Climate scientists pursuing their own interests have damaged climate science – A call to close ranks

Schellnhuber (2015) [1] explains in chapter 22 (“Blinding the prophets!”) how climate science was and is being attacked. He explains in detail the background of the “climategate” scandal (ie email leaks) around 2009 (cf COP15). In the analysis of the damages done, he states “Presumably, it is the essence of science which makes it so vulnerable to attack. Since research in its core – like in high-performance sports and on the opera stage – is not about cooperation, but competition. Far too often are ambition and jealousy the main driving forces of asocial behavior in the world of scholars. This became shamefully obvious, when in 2010 the serengeti-strategy[*] was used against Jones, Mann and others. Instead of closing ranks and taking the threatened colleagues into the middle to protect them, many tried to distance themselves far from those suspicious of fraud .” (pp. 520, Translation from German to English by Wilmar Igl)
* The “serengeti-strategy” is a term Schellnhuber uses to describe how lions separate the weakest animals from a herd to kill them.
In my opinion, it is a common observation that scientist refrain from using a clear language which describes also the implications of their scientific results on human society and the environment as a whole. Although one has to acknowledge that scientists are trained to use an objective and conservative language, the non-commitment type language (ie “success is limited”, “do not reach the planned goals”) makes them less vulnerable to attack, and, therefore, this language is also widely used in politics. In addition, in the academic world, being called an alarmists can be a real career killer and compromises a scientist’s credibility. Climate scientists are exposed to attacks from unsystematic attacks by denialist citizens (which may, however, be stimulated by propaganda from vested interests, eg fossil fuel industry), and centrally coordinated bot nets. At the same time, the may lack the personality (eg introversion) and the training (eg handling of social media, propaganda strategies, like argumentum ad absurdum, argumentum ad hominem), on the contrary to, for example, politicians, to handle personal attacks and defamation campaigns. Therefore, the personal motives, like career interests and fear, and the high-risk of attacks by the internet mob, made climate scientists and climate science very vulnerable.
In summary, scientists are also just humans, which all too often favor their personal interests over the greater common good.
[1] Schellnhuber, HJ (2015). Selbstverbrennung. München: Bertelsmann.
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