In today’s odd academic culture, including the world of climate science, academic freedom applies selectively. People use their positions and their email for politicking and electioneering and have no trouble retaining their jobs. But using your email to send out some inconvenient, apolitical weather data that says something your boss or your governor may not like can get you fired.
I can’t count the number of emails I received in my thirty years at University of Virginia where this faculty member or that administrator urged me to support some piece of legislation. But the latest email kerfluffle, involving Phil Mote, director of the Oregaon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University, goes a bit further.
Mote was upset that Art Robinson, a physician from Cave Junction, Oregon, won the Republican primary for Oregon’s fourth congressional district.
That’s because Robinson was behind the “Oregon Petition Project,” in which over 31,000 people, largely science professionals (including over 9,000 with doctorates), signed on to a document stating that there was “no scientific evidence” that greenhouse gas emissions could cause “catastrophic heating” in the foreseeable future.
Robinson did not harp on this issue in the campaign. Instead he ran against the general politics of 12-term incumbent Pete deFazio, including his March vote for President Obama’s health care bill. With that one, deFazio probably voted himself out of Congress.
In response to Robinson’s Republican primary win, Mote wrote to his colleagues at Oregon State University emphasizing that Robinson was the force behind the Petition Project and that, if he were elected, OSU would be put in the “tragic ranks of our climate colleagues at University of Oklahoma…and University of Alaska,” where elected officials have the temerity to disagree with Mote about global warming. He signed his missive as “Director, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Oregon Climate Services.” Eventually he emailed his colleagues, calling his initial message a “mistake.”
Hardly. Consider the shady track record of climatology in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.