by Judith Curry
Along with Richard Lindzen joining the Cato Institute, Bengtsson now gives us two examples of ‘skeptical’ scientists becoming associated with political advocacy groups, and zero examples of mainstream climate scientists joining political organizations. Who is it that’s politicizing science? – Dana Nuccitelli
I spotted this article in The Guardian: The Times Has Fallen for an Unfounded Climate Change Conspiracy. The ‘zero examples of mainstream climate scientists joining political organizations‘ raised my hackles.
The Wikipedia defines a political organization as:
A political organization is any entity that is involved in the political process.
Political organization including political institution, political parties, political groups- e.g. advocacy groups, Interest groups etc.
‘Political organization’ is perhaps not the best descriptor of organizations like CATO and GWPF; I think they really meant advocacy groups. But in the same category (whatever you call it), we would surely include organizations such as Environmental Defense Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Citizens Climate Lobby, Audubon Society, Pacific Institute, Nature Conservancy, etc.
I did a quick search for names of climate scientists (broadly defined) serving on Boards of green advocacy groups. I’m sure someone like Donna LaFramboise could do a much more thorough job, but here is what I came up with for a starter:
Environmental Defense Fund
William Chameides, from the Wikipedia:
In 2005, he left Georgia Tech to become the chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Chameides said he made this decision because he wanted to “…do more to advance the cause of good environmental stewardship.” In 2011, Chameides was the vice-chair of a report issued by the United States National Research Council entitled “America’s Climate Choices.”
Michael Oppenheimer, from the Wikipedia:
Oppenheimer joined the Princeton faculty after more than two decades with The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a non-governmental, environmental organization, where he served as chief scientist and manager of the Climate and Air Program. He continues to serve as a science advisor to EDF. Oppenheimer is a long-time participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, serving recently as a lead author of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report and now as a coordinating lead author of the Fifth Assessment Report as well as a Special Report on climate extremes and disasters. Oppenheimer has been a member of several panels of the National Academy of Sciences and is now a member of the National Academies’ Board on Energy and Environmental Studies. He is also a winner of the 2010 Heinz Award and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Union of Concerned Scientists – Board Members
James J. McCarthy (chair) is Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University and past director of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. His research and teaching focus on ocean processes and climate. He was the founding editor of the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, has participated in several studies on climate change, and has served as the head of an IPCC Working Group and as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2008. (See full bio.)
Mario J. Molina is a professor at the University of California–San Diego and president of the Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment. He is currently serving on the U.S. President’s Committee of Advisors in Science and Technology, and is a member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Molina and two colleagues shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for their research on the depletion of stratospheric ozone.
Citizens Climate Lobby Advisory Council
James Hansen. When I first became alarmed by the deteriorating climate, I saw a quote by Dr. James E. Hansen, “If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead.” Of course that describes exactly what Citizens Climate Lobby is about. I put the quote on our first brochure. Dr. Hansen is the planet’s great hero. He has all the credentials one could ask for in a leader on the climate. But here’s the big thing, he doesn’t let the credentials and his position stop him from saying the truth, risking everything. His is a clear voice that we heard way across the country in San Diego. And he is constant. He doesn’t go away. He’s been saying the truth for decades, out loud, in the scientific and popular publications and in Congress. He has been a speaker on our National Call and at our International Conference.
Katherine Hayhoe. Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who studies climate change. An expert reviewer for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, her life’s work has been dedicated to discovering and communicating the realities of a changing climate to those who will be affected most by it. As an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, Katharine develops new ways to quantify the potential impacts of human activities at the regional scale. Together with her husband Andrew Farley, lead teaching pastor of Ecclesia, she wrote “A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions”, a book that untangles the complex science and tackles many long-held misconceptions about global warming. Her work as a climate change evangelist has been featured in the PBS documentary series, The Secret Life of Scientists and in articles including True Believer that appeared in On Earth magazine in 2012 and Spreading the global warming gospel that appeared in the LA Times in 2011. In 2012 she was named one of Christianity Today’s 50 Women to Watch. JC note: Katherine Hayhoe recently made a splash as the star of Years of Living Dangerously.
Daniel Kammen. Dr. Daniel Kammen is Director of Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, professor in the Energy and Resources group, Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley.He is the class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley and was appointed the first Environmental and Climate Partnership for the Americas (ECPA) Fellow by Secretary of State Hilary R. Clinton in April 2010. Dr. Kammen served as the World Bank Group’s Chief Technical Specialist for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. JC note: Daniel Kammen was the editor for Environmental Research Letters that rejected Bengtsson’s paper.
Nature Conservancy Science Council
Jonathan Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of the Minnesota, where he is a professor and McKnight Presidential Chair in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Recent winner of the Heinz Award; contributor to the IPCC.
