"Green Fascism": Let The Facts Speak

This Hub discusses instances of threat, intimidation, abuse and libel directed against climate scientists and spokespersons. The original post is from July of 2011; regrettably, multiple updates have been dictated by events.

Those updates appear in mostly chronological order, though there is some alteration of that for thematic logic. Each is headed in bold type for ease of navigating. (Sadly, Hubpages does not support internal links which would allow you to click to them.)

The most recent--posted 2-12-14--concludes the sad saga of the abusive investigations of Dr. Charles Monnett by the BOEM. (Update 2a.)

Update topics:

  1. Anders Breivik (Perpetrator; Norwegian, convicted mass murderer)
  2. Dr. Charles Monnett (Victim; Former researcher and administrator, BOEM)
  3. Dr. Katherine Hayhoe (Victim; Author and climate researcher, Texas Tech)
  4. Dr. Michael Mann (Victim; Climate researcher, Pennsylvania State University)
  5. Dr. Kerry Emanuel (Victim; Climate researcher, MIT)
  6. Minimization of Australian threats.
  7. Release of threat texts directed to Dr. Phil Jones (Climate researcher, East Anglia Unversity)
  8. James Delingpole rant.

If you can’t win an argument, you can always use force—or so some of the more fanatical climate change deniers out there appear to feel. I’ve always believed that the truth will out—but these folks either don’t believe that, or don’t have confidence that they are really on the side of verity.

"Truth," by Walter Allward, outside the Canadian Supreme Court.  Image courtesy Colin Rose and Wikimedia Commons.
"Truth," by Walter Allward, outside the Canadian Supreme Court. Image courtesy Colin Rose and Wikimedia Commons.

Well—I must be fair here--so far it’s not actually force--just the threat of it. Ideological firebrands on the right, people of the ilk of Rush Limbaugh, have long applied violent and defamatory language to scientists concerned about climate change. For example, on his November 24, 2009 show, Limbaugh stated that scientists involved in the global warming “hoax” should be “named and fired, drawn and quartered, or whatever it is.” (Drawing and quartering was a particularly gruesome Medieval torture/execution/mutilation.)

The drawing of William de Marisco, 13th-century England.  The first phase of drawing, hanging, and quartering.  Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
The drawing of William de Marisco, 13th-century England. The first phase of drawing, hanging, and quartering. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In the blogosphere, the scientists have been reviled (not always coherently) as frauds, fascists, socialists, murderers, parasites, and worse. Things turned particularly bad in the wake of the so-called Climategate hack (in which emails were stolen from the servers of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.)

Dr. Phil Jones, at the epicenter of the scandal, received over 200 threatening messages, according to Nature.com. The most troubling said things like “Someone, somewhere, will hunt you down,” or “Expect us at your door to say hello.” The result for Dr. Jones was depression, rapid weight loss, suicidal thoughts and a reliance on anti-anxiety medications—a decline that reportedly stunned his friends.

He wasn’t, however, the only one. A number of climate scientists reported this sort of harassment, and apparently some threats were deemed serious enough to merit police protection of one sort or another being put in place.

Attacks have also taken place in the print media: Dr. Rajendra Pachauri was falsely alleged to have profited from his position as head of the International Panel on Climate Change; and Dr. Andrew Weaver was similarly defamed by Canada’s National Post:

I asked the National Post to do the right thing, to retract a number of recent articles that attributed to me statements I never made, accused me of things I never did, and attacked me for views I never held. To my absolute astonishment, the newspaper refused.

Both cases were settled favorably to the scientists who had been libelled, and the defamatory statements were retracted.

Rajendra Pachauri.
Rajendra Pachauri.

Official intimidation has been forthcoming, too. For instance, Dr. Michael Mann—a frequent target of denialist ire as the architect of the so-called “hockey-stick” graph, has for over a year now been the target of investigation by the Attorney General of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli.

In April 2010, Cuccinelli issued subpoenas for a lengthy list of Mann’s papers while at the University of Virginia, including years worth of emails to 39 named individuals. The rationale was that Mann had received a state grant while on faculty at the University of Virginia, and though the work specified in that grant had been satisfactorily completed, Mann had used his professional resume in applying for the grant—and since the “hockey stick graph” was false (according to Mr. Cuccinelli) that meant that Dr. Mann had fraudulently applied for the grant.

On August 30, a Virginia judge rejected this theory, writing:

"The nature of the conduct is not stated so that any reasonable person could glean what Dr. Mann did to violate the statute."

West Virginia Capitol Complex Building 3.  Image courtesy A.C. Dixon and Wikimedia Commons.
West Virginia Capitol Complex Building 3. Image courtesy A.C. Dixon and Wikimedia Commons.

On September 29, Cuccinelli offered a slightly redrawn “Civil Investigative Demand.” Five days later the University of Virginia revealed that it had spent $350,000 to that date in legal expenses—more than the original grant had been worth. It is not known how much the Attorney General's office has spent on the investigation so far.

