Academics and others who question some or most of climate change dogma have been hounded by the environmental movement, fellow professors, the media and more for many years.
It's not easy being even a tiny skeptic.
Take the case of Roger Peilke Jr. of the University of Colorado. Peilke actually believes in man-made warming and supports a carbon tax, but had the temerity to publish research refuting data from the UN and others that claimed recent years had seen big increases in natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, floods, etc., all supposedly caused by rising temperatures across the globe.
"My research led me to a conclusion that many climate campaigners find unacceptable: There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the US or globally," Pielke recently wrote in a guest column for the Wall Street Journal. "In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather. This is a topic I've studied and published on as much as anyone over two decades. My conclusion might be wrong, but I think I've earned the right to share this research without risk to my career."
But his apostasy has in fact put his career at risk. For example, the Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, has taken credit for getting Pielke fired from a writing job at Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website.
In 2015, Pielke was quoted in an article in the Los Angeles Times, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John.
St. John later emailed Pielke that "You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London Guardian, Mother Jones, and Media Matters."
Later, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, began a federal investigation of Pielke because he did not like the professor's research, though that investigation in the end went nowhere.
But now, with Donald Trump poised to enter the White House in under three weeks, climate skeptics are hoping they can come in from the cold - and maybe even receive some research dollars to support their efforts.
"Researchers who see global warming as something less than a planet-ending calamity believe the incoming Trump administration may allow their views to be developed and heard. This didn't happen under the Obama administration, which denied that a debate even existed," James Varney of the RealClearPolitics website recently wrote.
Georgia Tech scientist Judith Curry has been among the global warming skeptics.
"Here's to hoping the Age of Trump will herald the demise of climate change dogma, and acceptance of a broader range of perspectives in climate science and our policy options," Curry recently wrote on her Climate Etc. blog.
William Happer, professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is similarly optimistic. "I think we're making progress," Happer said. "I see reassuring signs."
Many of these skeptics believe there is some man-made global warming, but doubt the impact will be anywhere near as severe as the view of the UN and the heart of the anti-global warming movement. Many of these skeptics point to data that indicates there has been no warming for 20 years, contrary to predictions by numerous computer models.
And the hope by the skeptics is that government funding for their research will start to flow, after basically being shut off not only in the eight years of the Obama administration but under George W. Bush before Obama as well.
Currently, some $2.5 billion in taxpayer dollars is annually spent on climate research across 13 different federal agencies.
"In reality, it's the government, not the scientists, that asks the questions," said David Wojick, a longtime government consultant who has closely tracked climate research spending since 1992. If a federal agency wants models that focus on potential sea-level rise, for example, it can order them up. But it can also shift the focus to how warming might boost crop yields or improve drought resistance.
"That sharp disagreements are real in the field may come as a shock to many people, who are regularly informed that climate science is settled and those who question this orthodoxy are akin to Holocaust deniers," Varney wrote.
He cites new organizations like the CO2 Coalition, founded in 2015, that suggest the debate is more evenly matched among academics and scientists than is commonly portrayed. In addition to Happer, the CO2Coalition's initial members include scholars with ties to world-class institutions like MIT, Harvard and Rockefeller University. The coalition also features members of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society, along with policy experts from the Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute and Tufts University's Fletcher School.
"The debate over global warming might shift," Varney added. "Until now, it's normally portrayed as enlightened scholars versus anti-science simpletons. A more open debate could shift the discussion to one about global warming's extent and root causes."
But researchers who have prospered from grants that align with the anti-global warming agenda will fight hard to keep that federal largess rolling.
"Even in 1990 no one at MIT called themselves a 'climate scientist,' and then all of a sudden everyone was," says Richard Lindzen, the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at MIT and a member of the National Academy of Sciences who has long questioned climate change orthodoxy. He added that "They only entered it because of the bucks; they realized it was a gravy train. You have to get it back to the people who only care about the science."
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