Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Climate of fear

The BBC News 4 show Panorama recently had a show called "Bush's climate of fear" that investigated how the US government under the Bush Administration has attempted to squash scientific evidence for climate change. You can watch the entire program online here.

It is worth watching for the good interviews with a number of US government scientists [including a colleague who works on climate and hurricane activity] and the fingernails-on-the-blackboard interview with James Connaughton, Bush's senior advisor on environmental policy.

The show itself appears opinionated, not-so-subtly and not-so-fairly suggesting that the Bush Administration alone is responsible for global warming (the treatment of Texas in particular is unfair). That is, however, another reason to watch. The fact that this program was on the BBC demonstrates just how low the opinion of the Bush Administration's treatment of climate change, and science in general, is in the rest of the world.


tim said...

This posting made me laugh… OK I am back from under the table. Weak are scientists in US to be silenced by “half wit president”. I understand a climate of fear in China, North Korea, and Zimbabwe. I understand climate of fear in Stalinist regime. We had one of the world leading geneticists Vavilov perishing in the prison for his views that were contrary to the Lisenko’s neo-Lamarckian evolution.

Did anyone hear that any US scientists teeth were filed off because their research publications? I did not. Did you hear even that someone was fired from their tenure position for global climate change views? I did not.

I am researching global climate change, but I am not convinced yet. From my observation most passionate global climate change advocates do so, because they are from upper middle class. I am personally not. The major force for global climate change advocacy is guilt. I understand when you grow up with unprecedented luxury taken for granted. Any exposure to the real poverty and suffering of people in the third world countries can bring guilt. I grew up in very Spartan settings. My footprint was very small. Even now my CO2 emissions are 4 metric tons a year. It is 8.8 tons in US. It is economics.

Simon Donner said...

I have to agree the first part of Tim's argument. In the grand scheme of things, the quieting of federal climate scientists by the Bush administration has been overblown. The furor in the press always struck me as more about trying to slay a falling beast, Bush, than defending science. In the talk NASA scientist Jim Hansen delivered last December that led to the issue becoming public (it was no surprise to many scientists than climate science had been quieted by the Bush Administration), he stated that the world has “just 10 years to reduce greenhouse gases before global warming reaches what he calls a tipping point and becomes unstoppable”. What has bothered me from the start is that public discourse focused much more on the government response to his talk, than to what Hansen actually said [or for that matter, what the hurricane researchers said about the link between climate change and tropical cyclones]. This was a very serious statement from one of the top climate scientists. The media attention, however, seemed to be more focused on "getting Bush"

I think the phrase "climate of fear" in the title of the BBC documentary can be interpreted two ways: government scientists being afraid to communicate their findings because of their employer OR the current administration, being afraid of government scientists communicating their findings. If you follow the science and public discourse on climate change, the fear tactics are used more by the skeptic community which includes people in the Bush administration (arguments like "it'll be too expense to slow global warming, we should just adapt") than by scientists, a good number of whom argue slowing climate change would be possible were it not for political obstacles.