While I am as dismayed as any civilized person must be by the brutal threats reportedly directed at climate change proposers (PHYSICS TODAY, February 2012, page 22), I am not at all surprised. That kind of behavior is typical in politics, and the climate scientists involved must recognize that when you tell people what they must do, you are practicing politics, not science.

I use the phrase “climate change proposers” to combat the pejorative “climate change deniers” that is commonly used. No one denies that climates change, locally and globally; however, there is a disagreement about how much is due to human activity. Resolution of that question is, undeniably, important, and not getting it right could have significant consequences, but the cheap shots in the PHYSICS TODAY story are good neither for the publication nor for the science it is supposed to support.

Although there is significant evidence that global warming is occurring, and models strongly suggest that it is due to human activity, climate change promoters go beyond science to characterize global warming as bad or destructive. That is no longer science but evaluation, which moves their pronouncements into the realm of politics. If they wish to be treated like scientists, they should stick to science—reporting facts as measured and correlations as inferred—and leave the inferences and implications to leaders who are used to and prepared for the vicissitudes of politics. If climate change promoters choose to enter that arena, they must expect to abide by its norms, not the more refined ones we strive for in science.

Proposers should recognize that whether change is good or bad depends on much more than the simple fact of change. To give an example, the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage because of ice melt likely will have a negative impact on the economy of Panama, but it will reduce both transportation costs and carbon monoxide emissions from ships engaged in world commerce.

I certainly agree that science “should be the ultimate tool,” but let’s make it good quality science. If the models are so good, did we just not hear about their predictions of what Toni Feder reports as “decade-long periods with little or no warming”? And if not, why not?

There is no better evidence of the political nature of the actions of climate change proposers than the formation of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team. Neither Charles Darwin nor Isaac Newton needed gangs to support or defend them.