A bunch of climate scientists have apparently decided to take things into their own hands (my emphasis):
Let’s stipulate for the purpose of argument that the people running the American Geophysical Union are right about the science of climate change and its implications for public policy. Why aren’t voters listening?“Faced with rising political attacks, hundreds of climate scientists are joining a broad campaign to push back against congressional conservatives who have threatened prominent researchers with investigations and vowed to kill regulations to rein in man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
“The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics, some of whom gained new power after the Republicans won control of the House in Tuesday's election.
“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.”
One set of answers turns on the alleged irrationality of voters. President Obama has recently supplied us his own theory of this form: "Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time,” he told a room full of Democratic fat cats, “is because we're hardwired not to always think clearly when we're scared." The implication, I guess, is that if voters would just take a deep breath and relax, they’d start listening to what people in the know are telling them. Obama might be right, but it’s an awfully convenient thing for him and the climate scientists who support Cap-and-Trade to believe.
Here’s an alternative explanation that turns on the limited political self-consciousness of the climate scientists. Isn’t it a little strange that it seems never to have occurred to the leaders of the American Geophysical Union to ask whether they, qua scientists, have any business “going toe-to-toe” with “congressional conservatives”? It goes without saying that scientists have as much right to be politically active as anyone else. But that doesn’t mean that their scientific expertise will, or should be, a source of political power.
Lots of important public policy issues turn on the findings of natural and social science. So it makes some sense on such matters for voters to defer to a scientist’s relevant expertise. All other things being equal, a politically controversial proposition that turns on scientific judgments is more likely to be true just because a highly credentialed scientist says it.
Yet a scientist's intellectual authority in matters of public policy extends only to the aspects of their views that are dictated by the expert application of the norms of scientific objectivity. To that extent, scientific expertise can exert a benign influence on public policy without the expert’s exerting political power herself. To the extent the scientist’s public policy advice is an expression of her own ethical and political values, however, according special political weight to her policy preferences is a form of double counting that has no place in a one-person-one-vote democracy.
Such double counting is plainly what the scientists at the American Geophysical Society are after. They mean to turn their scientific expertise into a weapon of hand-to-hand political combat. But the political power of a scientific community is an exhaustible resource; it vanishes as soon as the voting public starts to suspect that the community’s professions of scientific objectivity camouflage naked political advocacy. ClimateGate planted that suspicion in the public mind. It’s hard to think of a better way of nurturing it than for professional scientific organizations to set up shop in the political advocacy business.