This morning, when I woke up, I was really unhappy that I had to get out of bed. As I lay in my bed, comfortably snuggled under my flannel sheets (why yes, I am approximately 11 years old at heart, thank you for asking), thinking about how much I didn’t want to move, I decided that someone should look into the scientific relationship between sleep and happiness. I found myself wondering if there ever comes a point where more sleep does not make me more happy, and also what Kara had for breakfast. And then I got out of bed.
Which has only one thing to do with today’s post, which is about SCIENCE.
Recent reports are coming out about a new scandal rocking the world of climate science, this time involving the famously climate-skeptic think tank Heartland Institute. Although their funding sources were already somewhat suspect (hint: ExxonMobil is a huge one), a leak of insider documentation show that much of their “research” was nothing of the sort. Direct quotes from the leaked documents indicate that Heartland Institute wasn’t relying on science at all to prove their point, but in fact directly and overtly operated “disinformation” campaigns specifically aimed at muddying the waters on climate science and confusing the public. Of their efforts, perhaps the most abhorrent is their specific and direct effort to promote elementary education programs, sponsoring programs that would “focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.“
Whoa, Nelly. Interestingly enough, Heartland Institute was also responsible for manufacturing and trumpeting most of the information about the “Climategate” scandal. I can’t say I’m upset that these leaks are being made public – it is disgusting that with our country already so far behind in educating in math and science that they would attempt to continue that trend and manufacture confusion in order to achieve their own ends. Pathetic, Heartland Institute. Pathetic.
And yet, equally upsetting is the news that the individual responsible for these leaks was a sting operation run by Peter Gleick, a prominent member of AGU and climate scientist. Gleick has already owned up to the situation, as reported by Huffington Post and The Washington Post. Which is also sad – since when do scientists have to lie and cheat in order to make their voices heard?
What’s frustrating about this situation is the following: where is the real science, anyway? And since when did research become so clouded by political motives that scientists – educated, accomplished researchers – feel they have to resort to sting operations to make the their results heard? When did science stop being what it is supposed to be: a world in which the results of experiments are objectively analyzed by a team of educated researchers in a peer-review process and discussed in a forum that is not motivated by politics, corporations, and a who’s who of political funding? Since when did science become like politics, where money is the only thing that talks, and your “answer” to a question is determined by who is paying your bills?
It’s a shame that we’ve gotten to this point. It’s a shame that our country is so afraid of what the truth might be that entire operations will try to cover it up, and it’s a shame that those who should be flying the banner of ivory-tower objectivity resort to dishonest measures themselves to expose these operations. What we should be keeping in mind is the following: climate science and climate policy are two different things. They are related, certainly, but they are not the same. The former is the domain of the experts; those who have spent years researching and studying and learning. Scientists have their own method of evaluating models, testing results, questioning process, evaluating assumptions, and honing in on the most accurate answer.
As for policy, that is public forum, open for debate, conversation, and the opinion of the general public. I am always a supporter of more conversation on policy. But that doesn’t mean inventing our own facts, or trying to cover them up – it means taking the best possible information that we have access to (FROM THE EXPERTS, not from things that we made up), and then debating what to do about them.
There is no one in this situation who is right, but you can read an excellent take on the situation here. Then, maybe we should think about whether or not it’s time to leave the politics to the politicians and the science to the scientists.