science and the desires of many who have captured leadership to be an environmentalist advocacy group.
The desire to use science as a blunt instrument against political foes is nothing new, but for AGU to pursue political activism promises to be devastating to its former mission of promoting science.
The irony is that all climate models simulate two to three times observed warming and that none predicted that for about 20 years there’s been no warming trend in NASA’s satellite records. One whistleblower, Dr. Kiminori Itoh, had this to say: “Warming fears are the worst scientific scandal in history.” Dr. Syun-Ichi Akasofu, a legendary space scientist, and Founding Director of the International Arctic Research Center of the University of Alaska Fairbanks said, “When people know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.”
James Wanliss, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC. He is a Senior Fellow and Contributing Writer for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, and author of Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion, Not Death. He has published over 50 peer-reviewed physics articles, has held the NSF CAREER award, and does research in space science and nonlinear dynamical systems under grants from NASA and NSF.