Follow Up on Royal Society Letter

September 26th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Last week we discussed a letter from the Royal Society to ExxonMobil. The interesting discussion that followed focused on the role of scientists in general and national academies specifically in contested political issues that involve science. The issue continues to devleop. Apparently, according to Benny Peiser, the author of the Royal Society letter to ExxonMobil is no longer employed by the Royal Society. The Royal Soceity has not said anything publicly that I am aware of — eagle-eyed readers please share what you learn.

David Whitehouse, formerly with the BBC, has shared another letter with Benny Peiser, which Benny included in his CCNet mailing list today. I have reproduced Dr. Whitehouse’s letter below which provides an overview and analysis of the events of the past week.

Dear Benny,

I confess to having pulled the occasional media stunt in my time (all in the cause of good journalism of course) to get a story aired but I think that the climate change debate over the past week is a good example of how manipulating the media can result in unexpected consequences for those who hang on to the tail of this particular tiger, and frankly how some people ought to be a bit more accurate when they pontificate to the public.

As far as I can see it went like this:

Tuesday 19th September.

Posted on George Monbiot’s website and the Guardian’s website
-fire-3/) was a column which reported that the Royal Society had had enough of those spreading misinformation about climate change. Monbiot adds, “As I reveal on Newsnight (a BBC TV Current Affairs Programme) tonight, the Society has now attempted to strike at the heart of this campaign by sending its first official letter of complaint to a corporation – the oil company Exxon. And yesterday its president, Lord Rees, sent the Telegraph what must be one of the most damning letters it has ever received.”

However, Monbiot’s polemic did not air on Newsnight on Tuesday but went out on Wednesday instead. Personally, I thought it was sloppy and lacked intellectual rigour. It was what is termed an “authored” piece which means it is a personal view and not dictated by the BBC’s standards of fairness and impartiality. Nethertheless, Exxon’s request to have a similar time to put its case was turned down by Newsnight. Monbiot’s piece included a brief interview with Bob Ward, filmed at the Royal Society. It was followed by a fruitless discussion hosted by Jeremy Paxman between a scientist and a representative of a US lobby group. The most memorable thing about it was Paxman’s repeatedly telling the American chap that “you are not a
scientist.” I was rather disappointed not to see an interview with Lord Rees about his letter to the Telegraph.

Oh, by the way, Monbiot has a book to plug, “Heat – How to Stop the Planet Burning.” (I think the title is all I need to know but I will read it.)

Now I wonder if the fact that Monbiot’s Newsnight rant was a day later than he said it would be upset the choreography of this story’s emergence?

Wednesday 20th September.

The front page of the Guardian carried details of the now infamous letter by Bob Ward (Senior Manager, Policy Communication, Royal Society) referred to in Monbiot’s column which was sent to Exxon on 4th September. The Guardian Science Podcast available later described this story as an ‘exclusive!’ On the front page the Guardian mentioned no qualms about the ethics of the Royal Society’s actions.

On the BBC Today radio programme that morning there was a discussion about GM technology that involved Lord May, former Chief Scientific Advisor to H.M. Government and past President of the Royal Society. After this debate the presenter asked him about the Guardian story. To my mind Lord May’s response was extraordinary and demonstrated the problem in the debate. I wasn’t impressed by his accuracy.

Lord May said that in 2005 the science academies of the G8 nations plus India, China and Brazil said that the “basic facts of climate change are certain.” Actually they did no such thing. As Bob Ward pointed out in his letter to Exxon what the G8+ actually said was “it is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities.” To my mind the words “likely” and “most” do not equate with certainty. Lord May went on to chastise those who “misrepresent the certainties of science” presumably unaware that he had done exactly that! [For reference the IPCC say the same thing - "most of the global warming over the past 50 years is likely due to the increase in greenhouse gases - note the key words "most" and "likely."]

Lord May went on to say that the fact that “humans are changing the climate” is as certain as gravitation or evolution. I find this statement surprising even though it is an obvious one as it is recognised by all that humans are changing the climate – what is in debate is the question is the magnitude of the change. Then a spokesman for Exxon, Nick Thomas (Director Public Affairs Exxon) was brought into the discussion who stated Exxon’s position which, to my mind, sounded like a fair summary of the G8+ position and the IPCC position (we agree that the word is warming, that CO2 concentrations are increasing, that glaciers are shrinking and that CO2 emissions are certainly one of the contributors to climate change, we recognise man’s activities are responsible for climate change.) This statement didn’t quite go as far as many would wish but, given the uncertainties in the science, it was OK, I thought.

