Here are some actual quotes from mail. e-mails, and phone messages to climate scientists:
"You and your colleagues…ought to be shot, quartered and fed to the pigs."
"Just a quick note to encourage you to do the right thing and shoot yourself in the head."
"Wanker, you wanker you nead(sic) to be killed."
"Beware of retribution upon yours. Someone somewhere will hunt you down."
"I hope someone puts a bullet between your eyes."
"I hope your child sees your head in a basket after you've been guillotined."
We're talking about scientists here, people who have studied calculus and physics most of their lives, working behind-the-scenes. If they were interested in being celebrities they could have gone into the TV weather field. If they wanted to make a fortune, they could have used their intellect to make millions on Wall Street. If they wanted to change the world, they could have gotten into politics.
Many of those targeted by the above quotes are well-known in the climate change world: Michael Mann, Benjamin Santer, Phil Jones, and Katharine Hayhoe. Other climate scientists talk in more general terms about some of their "correspondence."
"a climate modeler was delivered a dead rat on his doorstep."
"an MIT hurricane researcher's inbox was flooded with hate mail and threats directed at him and his wife."
"in Australia in 2011, several climatologists were moved to a secure facility after climate-change skeptics began a barrage of vandalism, noose brandishing, and threats of sexual attacks on the scientists' children."
"…involve hastening my demise by inserting some oversized hardware into a secluded part of my anatomy."
Katharine Hayhoe happens to be an Evangelical Christian, and the daughter of missionaries, along with being Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech. She has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed publications and wrote the book A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. Time magazine called her one of the 100 most influential people in 2014. She sure doesn't sound like a left-wing alarmist. But she says she can get "up to 200 e-mails and letters a day following a media appearance."
And that's just the climate scientists. Now, some colleagues in the TV weather field have gotten threats just by talking about climate change.
My good friend Doug Kammerer, at WRC in Washington, D.C. made a simple comment after talking about the damaging derecho in 2012 that produced 86 mph wind gusts and caused more than a million homes to lose power:
Anchor: Is this something we could see more of in the future?
Doug: Yes. With global warming, more days with heat like this (104 degrees), there is the potential for more storms like we had today.
Reaction came immediately on Facebook and through e-mails:
"I'm going to find out where you live….."
"…and kick your ***"
"…you piece of s*** weatherman"
Plus other obscenities. Just for a single, brief ad-lib.
Other TV meteorologists have gotten hate mail, especially ones who used to be skeptics on climate change. This simply because they felt that, after years of careful study that the evidence led to a reversal of their positions held for decades. One of them repeated some comments to me…..
"…I would receive what one of the characters in (the movie) Deliverance did, and another that my family would receive the same fate (tortured and killed) that the family of Russell Crowe's character in Gladiator did."
So, Why is There So Much Hatred?
Yes, there's plenty of anger in the world today, especially in the world of social media. It's easy to make anonymous insults and threats that wouldn't dare be mentioned face-to-face. And, fortunately, we haven't seen actual incidents of violence toward climate scientists-yet. But some are indeed concerned that it's only a matter of time.
It's interesting, since people don't generally wish or threaten death or maiming unless there is some direct threat to them, their families, or those too weak to fight for themselves. Murderers, rapists, abusers of women or children-I can understand that level of hatred toward them. But to scientists who do research, and write, or speak publicly, or testify about their area of expertise? It just doesn't make sense. You can truly hate someone, such as a player for another sports team, without wishing real harm to them or their family.
And, as mentioned earlier, there is a special level of hatred for those who consider themselves "conservative Christians" who have changed their mind on Climate Change. Is it like having a family member becoming an atheist-or joining ISIS? Could it be that those "traitors" would have extra credibility since they wouldn't have an ideological reason to change their mind? And that would be more of a threat to the rejecters of the consensus?
Hate From the climate change acceptors
I've tried to find descriptions of similar threats toward those who reject the climate science consensus, but haven't found any (feel free to send me any reports. It would be only fair to mention them). There is obviously some angry and insulting feedback.
Their anger has generally been perceived as an effort to stifle any debate on the issue. Calling anyone who disagrees with the consensus a "denier" is a pretty strong description. There are obviously levels of disagreement, whether it is about the proposed 'solutions" all the way to those who call it all a "hoax," Are they all equal in being called "deniers"?
I think I understand the anger on this side. Some truly feel that anything blocking the acceptance of the science is potentially harmful to the future of the planet. "There is no Planet B", as they say. If we don't reduce CO2 emissions sharply (and soon), we might pass a "tipping point" where global warming will continue out of control and can't be reversed. In this case, they're not protecting themselves or their family, but all of mankind.
Can’t We Be More Civilized?
Not all of those who reject the climate change consensus are "deniers". Some disagree about the amount, speed, and consequences of future warming.
Not all of those who accept the climate change consensus care about the issue just out of hatred for the oil and gas industry, or as a way to distribute global wealth. Or any other motive except a concern for the future of the planet.
Yes, it's an issue that brings out strong emotions. But so do many other issues that don't involve threats, or attempts to stifle dissent. Can't we be more civilized about this?
Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz
Chief Meteorologist, NBC10 Philadelphia