A voice of reason emerges in the ongoing and escalating “war rhetoric” over the past several months’ leaked e-mails, IPCC Himalayan glaciers blunder, screaming headlines, blustery blogs, and enflamed cable TV rhetoric.

It’s the voice of communications academician Matthew Nisbet of American University, a veteran of climate change communication studies, urging responsible climate scientists, in effect, to just cool it.

Nisbet’s March 18 posting at Slate has plenty of ammunition in pointing to the rising rhetoric surrounding the issue since the release of e-mails from the University of East Anglia last fall:

— a pounding drumbeat of blog postings making countless unsubstantiated claims for or against whatever doesn’t suit a particular bloviator’s often partisan position;

— an ill-tempered report by staffer of Senator James Inhofe (R-Ok), senior Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, hinting of possible criminal activities by some of the nation’s most respected climate scientists;

— responses by many within the climate science community concerning a new commitment to communicating more effectively their own scientific findings, and to quickly rebutting accusations they find wanting;

— some ham-handed defenses by some science defenders trying to address the problems but likely only making them more challenging by urging, in one case, “an outlandishly aggressive partisan approach.”

In his “Chill Out: Climate scientists are getting a little too angry for their own good” column, Nisbet writes that he believes the impact of the hacked e-mails developments on public attitudes toward climate change have been overestimated.

He says he is no fan of endless efforts by the scientific community to explain and re-explain the basis of climate change in hopes of winning more converts to their view. “What are needed are strategies that transcend the ideological divide, rather than strengthen it,” he argues. “Most importantly,” he says, “snarling, finger-in-the-eye responses to the skeptics risk alienating” those “ambivalent” about climate change.

Nisbet cautioned that instead of being drawn into the fray by climate skeptics, scientists and their professional societies should partner with opinion leaders from other sectors of society and engage local interests through public meetings and social media tools, thereby making the climate change issue “more personally relevant without getting mired in ideological differences.”

Nisbet’s brief column ought to be mandatory reading for all climate scientists concerned about the fraying around the edges of the body of work amassed over the past 20 years by IPCC.

Topics: Climate Science