But Lord May was unconvinced. He maintained that this contradicted the US National Academy of Sciences and that what he had heard from Nick Thomas was a “misrepresentation of the facts.” Having listened to the exchange several times I have to say I think Lord May is wrong about that.

The Guardian story aired on BBC News TV throughout the day (Wednesday 20th) pretty much in the form that the Guardian had used, i.e. the Royal Society – upholder of the consensus – had had enough of lies and misinformation spread by the likes of a big bad energy company like Exxon. There the story would perhaps have lain except for the next edition of the BBC’s Today radio programme.

Thursday 21st September.

The Today programme asked if the Royal Society was right to police the scientific consensus this way. Bob Ward defended his actions. You can read the transcript of that discussion in a recent CCNet.


The coverage thereafter was different, as those who have read CCNet in recent days have seen. Dominic Lawson writing in the Independent on the 22nd wondered if the release of the Royal Society’s letter on the 20th was anything to do with Monbiot’s book?

Heaven forfend, Bob Ward wrote in a letter to the Independent on the 25th in which he says, “I can absolutely refute Lawson’s laughable suggestion that it (presumable the letter) was part of a campaign to promote George Monbiot’s new book.”

I think this is another example of the sleight of hand that Bob Ward employed in his letter to Exxon. Even if the initial impetus for the letter had nothing to do with Monbiot, it is surely stretching belief beyond credulity that its appearance on the front page of the Guardian at the same time as Monbiot’s column and Newsnight piece was unrelated!

So what was achieved?

Bob Ward made the big mistake of writing such a letter to Exxon in completely the wrong way, allowing it to be made public and becoming the topic of discussion. When a senior manager of policy communication becomes the story and not the policy itself, it is, as Alistair Campbell discovered, not a good thing. The Royal Society looks bad having tried to enforce a consensus even though, as many have pointed out, they must have been aware of the role of consensus in science. It also looks bad having sent such disgraceful (and counterproductive) letters to journalists. We also learnt that even those authorities who have scaled the august heights of science and are laden with honours are not immune to being sloppy with the facts and with a false impression of the “certainties of science.”

But perhaps the cause of science has been advanced during this week for it has forced a discussion and appraisal of how so-called sceptics are being treated in this important debate and steered the global warming debate towards a scientific course and away from the rocky shoals of you are either for us or against us. It has made many examine the role of the Royal Society in scientific debate and public relations and, perhaps most importantly, once again we have been reminded that as far a science is concerned being an authority, individual or corporate, ultimately means little.

Also Monbiot does have some words of wisdom one can take away from this mess: “Be wary of self-appointed experts.” Exactly.

David Whitehouse

25 Responses to “Follow Up on Royal Society Letter”

  1. William Connolley Says:

    Ummm… this looks like just spin. DW is misrepresenting the RS; he is trying to make “the RS made a mistake” into accepted fact when its not (their letter still seems like a good idea to me).

    Or, if you prefer something vaguely approximating science, PW’s contention that Exxons position “CO2 emissions are certainly one of the contributors to climate change, we recognise man’s activities are responsible for climate change.” as being roughly the consensus is wrong. Just about anyone will accept that statement, since “one of the contributions” can range from negligible to greater than 100%.

    Ye Olde Std.Consensus is “it is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities.” – if PW can’t understand the difference between that and Exxons position, then he should avoid this subject entirely (oh no… an attempt to censor PW…)

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  3. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    What do you think the consequences should be for someone expressing views that fall outside the IPCC consensus?


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  5. Benny Peiser Says:

    In the last couple of hours, the Royal Society has issued a press release clarifying the status of its former Communications Manager, Bob Ward. It would appear that Ward has simple changed jobs.
    The whole brouhaha could have been avoided with a simple statement last week – instead of Ward’s conspicuous announcement that he was no longer employed by the Royal Society that was published in yesterday’s Independent.

    The press release reads:

    “Stephen Cox, Executive Secretary of the Royal Society – the UK national academy of science – today (Tuesday 26 September 2006) issued a statement concerning false rumours circulating on the internet regarding the Society’s former Senior Manager of Policy Communications.

    Stephen Cox said: “I can absolutely refute the rumours circulating on the internet that Bob Ward, the Royal Society’s former Senior Manager of Policy Communications, was sacked. Bob wrote to Esso UK Ltd, concerning the funding its parent company ExxonMobil has provided to certain lobby groups that misrepresent the science of climate change, as a spokesperson for the Royal Society and with the Society’s full support. Furthermore the Society’s work in this area is ongoing. We will continue to seek to ensure that the science of climate change is properly represented.

