Mission Impossible: Separating Science & Politics

David Roberts must not have received the memo that he was supposed to ignore Judith Curry.

Seriously, Roberts has made a forceful argument in response to a recent Curry post, in which she wrote:

Climate scientists have no particular expertise on politics, economics or social ethics. A scientist’s personal sense of values and morality has no more legitimacy in this debate than any other individual’s personal sense. There’s an additional reason for climate scientists to stay out of the public debate on this topic: they are biased because of their personal research interests and results, with professional egos and other factors likely weighing into their policy preferences.

That is the thrust of Curry’s case for climate science remaining separate from politics, of which Roberts counters:

First, as a general matter, I agree with Curry’s sentiment. There’s no reason to think a physical scientist’s moral, ethical, or economic opinions should carry particular weight in policy deliberations. On those matters, they are but citizens among other citizens. Curry’s blunt candor on the matter is refreshing, an improvement on James Hansen telling us that science dictates one carbon-pricing policy over another.

However, I don’t think scientists can be “removed from the political debate” that easily, certainly not by any decree of mine! It’s very difficult in practice to separate out Things Scientists Do (“future scenarios, characterizing uncertainties, and analyzing policy options”) from Things Scientists Don’t Do (“politics, economics or social ethics”), even in the best of circumstances. However, even if scientists entirely confine their involvement to dispassionate, unbiased fact and analysis, climate science will still be politicized.

To understand why requires a clear view of the current political dynamic in the U.S., which is what’s often lacking in pieces like Curry’s.

Roberts goes on to discuss why Curry (and others, such as Roger Pielke Jr.) seem averse to mixing politics and science–he chalks it up to a “characterological centrist” (CE) temperament. But that temperament, he argues, is at odds with the current hyperpartisan political landscape, which of course frames the public debate on climate change.

Here’s how Roberts sees the big picture:

I’m not talking about climate sensitivities or hurricane frequency or sea-level projections or other areas of active scientific disputation. I’m talking about whether human beings are driving changes in the climate. That question is simply not in serious dispute in the relevant scientific disciplines. It has been confirmed by multiple lines of evidence, empirical and model-based, over many years. Curry and virtually every other credible climate scientist would no doubt agree. Yet Republicans have now made rejection of that root scientific consensus a litmus test, in keeping with their decades-long assault on America’s institutions.  Virtually every Republican candidate for Congress has denied the most rudimentary facts about climate change.

Yes, Democrats mangle climate science sometimes too. Activists can exaggerate the degree of certainty behind model projections. Scientists can be unduly dismissive of critics. Nobody is blameless. But there is simply nothing on the left (or in the center, or in professional science) remotely equivalent to the anti-intellectualism that reaches to the very top of the Republican Party.

Conservatives are politicizing climate science. Curry is uncomfortable saying that; it sounds like “getting involved in politics.” Most CCs [characterological centrists]  are averse to saying it for fear of appearing partisan (rather than, uh, “post-partisan”). But the fact remains: Even if climate scientists confine their comments purely to what’s known with a high degree of probability, with all the uncertainties baked right in, staying scrupulously clear of policy or ethical judgments, they will still find themselves aligned against the conservative movement and they will be attacked. Republicans slander peer review, science funding, scientific institutions, and scientists themselves. “Both sides” don’t do that. Just the right side.

(Of course I’m aware that there are conservatives and even some climate scientists with good-faith doubts about certain aspects of the science. But we’re talking about politics — not conservative intellectuals, the conservative movement.)

This echoes, in part, a criticism of Curry that was made often when I was doing my Q & A’s with her last year: that she’s not acknowledging, much less calling out, the outright dishonesty of the propagandist arm of the organized climate skeptic movement, which many climate advocates, like Roberts, contend is the predominant force in the climate debate. And, as Roberts reminds us, the climate change is bogus meme became an article of faith for many Republican candidates this year.

