Post Normal Meltdown in Lisbon, part 2

A world famous environmental journalist has just blogged about a workshop aimed at “reconciliation” between climate scientists and their critics. But hardly any actual scientists showed up, and now one of the missing invitees is complaining bitterly about the journalist’s “made up” coverage. The scientist’s been paraphrased as saying the “science is settled, so there’s nothing to discuss”, even though he’s on the record as rejecting such over-generalizations and binary thinking. In fact he’s noted that the IPCC reports themselves describe a “vast array of uncertainties”, but at the same time give rise to “well-supported concern that increasing emissions of CO2 (in particular) are posing a substantial risk to human society”. In addition, he objected to the very premise of the workshop, asserted the “conflict” was more rooted in politics than science, and suggested a search for common ground in policies having “co-benefits”.

Let’s listen in as editors valiantly struggle to set things right.

Editor 1: There’s a problem with Fred’s Lisbon piece. Apparently, one of the scientists who didn’t show up is complaining that Fred used a “made up” explanation of his absence.

Editor 2: !@#$%^&

Editor 1: I hear you. But the good news is that we now have the actual email he sent, so all we have to do is quote from that instead of Fred’s “science is settled” version.

But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt. In an email response to organizers, Schmidt wrote: “The fundamental conflict is of what (if anything) we should do about greenhouse gas emissions (and other assorted pollutants), not what the weather was like 1000 years ago.”

Across the spectrum, participants were mostly united in disagreeing with Schmidt. Climate science, they said, is much less certain than the IPCC mainstreamers say, and peace can be found only if all accept what they dubbed “the uncertainty monster”.

Editor 2: Is this “monster” a thousand years old? That doesn’t make sense.

Editor 1: OK. Let’s try summarizing the paragraph, but pulling in key quotes. And we’ll give him a whole sentence.

But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt. In an email response to organizers, Schmidt objected to a lack of any policy discussion, and stated that “perceived” science conflicts were not actual conflicts within the science community.

“No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focused on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position.”

Across the spectrum, participants were mostly united in disagreeing with Schmidt. Climate science, they said, is much less certain than the IPCC mainstreamers say, and peace can be found only if all accept what they dubbed “the uncertainty monster”.

Editor 1: Hmmm … It seems like no one involved had much inkling of Schmidt’s actual objections and they’re all responding to that “science is settled” routine. Well, let’s try that last sentence before we give up.

Editor 2: Are you sure? Fred says that wasn’t even part of the email he read aloud to McIntyre and McKitrick in that bar in Lisbon and he can’t vouch for its authenticity.

Editor 1: What have we got to lose?

But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt. In an email response to organizers, Schmidt suggested “trying to find common ground on policy ideas via co-benefits”  instead of discussing “irrelevant scientific ‘controversies’”.

Across the spectrum, participants were mostly united in disagreeing with Schmidt. Climate science, they said, is much less certain than the IPCC mainstreamers say, and peace can be found only if all accept what they dubbed “the uncertainty monster”.

Editor 2: It still doesn’t make sense. [Sigh] Why didn’t we hire David Adam when we had the chance?

Editor 1: Well, you know what we have to do now.

But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt. who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.[Gavin Schmidt has asked us to clarify his reasons for not attending: see the bottom of this post.]

Across the spectrum, participants were mostly united in disagreeing with Schmidt. Climate science, they said, is much less certain than the IPCC mainstreamers say, and peace can be found only if all accept what they dubbed “the uncertainty monster”.

Editor 2: I guess that will have to do.

Editor 1: Uh-oh, there’s incoming. Look at that, Fred’s blogging about his Norway trip.

Editor 2: !@#$%^&

===================================

Okay, that last part didn’t happen.  Fred Pearce hasn’t blogged about his post-Lisbon trip to the conference  Norway Carbonundrum: From Science to Headlines. At least not yet.

But at the Norway conference on media and climate science Fred Pearce did provide a self-revealing, if somewhat incoherent, overview of climate science and its portrayal in the media in the post-”climategate” era. Fresh from the Portugal debacle, Pearce pleaded for Lisbon-style reconcilation and  greater understanding, while mounting a vigourous defence of two key figures in the current “debate”, namely so-called “data libertarian” Steve McIntyre and the great reconciliator herself, Judith Curry.

Pearce’s misbegotten analysis is by turns baffling and poignant, especially in hindsight. Since the two conferences, so-called “reconciliation” has been crashing all around Pearce as it descends into endorsement of some of the most outrageous accusations of dishonesty against prominent climate scientists.

So it’s high time to take a closer look at Pearce’s peculiar (and error-filled) take on climate science and “climategate”  – something I will do very soon.

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12 responses to “Post Normal Meltdown in Lisbon, part 2

  1. DC, this blog has become the single best chronicle of the perfidy of the skeptic going, at least regarding the blog wars (Merchants of Doubt is very strong at the big picture level). I think that was confirmed pretty resoundingly by McIntyre’s recent shot across your bow over at Ms Muffet’s. I chose not to draw attention to it with a response, and perhaps you did as well, notwithstanding that it was pretty feeble, as his post-hoc legitimations tend to be.

