Eli has a post about Andrew Dessler’s testimony to the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works (EPW) committee, so I had thought to try and write something about Judith Curry’s testimony, but haven’t really had a chance to read it thoroughly (although that doesn’t always stop me 🙂 ). Michael Mann, however, tweeted the following
— Michael E. Mann (@MichaelEMann) January 16, 2014
which has not particularly impressed Judith Curry, who already has a post called Mann on advocacy and responsibility. Personally, I would probably not claim that what another scientist had said was anti-science as that would seem to imply intent, is hard to prove, and doesn’t really help the debate. Of course, each to their own and I can’t claim to have any real sense of how best to engage.
[Addendum : Michael Mann has commented on Twitter that anti-science implies ignorance, not intent. Rather than editing this post (and being accused of making changes), I will add that he is probably correct and that what I was getting at here was more how it would be used – i.e., some would argue that it implies intent and hence how can one make such a claim of another, rather that it being interpreted as intended.]
Although I may not have referred to Judith Curry’s view as anti-science, from what I’ve read it would seem her science is quite poor, if not quite anti-science. For example, Judith says
A comment on my testimony vs Dessler’s. Two very different perspectives. Dessler’s testimony represents the consensus view of science, focusing on what we know. My testimony focuses on the uncertainties and what what we don’t know, and why this is an important consideration for policy makers.
She seems to be suggesting that her testimony is complementary to that of Andrew Dessler’s. From what I read, this would be rather a stretch. Judith’s testimony appeared to rather contradict some of what Andrew Dessler was presenting. Judith’s testimony included claims that there was increasing evidence for a lower climate sensitivity (the evidence may be increasing, but it is far outweighed by the evidence for a higher climate sensitivity), that we really don’t understand the “hiatus” (again, maybe true in an absolute sense, but there is increasing understanding and virtually none is that it’s because of lower climate sensitivity), and that the surface temperature is falling outside the 90% confidence interval of the models (sure, but it would likely do that about 10% of the time anyway, so not that surprising).
Also, why would you present what we don’t understand without also presenting what we do? Surely you’d want to present as complete a picture as possible; with all the associated uncertainties. You wouldn’t just present the bits we’re unsure about (unless this was explicitly your role and those you were talking to already understood much of the science). The only reason I can think of why someone would do that is to make it appear that we’re less confident about what we do understand than we actually are, and I can’t see how that helps policy makers.
Judith also says,
I was very struck by the EPW Committee members’ opening statements, bemoaning the rapid sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay (more than twice as much as anything that can be attributed to AGW), the drought in Oregon, etc., as if short term actions by the U.S. in terms of CO2 mitigation are going to have any impact on these problems on timescales that the politicians worry about.
So what? This is patently true and largely irrelevant. Everyone knows that CO2 mitigation will have virtually no impact on the coming decade and everyone knows that policy makers probably only think about what they can do that will bolster their chance of re-election. Maybe one can make pragmatic choices about how to present evidence to them, given this, but at the end of the day scientists have an obligation to present the evidence as honestly and clearly as they can. What policy makers choose to do, given the evidence, is up to them.
Judith continues with,
Policy makers have heard the ‘consensus’ scientists’ position loud and clear for the past two decades. This has not translated into policy action, and I don’t think it is for lack of activism by scientists
I find this a very odd thing to say. She seems to be suggesting that mainstream scientists have been presenting their evidence loudly and clearly for the past two decades and this has had very little impact on policy makers. What’s this got to do with science? Why does this in any way imply anything about mainstream science? Maybe they haven’t been presenting it as well as they could have, but the lack of policy action implies absolutely nothing with respect to the scientific evidence. Is Judith actually suggesting that her scientific evidence is more credible because it’s more likely to influence policy? if so, an accusation of anti-science would appear warranted. If anything, it’s those who continually present what we don’t understand, rather than what we do, that has resulted in this policy inaction.
Judith then finishes with a message to Michael Mann in which she says
If you want to avoid yourself being labeled as ‘anti-science’, I suggest that you are obligated to respond to my challenge.
Seriously? Michael Mann’s scientific credibility will be based on whether or not he responds to a challenge. Surely not. That might imply something about his character, but not about his scientific credibility.
So, maybe it would have been better if Michael Mann had not referred to Judith Curry’s testimony as anti-science, but there’s little in her response that indicates that her scientific views are particularly credible. Maybe – if I get a chance – I’ll try to have a more thorough read of Judith’s testimony and comment on that further. Maybe, however, I’ll just have a break as I’m sure some of the commenters will already read some of it and may have thoughts of their own.