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The dangers of being an evangelical Climate Scientist

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I recommend reading this interview with Kate Hayhoe, the scientist that Newt Gingrich had asked to write a chapter on climate change for his new book, which was then cancelled when Gingrich started getting fire from conservatives on acknowledging climate change.

It’s very sad, and very telling. More than anything, it shows TRC that many of the “serious people” in the Republican Party do know climate change is real, they are just unwilling to publicly say it because Rush Limbaugh and the other goons are willing to light the fire and take you down. Hopefully Limbaugh, Gingrich, and the other rabble-rousers realize the costs of their actions for individuals like Hayhoe.

An excerpt:

There’s a ton of pressure on politicians like Newt Gingrich, but Newt probably knows what’s what in terms of climate change…And he’s throwing it overboard, out of what can be fairly characterized as political necessity. What do you make of that calculation? What do you expect from politicians?

A. We all have standards we would like people to live up to. Having lived through what I’ve lived through, I’m certainly much more sympathetic to people. I understand a bit more than I used to how being relentlessly and rigorously attacked can make you ask yourself, is this worthwhile?
What I’ve gotten is nothing compared to what Phil Jones or Mike Mann has gotten…What they’ve gotten is nothing compared to what political candidates get. And what I’ve gotten is certainly enough to make me say, look, what I’m doing doesn’t help me in my academic career. It attracts all sorts of unpleasant attention, some of which, frankly, makes me feel unsafe. When you get emails mentioning your kids and guillotines in the same sentence, it makes you want to pull the blanket over your head and keep your mouth shut for about 10 years… The level of attack you get if you stick your head out is so great at this point that everybody should have the right to decide if it’s worth the price for them or not.

Q. Have you seen climate scientists who have said, screw it, I’m just going to do my research in my lab?

A. Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, look at how many climate scientists there are, and look at how many you see talking about this issue.
Scientists are traditionally not outreach-minded people. They tend to be more introverted. They’re really good at writing papers; they’re not very good at looking people in the eye and talking in simple language. We need help from people who know how to do this. We need help in terms of learning how to communicate outside our ivory tower and how to respond appropriately to the kinds of attacks we’re going to receive.

Q. I’ve been hearing for years about stirrings of climate concern among the religious, particularly evangelicals. I did a whole package of stories on it. What’s your sense of how climate change is received inside the evangelical community?

A. Environmental issues and climate change carry a lot of baggage in evangelical circles. If you can dissociate the issue from Al Gore, if you can dissociate the issue from the Democratic Party, if you can dissociate it from hugging trees, from pro-choice, from evolution vs. creation, if you can strip away all of those ties and only talk about the issue of taking care of the planet God gave us and loving our neighbor as ourself, then there is hardly anyone who will not accept that message. It’s not about theology, it’s about baggage.

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Written by Christopher ZF

January 18, 2012 at 10:34

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