    In any case, you’ve got his attention, and that of more than a few others. That’s the price of making a difference, especially the more valuable that difference becomes. They certainly don’t want to see anything that will lessen the effectiveness of the smear/discredit campaign against Real Climate scientists, as it’s pretty clear that hammering those guys is a significant focus of the PR strategy, (just as discrediting Glenn Greenwald and the unions was a significant focus of the HB Gary consortium’s proposals to Bank of America and the Chamber of Commerce, and just as the tactics, including hacking emails, were the same). The gratuitous not-even-thinly-veiled jihad against Steig is only further evidence of that, as if it were needed.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    • Steve Metzler

      Indeed. DC’s:

      Replication and due diligence, Wegman style

      takes down the Wegman Report (and through it, McIntyre) like a well executed rugby tackle. I wonder if… like… oh, I don’t know… anyone involved in the never-ending ‘enquiry’ at GMU has picked up on the implications of it yet?

  2. Mark Shapiro

    Majorajam –

    Another excellent comment.

    OT, I must thank you for your most excellent reply to Al Henning, in comment # 124 in RealClimate’s O’Donnellgate post.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/02/odonnellgate/comment-page-3/#comment-200425

    Revealing the pernicious influence of our plutocracy on our politics, media, and yes, blogs, remains a worthwhile, never-ending task.

  3. Susan Anderson

    Just looking at BBC, playing catchup, and it appears that Richard Black at the BBC failed to notice that the invitation lists demonstrated such a strong bias that no reasonable expert in the field would have gone without reservations. He seems to think it was a genuine peace-making effort. He also appears to have given more weight to the knee-jerk descriptions of RealClimate than are fair. While I know I can be a real pain, and lack sufficient expertise to say some of the things I do say, but it continues to baffle me that people accept the description of what goes on at RealClimate rather than taking a look for themselves. While a few commenters may get a little sarcastic from time to time, on the whole the standard of courtesy is very high.

    I get the same stuff at my chosen amateur battlefield, DotEarth, but at least it is to some extent deserved. But while Gavin Schmidt et al. can be quite clear on the science and insist on real evidence, I don’t get how that is insulting or unreasonable.

    • I guess you’re referring to this:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/richardblack/2011/02/war_and_peace_making_sense_of.html

      So while you might expect little meeting of minds, what emerged was something even worse, at least from Fred’s point of view – finding himself subject to attack from “warmist” bloggers who accuse him of having made things up to discredit one of the invited scientists – Nasa’s Gavin Schmidt, a prominent climate modeller and a bete noire of “sceptical” bloggers.

      The messenger, too, is painted as a combatant.

      So much febrile heat; so little light.

      That eminently misses the point, of course. It was Schmidt himself who accused Pearce of having “made up” the paraphrase of Schmidt’s reasons for not attending. Schmidt had every right to complain, as should be clear from the above, although in some ways Pearce’s gullibility in succumbing to the spin of Tallbloke makes the true situation even worse.

      The fact is that Pearce’s embrace of the “muddled middle” have let Curry, McIntyre and other IPCC critics off the hook and free from any serious journaliistic scrutiny. And it’s not just Pearce – the same can be said for other “neutral” supporters of reconciliation like Revkin.

      But in Pearce’s case, his gullibility and grudging admiration for the “data libertarians” has been accompanied by mistake after mistake – the Lisbon fiasco was just one more event in a longstanding pattern. As I mentioned, I’ll be returning to this topic, but in the mean time, check this sentence from Pearce’s quickie climategate tome (“The Climate Files”), and count the number of mistakes he manages to cram into one key paragraph:

      At first, McIntyre published regular peer-reviewed scientific papers, co-authoring a couple with McKitrick, a Canadian environmental economist. The mainstream climate scientists, responded angrily to them. As we shall see, they often used their influence to exclude what they regarded as substandard papers from major journals. So McIntyre and other sceptical authors increasingly used Climate Research and Energy and Environment – two peer-reviewed journals at times widely disliked by mainstream climate scientists.

      Having said all that, I do think Black makes some reasonable points – especially when he laments that the new generation of science journalists are basing their reporting on blogs instead of scientific papers. Too bad he doesn’t connect the dots and make that very point about Pearce himself.

      And Black himself has been spun by the “skeptics”, as when he submitted some highly misleading “skeptic”-inspired questions to Phil Jones.

      Moreover, this assertion about the O’Donnell and Steig controversy is simply puzzling:

      … you could short-circuit the lot and go straight to the contribution Andy Revkin of the New York Times highlights on his dot.Earth blog from Cornell University’s Louis Derry, himself a journal editor.

      It’s the most cogent, no nonsense account I’ve seen.

      And the most cogent point in it (which he doesn’t highlight, but I will) is surely that what he terms the “Steig vs O’Donnell debate” played out in the open – and largely before the paper was published.