Climate Institute – Board of Advisors
Dr. Andre Berger
G. Lemaitre Lovain-LaNeuve, Belgium
Director, Inst. d’Astronomie et Geophys
Dr. R. K. Pachauri
New Delhi, India
Director, The Energy and Resources Institute
Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Dr. Graeme Pearman
Senior Principal Research Scientist, CSIRO
Dr. A. Barrie Pittock
Author and Former Director, Climate Impact Group, CSIRO
Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig
New York, USA
Senior Scientist, GISS
Dr. Georgi Golitsyn
Academician, Institute for Atmospheric Physics
Audubon Society – Board of Directors
Terry L. Root, of Stanford, California, is a Senior Fellow in Woods Institute for the Environment and Professor by Courtesy in Biology at Stanford University. She was a Lead Author, focusing on biological impacts, on the third and fourth assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, the latter of which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Vice President Gore. She is a Review Editor for the fifth assessment report. Her research, beginning with her pioneering large-scale research examining continent-wide ranges and densities of wintering North American birds using National Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count Data, focuses on large-scale ecological consequences of climate disruption. Dr. Root is on the board of Defenders of Wildlife and numerous science advisory boards.
Pacific Institute – President
Peter Gleick, from the Wikipedia: Peter H. Gleick is an American scientist working on issues related to the environment, economic development, international security, and scientific ethics and integrity, with a focus on global freshwater challenges.In 2003 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for his work on water resources. Among the issues he has addressed are conflicts over water resources, the impacts of climate change on water resources, the human right to water, and the problems of the billions of people without safe, affordable, and reliable water and sanitation. In 2006 he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. JC note: in case you missed it, Peter Gleick committed a major lapse of ethics in the Heartland affair [here and here].
- Science Advisory Board Member, Climate Change Communication Network, 2010-
- Science advisor for Climate Communication, 2011-
- Advisory Board, OurEarth.org, 2008-
- Science Advisory Council, 1Sky, 2008-
I could not find anything on the first two, but OurEarth.org and 1Sky are definitely advocacy groups. JC note: On a tweet yesterday, I asked Mann: Were you one of the U.S. scientists that pressured Bengtsson to resign from the GWPF? No answer yet; I’m not holding my breath.
I’m sure there are many that I missed, but this quick compilation points out that Abraham and Nuccitelli were mistaken in the Guardian article – participation of leading climate scientists in green advocacy groups is substantial.
So, do I see any problems with academic scientists serving in advisory roles for advocacy groups? Problems arise when a scientist puts ‘the cause’ above scientific integrity – Peter Gleick is the poster boy for this one. If a scientist receives funding from an advocacy group, then this needs complete disclosure (i.e. if the funding paid for the research, or if the funding is a significant portion of the scientist’s income). But forever tarring an individual scientist for receiving a small amount of travel funds to attend an event funded by an advocacy group (or big oil or whoever) is unjustified (note: Lindzen has been tarred in this way).
Do I see a problem with scientist who are advocates for policies related to their research as serving in capacities such as journal editor? Yes. Journal editors need to be unbiased, as well as appear to be unbiased.
Do I see a problem with scientist-advocates participating as lead authors in the IPCC? The IPCC says that it does not view this as a problem. Well, it might not be a problem if there is some sort of balance from advocacy groups or energy companies on the opposing side of the policy debate (which there hasn’t been). Not including energy companies in developing emissions scenarios has been a huge mistake, IMO, from the perspective of both the scientific content as well as the politics.
So, in this light, why is Bengtsson under such pressure? It surely is not because academic scientists are expected to avoid any such affiliations. Gavin Schmidt summed it up this way: Groups perceived to be acting in bad faith should not be surprised that they are toxic within the science community. Changing that requires that they not act in bad faith and not be seen to be acting in bad faith.
Gavin succinctly points to the hypocrisy of climate scientists who are green policy advocates – it is ok to join an advocacy group on one ‘side’ but not the other. Well, it is possible that it is not hypocrisy but rather extreme naiveté, thinking that ‘science demands’ the UNFCCC/IPCC ideology.
Is a scientist’s politics or policy preferences easily inferred from their affiliation with an advocacy group? In principle – no, in practice- probably. A scientist’s politics should be irrelevant to their science; if this is not the case, then the scientist’s research deserves extra scrutiny and a certain segment of the population (including other scientists) will distrust that scientist and be pre-disposed to reject their scientific research. Objecting to all scientists who are affiliated with advocacy groups is an intellectually consistent position that is defensible; objecting to scientists affiliated only with advocacy groups of a certain policy persuasion is defensible only from the perspective of an advocate. I do not regard the perspectives of Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann on this to be objectively defensible.
Which brings us back to the question asked by Nuccitelli:
Who is it that’s politicizing science?
I don’t think the answer to this question is ‘Lindzen and Bengtsson’.