Regarding the overwrought claims of the climateprediction.net crowd that I discussed recently, my friend Ursa pointed out in conversation that "no intelligent informed person" takes Allen's "disingenuous" press releases seriously. I pointed out that the qualifier begged the question, and that besides, in a democracy, informed intelligent people don't have as much influence as one would like. His reply was interesting. He pointed out that if informed, intelligent people don't resort to the same tactics as the enemies of reason, they lose in the ill-informed less-than-intelligent marketplace of ideas.
A disturbing defense of exaggeration
Remember the Market for Lemons idea?
"When deep quality metrics are unavailable, customers will base their decisions on shallow metrics instead."
So U. argues that Allen et al should be forgiven, because although the sensitivity is not 10 C, the risks are really really bad, so people might as well have a big number to chew on. In an emergency, you might well yell "fire!" in a theatre, say, rather than "significant likelihood of a release of a disabling neurotoxin!" You are lying about the fire but not the emergency, because there isn't time to convey the actual nature of the emergency in such a way that people will act in proportion to their actual risk. You are providing shallow misinformation as a proxy of the valid but inaccessible information.
The idea that this might be necessary is very disturbing to scientists. I believe that politicians live with it constantly. This is part of why the interface between science and policy sucks.
None for me, thanks
I disagree with this idea of tricking people into doing what they would do if they had better understanding, because the credibility of sound reasoning is absolutely crucial. Without a scientific approach that is intact, we can achieve nothing. Anyone deliberately misrepresenting science is not a scientist anymore, whatever his or her job title; and they should lose any claim on such a title instantly.
It's easier when you don't have any skin in the game
Unfortunately the lines aren't always so easy to see. In an uncertain world, people will slide the lines perhaps a bit further than they ought to go. It's hard in practice to know when to go against your institutional interests and when to go along when truth starts to give way to spin.