Who Started this Ruckus, Anyway?

By Keith Kloor | June 18, 2010 12:06 pm

UPDATE: Do browse the lively comment thread, especially where Judith Curry says of the famed Hockey Stick: “So I am laying down the gauntlet, this really needs to be discussed and rebutted by the paleo researchers and the IPCC defenders.”

Maybe we need to back up before we can go forward.  A very interesting exchange between Bart Verheggen and Judith Curry took place while the comment system was being fixed. Tim Lambert also chimed in with a relevant comment. And for good measure, I’m throwing in a perplexed reaction (to Curry) from one reader.

I think the issue of who instigated this climate science war of attrition should be aired in full. So let’s have it out (but stay civil, please). And then can we move on”¦?

Bart Verheggen: In a newer thread Judith Curry suggested that it would be very worthwhile to figure out how to put this energy and expertise (well educated people delve into specific scientific details) to productive use, rather than dismissing. I would add that it should ideally be put to good use indeed, rather than it being put to destructive use, as a lot of it currently is. It looks like many of them have a deep felt contempt for climate science (fed in no small part by McIntyre) and often miss the forest for the trees (imitating McIntyre). That makes it very hard to see their energy (as currently used) as positive to the scientific and policy related discussions.

Michael Tobis said over at Climate Audit:
“The fundamental question is: Are you interested in improving the world’s and your own understanding the climate system as a physical system, a problem which in principle really ought to be at least partially resolvable? Or are you interested in demeaning and undermining the people who have made the most effort toward doing so.”

Judith Curry: Bart and Michael; the answer is that this group is definitely interested in moving the science forward. They feel that they have been disrespected by main stream scientists, and that mainstream scientists haven’t been playing by the rules, which raises their ire. And because their ire has been raised, then the main stream scientists feel justified in ignoring them. I originally viewed this as a chicken and egg problem, but after delving into this considerably, in my opinion it was not the bloggers that committed the first foul.

The climate researchers thought the situation with the bloggers was analogous to the war with big tobacco, and adopted the same strategies. This strategy was inappropriate since the bloggers are not politically or economically motivated, and it has backfired, and the current impasse is the result.

Tim Lambert:
Judith, you are mistaken. Look at, for example, this post of mine from 2004. You’ll see that the same attacks on the science being made even before McIntyre and Watts and co started blogging.

Bart Verheggen: Judith, thanks for your reply. I very much want to believe that what you say is true, and I hope it is. But a lot of the CA minded folks seem to me politically or economically motivated. Perhaps I’m being blinded by the peanut gallery in my perception, and perhaps I’m throwing away the baby with the bathwater. I agree that it’s not constructive to dismiss the expertise and energy of the more scientifically minded critics. But then I would suggest that those sincerely interested clearly distance themselves from the contempt and suspicions raising crowd, since that are the public face of the critics, and it’s severely hampering communciation with mainstream scientists and their supporters. Problem is, McIntyre himself has had a major influence in instilling contempt and suspicions into his very wide following. It doesn’t just raise my ire; it’s entirely un-constructive to moving the internet discussion with critics forward (regardless of how it all started).

Judith Curry: Bart, I recommend that you read the “Hockey Stick Illusion“ by Andrew Montford.   Note, this book was not written with any input from McIntyre (he was unaware of the book until he received a copy of the galleys), but documents the “hockey stick wars” from McIntyre’s first interest in the problem based upon blog posts and other pieces of documentation including journal publications.  This book was nearly completed before the climategate emails, a chapter is appended at the end with emails that provide further information in completing the understanding of these events.  The book is well documented, it obviously has a certain spin to it, but it is a very good book.  If you read this book, which i think accurately lays out the perspective of McIntyre, you will understand why McIntyre comes across as suspicious and occasionally contemptuous.  Taking what is in this book at face value, one is left wondering why McIntyre is as polite as he is.  Note, McIntyre is not angry about all this (and he is often criticized for not being angry; particularly in the wake of climategate and also at the Heartland Conference).

Steven Sullivan: Judith Curry, given Bishop Hill’s (Montford’s)  background and a level of scientific chops that has him saying, this year, “My gut feeling is still sceptical but I don’t believe it’s beyond the realms of possibility that the AGW hypothesis might be correct.”,  why on earth would you take his book “˜at face value’?  Do you seriously think the ‘spin’ is to be discounted here? The bigger question, why are you, now one of the public scientific faces of this debate,  apparently *so deeply  impressed* by the arguments of this  cadre of articulate nonscientist skeptics,  and so willing to go to bat for them?   Is it some particular affinity for libertarian world-views?


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets.From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine.In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest.He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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