Katharine Hayhoe is an associate professor of geoscience at Texas Tech, a climate researcher who has suggested the northeastern USA prepare for hotter summers and shorter winters, and the deeply Christian wife of an evangelical preacher. She was invited by Newt Gingrich's co-author to contribute the opening chapter on climate change to an upcoming book on environmental entrepreneurship. Of course, that was before Newt decided to run for the presidency, felt the need to atone for his moment on the couch with Nancy Pelosi, determined that "conservatism" referred to conserving destructive momentum rather than conserving the earth, and spiked Hayhoe's chapter which explained why environmental entrepreneurs were any more valuable than the inventor of the next pet rock or chia head.
None of which would be particularly troubling, were it not for the apparent decision by the folks Newt's now moving heaven and earth to been seen in agreement with to throw Hayhoe under the bus. Any bus will do. Marc Morano (libertarian,climate change denialist, former spokesman for James Inhofe and producer for Rush Limbaugh) has attacked her personally and repeatedly, and has posted her email address so that his followers can pile on at will. Limbaugh has made disrespectful (I'm trying to tone this down) comments about her on the air. Others of a similar persuasion have filed Freedom of Information Act requests for her emails (Texas Tech being a public institution, and all that).
All of which, of course, gives Hayhoe pause when it comes to speaking in public about her research. Pause, but not petrification. Her words about the chilling effect this sort of very public abuse has, and is likely to continue to have, on climate scientists are instructive.
From time to time, I hear about threats to academic freedom. Most of what I hear described as threats, however, are not nearly as personal, as powerful, as threatening, as pernicious, as despicable or as likely to constrain academic freedom in practical terms as the behavior to which Katharine Hayhoe has been subjected.
Yet silence resounds through the groves of academe.
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