The Brave Judith Curry (Part II)

judth curry testimony congressProf. Judith Curry testifying before congress.I have previously written about climatologist Judith Curry‘s continuing challenge to politicized climate science. “One plus the truth equals a majority,” I subtitled Part I back in May.

MasterResource has also covered Climategate, in which emails appeared that contained such statements as “I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, but it’s not helping the cause, or her professional credibility.” (Dr. Michael Mann, IPCC Lead Author, May 30, 2008)

The Grand Dame of Climate Science is maintaining her prolific output at Climate Etc, which now includes energy- and policy-related commentary. Her posts, and guest posts by others, are increasingly multi-disciplinary, questioning not only the trumped consensus of physical climate science but also the postmodernist notion of preferable, competitive “clean” energy.

The visceral reaction to her abandonment of the climate ‘consensus’ some years ago has inspired Professor Curry to study the sociology of knowledge to understand the why-behind-the-why of climate alarmism. Along the way, she has discovered insights from the Austrian School (real-world) economics, namely F. A. Hayek’s pretense of knowledge.

Future historians of climate thought will note climatologist Michael Mann’s grand deceit as an example of how ideological motivations and emotivism can skew a physical science in spite of the scientific method. I have analogized Mann-like practices to the behaviors exposed at Enron (working from the story to the numbers rather than vice-versa, bullying, consensus, falsity, and failure) in what I call the Enronization of climate science.

Back to Professor Curry. Here are some salient quotations I have gathered from her recent output that offer both explanation and warning so that her profession can return to true scholarship.

Biased Scientists

“In principle, scientists can ethically and effectively advocate for an issue, provided that their statements are honest and they disclose uncertainties. In practice, too many scientists, and worse yet professional societies, are conducting their advocacy for emissions reductions in a manner that is not responsible in context of the norms of science.”

“In their efforts to promote their ‘cause,’ the scientific establishment behind the global warming issue has been drawn into the trap of seriously understating the uncertainties associated with the climate problem. This behavior risks destroying science’s reputation for honesty. It is this objectivity and honesty which gives science a privileged seat at the table.  Without this objectivity and honesty, scientists become regarded as another lobbyist group.”

“As a result of this lack of a code of behavior for university scientists, there continues to be what I regard as extremely irresponsible public behavior by some climate scientists, and there are absolutely no professional repercussions.”

– Judith Curry, “Science, Uncertainty and Advocacy,” June 22, 2015.

“The issue is NOT that scientists have values, or even express them.  Rather the problem is engaging in adversarial science in support of these values, whereby their public communications focus on  repetition, inflated claims, and disproportionate emphases.”

“Hucksterism is a great word to describe what goes on in the communication of climate science in service of policy advocacy.  The complicity of many climate scientists and professional societies in this hucksterism is a cause of great concern.”

– Judith Curry, “The Adversarial Method versus Feynman Integrity.” Climate Etc., August 12, 2015.

False Consensus

“My main concern re the IPCC consensus seeking and the consensus entrepreneurs is that this is extremely ill-suited to a complex, highly uncertain area of science, and that it acts to bias the science.  Scientists defending the consensus end up conducting acts that undermine the consensus through loss of trust in the scientists.”

– Judith Curry, “Scientists Speaking With One Voice: Panacea or Pathology?” June 25, 2015.

“There is an unfortunate knowledge monopoly in climate science and policy – the IPCC and UNFCCC.  As a result there is insufficient intellectual and political diversity in assessments about climate change.  To break this monopoly, we need identify new frameworks for encouraging, publishing and publicizing independent and interdisciplinary ideas and assessments.”

– Judith Curry, Assessments, Meta-analyses, Discussion and Peer Review, July 29, 2015.

“The tragic case in point for climate science is Mann versus McIntyre, as revealed by Andrew Montford and the Climategate emails.  ‘Circling the wagons’, even. I’ve written previously of how we managed to quickly get back on track on the hurricane and global warming wars, whereas Mann continues to fight the hockey wars not just by hucksterism but by attacking his opponents. This kind of behavior does not help keep the dangerous human caused climate change narrative alive, and at some point simply becomes pathological.”

– Judith Curry, “The Adversarial Method versus Feynman Integrity.” Climate Etc., August 12, 2015.

Climategate in History

“Climategate and [Peter] Gleick-gate are cases in point here … with perceived exaggerated threats from the likes of Heartland and Warwick Hughes. Why trash their integrity when the IPCC had received the Nobel Peace Prize and they were claiming 97% consensus?”

