Zoals mijn trouwe lezers bekend is, is (of was?) er in de VS een ware heksenjacht gaande op klimaatsceptici, die doet denken aan het Sovjet-Lysenkoïsme van weleer, waarbij een einde kwam aan de carrières – en soms ook het leven – van vele integere Russische biowetenschappers.

Wikipedia meldt hierover onder meer:

More than 3,000 mainstream biologists were sent to prison, fired, or executed as a part of this campaign – instigated by Lysenko to suppress his scientific opponents. The president of the Agriculture Academy was sent to prison and died there, while scientific research in the field of genetics was effectively destroyed until the death of Stalin in 1953.

Daarmee vergeleken kent de VS een ‘Lysenkoïsme light’, maar voor een vrije samenleving is dat al erg genoeg. Hierbij worden vele onfrisse methoden gebruikt om klimaatwetenschappers met alternatieve opvattingen dan de mainstream de mond te snoeren. Roger Pielke jr. is hiervan één van de slachtoffers. Onder de titel, ‘My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic’, schreef hij onlangs in de Wall Street Journal over wat hem is overkomen.

My research was attacked by thought police in journalism, activist groups funded by billionaires and even the White House.

Much to my surprise, I showed up in the WikiLeaks releases before the election. In a 2014 email, a staffer at the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, took credit for a campaign to have me eliminated as a writer for Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website. In the email, the editor of the think tank’s climate blog bragged to one of its billionaire donors, Tom Steyer: “I think it’s fair [to] say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538.”

WikiLeaks provides a window into a world I’ve seen up close for decades: the debate over what to do about climate change, and the role of science in that argument. Although it is too soon to tell how the Trump administration will engage the scientific community, my long experience shows what can happen when politicians and media turn against inconvenient research—which we’ve seen under Republican and Democratic presidents.

I understand why Mr. Podesta—most recently Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman—wanted to drive me out of the climate-change discussion. When substantively countering an academic’s research proves difficult, othertechniques are needed to banish it. That is how politics sometimes works, and professors need to understand this if we want to participate in that arena.

More troubling is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests—even our own?

I believe climate change is real and that human emissions of greenhouse gases risk justifying action, including a carbon tax. But my research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the U.S. or globally. [Noot HL: Dit is conform de opvatting van het VN-klimaatpanel (IPCC), maar verschillende politici en media kunnen niet nalaten om zo’n verband te suggereren. Daarmee wakkeren ze de klimaatangst bij het publiek aan.] In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I’ve studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I’ve earned the right to share this research without risk to my career.

Vervolgens gaat hij in op de kritiek, ja een heuse georkestreerde campagne, die hij zowel van collega-onderzoekers, de media, milieu-activisten en zelfs de politiek – inclusief het Witte Huis, in de persoon van John Holdren, wetenschapsadviseur van president Obama – over zich heen heeft gekregen. De kritiek van Holdren was in tal van opzichten onjuist en onterecht, maar bleef niet zonder gevolgen.

Almost a year later Mr. Holdren’s missive was the basis for an investigation of me by Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Grijalva explained in a letter to my university’s president that I was being investigated because Mr. Holdren had “highlighted what he believes were serious misstatements by Prof. Pielke of the scientific consensus on climate change.” He made the letter public.

The “investigation” turned out to be a farce. In the letter, Rep. Grijalva suggested that I—and six other academics with apparently heretical views—might be on the payroll of  Exxon Mobil (or perhaps the Illuminati, I forget). He asked for records detailing my research funding, emails and so on. After some well-deserved criticism from the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union, Rep. Grijalva deleted the letter from his website. The University of Colorado complied with Rep. Grijalva’s request and responded that I have never received funding from fossil-fuel companies. My heretical views can be traced to research support from the U.S. government.

But the damage to my reputation had been done, and perhaps that was the point. Studying and engaging on climate change had become decidedly less fun. So I started researching and teaching other topics and have found the change in direction refreshing. Don’t worry about me: I have tenure and supportive campus leaders and regents. No one is trying to get me fired for my new scholarly pursuits.

But the lesson is that a lone academic is no match for billionaires, well-funded advocacy groups, the media, Congress and the White House. If academics—in any subject—are to play a meaningful role in public debate, the country will have to do a better job supporting good-faith researchers, even when their results are unwelcome. This goes for Republicans and Democrats alike, and to the administration of President-elect Trump.

Academics and the media in particular should support viewpoint diversity instead of serving as the handmaidens of political expediency by trying to exclude voices or damage reputations and careers. If academics and the media won’t support open debate, who will?

Aldus Roger Pielke.

Lees verder hier.

Ja, maar dat zijn Amerikaanse toestanden. Gelukkig kan zoiets niet in Nederland gebeuren. Helaas, dat is niet zo. Ook in Nederland zijn soortgelijke gevallen voorgekomen. Klimaatsceptici onder professionele klimatologen – nagenoeg allen in overheidsdienst – zullen zich derhalve wel twee maal bedenken voordat zij zich als zodanig profileren.

Voor mijn eerdere bijdragen over klimaat en aanverwante zaken zie hierhier, hier, hier en hier.