Friday, March 05, 2010

Why scientists must be the new climate sceptics

From New Scientist

I believe we're seeing the blowback of the decade-long battle with the sceptics. Climate scientists have been on a war footing for so long that they are no longer as open to criticism as they should be. Take the reactions of the UEA and IPCC to the damaging stories about them: both organisations initially insisted they had no case to answer and backed down only after further media coverage.

Newspapers should not have to force researchers to be transparent, self-critical and self-correcting: these attributes are essential to science. When they are missing, people lose trust.


Science needs to fight back, but not just by attacking its critics. Scientists need to reclaim the badge of "scepticism". They need to show that although the essentials of global warming are settled, the field itself is alive with debate and revision, as all science should be. They need to tell the public that there are things in the science that are open for debate, even if those things do not detract from the case for action.

Without a more open attitude, there is a real risk that the public's doubts about climate science will deepen. And it can take years for a field to recover its standing once people feels that they have been mislead. It has happened in Britain with genetically modified crops and nuclear power. In this case, we cannot afford any more years of mistrust.

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