“Climategate was a watershed moment in that it turned the tide slightly in the direction of discussing uncertainty in the public debate on climate change.  Given the extremely high policy relevance of climate science, this transition to Feynman integrity will require a better decision analytic model than the linear model that ‘speaks consensus to power’– examples of such strategies are provided in these previous CE posts.”

– Judith Curry, “The Adversarial Method versus Feynman Integrity.” Climate Etc., August 12, 2015.

Unsettled Science

“The greatest uncertainties in simulating climate change from increasing CO2 is generally regarded to be associated with cloud feedbacks and ocean circulations (there are many more, but these stand out).  Atmospheric radiative transfer is regarded to be among the most certain aspect of simulating climate change…. [But] three new papers highlight how atmospheric radiative transfer, particularly how it is treated in climate models, is not ‘settled science.’”

– Judith Curry, “New research on atmospheric radiative transfer,” July 6, 2015

“These negotiated government sanctioned assessments don’t adequately account for the very substantial disagreement about climate change that arises from:

    • Insufficient observational evidence
    • Disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence (e.g. models)
    • Disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence
    • Assessments of areas of ambiguity and ignorance
    • Belief polarization as a result of politicization of the science

All this leaves multiple ways to interpret and reason about the available evidence.”

– Judith Curry, Assessments, Meta-analyses, Discussion and Peer Review, July 29, 2015.

Michael Mann (‘Hockey Stick’)

“I have written many posts about Michal Mann – apart from my own concerns about the hockey stick (Hiding the Decline), I am greatly concerned about Mann’s bullying behavior inserting itself into the scientific process (collaboration, peer review, public communication). My concerns go beyond the general strategies of adversarial science.  to what I regard as unethical behavior.

It is a sad state of affairs for climate science that this book had to be written (it was brought on by Michael Mann’s lawsuit – without the lawsuit, Steyn obviously wouldn’t have bothered).   At a time when the U.S. and the world’s nations are trying to put together an agreement to tackle climate change (for better or for worse), Steyn’s book reminds everyone of Climategate, why the public doesn’t trust climate scientists and aren’t buying their ‘consensus.

… I hope that everyone will learn that adversarial science as practiced in its pathological form by Michal Mann doesn’t ‘pay’ in the long run.”

– Judith Curry, Mark Steyn’s new book on Michael Mann, Climate Etc., August 13, 2015.

On Weepy Climate Scientists

“Having your ego wrapped up in having your research influence policy (frustrated policy advocates),  keeping ‘score’ in a personal war against skeptics, seeking fame, generating book sales and lecture fees and political influence, etc. can all come into play in influencing how a scientist reacts to the climate wars or seeks to position themselves in reacting to the threats of climate change.  Scientists might get ‘upset’ if they don’t think they are sufficiently successful at the above.  This is something else — not pre-traumatic stress syndrome.”

– Judith Curry, Pre-traumatic Stress Syndrome: Climate Scientists Speak Out, July 10, 2015.

 Public Policy: Centralized or Decentralized

“I am concerned by the over centralized approach promoted by ecomodernism…. [We] need millions of diverse and competing attempts to work towards good Anthropocene practices.  Centralized approaches don’t work very well, viz. the UNFCCC treaties. They don’t work because it is difficult to get international or even national agreement, and because there are no silver bullet solutions to wicked problems of global energy, food, water, environment, population (silver buckshot approach is preferred).”

“The idea of ‘conscious coupling’ with nature speaks to me more so than the ideal of ‘conscious decoupling’ from nature…. My personal desire is to leave the city and live a life that is more connected to nature. Whether or not this is ‘rational’ in context of planetary health, I don’t know.

– Judith Curry, Eco–(post) Modernism, July 22, 2015.

Funding Ad Hominen

“[O]il company funding … is too often used as an excuse to reject a climate scientist or their findings, even if the funding is very indirect and has nothing to do with the specific study.  For example, having accepted travel funds from a think tank that is in some way has some funding from an unacceptable industry group or individual can be game over for that individual.”

“In climate change research, there is no righteous source of funding – government funding can be a source of bias just as much as industry funding can, and there is A LOT more government funding out there.  The need for greater intellectual (and political) diversity in climate change research has been addressed in this previous post.”

“That said, funding is probably a smaller source of bias than peer pressure to follow a consensus and to defend your own hypothesis, not to mention political preferences, environmental proclivities and career pressures.”

“In climate science, the ‘bogey’ is funding from fossil fuel companies.  Well, regional power providers are also involved in wind power, solar power, geothermal and hydropower (not to mention nuclear, but not clear if nuclear is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?).  Not to mention providing power for all those computers running weather and climate models.  And where would the climate research elite be without fossil fuels to support their extensive air travel (its a badge of honor among them to be flying at least 100,000 miles per year).  And is  natural gas good, relatively good, or bad?”

