On one thing David Roberts and I agree on: Grist has a sucky comment software.
Seriously, David has written what he promises to be his last post on Climate Hawks, linking in a roundup to all the approving nods he got in the blogosphere, and the tiny minority of dissenters. Woe to ThingsBreak for sharing a lonely, distant star with me.
I can’t promise this will be my last post on the topic, but I am going to make a prediction: Climate Hawks never gets off the ground (and by that I mean beyond the fantasy stage) unless journalists start using it as shorthand and/or Thomas Friedman inserts the term in three columns within a three month period. (Krugman the dove can’t get it to fly.)
There is, of course, a related Judith Curry angle to this discussion of climate hawks, courtesy of John Rennie, the former editor in chief of Scientific American. (Roberts, in his latest post, thanks Renne for expanding his “understanding of the term.”) In the second of two posts applauding the Climate Hawk coinage, Renne explains why he believes it’s a useful term:
“Climate hawk” is a statement about one’s stance on policy, not on the science.
One of the problems that has muddied climate discussions is that there has not been a simple way to separate people’s positions on the science from their positions on the appropriate policy response. Having such labels is extremely useful””arguably, essential””not only as a way of hemming in individual discussions (“Are we debating the science or the policy response?”) but also as a way of clearly pegging exactly what people stand for.
Then, after noting how Judith Curry has become a hero to skeptics for her vocal criticism of climate science, Renne suggests that Curry might be good test case for the utility of the Climate Hawks moniker:
Curry seems to have misgivings about the uncertainties in the climate science, but she agrees that we need to cut CO2 emissions and take whatever other steps are necessary to head off possible climate disasters. Indeed, if she feels a policy response is required, then it seems clear that whatever problems she has with the state of the science, they aren’t big enough to negate that conclusion.
Understanding this much about her position and being able to state it clearly is therefore huge in policy discussions that invoke her name. If Curry identified herself as a climate hawk (a purely hypothetical possibility at this point), then her usefulness to those who would cite her to undermine proposals to cut CO2 emissions plummets. She could also probably make peace with many of her scientific colleagues who think she is willing to be a pawn of the climate denialists. On the other hand, if she doesn’t want to call herself a climate hawk, it clearly opens up a discussion about why.
If Renne is correct, then it stands to reason that Judith can put an end to the cold war between herself and many of her esteemed members of the climate science fraternity by simply taking the pledge: I am a climate hawk.
And if she refuses, well..either way, I’m sure some interesting discussion will ensue.
I’ll follow up with an email to Judith after I post this and see if she would like to take the pledge.
UPDATE: Curry declines.
There’s a big profile of Judith Curry by Michael Lemonick in the November issue of Scientific American that, thankfully, is not behind a paywall. The piece is very well done–it’s actually more a dispassionate examination of what Lemonick calls “the two competing story lines” of the “Judith Curry phenomenon,”
which are, on the surface at least, equally plausible. The first paints Curry as a peacemaker””someone who might be able to restore some civility to the [climate change] debate and edge the public toward meaningful action. By frankly acknowledging mistakes and encouraging her colleagues to treat skeptics with respect, she hopes to bring about a meeting of the minds.
The alternative version paints her as a dupe””someone whose well-meaning efforts have only poured fuel on the fire. By this account, engaging with the skeptics is pointless because they cannot be won over. They have gone beyond the pale, taking their arguments to the public and distributing e-mails hacked from personal computer accounts rather than trying to work things out at conferences and in journal papers.
The piece goes on to explore whether either (or both) of these story lines have any merit. My modest contributions at this blog are acknowledged by Lemonick:
There is no question Curry has caused a stir; she is frequently cited by some of the harshest skeptics around, including Marc Morano, the former aide to Senator Inhofe and founder of the Climate Depot skeptic blog. It is not just the skeptics: Andrew C. Revkin, the New York Times‘s longtime environment reporter has treated her with great respect on his Dot Earth blog more than once. So has Keith Kloor, who runs the militantly evenhanded Collide-a-Scape blog.
To me, the most interesting parts of the SciAm article come next:
What scientists worry is that such exposure means Curry has the power to do damage to a consensus on climate change that has been building for the past 20 years. They see little point in trying to win over skeptics, even if they could be won over. Says Gavin A. Schmidt, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and proprietor of the RealClimate blog: “Science is not a political campaign. We’re not trying to be everyone’s best friend, kiss everyone’s baby.”
To Curry, the damage comes not from the skeptics’ critiques themselves, most of which are questionable, but from the scientific community’s responses to them””much as deaths from virulent flu come not from the virus but from the immune system’s violent overreaction. Curry remarks that she has been a victim of this herself, spurned by her colleagues for her outreach efforts (although she adds that she has not been damaged professionally and continues to publish). “She’s been hugely criticized by the climate science community,” McIntyre says, “for not maintaining the fatwa [against talking to outsiders].”
Some disinterested commentators agree. One is S. Alexander Haslam, an expert in organizational psychology at the University of Exeter in England. The climate community, he says, is engaging in classic black sheep syndrome: members of a group may be annoyed by public criticism from outsiders, but they reserve their greatest anger for insiders who side with outsiders. By treating Curry as a pariah, Haslam says, scientists are only enhancing her reputation as some kind of renegade who speaks truth to power. Even if she is substantially wrong, it is not in the interests of climate scientists to treat Curry as merely an annoyance or a distraction. “I think her criticisms are damaging,” Haslam says. “But in a way, that’s a consequence of failing to acknowledge that all science has these political dynamics.”
The whole piece is well worth reading, so go have a look and come back with any reactions.
If Judith Curry, a climate researcher at Georgia Tech, ever found herself marooned on an island, where the other inhabitants included a tribe of climate skeptics led by Anthony Watts and another tribe of climate scientists led by Gavin Schmidt (whose enforcer, despite being a physicist, was Joe Romm), she’d probably end up living alone in a cave.
This is a roundabout way of mentioning the chilly reception that a new PNAS paper by Curry and one of her colleagues (PDF here), is receiving over at WUWT. Like Policy Lass, what interests me most is the harsh response, and how, as Lass observes, Curry now stands accused of drinking Kool Aid with both sides in the climate debate.
Judith, welcome to one of the seven hells in journalism, where you get to be loathed by all. (But we secretly love it!) In this fiery climate sphere, Andy Revkin reigns as lord master, where he is regularly slammed by Romm and his echo chamber at Climate Progress AND the hardcore skeptic wing.
But back to the show. One commenter at WUWT, noting the negative reaction to Judith, gives her a backhanded compliment when he writes:
I have to applaud Judith Curry on having the guts to present her paper in the boxing ring of climate blogs where the wild and ignorant rule. but also these that think unbiased and try to address problems in creative ways. I just hope she was not counting on any mercy here.
Here’s Judith’s devastating parry: I don’t want your stinkin’ mercy, I’m just lookin’ for some evidence of sentient thought.
Okay, I paraphrased.
Seriously, there are rumblings of an unfair and heavily moderated thread at WUWT over this paper (see here and here, for example), so I thought I’d provide a vehicle for the disaffected or suppressed to come on over here and express yourself. All I ask is that you be polite.