The matter of the original ruling is before the Virginia Supreme Court, and the new Demand is unresolved. Costs continue to mount, despite widespread denunciations of the witchhunt as both expensive and chilling to academic freedom.

Update: As of March 2012, Cuccinelli has lost at the state Supreme Court level; it is unclear whether any further options to continue the witch-hunt exist, though the willingness to do so apparently does. Direct costs to the taxpayer have reportedly exceeded $600,000.

Ken Cuccinelli.  Image Tony Alter and Wikimedia Commons.
Ken Cuccinelli. Image Tony Alter and Wikimedia Commons.

Political and fiscal intimidation is in play, too; the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has repeatedly tried to use the power of the purse against any hint of action that might help control carbon emissions. On February 18, for example, they voted to defund EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and in March attempted to defund the EPA completely.

Currently, they are attempting (absurd as it may sound) to defend the incandescent light bulb, having just passed a measure to defund any promotion of energy-saving lightbulbs. Apparently it is our inalienable right to spend more lighting our homes.

A striking image of a compact fluorescent bulb.  Image courtesy Piccolo Namek and Wikimedia Commons.
A striking image of a compact fluorescent bulb. Image courtesy Piccolo Namek and Wikimedia Commons.
Seal of the House of Representatives.
Seal of the House of Representatives.

But it isn’t only the enforcement arm that’s under attack; the House voted in February to defund US support for the International Panel On Climate Change, and may well force cuts to NASA satellite missions that provide essential data in understanding climate.

(What could more clearly demonstrate the will NOT to know the truth than this? Perhaps the GOP emblem should be not the elephant but the ostrich.)

But turning back from the institutional to the personal, Australia has recently suffered a spate of death threats against climate scientists. The Canberra Times reported that:

Australia's leading climate change scientists are being targeted by a vicious, unrelenting email campaign that has resulted in police investigations of death threats.

The Australian National University has confirmed it moved several high-profile climate scientists, economists and policy researchers into more secure buildings, following explicit threats to their personal safety.

Great Hall, University House, Australian National University.  Image courtesy Peter Ellis & Wikimedia Commons.
Great Hall, University House, Australian National University. Image courtesy Peter Ellis & Wikimedia Commons.

June 17th saw the publication of a report in the Canberra Times that said:

Two of the most shocking cases involved young women who have had little media experience or exposure. One was invited to speak on climate change at a suburban library. Her brief was simple - talk about everyday things people can do to cut their carbon footprint, talk about climate books available at the library (list provided), leave time for questions, and mingle afterwards. The other woman was asked by a local newspaper to pose with her young children for a photograph to illustrate an article promoting a community tree-planting event. She was briefly quoted as saying planting trees could help mitigate climate change. Two days after the article appeared, she received emails containing threats of sexual assault and violence against her children.

Sigmund Freud:  "Sometimes climate change is just climate change."  Image courtesy www.all-about-psychology.com & Wikimedia Commons.
Sigmund Freud: "Sometimes climate change is just climate change." Image courtesy www.all-about-psychology.com & Wikimedia Commons.

As for the woman speaking at the library, her car windscreen was smeared with excrement - animal or human, does it matter? - and the words ''climate turd'' written (also in excrement) across the car bonnet. Proof perhaps, of a climate dissenter with a Freudian complex indicating arrested development.

June 20th saw a new incident, as reported in The Australian:

In the latest incident, Federation of Australian Science and Technological Societies executive director Anna-Maria Arabia received an email today saying she would be "strung-up by the neck" and killed for her promotion of mainstream climate science.

The threat was emailed to her this morning before a "Respect the Science" campaign at Parliament House in Canberra today.

Anna-Maria Arabia.
Anna-Maria Arabia.

The most recent threat was caught on video—by the organization perpetrating it, the Australian LaRouchite group calling itself the Citizens Electoral Council. Their carefully placed video camera caught the incident and posted it to Youtube, along with an explanation that their target is a Fascist tool of the British Empire. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Members crashed a talk being given at the University of Melbourne by physicist Hans Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, presenting a shocked Dr. Schellnhuber with a noose. Of course, they disavow any intent to threaten; they’d be fools—or bigger fools—not to do so. But there is no doubt that Dr. Schellnhuber read the implied message quite clearly. The Australian quoted him:

"I was confronted with a death threat when I gave my public lecture," Professor Schellnhuber said. "Somebody got to his feet and showed me a rope with a noose. He showed me this hangman's rope and he said: 'Mr Schellnhuber, welcome to Australia'.

"As I tell my colleagues from time to time, 'Some day some madman will draw a pistol and shoot you'. It will happen -- to me or somebody else. I'm pretty sure about that."

Let’s hope that Dr. Schellnhuber is wrong about that. There’s a right and a wrong way to win a debate—or ‘debate,’ as it’s questionable that the climate controversy really merits that term. Subtle or not-so-subtle intimidation and overt threats are not the right way to win. And they are more than bad enough. I’m hoping it doesn’t get worse.

