The trouble is, on most college campuses, there is no debate. Students hear over and over that it is "settled" and thus anyone who doubts that humans are responsible for potentially disastrous climate change must be a corporate shill or a fool. In this Minding the Campus essay, Russ Nieli endeavors to provide some balance.
In response to Peter Wood's piece on Climate Thuggery, the CHE has run a rebuttal by John Mashey and Robert S. Coleman. The comments thread suggests that standards of decorum and civility still need a lot of work when we're talking about AGW. It's curious how so many of Peter's critics simply can't seem to address his central argument about the bad manners of so many defenders of the impending-climate-catastrophe hypothesis, on which he takes no position. They're back again, though, with still more tediously priggish, doctrinaire, often screechy disquisitions, thundering why they're right about it all, and why somebody who isn't a climatologist has no right to discuss the "real science," etc., etc., etc. Go figure.
Climate change, NAS president Peter Wood argues at his CHE blog, is not an easy subject to discuss calmly and rationally these days, especially in most academic precincts. Even the slightest dissent from the "consensus" - i.e., global warming is for real, it's caused by human activity, dire consequences are certain, emergency action is needed immediately and you'd better believe it or else - is attacked by "climate thugs," who seek to silence, suppress, sue or smear their critics. Wow! Did he ever get that one right. Have a look at the comments thread - still growing as of this post - if you'd like to see exhibit A of the personal invective, petulance, angry spewing and temper tantrums his piece generated among the "warmists." It's quite a spectacle. What's really encouraging, though, is the overwhelmingly negative response of most other posters, including those otherwise sympathetic to the "warmist" postition. And not only there: the piece was quickly linked at Climate,etc, where an avalanche of sympathetic responses quickly arose. Apparently lots of people have been aware of "climate thuggery" for some time, and Peter's piece simply said it plainly. The "thugs" don't get it, of course, but it's good to see that so many others, even their supporters, do.
An article in the Guardian this weekend tells about a Berkeley physics professor, Richard Muller, who has assembled a team of scientists for an initiative he calls the Berkeley Earth project. His goal is to do research on climate change by essentially starting over and creating new models from scratch. He intends to use different methods than the ones that have already been used to produce findings currently hailed as evidence for global warming. Muller acknowledges that as of now, there is still no consensus on the state of warming, and that the skeptics have made legitimate criticisms of the methods used in research so far. He seeks to produce results untainted by political influence and, according to the Guardian, is strictly interested in scientific accuracy. "Science has its weaknesses and it doesn't have a stranglehold on the truth, but it has a way of approaching technical issues that is a closer approximation of truth than any other method we have," he said.
Among my sustainability emails today is a message from the Energy Action Coalition ("the hub of the youth climate movement") encouraging people to "scare big oil" this Halloween by organizing Trick or Vote events. I'd never heard of Trick or Vote before. Apparently you go around in a group knocking on doors like you would as a trick-or-treater, but in addition to begging for candy, you're asking people to vote on November 2. A brilliant idea! Halloween is the only day of the year in which door-to-door solicitation is socially smiled upon. I suppose my family exploited Halloween from inside our home when we included Christian tracts with the candy we gave out. And now the youth climate movement has figured out a way to exploit it as well. Check out their costume ideas here. What other door-to-door pitches are possible on All Hallow's Eve?
The distinguished InterAcademy Council, an independent society of top scientists, recently conducted an extensive review of the practices of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which the former found egregiously flawed. The IAC strongly rebuked the IPCC for making various pronoucements based on "little evidence," for "vague statements," and for not "expressing clearly" or giving the proper "perspective" on climate-related issues. The Capital Research Center (whose work I have long followed and respected) rightly deems the IPCC's modus operandi "shoddy" and concludes -- devastatingly:
What does the best evidence now tell us? That man-made global warming is a mere hypothesis that has been inflated by both exaggeration and downright malfeasance, fueled by the awarding of fat grants and salaries to any scientist who'll produce the "right" results.
The warming "scientific" community [as the Climategate emails reveal] is a tight clique of like-minded scientists and bureaucrats who give each other jobs, publish each other's papers -- and conspire to shut out any point of view that threatens to derail their gravy train.