    “Bob Ward has left the Society to take up a very prestigious job. I am very sorry to lose him and wish him all the best in his new role”

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  7. William Connolley Says:

    Roger – I have no problem at all with people expressing genuinely held views outside the IPCC consensus. James Annan has done so recently, by noting that the range of climate sensitivity is rather tighter than they think.

    I do however dislike people being funded to deliberately spin disinformation. What should the consequences be for such people? In an ideal world, competent journalists would carefully evaluate what they are saying, realise that it isn’t newsworthy, and ignore it. Which is what I think you should have done with DW’s latest. If that were the consequence, then eventually they would ahve to find other more useful employment.

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  9. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Benny- Thanks for posting this information.

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  11. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    William- Thanks, I largely agree. But the question I have is how does one tell the difference between “people expressing genuinely held views” and “people being funded to deliberately spin disinformation”?

    How do you tell them apart?


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  13. coby Says:

    This strikes me the same way as William. I would only add that it is also trying to make a mountain out of a molehill as well as spinning said mountain.

    I agree with your opening that the discussion in the previous thread was interesting, but this letter and the narrative it presents do not contribute or expand on that discussion they merely run with all the assumptions and conclusions people objected to in the beginning and that are frankly wrong IMO, but at least contentious.

    Roger asked:

    “What do you think the consequences should be for someone expressing views that fall outside the IPCC consensus?”

    This is simple. If the views have substance and merit they should be examined and brought into the mainstream debate. If they are vapid and baseless they should be ignored, for instance if they are one of these arguments:

    There is no utility in engaging people espousing unsupportable, illogical denialism and the media does the public a great disservice when they give such ideas a platform whose largesse so far exceeds their merit. I would think that you would agree with this, Roger, as you advocate getting beyond the scientific squabbling and on to policy decision making.

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  15. Steve Hemphill Says:

    Interesting how Connolley, whose paycheck apparently comes from nee the IPCC (aka the Oil for Food Scam guys), harangues Dr. Pielke, who questions the IPCC dogma.

    Then, after being asked more than once where he stands with respect to being in lockstep of said IPCC dogma, gives an example here.

    Sorry William, you have yet again dodged the question. The question was about something *outside* the IPCC dogma. Your response was to an opinion *inside* of the range.

    Doesn’t count. Try again??

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  17. coby Says:

    Steve, Connolley is much more canny than that, he did in fact say “I have no problem at all with people expressing genuinely held views outside the IPCC consensus. ” (note: *outside*) so you are wrong. BUT, now get this, it was immediately followed by “James Annan has done so recently”. Why is he trying to get in James’ good books? Take another look, Steve “James Annan”…”Kofi Annan” notice anything? William sees the writing on the wall!

    /sarcasm off

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  19. Steve Hemphill Says:


    I’m sorry, I haven’t seen that “Connolley is much more canny than that.” Further, you apparently don’t understand that his example was not, in fact, outside IPCC dogma, but was enveloped within it.

    Simple logic problem, common to alarmists…

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  21. Lab Lemming Says:

    The requirements for people expressing opinions both inside and outside the IPCC concensus should be the same:

    They should be required to state their sources.

    For IPCC line-toers, that’s easy. For everyone else, as long as they say where they get their numbers from, people can judge those sources on their merits.

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  23. Tom Dreves Says:

    Roger, are you going now going to take Scientific American and Jeffrey Sachs to task for calling out the Wall Street Journal on its abuse of the climate science?

    If not, why not?

    BTW, I am confused by your criticism of the RS – which by its letter sought information from Exxon identifying the organizations which Exxon funds that discuss climate change science and policy – and what you said recently to the Daily Camera: I think that the idea of separating science and politics is a hopeless endeavor, and in fact efforts to keep science pure and apart from politics tend to have the opposite effect. It allows politics to be smuggled in behind the scenes where we don’t see it. So I call for scientists to more explicitly engage in the policy process. If scientists should “more explicitly engage in the policy process,” then why is it inappropriate for a scientific academy to seek to clarify when fossil fuel providers or other interested parties are acting indirectly and anonymously through paid pundits? Clearly the additional information is useful to other participants in the debate (voters and representatives), so they can better evaluate the information provided by the pundits?

