Advocacy is scientists' responsibility



In reading S. Fred Singer's comments in Forum (Eos, May 21, 1991) on the earlier letter by Kaula and Anderson on AGU's proper role in society (Eos, April 9, 1991), I find myself entirely in agreement with his admonition that AGU positions, in this case specifically on global warming, must add “a certain amount of political sophistication.” But while I cannot disagree with the view that geophysicists should confine their advice to matters in which they have expertise, I also wonder if any of us deserves criticism when, noting the difficulty political leaders have in connecting causes with effects, we yield occasionally to the temptation to stray beyond mere facts and spell out potentially unfavorable connections. Early linking of complex but subtly related phenomena is one of the areas in which we have some credibility, is it not?

Even as scientists we are, after all, compelled to share destinies with the other passengers crammed into the stairwells of the national vehicle, a bus tailgating an oil tanker careening right and left at high speed down the global highway, driven by a crew of politicians drunk on paleozoic distillate and trained in the Alfred E. Newman College of Navigation, where the principal graduation requirement is an intense desire to sit in front and steer.