It’s ironic that Dr. Schellnhuber, Dr. Jones and others have been branded by some of the extreme ideologues opposing the mainstream science as being “green fascists,” “eco-Nazis,” proponents of “the Big Lie” and so on. What does Wikipedia say about Fascism?

"Fascists promote violence and war as actions that create national regeneration, spirit and vitality. Fascists view conflict as a fact of life that is responsible for all human progress. Fascists exalt militarism as providing positive transformation in society, in providing spiritual renovation, education, instilling of a will to dominate in people's character, and creating national comradeship through military service. Fascists commonly utilize paramilitary organizations for violent attacks on political opponents, people whom they oppose, or overthrowing a political system."

Doesn’t sound much like Drs. Schnellnhuber, Jones, Weaver or Pachauri—nor even like Dr. James Hansen, who was arrested June 23, 2009, for trespassing as part of a non-violent protest against mountain-top removal for coal-mining.

Perhaps that description sounds like someone else altogether? Someone who presents speakers with nooses, who smears excrement on cars, who threatens children with rape?

Blason of the canton of St. Gall, Switzerland.  The fasces, an emblem of authority in ancient Rome, had been common in governmental iconography prior to becoming the primary emblem of Mussolini's murderous regime in the 1930s.
Blason of the canton of St. Gall, Switzerland. The fasces, an emblem of authority in ancient Rome, had been common in governmental iconography prior to becoming the primary emblem of Mussolini's murderous regime in the 1930s.

Note: Ironically, the mine Dr. Hansen trespassed upon belonged to Massey Energy, later to become famous for its callous disregard of miner safety in the aftermath of the Upper Big Branch disaster.

Interestingly, Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia AG investigating Dr. Mann, is alleged to have received $10,000 worth of campaign contributions from Massey; he has not only declined to investigate Massey’s activities in his state—it is headqurtered there and operates one Virginia mine--he has allegedly worked cooperatively with Massey on a lawsuit against the EPA!

UPDATE

Unfortunately, events compel an update—Anders Breivik, as the world now knows, bombed and shot 77 people to death on July 22, 2011. Breivik serves admirably as a poster child for the facets of fascism described above, which may be summarized as a systematic glorification of violence, domination and force.

Although climate change was not Breivik’s primary focus—islamophobia and anti-Marxism provided that--his manifesto reveals that he, too, believes that ‘greens’ are a threat to Western civilization, and that climate change is a hoax they have invented to further their sinister political agenda:

You might know them as environmentalists, enviro-communists, eco-Marxists, neo-Communists or eco-fanatics. They all claim they want to save the world from global warming but their true agenda is to contribute to create a world government lead by the UN or in other ways increase the transfer of resources (redistribute resources) from the developed Western world to the third world. They are using our trust and faith in science to spread lies and hysteria that will allow Marxists to implement socialist ―solutions to a problem that never actually existed.

And:

. . . top scientists conspired to falsify data in the face of declining global temperatures in order to prop up the premise that man-made factors are driving climate change.

Prominent climate change denialists echoed, quoted or linked by Breivik include James Dellingpole, Steve McIntyre (by way of Alex Jones), and Lord Monckton.

For more on this aspect of Breivik's views, see:

http://www.desmogblog.com/norwegian-terrorist-anders-breivik-reveals-climate-denial-influences

Second Update--9/15/2011

Another incident of harassment and intimidation has come to light.

Dr. Charles Monnett, who had been under investigation with respect to his 2006 paper documenting polar bear mortality and with his administration of a cooperative study of polar bears carried out jointly with the University of Alberta, appears to have been un officially vindicated. Yesterday, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), who have been representing Monnett, released emails showing that he had not acted improperly in any way.

They also noted that, unfortunately:

Finally, the fact of the investigation has subjected Dr. Monnett’s family to harassment, especially from climate-change skeptics who have, for example, posted his wife’s work email address on the web and invited readers to flood her inbox at her workplace which lead to a number of hateful and threatening messages.

Sadly, they are correct. I personally verified on 9/15/2011 that Climate Depot website had indeed done just that. Their post, date-stamped August 1, 2011, repeated the false claim that Dr. Monnett's wife (a respected scientist in her own right) had served as peer reviewer to her husband's paper, and publicly posted her work email address.

The post also commanded readers to:

Contact Monnett's wife [name redacted] with questions/comments about the Polar Bear paper: [email redacted.]

The reaction of some climate change denialists was apparently as predictable as it was regrettable, but PEER has drawn a merciful veil over the specific threats and insults that were hurled.

Update 2A--2/12/14

Dr. Charles Monnett chose to fight back against the unjustified and extremely heavy-handed investigations by BOEM, and was ultimately vindicated. BOEM, when faced with a whistleblower suit, agreed to rescind a letter of reprimand and to pay the veteran researcher and administrator a settlement of $100,000.

Where is the outrage among anti-government zealots for this flagrant waste of taxpayer's money? The investigation costs have not been made public, but must have been very considerable, and now the vindictive over-reach has added additional costs.

One can only speculate as to the personal cost borne by Dr. Monnett.

Further details about this debacle can be found in the sidebar link.