Such behavior is perhaps to be expected from politicians and government functionaries. From scientists, it's a travesty.
And, so it is, that we all come tumbling down:
In the end, grievous harm will have been done not just to individual scientists' reputations, but to the once-sterling reputation of science itself. For that, we will all suffer.
In accord with a national effort to update the “No Child Left Behind Act” with an environmental component -- and renaming it the “No Child Left Inside Act” -- Maryland may soon become the first state to require an “environmental literacy” component, threaded throughout core subject areas, for high school graduation. Deborah Lambert puts this development in perspective at Accuracy in Academia, which earlier showed that environmental literacy requirements have already been inserted into higher education curricula as another way of preaching the doctrine of manmade global warming. Some colleges and universities now receive “green certifications” for their compliance. The organization spearheading this nationwide movement aimed at students is the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) ... [that] claims to have reached over 400,000 students at 850 schools through their free high school assemblies ... 'encourages students to become ‘climate heroes’ crusading against global warming' ... . The endgame, now that so many higher education institutions mandate environmental literacy for graduation? "Sustainability" as a first principle throughout all education.
Children today are getting a strong message from their schools, extra-curricular activities, and popular culture: "You need to help your parents live greener." Reinforcing this message are campaigns such as GreenMyParents, which trains kids to "grade their parents” on their energy and water use and demand pay for their services. In "Indoctrinate Our Kids and Green My Parents," I argued that such teaching subverts parents' authority, breaks down the family, and undermines one of the great purposes of education - to hand down civilization's legacy to the next generation. University Talk radio interviewed me on this here. My segment is from 13:47 to 29:27.
James Delingpole, in the Telegraph, recently noted:
Climategate just got much, much bigger. And all thanks to the Russians who, with perfect timing, dropped this bombshell just as the world’s leaders are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss ways of carbon-taxing us all back to the dark ages.
The Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) reported that the Hadley Center for Climate Change had probably tampered with Russian-climate data:
The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory ... Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.
Read why Joseph D'Aleo, a former professor of climatology, calls this "paint-by-numbers science."
By now, most of the world has heard of "Climategate"-- the e-mail scandal surrounding the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the UK. (If you are unfamiliar with the story, you can catch up with this Wikipedia article.) In short, hackers broke into the university's e-mail system and posted on the internet private communications between climate researchers, and the e-mails are far from flattering. Besides gloating over the death of a climate change skeptic, the e-mails show concerted efforts by the researchers to manipulate temperature data, to block public access to their data, and (perhaps most disturbingly) to exclude skeptical or critical researchers from the peer review process. While it may be too early to describe this behavior as "scientific fraud," it is certainly appropriate to label it "unethical." The New York Times's John Tierney wrote an excellent piece about this scandal and its implications for climate change advocates. Tierney points out that the climate researchers involved became "so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate[d] their certitude -- and ultimately undermine[d] their own cause." What this situation also reveals is that scientists who become public policy advocates can lose the most important characteristic they have: objectivity. Scientists must accept data for what it is, not what they wish it to be. Scientists must deal with contradictory data, not ignore it. And most importantly, scientists must be transparent with their research and the conclusions they draw, not secretive. However, these ethical principles become far more difficult to uphold when scientists become activists. To be sure, "Climategate" does not disprove global climate change, but it absolutely raises the suspicions of a general public who is often leery of science to begin with. Furthermore, scandals such as this damage not only the researchers involved but the entire scientific endeavor itself. Scientists who become public policy advocates must walk a fine line. Unfortunately, the researchers at East Anglia crossed that line.
A blog on Inside Higher Ed that I pay attention to, Getting to Green, has an interesting discussion about advocacy intruding on higher education. Note that the Getting to Green blogger writes under a pseudonym and is "a sustainability administrator at a large private research university, an adjunct faculty member, and a farmer." Michael Legaspi at Creighton University commenting on Getting to Green:
Advocacy rears its head too often, in multicultural moralism, identity politics, and, as the CRU debacle shows, in too many kinds of environmental studies. When we are concerned only to convert students to the “right” view of things, rather than to lead them through complex engagement of the intellectual substance of important questions, we make it all too easy for them to get by in our classes by telling us what we want to hear. When they do so to our satisfaction, we may have scored a cheap political victory, but we have surely done so at the expense of our best and highest ideals.
