Scientists hit by climate doubt fallout

Fallout from a loss of public confidence in climate science is affecting other fields of research, a top US academic claimed.





American opinion polls point to a general deterioration in people's faith in science, according to Dr Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences.



It came after two major public relations setbacks for the global warming gurus.



One was the "climategate" scandal involving leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which led to accusations that scientists manipulated and suppressed data.



The other was an admission by the United Nations' influential climate change body that it issued flawed data about the rate at which Himalayan glaciers were melting.



Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that the mountain range could lose all its glaciers by 2035. In fact the claim had no valid scientific backing.



Speaking about "transparency and integrity in science" today at the world's biggest science conference in San Diego, California, Dr Cicerone said there had been a loss of public trust in climatology that appeared to be spreading.



Polls conducted in the US had shown that people now had a worse opinion of scientists than before.



Addressing the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), he said: "I think the damage has spilled over to other kinds of science. I don't think it's fair, but we have to address our fundamentals in any case as we improve science. Let's do it, and I hope we can set a new level of transparency and trust."



Dr Cicerone is himself a distinguished climate scientist. In 2001, he led a National Academy of Sciences study on the current state of climate change and its impact on the environment and human health.



He was highly critical of the IPCC's handling of its mistake, which resulted in an embarrassing retraction after being brought to light by New Scientist magazine.



The body admitted that "clear and well-established standards of evidence" had not been properly applied. However, it insisted the glitch did not undermine the large body of evidence showing that human activity was causing climate change.



A number of senior experts have since said it is unrealistic to suppose that the mighty Himalayan glaciers could vanish within a few decades.



Dr Cicerone pointed out that the IPCC was widely viewed as the foremost authority on climate change, adding: "the greater the stature of the institution, the harder the fall".



He said: "The IPCC could have gone public with all the information and said, 'Here's what happened and we screwed up'.



"It didn't and I think that hurts the reputation of the institution."



Lord Rees, Astronomer Royal and president of the Royal Society, said two particular aspects of climate science made it difficult to communicate to members of the public. First, it was "diffuse and international", and secondly it was "remote in time".



"The consequences will only affect the next generation and not us," he told the meeting. "These are the two features that make it hard to get the public exercised about the need to do something about climate change."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence