An excellent, must read column from Catholic Culture on this.
Do you want to know what I think about climate change?
My formal training in the sciences ended 45 years ago, with an introductory course on geology. I do not attend scientific conferences; I do not read scientific journals. I do not understand the methodologies of measuring and modeling. (In all these respects, incidentally, my ignorance is roughly equivalent to that of a typical American politician, or an average Catholic bishop.) So I (and they) have no business offering opinions on a scientific matter.
But this much I do know about the topic of climate change: it is extremely complex. The models of global weather patterns contain scores of variables, and touch on subjects, such as the role of the deep oceans, about which even the leading researchers know very little. Only a very few specialists claim to be familiar with the data, and among those few there are surprisingly sharp disagreements as to what the data mean. When the experts disagree, there is all the more reason for amateurs to keep a respectful difference from the debate.
So why am I writing on the subject at all? Why rush in where angels fear to tread? Because I am convinced that in America today, the debate about climate change is primarily not a scientific question, but a political one.
Consider how many newspaper editorials have been written about climate change—by journalists no more familiar with the science than I am. Rather than allowing the scientists to settle their disputes in the proper way, by conducting careful experiments and publishing arguments in peer-reviewed journals, political leaders have leapt into the fray. Despite his own obvious lack of credentials, President Obama has denounced some participants in the scientific debate. Former Vice President Al Gore has set himself as an expert on the subject, jetting constantly around the world to scold people who consume fossil fuels.
The politicization of the debate has damaged the causes of scientific integrity and academic freedom. Learned professors whose research clashes with the prevailing orthodoxy complain that they have been denied research grants, ostracized by professional societies, and even exiled from their academic posts (tenured or not) because of their views.
Even those scientists whose views are safely within the accepted mainstream have remarked on the tight control that politicians seek to enforce on the discussion. Harvard’s Robert Stavins, who helped produce an important UN document on the topic, reported: “I was surprised by the degree to which governments felt free to recommend and sometimes insist on detailed changes to the [Summary for Policy Makers] text on purely political, as opposed to scientific bases.” Stavins explained that politicians wanted to fine-tune the scientists’ document to strengthen their political arguments.
(It is significant, by the way, that I only encountered a report about the Stavins complaint in a British tabloid, the Daily Mail. American media outlets, apparently influenced by the same political pressures that are operating on scientists, have generally avoided the debate and accepted the majority view.)
For a scientist who dares to contradict the views that are currently in fashion, the pressure can be “virtually unbearable.” That was the term used by Lennart Bengtsson, a Swedish researcher with impeccable credentials who left his post at the Global Warming Policy Foundation– a group that had encouraged skepticism about policies designed to slow global warming—after receiving hundreds of angry and abusive messages from scientific colleagues.
Retrieved June 20, 2014 from http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otn.cfm?id=1040