Getting to Green responds:
Michael Legaspi is concerned that too much of American higher education consists of political advocacy. He's right to be, and I agree with him. In fact, I'd go further. I'd say that too much teaching consists of social and economic advocacy, as well. Too much of what goes on in social sciences and professional schools treats how things are as the best they could possibly be (in this, the best of all possible worlds). Advocacy may be an acceptable form of consciousness-raising, but it's far from the highest form of teaching. When I work with professors at Greenback, I really don't know how much sustainability-related advocacy they indulge in. My impression, and my sincere hope, is that it's not much. Advocacy is appropriate in the marketplace of ideas, but potentially troubling in the classroom. My objective is to get students to engage both with the material -- the facts -- and in some degree of substantive analysis. If a student seriously engages with the idea that natural resources (both sources and sinks) are finite, that the systems which interact to produce the planet's climate are many and complex, and that societies may have a responsibility to address problems of their own creation, then I'm satisfied. Not everyone has to agree with my conclusions about climate disruption, its causes, its likely costs for humanity if left unchecked, or the need to address it globally and immediately. What I comment on when I review student projects and papers is whether they demonstrate an understanding of the material, not whether that understanding matches my own.
I don't agree with G2G's entire post (especially the part about the mainstream media giving credence to Climategate - think Googlegate), but he's saying the right thing here. One of the main problems with the push to "infuse" sustainability into higher education is that it brings ideological advocacy into the classroom. If we are to have sustainability education in the university, the approach G2G is talking about sounds like the right one.
I got this email from the National Teach-In for Global Warming as part of an "Education for Sustainability" listserv to which I subscribe:
Dear Colleagues and Friends, The hacked e-mails from climate scientists have energized the denialist community: one of the most jaw-dropping comments came from “Superfreakonomics” co-author Steven Dubner who told Fox News that “scientists were “colluding” with Al Gore in “distorting evidence.” He insisted that “you can’t read these emails and feel that the IPCC’s or the major climate scientists’ findings and predictions about global warming are kosher.” Now you too can help “hide the decline”. No, not a (non-existent) decline in the global temperature data, but a decline in the voices of people who understand the science. As educators, many of us are stunned that a few private e-mails are somehow calling into question three decades of peer-reviewed research by thousands of the world’s top scientists. Nevertheless, because you and I are not speaking out, but the deniers are, it is happening, and we have the obligation to set the record straight. What can you do? 1. Help us organize statewide conference calls with your US Senate offices this spring. We need to get 500 people on the line each from Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Nevada and 46 other states—to have a real conversation with Senate staff about real issues. The Bard Center for Environmental Policy will do all the work setting up the calls, but we need your help getting the word out. To learn more, give me a call at 845-758-8067, or e-mail us at email@example.com. 2. Call your US Senate Office today (find the numbers here) and let them know that these e-mails have in no way undermined the scientific case of global warming, and that the planet is in fact heating up just as scientists have predicted. A great Peter Sinclair video explaining the issue is here. 3. Send in letter on the e-mails to the editor, or write an op-ed for your regional paper. Next Wednesday, December 16th, I will be calling into on The National Climate Seminar live from Copenhagen. While it is clear that “a grand deal” will not emerge in the next two weeks, I will be discussing whether a binding international agreement appears possible to emerge by next year’s meetings in Mexico, and what that might look like. Join us at 3 PM eastern—call in info is here. Finally: please support young people’s efforts in Copenhagen— take the daily student opinion poll POPCOP15: see the letter from Dickinson College letter below. And see the note as well about a cool Copenhagen curriculum, Citizen Climate, for high school students from the Will Steger Foundation. Thanks for the work you are doing. Professor Eban Goodstein Director, National Teach-In on Global Warming
Dr. Tim Ball has written an article in the November 21 Canada Free Press in which he calls leading climatologists "frauds." He bases this on computer-based information obtained by someone who hacked into the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit server. The pro-anthropogenic climate change media, such as Associated Press and the Washington Post, emphasize the ethical issues associated with the hacking of the computers but downplay the implications for the credibility of pro-anthropogenic academics. The damage seems to be more serious than the Post yet admits. In his Canada Free Press article Ball raises questions not only about the credibility of climatological research but of the academic peer review process generally. Given widespread public interest in this topic, increased public scrutiny of peer review and of university research may be a collateral effect of the scandal. Concerning the peer review process generally Ball writes:
I was always suspicious about why peer review was such a big deal. Now all my suspicions are confirmed. The emails reveal how they controlled the process, including manipulating some of the major journals like Science and Nature. We know the editor of the Journal of Climate, Andrew Weaver, was one of the “community”. They organized lists of reviewers when required making sure they gave the editor only favorable names. They threatened to isolate and marginalize one editor who they believed was recalcitrant.
