Tag Archives: Scared Scientists

What else are the lesser outlets saying about Our Scared Scientists?

masthead the age index 2 bPsychologist Dan Kahan works closely with climatologists and was on first-name basis with some of the Scared Scientists. The Yale Professor says they’ve been at risk of abduction for years, and recent tragic events were virtually waiting to happen.

“The [climate] community has always been an open invitation to a certain kind of sicko, who gets off on playing Jedi mind games with unarmed opponents.”

Kahan often has to teach a climate scientist the rudiments of urban safety from scratch.

Kahan-rsz sl g copy

“They’re amazed to learn that they don’t have to get in the car with anyone they don’t know, no matter how much candy he offers them.”

In the crash course Not Being Kidnapped 101, Prof. Kahan stresses that checking credentials isn’t enough; you then have to make a judgement call based on the information.

“Wallet Inspector, Bra Patrol, Crown Prince of Nigeria—these are not things,” he says, exasperated. “They’re just bogus concatenations of words!

“Climate negotiator, climate change psychologist, climate economist, climate ethicist—now these are people you can safely get in a car with. Legitimate, credible professions.

“The trick, as so often in life, is to know the difference.”

But for a certain demographic that may be easier said than done.

“Stranger Danger is a no-brainer for—quote-unquote—’normals’ like you and me,” he says. “But spare a thought for the special folk who congenitally lack that little voice, the one that whispers, ‘hang on, something’s not quite right here.’ Call it adaptive paranoia, spider sense, street smarts, whatever you like—climatologists are notoriously deficient in this department, even by academic standards. Which is saying a lot.

“Skepticism,” he adds. “Call it skepticism.”

If one good thing has emerged from the horrible crime perpetrated on the Scared Scientists, Kahan argues, it’s that people are now talking about the issues surrounding and facing developmentally special folk. He sees this as an opportunity to bust some stereotypes.

Kahan points to the 1988 classic Rain Man as a milestone in popular awareness. But he also regrets a number of misconceptions the film has spawned.

“Raymond, the character brought to life by Dustin Hoffman, is an unrepresentative case. He ticks all the boxes—too many boxes, if anything. In statistical ‘real life,’ syndromes like autism hardly ever come as an all-or-nothing package deal.”

For example, says Kahan, some of the most socially-retarded climate scientists he knows also have no discernible talent for numbers.

“Some of these guys can’t even use Excel.”

It’s yet another reason to fear for the Scared Scientists’ well-being in captivity.

“At least three of them—that I know of—are half-way along the idiot savant spectrum.” masthead berliner zeitung 10810244,7038739,data,logo 2 b

Acting Federal Police Commissioner Michael Phelan appeared on Australian talkback radio today to justify why the Hate Crimes Unit hasn’t been brought in on the case of the Scared Scientists. The decision has raised community eyebrows but Phalen said it had the backing of leading hate criminologists.

“The fact is, there’s no evidence the scientists were targeted for their beliefs,” he explained.

Mr Phelan reminded reporters that the Australian community had coexisted with climate scientists for years. Notwithstanding the occasional rude email—”rarer than you might predict, all things considered”—Aussies had exhibited all the lazy tolerance for which they’re world-famous, basically allowing the climatological community to practice in peace.

Australian climate scientists distrust the general public, Commissioner Phelan acknowledged.

“You’d expect a bit more animosity, but in fact it’s been one of the great multicultural success stories.

“Historically, the two groups just ignore each other,” he said.

“This is not to deny that things occasionally get physical. But statistically, normal Australians are more likely to be attacked by climate scientists than the other way round.”

Such events are vastly underreported, explained the Commissioner, because Aussies are brought up not to “dob” someone “in” for slapping them unless they use backhand. Assaults may even go unnoticed by the victims themselves, he suggested.

“We think as many as a hundred Australians every year, who believe they had crumbs on their shirt or a misaligned tie, were actually being ‘attacked’ by a climate scientist.”

Nor did Mr Phelan shy away from the well-known fact that climate scientists distrust ordinary Australians.

“I won’t pretend our climatologists don’t feel a certain sense of betrayal—which is regrettable, but needs to be understood in the context of a couple of frightening events in the past.”

Scientists Down Under still bear the mental scars of a 2010 incident in which a known conservative with a history of free-market opinions was seen to reach into his pocket.