More broadly, I think it’s worth pointing out that Judith Curry occupies a peculiar space in the climate debate, where neither camp trusts her to carry water for them.
UPDATE: In fairness, I should also note that Curry’s PNAS paper is taken up in full by Willis Eschenbach over at WUWT.
The robust debate between Gavin Schmidt and Judith Curry (here and here) appears to have run its course. It’s been a fairly technical discussion and mostly civil. And immensely frustrating, it seems, for both of them.
Taking stock of the exchange, Gavin makes this observation:
When smart and informed people see basically the same information but come to different conclusions, I find that interesting since there might be something to be learned.
I think he’s right, but what is there to be learned?
UPDATE: Gavin Schmidt has won kudos from skeptics in the comments below, who appreciate his participation in the thread and his responses to their questions.
There are two high-profile protagonists in the climate science community that are increasingly squaring off: Judith Curry and Gavin Schmidt. In an interview here yesterday, Curry elaborated on her most recent testy exchange with Schmidt over at Real Climate, as well as some of her by now well-known concerns about climate science.
Schmidt, unsurprisingly, has a different take on his exchange with Curry. He also questions the issues Curry has seized on and the charges she has leveled broadly at the climate science community. Schmidt addressed these and other matters, such as the politicization of climate science, in an email exchange with me last night and this morning.
KK. Can you identify issues where you agree with Judith Curry and where you disagree?
GS. I have absolutely no argument with Judy on any number of a dozen issues. We both agree that climate is a fascinating subject well deserving of the attention of the brightest minds around. We both agree that Feynman is a great role model. We agree that sustainability is indeed the overriding need and this involves much more than climate change – encompassing water resources, fisheries management, traditional kinds of air pollution, habitat loss etc. Climate change is going to play an ever bigger role in those issues as the century progresses but it will never be the only problem we have to deal with. Finding win-win solutions for both climate and these other problems are obviously preferable to being forced to choose one thing over another and climate scientists can certainly play a role in finding those solutions. I also absolutely agree that we should aim to depoliticize climate science.
I go to meetings and workshops and write papers with scientists across a wide range of the sub-disciplines, and in every single case I see scientists doing exactly what Judith (and I) think they should be doing. Looking into the issues, pinning down the questions, deciding what needs to be done to make progress. I don’t see any of this supposed ‘authoritarianism’ or ‘power politics’ she thinks are infecting the field. I just don’t recognise that in the work that is actually being done. For instance, I was part of a review paper with Phil Jones on high resolution paleo-climate records (Jones et al, 2009) and that was exemplary in the care that was paid to real issues and questions in the field.
Where I think we disagree is in what drives the politicisation and rancour. In my opinion it has very little to do with anything specific related to particular scientists or papers or how people treated Steve McIntyre. Instead, it is something that has happened to many fine scientists through no fault of their own, mainly because something got traction – Ben Santer, Steve Schnieder, Mike Mann, Phil Jones, have all had horrendous and untrue things said about them mainly because it was useful for some people to do that in order to discredit science and scientists. But if it hadn’t been them, it would have been someone else, and next year it will be. When people turn reasonable questions about science into excuses for personal abuse, it poisons the debate and makes it almost impossible to resolve things in an efficient manner. How can people have a dialog with someone who thinks that every word they say is a lie? Every time people throw around terms like fraud, corruption and crime without any basis, it just makes reasonable discussion harder. This is the hallmark of political rhetoric, not science, and blaming scientists for the state of affairs is completely backwards.
KK. In making her criticisms, should Judith consider a different approach and/or a different venue? What about you? Is there anything you think you can do differently that might facilitate a more constructive dialogue?
GS. There is a big difference in expectations for mainstream scientists who comment in the blogosphere. Like it or not, there are not very many who do so (and we could discuss why that is). Given the existing polarisation and politicization, this means that any individual voice is likely going to be imbued with more significance and get more attention than it necessarily deserves. In those circumstances, people need to be well prepared, know what it is they want to say, and make sure they say it clearly. That wasn’t always evident last weekend. There are also some strategic issues – linear conversations in one spot, perhaps on quieter blogs, are almost always more satisfying than sprawling multi-blog threaded conversations with multiple people, some of whom are posting very different things in different places. Playing games should be avoided at all costs. All of this is easier to handle if you have your own space which allows you to set the agenda and the tone, so if Judy wants to do more in this medium, she should certainly think about that. It’s not hard. But she should remember that as a good scientist, expectations will be higher and that she will be held to a higher standard than some less well known bloggers. There is a greater responsibility there.
Can we do something differently? I don’t know. We can always try and be more understanding of people’s points, but it helps a lot if they are made clearly rather than obliquely. Drive-by postings are not conducive to a nuanced discussion because too much gets said in-between times. We can always improve moderation – we deleted many comments that went too far in criticising posters (including Judy) rather than their arguments, but this is always hard when there is a lot of traffic, and over-moderation gets criticised just as much. If I can offer one observation that might help, it would be this – once you start to have an online presence in a field like this, it is inevitable that people will misunderstand and misrepresent you. You will be accused of thinking things you would actually find abhorrent and acting in ways that would be anathema. But it is important to remember that this has very little to do with you. You will end up as a some kind of symbol, and while people might talk about someone with your name and your place of work, it helps to think of them as an internet doppelganger.
KK. There is this perception of Real Climate as intolerant of dissenting opinions. Do you see any value in allowing occasional guests posts from climate scientists who have been critical of any tenets of mainstream climate science? If so, who would you consider as good candidates?
GS. It’s a convenient argument for some people to claim we don’t tolerate dissent. They don’t even need to try to engage. But it doesn’t stack up if you actually read any of the threads – lot’s of people disagree with us on many issues. Where we draw the line is with comments that turn methodological issues into personal ones, misrepresent us or insist that we or scientific colleagues are frauds, or that just bring up tired old contrarian talking points over and again. We don’t apologise for that, and I think are threads are more focused for it. If people don’t like it they don’t need to read. One issue is that RC is seen as the voice of the mainstream, and so that becomes a draw for all sorts of people. It’s a bit of a misperception – we don’t consult with anyone else before posting and we do not claim to speak for anyone other than us. Our main purpose is to talk about what real scientists are talking about and thinking, giving context to what people are talking about. I generally don’t find that the critics have much to add to that, but I suppose it could happen. None of them have ever suggested any such post. One possibility might be to support people like Roy Spencer when he takes on (as he did last week) people that erroneously insist that the greenhouse effect does not exist.
KK: I want to return to something you said at the outset, that you “absolutely agree that we should aim to depoliticize climate science.” How would you propose to do that? And I’m assuming you think that all sides–including members of the climate science community–should work towards this. How would you go about depoliticizing climate science?
GS: Well, let’s be clear about what we are talking about. We can’t make the political decisions about what to do about climate change (how to mitigate, how to adapt) go away. And we have to remember that the overwhelming majority of scientists working in this field are just trying to do their jobs as best they can, following where the data and understanding are leading them. I don’t see any politicisation in how the community does science and gets grants. So what I am referring to the fact that a few very select issues in the science have become political flash points. Studies in those fields have become lightning rods for very partisan and unpleasant campaigns, and Senators, Congressmen, lawyers and Attorneys-General have piled on to make political hay out of it, without any regard for the underlying issues. Really, no one is making policy decisions based on 15th Century tree rings!
