Back in the 70s, the Welsh screenwriter Elaine Morgan responded to a question that had been making the rounds in conversation about feminism. The question was ‘why do women use sex as a weapon?’ Morgan replied simply that perhaps it was because women so badly needed a weapon.
Those of us who are interested in the discussion about climate change but don’t find consensus argumentation sufficient do not have many levers to pull. Despite fanciful charges of extravagant funding by the Koch brothers and other mustachioed villains, we’re participating in a rock throwing contest while at the bottom of the well. The consensus (and the Konsensus that shadows them) are at the top, with government funding, a complaisant media, the backing of academia and the full-throated approval of associations worldwide. Ye skeptics and we lukewarmers badly need a base which we can use.
There are some–islands in the sea of undifferentiated gossip about how settled science is and how evile we opponents are. Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit, Judith Curry’s Climate Etc., Lucia Liljegren’s The Blackboard, all are places where those of us arrayed against the consensus can chat, discuss and view substantial archives of good arguments, data and science that buoy us in our daily contretemps with acolytes of the consensus.
And of course those sites are attacked frequently by global warming alarmists who have decided that every opponent must be not only vanquished but tarnished. They don’t carry out these attacks on the sites themselves, of course. After a few sallies they retreat to the comfort of their own web havens and mumble, snigger and plot. However, they also resort to junk science–shoddily written sociopathic essays with made-up figures and soothing psychobabble from charlatans like Stefan Lewandowsky or Jim Prall providing a veneer of respectability. Michael Mann, conjurer of the Hockey Stick Chart, can be counted on to provide muddled mathematics and pseudo statistics when needed.
Dr. Susan Crockford, a zoologist of some 30 years’ experience, has a website called Polar Bear Science.
Since 2012 Dr. Crockford has used her blog to analyze scientific commentary on the plight of the polar bear, which was adopted early on as the charismatic megafauna icon of those most alarmed by climate change. I haven’t been reading it that long, but I have visited her site frequently over the past few years and have linked to it from my own blog on occasion.
Dr. Crockford does not dispute climate science–with regard to polar bears, she freely acknowledges that the Arctic is warming and that sea ice minima and maxima are lower than in previous years due to that warming. But the point she has been making for now six years is that this reduction of sea ice has not yet had the deleterious effect on polar bears that alarmist scientists had forecast.
The data supports her, without a doubt. The population of polar bears has risen, even as ice has melted.
This was intolerable, from the Konsensus viewpoint, and the troublesome zoologist needed to be taken down.
So a group of scientists, including Michael Mann and joined by the disgraced Stefan Lewandowsky, conspired to bring forth a mouse of a paper that pretended to evaluate the habits of other bloggers regarding their linking to sources, while using Dr. Crockford and Polar Bear Science as both target and example.
Other aspects of this paper have been criticized, both here at Climate Scepticism and elsewhere. What I want to discuss here is the validity of Polar Bear Science as a forum on this small aspect of the climate discussion and the Konsensus attacks on her. (Side note: There is a consensus of about 66% of published climate scientists that think half or more of recent warming is due to human contributions. They work hard and do legitimate science. There is also a Konsensus of NGO marketers, lobbyists, bloggers and commenters who twist the findings of science to create alarm, if not panic.)
Polar Bear Science has a point of view. Although I agree with that point of view, I have to acknowledge that it might be wrong. At her weblog, a long series of posts makes the case that consensus scientists, properly concerned about the future of both the polar bear and the entire Arctic ecosystem, exaggerated the damaging effects of the current climate in the region.
Again, Crockford may be wrong. However, she makes her case cogently and meticulously references her claims. Her very first post reviews a book by Ian Stirling, one of the leading consensus scientists on the subject. Crockford not only reviews (and links to) Stirling’s book, she links to three of his published papers and the papers of three other scientists as well.
Crockford has followed that pattern throughout her blogging career. She has scrupulously documented both her argumentation and the scientific papers she disputes. She frequently links to papers published by some of the scientists who would join in the political hit job that is the cause of the current controversy.
So when the Star Chamber of 13 scientists and Stefan Lewandowsky attacked her, they lied, saying she disputes the loss of Arctic sea-ice (she emphatically does not), focused on her lack of field research in the Arctic (as if a zoologist of 30 years is incapable of interpreting the findings of others in the field), highlighted her receiving modest payments from publications that welcome her point of view and condemned her for her readership–the fact that other weblogs that dispute some or all of the findings of the consensus link to her is evidence against her.
The paper (titled Harvey et al 2017) is a political hit job, hiding behind a feeble attempt at social network analysis to enable an unfounded and underhanded attack on Dr Crockford.
Again, it is always possible that Crockford may be wrong. But she has certainly mustered the resources to be taken seriously. And those of us who have found much to object to in what the consensus has proclaimed (and the Konsensus has distorted and amplified) should not be shy about utilizing the years of work Crockford has performed to clarify the condition of the polar bear.
More importantly, we need to learn the lessons of the recent past, and resist the efforts of the Konsensus to delegitimize her. They certainly have tried their best with Curry, McIntyre and others. When they try to do the same with Crockford, we will need to press for details on specifics, not listen to ad hominem attacks (and indeed, label them for what they are) and demand evidence as compelling as that Crockford lines up when arguments occur.
We badly need the weapon.