Third update--1/6/2012

The latest victim of anti-science repression is Katharine Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian who is also a climate researcher at Texas Tech University.

Dr. Hayhoe had been tasked in 2007 with writing a chapter on climate change for a forthcoming book by Newt Gingrich on environmental issues. She is well-known for engaging with the public, and particularly with religious conservatives, on the issue of climate change. She told the UK paper, The Guardian:

I really, really deplore the politicisation and polarisation of this issue. There are these increasingly unprincipled attempts to polarise the science when the science is fact – like the sky is blue, the grass is green and the temperature of our planet is increasing.

With the Iowa caucus in full swing, that represented a juicy target for anti-Gingrich partisans. Predictably, this 'scandal' was leaked to Rush Limbaugh, who waded in in his usual style:

Katharine Hayhoe is one of Newt's experts, and is a person who, when asked if the science was settled regarding global warming, she said, "Among climate scientists, people who spend their lives researching our world, there's no debate regarding the reality of climate change and the fact that humans are the primary cause." This woman is writing Newt's chapter on climate change in the new book. She says, "It is primarily laypeople like talk show hosts who are perpetuating the idea that there is no scientific consensus." Marc Morano, our man in Washington, claims that Newt's new book has a chapter written by a babe named Hayhoe -- no offense, Reverend Jackson -- that man-made global warming is happening, caused by man.

Gingrich quickly went into damage control mode, throwing Dr. Hayhoe under the bus:

That's not going to be in the book. We didn't know that they were doing that and we told them to kill it.

It is not known whether Dr. Hayhoe will be compensated for her wasted work in writing the chapter, which she had been told on December 7 would be accepted without major changes. It is known that she found out otherwise from a reporter, who was seeking her reaction. In a later Tweet she expanded upon her initial phlegmatic resonse:

. . .so much 'spare' time wasted I cd've spent w family, & 2. what an ungracious way to find out, eh?

However, the Gingrich chapter does not represent the end of Dr. Hayhoe's troubles. The Guardian reported that she has become a target for harassment:

. . .in the past six months or so, Hayhoe's growing prominence has also made her a target of opinion makers like Limbaugh, and of the shadowy network of well-funded thinktanks. In addition, "the hate mail has gone off the charts", she said.

Such thinktanks – though registered as non-profits – are often funded by the oil industry and conservative billionaires, such as the Koch brothers.

One such group, the American Tradition Institute, has been waging a legal battle to force the University of Virginia to hand over all emails from climate scientist Michael Mann, who used to work there.

Now the American Tradition Institute is coming after Hayhoe. On 10 December the organisation wrote to Texas Tech asking the university to turn over all Hayhoe's emails with even the most glancing reference to Gingrich or Maple.

Fourth Update: 2/5/2012

One of the less-spectacular, but perhaps most socially-corrosive tactics of Fascism is the Big Lie technique. As reported in the New York Times, that is now being directed at Dr. Michael Mann.

A planned speech at Pennsylvania State University by Dr. Mann has become the object of a multi-media smear campaign. Deriding him as a "disgraced academic" of "questionable ethics and motives" who is guilty of "extreme political activism, disguised as academics," two groups urge the University to "disinvite" him.

The reality is, of course, that Dr. Mann is anything but disgraced: despite severe (and in some cases malicious) criticism his research has held up, and continues to be widely cited today. Moreover, investigations into allegations against him stemming from the so-called Climategate email hack have repeatedly exonerated him of any wrong-doing.

It is true, of course, that some continue to cry "whitewash," and continue to impugn Dr. Mann; but being subject to hysterical accusations unbacked by any real substance does not amount to 'disgrace.'

The groups themselves appear to be Astroturf groups fronting for the Bituminous Coal Operator's Association. They claim to be for those poor, down-trodden coal miners, and for America's energy security. Noble aims, no doubt--but do they really have to resort to slanderous disinformation to make their case?

Update 4a--7/16/14

Yet another milestone in the Mann saga was reached recently, with another legal victory for the climate scientist. In the wake of the Cuccinelli witch-hunt, the astroturf group called the American Tradition Institute sued to obtain Dr. Mann's emails from his tenure at the University of Virginia. (The backgrounds of the ATI itself, and of the suit, are given in the 2011 Facing South blog post, linked below.)

Three years later, following a torturous process through to the Virginia Supreme Court, ATI's FOIA suit has been definitively rejected, labelled a 'nuisance lawsuit.' Dr. Mann and the University of Virginia will split the resulting $250 fine--should the ATI actually comply with its obligation to pay it.

Meanwhile, Dr. Mann's libel lawsuit continues in the courts of the District of Columbia.

Fifth update: 2/15/2012

Another instance of intimidation came last month, when Dr. Kerry Emanuel of MIT suffered a spate of particularly virulent hate mail after addressing a meeting of Republicans who have the courage to believe that climate change is real. As reported in The Guardian, the emails "are laced with menacing language, expletives and contain personal threats of violence." Particularly contemptible is the fact that threats extended to Dr. Emanuel's wife:

Emails contained "veiled threats against my wife," and other "tangible threats," Emanuel, a highly-regarded atmospheric scientist and director of M.I.T.'s Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate program, said in an interview. "They were vile, these emails. They were the kind of emails nobody would like to receive."

