Saturday, June 20, 2015

A flurry of activity

It has been a long time since I have posted. One update is that the BBC eventually completed retracted the segment from climate wars that discussed my father. They have stated that it will not run again. Of course this is after millions of people (or at least hundreds haha) saw it. Recently Justin Gillis from the New York Times contacted my sister who he had previously from writing about environmental issues in Florida. He was working on a profile of Naomi Oreskes and had heard about our issues with her work. My sister put him in touch with me and we spent some time going over the history. I had sent him our peer reviewed paper as well as a document I had put together some time ago that was a straight rebuttal of her Chicken Little paper. In the end he asked me to update it, and potentially include information about her horrendous Acid Rain chapter from Merchants of Doubt. I did all of that and he actually included a link to it in his article, which was very nice of him. In the article he quoted me and also John Perry who I had located for him. Perry told him that what she wrote about my father was completely wrong and he printed that. But it was all pretty soft. My biggest disappointment is that he didn't include the fact that both the BBC and the Times had to print retractions of stories that Oreskes had authored. Instead he mentioned some silly scientific issue having to do ocean acidification which, of course, made her critics look petty. Obviously a professor of history making a minor scientific mistake is no big deal. But a professor of history completely fabricating a newspaper story is a big deal. It was kind of interesting how few people actually followed the link to our newly updated rebuttal paper. Following the comments on the New York Times it appears that no one cares about the history, they just want to have the same old climate change arguments. Since Orestes is a professor of history it seems to me that this is the only thing that is relevant to discussing her, but I guess that isn't how the general public views it. I have kind of realized that there is no natural constituency for my story. People (generally on the left) who are sure that not enough is being done about climate change consider Oreskes a kind of Priestess and feel that anything that would diminish her will reduce the possibility of action on climate. People (generally on the right) who think that climate change is a bunch of malarkey don't want to hear that my father's 1983 NAS report completely agreed with the modern scientific consensus. And I guess everyone has just moved on regarding Acid Rain so the fact that her chapter on that topic was essentially a complete fiction doesn't matter either. Personally I believe that distorting history can only hurt climate science (and science in general) in the long run. As people learn about what really happened, whether it is this issue or something else, they lose faith and trust. The same kind of thing is happening as a result of scientists and science communicators making exaggerated and misleading claims about the state of climate science. The climate issue is clear enough without exaggeration and in any event most of these things are so easily seen through that they just reinforce doubt in expert opinion. I haven't decided whether to start blogging again about climate science. I had kind of moved on, but this recent experience as well as some unrelated but really bad science communication has gotten me interested again. If I do start blogging I think I will focus completely on issues in science communication.