One of the more worrying trends over the last few years has been the extent to which the rejection of climate science has become more party political in the US. I think this is very worrying – whereas 5 years ago you had Sherwood Bohlert (the Republican head of the House Science Committee), John McCain and Olympia Snowe in the Senate talking sensibly about the issue, this is something that is happening less often today. This has a number of causes which climate scientists can’t do much about, but it certainly fuels some of the rancor.
I think we can do a much better job in one or two key areas. First, we need to continue to stress that climate change is a multi-faceted problem – it doesn’t just involve CO2, but also CH4, ozone, black carbon and other aerosols. It isn’t caused by a single activity – cars and planes yes, but also power stations, deforestation, and agriculture. But with that complexity, and the inevitable intertwining of policies that affect climate with those that effect energy, public health and water resources, come opportunities. This is where I think the climate science community has not played its full role.
Take the ‘forcings’ diagram in the summary for policymakers in IPCC AR4 (Fig SPM 2). This shows the estimated contributions to the 1750-2000 radiative forcing from different constituents in the atmosphere. There is a lot of good science in there, but why do we think it is useful for policy makers? The decisions they make affect many of those constituents at once – sometimes with a net effect on climate that might be opposite to what was originally thought, and climate scientists have basically left it to the policy makers to work it out for themselves. So I think the second thing we should do is to provide more policy-specific science. We should be quantifying the consequences – not only for climate, but also for smog, congestion, public health etc. What impact would moving to plug-in hybrids have? You need to work out how the electricity is produced, but it turns out that reductions in ozone and black carbon make a big contribution to reducing climate forcing on top of the efficiency savings.
These co-benefits can bring along sometimes unexpected allies which often cross party lines – for instance, Inhofe has sponsored legislation to reduce black carbon effects.
Basically, though it sounds paradoxical, by getting more involved with policies, the climate science community can have less to do with politics. That doesn’t mean we should stop talking about CO2 – that would be irresponsible, but continuing to be clearer about the complexities can help get the conversations out of the rut.
UPDATE: As with many of her previous appearances at this site, Judith Curry is an active participant in the comment thread below.
Judith Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, has a knack for setting off tremors in the climate blogosphere. There was a lot of rumbling last week after Curry got into a rather contentious exchange with Gavin Schmidt and readers at Real Climate. Other notables, such as Joe Romm and William Connolley jumped into the fray. All this was precipitated by a review of Andrew Montford’s book, The Hockey Stick Illusion, posted at Real Climate. As Roger Pielke Jr. observed, these debates over the hockey stick controversy “can be arcane, technical and simply impenetrable due to years upon years of perceived slights, a practice of in-group shorthand and a chorus of followers on either side cheering on the spectacle.”
Last week’s ritual bloodletting of Curry in blogland was remarkable for how unrestrained it was. I am struck by the phenomena of this respected climate scientist who is being met with increasingly derisive scorn from prominent members of her own community and from many climate advocates. I’m curious as to what drives her to keep engaging in what appears to be a very lonely battle.
Earlier today, we had an email exchange, in which I pressed Curry to explain what is driving her to keep banging away on certain issues and themes.
KK: Why do you feel the need to revisit the hockey stick debate? It’s not central to our understanding of climate science, nor does it factor into the policy debate. The general public is surely not paying attention to it anymore. So why do you feel so compelled to defend this particular book by Andrew Montford?
JC: I am not so much defending this book as recommending that people read it. Climate scientists can learn a lot from Montford’s book. Not in terms of who is “right” or “correct” in terms of the science (that is still being debated), but how to avoid unnecessary conflict in the climate debate. While the hockey stick is not of any particular scientific importance, Montford’s book explains why the hockeystick became a big deal, owing to the IPCC’s choice to make the hockey stick a visual icon for the IPCC in its marketing of the IPCC. Therefore, in the public’s mind, challenges to the hockeystick metaphorically became challenges to the entire global warming argument. And the Climategate emails, while not illuminating any actual scientific misconduct, provided a view into the underbelly of how the consensus was actually built: upon human judgment that was influenced by petty rivalries, a sense of self importance, a political agenda, and the brutal dismissal and even sabotage of competing viewpoints. Not a pretty picture.The fundamental mistake made by the climate researchers involved in the hockey stick debate was to mistake McIntyre et al. as merchants of doubt (a la Oreskes and Collins), when instead they were motivated over a concern for public accountability of the research. The response of the climate researchers to McIntyre and McKittrick, by attacking their qualifications and motives rather than trying to work with them or at least understand what they were trying to say, backfired big time and arguably culminated in Climategate.
KK: I’m still trying to understand what gave rise to this latest round of Curry bashing?
JC: My hypothesis is that the level of vitriol in the climate blogs reflects the last gasp of those who thought they could influence national and international energy policy through the power politics of climate science expertise. The politics of expertise is about how scientific information is used in the policy making process, including how diverging viewpoints are interpreted and how science is weighed relative to values and politics in the policy debate. The problem comes in when the “power” politics of expertise are played. Signals of the “power” play include: hiding uncertainties and never admitting a mistake; developing a consensus with a high level of confidence; demanding that the consensus receive extreme deference relative to other view points; insisting that that science demands a particular policy; discrediting scientists holding other view points by dismissing them as cranks, trivializing their credentials and say that they are not qualified to hold an opinion; and attacking the motives of anyone that challenges the consensus. Sound familiar? In the case of climate change, the authoritarianism of “science tells us we should . . . “ could not withstand the public perception of scientists engaging with pressure groups, lack of transparency that meant people were unable to evaluate the information themselves, and then the climategate affair that raised questions about the integrity of the scientists.
Romm quickly honed in on the view that it was far more important to discredit me than Montford or McIntyre. Romm is “America’s fiercest” practitioner of the power politics of climate expertise, making brutal attacks on scientists and others that diverge from climate orthodoxy. My comments rankle so much with Romm because I used to be in the stable of experts that he cited. My putting the spotlight on uncertainties and too much confidence, plus listening to other view points and posting on rival blogs, and now calling people out on the power politics of science issue, has to be mighty uncomfortable for Romm. Romm didn’t just stop with his “Shootout at the RC corral“ post. Now he has dredged up an interview I gave a few months ago to a Brazilian reporter. I wrote out my replies to the questions of the Brazilian reporter. My answers were then translated into Spanish. Which were then translated back to English. Has anyone ever played the game of telephone?
KK: I question if there is really this breach of trust between the climate science community and the general public. Again, the average person is probably not paying much attention to these fractious debates between skeptics and a subset of the climate science community. I mean, every profession gets dinged by its share of controversies. The foundation for anthropogenic global warming rests on numerous solid pillars, which you agree with. So how is that a batch of intemperate emails and a decade-old scientific controversy over the hockey stick can rock this foundation, which is what you seem to be arguing?