As in the Monnett case, which also involved the wife of a scientist, the website The Climate Depot was responsible for publicizing emails for the convenience of hatemailers.


Sixth update: 5/15/2012

The Australian leg of this story has a new development: climate 'skeptic' (ie., denialist) websites worldwide are hailing the 'debunking' of the story of death threats at Australian National University. (Hat tip to "Charlie," a reader who brought this to my attention--though I rather think he takes this more at face value than I do.)

There is, however, less to this 'debunking' than might appear at first glance. A Freedom Of Information request to see ANU correspondence and documents relevant to this topic from January to June of 2011 eventually resulted in the publication of 11 emails. Only one contained an actual threat, and that was second-hand, and implied rather than explicit. Rather weak beer, one would be inclined to agree.

However, note that the original stories were not limited to ANU--the threats to the anonymous women in the incidents described above, to Ms. Arabia, to Dr. Schellnhuber, and in fact to "at least 30 climate scientists at institutions across [Australia]" were quite real. Moreover, the threats at ANU were not limited to a six-month period in 2011; in fact, the Climate Unit's "move to more secure quarters" came in the spring of 2010, roughly a year before the period specified in the FOI request.

Ironically, this 'debunking' is a pretty good example of denialist technique: minimize the seriousness of one thing, ignore a bunch of other stuff completely, and then claim that since the result doesn't add up to the original any more, one's opponent is deceitful.

Seventh update: 7/6/2012

A selection of obscene and threatening emails sent to Dr. Jone has been released as a PDF file. Don't read these unless you are prepared for a flood of crude language!

They are interesting, however, for the insights that they afford into the motivations of the writers. In particular, several mention the idea that efforts to address climate change have had severe impacts on national economies and consequently upon the lives of everyday people--one writer believes, indeed, that many people have died as a result of these efforts. Another states that climate science and related policy efforts have been responsible for lack of development in what used to be called the "Third World."

(Needless to say, perhaps, this last idea is wrong in just about every possible way, as not only is there little evidence to suggest that climate change policy has had any great macroeconomic effect on any national economy, and not only were developing nations specifically exempted from Kyoto, but it's a matter of public record that the developing world has made great strides during the early years of the twenty-first century--witness public health statistics, economic statistics, and the popularity of the so-called "BRIC" nations as destinations for foreign investment dollars, just to name a few indicators. But the fervor with which an idea is held has never been a reliable indicator of that idea's soundness.)

Seventh Update: 4/8/13

James Delingpole, who might perhaps best be described as a professional climate change denial journalist, published a rant on April 7, 2013, that combines inflammatory language, falsehood, and disingenuous 'explanation' that, well, he doesn't really mean what he says and anyone who takes him at face value is either "dim" or a "professional offense-taker":

The last thing I would want is for Monbiot, Mann, Flannery, Jones, Hansen and the rest of the Climate rogues' gallery to be granted the mercy of quick release. Publicly humiliated? Yes please. Having all their crappy books remaindered? Definitely. Dragged away from their taxpayer funded troughs and their cushy sinecures, to be replaced by people who actually know what they're talking about? For sure. But hanging? Hell no. Hanging is far too good for such ineffable toerags.

This isn't to say that there isn't a strong case for the myriad dodgy scientists-on-the-make, green activists, posturing and ignorant politicians, rent-seeking corporatists, UN apparatchiks, EU technocrats and hopelessly out-of-their-depth environment correspondents who talked up the global warming scare to be brought to account for the vast damage they have done to the global economy, for the people they have caused to die in fuel poverty, for the needless regulations they have inflicted on us, for the landscapes they have ravaged with wind farms, and so on.

Indeed, it would be nice to think one day that there would be a Climate Nuremberg. But please note, all you slower trolls beneath the bridge, that when I say Climate Nuremberg I use the phrase metaphorically.

It does rather beg the question, if he doesn't mean the words he writes, then why didn't he choose less inflammatory ones? One answer is distraction. If we focus on the rhetoric, we let the content slide. We fail to question the assertions he makes as 'asides':

  • What evidence is there of any macroeconomic harm to the 'global economy' from climate change mitigation efforts (as opposed to, say, regulatory failures in the finance or banking sectors, or due to over-inflated housing markets?)
  • Who 'died in fuel poverty,' where did they live, and was their fuel poverty by any chance the result of unemployment or an inadequate social safety net?
  • What regulations, exactly, does Mr. Delingpole consider 'needless,' and why?
  • Are those landscapes really 'ravaged?' I'm familiar with some of them, and don't feel that wind turbines are unsightly. Tastes may differ, of course, but esthetics aside, is there actual evidence--as opposed to unsupported anecdote--of harm due to wind turbines?