Taken together, all this makes it hard to avoid at least addressing the politicization of climate science, which is what I think is the point of Roberts’ post. (The subhead is “It takes two to depoliticize.”) As to why Curry might want to avoid this messiness, Roberts seems willing to give her the benefit of doubt, but her participation in the debate automatically gets politicized, with or without her consent:

Curry may be able to remain scrupulously apolitical, if that’s her inclination. But climate science in general cannot escape politics. Not because scientists — or the advocates and politicians who take it seriously — did anything to bring it on themselves. It’s just that an alliance of energy incumbents and far-right ideologues has chosen to lie relentlessly about it. In the milieu of current climate and energy politics, speaking the truth is a political act. The only way to escape politics is to lapse into silence.

In her post, Curry argues otherwise:

Taking the politics out of the science would help clarify both the scientific disagreements and the political disagreements.  Neither the scientific or political disagreements are going to go away.  But by separating them we stand to make much more progress on each.

Am I being naive and optimistic about how this might work?

Roberts, in his rebuttal, makes a strong case that she is definitely being naive. The larger, related issue he seems less inclined to consider is whether climate science should remain the focal point for political action on climate change.

33 Responses to “Mission Impossible: Separating Science & Politics”

  1. grypo says:

    There’s a difference between separating a “scientist” from politics, meaning we don’t need to worry much about their advice outside their expertise; but it is a wholly different matter to separate “science” from politics, which is the accumulation of evidence for deciding between different policy action.  The first is simple, the latter is foolish.

  2. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    “Roberts goes on to discuss why Curry (and others, such as Roger Pielke Jr.) seem averse to mixing politics and science”“he chalks it up to a “characterological centrist” (CE) temperament.”
    I don’t know what Roberts is talking about — I wrote a book about how to mix science and politics, and argued that such mixing is desirable.
    Of course, Roberts believes that aliens are taking over the Earth, which is due to his characterological new world spirituality, so why should we believe him?
    (Actually, I just made that last part up to see how it feels as a debating strategy.  Roberts may be on to something with such tactics, it was pretty fun;-)

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    Roger, just so you know:  Roberts says there’s no shame in being a CE. 🙂


  4. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    Good to know, and be aware that there is no shame in being a new world spiritualist, either 😉

  5. RickA says:

    Roberts says:
    <blockquote>I’m talking about whether human beings are driving changes in the climate. That question is simply not in serious dispute in the relevant scientific disciplines. It has been confirmed by multiple lines of evidence, empirical and model-based, over many years. Curry and virtually every other credible climate scientist would no doubt agree.</blockquote>

    This is the type of certainty I don’t get.

    What if the MWP was actually worldwide?

    Why did it get warmer during the MWP than today?

    While I do not deny that the word has warmed, isn’t it possible that the warming is due in large part to natural variation?

    Without nailing down this point, how can Roberts, and his consensus scientists be so certain that humans are causing all of the warming since since the LIA?

    No doubt humans are contributing to warming – but how much compared to natural variation?

    In the absence of good evidence that humans are causing the warming, other than merely noting that it is warming, and we are putting out CO2, are not liberals politicizing climate change science?

    I know I have read Judith Curry indicating an uncertainty due to the amount of natural variation.  So perhaps Roberts premise, that everybody knows that all the warming is caused by humans, so therefore Republicans are using it politically, is not correct?

  6. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Keith and Roger: I read THB not as saying that “such mixing is desirable,” so much as that it’s inevitable, but there are better and worse ways to do it.
    You can only separate science and politics under the “linear model,” and the linear model does not apply to most interesting issues where science and policy come together. This is an old observation. Not just postmodern academics, but hard headed realists, such as Alvin Weinberg and Harvey Brooks, realized this decades ago. This isn’t to slag Roger. THB doesn’t pretend that its originality is in showing that the linear model has problems; its originality is in how it responds to those problems.
    As I commented recently on Roger’s blog, it’s interesting that the people who argue, as Frank Luntz taught the GOP to do in 2003, that “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, are committing the same fallacy (or stealth advocacy) as those who think proving that global warming is real will win the policy debates.
    While lots of Republicans cling to this 2003 framing of the question, it’s telling that Luntz has changed his frame, telling NPR last week that the right way to think about this is, “when you ask voters are they more concerned about destroying their environment over the next 100 years or rehabilitating their economy over the next 100 weeks, they’ll choose the economy over the environment any day.” (Pielke’s iron law)
    It will be interesting to see , over the coming year, whether the GOP and others who oppose taking action on climate change adopt Luntz’s more honest and overt advocacy, or continue to practice stealth advocacy.

