Scientists Condemn ‘Political Assaults’ on Climate Researchers

May 7, 2010

After recently weathering many attacks from politicians on the scientific evidence behind global climate change, a group of 255 of the world’s top scientists today wrote and open letter aimed at restoring public faith in the integrity of research and scientific findings.

The letter is a direct response to the negative publicity any political attacks that followed the release of thousands of hacked emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and two minor mistakes made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In a strongly worded reproof of the recent escalation of political assaults on climatologists, the letter, published in the US Journal Science and signed by 11 Nobel laureates, attacks critics driven by "special interests or dogma" and "McCarthy-like" threats against researchers. It also attempts to set the record straight on the process of rigorous scientific research. It adds that owing to science's adversarial nature, "fame" awaits any scientists who can prove the theory wrong.

The letter sets out some basic features of the scientific method. "Like all human beings, scientists make mistakes, but the scientific process is designed to find and correct them. But when some conclusions have been thoroughly and deeply tested, questioned, and examined, they gain the status of 'well-established theories' and are often spoken of as 'facts'," it says. Citing theories including the age and origin of the Earth, the Big Bang and Darwin's evolution by natural selection, the document asserts that anthropogenic climate change is now so well-supported by evidence that it has achieved the same status.

The authors – who are all members of the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the country's premier scientific institution – include some of the academic community's most distinguished climate researchers. But the list also includes top anthropologists, biochemistists and physicists who have felt the need to defend climate science in the wake of what they regard as politically motivated attacks. Three senior scientists from the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester have also added their endorsement. All of the scientists signed up in a personal capacity, not on behalf of the National Academy or on behalf of their institution.