Silence of the scientists: how the global warming RICO letter backfired

Alfred WegenerAs reported here last week, we exposed how 20 scientists sent a letter to President Obama and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, which urged them to jail climate skeptics using provisions in the RICO Act. Today, three more climate scientists have chimed in on the affair at the popular climate site, NoTricksZone, and their responses to the now-infamous global warming RICO letter are both shocking and revealing.

The letter, dated Sept. 1, argued that the “systemic efforts to prevent the public from understanding climate change resembles the investigation undertaken against tobacco” and called for jailing individuals and organizations involved in providing more balanced coverage in the climate change arena. After the letter was outed by both Politico and Climate Depot, a firestorm on both sides of the climate debate quickly erupted. Here is what three climate experts had to say about the silencing of the scientists:

Professor Judith Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech who once argued for the disbandment of the IPCC, shared what she thought of the letter at the website NoTricksZone: “I am astonished by the naivet√© of these scientists, who are damaging their reputation by their naive meddling in a complex policy debate.” Noting that the U.S. would be picking a new president in 2016 and who could very well be Republican, she seemed amazed they didn’t “realize that the tables could easily be turned on them if the political winds change.”

Not only that, but those political winds would affect the “green advocacy groups and the scientists that engage with them.” As a climate scientist, Curry also writes that the “science is sufficiently uncertain to allow several rational narratives for what has caused 20th century warming and how the 21st century climate will evolve.” Aside from the damage they are inflicting on their own reputations, they are also damaging the public’s “perception of scientists as trustworthy sources of information.”

Her biggest concern, though, is that the “coercion of scientists implied by this letter will discourage objectivity in scientific research and will discourage scientists from entering/staying in the field of climate research.” She also writes on her blog that what these scientists did with this letter is the “worst kind of irresponsible advocacy, which is to attempt to silence scientists that disagree with you by invoking RICO. It is bad enough that politicians such as Whitehouse and Grijalvi are playing this sort of political game with science and scientists,” she says, “but I regard it as highly unethical for scientists to support defeating scientists with whom you disagree by such methods.”

Another climate expert, Dr. Sebastian L√ºning, considers the whole affair to be unprofessional. He writes that, “Rather than criminal lawsuits, we urgently need an objective ‘scientific court’ where arguments of both IPCC and skeptic sides are technically and open-mindedly discussed.” Dr. L√ºning thinks it is “undemocratic and unprofessional to silence scientists by legally threatening them if they do not subscribe to the official interpretation / party line.”

He also writes that history is rife with examples where the pioneers in science, “such as Galileo Galilee or Alfred Wegener would have ended up in prison.” The former, Galileo, did end up “sentenced to formal imprisonment” during the Inquisition. One day later, his sentence was commuted to house arrest, “where he remained under for the rest of his life.”

The latter, Wegener, first advanced the theory of plate tectonics and was ridiculed by the scientific community for not being part of the “consensus” that the oceanic crust was too firm for the continents to move. Other geologists considered him an outsider, and a symposium was “specifically organized in opposition to his theory.” As any fifth grader looking at a map of the world will tell you, it’s pretty obvious that South America fits quite nicely into Africa, like two puzzle pieces on the same board.

And last but not least, Professor Nicola Scafetta of Duke University provided a succinct comment: “Let us hope that this evident politicization of science ends soon.”