JC: Evidence that the tide has changed include: doubt that was evidenced particularly by European policy makers at the climate negotiations at Copenhagen, defeat of a seven-year effort in the U.S. Senate to pass a climate bill centered on cap-and-trade, increasing prominence of skeptics in the news media, and the formation of an Interacademy Independent Review of the IPCC. Concerns about uncertainty and politicization in climate science are now at the forefront of national and international policy. There is an increasing backlash from scientists and engineers from other fields, who think that climate science is lacking credibility because of the politicization of the subject and the high confidence levels in the IPCC report. While these scientists and engineers are not experts in climate science, they understand the process and required rigor and the many mistakes that need to be made and false paths that get followed.
Further, they have been actively involved in managing science and scientists and in assessing scientists. They will not be convinced that a “likely” level of confidence (66-89% level of certainty) is believable for a relatively new subject, where the methods are new and contested, experts in statistics have judged the methods to be erroneous and/or inadequate, and there is substantial disagreement in the field and challenges from other scientists. The significance of the hockey stick debate is the highlighting of shoddy science and efforts to squash opposing viewpoints, something that doesn’t play well with other scientists. Energy Secretary and Nobel Laureate Steven Chu made this statement in an interview with the Financial Times:
First, the main findings of IPCC over the years, have they been seriously cast in doubt? No. I think that if one research group didn’t understand some tree ring data and they chose to admit part of that data. In all honesty they should have thrown out the whole data set.
But you don’t need to be a Nobel laureate to understand this. I have gotten many many emails from scientists and engineers from academia, government labs and the private sector. As an example, here is an excerpt from an email I received yesterday: “My skepticism regarding AGW has been rooted in the fact that, as an engineer/manager working in defense contracts [General Dynamics], I would have been fired, fined (heavily) and may have gotten jail time for employing the methodology that [named climate scientists] have used.”
KK: Are you suggesting that the methodology of certain climate scientists rises to the level of a crime? Also, I have to ask you to defend this assertion that the failures of Copenhagen and the Senate climate bill are somehow tied to rising skepticism of climate change by policymakers. I don’t see the evidence for that, though I realize that climate skeptics make for convenient scapegoats by advocates such as Joe Romm.
JC: I am not suggesting that at all. Scientists make mistakes all the time, that is actually how science progresses, provided that the mistakes are acknowledged and learned from. If you want to understand the palpable impact of Climategate on European (particularly Dutch) politics, read this paper.
Skepticism has been rather unfortunately defined to be anyone who diverges from IPCC orthodoxy, not only in terms of the science, but in terms of accepting the policies that science “tells us” we must have. The revolt is more in the sense of breaking this linear link between science and policy (see also this post by Pielke Jr.).
KK: The majority of comments at both Real Climate and Climate Progress were quite disparaging of you, which in my mind, speaks more to their readerships, since I have no way of knowing how the respective blog hosts chose to moderate the comments. After experiencing this latest blogospheric hazing, you have to wonder, what’s the point? Are any of your colleagues advising you to move on to a more constructive venue, and if so, what would that be?
JC: Well, first I have to comment on the moderation of RC and CP on this. They chose comments that consisted of personal attacks, while rejecting many comments that were supportive of my viewpoints or asked challenging questions. The reason that I know what comments were rejected because many of these people subsequently posted on climateaudit or emailed me. In one instance, a comment was rejected by CP from someone who had previously made a guest post at RC. So this reflects not only on their readership, but reflects specific choices made by the moderators at RC and CP, that I personally interpret as an attempt to discredit me.
The point is this. I have gotten hundreds of emails from practicing scientists and engineers in a range of different fields and holding positions in academia, government, and the private sector. I have also had discussions with a number of climate researchers who are concerned about the politicization of the field and the overconfidence in the IPCC. They are encouraging me to continue standing up for the scientific method and against the politicization of science. I’m sure that there are some of my colleagues that don’t like it or wonder what the point is, but they are not talking to me about it. I am getting feedback from scientists that like what I’m doing.
In terms of something more productive to do, I would encourage climate scientists to reflect on how to dig out from the hole we’ve dug for ourselves. Time to listen to some new ideas and some new experts. This time, I suggest listening to a plurality of viewpoints, and for scientists to make sure their data and methods are transparent to the public. And stop trying to simplify all this into a straight climate change science drives global energy policy strategy, which was misguided and naÃ¯ve, to say the least. The real problem is sustainability, which is a complex confluence of ecosystems, food, water, energy, population growth, finite natural resources, and the desire for economic development. Sustainability is a value that nearly everyone can share. The fundamental spatial unit of sustainability is the region, which makes it easier for people to identify their common concerns and secure their common interests. Yes, there are global elements to all this in terms of climate change and finite natural resources, and the realization that regional instabilities can have global consequences. It’s not a simple problem, and there is no silver bullet, but there are millions of little solutions that can all add up. Climate change needs to be considered as but a single element in the context of all these issues. And independently of the broader sustainability issues, we need rational energy policies that account not only for environmental issues, but also economic and national security issues.
Once you start thinking about sustainability and the broader issues of energy policy as the main challenges, and not climate change, then the overwhelming barrier of politics and economics becomes less monolithic. And more importantly, climate science can get back to being science rather than being about politics. My citations of Feynmann on the RC thread were to remind people of the difference. Climate science is a fascinating and important scientific problem. Lets step back and figure out how to do a better job so that our field can regain the respect of the Nobel laureates in physics, scientists and engineers from other fields, and credibility of the public. Most importantly we need to stop playing the power politics of climate science by saying “Here is what science says we must do” and start saying “Here is our best understanding, and here is where our uncertainties are . . .”
Judith Curry is at it again. This time she’s mixing it up with the denizens of Climate Audit, including its host. She’s been active in some of the recent CA threads, jousting with McIntyre, but this duel on climate data is notable.
I will say this: she’s treated more politely over there by folks who disagree with her, than she has been at my site. Still, it appears that CA readers and McIntyre cut Judith no less slack than those on the other side of the climate spectrum, who have gotten into it with her on my blog.
(This kinda makes me wonder about the entrenched mindsets of both sides, given that neither seems particularly open to persuasion by Judith.)
That said, the bloggy climate skeptic universe is not the monochromatic echo chamber that the Romms and Deltoids would have you believe. For example, here’s Lucia teeing off on Monckton in delightfully sardonic fashion.
UPDATE: After further reflection, Judith Curry lays out a way forward in comment 51 that I encourage people to read and discuss.
And you thought it was over. Ha.
Admit it. You thought Judith Curry had finally collapsed at the finish line, that after one week of taking on all comers, she was spent. Wrung out to dry. Kaput.
Have you learned nothing? I think this woman can chew bullets.
Did you think I was going to let her go without surveying the wreckage, without participating in a postmortem? (Okay, I’m done with the mixed metaphors.) Let’s get down to it, in which I ask Curry to respond to the main criticisms hurled back at her this past week:
Q: In the exchange, you’ve spoken highly of some well-known climate skeptic blogs, such as Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit. That seems to be one of the things that has most infuriated the AGW wing. There’s this growing perception, fed, for example, by Joe Romm, that you’re now siding with anti-science forces. Given that you are a research scientist, how does that make you feel?
