Over at the Prometheus blog, Roger Pielke, Jr. seems to feel a bit abused by some of the reactions he has solicited via his take on consistency in observations versus projections.
Here I’d like to explain why one group of people, which we might call politically active climate scientists and their allies, seek to shut down a useful discussion with intimidation, bluster, and name-calling.
But why is it that some practicing climate scientists and their allies in the blogosphere appear to be trying to shut down this discussion?
Usefulness of course being in the eye of the beholder- and let’s grant for the moment that his questions were- what of his claims of “shutting down discussion”?
From the posts and comments I’ve seen and their spillage into the blogosphere, I can’t really see the justification for such a complaint. People seem to have gone out of their way to correct his misconceptions (that he could have cleared up himself by asking prior to blogging). To be sure, a fair amount of criticism and derision ensued, but isn’t that the cost of doing business when one rather publicly makes claims outside his or her field?
The answer to why some people react so strongly to this subject can be gleaned from an op-ed… by one Patrick Michaels
[Michaels wrote a last ditch whine against legislation on emissions and protection for polar bears, which to me was somewhat heartening in its defeatist tone. It was carried by the Washington Times, unsurprisingly.]
Rather than actually explaining the motivation for “shutting down conversation” (other than perhaps saying that they have been “baited”?), Pielke contends that engaging Michaels on the basis of his blatant mischaracterization of the science raises the specter of consistency that is so haunting to… presumably someone besides himself. It would be a mistake to acknowledge that short term flat or negative trends can still be consistent with anthropogenic warming (when did this become a secret?), because apparently humans are too stupid to listen to the scientists when forming policy. Which if true makes this whole exercise moot anyway.
It seems that Pielke wants a sort of confession on behalf of the climate science community that they are not in fact infallible, nor is the AR4 [I’m assuming it’s specifically the AR4- he only mentions the IPCC itself. If he truly meant the conclusions of the IPCC as a general proposition, the existence of past Reports and updated Reports in the future would be evidence itself that there is plenty of uncertainty and acknowledgment of fallibility, beyond the numerous references to uncertainty within the AR4 itself right?] inerrant:
The climate community should openly engage the issue of falsification of its predictions. By giving the perception that fallibility is not only acceptable, but expected as part of learning,it would go a long way toward backing off of the overselling of climate science that seems to have taken place. If the IPCC does not have things exactly correct, and the world has been led to believe that they do, then an inevitable loss of credibility might ensue. Those who believe that the IPCC is infallible will of course reject this idea.
as though these are widely held beliefs and there isn’t enough emphasis being placed on the uncertainty by Michaels and his ilk. It is also somewhat strange to see a demand for falsifiable predictions when Pielke dismisses just such a prediction by RealClimate as merely “buying time” until “a strong warming trend… resume[s].” Is it too much to ask the consistency chronicler to show a little of his own?
To his credit, Pielke does reveal the proper strategy for dealing with those that have an interest in delaying immediate action on climate change- rather than rebut and criticize them, it’s probably best to ignore them altogether. Of course that too could be construed as “shutting down the conversation”. But it’s not really a conversation when only one person is doing the talking, is it?