I recently sent a second email to Professor Hunter, asking if he would care to revise or review negative comments he made about the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition’s (NZCSC) court action against NIWA. The point at issue was that the so-called New Zealand temperature record was not based upon good science, and the NZCSC highlighted this as a result of the court action. Professor Hunter was critical of the court action, and I requested his views on his original comments in light of events. I have now had a reply as follows:
“I never respond to emails from anonymous people. As far as I can see your name is [my first name] which is about as anonymous as one can get. Enough said.”
Of itself, this is an interesting response, and prompts me to explain why I have remained anonymous. The reason for my anonymity is best expressed by Professor Vincent Cortillot, in the video of a presentation that can be found here. As part of his discourse, he explains that he has no research students working with him, and explains this by suggesting that he is concerned that their careers would be limited by working with him. I no longer have the references, but some time ago there was discussion about the fact that most academic skeptics were older, or were retired. One argument was that they were ‘past it’ and the other was that only older academics could risk the harm to their career that is associated with being a climate change skeptic. I felt the latter view best expressed the problem.
I have seen something of the problem myself. About a year ago I met an academic who was conducting research which was producing results that questioned the so-called consensus. I spoke with him for about half an hour and it sounded like his research was proving very costly in terms of his career. As a mid-career academic, I think that his work might see him very poorly placed for the future.
The reason why I recount these points is that I am at a very early stage in my own academic career. I considered the question of anonymity carefully. In light of the fact that this is just a blog, and my contribution to the debate about climate change is just one view (and as I am not engaged in research), I decided to remain anonymous. Quite simply, the impact of a blog versus the potential harm to my career made anonymity a better option. The cost of the anonymity is that I might receive responses such as the one from Professor Hunter.
There is a larger question here, which is how it is that I should have such a concern for my career in the first place. There is something terribly wrong that I am concerned for my career when simply writing a blog on an issue of scientific controversy. Perhaps there would be no negative outcome, but I certainly perceive that there is a real risk. This is not how academia is supposed to work, but there is something alarmingly oppressive about the whole issue of climate change in academia. I do not hide my views from my colleagues, but I am also concerned that putting my views into writing is a different proposition.
I have forwarded a link to this article to Professor Hunter, in the hope that he will nevertheless respond to the original questions. In the meantime, you might wish to contemplate why I should be so concerned that I must remain anonymous. After all, it is not as if I am discussing something like holocaust denial…