Sunday, December 18, 2016

"I fear the chill that could descend."

Michael E. Mann from his page,
listing his many popular books.
An op-ed in the Washington Post titled: "I’m a scientist who has gotten death threats. I fear what may happen under Trump," summarizes the experiences and new fears of often-attacked climate scientist Michael E. Mann, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. Over many years, Mann has been threatened legally with court actions, probes to obtain his personal papers, and efforts to deny funding to him and to his institution, as well as receiving threats of violence. 

"In all," he writes, "I’ve been through roughly a dozen investigations prompted by climate change deniers. Each time, I’ve been exonerated. Investigators find that my methods are sound and my data is replicable." Here are more details from his article:
"I’ve faced hostile investigations by politicians, demands for me to be fired from my job, threats against my life and even threats against my family. Those threats have diminished in recent years, as man-made climate change has become recognized as the overwhelming scientific consensus and as climate science has received the support of the federal government. But with the coming Trump administration, my colleagues and I are steeling ourselves for a renewed onslaught of intimidation, from inside and outside government. It would be bad for our work and bad for our planet."
Mann provides ample documentation about the malice and ignorance of the appointees of the new administration:
"Trump’s nominee for energy secretary, Rick Perry, wrote in his 2010 book that “we have been experiencing a cooling trend” (in reality, 2016 will go down as the third consecutive record-breaking year for global temperatures), and when he was governor of Texas, his administration removed all references to climate change from a report on rising sea levels. Trump’s proposed interior secretary, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), plays down climate change as “not proven science” and has a dismal record on the environment, voting again and again in favor of the fossil fuel industry. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s choice for secretary of state, represents those interests even more directly as the chief executive of ExxonMobil."
The reaction of climate scientists to the new and coming attacks has been, among other things, an effort to archive government data before climate science is shut down. The damage that could be done is horrifying:
"We are afraid that four (possibly eight) years of denial and delay might commit the planet to not just feet, but yards, of sea level rise, massive coastal flooding (made worse by more frequent Katrina and Sandy-like storms), historic deluges, and summer after summer of devastating heat and drought across the country.

"We also fear an era of McCarthyist attacks on our work and our integrity. It’s easy to envision, because we’ve seen it all before. We know we could be hauled into Congress to face hostile questioning from climate change deniers. We know we could be publicly vilified by politicians. We know we could be at the receiving end of federal subpoenas demanding our personal emails. We know we could see our research grants audited or revoked.

"I faced all of those things a decade ago, the last time Republicans had full control of our government."
The conclusion of this opinion piece, which I find of great concern:
"I fear the chill that could descend. I worry especially that younger scientists might be deterred from going into climate research (or any topic where scientific findings can prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests). As someone who has weathered many attacks, I would urge these scientists to have courage. 
"The fate of the planet hangs in the balance." 

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