JC: Joe Romm is bearing the fruits of tribalism, and reminds us of why this is such a bad thing. With regards to my engagement with skeptics, I need to clarify a few things. I am listening to what the skeptics have to say; this does not mean that I agree with anything (let alone everything) that they have to say. I am trying to be open-minded and am considering their arguments. This is not the same as endorsing their arguments. If McIntyre (or another blogger, or someone from a libertarian think tank) has said incorrect or otherwise inappropriate things at one point, this does not imply that everything they have said or will say is incorrect or inappropriate.
But unless we listen and engage across “tribes”, we will continue to fight these silly wars, particularly the war with McIntyre that ended up getting Jones and Mann in such hot water.
In the climateaudit thread, I learned a lot not only from the diverse knowledge base of the participants, but also by having to dig into some literature that I wasn’t too familiar with, and to work hard to make strong arguments in the face of some sophisticated challenges. In a follow up email some months later from Dan Hughes (he has a blog link at climateaudit), he suggested that I read the following book: “Fundamentals of Verification and Validation“ by Patrick Roache. I ordered the book, it sits on my desk, I pick it up periodically to glance through, I hope to have more time this summer to go through it (it is heavy going, but it is already influencing some of my thinking).
I do not side with skeptical bloggers (I don’t side with anybody, rather I support or disagree with arguments), but I will absolutely defend them against any disrespect or personal attacks they receive that is unwarranted in my opinion. McIntyre has made important contributions in terms of pushing for transparency in science and public availability of data (a battle cry that is being taken up by almost everybody), pointing out that there are deficiencies in statistical analysis in the climate field (a point made by the North NRC Report and even the Oxburgh report), concerns about using tree rings in paleo temperature reconstructions (a concern that many paleoclimatologists now share), and raising concerns about inappropriate behavior by some climate scientists (well, the CRU emails speak for themselves). Watts’ surface stations.org deserves credit. Credit where it is due, anyone?
Let’s make our discussion about the scientific arguments, not about the individuals.
Q: You say you want to help restore trust in climate science. But even before Climategate, people like Senator James Inhofe, Marc Morano, and Rush Limbaugh were ridiculing climate scientists and calling global warming a scientific hoax. I don’t see them changing their tune anytime soon. Nor can their rhetoric be helpful to your bridge-building efforts. Shouldn’t someone in the skeptic community emulate you and denounce the distortions of climate science and the badmouthing of climate scientists by Inhofe et al?
JC: Senator Inhofe, Marc Morano, and Rush Limbaugh are politically motivated. Their rhetoric doesn’t help at all, and I think pretty much everyone badmouths what they have to say. My point is that it is incorrect to lump the skeptical bloggers with Limbaugh etc., and their rhetoric detracts from the case that the scientific skeptics (including the bloggers are trying to make).
Q: You’ve also taken a lot of flak this week for saying nice things about a few think tanks that seem to approach the climate change issue from an ideological bent. Yesterday, science journalist James Hrynyshyn wrote:
If Curry is implying that CATO and CEI are sincere, intellectually honest skeptics who understand and respect the scientific process instead of disingenuous propaganda machines, then I beg to differ. And I question whether she has bothered to examine their positions all that well.
Do you maintain that these institutions are acting in good faith when discussing climate science? Isn’t there a big difference between a Steve McIntyre and CEI, and if you agree, what would that difference be?
JC: The difference between Steve McIntyre and CEI is that McIntyre is interested in auditing the science, whereas CEI is interested in policy. I have examined CEI positions in some detail and I am aware of their history with regards to the climate issue. Just because I am listening to what they have to say does not imply any agreement on my part.
CEI is concerned about bad policies that will damage economic development. They are particularly skeptical of the catastrophic impacts of climate change, and believe that economic development will make everyone more resilient to adverse impacts. I have exchanged 30 long emails with Fred Smith, President of CEI. I have hammered him over the behavior of Myron Ebell. I have told him that his harassment of Gavin Schmidt re his blogging is inappropriate. I have listened to what he has to say. He has listened to what I have to say. I even visited CEI the last time I was in D.C. We have settled into a civil dialogue. He is prepared to listen to me if I think they are committing a “foul” in any of their actions. Fred Smith has proven his good faith to me by his willingness to participate in a civil dialogue on this subject.
Q: When I posted the initial Q & A last Friday, I had no idea that you were going to be so engaged with readers. Since then, Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth has called the ongoing exchange “remarkable.” (There are two threads, both still active, which have combined for over 700 comments.) Much of this owes to your frank and frequent responses to readers. This is a rather unconventional means of communication for a scientist. Why did you participate in this way? And did you learn anything from it?
JC: I’ve honed my blogging skills over at climateaudit, off and on since 2006, in a very challenging and often hostile environment (hostile particularly in the earlier days). I’ve learned a lot from this experience, not only in terms of sharpening my communication and rhetorical skills, but also in terms of what people care regarding trying to understand climate science and what their concerns are. There has been a growing distrust of climate science (which became acute following November 19). I am trying to help restore public credibility in climate science and of climate scientists, by answering questions about the scientific process, scientific institutions, and engaging with the public. I wrote about my ideas on this in my “building trust“ essay.
I’ve learned a lot from my latest two blogospheric experiments (this one plus the “building trust” experiment where I issued a blogospheric press release). First and foremost, I’ve received a lot of “evidence” to support my tribalism hypothesis. I was hoping to breach some of these barriers with my previous strategy of submitting the blogospheric press release to a broad range of blogs; this didn’t work too well. I am delighted (and surprised really) that at collide-a-scape we had an actual “cross tribe” dialogue. We attracted some “big guns” in the climate blogosphere (e.g. Connolley, Eschenbach, Mosher). And I became acquainted with some interesting new voices that I hadn’t previously encountered. This blogosheric engagement across the climate spectrum is unique in some ways. As to the effectiveness of the actual exchange in developing and refining arguments, well there were too many topics on the table to have a truly productive discussion given that there were so many diverse viewpoints present.
I would like to thank everyone who participated in this exchange of ideas.
Q: There were many times this past week when you were responding almost in rapid-fire fashion, while fielding multiple queries. Is there anything you said that you wish you could take back?
JC: My personal rules for blogging are: respond to the argument not the person, don’t take criticisms personally, use the questions as a springboard to make a point that I want to make, don’t get distracted from my main points, don’t rise to “bait” and be careful of getting my “buttons” pushed, don’t talk on subjects where I am inadequately informed, if I make a mistake quickly acknowledge it, keep my responses measured and calm and proportional and polite.
In the rapid responses, I was attempting to be responsive to the unexpected deluge of comments. I was grabbing short blocks of time in the midst of my “day job” responsibilities this week, which included annual faculty evaluations, hiring of two new faculty large number of letters of recommendation for graduating student job seekers.
In the midst of the rapid replies, I didn’t take time to go through my blogging rules checklist on each reply. The one response that I wish I could push the “do over” button on is the response related to Edward Wegman. Wegman’s name came up in the context of alleged process violations of the IPCC. I should have left it at that. But I rose to the bait provided, regarding plagiarism accusations of Wegman. This pushed one of my “buttons”, which is the relentless attacks on persons that are in any way favorable to the skeptics, rather than on the arguments they are making. So I rose to Wegman’s defense, without being anywhere near adequately informed to get involved in a discussion on this. It proved to be a big red herring in the discussion, I admitted my inadequate knowledge on this, and people eventually moved on.