We may ask whether this kind of bias exists elsewhere in universities. If climate change has been politicized, what about studies like labor relations, law, sociology and economics?
From: McNall, ScottSent: Monday, November 09, 2009 12:15 PMTo: All Faculty (restricted); All Staff (restricted)Subject: FW: Mileage Requirement AnnouncementCalifornia State University, Chico has been recognized nationally for its efforts in sustainability. In 2007 President Zingg was among a small group of campus presidents who took the initiative and signed the American College and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment, which pledged to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In the spring of 2007 the University updated its Strategic Plan for the Future and introduced a new strategic priority, grounded in the core values of the campus, which recognized the need to prepare students for the challenges they will face in balancing economic, environmental, and social problems. We want them to be informed, environmentally literature citizens. To do this, we need to model the behavior we hope to see in our students and assure that the built environment, the social environment, and the intellectual life of the campus present an integrated understanding of sustainability and, when possible, solutions.We need to be mindful of our activities and we need to measure them to know if we are making progress toward our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the level set by California in SB 32, and in the goals set forth by the new administration in Washington. In the past, we have not focused on collecting data on campus transportation, which is a key component in all measures of greenhouse gas emissions.New travel guidelines will go into effect on January 1, 2010. We are fortunate that the Office of the Vice President for Business and Finance will collect the necessary travel data and provide information for reporting purposes. We will ask you to record some simple information, which has always been available. For example, we will want to know the actual air mileage flown, and we will want car rental mileage, use of personal vehicles for reimbursed university business, miles traveled in a taxi, miles traveled by rail, etc. We appreciate your patience in using new Travel Expense Claim available on the State Travel Accounting web site at www.csuchico.edu/ao/travel <http://www.csuchico.edu/ao/travel> , and helping the campus to achieve its goal of being a national leader in sustainability.
I was not entirely sure what Scott McNall meant by "mileage" (does he refer only to university business-related travel or all travel, including personal?), so I emailed him to ask. He answered that the new travel requirements are "only to those trips for the university for which people claim reimbursement--all business related." This is reassuring - at least CSU-Chico isn't requiring employees to document mileage for their family trips to Hawaii or Hong Kong. But this compulsion to tally up miles and calculate carbon footprints can be a slippery slope. Could it lead to restrictions on personal travel? I have it on good authority that Scott McNall lives 12-14 miles from campus and does not bike to work... See also: http://www.claremontconservative.com/2009/11/travel-to-and-from-school-next-thing-to.html
Watch for this new eco-trend on campus: parking restrictions. At the University of Toledo, according to the Reformer's Blog, the best parking is reserved for hybrid vehicles, making drivers of regular cars walk further. And the University of Colorado at Boulder is "seriously considering" a ban on parking on campus. The proposed ban would be part of UC-Boulder's efforts to fulfill its ACUPCC commitments. Although it would reduce emissions, it would not save the university money, but would cost over $1 million in parking permits. It also costs the students, who already pay a fee to cover bus transportation and who would, under a parking ban, be forced to pay for alternate parking and transportation to campus.