Three famous climate scientists threaten to stop doing research on climate until we admit no more is needed. It’s a deal. We accept. Now perhaps famous is too strong a word. And so is accept, since they’re not really going to shut up or stop taking government money to call governments enemies of humanity. They’re just pouting. Judith Curry sighed in exasperation “How does stuff like this get published?” But we ask how to make sure that once it is published it is made binding, because if there were one bluff we could call in the entire year it would be this one.
The authors are a professor of something at Massey University, where his “multi-disciplinary education” landed him in the “School of People, Environment and Planning”, a discipline you may not know existed, a professor of something else at the University of Waikato, specifically “Environmental Planning” which again isn’t exactly an open, rich and diverse field like physics, history or music so much as a foregone conclusion in a cap and gown, and a professor of yet a third thing at the University of the Sunshine Coast, namely “Sustainability” which again seems unsustainable as an academic discipline. And at the risk of being unkind, if all three made good on their threat to stop researching climate the world might not learn of it for decades, if ever. But let’s look more closely at the threat itself.
Like Greta Thunberg and even Naomi Oreskes, they seem to be able to follow logic a certain distance. If the science is settled, why do more of it? Or, in the words of our professors of activism in academic garb: “Decades of scientific evidence demonstrate unequivocally that human activities jeopardise life on Earth. Dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system compounds many other drivers of global change. Governments concur: the science is settled. But governments have failed to act at the scale and pace required. What should climate change scientists do?”
Shut up? Yes, apparently. No grant for me, thanks. Instead they’re going to spank society. You see, they state with breathtaking humility, “There is an unwritten social contract between science and society. Public investment in science is intended to improve understanding about our world and support beneficial societal outcomes. However, for climate change, the science-society contract is now broken.” And not by science, which has gone all screechy, tendentious and narrow-minded. Heck no. They’re the angels. We’re the fiends. We broke the unwritten pledge only they knew we’d signed in invisible ink or something.
How shall we be made to pay? “What are climate change scientists to do in the face of this evidence? We see three possible options — two that are untenable, one that is unpalatable. The first option is to collect more evidence and hope for action.” But “We know why global warming is happening and what to do. We have known for a long time. Governments just haven’t taken the necessary action.”
Therefore “The second option is more intensive social science research and climate change advocacy. As Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes recently observed, the work of the IPCC’s Working Group I (WGI, on the physical science basis of climate change) is complete and should be closed down. Attention needs to focus on translating this understanding into action, which is the realm of WGII (on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability) and WGIII (on mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions).” Not to mention joining Extinction Rebellion or otherwise forcing voters to do things they don’t want to by breaking the law. Or, in anodyne-sounding polysyllabic euphemism, “In parallel, growing numbers of scientists are getting involved in diverse forms of advocacy, including non-violent civil disobedience.”
Alas, it seems not to be working despite its diversity: “albeit more promising than option one, there is little evidence of impact thus far and it is doubtful this pathway will lead to the urgent transformative actions required.” So hold your breath until you turn blue? Yup. That’s the ticket.
“The third option is much more radical, but unpalatable. We call for a moratorium on climate change research that does little more than document global warming and maladaptation. Attention needs to focus on exposing and re-negotiating the broken science-society contract. Given the rupture to the contract outlined here, we call for a halt on all further IPCC assessments until governments are willing to fulfil their responsibilities in good faith and mobilise action to secure a safe level of global warming. This option is the only way to overcome the tragedy of climate change science.”
If you want to overcome scholarly tragedies, start by making sure these learned professors of nebulosity learn the difference between “society” and “government”. But it would not be a tragedy if they carried through on their threat to renounce “our ‘duty’ to use public funds to continue to refine the state of climate change knowledge” because “a more radical approach will serve society better.”
Yeah. The one where you learn a little humility, open your minds and consider how shaky the evidence really is for your one-track beliefs. And the extent to which higher education ought to be about exploring a diverse range of viewpoints not indoctrinating dogma.