Keeping the climate catastrophe message on track: a friendly warning from a colleague

Given the issues raised by the Nature Communications blacklist fiasco last week, I thought it might be useful to show readers who don’t work in science an example of the kind of not-so-subtle dissuasion that can be used by scientists-with-a-climate-message to keep their colleagues in line.

Sea_ice_near_coast_of_Labrador_-b_wikimedia_sm_26 March 2007

A male colleague I know from work in another field of biology recently sent me a cordial email that I’m sure he thought was simply helpful advice to a like-minded associate. I doubt he realized how outrageously patronizing and presumptuous he was being.

If I were a female scientist with less confidence and experience, a note like this might have intimidated me into silence. The fact that he thought it was an appropriate thing to do is one of the reasons we have such a problem in science right now. See what you think:

Dear Susan,

An item in your polar bear science blog is apparently being used by an alt-right twitter handle to promote the idea of a lack of global warming, called @uk_ecology

I follow some Brexiteers, so twitter helpfully sends me climate denial info too. They seem to align, politically speaking!

I checked your blog, and as far as I could tell, you’re not promoting an agenda against climate science, as you admit that global warming is happening and you show nice graphs of it. As far as I could tell from a quick browse, you’re actually just saying that polar bears are actually doing ok, at least so far. And you refuse to make any predictions about what will happen if the polar ice cap is really strongly reduced.

Unfortunately, I’m not up on polar bear population ecology. So I can’t exactly tell whether you are really dedicated to factual reporting about the polar bear, or whether you do really have a sort of agenda to tell people it’s ok to burn more fossil fuels.

I’d like to direct you to the relevant tweet that I think you can access by simply clicking on a link without being on twitter:

If your aim is not to feed this denial agenda that everything’s ok with the climate, and you believe at all that it might be bad for polar bears, you might like to choose words more carefully, especially for headlines, which might be the only thing people read.

Best wishes, Jxx
Feel free to contact me by email.

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