Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
Emotionally, it is almost impossible to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It is particularly true when the other person is of a different sex. I say this because I believe a climate science story that must be told is the degree of difference in nastiness directed at those who questioned the prevailing AGW wisdom. People who have not experienced it cannot imagine how vile and intimidating it gets, although there are some hints in the “Comments” section of articles on WUWT. It would be worse without a moderator, but even then, you would not see the type of material sent to an individual. What is more disturbing for me, is that the intensity and nastiness are even higher for some than others.
I think there are ways that a person can get a sense of the experience of another’s shoes, but it is only a sense. For example, as a young boy I delivered newspapers and on one occasion was attacked by a large dog. Since then I have been afraid of large dogs, and that has influenced my life because I walk every day, but avoid areas where I know there are large dogs. The outrage is that the dog owners are influencing my life without even being aware of it. For this reason, whenever women hold a “take back the night” event to protest having their freedom of movement limited by unknowing people I provide complete support. It does not put me in their shoes but does give me a sense of their anger and frustration.
I am explaining this because of the experiences of two women involved in the climate debate, Judith Curry, and Sallie Baliunas. I have not spoken with either woman about this column. I also suspect they would not approve, but in a way that is the problem. They know that complaints are automatically considered self-serving, a sign of weakness, and all the other epithets in our society. Judith Curry wrote about why she abandoned climate science in eloquent words but, in my opinion, because of the societal situation, they were restrained and non-accusatory.
I cannot walk a mile in her shoes as a male climate skeptic of longstanding, but, like my dog experience, I have an awareness. I am writing this column because, as a male I am ashamed of the behaviour of too many other males, but also because most would not even know what was and is going on. I watched from a close and better informed vantage point what these women experienced. What happened to them is symptomized by a man, some argue George Bernard Shaw fits the pattern, who was both a misanthrope and a misogynist. This fascinates me because if you hate everybody doesn’t that include women? Apparently, they hate everyone, but really hate women. It is shameful for society in general, but especially in science, where open, completely unfettered, discourse must occur.
The level of animosity and nastiness in debates and discussions is a symptom of the collapse of civility, and that can presage a collapse of civilization. I watched the level of animosity increase as the level of civility declined at climate conferences. It quickly reached a point where conferences were either AGW or Skeptics conferences and then, because of political interference, there were very few of the latter. Therefore, the first Heartland Climate Conference in New York in 2009 was so significant. It was the first major international skeptics conference and valuable for that, but also underlines a scientific divide that should not exist.
Judith Curry and Sallie Baliunas crossed that divide. Curry was working on the AGW approach as chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In the interests of proper, balanced, open, science Curry invited Steve McIntyre to make a presentation explaining his side of the ‘hockey sick’ story. I could have told her what would happen because the nastiest attacks I ever received were from department colleagues: this included a three-page letter that a lawyer deemed libelous. They also deliberately made work and advancement difficult because they controlled promotion, tenure and all aspects of my career. To my knowledge, I remain today the person longest in rank as an Assistant Professor in the history of Canadian universities. My final promotion to full Professor was only achieved after a direct appeal, with evidence, to the University President. Some of this is explained by Sayre’s law that says,
“Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.”
I know academic politics are the nastiest because I was in the military, worked in private industry, and worked for a civilian government. What happened to those who were openly climate skeptics reached another level altogether. Curry and Baliunas were two people who experienced this, but from what I observed, at another level again.
Judith Curry provided a very open and reasoned explanation for choosing to step aside from mainstream academia. Here are some quotes;
“A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.”
“How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).”
“At this point, the private sector seems like a more ‘honest’ place for a scientist working in a politicized field than universities or government labs — at least when you are your own boss.”
Based on my experience this was a tempered, reasonable effort that only speaks to the technical and bureaucratic frustrations and shows concern for the students. However, there is a hint of the hurt and anguish about a forced change in career path and a glimmer of the hostile environment in the workplace. The fact that Curry, a clearly private person, decided to ‘retire’ publically speaks volumes. The fact that any academic is forced so far outside their comfort zone speaks volumes about what was going on in climate science and academia should give us all pause, but there is more to it than that,
I don’t think Curry was aware of or could have known, what happened to Sallie Baliunas. The main reason is that Baliunas completely and very quietly withdrew from research and academia and, as I understand, retired to the countryside. I discovered what went on because of our mutual attempts to help people understand the great climate deception. Occasionally over the years, people contacted me after investigating the work of the IPCC. They experience what happened to Klaus-Eckart Puls.
I became outraged when I discovered that much of what the IPCC and the media were telling us was sheer nonsense and was not even supported by any scientific facts and measurements.
