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.
[Update: Fred Pearce’s New Scientist article has been updated. More below]
It was all going so well. The climate contrarians, along with a handful of sympathetic scientists, had offered an olive branch of reconciliation to the climate science mainstream, discussed issues of common concern, and broken bread together. All this, in the salubrious environment of Lisbon and its Gulbenkian Foundation, facilitated by an experienced organizing group of “post-normal” science philosophers and the EU’s Joint Research Committee. The mainstream was noticeably absent, but there was the next best thing: the group’s favourite bete noir, Gavin Schmidt, had arrogantly refused to attend because, supposedly, the “science was settled and there was nothing to discuss”. Or so said New Scientist’s Fred Pearce who was there to capture this epochal moment for posterity.
Then it all went horribly wrong. It turned out that Schmidt had said nothing of the sort, and that Pearce had grossly misrepresented Schmidt’s email reply to organizers, which contained a polite, nuanced refusal, along with a list of subjects that should be discussed. This, even though Pearce had actually seen and read aloud the
complete email [albeit accidentally truncated], which was leaked by “ad hoc” invitation committee member and fringe blogger “tallbloke” in what was (to put it charitably) a highly inappropriate attempt at spin. The gullible Pearce didn’t even bother to check with Schmidt, but appears to have accepted “tallbloke’s” version at face value.
But the naivete and gullibility do not end there, for Pearce missed the truly fascinating part of the whole story. “Tallbloke’s” passing around of the email he wasn’t even supposed to have was not just a supremely ironic coda to a workshop ostensibly dedicated to building trust and reconciliation (a circumstance which seems to have completely eluded the befuddled Pearce). Somehow the fringe blogger and WUWT regular managed to forge a connection between a highly respected science philosopher and the contrarian blogosphere, and then put himself in the inner circle planning the resulting workshop a year later, providing a fascinating insight into this misbegotten enterprise.
The latest climate contrarian meme appears to be (baseless) accusations of scientific “gatekeeping” and “censorship”. Ross McKitrick provides an example of this unmistakable trend, with a blow-by-blow account of difficulties encountered in publication of his upcoming paper on the supposed contamination of the surface temperature record. The new paper purports to debunk a single statement in the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, one denigrating the conclusions of a previous paper by McKitrick and Patrick Michaels.
McKitrick criticizes the IPCC assertion that “locations of greatest socioeconomic development are also those that have been most warmed by atmospheric circulation“. He claims that other sections cited to support that statement do no such thing. But it turns out that McKitrick himself has it completely wrong, as he cites a passage concerning regional warming over the 21st century, instead of the actual relevant passage concerning the period 1975-2005.
Moreover a review of the relevant scientific literature reveals substantial flaws in the previous analyses of McKitrick and Michaels. That, rather than any close-mindedness or “censorship”, is the real reason why McKitrick’s analyses have become increasingly marginalized in the scientific literature, if not in the right-wing press. Continue reading