    As I noted on the main thread, although the letter was an attempt to pressure Exxon to toe the IPCC line, directly and through its contributions, it was not an act of censorship, but a request for data useful to the public discussion.


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  25. William Connolley Says:

    SH, I fear you need to actually try reading some on James’s science, you might find it interesting. Heres a good one: And (of course) my funding doesn’t come from the IPCC.

    Roger – you were getting rather picky about civility just a little while ago. I wonder if you have any words for SH?

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  27. Tom Dreves Says:

    Roger (and Steve):

    In your question to William you miscast the question raised by the RS letter matter as what “the consequences should be for someone expressing views that fall outside the IPCC consensus”. This is not an issue of censorship or silencing voices. Rather, it is an issue of clarifying just exactly WHO is talking.

    The questions instead are (i) whether it is useful to know when an interested party, instead of speaking openly and directly, chooses to speak anonymously through a loud spokesman, and (ii) whether it is any business of the science academies to try to get the interested parties such as Exxon to speak directly.

    Clearly knowing who is speaking and why is useful for evaluating what they have to say, so discussion should really focus on the second question.


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  29. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    William and Steve-

    Yes, please keep it civil. You know what that means.

    And especially while I’m sleeping and not watching the site ;-)


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  31. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Tom Dreves-

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and questions.

    You ask:

    “Roger, are you going now going to take Scientific American and Jeffrey Sachs to task for calling out the Wall Street Journal on its abuse of the climate science? If not, why not?”

    No. I do not view either Scientific American or Jeffrey Sachs as institutional candidates for honest brokering of policy alternatives. They are in my view advocates. By contrast the RS is one of the few institutions around that has a mandate, legitimacy, and resources to serve as an honest broker of policy options. Note that according to one comment here the RS in the past took Greenpeace to task for some GMO issue. I would hold the RS to the same standards in that case as in the Exxon situation.

    You ask:

    “If scientists should “more explicitly engage in the policy process,” then why is it inappropriate for a scientific academy to seek to clarify when fossil fuel providers or other interested parties are acting indirectly and anonymously through paid pundits?”

    I want scientists to recognize that they have choices in how they actually engage in the policy process. Overt advocacy (or the stealth advocacy of arguing politics through science) is only one option of several. In my view the RS has taken on the characteristics of an interest group, rather than that of an honest broker of policy options.

    It is completely fair to criticize my position based on the following two assertions:

    1) There is no need for honest brokers of policy alternatives.

    2) Such honest brokers of policy alternatives are in fact needed, but the RS should not be among them.

    I happen to think that honest brokers of policy options are needed, and that the RS should be among them. Whatever one thinks about 1 and 2 above, I think that it is fauirly obvious that the RS letter is a strategy of overt advocacy, as described by Mr. Ward in his BBC4 interview.


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  33. Tom Rees Says:

    Roger, could you provide or link to a concise definition of what you mean by ‘honest broker’? I know you’ve put it up before.

    I think it is important do distinguish between an individual mixing roles (i.e. a scientist advocating policy), which is potentially problematic, and a society, which is probably not. For a Society, it is possible to keep the science panel and the policy panel separate (using the right people for each role).

    What should we expect of the RS? Well, I would like to see them answer questions like: “What, if any, harm might be caused by the consumption of GM food”, but also “What, if any, precautions are required with GMO food”. The first is scientific, the second is policy. But I would like to hear the views of the RS nevertheless.

    Equally, I would want them to provide their perspective on policy options on climate change. I disagree with your criticism in the pdf you linked to in a previous response to me. I don’t think it would damage their credibility (so long as they chose the right people to form their panel).

    And I don’t think it would mean that they cannot consider policy options other than the accepted ones. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t able to consider all policy options which are in the public domain. However, it is not the role of a review committe to generate new policy options.

    The RS could and should also be involved in generating new policy options – but that’s a separate issue.

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  35. TokyoTom Says:

    Roger, I note your response to Tom Dreves and have to admit to a continuing puzzlement that I expressed on the first thread. Thus I second Tom Rees’ request for a clarification of what you man by an “honest broker”.

    As TD noted, you just stated in your interview with the Daily Camera that “separating science and politics is a hopeless endeavor, and in fact efforts to keep science pure and apart from politics tend to have the opposite effect. It allows politics to be smuggled in behind the scenes where we don’t see it. So I call for scientists to more explicitly engage in the policy process.”

