Commentary

More Political Climate Science

In today’s odd academic culture, including the world of climate science, academic freedom applies selectively. People use their positions and their email for politicking and electioneering and have no trouble retaining their jobs. But using your email to send out some inconvenient, apolitical weather data that says something your boss or your governor may not like can get you fired.

I can’t count the number of emails I received in my thirty years at University of Virginia where this faculty member or that administrator urged me to support some piece of legislation. But the latest email kerfluffle, involving Phil Mote, director of the Oregaon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University, goes a bit further.

Mote was upset that Art Robinson, a physician from Cave Junction, Oregon, won the Republican primary for Oregon’s fourth congressional district.

That’s because Robinson was behind the “Oregon Petition Project,” in which over 31,000 people, largely science professionals (including over 9,000 with doctorates), signed on to a document stating that there was “no scientific evidence” that greenhouse gas emissions could cause “catastrophic heating” in the foreseeable future.

Intolerance appears to be endemic in academic climatology.”

Robinson did not harp on this issue in the campaign. Instead he ran against the general politics of 12-term incumbent Pete deFazio, including his March vote for President Obama’s health care bill. With that one, deFazio probably voted himself out of Congress.

In response to Robinson’s Republican primary win, Mote wrote to his colleagues at Oregon State University emphasizing that Robinson was the force behind the Petition Project and that, if he were elected, OSU would be put in the “tragic ranks of our climate colleagues at University of Oklahoma…and University of Alaska,” where elected officials have the temerity to disagree with Mote about global warming. He signed his missive as “Director, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Oregon Climate Services.” Eventually he emailed his colleagues, calling his initial message a “mistake.”

Hardly. Consider the shady track record of climatology in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

Mote’s previous position was Washington State Climatologist at the University of Washington, where he repeatedly pointed to a 50% decline in mountain snows between 1950 and the mid-1990s. But there are data available after 1995 and before 1950, and when all the data are taken together — thanks in part to the fact that it has snowed plenty there in the last 15 years — the strong decline is erased.

Mote’s then Associate State Climatologist, Mark Albright, emailed this information to several people. When he refused to stop telling the whole truth, Mote terminated his position.

Across the Columbia River at Oregon State University, the previous head of the Oregon Climate Services, George Taylor, put all of the Cascade snowfall data online for anyone to see. The long-term records clearly showed no decline at all. Ted Kulongoski, Oregon’s “green” governor, told Taylor he could no longer refer to himself as Oregon State Climatologist. Oregon State University showed little support, too (although Taylor was twice elected as President of the American Association of State Climatologists). Taylor quit rather than continue in such an environment.

George Taylor got into trouble for simply for telling the truth about the lack of a big decline in mountain snowfall, and his university seemed to not care. Mark Albright lost his position for the exact same offense. Phil Mote, who terminated Albright, replaced George Taylor.

Two things are very disturbing. Where was the hue and cry over “academic freedom” over the Albright and Taylor incidents? And how could Mote originally think it was just perfectly fine to use his official position concerning a local race for Congress?

Intolerance appears to be endemic in academic climatology. In Climategate, the University of East Anglia found nothing wrong with a culture of climate bullies blatantly attempting to bend the canon of knowledge, which is the peer reviewed scientific literature. Penn State did the same in its investigation of Michael Mann’s vituperative emails found in the East Anglia package.

The overarching issue is that political correctness has so infected the academy that academic freedom with regard to global warming is now a figment, while electioneering on the public’s dime results in no punishment whatsoever.

Patrick J. Michaels, a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of Climate of Extremes: Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know.