In related news, Inter Press Service reports that three quarters of the world's security services now consider climate change to be a security issue. Perhaps Mr. Delingpole should call for courts martial--metaphorical ones, of course.

Afterword

Of the 39 Hubs I have published to date, this has been by far the toughest to write—not in the sense of effort or time, but emotionally. The topic leaves me with a metaphorical bad taste in my mouth, literally with a physical sensation of heaviness in the pit of my stomach, and intellectually with doubts about whether addressing this issue so forthrightly is the right thing to do, and about whether I have done so fairly and appropriately. Let me address some of those doubts.

Some will feel that I am ignoring extreme speech on the other side of the issue—and there has been some, though I am not aware of any specific threats to, say, Marc Morano, Roy Spencer or Lord Monckton. It does not appear to me that the use of intimidation is anything like symmetrical in the climate ‘debate,’ which makes sense given the style and content of commentators such as Limbaugh, for which there is no functional equivalent on the side of the mainstream science.

Others will object to my mentions of the US House of Representatives: clearly, they are operating within the bounds of the law and their constitutional duty when they undertake to set funding priorities. Why, then, it might be asked, do I implicitly associate their actions with those of fringe groups and (to put it plainly) nuts? Yet the public statements of a number of the Representatives make abundantly clear that, not only do they not understand the science they are in effect attempting to suppress, but they have not made the most elementary attempt to understand it. In that, they are (in my opinion) derelict in their duty, and they fall under the rubric of attempting to settle by force—fiscal force, in this instance—what they are unwilling to attempt to settle by reason.

Still others may feel that by mentioning threats and intimidation, I encourage them. They may be right; terrorists issue press releases for the good reason that their outrages are most effective in intimidating a populace when that populace actually knows about said outrages. But will ignoring this issue help the situation? I feel deeply that we must name what is happening. This, too, is a form of responsibility to the truth.

Lastly, I must acknowledge that as an individual I do not have the capacity directly to verify the information which I transmit in this Hub. I believe it to be accurate, but I am forced to rely on my sources. Some of those sources are named at the very bottom of this Hub; others, more widely reported, I consider to be well-established in public discourse.

Additional information from readers is welcomed.

26 comments

Neven 5 years ago

Doc, as AGW becomes more apparent, so will the violence intensify. I'm pretty sure of it. There are many fascistoid loons on the pseudo-skeptic side, but there are some on the environmentalist side too. I hope they are smart enough not to aim at personal targets, but it'll be difficult. I consider myself to be a pretty pacifistic guy, but what some of the pseudo-skeptics do and keep doing, really makes my blood boil.

Maybe the only thing we can do, is try and get some of the pseudo-skeptics to change their ways. Only they can prevent this, but they are up to their nose in the mess they created. It'll take some real bravery to admit they were wrong.

Things will go as they go...


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Not a comforting comment, Neven, but thanks anyway.

I've seen just one of my 'debate opponents' change his mind so far--though I've noticed another has fallen suspiciously silent lately. A great many--Steve Goddard and Poptech are two who come to my mind as instances--would clearly prefer to auto-cannibalize a randomly-chosen body part before admitting to be wrong in the slightest.

But of course most folks are much more reasonable, and avoid making pronouncements on newsblogs (or Hubpages.)


Ray Ladbury 5 years ago

Good comment, Doc. As you may have guessed from my comments at Open Mind and Realclimate, I am not optimistic as to our chances. We are fighting inherent human flaws here. Humans suck at estimating risk--it is one reason why we have developed such formal methods for doing so.

We tend to greatly overestimate risks associated with nearby, unfamiliar or catastrophic threats--e.g. terrorism, kidnapping... and underestimate risk associated with slow-moving threats or threats we have difficulty avoiding--e.g. driving, smoking, climate change. In other words, humans are, collectively, idiots. And we are dealing not with the smart ones, but those from the portion of the IQ curve that is shallow and gently rising.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks for coming by Ray--much appreciated.

In a way, I guess the dynamics of intimidation support what you say: If you're concerned about climate change, you are faced with a choice. You can try to mitigate the 'slow-moving' risk to yourself or your kids posed by climate change, but accept a possible 'near-by, unfamiliar or catastrophic' threat of personal violence or career harm; or you can choose to avert the latter by shutting the hell up and letting the future go hang.

But cleverness isn't wisdom. While today we may indeed "need a weatherman [ie., climate scientist] to know which way the wind blows [ie., how and why the climate is changing]", his or her help will be less and less necessary in the near future. Obscuring the truth will become harder and harder.

In the meantime, the resort to threats does make its own statement, clearly readable by wise ones of varying IQ numbers.


Barton Paul Levenson 5 years ago

If we actually try to pass any climate legislation with teeth in it here in the US, I fully expect climate scientists to be kidnapped and beaten, and eventually, murdered.

I was saying that on RealClimate two years ago.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

I sure hope you're wrong, Barton. But I wouldn't bet against it.

If it were to come to pass, it might well inspire revulsion against the perpetrators, as the murder of Pierre Laporte did in Quebec in 1970. But it would still be a tragedy.