“So . . . is funding from power and oil companies ok if it funds research related to wind, solar geothermal and hydro?  Better predictions of extreme weather events that hamper both energy supply and demand, whatever the source of power?  Or is it only a problem if it supports outreach efforts by a climate scientist to deny humans are the cause of climate change?”

“If independent scientists obtain funding from power and oil companies, would this help support needed intellectual diversity into climate science to avoid the massive groupthink we now see?”

– Judith Curry, Industry Funding and Bias, August 16, 2015.

Politics

“The debate on climate change needs to move to question #3, regarding whether the proposed policies will have any impact on the climate. Not just America’s contributions to reducing emissions, but the cumulative global INDCs.  The answer is that it will not have any meaningful impact on the climate.  Once this is accepted, then the climate change problem is open to reframing and pushing the ‘restart’ button.”

– Judith Curry, Carly Fiorina Hits the ‘Sweet Spot’ on Climate Change, August 12, 2015.

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Comments (7)

  • Avatar

    GR82DRV

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    Some important observations here! Thank you Judith.

    This article leaves out an important component: the sociological and political isolation (homogeneity) of today’s academics and the bias that isolation drives. By and large, climate researchers live in an artificial social environment of political conformity and self-talk. Campus research environments are perhaps the least politically diverse places on earth, often existing as islands of one-sided thought.

    Meanwhile, the politics of climate science are now overwhelming, with nearly all of the proposed “solutions” being not scientific in nature, but rather socioeconomic and [u]political[/u] by design. The reach and influence of political funding for this “cause” is simply undeniable.

    The fact is that far too many climate researchers live in a very narrow world of esoteric studies, never appreciating how their directions or even outcomes are influenced from the very beginning. Living in such an isolated political atmosphere allows many of them to never even consider the [i]possibility[/i] that alternative ideas, influences, and motives exist.

  • Avatar

    Helen Warn

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    I am speaking from the perspective of having been a scientist working in numerical weather prediction back in the 1970s. My employer was the Atmospheric Environment Service of the government of Canada.

    In those days we could never have dreamed of the level of politicization that exists today. There was no pressure on us, from anyone, to lean towards certain theories. Peer review worked. We may have argued passionately with each other, but at the end of the day, we all wanted to add to our knowledge base.

    I can’t imagine working in the current conditions. My admiration and respect for Professor Curry is boundless and deeply emotional. But I hate seeing great scientists being distracted from producing all that they could by having to engage in the “scientific” environment extant today.

  • Avatar

    Peter

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    The amount of CO2 in our atmosphere just passed 400 ppm. The human driven component works out to about 12 ppm. This may seem like a simple concept, actually more of a question, how does such a small percentage truly change our overall climate. When you take into consideration that a medium sized volcano can produce more CO2 in one week than people can in a year. There are currently 20+ volcanoes that are active as of Aug.21 2015. Is it our egos that make us think we have that kind of effect on our planet. To me, clear cutting forests in a large scale, such as what was happening in the tropical regions like the Amazon, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Congo and so on; are much more damaging to our environment

  • Avatar

    Fred Colbourne

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    Back before plate tectonics was accepted by geographers and geophysicists, around 1960 or so, I attended a lecture at the University of Western Ontario on the subject of mobile continents (continental drift).

    The professor warned his students that if any of them revealed that he or she believed that continents are mobile, it would be impossible ever to teach at a university in North America.

    Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.
    (accents missing). I too admire Dr Curry’s “courage”.

  • Avatar

    Fred Colbourne

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    Back before plate tectonics was accepted by geographers and geophysicists, around 1960 or so, I attended a lecture at the University of Western Ontario on the subject of mobile continents (continental drift).

    The professor warned his students that if any of them revealed that he or she believed that continents are mobile, it would be impossible ever to teach at a university in North America.

    Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.
    (accents missing). I too admire Dr Curry’s “courage”.

  • Avatar

    JayPee

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    Poor Mikey Mann
    Can he soundly refute ANYTHING professor Curry is saying ?

    He denounces her without an iota of proof otherwise.

    Thank you for your supposed SCIENCE !
    Mikey

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Who cares what Mickey Mann has to say.
    His twig was broken long ago and the world temperature (as if they can be measured accurately ) is not causing the earth to have a fever .

    Professor Curry keep on trucking .
    Science is better for your effort and the charlatans promoting their agenda by twisting the truth are running out of hot air .

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