The Climate Science Witch Hunts

Katharine Hayhoe is a Texan, an evangelical Christian, and a climate scientist. She’s on a mission to convince skeptics, many of whom share her faith, that climate change is not a liberal hoax. “Global Weirding,” a PBS-produced web series that Hayhoe hosts, addresses everything from climate science to the Bible, arguing among other things that Christians should take a stand on climate change. That, in part, explains the death threats.

But even before her show started, Hayhoe was the target of a cottage industry of climate skeptics. She came to prominence in early 2012, after then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich suddenly dropped her chapter from a book he was editing about the environment—Hayhoe’s arguments affirming climate change caught the fury of Rush Limbaugh at the height of the Republican primaries.

That was when the Freedom of Information Act inquiries began. The conservative American Tradition Institute sent a FOIA to Texas Tech, where Hayhoe is a professor, requesting her email correspondence with specified journalists. She was also asked to turn over emails with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an organization that defends climate scientists. “When you write a FOIA, it’s just a simple request,” Hayhoe told the HPR. “But the FOIAs I got were more like an arrest warrant.”

Hayhoe, like many scientists who are subject to similar inquiries, thinks the group was looking for embarrassing emails to use in political debate. “Their MO is you’re guilty, and you can never be proven innocent,” she said. “You have to scrutinize your thoughts before you express them [in email], because people will take one phrase, not even one sentence, completely out of context.”

Read more from the Harvard Political Review, here.