  7. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Some relevant historical context: How many people remember that Ronald Reagan’s administration lobbied hard with the UN in the late 1980s to create the IPCC specifically as an institution to mix science and politics (i.e., put the scientists under the veto of the world governments)?  Here’s Spencer Weart’s account:

    “The Reagan administration wanted to forestall pronouncements by self-appointed committees of scientists, fearing they would be ‘alarmist.’ Conservatives promoted the IPCC’s clumsy structure, which consisted of representatives appointed by every government in the world and required to consult all the thousands of experts in repeated rounds of report-drafting in order to reach a consensus.”

  8. Gene says:

    Roberts’ premise started off in an encouraging manner, but then degenerated.  To say “there is simply nothing on the left (or in the center, or in professional science) remotely equivalent to the anti-intellectualism that reaches to the very top of the Republican Party” is to stretch things a bit.  Both sides throw out plenty of red meat and trying to calculate which is “worse” is an exercise in futility.  

    I agree it is impossible to completely separate the scientific and the political.  Everyone has an agenda.  The blindest is the one who can’t recognize his own biases.

    It seems Curry is trying to move past the “who’s more evil” debate, while Roberts is still stuck inside the box.

  9. grypo says:

    “It seems Curry is trying to move past the “who’s more evil” debate, while Roberts is still stuck inside the box.”
    Yeah, I think we can toss that notion aside now, considering her post today.  I mean, wow.  I posted a quick question over there, but the more I re-read the post, the more I can’t believe anyone would put her in the ‘middle’ of anything.

  10. PDA says:

    It seems Curry is trying to move past the “who’s more evil” debate
    No, she most certainly is not.
    This recent post leaves no doubt about who the bigger bad guy is in her mind. IPCC scientists are “schoolyard bullies,  trying to insulate their shoddy science from outside scrutiny and attacks by skeptics,” and Steve McIntyre is the “hero of Climategate.”
    She’s entitled to her opinion, it should go without saying. Let’s have an end once and for all, though, to the idea that she’s somehow a disinterested observer.

  11. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    Critiques of the linear model are indeed old news.  When THB was reviewed as a book proposal one of the reviewers said that I should take that chapter out because everyone knows that the linear model doesn’t work;-)  Of course, if I had a dollar for everyone who told me that they first heard of it via my book …
    In THB I do in fact argue that we want science to be a part of politics.  We also want it to be apart from politics.  This paradox is the focus of the book (see, p. 5, p. 10).

  12. Marlowe Johnson says:

    The LIA and MWP were natural.  No one disputes this.  The radiative properties of CO2 and other GHGs are well understood, as is their basic effect on the earth’s radiative balance.  This is well established ‘theory’ not hypothesis that goes back 150 years to Svante Arrhenius and others.
    Figuring out exactly how much of the current warming is due to anthropogenic vs natural factors is of course the subject of ongoing research but you need to separate out discussions of climate sensitivity from detection and attribution of anthropogenic warming in the 20th century.   Most climate scientists agree that S = 3 C, while others like Lindzen think it’s closer to a  no-feedback value of 1-1.5.
    Regardless of whether it’s 1.5 or 3C bad things are gonna happen if you double the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (e.g. ocean acidication, hadley cell expansion etc., drying in continental interiors, etc.).  The bulk of the argument is about rates and magnitude not sign.
    In the U.S. you have a party that essentially is saying the earth is flat (i.e. they don’t believe that the fundamental aspects of climate change are true).
    If I was going to try and boil down JC’s position it’s that the error bars that are presented to policy makers are to small.  To which I would say, that’s fine but largely irrelevant from a policymaker’s perspective.  The science is still sufficiently well understood to warrant a robust policy discussion (i.e. you don’t get to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist).  This is where JC’s silence in ‘building bridges’ is troubling to most climate scientists IMO.  Go ahead and talk about uncertainties but make sure you do so in an appropriate context, (i.e. explain what is known and what is not) . Without that context such discussions merely serve to provide cover for political forces that oppose actions on climate (hence the charge of naivete).
    I would also add that policymakers routinely make decisions where much larger uncertainties exist (anyone who has worked in government finance knows this) and yet you don’t hear .

