Strategies of Communication on Climate Change

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Climate: another harassed scientist fights back

This 2011 Nissan commercial shows how important the polar bear has become as a symbol of the ongoing climate disaster

The polar bear has become a powerful symbol of the critical climate situation in which we are. No wonder that the powers that be have been attacking on that front. First of all, they have been denying that the polar bears are in trouble. More than that, they have been using one of the classic weapons in the anti-science war manual: personal attacks against single scientists.

Just as Michael Mann has been under fire for his "hockey stick" paleoclimate reconstruction, Charles Monnet, of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has been threatened and legally harassed for his studies on polar bears. It is a sad story to read: the investigation on Monnett reminds Orwell's thought police or the polical commissioners of the Soviet Union who watched the work of scientists to ensure that it was consistent with the party line.

Just as Michael Mann did, Monnett fought back and the battle is now over with a settlement in which BOEM has agreed to pay Monnett a compensation and to to remove the letter of reprimand he had received from them.

It is a victory for science, although not a complete one. But if Monnett and Mann have fought back with some success, how many harassed young scientists have given up their studies on climate? Monnett himself comments the events with a certain sadness:

“Well, I’m sad, I guess. It’s been disappointing,” says Monnett. “As a young person, fresh out of graduate school, I was idealistic, and I thought that it would all be about the truth.”


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