      It’s true that when Steig 09 came out there was a lot of criticism from O’Donnell and McIntyre. But the current debate concerns the peer review process itself – and it only came out in public after O’Donnell et al was published. And even the esoteric analytical points referred to by Derry are those raised during the peer review, and discussed since publication, including the number of EOFs that should be used (3? 5? 7?). In fact, I don’t see Derry referring to the initial controversy or blog discussion before publication at all – that “most cogent point” is buried very deeply indeed.

    • Susan Anderson

      Yes that’s the one, and you took the trouble to elucidate a couple of points, thanks.

      I too like Richard Black, but see that he like all public blogs is subjected to a perhaps even ruder bunch of fake skeptics. I was a little surprised at how ill informed he was as to the true look of the conference; he seemed to take it at face value.

      It sure was nice having RayPierre, Rabett, et al. providing balance and facts in reply to the nonsense at DotEarth.

    • Rattus Norvegicus

      It appears that Black may have gotten his timeline wrong, but overall the piece was pretty good.

      The comments however were the usual cesspool.

    • Well he also got Lisbon wrong, including Pearce’s problematic role.

      But I agree it was way better than most commentary.

  4. I count 4 errors in the paragraph about Macintyre – I don’t recall him publishing much on the topic at all, let alone in E&E. There was not an angry reaction, and no papers were prevented from being published in major journals by undue influence.

  5. guthrie:

    First of all, here’s Fred Pearce on McIntyre once again:

    At first, McIntyre published regular peer-reviewed scientific papers, co-authoring a couple with McKitrick, a Canadian environmental economist. The mainstream climate scientists, responded angrily to them. As we shall see, they often used their influence to exclude what they regarded as substandard papers from major journals. So McIntyre and other sceptical authors increasingly used Climate Research and Energy and Environment – two peer-reviewed journals at times widely disliked by mainstream climate scientists.

    I assume the Pearce’s phrase “regular peer-reviewed scientific papers” refers to the M&M’s lone 2005 GRL paper, which engendered two follow up replies to comments. But that was well *after* the pair’s first E&E paper in 2003.

    E&E is not peer-reviewed in the sense of having qualified reviewers vet scientific papers. And it is certainly not a science journal, nor a recognized academic journal. Moreover the first M&M paper was rushed into print without even E&E’s normal lax “peer review”.

    Climate Research may have been “disliked”, but the problem was one particular editor, Chris de Freitas (Jones: “de Freitas again”) who consistently greenlighted papers featuring weak analyses and unjustified conclusions, starting as early as 2000. Pat Michaels and McKitrick published there in 2004 – again before the “regular” GRL paper in 2005.

    And there is no evidence whatsoever that any papers from McKitrick, McIntyre or anyone else were improperly excluded – certainly many “substandard” papers were published. And they continue to be (e.g. McLean et al 2009), although there are perhaps fewer substandard papers than there used to be.

    There was angry reaction, but almost all of it was for the E&E papers not the “regular” GRL paper (which was much more limited, although itself very misleading).

    So I count (at least) four errors, although I’m tempted to say Pearce’s exposition is “not even wrong”.

    • DC, thanks for your exposition of Fred Pearce’s serial errors in reporting on climate science, and his willingness to distort history in order to give dishonest players such as McIntyre & McKitrick journalistic cover for their undeserved “legitimacy.” Even though these charlatans are rightfully shunned by the scientific mainstream, bad journalists such as Pearce give them undue influence in the opinions of the general public, who often buy into the idea that climate scientists need to be shaken up by such outsiders to “keep them honest.” There isn’t any evidence that the science has been advanced by the antics of M&M or their cheerleaders at WUWT and Judith Curry’s blog.

      What more can be done to call out journalists such as Pearce for misrepresenting and misreporting the facts about climate science? He’s been repeatedly criticized for his appallingly bad reporting by you and at RC and elsewhere, to very little apparent effect. He and his editors seem very determined to get it wrong, and are responding with Teflon to their critics. Is Pearce so stubbornly entrenched in his views that he can’t be bothered to get his facts straight?

      I wrote direct e-mails to Elisabeth Rosenthal and Leslie Kaufman of the NY Times after their grievously irresponsible articles were published on the front page of the Times in early 2010. I’ve also e-mailed Andy Revkin on a couple of occasions to correct certain facts or interpretations (I don’t claim to have been diligent in this regard, just occasionally flabbergasted enough to write something out of frustration). The NY Times seems to have rebounded somewhat from the nadir represented by such articles written by ER and LK, and some of the better articles on climate science written by Justin Gillis have more recently been published on their front page. I may be mistaken and I hesitate to give the NY Times too much credit because I don’t read it that regularly, but it appears they have adjusted their editorial oversight somewhat, perhaps in response to criticism.

      A scroogle.org search for “Fred Pearce” turns up, firstly, favorable stories of his status as “one of Britain’s finest science writers” despite his atrociously sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Lisbon conference and other climate-related topics. Perhaps this status prevents him and his editors from ever admitting their mistakes.

  6. What’s happenin’ with the plagiarism business over at GMU?

    [DC: Not much at GMU as far as I can tell – and it’s more than a year since Bradley’s original complaint.

    But there will be some related developments soon.]