Climate Science


What Is—and Is Not—Considered Settled with Climate Science?

, senior climate scientist

I was reminded this week, by an exchange of words between Senator Ted Cruz and Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, that at hearings on policy, the discussion can go off on a tangent toward climate science and what is or is not settled. Spoiler alert: settled is as close as scientists get to knowing that a scientific finding has been a widely accepted explanation or law for which no credible alternative exists. For some concepts, like gravity or the fact that carbon dioxide traps heat in Earth’s atmosphere, the science has been widely accepted for over a century or longer. Read more >

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What Kinds of Scrutiny of Scientists are Legitimate?

, Deputy director, Center for Science & Democracy

This morning, Rep. Raul Grijalva sent letters to seven universities seeking documents related to academics who have testified before Congress on climate change. The requests come in the wake of revelations over the weekend that the Smithsonian Institution agreed not to disclose payments from the Southern Company, a major utility, to fund and review the work of Smithsonian aerospace engineer Willie Soon. As all of the researchers in question have been critical of mainstream climate science, some are wondering if Rep. Grijalva’s requests can be considered a witch hunt. So is it? Read more >

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Willie Soon’s Failure to Disclose Industry Funding for Contrarian Climate Research is Another Reason to Support Transparency

, former science communication officer

My first job in science communication was as an “Explainer” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The program helps visitors – particularly students – understand the forces of flight. Our uniforms included red polo shirts that said “The Explainer Program” on the front and had the name of the company that sponsored the program – Cessna Aircraft – on the sleeve.

I recall this old uniform because the Smithsonian is under scrutiny for an entirely different type of sponsorship that was hidden from public view. Read more >

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Four Ways Scientists Can Give Good Answers to Bad Questions

, former science communication officer

This post originally appeared on the American Geophysical Union’s Plainspoken Scientist blog.

One of the reasons I love working with scientists is that they tend to be very direct. Ask a question: get an answer. Sometimes the answer is a little long and makes me revisit basic physics I haven’t thought about since middle school, but I definitely get an answer.

Thankfully, most of the questions journalists, policymakers and citizens ask scientists are straightforward. But many are off-base and sometimes even badly framed. If a scientist provides a direct answer to a bad question, they can inadvertently leave audiences with an inaccurate impression of their work. While the examples below won’t happen to every researcher, they illustrate good principles for effectively dealing with such questions. Read more >

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We Need Sharper Questions for a Broken Climate Debate

, former science communication officer

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) recently claimed that human-caused climate change “is not well-established.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he wanted to “let scientists debate…” why the climate is changing.

By contrast, Mitt Romney reportedly said “that while he hopes the skeptics about global climate change are right, he believes it’s real and a major problem,” according to the Des Moines Register. Read more >

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