Science and Public Policy

Science and Public Policy

The Virtuous Corruption of Virtual Environmental Science

Aynsley Kellow

This book is an examination of a neglected form of scientific corruption – corruption by political attachment to noble causes.

Chapter 4: Defending the Litany: The Attack on The Skeptical Environmentalist

Aynsley Kellow

Subjects: environment, environmental politics and policy, environmental sociology, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy, public policy


[In] recent years it is apparent that the enormous significance attached to climate in earlier times was somewhat overdone because people failed to see that many of the effects that seemed to be due to climate in itself were really due to quite different factors only indirectly related to climate. . . . This is not to deny that climates have their own specific qualities or that nobody, if they could help it, would choose to live in Ghana, that dreadful Turkish bath supplied by nature, or in Death Valley or even Alaska, but what has this to do with health? The answer is: Nothing at all (see Hypothermia). Pears Medical Encyclopaedia J.A.C. Brown, compiler, (1969), pp. 118–20 Climate change is a policy problem which inherently involves making decisions under uncertainty (Kellow, 2005). As we saw in the previous chapter, there is much uncertainty in our understanding of past and present climate, let alone how the climate might change over the next century or so. Our case studies of the Hockey Stick controversy and the SRES scenarios illustrate that such science is conducted within a context of vigorous politics, where the findings matter, and the nobility of the cause of ‘saving the planet’ from catastrophic climate change results in a preparedness to accept lower standards of proof, and even ‘science’ which it is hoped will lead humanity to ‘do the right thing’. There are some claims made in the popular media which, frankly, will look more ridiculous with...

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