IMAGINE coming in to work and opening your inbox to read an email asking you to “kill yourself” before another note reads “I hope someone puts a bullet between your eyes”.
How about another email where the sender describes themselves as a “one man swat team” telling you to “back the F*** off” or they will “smack the living sh** out of you”.
Another emailer says “I’d kill you in a second if given the chance” and another writes that you have been “blacklisted” and that “your children and family will know because we know where you live… expect us at your door to say hello.”
This is not an imaginary scenario, but is instead a sample from the inbox of climate scientist Professor Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia in the UK, as revealed following a Freedom of Information request released this week.
Professor Jones wasn’t alone in the halls of his university. The FOI reveals how a presumably US-based emailer warned that if Professor Edward Acton, the university’s vice-chancellor, was to ever travel to America that “we will have plans for you as well. If you bring your family, all the merrier.” The Professor was also reminded of the emailer’s Second Amendment rights to carry a gun.
Well… isn’t that special? Perhaps not, but it certainly shouldn’t be surprising, especially to any working climate scientist or communicator, including lowly bloggers with a following smaller than the number of unicyclists (or even unicorns) in the average mid-size American city.
See also Michael Mann’s recent CNN piece about this phenomenon of scientist abuse, or this account of what happened to Katharine Hayhoe, partially as a result of prodding by Rush Limbaugh. Of course, the good Senator from the great state of Oklahoma, James Inhofe, makes a cameo appearance.
I’ll leave the analysis of what makes a portion of the climate change deniers act in such disgusting and uncivilized ways to Chris Mooney and others; I have neither the time nor the inclination nor the right skill set (read: strong enough stomach) to go sewer diving, regardless of the potential for finding pearls of enlightenment.
I will, however, make one prediction, which some of you have no doubt heard from me in one corner or another of the infosphere: Expect things to get much, much worse. The climate change deniers, from those driven by immense financial incentives (like coal company execs) to those at the mercy of their ideological demons (like those sending those revolting e-mails), have bet so heavily on not just the wrong side of the argument, but on a side that will be increasingly seen by the mainstream consumers and voters to be wrong. And that’s a critical detail; the deniers know they can’t overturn science, and they’re not even trying. Their game is to sow enough FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that they can stop us from taking the needed steps to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, like impose a carbon tax that 100% refunded on a per capita basis. The more the general public figures out that golly, those scientist dudes and dudettes got that whole global warming thing right, all along, and now we’re in trouble because we didn’t listen, the more desperate the deniers will get. And that will translate into more and more vicious personal attacks, more creative ways of lying about science, and generally not being the nicest people on the block.
I’ve been predicting for some time that this will result in more polarization, more unnecessary pain for everyone involved, right up to the moment when their house of cards comes tumbling down. Then, like the Y2k fear mongers who awoke on January 2, 2000 to a world still humming along nicely, they’ll try to disappear or claim they never said what we all know they did. The problem, of course, is that unlike Y2k, when we fixed the bloody problem and avoided all the horrors of a crashed infostructure and economy, we’ll still be left with the climate change impacts amplified by decades of delay thanks to the climate change deniers. The result will be not just much more human suffering and higher cost, but far more intrusive government action than the deniers themselves claim to be against. Not that I would expect them to see and appreciate such nuance.
I hope you’ll excuse me now. I have to go sit by my e-mail client and wait for the usual hate mail and comments to appear here.
 Consider, if you will, the utter absurdity of the ideological deniers fighting such a proposal. They tend not to be among the top 1% in income, and they would almost certainly be among those who would personally benefit from such a tax-and-refund system, simply because they’re not the ones with multiple SUVs, lots of airplane flights, McMansions, etc. that would rack up big carbon tax bills and turn money over to people like them. They’re so blinded by their fear and hatred of collective action, especially anything involving (gasp!) government, that they’re walking away from free money.