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24

Feb

2009

Are Obama’s advisers Honest Brokers?

 

Roger Pielke’s The Honest Broker is a cautionary piece. So you’re a scientist, and in addition to your research, you want to engage the public sphere. Pielke’s point: when influencing policy, be an honest broker. Pretending to be impartial while plugging away at one’s own perspective only limits the viable options that could be considered in a debate.

The New York Times cited Pielke’s arguments this morning in its discussion of Obama’s science appointees.

‘Then there was the hearing in the Senate to confirm another physicist, John Holdren, to be the president’s science adviser. Dr. Holdren was asked about some of his gloomy neo-Malthusian warnings in the past, like his calculation in the 1980s that famines due to climate change could leave a billion people dead by 2020. Did he still believe that?

‘“I think it is unlikely to happen,” Dr. Holdren told the senators, but he insisted that it was still “a possibility” that “we should work energetically to avoid.”’

‘Well, I suppose it never hurts to go on the record in opposition to a billion imaginary deaths. But I have a more immediate concern: Will Mr. Obama’s scientific counselors give him realistic plans for dealing with global warming and other threats? To borrow a term from Roger Pielke Jr.: Can these scientists be honest brokers?

‘Dr. Pielke, a professor in the environmental studies program at the University of Colorado, is the author of “The Honest Broker,” a book arguing that most scientists are fundamentally mistaken about their role in political debates. As a result, he says, they’re jeopardizing their credibility while impeding solutions to problems like global warming.

‘Most researchers, Dr. Pielke writes, like to think of themselves in one of two roles: as a pure researcher who remains aloof from messy politics, or an impartial arbiter offering expert answers to politicians’ questions. Either way, they believe their research can point the way to correct public policies, and sometimes it does — when the science is clear and people’s values aren’t in conflict.’

The full article >>

There’s also a mention of our own Bjørn Lomborg!

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