The American Physical Society is reviewing its Climate Change Statement.

The APS Panel on Public Affairs (POPA) formed a Subcommittee, consisting of Steven Koonin, Phillip Coyle, Scott Kemp, Tim Meyer, Robert Rosner and Susan Seestrom, to consider revisions to its 2007 statement and that group convened a workshop with 6 climate experts, including 3 who are skeptics, though really they are more "lukewarm-ists" than the 'denier' label attributed to everyone who isn't a Think Progress-style Doomsday prophet.

The three are: Retired MIT meteorologist Professor Richard Lindzen, University of Alabama Huntsville Professor of Atmospheric Science John Christy and Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

There's no reason to start declaring that the APS is in cahoots with Big Oil, though I am sure someone has done it. The physical sciences are more evidence-based than most so they are revisiting their Climate Change Statement as part of a predetermined, time-based review of their 2007 finding and will do it by the numbers, and that includes hearing from detractors and addressing gaps in understanding, the confidence in IPCC confidence intervals and why there are large uncertainties in a fundamental parameter of the climate system.

Is including credentialed skeptics false equivalence or asking the necessary awkward questions of science? How you answer is important. Credit: Twitter

The workshop framing document is a pretty good educational read - if you want to be informed, it is worth your time, in much the same way that if you want to know the weaknesses in Apple products you should ask someone from Samsung (and vice versa). There are militants in science and media who don't like any questions but that is a large part of the reason why many people don't accept even the evidence for climate change that is right in front of them. Prior to the 2007 IPCC report, media talking points were printed as data and before that the Royal Society in England wrote to journalists asking them not to print any opposing views. That doesn't make the public feel good about the integrity of the data, even when they are on your side.

It instead makes people feel like the conclusion is always first, and data will be framed to support it no matter what. I mean, come on, Mother Jones said that Malaysian plane hadn't been found because of global warming. That went beyond advocacy and moved into psychic/Nostradamus levels of credibility.

Society has developed an extreme Cui bono? (for whose benefit?) problem. We increasingly default to a 'who funded it?' posture about everything we happen not to like.  Did a corporation fund it? That scientist is probably for sale. Drug companies - can't be trusted. Chemical companies - can't be trusted. Environmental corporations - scary story of the week. Did the Obama administration fund it? It must be a liberal conspiracy. Did the Bush administration fund it? All Republicans are anti-science so they are out. It's why global warming is not accepted by one side and GMOs, vaccines and nuclear science are not accepted by the other side. If scientists are for sale, they are all for sale.

Pick any finding and someone claims it is results-work-for-hire - if it violates their pre-existing position.  Lindzen, listed above, for example, was vilified because years before he was critical of numerical models in climate change, he took $5,000 from an oil company to be on a panel about environmental issues. To environmentalists, his entire career as a climate expert at MIT was invalidated because of that. Meanwhile, James Hansen, not a climate scientist, is a paragon of virtue despite the fact that he earned hundreds of thousands of dollars per year giving climate change speeches and did so as a government employee, but none of those details are available to the public. 

Whichever of those you think is more legitimate behavior simply tells everyone which side you are on. And that side may not be science.

There is false equivalence and then there is revisiting the data and asking awkward questions and being trusted guides for members of the public. If you reflexively think the APS is engaging in the former, it just tells us how you vote.