And other things may shift a bit first--this summer we had record Mississippi flooding (again), extreme drought in the Southwest--as you know, that's a robust prediction of climate models--especially Oklahoma, which as of this writing is drier than 1933, the previous worst drought year there, and extreme heat waves throughout the Midwest and beyond. And though no-one seems to be noticing in the mainstream media, Arctic sea ice is at an all-time low for this date. It's possible that the shocking record low minimum extent of 2007 may be eclipsed; and it's all but certain that if conditions moderate a bit and the 2007 record stands at the end of this season, 2011 will set the new 2nd-place record. That will show that there is no prospect of immediate ice recovery. And ice volume declines will be more and more obvious over the next couple of years, as Cryosat data comes into the public eye.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that there are going to be some pretty obvious 'straws in the wind,' some involving real impacts on members of the voting public. A few years like this, and the climate of public opinion may look a little different. Or a lot different.

I hope so, anyway. As we both know, time's a-wasting.


AKA Winston 5 years ago

Doc,

I congratulate you on a well-researched article. It is ridiculous at this point to show the climate change haysayers any kind of gentile behavior as they are propaganda repeating clones.

It is no longer enough to sit passively by and let idiots sound off without retribution in kind. When they lie, call it a lie, not a mistake.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

AKA, thanks for commenting.

There's no question that the ignorance of some is quite willful; others are not ignorant at all--they are the liars.

But it can be hard to tell, at first at least, whether someone is just repeating a line that they have been fed, or whether they are, as you say, a determined 'naysayer.' Generally, my focus is to spread accurate information as widely and assertively as I can.

We're in trouble, and the time to get out of that trouble is getting very, very short.


arch stanton 5 years ago

Doc, Nice post. Factual and well researched. Death threats are “terrorist” techniques even if they are only symbolic.

“Fascist” is such a loaded and nebulous term that only desperate propagandists use it these days (okay maybe historians of Hitler and Mussolini too). Whenever one encounters it, it is safe to assume that one is dealing with a desperate propagandist and not someone interested in the truth.

I’m gonna be a little harsh here Doc so gird your loins…

Your post is too long to reach your target audience IMO. The folks that (I assume) you want to read your post; those that may gain insight from it are not going to wade through it

You are a better writer than I am Doc, and I want to encourage, not discourage you.

besides, I’m just a dead guy,

arch


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks for your kind words--and maybe more so for your "harsh" ones.

I must say, though, that I don't really have a target audience on this one. I just wrote from what I felt on this, because it really bothers me to see such stuff happening. That said, you're probably right; I have a strong tendency to say too much rather than too little.

But enough about me. What's with that 'dead guy' thing? You can email me offline if you want to elaborate. . .


Kercroft profile image

Kercroft 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

When I first read the title to this hub, I expected the usual gibberish drivel from a Sarah Palin/Tea Party/Fox News drone, daring to criticise and denigrate people like you and me who do actually care about the future.

Thank you for having the balls to call a spade a spade.

However, as long as business interests are allowed to fund political parties, I'm afraid nothing much is going to change.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 5 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Kercroft--

Yeah, in a way I was a bit aggressive with that title. But it really is too big an irony to ignore.

And you have a good point about campaign funding, too--particularly now that there are basically no limits left in the US. Thanks, Supreme Court--now we really will get the best democracy money can buy. . . to go along with our media.


Daniel Bailey 4 years ago

Nice job Kevin! Good article & you're picking up some good responses, too!


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Daniel. I'm hoping it's a long time before any more updates are required.


Melis Ann profile image

Melis Ann 4 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

Sad to say that this is another example of how money makes the world go 'round. We all need to speak out, as you have, because ALL of our voices can't be silenced!


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks for an inspiring comment. We do need to speak out; "if not us, who?" (And the quote goes on, "If not now, when?")

I hope more folks will look critically and honestly at what is happening, and choose to speak, both privately and publicly.


viquar profile image

viquar 4 years ago from Hyderabad, India

Climate change is inevitable. But you and I can do nothing to stop the change. Nature knows how to heal itself.

It is only that a few political lobbies are trying to profit from it.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

In general, climate change is inevitable: the Sun's output is not perfectly constant; continents rise and fall over long spans of time; and the composition of the atmosphere shifts as carbon dioxide is outgassed from the Earth's interior, and its carbon is slowly recycled into living bodies, and eventually into new rock.

But be very clear: the change we see now is not being driven by natural forces. We are doing it. And it is much faster (and therefore much more damaging) than most past climate changes.

It's also true that Nature will be fine. The biosphere will heal over time from whatever damage we inflict, just as it healed from the meteorite strike that is thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

The question is, do we take sensible action to stop damaging the very earth systems upon which we depend? Do we take our own future well-being and prosperity seriously, or do we operate as though short-term greed and convenience are the only important values? Nature will be fine. Humans may not be.


Martin Vermeer 4 years ago

Thank you Doc Snow; this contains information I was after and couldn't find anywhere else.