Looking back, given the number of replies I made on such a diverse range of issues over a short time period, I guess I feel ok that I have only one “do over” wish. There were a lot of potential landmines that I think I mostly navigated through.
Q: So where do you go from here? Will you continue raising the issue of climate science integrity? It seems many of your peers are reluctant to have this discussion, for whatever reason. [RealClimate, for example, has not mentioned Curry's name in any post since she published her first critical essay on climate science on November 22, 2009.]
JC: I will continue my attempts to open up the dialogue and challenge people to think about some of these issues that I think are important for the future of climate research and the assessment processes. I continue to worry that we are not learning the lessons we need to from Climategate.
However, I vow to stay away from the blogosphere for at least a week. There were many unfinished interesting discussions that were started here. I hope we can pursue some of these collectively in the coming weeks.
I don’t blame my peers at all for staying out of the public discussion on this issue (particularly in the blogosphere, it is pretty rough sport), but I hope they are at least thinking about some of these issues. Even if individual scientists don’t want to deal with these issues, the institutions that support science in U.S. are grappling with them.
Sometime over the weekend, I will put up a short post on the blogosphere’s varied reaction to the extended dialogue Curry engaged in at this site. More than a dozen blogs took note; many of these posts also triggered their own lively comment threads, which I enjoyed reading and which informed my questions in this last Q & A.
Once again, special thanks to Judith Curry for her full participation here this past week.
UPDATE: As of 5/2, here are the blogs that joined the fray:
Climate Audit (Steve McIntyre); Bishop Hill (Andrew Montford); Stoat (William Connolley, who also wrote a second and third and fourth post); Dot Earth (Andrew Revkin); The Blackboard (Lucia Liljegrin); The Island of Doubt (James Hrynshyn, who also wrote a second and third post; Roger Pielke, Jr.; A Few Things Illconsidered (Coby Beck); Ourchangingclimate (Bart Verheggen); Climate Progress (Joe Romm, who also wrote a second post); James Annan; Only In It For The Gold (Michael Tobis)
By now, many people must be wondering of Judith Curry: what’s her story? How did the respected Georgia Tech climate scientist go from global warming = more intense hurricanes to darling of climate skeptics? How did she go from staunch IPCC booster to harsh IPCC critic?
And why, in heaven’s name, is Curry engaging in multiple conversations about the credibility of climate science on a blog?
Well, the quick answer to that last one is that it all started last week, when Curry agreed to a Q & A for this site, which then morphed into a rollicking dialogue that is still going on. Yesterday Joe Romm took note:
Everyone who follows climate science should read what is easily the most revealing interview I’ve ever seen a scientist give. Be sure to read all the comments, since they are even more revealing.
Rest assured, this speaks more to Curry’s frankness than my powers of inducement. But back to that original question I posed, because Romm said something else that I found intriguing:
This is obviously a personal judgment on Romm’s part. Taken to its extreme, it infers what some climate advocates have been saying elsewhere:
Apparently Judith Curry has completed her transition to the Dark Side.
Before this gets any more bizarre, maybe it’s time we learned Curry’s backstory. So here’s a one-question Q & A that I hope brings some humanity to the debate she has triggered this past week.
Q: The implication in Romm’s puzzled statement is that your post-Climategate critique of climate science has changed you so radically that he doesn’t recognize the Judy Curry from 2007. He seems honestly shocked. How would you characterize your transformation in the last three years? Is it as radical as Romm implies?
JC: Well, I have been doing my best to make this about integrity in science and how we can do a better job, and not make it personal (in terms of myself, or any other particular individual). Looks like Joe Romm wants to make it about me. So here goes.
Here is my history with Joe Romm. We met in 2006 when he attended a congressional briefing that I was involved in on hurricanes and global warming. He was very interested in this subject and thought it was very important in terms of raising awareness about the risk of global warming. I was impressed with Joe’s knowledge of energy technologies and policy. During 2006 Joe made comments on one of my papers, and I made comments on a draft of his book “Hell and High Water.” We even participated in a joint seminar tour in Florida. When I started writing essays on Climategate, Joe was sharply critical, both in his blog postings and even more so in emails that he sent me.
So here is the story on my “transformation(s)”. Circa 2003, I was concerned about the way climate research was treating uncertainty (see my little essay presented to the NRC Climate Research Committee).
I was considered somewhat quixotic but not really outside of the mainstream (p.s. the CRC didn’t pay any attention to my essay, they went off in a different direction that focused on communicating uncertainty and decisionmaking under uncertainty). During this period, I was comfortably ensconced in the ivory tower of academia, writing research papers, going to conferences, submitting grant proposals. I was 80% oblivious to what was going on in terms of the public debate surrounding climate change.
This all changed on September 14, 2005, when I participated in a press conference on our forthcoming paper that described a substantial increase in the global number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes. The unplanned and uncanny timing of publication of this paper was three weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. While global warming was mentioned only obliquely in the paper, the press focused on the global warming angle and a media furor followed. We were targeted as global warming alarmists, capitalizing on this tragedy to increase research funding and for personal publicity, a threat to capitalism and the American way of life, etc.
At the same time, we were treated like rock stars by the environmental movement. Our 15 minutes stretched into days, weeks and months. Hurricane Katrina became a national focusing event for the global warming debate. We were particularly stung by criticisms from fellow research scientists who claimed that we were doing this “for the money” and attacked our personal and scientific integrity. We felt that one scientist in particular had crossed the line and committed a series of fouls, and this turned the scientific debate into academic guerrilla warfare between our team and the skeptics that was played out in the glare of the media. This “war” culminated in an article published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, “Debate shatters the civility of weather science” on Feb 2, 2006 (note the timing of my email exchange with Mann, .ca Jan 2006). This article became a catharsis for the hurricane research community, that engendered extensive email discussion among scientists on both sides of the public debate. We did an email version of a “group hug” and vowed to stop the guerilla warfare.
I had lost my bearings in all of this, and the Wall Street Journal article had the effect of a bucket of cold water being poured over my head. I learned several important lessons from this experience: just because the other guy commits the first “foul” doesn’t give you the moral high ground in protracted academic guerilla warfare. Nothing in this crazy environment is worth sacrificing your personal or professional integrity. After all, no one remembers who fired the first shot, all they see is unprofessional behavior.
I took a step back and tried to understand all this craziness and learn from it. I even wrote a journal article on this, “Mixing Politics and Science in Testing the Hypothesis that Greenhouse Warming is Causing a Global Increase in Hurricane Intensity.” This paper got quite a bit of play in the blogosphere upon its publication in Aug 2006, and at this time I made my first major foray into the blogosphere, checking in at all the blogs where the paper was being discussed. See esp realclimate and climateaudit (but I can no longer find the original thread on climateaudit).
At climateaudit, the posters had some questions about statistics and wanted to see the raw data. I was pretty impressed by the level of discussion, and wondered why I had not come across this blog before over at the realclimate blogroll. Then I realized that I was on Steve McIntyre’s blog (I had sort of heard of his tiff with Mann, but wasn’t really up on all this at the time). I was actually having much more fun over at climateaudit than at realclimate, and I thought it made much more sense to spend time at climateaudit rather than to preach to the converted at realclimate. Back in 2006 spending time at climateaudit was pretty rough sport (it wasn’t really moderated at the time). When I first started spending time over there, the warmist blogs thought it was really funny, and encouraged me to give “˜em hell.