  13. RickA says:

    To me it is all about what the climate sensitivity is.
    Lets say that 85% of the warming since the LIA is natural.
    To me, that means that only 15% of the warming can be attributed to human GHG’s.
    Again, to me, that dramatically changes how much future warming will result from further human CO2 emissions.
    On the other hand, if the warming is 85% due to humans and only 15% to natural variation, then maybe we should take strong steps to cut down on emissions.
    However, to me the most important point is that we do not know how much of the warming is due to natural variation – which seems like a pretty important variable in the equation.
    I sure would hate to take strong action, based on erroneous science or over-hyped concern, which ruins the world economy, increases the cost of food, and perhaps start the next ice age early, and then find out it was unnecessary and perhaps even counterproductive action we took in 2010 (or 11).
    I would support generating 50% of our power using nuclear energy (an increase of 30% from the 20% currently).  So that is action we could take over the next 30 years or so, which doesn’t require any magic pie-in-sky future breakthroughs, but could be done right now, and would cut emissions.
    I would support increase R&D on alternative energy development (space-based solar, tidal, etc.).  If we can generate energy which is cheaper than CO2 based energy (oil, coal, natural gas, etc.), then we will naturally switch over to the non-CO2 generating type.
    What I don’t support is stupid action, like banning coal power plants (Hanson called for that I believe).
    You cannot do a cost-benefit analysis if we don’t know either the cost or the benefit, both of which seem to be lacking.
    A lot of people are just ignoring the costs (lets ban coal) and we cannot measure the benefit if we don’t know how much of the warming since the LIA is natural.
    It seems like everyday I read something which increase the amount we know we don’t know (for example, that magnetic coupling of the solar wind to the Earth’s atmosphere, or carbon black’s effect on radiation absorbed, etc.).
    It just seems to be that we have no real clue what the climate will be in 2100 or 2200.
    But I admit that is a lay persons perspective.

  14. Ed Forbes says:

    RickA Says:
    November 3rd, 2010 at 3:37 pm
    “This is the type of certainty I don’t get.
    What if the MWP was actually worldwide?”

    Years of data and prof that it was world wide.
    Lots of stuff for the North Atlantic so will not repeat Greenland and the Vikings.
    For the Pacific, here are three on opposite sides. There are quite a few others
    Pescadero Basin, Gulf of California, Mexico Reference
    Barron, J.A. and Bukry, D. 2007. Solar forcing of Gulf of California climate during the past 2000 yr suggested by diatoms and silicoflagellates. Marine Micropaleontology 62: 115-139.

    Barron and Bukry (2007) developed high-resolution records of diatoms and silicoflagellate assemblages spanning the past 2000 years from analyses of a sediment core extracted from Pescadero Basin in the Gulf of California (24°16.78’N, 108°11.65W). Results indicated that the relative abundance of Azpeitia nodulifera (a tropical diatom whose presence suggests the occurrence of higher sea surface temperatures), was found to be far greater during the Medieval Warm Period than at any other time over the 2000-year period studied, while during the Modern Warm Period its relative abundance was actually lower than the 2000-year mean.


    Putting the rise of the Inca Empire within a climatic and land management context

    “..Although this meteoric growth may in part be due to the adoption of innovative societal strategies, supported by a large labour force and a standing army, we argue that it would not have been possible without increased crop productivity, which was linked to more favourable climatic conditions. Here we present a multi-proxy, high-resolution 1200-year lake sediment record from Marcacocha, located 12 km north of Ollantaytambo, in the heartland of the Inca Empire. This record reveals a period of sustained aridity that began from AD 880, followed by increased warming from AD 1100 that lasted beyond the arrival of the Spanish in AD 1532. These increasingly warmer conditions would have allowed the Inca and their immediate predecessors the opportunity to exploit higher altitudes (post-AD 1150) by constructing agricultural terraces that employed glacial-fed irrigation..”