These people were so shocked that they sought out someone to confirm that what they found was true. In the case of Albert Jacobs and the people that became the Friends of Science, they approached Sallie Baliunas and me. We both provided as many answers and as much help as possible. One day Albert advised me that they were unable to contact Sallie. I finally contacted Willie Soon, another severely beleaguered skeptic, because he was a colleague who published with Sallie when she worked as an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her career also included a period as Deputy Director of the Mount Wilson Observatory. Besides the FOS contacts, I was pleased to work briefly with Sallie on the historical relationships between climate, crops, ergot fungus poisoning and witchcraft. I like to think that Sallie’s study of witchcraft gave her insight into the persecution of people, especially women, through the exploitation of hysteria and false information. Sallie very quietly disappeared into the good night, but what happened before that helps understand why.
One of the biggest challenges to the AGW deception was the Medieval Warm Period (MWP). David Deming testified before Congress on the threat it was to their narrative. Baliunas and Soon produced an excellent paper from a multitude of sources that confirmed the existence of the MWP. Michael Mann got rid of the MWP with his production of the ‘hockey stick,’ but Soon and Baliunas were another problem. What better than to have a powerful placed academic destroy their credibility for you? Sadly, there are always people who will do the dirty work. Here is how I described what went on in my book The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science.
“A perfect person and opportunity appeared. On 16th October 2003 Michael Mann sent an email to people involved in the CRU scandal;
Thought you would be interested in this exchange, which John Holdren of Harvard has been kind enough to pass along…
At the time, Holdren was Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy & Director, Program in Science, Technology, & Public Policy, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government. Later he became Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Assistant to the President (Obama) for Science and Technology, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology—informally known as the United States Science Czar.
In an email on October 16, 2003, from John Holdren to Michael Mann and Tom Wigley we’re told:
I’m forwarding for your entertainment an exchange that followed from my being quoted in the Harvard Crimson to the effect that you and your colleagues are right and my “Harvard” colleagues Soon and Baliunas are wrong about what the evidence shows concerning surface temperatures over the past millennium. The cover note to faculty and postdocs in a regular Wednesday breakfast discussion group on environmental science and public policy in Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is more or less self-explanatory.
This is what Holdren sent to the Wednesday Breakfast group:
I append here an e-mail correspondence I have engaged in over the past few days trying to educate a Soon/Baliunas supporter who originally wrote to me asking how I could think that Soon and Baliunas are wrong and Mann et al. are right (a view attributed to me, correctly, in the Harvard Crimson). This individual apparently runs a web site on which he had been touting the Soon/Baliunas position.
The exchange Holdren refers to is a challenge by Nick Schulz editor of Tech Central Station (TCS). On August 9, 2003, Schulz wrote:
In a recent Crimson story on the work of Soon and Baliunas, who have written for my website, you are quoted as saying: My impression is that the critics are right. It is unfortunate that so much attention is paid to a flawed analysis, but that’s what happens when something happens to support the political climate in Washington. Do you feel the same way about the work of Mann et. al.? If not why not?
Holdren provides lengthy responses on October 13, 14, and 16th, but his comments fail to answer Schulz’s questions. After the first response Schulz replies:
I guess my problem concerns what lawyers call the burden of proof. The burden weighs heavily much more heavily, given the claims on Mann et.al. than it does on Soon/Baliunas. Would you agree?
Of course, Holdren doesn’t agree. He replies:
But, in practice, burden of proof is an evolving thing—it evolves as the amount of evidence relevant to a particular proposition grows.
No, it doesn’t evolve; it is either on one side or the other. This argument is in line with what has happened with AGW. He then demonstrates his lack of understanding of science and climate science by opting for Mann and his hockey stick over Soon and Baliunas. His entire defense and position devolve to a political position. His attempt to belittle Soon and Baliunas in front of colleagues is a sad measure of the man’s character.
Schulz provides a solid summary when he writes:
I’ll close by saying I’m willing to admit that, as someone lacking a PhD, I could be punching above my weight. But I will ask you a different but related question. How much hope is there for reaching reasonable public policy decisions that affect the lives of millions if the science upon which those decisions must be made is said to be by definition beyond the reach of those people?
We now know they deliberately placed it beyond the reach of the people and restricted it to the group that he used to ridicule Soon and Baliunas.”
I attended a conference about a controversial issue a few years ago at which the debate became increasingly personal and nasty. The Chairperson acted properly by interrupting and saying; “People, please, we can disagree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable.” The level of debate on the claim of anthropogenic global warming went far beyond being disagreeable, but there was no chairperson to call a halt. Why are personal attacks so vicious when the subject is as innocuous as weather and climate? What do lawsuits have to do with learning, research, or science? Why were the attacks so nasty that they drove two superbly qualified women to the sidelines?
One of many incorrect statements made in the global warming/climate change debate was that the science is settled. Ironically, those who said it did more to be disagreeable than anyone. The nastiness began and increased as evidence continued to emerge showing the science wasn’t settled. In response to the question reportedly posed by John Maynard Keynes,
“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?
Clearly, if you are unprepared to change your mind, you are forced to increasingly nasty, uncivil behavior. It is a manifestation of the idea that if the end is the sole objective, it justifies any means. It is no coincidence that this is a central theme of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.