Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Do Science Bodies Know Whereof They Speak?

The American Geophysical Union is led by a climate evangelist with zero climate science credentials. When the American Physical Society produced its latest climate statement, it failed to consult members with the most relevant expertise.


More than five years ago, I began exploring the question of whether scientific bodies are trustworthy. It’s easy to respect the scientific method and to admire individual scientists. But scientific organizations are often led by public relations specialists, lobbyists, bureaucrats, and administrators. Sometimes these people hijack the reputation of science for their own ends.

As bona fide climate scientist Judith Curry has observed, the CEO of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) used to be CEO of the American Institute for Architects. Despite an utter absence of relevant credentials, Christine McEntee frequently uses her position to expound on climate matters. As Curry says,

McEntee is speaking out on climate change (in an advocacy role), wearing her AGU hat, in spite of the fact that she has no climate science expertise and it is doubtful that she paid this issue much attention prior to joining AGU a few years ago. [bold added]

Pontificating about climate is, indeed, something McEntee does rather often. Two years ago, for example, she demanded action “from Congress, the business community, the energy industry, and numerous other key stakeholders.” Sounding for all the world like a Greenpeace staffer, she also declared that it was “too late” to debate climate issues:

The science is clear, and despite claims to the contrary, the scientific community is in agreement about this fact. The time for arguing against it…has long-since passed. [bold added; source here]

So someone who used to lobby on behalf of architects now thinks it’s her role

  1. to make sweeping statements about what climate science says or doesn’t say, and
  2. to choke off debate on this vital public issue

If the AGU as a whole doesn’t understand how improper such behaviour is, henceforth we need to take everything that organization says with several grains of salt.

Last week, Curry similarly commented on a draft Statement on Climate Change that is being circulated by a scientific entity known as the American Physical Society (APS). Curry uses phrases such as “rather crazy” in connection with the draft produced by that entity’s Panel on Public Affairs. She says that while a formal group within the APS specializes in the physics of climate, it played almost no role in the creation of the statement:

the population of APS physicists who actually know something about the physics of climate were not invited to participate in this process…

Curry, who took part in a related workshop, says it’s “rather astonishing” how the workshop was then characterized in the statement. Overall, her assessment is damning:

Apart from the issue that no one on the [Panel of Public Affairs] seems to understand any of these issues beyond a superficial level…and that their statements are naive and unprofessional, here is my real problem with this. This is an egregious misuse of the expertise of the APS. Their alleged understanding of issues like spectroscopy and fluid dynamics are not of any direct relevance to the issues they write about in this statement. The statement is an embarrassment to the APS. [bold added]

So the next time you’re told that you should believe the dominant climate narrative because it has been endorsed by a long list of scientific bodies, remember this: The American Geophysical Union permits its leader to pontificate about the climate even though she has zero expertise in that field. And the American Physical Society chose not to invite those with the most relevant credentials to the table when it produced its latest climate document.


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