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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

On calling a liar a liar.

According to economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman, that's the word that we all should be using to describe the paid minions of the energy industry who are trying to discredit the science showing that global warming is a serious problem. In a column about the smear campaign run against a leading climate scientist, Krugman suggests that there's no point in playing nice when the fate of the planet is at stake.

A brief segment in "An Inconvenient Truth" shows Senator Al Gore questioning James Hansen, a climatologist at NASA, during a 1989 hearing. But the movie doesn't give you much context, or tell you what happened to Dr. Hansen later.

And that's a story worth telling, for two reasons. It's a good illustration of the way interest groups can create the appearance of doubt even when the facts are clear and cloud the reputations of people who should be regarded as heroes. And it's a warning for Mr. Gore and others who hope to turn global warming into a real political issue: you're going to have to get tougher, because the other side doesn't play by any known rules.

What happened to Hansen was that he got swift-boated. University of Virginia scientist Patrick Michaels and others backed by the energy industry lied about Hansen's findings about global warming in order to make it look like he'd exaggerated the dangers of climate change. And these critics made their charges against Hansen despite almost unanimnous scientific evidence showing that he was right.

John Kerry, a genuine war hero, didn't realize that he could successfully be portrayed as a coward. And it seems to me that Dr. Hansen, whose predictions about global warming have proved remarkably accurate, didn't believe that he could successfully be portrayed as an unreliable exaggerator. His first response to Dr. Michaels, in January 1999, was astonishingly diffident. He pointed out that Dr. Michaels misrepresented his work, but rather than denouncing the fraud involved, he offered a rather plaintive appeal for better behavior.

Even now, Dr. Hansen seems reluctant to say the obvious. "Is this treading close to scientific fraud?" he recently asked about Dr. Michaels's smear. The answer is no: it isn't "treading close," it's fraud pure and simple.

Now, Dr. Hansen isn't running for office. But Mr. Gore might be, and even if he isn't, he hopes to promote global warming as a political issue. And if he wants to do that, he and those on his side will have to learn to call liars what they are.

If you're a NY Times subscriber, you can read the full column here, behind the pay firewall. Otherwise, we suggest heading over here.

Another big Magpie thank you to the Peking Duck.

| | Posted by Magpie at 11:05 AM | Get permalink




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