Besides the Heartland conferences, I do a lot of public presentations on climate change, and I particularly enjoy engaging with hostile audiences. My experience has been that a lot of pleasant, decent people are predisposed to doubt the science. They're not evil. They care deeply about their children's and grand children's' futures, and genuinely want to do what's right. These people are reachable, there are thousands of times more of them than there are climate scientists, and a lot of them vote. Not surprisingly, they often find unpersuasive an arrogant attitude that dismisses them as anti-intellectual fools.Seems to me that he hits exactly the right tone. Most people care, most people are reachable, there are a lot more of them then there are climate scientists, a lot of them vote, and most are reasonably intelligent and open to persuasion. The only thing I'd add is that as scientists we may understand the consequences of different choices better than non-scientists, but that doesn't mean that our preferences for one set of consequences versus another deserves more weight than those of non-scientists. We our citizens and our preferences for the kind of world in which we want to live matter, but they don't matter more than those of non-scientists.
So far so good.
Predictably, those who deny that humans influence the climate don't accept Denning's analysis. Christopher Monckton just had to respond. Also predictably, Monckton denies the importance of consensus, because the consensus view is sometimes wrong. I've written about that before, so I will only point out that I'd rather have an engineer who accepts the consensus views of physics build the next plane I fly on than one who has his own "brilliant" approach to aerodynamics.
Monckton's piece led to "a series of exchanges that led the Editor of this [the Yale Forum], for the first time, to end the comments period on a particular thread after offensive postings and submissions had become excessively repetitive and incendiary." John Abraham posted the final commentary on May 20, and concluded with these paragraphs.
A very civil way to outline the challenge that the editors of The Yale Forum face, and a stellar example of how contentious issues can be discussed without demonizing those who disagree.
So, where does this leave us? Scientists and other frequent visitors to The Yale Forum site want to encourage candid debate. I congratulate the editors on their Herculean efforts to accomplish this. Part of candidness is giving voice to persons who disagree. On the other hand, there must be a standard of intellectual honesty, integrity, and expertise for those who submit to The Forum, a unique marketplace of ideas expressed through original reporting and by leaders in the field.
It would be a great disservice for the community if that marketplace were soiled with extremist, incorrect, and misleading commentary. I do not envy Forum editors, but encourage them to continue pursuing their mission and holding their contributors to a standard higher than that found around a bar stool.
One more thing: Make no mistake that climate scientists do, in fact, receive threatening mail and phone calls and e-mails, both at their work and at their homes. Some of it is humorous, but most of it is vile. My own experiences have taught me that letters having no return address are likely to be hate mail. Much of this hate mail results from climate change deniers having encouraged their followers to contact faculty members and their universities -- to bully and intimidate them. There is no room for such behavior, and anyone encouraging or condoning threats to science researchers should not be afforded public venues to further this behavior.