Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Don’t censor the state climatologists

Aware that I will no doubt be dismissed as the yes-man of the ‘climate-change consensus’ for my critique of climate sceptics in Prospect (see below), I want to say that I am dismayed at the news that two US state climatologists are being given some heat for disagreeing with the idea that global warming is predominantly anthropogenic. First, it seems that state climatologists have many concerns, of which global climate change is just one (and a relatively minor one at that). But more importantly, it is absurd to expect any scientist to determine their position by fiat so that it is aligned with state policy or any other political position. The matter is quite simple: if the feeling is that a scientist’s position on an issue undermines their credentials as a scientist, they should not be given this kind of status in the first place. If it is true that, as Mike Hopkins says in his Nature story (and Mike gets things right) “Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski said that he wants to strip Oregon's climatologist George Taylor of his title for not agreeing that global warming is predominantly caused by humans”, then Kulongoski is wrong. The only reason Taylor ought to be stripped of his title is that he has been found to be a demonstrably bad climatologist. The same with Pat Michaels at Virginia. As it happens, my impression of Michaels is that he is no longer able to be very objective on the issue of climate change – in other words, he doesn’t seem to be very trustworthy as a scientist on that score. But I’m prepared to believe that he says what he does in good faith, and of course should be allowed to argue his case. Trying to force these two guys to fall in line with the state position is simply going to fan the conspiracy theorists’ flames (I’m awaiting Benny Peiser’s inevitable take on this). But even if these paranoid sceptics did not exist, the demands would be wrong.

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