Saturday, February 20, 2010

Damage lies in perceptions - The Cape Breton Post

Sometimes politicians and scientists forget who they work for and focus their productivity toward a small vested interest - namely themselves. In an ideal world both groups should be actively finding solutions that benefit mankind with transparency and debate. Alas this is not an ideal world and regular purging of wrongdoers has become not only possible, but obligatory because of online collaboration of those outside the cozy peer group.
The parallel between the MLA spending controversy and Climategate is not obvious, but try this. Nova Scotia MLAs and the scientists involved in the UN’s reports on climate change have failed the public in similar ways by providing too easy opportunity for the harshest critics to discredit these entire enterprises.

In the overall scheme, abuse of expense entitlements, as Finance Minister Graham Steele points out, amounts to a drop in the bucket. Similarly, the alleged misdeeds of climate scientists at East Anglia University, whose emails were leaked in November, and the goofs uncovered in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, do not, as the skeptics and deniers claim, unhinge the case for human-driven global warming.
However, careless indulgence, amounting to arrogant negligence in both cases, has resulted in open season on politics and politicians in the first instance, and on climate science and scientists in the second.
The damage could be severe. In the political realm, the view that politicians are parasites who do nothing useful has migrated, for the time being at least, from the fringe of opinion into the mainstream because so many Nova Scotians are outraged by what they interpret as politicians exploiting loose rules they wrote for their own advantage. On climate, the fusillade against the climate science consensus that’s been raging since November has added to public confusion on the issue and thus weakened pressure for urgent government action.
We’re starting to hear the argument now that MLAs have been pilloried enough on expense spending, out of all proportion to the actual misdeeds, and that it’s time to ease up for the sake of politics itself. Nova Scotians seem not to be in that mood, however, and a steady drizzle of expense-related stories, with more to come, makes it hard for agitated taxpayers to calm down. Read more.

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