Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer explains (via Andy Revkin) why he got involved in the American Geophysical Union’s new effort to combat climate change skepticism with an army of 700 climate scientists willing to jump in the public debate:
In my view, lots of people, particularly the philanthropic community, erred seriously in deciding that the scientific case was firm enough in the public’s and leaders’ minds so that they didn’t need to worry about it. The fact is the science is organic, and so is its opposition. It’s always a weak underbelly because the average person or political leader or business leader doesn’t have a firm grasp on it (in the case of the first category, why should they?) and the science is always evolving, so it’s always easy to generate confusion (see Merchants of Doubt). It will happen again. So what’s needed now is a serious effort to understand how expert information is taken up by the public (and key opinion leaders) and how to best inform them. The professional societies, the National Academies, the [nonprofit groups], the philanthropy community, and individual natural and social scientists all need to do more. Regardless of the particulars of the ultimate policy response, clearer, more reliable, trusted sources of organized information is needed.
Revkin also has comments from John Abraham of St. Thomas University and Scott Mandia of Suffolk County Community College about their separate but similar efforts to create a “Climate Rapid Response Team” of scientists willing to speak to potentially hostile audiences and combat misinformation.
Both have already jumped to the public debate, so they know what they’re facing.
Abraham is perhaps best known for posting a long rebuttal to the arguments of Christopher Monckton, a flamboyant critic of climate alarm whose pedigree, style and assertions would make him a great character for a climate-focused variant of the film “ Thank You for Smoking.”
Here’s Mandia’s explanation for his activism:
The science of climate change and even the scientists themselves are under attack from a well-orchestrated and well-oiled misinformation campaign. The best defense against this anti-science offensive is to make sure that the correct message reaches a wide audience. Chris Mooney & Sheril Kirshenbaum in their book Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future explain that scientists have failed to get their message across for a variety of reasons but mostly because we are not engaging the public on their turf. After reading that book, I became a climate change evangelist with my Global Warming: Man or Myth? Website, this blog, and more recently a Facebook Fan Group called Global Warming Fact of the Day. I have two small children and I do not like the future that I see for them or for their children in a human-driven warmer world.