Monday, August 05, 2013

Ask Google to stop supporting Senator Inhofe and others who deny and obstruct science

Last week, a group of us Google Science Communication fellows sent a letter to the Chairman and CEO of the Google, pasted below, expressing our disappointment that the company held a fundraiser in support of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe.
Our reaction to news of the fundraiser was a mix of confusion and shock. We were brought to Mountain View in 2011 to learn how new technologies could improve science communication, with a focus on climate science. Raising funds for someone who has openly threatened climate scientists, mocked scientific practice and tried to impede scientific progress was completely incongruous with the conduct of the company we visited two years ago.

I urge people not to succumb to cynicism - "that's business" - about Google's actions. This is an opportunity. Google has made a mistake. Let's bring attention to that mistake, and ensure Google, and other companies, don't repeat it. As four of my colleagues wrote at Dot Earth:

Responsibility, however, also rests with scientists, civil society leaders, and the public.  Indeed, this may be the enduring lesson of Google’s mistake.  By speaking out when our admired companies and political leaders let us down, we are the only ones who can create the conditions where the morally right thing to do is also good for politics and business.

How do you speak out?

If you work for Google, sign the virtual petition at asking your employer to stop raising money for Senator Inhofe and others who obstruct and deny science. If you know people who work for Google, bring the petition to their attention.

Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman) and Larry Page (CEO)
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043 USA

August 1, 2013

Dear Dr. Schmidt and Mr. Page,

Google has earned its reputation as one of America’s most innovative and forward-thinking companies, and has shown climate leadership by improving its own environmental performance and investing in clean energy technologies.  That’s why it was deeply troubling for us, as Google Science Communication Fellows, to learn about Google’s July 11, 2013 fundraiser supporting Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe’s 2014 re-election campaign.

Among his most notorious statements, Senator Inhofe has outrageously claimed that climate change is "a hoax on the American people" and, in the absence of a shred of factual evidence, accused climate scientists of being "criminals."

The reality that human activities are causing major disruptions to our global climate and that these disruptions pose serious risks to society is accepted by virtually every climate scientist and by the world’s leading scientific organizations.  Yet for more than a decade, Senator Inhofe has attacked and demeaned the very scientists who have worked tirelessly to better understand the threat and to warn us of the risks posed to the environment, our communities, and our children.

In the face of intensifying heat, rising seas and extreme weather, corporate leadership and private sector innovation will be essential to developing clean energy technologies and implementing more sustainable business practices.  So too will be political dialogue, bipartisanship, and cooperation. That’s why we’re strongly supportive of the outreach efforts of former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis, who today leads the Conservative Climate Coalition.

Yet sadly, over the past decade, the polarization and gridlock that has derailed efforts to address climate change owes much to Senator Inhofe, who by relentlessly attacking the scientific community has undermined efforts at cooperation and consensus building.

Given Google’s commitment to educating the public about climate change, why would the company align its political efforts with Inhofe? In responding to criticism, a Google spokesperson acknowledged “while we disagree on climate change policy, we share an interest with Senator Inhofe in the employees and data center we have in Oklahoma.”

But Inhofe's assault on the scientific community is not a difference in climate policy; it's a strategy designed to promote dysfunction and paralysis; to destroy the reputation of scientists and the legitimacy of their institutions; and to undermine our ability to find common ground.

Such a strategy conflicts with the data-driven, problem solving culture that has enabled Google’s business success and is arguably contrary to its corporate philosophy of “Don’t Be Evil.”

In 2011, as participants in Google’s science communication fellows program, we witnessed first hand the company’s unique culture.  At its Mountain View headquarters, we were introduced to new communication technologies and strategies for effectively translating climate science to a broad audience.

At the time, we were proud to be part of Google’s investment in science education; inspired by the creative, talented, and passionate people we met; and eager to apply new tools and strategies in our public outreach activities.  But Google’s recent support for Senator Inhofe forces us to question the company’s commitment to science communication and to addressing climate change.

Nearly every large company must – and should – work with policymakers on both sides of the aisle. We also recognize the difficulty that corporations sometimes face in reconciling their core principles with their short-term business priorities.

But in the face of urgent threats like climate change, there are times where companies like Google must display moral leadership and carefully evaluate their political bedfellows. Google’s support of Senator James Inhofe’s re-election campaign is one of those moments.

The Signatories were all Google Climate Science Communication Fellows in 2011:

Brendan Bohannan, Professor, Environmental Studies and Biology, University of Oregon
Julia Cole, Professor, Geosciences and Atmospheric Sciences, The University of Arizona
Eugene Cordero, Professor, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University
Frank Davis, Professor, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
Andrew Dessler, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University
Simon Donner, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia
Nicole Heller, Visiting Assistant Professor, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
Brian Helmuth, Professor, Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences and School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University
Jonathan Koomey, Research Fellow, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University
David Lea, Professor, Dept. of Earth Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Kelly Levin, Senior Associate, World Resources Institute
David Lobell, Associate Professor of Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University
Ed Maurer, Associate Professor & Robert W. Peters Professor, Civil Engineering Dept., Santa Clara University
Suzanne C. Moser, Director, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting and Social Science Research Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University
Matthew C. Nisbet, Associate Professor, School of Communication, American University, Washington D.C.
Whendee L. Silver, Professor of Ecosystem Ecology, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
Alan Townsend, Professor, Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado Boulder

Note: Affiliations are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement by an individual’s institution or organization.

1 comment:

mk49 said...

Wow - how truly cynical. Google on the side of the dark forces. Leaves me with a sick feeling.