Who recently called for severing ties between the campaign for low-carbon energy and climate science research? Sarah Palin? The GOP? Rush Limbaugh? Wrong. The answer is: Two independent-minded environmentalists who head a green think tank. Come again?

Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger made bold assertions (accusations, really) in an essay posted on Yale Environment 360, an online digest. Their main point:

“Climate science, even at its most uncontroversial, could never motivate the remaking of the entire global energy economy. Efforts to use climate science to threaten an apocalyptic future should we fail to embrace green proposals, and to characterize present-day natural disasters as terrifying previews of an impending day of reckoning, have only served to undermine the credibility of both climate science and progressive energy policy.”

Also undermining climate science: Climategate and the revelation of embarrassing errors in the 2007 IPCC report-controversies with serious implications for the credibility of the ‘consensus’ forming climate science research (and researchers) coming from the IPCC/ CRU East Anglia. The situation becomes even more serious when you realize the extent to which climate science has been dragged into the arena of public policy. Nordhaus and Shellenberger explain:

“Greens pushed climate scientists to become outspoken advocates of action to address global warming. Captivated by the notion that their voices and expertise were singularly necessary to save the world, some climate scientists attempted to oblige. The result is that the use, and misuse, of climate science by advocates began to wash back into the science itself.”

By aggressively stepping into the arena of public policy, the scientists let their research be shaped by the global warming alarmist narrative. Basically, the shoddy science was no mistake. Climategate and the IPCC report scandal illustrate how data is warped to fit desired results critical to pushing an agenda.   

While the New York Times glosses over these embarrassments (Climategate/IPCC errors) viewing them as trivial blemishes on an otherwise rock solid consensus, the public is not so easy to forgive and forget. Even before these recent revelations, public concern over global warming has been declining for years (even among meteorologists). Nordhaus and Shellenberger point this out as well, arguing that the effectiveness of using climate science alarmism to try to sway the American public and affect energy policy is misguided and a blatant overreach: 

“Stronger evidence of climate change from scientists was never going to drive Americans to demand economically painful limits on carbon emissions or energy use. And uncertainty about climate science will not deter Americans from embracing energy and other policies that they perceive to be in the nation’s economic, national security, and environmental interest.”

Americans don’t appreciate alarmism (although our children are impressionable). We don’t respond to it as we would to a reasoned, open, and honest discussion without censure. Americans do care about our economy, our national security, and about the environment, but don’t throw junk science in our faces-it won’t work.

Here’s a novel proposition: How about the climate science community (particularly the IPCC) becoming accountable to the people it intends to inform and being held to the same scientific review standards as all other science? Why should they get a pass on allowing room for healthy skepticism, space for contrarian views, scientists to publish alternative findings, and for all climate science research to be peer reviewed? And why is it so easy for them, when information is questioned, to lambast and censure those doing the questioning?

IWF’s Carrie Lukas wrote recently that what needs to be reaffirmed in the climate science community and, importantly, within our schools, is “the role that skepticism is supposed to play in the scientific process and the importance of scientists disclosing their data so that others can assess their logic and consider alternative hypothesis.”

We need honest scientific discourse and an inclusive process.

Be on the look out for IWF’s special project: Balanced Education for Everyone (BEE).