Royal Society letter to ExxonMobil: Exemplary citizen-science for public accountability

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U.S. climate scientists, the National Academy of Sciences, and other science institutions should think about the remarkable recent letter from the British Royal Society to ExxonMobil in terms of their own role as guardians of public accountability.  Shouldn’t ExxonMobil and other participants in the U.S. global warming misinformation machine also be hearing from U.S.-based scientists and their organizations?

Following up on our earlier September 23 post on this recent developoment:

Generally we dont expect climate scientists to become public activists. Their energy is devoted to developing the body of rigorous scientific research and assessment that forms the bedrock of our understanding of global warming and climate change.  However, it is a dangerous reality of the current situation that we have been witnessing an orchestrated effort, both inside and outside the government, to misrepresent the scientific intelligence on climate change and its implications. This effort is aimed, for example, at undermining in advance the confidence of policymakers and the public in the findings of the forthcoming Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The global warming misinformation campaign does not play by intellectually fair rules, and it has an undue influence on public discourse, to the detriment of society’s ability to deal with global warming.  Under these circumstances, we believe it is not sufficient for scientists to say that the community’s job is strictly to do good research, scientific assessment, and science education.  It is not sufficient for scientists to enter the public arena only to the extent that it is necessary in order to secure adequate funding levels for research.

This country needs a stronger presence of citizen-scientists—by which we mean, basically, scientists who, drawing on their expert knowledge, will step into the public arena to promote accountability for honest public discourse about climate change.  Scientists can make an essential contribution by finding appropriate ways to intervene on the side of public integrity in how climate research is used, or misused.  We believe this includes, when needed, openly and explicitly calling government and corporate officials and influential interest groups down when they are clearly misrepresenting conclusions that are generally shared in the science community. 

Most of the global warming denialist groups funded by ExxonMobil are based in the U.S. Their efforts have contributed to elevating views about climate change that are radically out of sync with the mainstream science community to a position of public influence far above their scientific standing.  Following the letter from the Royal Society, shouldn’t ExxonMobil also be hearing from some U.S.-based scientists and science organizations? 

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