In a quirky twist nobody could have anticipated, he wasn’t actually going for an assault rifle at all. (According to some reports the man wasn’t even armed.) Understandably, though, mass panic had already broken out by the time anyone noticed the man was “just” waving a legal document.

The individual is understood to have left the dinner party voluntarily.

Security at the Australian National University was quickly upgraded as a result of what scientists were calling the Goulburn Massacre, or simply The Brandishing. (See ANU Professor Will Steffen’s disturbing account of a suspected copycat attack here.)

Five years on, the fear is still raw, and has seeped into everything Australian climate scientists say and do, even if they weren’t there at the time.

As psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky points out, seepage is thermodynamically irreversible. We can therefore expect the trauma to start fading only when the affected cohort retires. Until then the sight of a conservative or a legal document may be all it takes to trigger Mexican waves of cold sweat and flashbacks throughout the Australian climate world.

“It’s like they say,” adds Lewandowsky. “Science heals one funeral at a time.”

A Tribute to Professor Steffen


Yesterday I was haunted to find a certain guest post gathering digital dust on Climate Nuremberg’s server.

Nobody can say why exactly we never published it, but perhaps the editorial team dismissed it as pedestrian, un-newsworthy, childishly written, or all of the above.

And it is. But it’s also eerie, for this reason: the piece came to us from Will Steffen. As you probably know, the Australian National University [ANU] Professor and seven scared colleagues are now missing, presumed destined for a fate worse than death in the underground debating pits.

We therefore print the following as a tribute to Australia’s own Gone Girls.

“An Awful Fright”
by Will Steffen (1947—?)

It was on a faculty canape night in the spring of 2011 that someone attempted to pass himself off as one of us. The interloper was impeccably academic in appearance, perhaps having learned from the failure of the Coochey plot in 2010—this time his attire gave no hint of the truth that he was a conservative.

But suspicions were aroused by an unguarded remark, which is said to have been, “So, how about them Knicks?”

Upon verification that the Knicks are neither [an] ice nor [a] field hockey [team], the rest of the room adopted a stance of defensive hostility to the infiltrator. I was proud of my staff: just a year ago, I thought, these people didn’t even know the basics of Stranger Danger theory.

Starved of the oxygen of politeness, and unequal to the strain of long silences, the unidentified male eventually resorted to, “So, how ’bout this weather?”

We had trained for this scenario.

Even the security staff knew enough science to prick up at the mention of “weather” (a topic no climate scientist would have studied enough to form an opinion on). They leaped into action.

“The individual is understood to have left voluntarily,” as I would phrase it the next day in a comforting mass email to ANU climate staff.

(They’re always individuals, aren’t they? What is it about denialism and individualism? Note to self: grant material here?)

Just to be safe, festivities adjourned to the state-of-the-art panic room the university had built for us, on my insistence, following the Coochey threats. But as you can imagine, there was little appetite for canapes now. I for one was too busy trying to steady my shaking hands with champagne substitute.

As adrenalin slowly returned to background titres over the following few days, I came to look back on the incident with some pride. Whoever was behind it had, in a real sense, flattered the ANU by targeting us for the second time in as many years.

We were obviously making some interest, or interests, nervous—the mark of all good science.


The events recounted above are considered the second-most audacious terrorist plot against climate scientists in Australian history, but are sure to be eclipsed by the abduction of the Scared Scientists. Professor Steffen must be proud of the attention he’s attracted—wherever he is now.

Scared Scientists Steffen

Professor Steffen would go on to achieve the rank of Scared Scientist (pictured), but he wrote this piece when he was a humble macroeconomist with a chemical-engineering doctorate who specialised in aversive tax therapy.

Frequently Feared Questions

Dear climate academia,
Stefan Lewandowsky tells you all you ever wanted to know about the Scared Scientists but were afraid to ask because you didn’t want to know.

Q I worked briefly with [Scared Scientist’s name withheld] and the abduction of the octet has brought up certain… emotions. What if I talk to a trauma counselor at the University and they think I’m nuts? —Logic Bloke

A Mr Bloke,

Nobody is going to judge you! There’s no “right” way to respond to incidents like this, psychologically speaking.

Debilitating grief, constant white-knuckle panic, recurrent ideation about pain and death that crowds out everything else, an all-consuming dread, feelings of paralytic anxiety—these are all normal, healthy reactions.

