Last week, climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann was honored with the AAAS award for Public Engagement in Science.
Mann hardly needs an introduction here. Ever since the publication of his hockey stick study twenty years ago, Mann has been a central target of the denial machine. Deniers have attacked him with everything they’ve got: weaponized FOIAs, constant trolling, you name it. In 2010, as the FBI finished the investigation into anthrax-laced letters that killed five people in the early 2000s, someone sent Mann white powder in an envelope.
In his book on the Climate Wars, Mann describes how the denial apparatus singles out outspoken scientists and targets them for campaigns of harassment. Mann calls this the “Serengeti Strategy,” named for how pack hunters single out prey for an easy meal. But instead of gradually wearing down the subject until they give up, Mann has only gotten more attention from the press and more praise from his peers, all while continuing to publish regularly in the peer reviewed literature.
Instead of scaring Mann out of the public eye, deniers have only managed to elevate his profile.
It makes sense, then, that this award made deniers angry. They’re up in arms that Mann, who they’ve always tried to present as an outlier hated by his fellow scientists, is being thusly rewarded by his fellow scientists for exactly the behavior they’ve criticized.
Roger Pielke Jr. wrote that by awarding Mann this prize, AAAS sends a message that it’s okay to speak out about people like Pielke and his fellow “denier lites” like Bret Stephens, Rebekah Mercer, Megan McArdle and Judith Curry. Which is exactly what AAAS should be saying.
Scientists should feel not just comfortable, but obligated to correct those who use their platforms to continually make incorrect assertions about science, again and again. Scientists should correct the systematic distribution of misinformation and help inform the public of where, why and how that misinformation is being spread in the public discourse and relied on by politicians to enact anti-climate policies. Most importantly–and especially given the denial machine that attacks those who speak out on climate–academics should be supported in these education efforts by institutions like AAAS.
That, of course, is not how serial misinformers see things. Pielke’s post got tweeted by Bjorn Lomborg, excerpted by Delingpole at Breitbart and expanded on by The Federalist which was in turn reposted by Climate Depot, putting Pielke squarely in the center of the denial world’s feigned outrage machine.
To be fair, Pielke recognizes that human activity causes climate change, and even thinks a carbon tax would be the right policy to address it. But as former New York Times reporter turned New York Times columnist Justin Gillis tweeted, that’s just part of Pielke’s ploy for readership, which is why Gillis stopped quoting Pielke. “The schtick: Pretend to be part of the mainstream consensus about global warming, then draw attention to yourself by kneecapping other people,” Gillis explains. “It’s an odious way to build personal brand. @BjornLomborg does it too.”
I personally never quoted him once I figured out his schtick. The schtick: Pretend to be part of the mainstream consensus about global warming, then draw attention to yourself by kneecapping other people. It’s an odious way to build personal brand. @BjornLomborg does it too.
— Justin Gillis (@JustinHGillis) February 15, 2018
No surprise to see Lomborg and Pielke as two peas in a pod. And their response to Mann’s award continues to show that once you move beyond their token acceptance of mainstream climate science, their jealousy of Mann’s success will likely be as green as they ever go.
Main image: Dr. Michael E. Mann Credit: Patrick Mansell, Penn State