I was continuing my overall thinking on how to better deal with skeptics and increase the credibility and integrity of science. I gave an invited talk at Fall 2006 AGU meeting, entitled “Falling out of the ivory tower: Reflections on mixing politics and climate science.” This is where I first started talking about circling the wagons, etc. I don’t think this was quite what the convenors had in mind when they invited me to give this talk, but at the time I still had pretty solid status as a survivor of vicious political attacks during the hurricane wars and was a heroine for taking down Bill Gray.
When the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report was published in 2007, I joined the consensus in supporting this document as authoritative; I was convinced by the rigors of the process, etc etc. While I didn’t personally agree with everything in the document (still nagging concerns about the treatment of uncertainty), I bought into the meme of “don’t trust what one scientist says, listen to the IPCC.” During 2008 and 2009, I became increasingly concerned by the lack of “policy neutrality” by people involved in the IPCC and policies that didn’t make sense to me. But after all, “don’t trust what one scientist says”, and I continued to substitute the IPCC assessment for my own personal judgment.
November 19, 2009: bucket of cold water #2. When I first saw the climategate emails, I knew these were real, they confirmed concerns and suspicions that I already had. After my first essay “On the credibility . . .” posted at climateaudit, I got some emails that asked me to be sensitive to the feelings of the scientists involved. I said I was a whole lot more worried about the IPCC, in terms of whether it could be saved and whether it should be saved. I had been willing to substitute the IPCC for my own personal judgment, but after reading those emails, the IPCC lost the moral high ground in my opinion. Not to say that the IPCC science was wrong, but I no longer felt obligated in substituting the IPCC for my own personal judgment.
So the Judith Curry .ca 2010 is the same scientist as she was in 2003, but sadder and wiser as a result of the hurricane wars, a public spokesperson on the global warming issue owing to the media attention from the hurricane wars, more broadly knowledgeable about the global warming issue, much more concerned about the integrity of climate science, listening to skeptics, and a blogger (for better or for worse). So should Joe Romm be puzzled by this? Probably, but I think part of his puzzlement arises from assuming that I and all “warmist” climate researchers share his policy objectives. People really find it hard to believe that I don’t have a policy agenda about climate change/energy (believe me, Roger Pielke Jr has tried very hard to smoke me out as a “stealth advocate”). Yes, I want clean green energy, economic development and “world peace”. I have no idea how much climate change should be weighted in these kinds of policy decisions. I lack the knowledge, wisdom and hubris to think that anything I say or do should be of any consequence to climate/carbon/energy policy.
So back to discussing the integrity of climate research and the IPCC assessment process.
A good indication of Judith Curry’s stature in the climate science community is the huge amount of attention Friday’s Q & A has generated in the climate blogosphere. Numerous climate bloggers (on all sides) have offered their own commentary on it, triggering in some cases, very lively comment threads at their sites. Notably, Realclimate has remained mum–so far.
Later in the week, I plan on posting a short rundown of the blogs that have posted on the Curry dialogue, for those who might like to see how her views have been discussed elsewhere. Again, I thank Judy for agreeing to participate in the virtual round the clock discussion. I know it has taken up much of her spare time this past week–and then some.
UPDATE: After finishing the Q & A, do check out the comment thread where Judith Curry is actively engaged with readers.
Last week, a single blog comment by Judith Curry, a climate scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, outraged the proprietors and readers of Real Climate. Curry had mentioned the IPCC and the term “corruption” in the same sentence. I then discussed the brewing firestorm here, and that triggered a spirited exchange in the comment thread, of which Curry was an active participant.
As this exchange was playing out, I sensed that Curry was expanding on her recent controversial critique of climate scientists, while also putting forth a contrary view of the two recent probes that have exonerated scientists of wrongdoing in the affair known as Climategate. So I asked her if I could follow up with a few questions to clarify some of her recent statements. She immediately accepted and what follows is a short Q & A, conducted via email, and reproduced in its entirety.
Q: In the media and within the climate science community, the Oxburgh report was perceived as a complete vindication of scientists associated with Climategate. Yet you wrote in a comment at Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog that, “the Oxburgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion.” Could you elaborate?
JC: There is a substantial level of public interest in investigating the issues raised by Climategate. These issues include: wanting an assessment of the reliability and accuracy of the historical and paleo temperature records/reconstructions; wanting an assessment of whether the IPCC was corrupted and whether their conclusions are reliable and can be trusted as the basis for international carbon and energy policy; and whether there are some “bad apples” in the climate research community that need to be weeded out in the sense of not being in positions of responsibility as journal editor, IPCC lead author, administrator.
The Oxburgh investigation initiated by the UEA took on a very narrow slice of these overall concerns: whether or not the CRU records of temperature change had been deliberately biased or manipulated by UEA scientists. While the Oxburgh report is hardly a ringing endorsement of the CRU science, their main conclusion is that they do not find any evidence of scientific misconduct such as falsification of data. The basis for this conclusion is examination of a selection of 11 research papers published by CRU (based upon a recommendation from the Royal Society, the exact provenance of this recommendation is unknown) and interviews with CRU scientists.
Criticisms of the Oxburgh report that have been made include: bias of some of the members including the Chair, not examining the papers that are at the heart of the controversies, lack of consideration of the actual criticisms made by Steve McIntyre and others, and a short report with few specifics that implies a superficial investigation. When I first read the report, I thought I was reading the executive summary and proceeded to look for the details; well, there weren’t any. And I was concerned that the report explicitly did not address the key issues that had been raised by the skeptics. Upon reading Andrew Montford’s analysis, I learned: “So we have an extraordinary coincidence – that both the UEA submission to the [UK Parliament's Science and Technology] Select Committee and Lord Oxburgh’s panel independently came up with almost identical lists of papers to look at, and that they independently neglected key papers like Jones 1998 and Osborn and Briffa 2006.” I recall reading this statement from one of the blogs, which seems especially apt: the fire department receives report of a fire in the kitchen; upon investigating the living room, they declare that there is no fire in the house.
So in summary, Jones, Briffa et al. can be relieved that they have been vindicated of charges of scientific misconduct. Even with the deficiencies of the Oxburgh report, I don’t disagree with their conclusion about finding no evidence of scientific misconduct: I haven’t seen any evidence of plagiarism or fabrication/falsification of data by the CRU scientists. Sloppy record keeping, cherry picking of data, and inadequate statistical methods do not constitute scientific misconduct, but neither do they inspire confidence in the research product. Further, the “bad apple” issue is still out there, but this is something that is impossible to assess objectively. And the behavior of these scientists (sloppy record keeping, dismissal of skeptical critiques, and lack of transparency) has slowed down scientific progress in assessing and improving these very important data sets. Therefore I have been proposing that we move away from the focus on individual behavior, and shifting focus to issues related to the IPCC assessment process, addressing issues related the availability of data and transparency of the methods, and to improving the temperature data and proxies. Once these issues are addressed, the “bad apple” issue becomes mostly moot.
