Frumhoff, whose group endorses mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions and enlists scientists to take part in the public debate, said “the willingness of people to be actively engaged has increased dramatically” since the leaked East Anglia e-mails.
The American Geophysical Union, or AGU, offers communications training for its members, along with an annual “Climate Day on the Hill” in which it dispatches them to speak with lawmakers about recent scientific findings, and a $25,000 climate-communication prize. Several scientists have created a “Climate Science Rapid Response Team” to help lawmakers and members of the media reach researchers quickly, while others have raised more than $30,000 for a Climate Science Legal Defense Fund to aid researchers facing either lawsuits or Freedom of Information Act requests over their work.
Several academics who question the notion that human activities are driving dangerous warming said Gleick’s actions show that climate scientists cannot be trusted. William Happer, a Princeton University physics professor who is chairman of the George C. Marshall Institute, wrote in an e-mail that Gleick’s actions demonstrate how radicalized several of them have become.
“Some scientists feel that any hint that something may be rotten in the state of climate is a threat that must be countered by any means possible,” wrote Harper, suggesting that many scientists can fundraise by projecting dire climate impacts. “If you are saving the planet, along with a good funding source, the ends apparently justify the means.”
In an interview, Hansen said he had intentionally withdrawn from the limelight after testifying before the Senate about global warming in 1988. Hansen said he was compelled to reenter the public debate after policymakers failed to act, and he contemplated the prospect that his granddchildren could face a drastically altered planet once they reached adulthood.
He wrote in an e-mail that it is “hard to say” if his outspokeness has affected the way people view his academic work. “The scientific community has its own ways of evaluating the quality of science, so I would hope that it would not make much difference. But I have no choice but to draw attention to the urgency of the situation.”
Hansen delivered another speech on the topic in 2004 and again the following year at an AGU meeting, which generated public attention after NASA officials sought to control his discussions with journalists. He has emerged as one of the most visible advocates for making deep cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions. He was arrested last year in front of the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial project that would ship energy-intensive crude oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
“Scientists ought to connect the dots all the way to the very end,” he said, adding that scientific training often hampers researchers because they are taught to include caveats when they report their findings. “They’re pitted against people who use the talk show method — you just quote these bits of information which support your cause.”
John Abraham, a mechanical engineer at the University of St. Thomas who helped form the rapid response team and filmed a video debunking several claims made by British climate skeptic Christopher Monckton, said many researchers have mobilized because delaying carbon reductions could have “irreversible consequences.”
And now, even the scientists who have argued most forcefully against climate skepticism are worried about the latest act in the climate wars. Earlier this month, Nina Fedoroff, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, declared at the annual meeting that she was “scared to death” the world was “slipping back into a dark era” when it came to understanding climate change and other scientific matters.
When asked how the recent uproar would affect the public’s understanding of climate science, Fedoroff replied with just three words: “It doesn’t help.”