Any sane person would hate the write-up job you did. Thanks for taking it on.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thanks, Martin. I still recall (and appreciate) your research help with the piece on Nils Ekholm, so I'm especially happy to have provided you with something useful.

As for the "sane person" bit, well, I am a musician. Possibly that has some explanatory value. ;-)


alloporus profile image

alloporus 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I find two things very curious about the climate change issue. The first is that it raises such ire. And the second is that the vehemency is so polarised. No intimidation or personal attacks of any sort should be tolerated in a public debate, but that they are present, at the extreme, the attacks are worrying. It is a concern. It suggests that we haven't really understood the issue at all.

Climate changes. That is what it does. And now there are 7 billion people who will be affected by those changes whether we like it or not, or even whether we are the cause or not. The issue is what to do about it.

And we should also note that the warmers have their extreme elements too. And some of those have resorted to tactics you wouldn't teach to your kids.


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Perhaps I'm naïve, Alloporos, but (except for the Gleick imposture) I am not sure I'm aware of the 'tactics' of which you speak--unless peaceful civil disobedience counts? (I have seen/heard some intemperate 'warmist' speech--but not incitement, vandalism, nor direct threats.) In short, I don't see equivalence in this respect.

I don't agree, either, that the polarization of the debate is a function of the level of understanding--I think it's a function of the economic stakes. And the funding of a systematic disinformation campaign--see, for example, my Hub on Hoggan's "Climate Coverup"--by fossil fuel interests is a matter of public record. Some claim that these sums pale by comparison with the aggregate global spending on climate and weather related research, which may be true if you include all the satellite programs, radar, and other ground-based sensing capabilities. But the essential difference is the the brief of the researchers is to find the truth--not to find the 'right' answer based on economic considerations.

You are right, of course, that the real question is what to do in order to promote human welfare (which is intimately entwined with the health of ecological and geophysical systems upon which we depend.) But the answer to that depends upon "whether we are the cause or not."

If we are, the cheapest fix is to mitigate our carbon emissions. If not, that will presumably be useless--barring collateral benefits, which could admittedly be sizable. There are, of course, 'no regrets' options--for example, energy efficiency. But none of these appears to offer a complete response to the problem. That brings us back to the need for an accurate diagnosis.


Charlie 4 years ago

The articles says "The Australian National University has confirmed it moved several high-profile climate scientists, economists and policy researchers into more secure buildings, following explicit threats to their personal safety."

After first trying to prevent the release of the "threatening" e-mails, ANU has been forced to release them. It is interesting to read the explicit threats to their personal safety. See http://www.australianclimatemadness.com/2012/05/an... for a link to the e-mails. Threats are things like "Sometime in the future your days of leeching off the tax payers of Australia will end and you will be looking for work in the employment office where you might find a real job and contribute to society in a positive way."


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Thank you for the link, Charlie. The emails are definitely abusive and ignorant, but most are not explicitly threatening, as you say. I would regard Document 5 as a clear implied threat, and would view any administrator as quite irresponsible who did not take it seriously.


eternals3ptember profile image

eternals3ptember 4 years ago from Sherman Oaks (Not the Nice Part, Unfortunantly)

Oh my God, this... This is the best thing I've read on Hubpages in a while, thank you


Doc Snow profile image

Doc Snow 4 years ago from Atlanta metropolitan area, GA, USA Author

Wow! Thank you!

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    Sources

    Limbaugh “drawn and quartered” quote (now 'dead'):

    http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200911240029

    Phil Jones response to Climategate:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101115/full/468362a.html

    Cuccinelli witchhunt:

    http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/abuses_of_science/va-ag-timeline.html

    (A useful timeline of the Cuccinelli affair; note that it is given in reverse chronological order—most recent events first.)

    Australian death threats:

    The best single source for this is the climate blog Deltoid; in each case I have followed the blog links back to the original newspaper coverage. The first of the Deltoid posts is here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2011/06/australian_climate_scientists.php

    Cuccinelli links to Massey energy:

    [Note--this link is has gone dead. //notlarrysabato.typepad.com/doh/2010/04/better-use-of-the-coochs-time.html

    http://bluevirginia.us/showDiary.do?diaryId=3919&view=print

    (Avowedly partisan sources, but campaign donations are in the public sphere, so that portion of the substance ought to be relatively easy to check. I was able to confirm that the Cuccinelli campaign has received donations from “Massey Wood & West Inc.,” an energy company headquartered in Richmond, which I understand to be the Virginia office of Massey Energy. I was not able to verify that Cuccinelli has received $10,000, as reported; the 2009 campaign for AG apparently received $1300. More recently, Mr. Cuccinelli ran for governor; the official report for the 2013 period for which over $2 million in donations was received, is linked below.)

    http://cfreports.sbe.virginia.gov/Report/ReportPDF/37191

    A detailed survey would take considerable time, but a quick scan of the first 45 pages--about 10% of the report--discloses a $7500 donation from an executive VP of First Energy, which owns 10 utility companies in the Northeast, and a 'year to date' total of $15000 from the Central Coal Company, of Bristol, VA.

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