Q: In that same comment at Roger’s site, you also suggested that there was too much focus on Climategate, as opposed to “the principal issue that people care about: the IPCC and its implications for policy.” Then you seemed to go much further in criticism of the IPCC than you have previously, when you said:
The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative.
Over at RealClimate, Gavin Schmidt shot back:
Anyone making accusations of corruption – especially in the light of the tsunami of baseless accusations against scientists that have been hitting the internet in the last few months – needs to be sure that they adequately document the evidence for their allegations.
Can you respond in full?
JC: As to whether the accusations against scientists are baseless or not, well I refer the reader back to the reply to my previous question; the jury is still out on many of the accusations. Below is a slight elaboration on the statement I made at RealClimate; I make no attempt here at a thorough evaluation of the IPCC process and its apparent corruptions. But I have seen and read enough on this topic to feel comfortable in making that statement at RealClimate. And if such critiques aren’t made, then there will be no motivation to investigate these issues and improve the IPCC process. These issues really need to be investigated and the IPCC process needs to be improved, and the investigation of the IPCC needs to be much more thorough than the UEA investigations.
Corruptions to the IPCC process that I have seen discussed include:
“¢ lead/contributing authors assessing their own work ““ (e.g. von Storch criticism in 2005), in some cases resulting in an overemphasis on their own papers written by themselves and their collaborators;
“¢ tailoring graphics and not adequately describing uncertainties ostensibly to simplify and not to “dilute the message” that IPCC wanted to send;
“¢ violations of publication (in press) deadlines for inclusions of papers in the IPCC report;
“¢ inadequacies in the review process whereby lead/contributing authors don’t respond fairly to adverse criticism; this inadequacy arises in part to the authors themselves having ultimate authority and in part to cursory performance by the Review Editors;
“¢ evasiveness and unresponsiveness by the IPCC regarding efforts to investigate alleged violations occurring in the review process;
“¢ IPCC Review Editors and authors using the IPCC to avoid accountability under national FOI legislation.
Regarding my accusations of process violations, Gavin Schmidt states:
Issues of process are of interest only insofar as they affect the science assessment. “Does it matter?” is the key question – and as far as I have seen, the answer is no for any purported issue that I have investigated.
The skeptics have argued (and I agree with them on this) that Chapter 2.3 in the IPCC WG1 Third Assessment Report and Chapter 6 in the IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report, both of which address the paleoclimate proxy record, were not accurate assessments of the science and its uncertainties. The “elephant in the room” is the 1000-year reconstructions involving Briffa, Mann and Jones, regarding which the CRU emails certainly provide much evidence relating to the authors’ conduct as IPCC authors that violate the IPCC process protocols. Process matters. If the results of the assessment weren’t being questioned, process violations would be a non-issue. The failure of the various inquiries to seriously engage on this conduct results in a situation where the public is left with the impression that such behavior and conduct is condoned by IPCC and its scientists.
With respect to the torquing of the science by the IPCC, there are many small examples, but I describe here three broad issues:
1) a senior leader at one of the big climate modeling institutions told me that climate modelers seem to be spending 80% of their time on the IPCC production runs, and 20% of their time developing better climate models.
2) there is a huge rush of journal article submissions just before the IPCC deadlines; clearly many scientists are trying to get their latest research included in the IPCC. There is the perception out there that best way to have a paper included in the IPCC is to support the established IPCC narrative.
3) scientists involved in the IPCC are attempting to influence the research process (e.g. peer review in journals, not making key data and metadata available) to support the IPCC narrative and using the IPCC platform to editorialize against and discredit critics (examples of these abound in the CRU emails).
Q: Speaking of RealClimate, I think it’s fair to say that they represent the views of a sizable and influential bloc of climate scientists. In a comment several days ago at this site, you said: “Over at RC, they are commenting that we shouldn’t open our minds to garbage, but I am afraid the jury is still out on many of the issues that warmists have such high confidence in.” What are some of those issues?
JC: To keep this short, I will only itemize some topics where I think the confidence levels in the IPCC are too high and uncertainties have been inadequately characterized: much of what is in the IPCC WG2 report (impacts), the 20th century external climate forcings, the historical surface temperature record prior to 1960, attribution of the 20th century climate variations (including the role of the multidecadal ocean oscillations), the impacts of land use change, sea level rise, paleoclimate reconstructions, uncertainties of climate models and lack of metrics for evaluating climate model performance.
Q: With respect to all the controversy kicked up by Climategate, you’ve also written this past week: “At the beginning, I tried to limit my personal exposure on this and was very leery of getting misquoted by the media. When others failed to speak up, I felt that I needed to step up to the plate.” A number of scientists have stepped forward, as you have, such as Mike Hulme and Hans von Storch, and called for a rethinking about how climate science engages the public and especially its
critics. Why so few?
JC: There is likely to be a range of reasons for this, but for an individual scientist it is probably some combination of the following:
“¢ they feel threatened by what they saw happen to Phil Jones and Michael Mann, and want to “fly below the radar screen” so that nothing like that happens to them;
“¢ they don’t want to risk censure by their peers in straying from the established narrative; this is a very valid concern for young untenured scientists;
“¢ the norms of professional scientific behavior are to attack the scientific argument, not the behavior of an individual scientist
“¢ they aren’t paying much attention to all of this, rarely check out the blogs, and don’t want to be distracted from their own research.
“¢ some scientists that I have talked with do have strong feelings on this issue, but realize that a lot of homework would be needed on this and broader science policy issues to be an effective “pundit” on the subject.
“¢ climategate has motivated numerous scientists to question more actively some of the high confidence (e.g. “very likely”) conclusions of the IPCC; these scientists will speak out in the context of their published papers.
“¢ the issues here cross over into the social sciences and politics, well outside the comfort zone of most physical scientists.
Hanging out in the blogosphere would provide some of the requisite skills and perspectives in engaging with the public and critics of climate research; very few climate researchers have been doing that. There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule by the IPCC scientists and their defenders not to engage with critics/skeptics, since they think that such engagement legitimizes the skeptics. Personally, I think that the almost total lack of “mainstream” climate scientists engaging with skeptics has resulted in a loss of the moral high ground in the public’s view, and has acted to increase the public credibility of the skeptics. Further, this lack of meaningful engagement has inflamed the skeptics (particularly in the blogosphere) and they just keep pushing harder and digging deeper.
Some scientists are speaking out: Gavin Schmidt and Richard Lindzen are saying, well, what you would expect them to say. I and a few others (e.g. Von Storch, Hulme) are trying to provoke reflection by the climate community towards improving the situation and the credibility of climate research. More voices and additional ideas on these issues would certainly be welcome. I remind my fellow scientists that scientific integrity is about more than just following the rules and staying out of trouble; it also demands that we consider carefully when to speak up versus when to stay silent when concerns about scientific integrity are raised.
***Postscript*** In recent months, Judith Curry has engaged her peers, critics, and the public at well known web outlets, such as Climateprogress, Climateaudit, and Dot Earth, among others. Additionally, she has been a participant in lively comment threads over at Roger Pielke Jr.’s site, Bishop Hill, and most recently, here. I thank her for taking the time to answer my questions at this blog.