Lew's views 08

Magic bullet: Lewandowsky owes his life to the designer stimulants that have kept him one step ahead of his pursuers—and with zero adverse effects. Could uppers be the the holy grail of pharmacology: a life-saving drug class with literally no downside?

But you don’t have to go through them alone. As someone who’s experienced them all since breakfast, I can assure you it helps to vent.

So don’t be shy. For once in your climate career, this is no time for scientific reticence!


Q Professor Lewandowski (sic), could you settle a faculty bet: as day 4 of the crisis dawns, is there any unhealthy or ‘incorrect’ way to feel? —ExCapitalistWoman, Sydney

A Ms Woman,

Panic is a deeply personal journey. Your amygdalae, adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system are different from the next person’s, so why should you drop your bundle exactly the same way?

We each have our own timetable for not getting through events like this.

What’s important is that you give in to terror on your own terms—nobody else’s.

Lew' Views Two 06

Nope: On further rumination, Lewandowsky still can’t think of a single ill effect from “half a lifetime” of amphetamine use.

When life gets traumatic the only ‘wrong‘ way to respond is denial. This week’s news is a case in point.

If you ever feel you’re coping well as the kidnapping crisis unfolds, that’s what we call a major red flag. Call your doctor or counselor as a matter of urgency. They can help you get back on track, or put you in contact with someone who can.

But there’s a limited time window, so act while the trauma is still acute.


Q Dear Dr (sic) Lewandowsky, police here in Australia keep assuring us they have “no credible information” about an elevated threat [of further abductions] to us [climate scientists]. Why don’t I find this comforting? —Professor_Planet, Melbourne
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We Are All Scared Scientists Now

For those left behind, trauma

Climate supporters everywhere have been in an emotional purgatory since news first broke of the disappearance of our scientists. Today, a planet’s vigil for eight very special, very scared people enters its critical third blog post—but investigators fear the agony has just begun.

“An early breakthrough is unlikely,” admitted Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin on talkback radio this morning.


Scared Psychologists: CN’s Stefan Lewandowsky believes it’s important to panic about one new thing a day. “The day nothing causes you to soil yourself is the day you truly become old,” he frets. His global network of clinics, Lewandowsky Living With Fear Technologies™, boasts thousands of ‘satisfied shitless’ clients.

Meanwhile, colleagues and grad students at the universities where the eight neurotics worked are being offered free hysteria counseling.

At a media conference today Senior Detective Donald Jenner of the AFP’s Missing Scientist Unit described the emotional and behavioral toll this crisis is taking on the climate-academic population.

“Thousands of climate scientists, [climate] ethicists and [climate] psychologists will be wetting their beds again tonight—not only in Australia, but wherever there’s a large climate-hyphenated community. All their kids can do is give them an extra-big hug when they get home from work today.”

“At the risk of cliché, these tragic situations do bring the community closer,” Det. Jenner continued. “Friends and family of climatologists tell us they’re checking their loved ones’ blogs for the first time in years. Speaking as a parent myself—though I don’t personally have [a climate scientist] in the family—nothing could be worse than looking back and wishing you’d refreshed your browser sooner.”

A peer in fear speaks up

Before he fled to England, Stefan Lewandowsky was in close contact with a number of the desaparecidos, and considered it a “privilege” to call himself “a peer in fear.”

The psychology professor spoke to us in a wide-ranging interview, interrupted only by the continual need to look behind his back. He didn’t mean to be rude, he explained, but enemies could be closing in at any time from any compass direction.

(Lewandowsky admits his obsessive vigilance can make social life awkward, but is convinced it’s paid off. “I’ve never been raped,” he boasts, “by surprise.”)

Eternal vigilance

You can’t be too paranoid these days: The slightest noise from the rear could presage the approach of Lewandowsky’s nameless pursuers. “See, this is why I asked for a chair against the wall,” he whines for the umpteenth time.

“There was talk at one point of my becoming the ninth Scared Scientist,” he recalls.

“In the end, though, we agreed that cognitive scientists aren’t [actually scientists]. Thank Christ… otherwise I’d probably be there right now, by [my frightened friends’] side, huddled in a gibbering mess in the corner of some godforsaken shipping container.”

Lewandowsky adds that he “get[s] seasick at the drop of a hat.”

