We are facing a well-organized and well-funded campaign attacking our science and our integrity, spreading confusion and disinformation, says Pieter P. Tans, a leading climate scientist at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. Tans talked about the civic responsibility of scientists in his remarks on receiving the 2010 Roger Revelle Medal at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December 2010.
As reported in the January 11 issue of Eos,Transactions, American Geophysical Union (by subscription), the weekly newspaper of the Earth and space sciences:
The Roger Revelle medal awarded to Dr. Tans is for outstanding contributions in atmospheric sciences, atmosphere-ocean coupling, atmosphere-land coupling, biogeochemical cycles, climate, or related aspects of the Earth system.
The award Citation begins:
Pieter Tans has dedicated his scientific career to the study of the carbon cycle. He has been the leader in global monitoring of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since joining the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the mid-1980s to guide the growth of the NOAA network. Through his leadership, this observation system is now unparalleled in the world, providing nearreal time data of the highest quality and making these data freely available to all.
Pieters accomplishments are many and varied. His 1990 paper with Inez Fung and Taro Takahashi (Science, 247, 14311438) was a landmark work that showed that it was highly likely that the missing sink for CO2 lay in the Northern Hemisphere terrestrial biosphere.
Finally, while the global carbon cycle community has benefited most from Pieters leadership, scholarship, generosity, and persistence throughout his career, it is clear that society as a whole has benefited as well. Climate and environmental change brought on by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a global problem that affects us all and will continue to affect generations to come. Pieter Tans was and continues to be the right person at the right time, guiding the worlds premier observing system, devising new ways to use and understand the data, enabling carbon cycle scientists around the world by providing free and timely access to the highest-quality data, and leading the development of carbon cycle science. He is most worthy of the Revelle Medal; it is a privilege to honor his lifetime of selfless commitment to science.
Dr. Tans, in his response said:
Revelle has always been an example to me of how a scientist can provide a service to society by helping to create awareness of important emerging environmental problems and by creating knowledge that can be important when tackling such problems.
And concludes with this strong statement, addressed to his fellow climate scientists:
As climate scientists we now find ourselves in the situation that our subject is widely understood to be so relevant to society that many powerful interest groups feel threatened. Thus, we are facing a well-organized and well-funded campaign attacking our science and our integrity, spreading confusion and disinformation. This is not surprising, as mitigating climate change goes to the core of our energy supply system and the broader economic system. Human-made climate change demonstrates that we cannot continue business as usual. Should we ignore the deliberate lies and manipulations we face and stick purely with the science, hoping that sound judgment and compassion will eventually prevail? We are scientists, but we are also citizens. It is our civic responsibility to redouble our efforts to convey to the public clearly the urgency and the essence of the climate change problem. The kind of world we leave to our children and grandchildren depends on it. It will have to be a world that has as one of its guiding principles a Sanskrit prayer that was used as a dedication in the above mentioned 1972 book: Oh Mother Earth, ocean-girdled and mountain-breasted, pardon me for trampling on you.
Amen. Congratulations and thank you.