    But your response to him seems to that you think that science academies should NOT engage in any direct or indirect policy advocacy, but should act as “honest brokers”. I wholly agree that scientific institutions should be careful about what they say, lest they be seen as an interested party and their scientific work conclusions discounted as a result. But I have a hard time figuring out what you mean as a practical matter.

    In the case of climate change policy, are you suggesting that when scientists think that the situation is alarming, they should refrain from saying so? Or can they say that, but should refrain from stating that action should be taken? Or is it that they should refrain from explicitly suppporting policy options, other than to review scientific and technical aspects of policy options that have been submitted to them for review?

    In addition, you fail to explain why, despite your stated belief that there is a scientific consenses and that such consensus is convincing, that it falls outside of the science academies’ “zone of honest broking” if the academies try to indicate when interested parties are either directly misstating the science – as the RS did in the whole first page of its letter to Exxon – or to surreptitiously to misstate the science through the anonymous funding of what you acknowledge are political pundits. As TD asked, why is it NOT “any business of the science academies to try to get the interested parties such as Exxon to speak directly”, or to seek information that will reveal when interested parties are deliberately politicizing the science?

    I do not agree that either seeking such information or disclosing it is by itself a dangerously political act, either in its intention or as a literal matter – as its intention is to steer interested parties to either directly attack the science or to directly discuss the political implications of the science, and strictly speaking the information that would be sought and disclosed is factual information about how an interested party may be seeking to circumvent discussion.

    You have acknowledged that seeking such information is not literally censorious; I would rreinforce that by saying that the RS request does not at all either prevent Exxon from expressing its views or from speaking in any manner it wishes. Rather, it simply tries to make the debate more open, by identifying when Exxon is actually speaking.

    As TD said, “Clearly knowing who is speaking and why is useful for evaluating what they have to say.” Can you please explain why providing this service to the debate is overly political, such that the science academies should avoid it?



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  37. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    TT- These are excellent questions, and they are exactly the sort of questions that I try to address in my forthcoming book. I have written on this blog a discussion of what I mean by “honest broker of policy alternatives.” I started out only using the term “honest broker” until I realized that people interprested that only as “honest” so I now say “honest broker of policy alternatives” to emphasize that the action is “brokering of options.” See the early discussion here:

    Note that what I then called an “honest broker of science” in my book I call this a “science arbiter”.

    I followed up this post with some examples:

    Please note that these ideas have since been through the process of acadeic review and many revisions, so hopefully that process has led to a better-written and more understandable presentation in the book.

    Comments welcomed.

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  39. TokyoTom Says:


    If you want the RS to be a “science arbiter”, doesn`t that imply that it should it be acting to say what the science is? Isn`t that more than half of the RS letter to Exxon?

    If you are unwilling to respond to questions or to clarify what you mean by “honest broker” in the context of threads such as these about the Royal Society, other than by referring to an unpublished book and rather sketchy links, then what purpose is served by posting on these matters at all, other than to bash the RS, even though it is simply seeking to clarify when Exxon is hiding behind paid pundits?

    It is not the Royal Society that is holding up progress, but the ability of favored interests such as Exxon in the US to get the ear of the Administration, together with the failure to rollout any meaningful obligations to China, India, etc., with the result that no party has strong incentives to comply with Kyoto as there are free riders who accept no obligations to bear costs. An “honest broker” would acknowledge that and suggest ways to move around the blockages, such as by finding some way to replace the benefit provided to fossil fuel producers/major consumer from free use of the global atmospheric commons as a GHG dump with an equivalent benefits – such as free emissions permits, tax credits/other subsidies for climate change technologies (sequestration and the like), or reduction of expensive and inefficient regulations, and by suggesting way that would persuade China and India to join as well (viz., carrots such as subsidies – that are now proveived free under the AP Initiative and sticks in the form of trade sanctions.



    PS: Are you trying to be an “honest broker” yourself? If so, have you invested any time in understanding the legal and economic underpinnings of the problem, based on Coasean and Austrian concepts of lack of clear and enforceable property rights, Pigouvian concepts of market failure, and Public Choice analysis of how interested parties are able to corrupt the political process through rent-seeking behavior that benefits paricular politcal and/or bureaucratic elites? These provide essential paradigms for understanding how various actors perceive what is going on and their various preferences. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but it seems that you seldom if ever speak in any of the familar enviromental economics terms of externalities, public goods, “tragedy of the commons” and open-access resources. Lack of familiarity with the basic forms of economic analysis would certainly leave one adrift.

