Free Speech and Climate Change – Guest post by Douglas Spence

imageThe issue of Free Speech has been much in the news in Australia with the Federal Government proposing amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act to give greater protection to the expression of views which some regard as “offensive” or ” insulting “.
It has correctly been said that free speech is the first and most important of our freedoms. Totalitarian regimes always muzzle the media and seek to control free expression of opinion.
But Free Speech is under attack in Climate Science, in a more subtle way than the introduction of laws restricting dissent from the “settled science”.
No claim has been more widely asserted in the hypothesis of Dangerous Man-made Global Warming than the mantra, “The debate is over. The science is settled.”.
That claim is totally false as anyone with a knowledge of science or history will attest.
On 23 February, Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, in evidence before the US Senate said:-
…..”There is no scientific proof that human emissions of Carbon Dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years. If there were such a proof it would be written down for all to see. No actual proof as it is understood in science exists.”
A significant number, albeit a minority, of dissenting scientists around the world share that view.
They may be wrong but the danger to free speech from suppressing their opposing views is malign and damaging to science.
Attempts to stop debates and the publication of the views of so called ” deniers” are apparent daily. In the UK, it was proposed that discussions on the BBC should not give “weight” to the statements of Lord Lawson on air. Today, a Chair of the parliamentary Science and Technology Committee has also sought to exclude the opinions of contrarians.
In March, 1939, a meeting was arranged in New York between Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, Eugene Wigner, Edward Teller and Leo Szilard. There were 2 issues on the agenda of these nuclear scientists:-
1. Was a nuclear chain reaction (and an atomic bomb) possible from neutron induced fission, given recent experiments?
2. Should the Fermi/Szilard experiment results be published in the Journal, ” Physical Review”? -the risk was that it might alert the Nazis to the possibility of an atomic bomb.
The others had approached Niels Bohr because his prestige was sought to coax the US Government to pursue the bomb.
The meeting was inconclusive because Bohr was insistent that we would never succeed in producing nuclear energy. In this he was wrong as both Einstein and Rutherford had been before him.(Rutherford called it ” moonshine”). Einstein later saw the truth.
About secrecy in science, Bohr was monumentally right.
“He had worked for decades to shape physics into an international community, a model within its limited franchise of what a peaceful, politically united world might be. Openness was its fragile, essential character, an operational necessity, as freedom of speech is an operational necessity to a democracy. Complete openness enforced absolute honesty: the scientist reported all his results, favourable and unfavourable, where all could read them, making possible the ongoing correction of error. Secrecy would revoke that charter and subordinate science as a political system….” (Richard Rhodes, ” The Making of the Atomic Bomb”).
Niels Bohr insisted that secrecy must never be introduced into physics, although he hated and feared the Nazis to an obsessive degree.
Today, we have a political organisation the UN IPCC reviewing and censoring the drafts of scientists in climate science, a sub-set of Physics. The result is then presented to the world as the “overwhelming” opinion of the participating scientists, even when, as occurred last September, a draft stating that Climate Models had for the last 10-15 years failed to reflect the pause in atmospheric warming, was expunged.
As the Climategate e-mails showed, one prominent scientist said to Stephen McIntyre who was seeking his underlying data, and codes, “why should I give you my data, when you are trying to prove me wrong?”

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