Monthly Archives: March 2014

Lewandowsky Safety Update

Ten days ago, UWA’s Prof. Carmen Lawrence confirmed the worst fears of many in the climate community: psychologist and CN contributor Stephan Lewandowsky was still being hounded. He’d relocated his family from Australia to England; he’d even agreed to take down a paper deriding his persecutors as paranoid conspiracy theorists, even though everybody knew it was true; but the plotters weren’t giving up so easily.

It seems the situation hasn’t got any better. Steve is “still being pursued by climate deniers,” according to an email we received today.

He says he’s been unable to get a good look at his pursuers, who switch cars every day.

Why is it so hard to have a panicked, hysterical conversation about climate change?

As a science communicator part of my job is to take the emotional temperature of the climate community—something that can be measured on well-known, well-validated anxiety scales.

I’m often surprised by the disconnect between scientists and the public.

To say the scientists were worried would be old news—and an understatement. When we first asked the climate community in the mid-90s, most researchers said they were already Worried or Very Worried, with fewer than 30% claiming to be Not Concerned about climate change.

But then, in a Nature editorial in 2010, Professor Paul Ehrlich mentioned that “[e]veryone is scared shitless.” Such a comment might have been dismissed as hyperbole coming from anyone else, but we all knew Ehrlich’s reputation. You don’t become the world’s most respected ecologist if you’re in the habit of being wrong about shit.

So we sampled the scientists again. And guess what?

The “Unconcerned” [denialist] researchers now made up a tiny 3%.

Meanwhile, the entire mainstream had become Worried or higher.

22% of climate scientists today are Very Worried, 28% are Scared Shitless and a whopping 15% are now Shitting Themselves. In this top category the median scientist has involuntarily shat him- or herself eleven times in the last 30 days.

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