    Makassar Strait, Sulawesi Margin, Indo-Pacific Warm Pool
    Oppo, D.W., Rosenthal, Y. and Linsley, B.K. 2009. 2,000-year-long temperature and hydrology reconstructions from the Indo-Pacific warm pool. Nature 460: 1113-1116.
    Oppo et al. derived a continuous sea surface temperature (SST) reconstruction from the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool (IPWP), which they describe as “the largest reservoir of warm surface water on the earth and the main source of heat for the global atmosphere.” This history — which was based on δ18O and Mg/Ca data obtained from samples of the planktonic foraminifera Globigerinoides ruber found in two gravity cores, a nearby multi-core (all at 3°53’S, 119°27’E), and a piston core (at 5°12’S, 117°29’E) that were recovered from the Makassar Strait on the Sulawesi margin — spans the past two millennia and, as they describe it, “overlaps the instrumental record, enabling both a direct comparison of proxy data to the instrumental record and an evaluation of past changes in the context of twentieth century trends.” Reconstructed SSTs were, in their words, “warmest from AD 1000 to AD 1250 and during short periods of first millennium.” From the authors’ Figure 2b, adapted below, we calculate that the Medieval Warm Period was about 0.4°C warmer than the Current Warm Period.


  15. Barry Woods says:

    In the milieu of current climate and energy politics, speaking the truth is a political act. The only way to escape politics is to lapse into silence.


    Whose truth….

    your’s mine, anyone elses?

    Who decides?

    How do they decide?

    Who chooses, who decides?

    get’s complicated doesn’t it.

  16. Michael Larkin says:

    Roberts is right that speaking the truth can be a political act; and if AGW is the truth, and a problem, that’s fair enough. But if not, then a better way of putting it is that speaking what one *believes* to be true is a political act. So what’s new? It was ever thus; but the two aren’t equivalent.

    It’s bemusing from my viewpoint, as one who doesn’t know what the truth is, and suspects that no one else does either, to see people so confident in their own certainty that they can declare belief as truth. Some might think of such declarations as arrogance, and that the way to win hearts and minds is humility.

    Truth and arrogance are usually mutually exclusive. Joe Public may not know the truth, but has a tendency to scepticism in the face of possible arrogance. Pieces such as Roberts’ may be counterproductive, and even more so the unrestrained effusions of the less circumspect.

    The reason AGW is in difficulty isn’t failure to sufficiently express certainty; it’s failure to sufficiently express uncertainty. In this, I believe Judith Curry is correct. Could Roberts and others but absorb this point, they’d realise she is a friend, not an enemy.

  17. Dean says:

    PDA  – In all fairness, JC did not say that McIntyre is the hero of Climategate, she said “people such as Steve McIntyre, who is either the villain or hero of Climategate, depending on your perspective.”

  18. Andy says:

    Interesting article.  This is bolded in the original:
    Conservatives are politicizing climate science.”
    Of course conservatives are politicizing climate science, but so are the liberals and every other ideology.   Politicization is the entire purpose of political ideology.  Additionally, look at any ideology and chances are many of its members will believe in some kind of fatuous nonsense about something.  The human capacity for confirmation bias and self-delusion does not respect partisan boundaries.
    So then the question becomes, how much time should climate scientists spend trying to correct the Inhofe’s and Al Gores and Rand Paul’s of the world, especially knowing that they are ideologically inured to any new or contradictory information?  How much relative time should be spent “speaking the truth” to conservatives vs liberals vs everyone else? 99% of the time it’s going to be a waste of effort, so what is the purpose of doing it?
    In my opinion, Dr. Curry should go ahead an call out conservative nonsense because I believe she is already in the political realm by criticizing the IPCC which is, after all, a political body.  And in the end I mostly agree with Roberts and the title of this post (Mission Impossible…) regarding the ability to separate the science from politics.   The sad reality is that there is no way for Dr. Curry or anyone else to satisfy all parties, so i don’t much blame her for trying to ignore it as much as possible.

  19. Jay Currie says:

    The science becomes political when assertions such as “I’m talking about whether human beings are driving changes in the climate. That question is simply not in serious dispute in the relevant scientific disciplines. It has been confirmed by multiple lines of evidence, empirical and model-based, over many years. Curry and virtually every other credible climate scientist would no doubt agree.” are made.
    This is, at best, provisionally true; at worst, an outright distortion.  There are serious, outstanding questions with respect to the models, the evidence, the veracity of the data, the quality of the peer review and the applicability of the statistical methods used.
    If this was an argument about spending a few billion dollars in a targeted manner with proven payoffs then a good deal of uncertainty in the science might well be acceptable. However, the CO2 reduction strategy is a trillions of dollars shot in the dark which will have real and grave consequences. It will kill people because resources will be diverted away from  projects which might save them.

