Nate Silver Interview Completes Epic Fail Week for Climate Confuser Pielke
March 28, 2014
I’ve posted on the misleading methods of Dr. Roger Pielke, the GOP congress’ replacement for crank “Lord” Monckton.
Normally I stay away from the “inside baseball” sniping that goes on between scientists and climate denial types, but this is above and beyond.
After a catastrophic debut essay that may have ruined Nate Silver’s new “538″ Blog’s credibility right at the start, Pielke has not only been called out by leading climate scientists, he has now been very publicly thrown under a bus by his employer, Mr. Silver, in a Huffington Post interview.
Mr. Silver felt compelled to apologize for the thinly veiled threats (another Monckton touch) that Pielke issued to climate scientists mentioned in a critical blog posting at ClimateProgress.
This comes one day after Silver, in a “Daily Show” interview with Jon Stewart, where Silver was asked about the piece that leading scientists called misleading and inaccurate. Incredibly, Silver admitted that Pielke’s piece provoked so much justified outrage, that the blog would print a rebuttal of their own columnist.
““That’s a piece where we did have a lot of concern from our readers,” Silver admitted. “We don’t pay much attention to what media critics say, but that was a piece where we had, you know, 80 percent of our commentators weigh in negatively, so we’re commissioning a rebuttal for that piece.”
NEW YORK — Two prominent climate scientists say Roger Pielke Jr., a controversial writer at Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, sent emails threatening possible legal action in response to their criticism of his findings for the data-driven news site.
Pielke says it’s “ridiculous” to characterize the emails as threats against Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Kevin Trenberth, a distinguished senior climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. FiveThirtyEight, however, apologized to both men.
“Roger is a freelance contributor and his private communications do not represent FiveThirtyEight,” Silver said in a statement to HuffPost. “We had candid conversations with Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth. We made clear that Roger’s conversations with them did not reflect FiveThirtyEight’s editorial values.”
Revelations of the private correspondence are particularly poorly timed for FiveThirtyEight, which has been dogged online throughout most of its 11-day existence by the climate change dispute. The controversy was given increased exposure Thursday night on “The Daily Show.”
It began with Pielke’s March 19 article, “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change.” Pielke’s claim that the cost from natural disasters has risen because of increased wealth, and not because climate change is making weather events more extreme, was quickly challenged by several scientists and experts, including Professor John P. Abraham on The Huffington Post.
In his FiveThirtyEight post, Pielke references the IPCC reports to support his central claims. When I shared a draft of this piece with him, he again referenced the IPCC, highlighting its statement that there is “medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.” But the panel, which is referring to an “absence of an attributable climate change signal,” has set a high scientific bar for itself. Detecting climate signals in normalized economic losses remains deeply contested, but trends in extreme weather itself can be studied directly, a field around which there is much consensus. Pielke has taken the IPCC’s caution at drawing an attributable conclusion and inserted his own counter-claim into the vacuum. But a closer reading of those IPCC reports tells a different story than Pielke’s. For temperature extremes, heat waves, and warm spells, the report says:
It is very likely that both maximum and minimum temperature extremes have warmed over most land areas since the mid-20th century. These changes are well simulated by current climate models and it is very likely that anthropogenic (human) forcing has affected the frequency of these extremes and virtually certain that further changes will occur.
The report also states that:
It is likely that the number of heavy precipitation events over land has increased in more regions than it has decreased since the mid-20th century and there is medium confidence that anthropogenic (human) forcing has contributed to this increase.
Third, the report states that “over the satellite era, increases in the frequency and intensity of the strongest storms in the North Atlantic are robust.” Pielke does concede that there have been more heat waves and intense precipitation events, “but these phenomena are not significant drivers of disaster costs,” he claims. Heat waves and heavy rains are not drivers of disaster costs? Just don’t tell that to sufferers of floods from Irene, in Colorado, Duluth, Europe, or in the U.K., to name a few. Also, don’t tell residents of France in 2003, Russia in 2010, Oklahoma and Texas in 2011, California this year, Australia, or just about any U.S. citizen in 2012.
What about droughts? The subject is not simple because increasing temperatures cause two competing phenomena. First, some areas get drier because evaporation is strengthened. At the same time, precipitation can increase because there is often more water in warmer air. In many parts of the globe, the “drying” wins out whereas in others areas, things get wetter. But averaging these competing factors on a global scale hides what is happening locally. Take the United States as an example; the first part of 2013 had extraordinary precipitation in the north-central part of the country but exceptionally dry conditions in the West. On “average,” you might conclude that this was just a normal spring but in reality, it was two offsetting disasters.