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Salvo three: Dr Judith Curry

By Don Aitkin - posted Friday, 27 September 2013


After I began to read widely in the field of global warming I discovered Judith Curry's website, which was not long after she set it up three years ago, and I have been a contributor to it as well. You can learn a great deal through regular reading there, because she does attract good scientists to comment, as well as the interested citizen - and there are very many of them. She is the head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and like Roy Spencer, has won an award from the American Meteorological Society. She is also very well published.

Her main interests in the 'climate change' issue include the whole question of uncertainty (she thinks the IPCC Reports are far too 'certain' and confident), the tribal nature of the issue, and the failure of some scientists to be open and collaborative about their data. She has been the target of a lot of abuse from the believers, and has a particular objection to their use of 'deniers' and 'denial' - as though everything said by the IPCC is an example of revealed truth. She wrote a fine op. ed. for The Australian a few days ago.

In the following post she takes to task Dana Nuccitelli, of the Skeptical Science website (for the uninitiated, this is a website devoted to defending the orthodoxy and attacking dissenters, which is not quite what its name suggests). Nuccitelli was one of the authors of of the Cook et al paper on 'Consensus' whose methodological emptiness affronted me when it came out. Here is Dr Curry.

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In a recent post Who is on which 'side' in the climate debate, anyways?, I argued that it is getting very difficult to tell who is on which side of the climate debate: virtually all academic climate scientists are within the 97% consensus regarding the infrared emission of the carbon dioxide molecule and the warming effect on the planet. Further, virtually all agree that the planet has been warming, and that humans have had some impact on the climate.

So, exactly what differentiates the two sides in the debate? I think Dana Nuccitelli (for once) hits the nail on the head: consensus denial. Exactly what is consensus denial? [Nuccitelli means the denial that there is a consensus about global warming - the so-called 97 per consensus.] Here are some characteristics of the social aspects of consensus denial:

  • Denial that experts selected by an organization (i.e. the IPCC) with substantial infiltration by 'big green' are objective arbiters of climate science.
  • Denial of the trustworthiness of the experts owing to the behaviors revealed by the Climategate emails and the explicit policy advocacy by IPCC participants, most particularly by those in leadership positions in the IPCC.
  • Denial that a scientific consensus-seeking process makes sense for an exceedingly complex problem like climate change that is dominated by uncertainties.
  • Concern that an explicit scientific consensus-building process in a politicized environment is introducing biases into the science and amplifying them.
  • Concern over how the community of climate scientists allowed intolerant activists who make false claims to certainty to become the public face of the field - Roger Pielke Jr
  • [Concern that] what is commonly called the "mainstream" view of climate science is contained in the spread of results from computer models. What is commonly dismissed as the "skeptical" or "denier" view coincides with the real-world observations. - Ross McKitrick
  • The idea of producing a colossal document of near biblical infallibility is a misrepresentation of how science works, and we need to look very carefully about what the IPCC does in the future. – Myles Allen
  • The "truth" about global warming, if it exists, lives somewhere in a constantly shifting probability cloud. –Indian Express
  • Concern that policies based on consensus science that are advocated to mitigate global warming are technologically, economically and politically infeasible.
  • Concern that policies based on consensus science that are advocated to mitigate global warming, even if implemented, would be ineffective in controlling climate.

I have never been a supporter of the view that 'consensus' is a worthwhile attribute of any position. I am naturally curious, and like to find things out for myself. Of course, one usually discovers at some point that one can't find out more without a lot of work, but then the correct position, I think, is to suspend judgment, not to ask where the consensus is. I have attacked before the notion that 'it's not what you believe that's important, it's whom you believe'.

I hope that the perspectives of McKitrick, Spencer and Curry have been helpful. I have a lot of time for all three, and are so grateful that they are there!

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About the Author

Don Aitkin has been an academic and vice-chancellor. His latest book, Moving On, was published in 2016.

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