Saturday, February 18, 2012

Irresponsible Skepticism

This past week has seen a buzz in the blogosphere about documents concerning The Heartland Institute.  DeSmogBlog was the first to report on the documents and you can see their posts here, here, here, here, and here.  Further commentary can be found on other websites here, here, here, and here.

See full image at Skeptical Science
The contents of the email from Heartland are now being refered to as Denialgate.  The released brought a response the those victimized by Climategate.  Their response was published in The Guardian and can be found here.

In a previous post I discussed a series on climate ethics that Dr. Donald Brown has been posting on his blog by the same name.  The timing of this series seems ironic in that the Heartland documents go to the point of his discussion about the climate change disinformation campaign.

The Heartland Institute is just one of many "think" tanks that is really an advocacy group, not a scientific organization.  It is not involved in research and publication in any peer-reviewed journal.  It has been criticized in the science journals Nature and Science.  The documents indicate that they have received funding from the fossil-fuel and tobacco industry amongst others.

Dr. Brown has now posted the final installment in his series titled, Irresponsible Skepticism: Lessons Learned from the Climate Disinformation Campaign.  This is worthy of your reading time.  In this last post in the series he writes in conclusion:

"Throughout this series we have identified ethical problems with the climate change disinformation campaign. These ethical problems are particularly disturbing because they have led to inaction for over twenty years by some largest emitting countries including the United States, Canada, and Australia and in so doing have put millions of poor people at greater risk. And so, some of those engaged in the climate change disinformation campaign are responsible for endangering people and ecological systems around the world and appear to have been motivated primarily by economic self-interest or protecting a radical free-market ideology rather than a search for the truth that would be a goal of responsible scientific skepticism.

As we have seen, not all who have engaged in the disinformation campaign are equally ethically blameworthy, but many can be accused of deeply irresponsible and often knowingly deceptive practices to protect economic interests. There is no clear ethical problem with corporations sponsoring rigorous scientific research. However corporations engage in ethically troublesome behavior that sponsor organizations that manufacture bogus scientific claims, that make claims that must be understood as examples of reckless disregard for the truth, that highlight unknowns while ignoring settled science, or that have been created to deceive people about who the real parties in interests. Without doubt, corporations or philanthropic foundations that sponsor organizations that encourage cyber-bullying of climate scientists and journalists are engaging in particularly odious behaviors.

ClimateEthics has in this series made a clear distinction between responsible skepticism and the tactics deployed by the disinformation campaign. Responsible climate skepticism should be encouraged but skeptics must play by the rule of science and abide by the norms discussed in this series." 

Dr. Brown has outlined a method for debating climate science and indeed anything in science.  The peer-review process, while not perfect, has been and continues to be the most effective means for discovering the truth.  The disinformation campaign is not about discovering the truth, but hiding it.

It has been and continues to be one of the aims of this blog to educate everyone about climate science and the changes that are occurring in the environment.  I use only peer-reviewed information when discussing the science, and nothing is used from "think" tanks and other advocacy groups.

I am open to any ideas, but it must be backed by the science.  So far, the unconvinced have not been convincing.  In addition, some of them have been unethical.