Katharine Hayhoe, autolegendary for her climate alarmism and her Christian compassion, recently tweeted in exasperation “A small sample from email inbox of a climate scientist” over a letter about natural cycles, the sun’s influence, global greening and the issue of temperature rises preceding CO2 increases, as if all these things were self-evidently contemptible. We cannot reproduce her tweet directly because she pre-emptively blocked us when she discovered we were evil but it’s here. And Stephan Lewandowsky, an Australian psychologist (all together now, “not a climate scientist”) who uses computer models to say other people are way dumber than him about science, chimes in with “Isn’t it weird how these dudes (they usually are male) sound just like Brexiters? The squawkings of the pale, male & stale crowd are all written by the same algorithm: hubris + entitlement + outrage + hate + anger = anything dreadful in the world.” Lewandowsky being, um, this 62-year-old white guy churning out angry clichés.
Now you might say there are many rude fools online, why pick on these two? But it’s all too symptomatic of the debate and these two are not minor figures. Hayhoe could have shown why she disagreed with that writer’s various points, none of which was either obscene or paranoid. (In fact all of them are well-grounded: natural cycles exist, the sun matters, the globe is greening and CO2 follows temperature in the long ice cores.) Instead she just rolled her eyes and tried to shame the person in keeping with her view that there is no “legitimate argument for skepticism over man-made climate change” because “scientists have examined every possible alternative explanation - and each one has an alibi.” Then in came Lewandowsky with a racist, ageist, sexist smear as though it were the most uncontroversial thing in the world. Which in some circles it might be.
In fairness, Lewandowsky has spent some of his career debunking some very idiotic conspiracy theories, and pointing out that a lot of people believe stuff we too think they should not believe. But to link, say, climate skeptics with people who think the moon landing was fake is obnoxious. And not only because Buzz Aldrin, who walked on the moon, is a climate skeptic, something his Wikipedia profile does not mention.
Lewandowsky also coauthored a 2015 paper with Naomi Oreskes and James Risbey which said there was no warming “hiatus”. Which might cause some people to think he’s kind of off the wall.
For our money he has every right to be; science proceeds by debating hypotheses not hunting heretics. But it troubles us that people who think they are winning the argument without breaking a sweat have a peculiar tendency to get nasty in a hurry when someone tries to raise a counter-argument.