  20. Jarmo says:

    Even if climate scientists agreed on everything, would it impact on practical policy? I find it hard to believe that scientific agreement would be a silver bullet that solves everthing.

    Here in Europe, governments subscribe to AGW science and media is full of stories of the dangers. The result? We have a cap and trade system and even the people who support it admit that is has not had any real impact on emissions. Practical political reasons (protect thy industries and jobs) have rendered it useless.

    China, India and other fast-growing poor countries have clearly indicated that they will follow RP Jr’s “Iron Law”.

    What is needed is a real, sudden climate catastrophy that would vindicate the apocalyptic scenarios. Collapse of WAIS would do.

  21. Roddy Campbell says:

    I haven’t read through Roberts’s entire piece, I rely on the excerpts above; he says:
    ‘I agree with Curry’s sentiment. There’s no reason to think a physical scientist’s moral, ethical, or economic opinions should carry particular weight in policy deliberations.’
    and then
    ‘To understand why requires a clear view of the current political dynamic in the U.S., which is what’s often lacking in pieces like Curry’s.’
    kindly, he then explains that dynamic for us, which he can because he excluded political from his list of moral, ethical, or economic opinions where his opinion is of no weight:
    ”Yet Republicans have now made rejection of that root scientific consensus a litmus test, in keeping with their decades-long assault on America’s institutions.’, and:
    ‘Republicans slander peer review, science funding, scientific institutions, and scientists themselves.’
    So, having read how clear and brilliant his views on the political dynamic are, I lost the will or desire to actually click on his whole piece.
    The hypocrisy, is that the right word?, or do I just mean self-contradiction, was too much to take.
    I’m not one-sided on this btw – when Jeff Id says ‘Mann refers to misrepresented conservative views as radical, while openly and regularly supporting his own extremist policies of economic limitation.’ it has the same effect.

  22. Pascvaks says:

    Everyone has made a valid point in their comment, so I’ll only say ditto once. “Ditto”!

    An observation that has not been made, but which is timely – the political middle is the critical arena for anything.  What they decide goes.  I would think that the scientific middle is also the critical arena for everything in science that is worth watching during the course of one’s short lifetime.

    PS: I’m NOT saying the middle is never wrong; but they are a lot less wrong than anyone else.

  23. PDA says:

    Dean, look at the context of that statement, in the midst of Curry’s story of her IPCC come-to-Jesus moment, and tell me there’s any ambiguity whatsoever about her “perspective.”

  24. willard says:

    Saying that truth and arrogance are mutually exclusive does not tell us much if we don’t know what truth is.

  25. Dean says:

    PDA – You used quotes and the quote was completely out of context. It does _seem to me_ that Curry has developed a chip on her shoulder from her perception of her treatment and is trending towards the position you describe. He text about priests el at shows this. But is one thing to infer that, and quite another to use quotes like you did.
    Regarding the broader issue of separating science from politics, even if working scientists rigidly avoided politics, politicians would find people (real or fake scientists) and use them to try and claim the science as on their side. It serves politicians purpose to try and jump over the political debate by claiming the authority of science. Of course the tobaccoists did this, requiring science to step forward and try and clear the air on the actual state of the science. There really is no way to draw a hard line between science and politics.

  26. PDA says:

    Dean, every quote is by definition “out of context.” You seem to be suggesting that I distorted the meaning of “hero of Climategate” by abstracting it from its context: “The blogosphere has provided a technological base  for people such as Steve McIntyre, who is either the villain or hero of Climategate, depending on your perspective.”
    Curry is saying he “is either the villain or hero.” She has made it abundantly clear that she feels he is not a villain. Since she framed it as a binary choice – villain or hero, choose one – there cannot be the slightest ambiguity as to what she believes.

  27. Steven Sullivan says:

    Dean,  our host Keith Kloor himself has been troubled by  Dr. Curry’s asymmetrical targeting of her critiques; she aims relatively little fire towards the ‘denialist’ end of the spectrum.   IOW,  her ‘trending’ was apparent quite some time ago.

