Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Bush Repression of Global Warming Science was Truly Totalitarian
Suzanne Goldenberg's piece today put me in mind of Trofim Lysenko(pictured), the 'scientist' in thirties USSR who told Stalin what he wanted to hear first about agriculture, then genetics and broader areas of science. Lysenko was a charlatan, of course, but he nevertheless became a senior official in charge of scientific research who allowed his protection from on high to indulge his quick temper and dislike of criticism. Many of his opponents were arrested and executed. I can think of a few academics who would welcome such power today actually, but there inevitably comes a reckoning. After surviving Stalin's death Soviet scientists eventually summoned the courage to expose this dangerous fraud. Typically it was Andrei Sakharov in 1964 who delivered the first denunciation:
He is responsible for the shameful backwardness of Soviet biology and of genetics in particular, for the dissemination of pseudo-scientific views, for adventurism, for the degradation of learning, and for the defamation, firing, arrest, even death, of many genuine scientists.
It then became open season on Lysenko and his reputation was shredded by furious Soviet scientists, though he continued to be respected in China for a while. The reckoning for George Bush on climate change seems also to be arriving. A Congressional hearing yesterday exposed the campaign from the White House to eliminate references in scientific reports to 'global warming' or even 'climate change'. It seems, in a further echo of totalitarian practice, the Bush administration 'assigned minders' to scientists to keep their research output on message.
One example of the control exercised was the insistence by officials that a NASA report on rapid warming in the Antarctic was renamed, meaninglessly as Scientists Study Antarctic Climate Change. Much of this control was exerted by one Philip Cooney, who used to work as a lobbyist for the oil industry and who was made chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. He has now gone 'home' and works for Exxon Mobil. He must have one of the best claims to be the modern Lysenko; but if we agree that comparison, who would that make George Bush?