It's somewhat heartening to learn that some in the scientific community are trying to prepare for the political onslaught that Congressional Republicans and anti-science zealots will be launching next year:
On Monday, the American Geophysical Union, the country's largest association of climate scientists, plans to announce that 700 climate scientists have agreed to speak out as experts on questions about global warming and the role of man-made air pollution.
John Abraham of St. Thomas University in Minnesota, who last May wrote a widely disseminated response to climate change skeptics, is also pulling together a "climate rapid response team," which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk radio and television shows.The notion that some (not nearly all) scientists want to mix it up a bit and push back on political aggressors is unmistakable progress. But here's the simple truth in politics and PR these days: If you're waiting for something to say something untrue about you or your work before you decide to speak, you're waiting too long.
So what should scientists do now? Simple - strike FIRST. Define the lie. Do it in a political context.
One of the things they could do is hold a press conference in DC before the new Congress is seated and let the political reporters know some basic facts. Not necessarily the science of climate change, because most political reporters don't care about the science of climate change. The basic facts I'm talking about can be summed up thusly: if a politician tells you the jury is still out on man-made climate change, he's lying. Get out there first and define the lie. Yes, it's been said before. But not really in this context - right as a session of Congress is beginning. Make sure everyone knows they're lying - make sure it's the default position. Then let the media investigate the motivation behind the lie.
Then follow up the press conference with editorial board meetings with the newspapers in key Congressional districts (i.e., the members of Congress who chair relevant committees), again with the simple, clear message: if a politician tells you the jury is still out on man-made climate change, he's lying.
Then take the most noteworthy climate scientists in particular states where members of Congress are beholden to those who might see value in obfuscating climate science and have them deliver a clear, simple message to the media there: if a politician tells you the jury is still out on man-made climate change, he's lying.
Do it first. Do it NOW. Do it again and again and again. Have the scientific details available in a hand-out for anyone who asks, but keep the message clear and simple. Yes, it's been done before, but not like this. Hey, politics is inherently uncomfortable, regardless of the level of "civility," but leave no doubt about what's the truth and what's a lie.
If a politician tells you the jury is still out on man-made climate change, he's lying.