Monday, March 05, 2007

Environmental Group Think Stifles Scientist

It's a shame the Guelph Mercury didn't keep the article posted longer, but there was an interesting piece on Ross McKitrick in this Saturday's paper. Ross is a university of Guelph professor who has been the victim of personal attacks due to his view that human activity is unlikely to contribute to climate change; a view he outlines in his book, Taken by Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming .

According to the article Mr. McKitrick's statistical research was instrumental in debunking a popular "hockey stick" graph that suggested global temperatures had been constant from 1000 AD to 1900 and then rose dramatically in the last century. His statistical work demonstrated that the data in the graph was flawed.

Unfortunately despite his valuable and rational contributions to discussions about climate change, he has no more plans to do any research into the area. His decision seems to be based on fatigue with the personal attacks he has faced for holding views that are contrary to the mainstream. One label he has acquired is climate change denier, which brings an image of someone who is denying the facts. In his own words this is "a ridiculous term because it suggests there are camps of people who would dispute what climate data says. Most of what I write about is taking that common perception and then showing it's at odds with the data."

It's unfortunate that he has chosen to step back from the discussion. Good science requires that hypothesis are constantly tested especially when there is no clear result. Now that Environmentalist evangelists like Al Gore and David Suzuki have claimed that any debate about climate change is over, we need knowledgeable, eloquent, and intellectually honest scientists to offer their contributions. It seems less likely, as the Mercury article closes:

[Ross McKitrick] knows there are others who have similar views but don't speak out. He said he has come across these individuals, who want to remain anonymous
since the climate change debate has become so "bitterly politicized."

"What it means is that there are all these voices that we should be hearing from
those who won't speak out because they don't want to be on the receiving end of
all this abuse."

Let's hope they do step forward for the sake of academic freedom and so that our politicians will make rational decisions on the environment.

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