Scientist Ray Bradley vents about with what he views as the political chicanery aimed at climate scientists for, in effect, ‘just doing their work’ … and finding evidence of a human-caused warming climate.

Interested in reading a no-holds-barred/tells-it-like-he-sees-it first-hand account by a prominent climate scientist?

Look no further than University of Massachusetts Professor Raymond S. Bradley’s just-published Global Warming and Political Intimidation: How Politicians Cracked Down on Scientists as the Earth Heated Up.

Book Review

Bradley was one of the two co-authors of the much-discussed report leading to the iconic “hockey stick” image, seemingly destined to forever be climate contrarians’ favorite punching bag. He clearly and vividly brings experiences related to that work to the table in this 168-page paperback.

Bradley, according to a former student, is one who can often be soft-spoken and reserved. But he is also capable of letting it all hang out when the pressure mounts. In this book, he pulls no punches.

He peppers his recollections with a host of snappy zingers that can only remind one of the “speak truth to power” cliché so many less secure academics might try to artfully finesse. No finessing for Bradley, as in:

  • In discussing colleague Malcolm Hughes’s invitation to an influential congressman [Texas Republican Joe Barton and what Bradley refers to as Barton’s “co-inquisitors”] he refers to Hughes’ having invited the legislator to visit Tucson and learn first-hand from his University of Arizona tree-ring research. Saber pulled, Bradley adds: “He might have added, there’s a nice airport in Tucson where you can land your industry-sponsored jet.”
  • He writes about preparing for a Barton-led House committee meeting, day-dreaming that he would open his testimony by saying, “‘I am now and have always been a climate scientist!’ When Barton asked me a question, I would respond by saying, ‘Congressman McCarthy — I mean, Barton ….’ I would refuse to take it lying down.”
  • Referring to Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe’s commitment to “sound science,” Bradley writes that “It was analogous to Fox News appropriating the term ‘fair and balanced,’ when much of what the network reported on this issue was about as far from that standard as you could get.”
  • “It would not be too surprising if Barton’s view of the world was simply whatever he could see from the top of a drill rig …. I don’t need lectures from the likes of Joe Barton about respect for hard-working taxpayers.”
  • “Looking back on the whole experience with Congressman Barton and his henchmen, and Senator Inhofe and his bizarre obsession with the hockey stick graph …. the idea of killing off the graph became synonymous with discrediting the entire IPCC.”

You get the picture here: No academic niceties or “my good friend from the fine state of XYZ” here. Just plain-old hard-ball Ray Bradley. And his zingers aren’t reserved solely for legislators who get his goat, as when he points to “the usual lapdog bloggers and petulant whiners,” various “demagogues,” and “that paragon of well-balanced humility Rush Limbaugh.”

Along with his sharp words for his climate detractors, Bradley also voices his sharp ideas and bright hopes that society still might “at least try to find a path that limits the worst case scenarios.” He’s holding out for “solutions that provide us multiple benefits — not just reduced emissions but new ‘green’ industries, more jobs, economic growth, reestablishment of degraded ecosystems, reduced dependence on foreign energy supplies, and improvements in the standard of living for tens of millions of people around the world.”

“I believe that we can make necessary changes, and that we must demand government action to address these issues,” he writes, without venturing further into the contemporary political morass that inevitably would stall increased government action.

“I take this position on the basis of my understanding of the science of global warming,” he writes. “Science must remain separate from politics, but once scientists understand the issues, we must then decide our own political stance.

“By the same token, politics must stay out of science. Once politicians try to influence public opinion by manipulating scientific information or suppressing the findings of government scientists, we enter a world of duplicity and deception. Trust evaporates and cynicism triumphs. And then we all lose.”

In closing, Bradley points to global warming as a problem caused by humans and one that can be solved by humans. “This is the challenge for us all, and one that I am confident we can overcome,” he concludes, “provided we do not succumb to political intimidation and the dictates of denialists.”

Bradley, for one, seems not about to.

In a phone interview, Bradley told The Yale Forum he had found the writing of the book to be “a cathartic effort,” and that before writing it he “had not realized how much it had affected me, going though that experience” of what he called the “political shenanigans.” Saying he was a “minor player” compared to some other scientists targeted for withering personal attacks, he added that “the book was a way of getting it all out and getting it behind me. Once I wrote the book, I felt good about it, sort of like I had just had a shower, and had washed all that crap away.”

Bradley said he anticipates a resurgence of attacks on climate scientists when the next IPCC assessment is issued, commenting that “these things tend to run in IPCC cycles.” He wonders which scientists — “who will be next?” in his words — will next find themselves targeted for personal vilification. He said he seldom discusses political and policy issues in the classroom except when specifically asked to do so … and he acknowledged those questions and speaking opportunities are arising more often now with his book having been recently released. He said the university and its chancellor have been fully supportive of the published book and of his “sharp elbows” in characterizing some of his critics.

Global Warming and Political Intimidation, University of Massachusetts Press, Copyright 2011, ISBN 978-1-55849-868-6 in paper.

Bud Ward

Bud Ward is Editor of Yale Climate Connections. He started his environmental journalism career in 1974. He later served as Assistant Director of the U.S. Congress's National Commission on Air Quality,...