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  41. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    Thanks for your comments. A few replies:

    1. I pointed you to a post in which I defined an “honest broker of policy options.” If you want a pithy definition, here you go:

    An honest broker of policy options seeks to expand or at least clarify the scope of available options.

    An issue advocate seeks to reduce the scope of options.

    A science arbiter seeks to answer positive questions in response to requests frompolicy makers.

    2. I am not trying to be an honest broker of policy options. I am an issue advocate. An honest broker role is best served by institutions with the ability to convene a diverse group of expertise and perspectives, and has political legitimacy as well. The RS for example.

    3. I’ve been criticized for many things, but not speaking in economic jargon is a new one ;-)


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  43. TokyoTom Says:

    Roger, thanks for your further attempt at clarification of what you mean by “honest broker”.

    1. I agree that it will help to resolve policy disputes if we can separate the scientific knowledge from the politics, because entangling the two may easily lead to policy deadlock – in which case, the integrity of the science becomes subject to question. This is a rather thorny problem, as in the case of climate change it was a deliberate strategy of the interest groups that benefit from the absence of an effective climate change policy to produce such an entanglement for the purpose of solidifying the deadlock. The result has been a discrediting of science and scientists generally by many on the right. Another difficult aspect is that, as many scientists view the scientific consensus about ongoing climate chage with very considerable alarm, it is only natural that any number of them would want to step forward in their individual capacities as citizens to make their voices heard. This of course feeds into the politicization process, but seems impossible to avoid.

    I suppose I would share your view that the scientific organizations themselves can be important bulwarks against the politicization of science if they are scrupulously careful to avoid being seen as advocates for particular solutions (even while it would be acceptable for them to provide feedback on various proposals), and if prominent scientists within such groups make it clear when they speak as private citizens/advocates rather than as representatives of the larger body.

    However, if the goal remains to separate the science from the political discussion, then I fail to understand why it would not be useful for scientific bodies to try to proactively police the boundaries of science by trying to make it clear when the science is being deliberately misinterpreted and by whom, or why such actions by scientific bodies would be dangerously political.

    2. You indicate that to be seen as “honest brokers” scientific bodies must have “political legitimacy”. I understand that the scientiifc body should be seen to speak with some scientific authority and to be politically neutral; I think you have elsewhere implied that not being seen as politically neutral may also undermine the group’s perceived scientific authority. If that is your intention, I agree. But were you trying to make a different point?

    3. We live in an increasingly complex world that we must simplify to make much sense of. I personally find economic analyis (including the Public Choice analysis of the misuse of government), the cognitive science of perception and understanding of our evolved tribal aspects of behavor all to be helpful.



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  45. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    Thanks for these further comments. We may be reaching some agreement here;-)

    As far as separating science and politics, I have argued that it is just not possible, and this view is supported by a long history of STS research. This does not mean that all is hopeless. In my view the most effective way for scientific organizations to depoliticize debates involving science is to actively engage in a discussion of policy options.

    This has the benefits of clearly associating science with action, and thus answers the “so what?” questions about particular scientific findings (e.g., the hockey stick). It also leaves no abiguity about whether or not the actor is serving as an advocate or not. An advocate will seek to restrict the scope of available choice, e.g., but disucssing only a preferred option.

    So this leaves us in what I’ll admit is a situation that can seem a bit paradoxical at first:

    The best way to separate science and politics is for scientists to explicitly engage in discussions of policy.

    Efforts to separate science and politics in the absence of disucssions of polic can have the effective of fostering politicization.

    On your point 2. we agree, and I emphasize the best route to political neutrality is to consider a wide range of policy options, not to ignore them.


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  47. TokyoTom Says:

    Roger, thanks for your further explanation on this, but I still don’t see where you are heading. Are you suggesting that it is dangerous for the RS or other sceince academies to try to police the science, unless they somehow at the same time are explicitly trying to engage in a discussion of policy options? Are you also saying that supporting the IPCC’s science summaries is itself political, since the summary was too political, by being too focussed on mitigation?

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  49. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:


    Thanks. A few quick replies:

    1. “Are you suggesting that it is dangerous for the RS or other sceince academies to try to police the science, unless they somehow at the same time are explicitly trying to engage in a discussion of policy options?”


    2. “Are you also saying that supporting the IPCC’s science summaries is itself political, since the summary was too political, by being too focussed on mitigation?”

    I don’t think I really understand the question, but any effort to support science, consensus or whatever, in a highly politicized context inevitably risks a pathological politicization of the science.