Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Why are virtually all climate "sceptics" men?

Why are virtually all climate "sceptics" men?

The question first came to mind on the plane to Copenhagen last week while scanning The Guardian's feature on movers and shakers in the "sceptical" field.

So we go down their list... Bjorn Lomborg, Viscount Monckton, former TV presenter David Bellamy, British National Party leader Nick Griffin, Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Lord Lawson, social anthropologist Benny Peiser, geologist Ian Plimer, US Senator James Inhofe, Czech President Vaclav Klaus... all men.

In the centre of Copenhagen, a group called the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC) has been holding an event giving the "sceptical" version of the climate science story. The speakers list? Nils-Axel Morner, Cliff Ollier, Stuart Wheeler, and so on down the agenda... all proud possessors of a Y-chromosome.

The recently-launched London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation numbers a single woman across its Board of Trustees and Academic Advisory Council.

I could go on... but I hope the point is demonstrated. In fact, across the entire sceptical landscape, as far as I can see, the female contingent numbers one UK columnist, a couple of Australian bloggers, UK academic Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and US counterpart Sallie Baliunas... and that's about it, apart from former US presidential candidate Sarah Palin who - as the Washington Post reveals - hasn't always displayed climate scepticism in the past.

Sarah PalinIt's a marked contrast to the world of mainstream climate science, which boasts a number of eminent female practitioners including IPCC lead authors Susan Solomon and Cynthia Rosenzweig; and to the world of UN climate talks, where many delegations include, and are led by, women, including the UK's negotiating team.

The renowned environmental commentator Charles Clover noted the trend recently in The Times, writing of "... the born-again climate sceptic, the kind of man (always a man, almost invariably wearing a tweed jacket) who now materialises beside me at parties and confides that he has been having second thoughts about climate change".

So what's going on? Why is this issue such a gender-divider? Read more
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