From the ABC 7 Weather team

Met Office chief gets death threats from climate-skeptic fringe

April 19, 2011 - 03:22 PM
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Another day, another climate scientist marked for death. This time the target is John Hirst, head of the Met Office, which is British counterpart to the National Weather Service.

Differences in March 2011 world temperatures, compared to the 1971-2000 average. Some skeptics no doubt believe that whoever made this image should choke on a chicken bone. (NOAA)

Another day, another believer in manmade climate change marked for death. This time the target is John Hirst, head of the Met Office, which is like the British counterpart to NOAA.

Hirst opened up about the threats during a recent talk at the University of Exeter. Oddly enough, he was discussing trying to reach out to a prominent climate skeptic, U.K. celebrity Johnny Ball, who reportedly has received death threats himself from climate-change believers. (Yes, the river of hate flows both ways.)

"I wrote to Johnny and said: 'I get death threats too, it's crazy,” Hirst said. “'Why don't we talk, because if we can take some of this small 'p' politics out of this conversation we might do a service to the world.'"

Hirst didn't mention specific threats, but judging from hate mail sent to climatologists in the past he might've been told to “gargle razor blades,” sink “6 feet under, with the roots” or simply stand inside his house while a yawning earthquake “swallows you into hell.” The skeptical fringe can be quite creative, when motivated.

What put Hirst in the crosshairs? For one thing, the Met Office regularly promotes global warming as a fact when, as the fringe knows, it's actually activist scientists who want to steal our freedoms, or something. The Met also takes the stance that “Climategate” was no a big deal. (It wasn't, as several investigations have found.) Also, Hirst's organization predicted a “barbecue summer” in 2009 when in fact it rained part of the time. And nobody likes rain.

If you're not engaged in the climate debate, it might take a moment to become royally peeved at this. But think about it: What these furious keyboard pounders are doing is no different than second-guessing every move a homicide detective makes, or slapping microscope slides out of the hands of an epidemiologist.

Why on earth would you wish death upon professionals just doing their jobs? If they were performing gruesome medical experiments – sure, that'd be kind of understandable. But by all appearances these are scientists who are working for the good of all humanity, skeptics included.

Hirst's admission puts him in the company of Phil Jones, a “Climategate” scientist who said he considered suicide after receiving death threats from all over the world. There's also Stephen Schneider of Stanford University, who popped up on a white-power “death list” of Jewish scientists; Michael Mann, the whistleblower behind historical global warming, who noted threats corresponded with attacks from right-wing media personalities; Kevin Trenberth, a climate analyst at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, who maintains a log of bullying e-mails that last year ran on for 20 pages (in 10 point font); Tom Wigley, also of NCAR, who said the threats he received were “truly stomach-turning and show what sort of venomous monsters we are up against”; and undoubtedly many others.

Climatologists aren't the only ones on the receiving end of these lunatic attacks. Physicists who built the Large Hadron Collider got them from people who believer their particle accelerator would destroy the world. Last month, Muslim physicist Usama Hasan withdrew his claim that Islam and evolution were compatible after fundamentalists issued assassination threats.

And then there's Galileo, threatened with torture for claiming the earth circles the Sun. Glad to know we've changed so much since 1633.

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