Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Willis Eschenbach has a plan

I link you to Sou at Hot Whopper because I can't say it any better. Willis Eschenbach, regular guest poster at Watts Up With That, has taken it upon himself to lecture the new editor at science, one of the top scientific journals in the world. PZ at Pharyngula also has his take. The whiff of condescension is overwhelming. You'd think that a fully qualified masseur has every right to tell a highly qualified scientist how to run their new job, if you were delusional. But in the real world I sniff a new line of attack. If the deniers can get the climate scientists to shut up explaining their science and its implications to the public, it leaves the field free to dismal Oxbridge English graduates, former weather presenters, peers who sell puzzles on the side, economists and who knows what other self-taught climate science deniers to get on and explain without ANY informed counter-argument. You see, boring facts, which is what scientists deal with to test their hypotheses, don't support the climate deniers. Ice melts in the Arctic, many parts of the world are suffering high temperatures (including here in the Bay of Naples), the sea becomes more acidic (or for those pedants, less alkaline) while its level rises and it absorbs huge amounts of energy. I am not a climate scientist. My scientific interest has long been evolution. The arguments over evolution denialism are in many ways academic, although I would hate to see the ignorance of intelligent design being taught in a school as an alternative to natural selection. But climate change has the potential directly to harm and kill individuals and to prevent a debate on its implications is malicious, in outcome if not in intention. That is a denier meme and has long been so. Keep the debate to what we want it to be, not what the truth is, say the deniers. I don't know if Tamsin Edwards, a genuine scientist, really wants the system loaded against climate scientists in the way she suggested in a Guardian article the other day, but that would be lovely for the deniers. Hence Willis's open letter. He'd gladly have the debate shut down and climate scientists muzzled. But it won't happen. Dr McNutt, as she puts the photo of her cat on her desk, opens the drawers to see what her predecessor left behind and looks through her emails will, if she even bothers, give Willis Eschenbach a polite reminder to, how shall I phrase it, get on with his job and she'll get on with hers. Science, both the field of knowledge and the journal, are better off without the pesterings of someone like Willis. It won't happen for another reason. Scientists, get this, are human beings. They have passions and interests, sometimes outside their professional ones. They sometimes have children. They are not Mr Spock (ignore the reboot JJ Abrams shenanigans with Uhuru). If they see something that they feel is likely to impinge on their children's futures, they have every right to say so. Scientists should be concerned about the future, be it disease or climate or war that is the threat. And scientists should open their mouths. So in one hundred years time, in the new Willis world, I can see the headline "why didn't they warn us?" That's because the deniers wanted the debate shut down. And on other pages: CO2 reaches 800ppm, New York Central Park now one big boating lake, say goodbye to the Netherlands...

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