  28. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    #10 PDA, I’m confused.  How does mentioning bad behavior of people mean a person is not “trying to move past the ‘who’s more evil’ debate”?  Are you seriously suggesting that Judith Curry just mentioning these things means she is stuck on that debate?
    What would you require?  Should nobody ever say anything negative about one group, or positive about the other?
    Also, your link goes to some random comment, not the blog post itself.  Is there any particular reason?

  29. Brandon Shollenberger says:

    #27, Steven Sullivan, you say Judith Curry “aims relatively little fire towards the “˜denialist’ end of the spectrum.”  I don’t get it.
    When RealClimate makes posts defending work by Michael Mann and criticizing Steve McIntyre, there is an obvious reason people might argue bias.  When a scientist mainly raises concerns with accepted science, what is the obvious reason to argue bias?

  30. Dean says:

    Steve (#27). I don’t disagree, but I don’t agree with PDA (#26) that all quotes are out of context. With his definition, the concept of out of context loses all meaning.
    Curry does very clearly demonstrate in her most recent post where she has ended up. Her repeated reference to the priests of the IPCC are quite clear. Let her actual paragraphs speak for themselves, not 2 or 3-word quotes. She is now probably one of the best examples of somebody who has switched from science to politics.

  31. Atomic Hairdryer says:

    Re Jarmo #20
    “What is needed is a real, sudden climate catastrophy that would vindicate the apocalyptic scenarios. Collapse of WAIS would do.”
    Some science advocates have been suggesting this for a while. If the WAIS did collapse, some people would no doubt claim it due to AGW, but is that proveable? And given ‘climate fatigue’ after so many other events that have been linked to AGW, would people believe it? To me, crying wolf over other natural or unusual events has helped increase scepticism and made it harder to get more pragmatic mitigation or adaptation policies implemented.

  32. Bruce Friesen says:

    Pardon me for entering this conversation cold, with no track record on the site.
    Is it possible to posit three roles in society:

    scientists doing science
    politicians doing politics
    citizens exercising their rights as citizens and fulfilling their obligations as citizens?

    If so, then scientists have a quandary.  They have rights and obligations as citizens just as much as any other person.  However, they also need to consider what role, what behaviours, will result in the most effective science.  That need, that obligation, is increased, not set aside, if their personal beliefs (intellectual conclusions, not religious “belief”) indicate an urgent and critical need to leave fossil fuels in the ground.
    I read Roberts to be saying the issue is too important for scientists to remain silent, to forgo their rights as citizens to influence policy (he goes a step further and claims bad behaviour by politicians on one side justifies a scientist assuming dual roles of scientist and citizen advocate, but I consider that argument secondary and unnecessary).  I understand Curry to be saying the value of scientific information is heavily influenced by the means and context of its presentation, its purity if you like.  I believe that is summarized by her use of the word “trust”.  She is saying a scientist who undermines trust is doing net harm to the value of that person’s science to formulation of effective policy.
    My vote, as a citizen?  I vote for the position I ascribe to Curry (whether she is saying that or not!).

  33. Huge Difference says:

    The problem with your argument is I am a Republican ONLY when called one by commenters in a global warming discussion.  That is, you leave out the many Democrats that are skeptical as well.
    Just making this into a left vs. right issue as you do is a huge error.  You made it in a later post up above as well, framing Gavin Schmidt as on the left and Judith Curry as on the right.
    Is that true?  Is Curry a conservative?  So far nothing I’ve seen from her indicates any direction.
    That there are Republican jerks and other bad actors does not make Climate Science right.  Or wrong.
    And as Judith may want to mention the loonies on the skeptic side (and I am pretty sure she has), so too, Gavin Schmidt should be acknowledging that Climate Scientists are people and as subject to moral hazard, corruption as anyone, and just as desirous of promotions, leading larger labs, prestige, getting larger and larger grants, trips abroad to conventions, department heads, ability to buy bigger homes, bigger penis discussions in the Faculty Lounge, and so on.
    Schmidt, Mann, Jones, et. al., would have you believe they are timorous virginal Snow Whites.

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