The climate cognician—best known for overturning decades of rational risk analysis [RRA] with his discovery of Lewandowsky’s Uncertainty Principle—says he yearns for specific information, no matter how grisly, on the fate that’s befallen his phobic friends.

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What the lesser outlets are saying about Our Missing Scientists

seattle-times-logo-mastheadThe [scientists’] families have dismissed the runaway theory unanimously, describing their loved ones as “cowards,” “cravens” and “slaves to fear” who “would never have set foot outside their domain, unless something—or someone—spooked them.”

Climate scientists have no natural enemies, but police are not ruling out fell deeds.

“Certain circumstantial data are reminiscent, if not redolent, of dodgy play,” explained a media liaison officer for Australian Federal Police, “but apodeictic proof of villainy has yet to be uncovered, so it is too early to rule out fair cricket.”

The Sydney Morning Herald“It’s not like Tim to let a domain name lapse,” said the father of one scientist.

The grandma of another chimed in.

“Have you met [the group of friends]? An ISP bill would be chump change. Climate scientists might only get eight months of work a year but they’re obscenely [well] compensated. It’s silly money, really.

“Are we seriously meant to believe eight academics on $190,000 couldn’t do a whip-round for fifty bucks when their [virtual] landlord was up their arse[s]?”

The 92-year-old woman was even more scathing when she took into account the site’s lack of premium features (“really, no comments?”), static sitemap and shallow navigation structure (“two or three clicks deep, if that”).

“Packages this minimal, blogging platforms are practically paying you to take off their hands these days,” she felt.

“If [my grandson] and his mates paid more than $9.99 [last year], they got bloody well gypped.”

One of the mums agreed. “That would be pretty gullible, even for them.” nytlogo379x64Police in Australia have praised the “fast thinking, slow thinking” and “community spirit” of an anonymous citizen who discovered the eerie ghost property late last night. Perturbed by what he could only describe as “suspicious inactivities” at the site, the punter rang a national crime hotline sometime later to articulate his vague forebodings.

Two members of the squad [which discovered the pitiful state of the blog] are on Sadness Leave.

NSW Police Force Assistant Commissioner Peter Barrie told a press conference today: “In 2015, the National Crime Command is urging people to ‘Follow Your Instincts’ if you suspect something is dodgy.

“Last night’s good Samaritan did exactly that. Remember, ‘If You Sense Something, Say Something. No Matter How Ineffable.'”

Acting on the tipoff, detectives from the IP Sniffer Dog Unit and Missing Evidence Task Force carried out a daring pre-dawn browse of the address.

“But there was nothing to see. Or perhaps: nothingness,” said Assistant Commissioner Barrie.

Although squatters had ‘bagsed’ the site (an Australianism thought to mean something like ‘claimed’), the desolation was otherwise “utter,” he recalled.

Hardened cyber-detectives—twenty-year veterans of the squad—were reportedly among those affected by the sepulchral silence and measureless emptiness. An AFP source says at least two members of today’s strike force were given Sadness Leave, triggered presumably by the unspeakable and immemorial vacuum that dwells where science’s favorite fraidycats should be.

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Has Anyone Seen Our Confused, Dehydrated, Scared Scientists?

This needs to stay ‘sticky.’ If we’re serious about finding Australia’s own Gone Girls in time to save two or three of them, we must keep this story at the top of the page.

We’ve therefore decided to stop blogging about anything else until further notice, and we kindly ask that the rest of the blogosphere follow suit. Thanks everyone!

Your help is much appreciated—not by us, but by the families of the Scared Scientists.

Ignazio Sepúlveda
CN Crime Editor

MELB., AU—Dark forebodings are held for eight Aussie scientists after a property they shared was found deserted this morning.

Police are treating the disappearance as harrowing.

Gone Girls

A watercolor (2013) recalls the victims in less petrifying times. Police have apologized for the failure of the portraitist (a nameless journeyman of the Copley school) to convey the scarediness that reigns over their eight souls—but then, as a senior AFP detective pointed out, that’s one of the hardest things to get right (besides the hands). In the absence of a more penetrating treatment of the sitters, investigators hope the above exercise in technical competence will suffice to jog the memory of a witness.

At a media conference today, Acting Federal Police Commissioner Michael Phelan urged the public to help find the scientists. Anybody with data relevant to their whereabouts was practically begged to call the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre (NMPCC) on 1800 000 634.

