Dazed and confused in the AAAS 
Mar 10, 2015
Bishop Hill in Academia, Climate: CRU, FOI

Three former presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science have written a piece in the Guardian decrying attempts by greens to obtain email correspondence of state-funded scientists using freedom of information requests. In it, they make this inapt comparison:

[The greens'] attack is reminiscent of ‘Climategate’, where the release of private emails did immense, unwarranted damage to the reputations of climate scientists. Now the vocal anti-GM lobby appears to be taking a page out of the Climategate playbook.

This is not even close to being true of course. For a start Climategate came about as the result of a leak or perhaps a hack rather than an FOI request, so to talk of "taking pages" is a bit silly. And the idea that the damage to the CRU guys' reputations was unwarranted is similarly foolish. The Russell inquiry into Climategate found that the hide the decline data excision was "misleading", noting in passing that the IPCC had done the same thing. Are these three pillars of the scientific establishment really saying that it is OK to mislead policymakers? I cannot believe it is so. But perhaps one could not criticise their confusion, since the Russell panel also said that they had found nothing that affected their subjects' reputations as scientists. Given Russell's findings about hiding the decline one assumes that he doesn't think misleading policymakers is something blameworthy in a scientist.

The authors say loftily that

"we also know how important it is for scientists to be able to speak freely in conducting their work, both publicly and privately."

...but then I wonder what they were doing when the CRU crew were trying to nobble Climate Research, or when the Remote Sensing affair broke, where they were when Lennart Bengtsson was being hung out to dry, or where they were a couple of weeks ago when the witchhunt of Willie Soon began? Is it not important that these people be free to speak freely too?

My guess is that the authors would like nothing better than for Soon or Bengtsson to be silenced: the AAAS has always been at the forefront of efforts to turn the climate debate into a climate war. This article is, I fancy, mere posturing - protecting their friends - rather than a principled stand for academic freedom.

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