Stephen Schneider‘s book, Science as a Contact Sport, makes fascinating reading, as he really gets his teeth into the disinformation campaign against climate science. However, the book was written before the denialist industry really cranked things up in the last few months, and now he’s angrier than ever, as is clear in this report yesterday about threats of violence against climate scientists (h/t to LG). By coincidence, I spoke to Schneider by phone yesterday – we were interviewing him as part of our analysis of the use of models such as C-ROADS in tools for online discussion, such as the collaboratorium. He’s very interested in such tools, partly because they have the potential to create a new generation of much more well-informed people (he noted that many of the people participating in the discussions in the collaboratorium are students), and partly because we need to find a much better way to get the science into the hands of the policymakers.
One of the things he said stuck out, in particular because it answers the question posed by Andrew Weaver at the end of the article above. Weaver says “good scientists are saying to themselves, ‘Why would I want to participate in the IPCC?'”. Steve Schneider told me he has a simple response to this – scientists have to keep doing the assessments and writing the reports, because you never know when they will be needed. When we get another climate shock (like Katrina, or the heatwaves in Europe in 2003), the media will suddenly look for the latest assessment report, and we have to have them ready. At that moment, all the effort is worthwhile. He pointed out this happened for the crisis over the ozone hole; when the media finally took notice, the scientific assessments were ready to hand, and it mattered. That’s why it’s important to keep at it.