“Climate scientists need constant attention and reassurance… Even small changes in their environment are highly distressing.”

The Commissioner was flanked by homicide detectives, Missing Persons Unit investigators and relatives of four or five of the scientists. (A number of parents sent their apologies, citing work or family commitments.)

“When the most precious and vulnerable among us go missing, every hour counts,” said Commissioner Phelan, voicing concern for the welfare of the Aussie Eight.

“Climate scientists need constant attention, reassurance and a balanced sports drink to replenish the electrolytes they lose [via bowel incontinence] in their terror. Any change in their environment, no matter how small, can cause severe distress, tummy upset and an ugly psychosomatic rash.”

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Scared Witless: The New Science Site that Gets the Communication Right

In a recent post we broke the news that a heroic band of scientists was finally making Australia proud. I’m talking about the Scared Scientists, of course.

Sadly, a number of readers have questioned whether it actually takes courage to have the courage to admit you’re scared of climate change.

Er, yes. Yes it does. The great medieval figure Edward “Ed” Stark explained this better than any science communicator could:

Bran thought about it.
‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.

Speaking of historical dramas, my thirteen-year-old thinks he’s getting the 300 box set for his birthday tomorrow. But I reckon he’ll be stoked when he opens his actual present: a donation in his name to the Scared Scientists!

(The ScS team has finally listened to the demands of ordinary climate mums and dads around the country and added a PayPal button on every single page of their site.)

Denialists are already chuckling at the small numbers of the Scared—and missing the point, as usual.

The Scientists may be just eight—for now—but as my teenager might say, “Are they not therefore so much the more fully sick than that pretty-boy Leonidas, who needed 299 mates to help him lose a fight? To a bunch of Bronze Age illiterates?”

With scientists increasingly convinced that climate change could be even more decisive for Western civilization than Thermopylae, the names of Flannery, Steffen, England, Perkins, Hughes, Ajani, Macreadie and Murray have already inscribed themselves in immortality.

Win or (god forbid) lose, we who survive will remember them.

Besides, standing up for the consensus has always been lonely work.

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Latest climate concern study: Climate change worry to impact 1 in 2 countries by 2050

Results of the newest computer modeling, to be published in next month’s Nature, warn that half the nations on Earth will contain someone negatively affected by climate-change thoughts by mid-century.

To date, the worst impacts of climate science on global consciousness have failed to materialize as predicted.

But while scientists can’t say what’s causing our current period of climate calmness, they’ve always known it’s just temporary.

The new paper finally provides hard, empirical vindication of this. Based on a computer simulation of the vagaries of human beliefs, attitudes and intellectual fashions, it envisions global climate equanimity running out even sooner than expected.

For once, the authors quip in their conclusion, it’s better than we thought.

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For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback

One of the more amusing things about running Climate Nuremberg is the sheer number of conspiracy theories to which it’s given rise among certain—shall we say—elements of the blogosphere.

Apparently the website’s name—the first thing that popped into my head in the Bavarian hotel room where I happened to start blogging—is anything from a cunning attempt to throw my critics off the scent of my IP address to a sinister allusion to World War II (yes, really—don’t ask).

Things got especially bizarre when, during another climate-related European travel commitment, I made the innocent mistake of experimenting with the tagline, “Musings from Germany on climate, science and climate science.”

Invention! Identity fraud! Spoofing! Call the WordPress Abuse Hotline!

(An oversight on the part of my research assistant—who failed to update the tagline once I got back to my Sydney office—probably reinforced the impression among impressionable folk that I was somehow being disingenuous about my whereabouts.)

I should probably thank everyone who’s shared their conjectures about my motives online. It’s all data, and data is good. A colleague of mine, well known in the climate psychology world, is putting the finishing touches on a fascinating paper about all this. I won’t reveal his name, because the poor guy has already had to uproot his family once to get away from vicious ad hominem assaults on his data and methods. It would be a shame if the same pursuers forced him and his young family to start the lengthy climate refugee process all over again just when they were beginning to settle in to their new identities in Bristol, UK. Let’s just call him “Steve.” Suffice it to say that when “Stephan’s” analysis comes out, a number of people may not like what the science has to say. And isn’t that the mark of all good science?

The difference between conspiracists and scientists can be summed up in one word, but I prefer to use a whole sentence.

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