As a climate scientist, I'm under pressure to be a political advocate. This comes mainly from environmentalists. Dan Cass, wind-farm director and solar advocate, preferred me not to waste my time debating "denialist morons" but to use political advocacy to "prevent climate catastrophe".
Jeremy Grantham, environmental philanthropist, urged climate scientists to sound a "more desperate note … Be arrested if necessary." A concerned member of the public judged my efforts at public engagement successful only if they showed "evidence of persuasion".
Others ask "what should we do?" At my Cheltenham Science Festival event Can we trust climate models? one of the audience asked what we thought of carbon taxes. I refused to answer, despite the chair's repeated requests and joke (patronisingly; his aim was to entertain) that I "shouldn't be embarrassed at my lack of knowledge".
Even some of my colleagues think I should be clearer about my political beliefs. In a Twitter debate last month Gavin Schmidt, climate scientist and blogger, argued we should state our preferences to avoid accusations of having a hidden agenda.
I believe advocacy by climate scientists has damaged trust in the science. We risk our credibility, our reputation for objectivity, if we are not absolutely neutral. At the very least, it leaves us open to criticism. I find much climate scepticism is driven by a belief that environmental activism has influenced how scientists gather and interpret evidence. So I've found my hardline approach successful in taking the politics and therefore – pun intended – the heat out of climate science discussions.
They call me an "honest broker", asking for "more Dr Edwards and fewer zealous advocates". Crucially, they say this even though my scientific views are absolutely mainstream.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
From a British climate scientist: