Ore. Gov to Fire Dissident "State Climatologist"

Tom: Is it possible that this science prof genuinely believes that global climate changes today result mainly from non-human sources? Do you support firing this guy for reaching impolitic scientific conclusions? Any evidence that the Bushies are firing or suppressing scientists who blame human activities, I will join you in opposition. And I won't declare that such scientists reach these conclusions only because they want to please peers, department heads, and political sponsors.


Paul Hue said...


Here's a skeptical scientist who does get money from Exxon-Mobile. But that doesn't mean that the guy is incorrect, or that what Exxon-Mobile wants to be true is incorrect. The global warming scientists get money from somewhere also, and I wonder about those funding sources: do they permit funding of scientists who doubt global warming by humans?

Tom Philpott said...

Paul, the guy is *not* being fired. He's the head of the state climate office at Oregon State. Rather than fire him, the governor would like to take away his *title* of "state climatologist." Seems reasonable, given that the fellow's views conflict with state policy. He no more has a right to serve as "state climatologist" under an elected government that would like to respond to the climate crisis than I do to serve as defense secretary under GWB.
Now, if the governor starts actually purging scientists, than we'll talk.
It's a ripe irony that there's rumble on the right that scientists who deny the human basis of global warming are suffering political discrimination -- when for six years deniers have been running and still run the White House. To see how that motley lot of creationists and oil industry hacks has been treating science on the most important questions of the day, see Chris Mooney's work. Here's an excerpt of his The Republican Attack on Science.

Paul Hue said...


1. Not fired? Because the job receives no salary? I'm not sure about that. It's a job where he has responsibilities to the state, and the state has responsibilities to him. And what are those responsibilities? To provide his scientific conclusions? Or to conduct the climatology policies of the state government? The answer to this question will determine if I support or oppose the move.

2. Why are these people "deniers"? Notice that I don't call their scientific adversaries "deniers". I assume that while both groups perhaps have dishonest people selling their views, there really does exist scientists who on this issue have genuinely reached opposite conclusions. I implore you and Nadir to afford the heterodox scientists the same respect that I afford the orthodox scientists.

3. Wherever the Bushies suppress scientists for refuting creationism or human-caused global warming, I will join you in opposition; but in return I expect your support for scientists who experience professional and social penalties for refuting the human-caused global warming and evolution-caused species origination.

4. I am unaware of any human-caused global warming dissidents who also refute evolution-caused species origination.

5. The white house of course is rife with people who oppose the human-caused global warming hypothesis, but the outfits that award related grants, run the science academic press, and who conduct university staffing are instead loaded with promoters of this notion.

Tom Philpott said...

“He is Oregon State University's climatologist. He is not the state of Oregon's climatologist,” [the governor] said.

If the governor were trying to purge the guy from the university, that would be a scandal. Say Ralph Nader had been appointed policy director of the US Treasury before GW Bush took office. Would it constitute a purge if GW removed him from that position and put in someone who'd promote his policies?

There's no purge here. The governor is syaing that the official state climatologist doesn't promote the policies of the elected state government. He's saying, do your thing; just don't call yourself the "state climatologist."

I don't mean "denier" in a pejorative sense. One can deny true things, but one can also deny false things. How about "objecter"?

Paul Hue said...

Tom: If you mean "denier" in the original sense, I accept your wording, versus the "holocaust denier" usage. (By the way, I support jobs and funding for people who conclude that the holocaust either never happened or has been greatly exaggerated.)

As for charges of "purging", as I said, if the guy's role is to promote and advance the decisions of state office-holders, I support firing him if his views contradict what those office-holders consider to be vital points. However, if this role merely entails designating a scientist to provide honest appraisals, then I consider this a scandal.

I join you in opposing any Bush firing or suppressing of people employed as scientists to present their findings.