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April 02 2012

17:17

Judith Curry Was For Me Before She Was Against Me

I first got to know Judith Curry—the Georgia Tech researcher who blogs at “Climate, Etc.,” and has been drawn into controversy for, in her words, “challenging many aspects of the IPCC consensus”—when I was working on my second book, Storm World. I spent a fair amount of time with Curry, and with the other scientists profiled in the book—interviewing them in person, getting to understand their research. This is what science writers do.

At the time, Curry and her colleagues were just coming off a media feeding frenzy after having published papers linking hurricanes to global warming right in the middle of the devastating 2005 hurricane season.

When Storm World came out, it is no exaggeration to say that Curry gave it a rave review. I want to quote in full from her Five Star endorsement at Amazon.com, which is entitled “Science writing at its very best.” Bear with me, this will all become very relevant; and I've italicized a few important parts:

To provide a frame of reference for this review, I and my colleagues Peter Webster and Greg Holland are among the scientists that are featured prominently in Storm World. Our involvement in the issue of hurricanes and global warming began when we published an article in Science shortly before the landfall of Hurricane Rita, where we reported a doubling of the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes globally since 1970. When Chris Mooney first approached me with his idea for writing a book on this topic, I was somewhat skeptical. I couldn't see how this could be accomplished given the rapid changes in the science (I was worried the book would be outdated before it was published), the complexities of the technical aspects of the subject, a concern about how the individual scientists would be treated and portrayed, and a concern that the political aspects of the issue would be handled in a partisan way. Over the course of the past year and a half, it became apparent that Mooney was researching this issue extremely thoroughly and was developing a good grasp of both the history and technical aspects of the subject. Upon finally reading the book, I can only say Storm World has far exceeded any hope or expectation that I could have had for a book on this subject.

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March 08 2012

17:57

Heartland has Long History of Blowing Smoke

One of the most bizarre reactions to the St. Valetines Day Striptease, in which the Heartland Institute was tempted by a mild-mnannered scientist to completely expose itself - its strategies, funders and plans for the new year - is the complaint by "neutral" observers like Judith Curry that people were somehow picking on Heartland unfairly.

Even aside from the reams of evidence in the Striptease documents, Heartland has a long history of mining money from questionable corporate funders and then representing itself as a (taxpayer subsidized) "think tank" - as if its some kind of educational organization contributing to the public conversation about difficult issues.

The document - and Heartland's own self-celebrating promotional efforts - make absolutely clear that Heartland is a lobbyist, and given that its favourite client through the years has been the tobacco industry, we know for sure it's a lobbyist with no particular standards.

Here, as evidence toward that point, is a wonderful wrap, by the blog Planet 3.0/Beyond Sustainability of Heartland's history of blowing smoke on behalf of funders Philip Morris, et al.

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February 22 2012

23:48

Evaluation shows "Faked" Heartland Climate Strategy Memo is Authentic

A line-by-line evaluation of the Climate Strategy memo, which the Heartland Institute has repeatedly denounced as a "fake" shows no “obvious and gross misstatements of fact,” as Heartland has alleged. On the contrary, the Climate Strategy document is corroborated by Heartland’s own material and/or by its allies and employees.

It also uses phrases, language and, in many cases, whole sentences that were taken directly from Heartland’s own material. Only someone who had previous access to all of that material could have prepared the Climate Strategy in its current form.

In all the circumstances – taking into account Peter Gleick’s explanation of the origin of the Heartland documents, and in direct contradiction of Heartland’s stated position – DeSmogBlog has concluded that the Climate Strategy memo is authentic. 

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October 26 2010

19:23

UnScientific American: In Lionizing Curry, a Lion Loses its Way

An unreasonably puffy Scientific American profile of the climate confusionist Judith Curry is sowing fresh outrage in the climate science community - and creating sincere concern that new management is inserting a political slant into one of the bastions of serious science journalism.

The Curry piece, like Curry's own position on this issue, is just silly. It falls into a complex on-the-one-hand/on-the-other hand narrative, promoting climate science as so full of uncertainty - and so badly reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - that we could all reasonably throw up our hands in confusion.

At no point does the article appear to address actual science. Rather, it wallows in the politics that, on this issue especially, have infected the scientific conversation. It's the kind of article that you might reasonably have expected in Newsweek.

That may be no surprise. SciAm's new Executive Editor Fred Guterl is a Newsweek alumni with a history of promoting both Curry and climate confusion. (Joe Romm at Climate Progress has commented on his Newsweek work here and you can read for yourself the familiar looking Curry puffery in a Discover mag profile here).

<!--break-->Perhaps our paranoia was made worse by the Shell ad pop-ups that made reading the article on line even more irritating, but from the religious reference in the headline ("Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues") to the oversimplifications in the article itself, there seemed a constant thread of promoting the two central denier themes: that climate change is somehow an article of faith and that a legitimate debate yet rages in the scientific community, damped down only by the (Andy Revkin's favourite trope) "tribal" reaction among scientists.

Consider SciAm writer Michael Lemonick's contention that there are "two competing story lines (about Curry), 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 debate and edge the public toward meaningful action. The alternative version paints her as a dupe—someone whose well-meaning efforts have only poured fuel on the fire."

Lemonick overlooks a third option: that she is a grossly irresponsible attention seeker who is willing, in the Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck tradition, to say any damn thing to increase her profile.

Or a fourth option: that she is getting so generously stroked by the charmers in the denier community that she has found, in the Frederick Seitz tradition, that a post-science career can be very enjoyable for a senior and once-highly credible academic.

Think seriously about Lemonick's framing of Curry as a "peacemaker." People like Christopher Monckton, Pat Michaels and Marc Morano have no interest in whether the purported "debate" is civil. They just want to continue stirring the pot and bolstering their bank accounts. Senator James ("global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people") Inhofe shows no interest in making sense on this issue, much less peace. But he seems pretty taken by the notion of keeping the oil money flowing into Republican campaign coffers.

It is also laughable for Curry (or Lemonick) to suggest that the bitterness in the denial fest arises because scientists like Michael Mann have responded angrily when people, without a shred of evidence, have accused them of corruption. How else should a scientist respond when you, like Steve McIntyre, steal their emails, take their words out of context in an effort to discredit them - and wind up congratulated as a helpful skeptic, advancing the cause of science?

As Joe Romm at Climate Progress pointed out, the final sentence of the Sci-Am piece is, in fact, devastating self-criticism. Lemonick writes: 

"It is perhaps unreasonable to expect everyone to stop sniping at one another, but given the high stakes, it is crucial to focus on the science itself and not the noise."

And he says this after having devoted an entire article not to science, but purely, unhelpfully and with what appears to be obvious political inclinations, to noise.

We all had expected so much more from a publication with the respected history of Scientific American.

(HT to Mike Mann and to Joe Romm, whose own excellent take on this and on SciAm's ridiculous and unscientific poll can be found here.

And Michael Lemonick has tried to justify his efforts in a rationalization that you can find here. Any time a reporter has to write a 900-word explanation for why and how he wrote another piece, he should accost the guy in the mirror and acknowledge that one of the two of you isn't being straight with the other.)

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