From Keith Kloor’s excellent article this past summer “The Science Police” which in my opinion is well worth a read.
In an ideal world, it shouldn’t matter. But in the zero-sum world that governs the climate debate, every blog post, every op-ed, every tweet, and every study tends to be viewed through an us against them lens.
As I was writing this article, one fresh illustration of this mindset jumped out at me. Clifford Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, recently posted an entry on his personal blog that was critical of a recent Seattle Times front-page article that attributed the death of a 72-year-old pine tree in the region to climate change. Mass methodically laid out why he believed this was incorrect. The article, he said, was another “unfortunate example” of the media “exaggerating the impacts of global warming.” (In case you’re wondering, Mass has often said that human-caused global warming is real, very serious, and should be tackled.)
Mass, like the climatologists at Real Climate, has made a hobby out of fact-checking the media. But whereas Real Climate has periodically trained its eye on science distortions occurring in the partisan political and media realm, Mass has focused on mainstream media hyperbole. This has not won him any popularity contests.
Just the opposite, it seems. Mass discussed the blowback he’s received in a “personal” note at the end of his post on the Seattle Times article.
“Every time I correct misinformation in the media like this,” he wrote, “I am accused of being a denier, a skeptic, an instrument of the oil industry, and stuff I could not repeat in this family blog. Sometimes it is really hurtful.”
Mass went on to discuss other experiences that included complaints about him within the University of Washington (UW) after he’d called out various hyped stories on climate effects. “One UW professor told me that although what I was saying was true, I needed to keep quiet because I was helping the ‘skeptics.’ Probably not good for my UW career.”