Shrill Paranoids Attack Devoted Scientists

Some previously unknown bunch of pseudoscientific nobodies recently banded together to assign themselves the deceptive, official sounding moniker, “U.S. Climate Emergency Council.” This really is an ad-hoc, ragamuffin band of knee-jerk extremists who apparently believe that scientific debate should have only one side: that with which they happen to agree.

This newfound group decided to crawl out of the woodwork and launch a protest in Washington today to call for the resignation of, among others, National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield, accusing him and others in NOAA of “covering up” the supposed connection between “global warming” and Hurricane Katrina.


Whatever someone would like to claim from the administration level to NOAA, Max and the other dedicated scientists with whom he works at NHC are not, I repeat not, involved in any cover-up. Period.

What rotting log of abject cluelessness did these people crawl from beneath? This is classical, knee-jerk paranoia drawn straight from the shrill stylebooks of numerous other blame-gamers who don’t have the scientific understanding or the cerebral capacity for independent thought, and instead take this hackneyed old path: If you don’t like what you hear, it must be a government conspiracy.

“Hear ye, hear ye, rid thyselves of thy minds, joineth our mob mentality, climbeth aboard the Bandwagon of Blame!”

Similarly paranoid extremists like the Aryan Nation, or any of dozens of UFO groups, have employed these tactics for generations; now it appears the “global warming” branch of the green brigade has their version of Ruby Ridge nut jobs as well. And it’s sad too, because there are good scientific arguments being made in the meteorological community for an influence of “global warming” on tropical weather, that are being besmirched by this activity. Not that they would care, but for USCEC’s information, there are also equally legitimate and well supported arguments that there is not enough evidence yet to make conclusions about any such links.

What should happen? The scientific debate should continue with evidence presented and arguments made, for however long it must take until the question of hurricane activity and “global warming” is more firmly settled. In real science, unlike in pop-culture, such things often take years, perhaps decades.

Science does not — and for its integrity, must not — work on artificial timescales forced by politicians, unscientific protesters, or the popular news media that caters to ten-second attention spans. Science is not something that provides firm, irrefutable answers instantly to those who demand such answers yesterday, and blame the ever-popular bogeyman of “government cover-up” when the answers don’t come as they like to hear.

Unfortunately the shrill, whacked-out dogma spewing from these extremists tends to drown out the sensible middle. That sensible middle is the legitimate scientific debate about the role, if any, of global mean tropospheric thermal trends in the activity of tropical cyclones. Both sides in the debate recently have published well-written and well-supported essays in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

This debate was represented very professionally and cordially in these essays, which I encourage authentically science minded folks with an interest in this issue to peruse:

  1. Pielke, R.A. Jr., C. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver and R. Pasch, 2005: Hurricanes and global warming. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 86, 1571-1575.
  2. Anthes, R.A., R.W. Corell, G. Holland, J.W. Hurrell, M.C. McCracken, and K. E. Trenberth, 2006: Hurricanes and global Warming — potential linkages and consequences. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 87, 623-628.
  3. Pielke, R.A. Jr., C. Landsea, M. Mayfield, J. Laver and R. Pasch, 2006: Reply to “Hurricanes and global warming — potential linkages and consequences. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 87, 628-631.

Note that there are rock-solid scientists like Max, his center’s science officer (Chris Landsea), Rick Anthes, Roger Pielke, Greg Holland and others above, engaged on both sides in this critically important and needed dialogue. This dialogue does not need to be polluted by politics, money, or the immature whining of unscientific fringe groups carrying emotionally evocative placards.

Tastelessly displayed signs depicting fetid waters and floating corpses do inflame emotion. However, ignorant protesting will not resolve this issue. Science will. Give science the breathing room and the time to do so.

Now, as for the aforementioned fringe group, and their absolutely baseless attacks on Max and his integrity… I shall set science aside for the moment and discuss where it gets personal.

I’ve known Max Mayfield for over 16 years and can assure anyone and everyone that his scientific ethic is without reproach. He also is as fine of a person as exists in government service. To quote from an essay I wrote a little over a year ago:

Max is as humble, pleasant, and honest as can be. How he is on the air is how he is, period — truthful, caring and positive, but also quite serious when necessary (i.e., when lives at stake from a landfalling hurricane). Being a high profile manager hasn’t corrupted him one bit, which is a rare treat to see in meteorology.

Yes, Max is an excellent manager — the best thing that could have happened to NHC these past few years in my opinion. He has earned every award and accolade he has received, and in fact, he deserves far more. Those who know me also know that I do not dole out such praise lightly, or often, when it comes to members of management. Max is a rare exception. I will stand firmly in his defense against any and all attack — not that he needs it, given his honesty and integrity. But I cannot stand idly while irrational people with no idea of how science works try to ruin his career and those of the other meteorologists who don’t happen to subscribe blindly to the eco-radical dogma that has been spoon-fed to these protesters.

Clueless, publicity-hungry blowhards need to leave the science debate to the scientists, and exit stage right before they make even worse fools of themselves.

All too often, the sad truth is that politicians tend to listen to those who make the most noise, not those who have the most knowledge. And of course, being government employees, Max and Chris in particular are forbidden from lobbying for their own sake in the media and Congressional arenas. They have to sit there quietly and take potshots from some publicity-hungry gang of pathological blamers.

As a fellow scientist, but also a union steward in a science shop, I’m not so bound to be quiet. Therefore, I won’t…I legally can and will make public statements about these issues, and stand up for the science and the scientists involved. As for those besmirching Max and Chris: I will not tolerate any attack on their jobs, their expertise or their credibility.


One Response to “Shrill Paranoids Attack Devoted Scientists”

  1. tornado on June 1st, 2006 9:33 am

    The protest featuring “hundreds” of people came and went, and instead contained perhaps 30. Figures. It is gratifying to see that the ill-informed nonsense was limited to far fewer people than advertised, but isn’t that so often the case? The farther out in looney-land a protest group is, the more it will overhype its volume and influence to grab attention. And that’s what it’s about with these people — attention and publicity, not real science.

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