U.S science body condemns attacks on climate scientists

Chilling effect… attacks on climate science could freeze up debate on important global issues, a leading scientific body has said. Flickr/Martha de Jong-Lantink

Personal attacks on scientists by climate change skeptics could have a chilling effect on research that policymakers need to solve global problems, a leading U.S scientific body has warned.

Climate change scientists worldwide have reported receiving death threats, hate mail and threats of legal action from people opposed to their findings and who question their motives. Several have been forced to upgrade security at their homes and workplaces.

In an open letter published on its website, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said it was deeply concerned by the attacks.

“Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public,” the letter said.

“This both impedes the progress of science and interferes with the application of science to the solution of global problems.”

Scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations simply for providing scientific results that are controversial, the letter said, also taking a swipe at lawmakers who have sided with the skeptics over science.

“We think it would be unfortunate if policymakers became the arbiters of scientific information and circumvented the peer-review process,” the letter said.

“Moreover, we are concerned that establishing a practice of aggressive inquiry into the professional histories of scientists whose findings may bear on policy in ways that some find unpalatable could well have a chilling effect on the willingness of scientists to conduct research that intersects with policy-relevant scientific questions.”

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