I haven’t really had a chance, or much desire, to write anything for the last few days. My previous post took a fair amount of effort, I’ve been rather busy with other things, and although there have been some interesting developments in the climate debate, it all seems so polarising that it’s hard to know what to say that wouldn’t just simply add to that.
Roger Pielke Jr’s recent 538 article, has been both heavily criticised and defended. I will admit that I’ve found some of the defense arguments a little weak. Many seem to accept that Roger doesn’t always get things right, but seem to be suggesting that the criticisms are “attacks” and hence are unjustified. There may be some merit to that, but surely one can still address the criticisms even if those being critical are being more robust than maybe they should be. I might also be more sympathetic if Roger himself was a little more careful in how he chose to criticise those with whom he disagrees. Suggesting that the science advisor to the US President is presenting “Zombie Science” doesn’t seem particularly restrained.
One of the reasons I wrote my previous post about emergent trends in Tropical Cyclone loss data was to try and illustrate that this whole topic is much more nuanced than maybe some are willing to admit, or realise. It’s not a black and white issue, and there are many shades of grey. In some sense, that’s the whole point of uncertainties. The make it difficult to say anything absolutely definitive. That doesn’t, it seems, appear to stop some for doing exactly that though. I was therefore somewhat dissapointed that Roger chose to quote-mine a single sentence from my post to make it seem that I was suggesting that he was right
So refreshing when the focus is math not politics: "So, Roger Pielke Jr is right' http://t.co/SDjiQ04iEm
— Roger Pielke Jr. (@RogerPielkeJr) April 1, 2014
To be clear, I wasn’t trying to suggest that he was either right or wrong. I was trying to suggest that it’s not quite that simple.
We’ve also had Bob Ward pointing out errors in some of Richard Tol’s work. I’m certainly aware of at least one error. I also think that pointing out that the result in Tol (2009) is strongly dependent on one study (Tol’s own 2002 work) is relevant. It doesn’t mean that there is necessarily an issue with Tol (2002), but understanding the impact of outliers is a perfectly reasonable and sensible thing to do. However, even the discussion about this hasn’t gone particularly well.
The controversy over Richard Tol’s work and the recent announcement that he wasn’t willing to sign the WGII SPM because it was “too alarmist” has, however, meant that Tol has been quite heavily represented in the media recently. This article makes some interesting points about whether or not we (the audience) have benefited from the recent media coverage of climate change (hint : not really). One advantage, though, is that it appears that Tol has been too busy doing media interviews to comment here; a good thing as I’ve used up my tolerance for accusations of promoting totalitarianism for this month.
Essentially I’m once again disappointed that it seems that serious discussions about these topics are largely impossible. I can understand why some want to defend their work against criticism, but that doesn’t necessarily justifying doing so. It’s a perfectly natural response, but academically we should be willing to discuss these issues, acknowledge errors, and accept uncertainties. It may well be true that some of the criticisms are sufficiently vitriolic that it’s best to simply avoid engaging with those people. But that’s not universally true and there must be a way to respond that doesn’t involve it all turning into a tit-for-tat type of exchange.
Anyway, those are some thoughts, for what it’s worth. If anyone has any thoughts, feel free to share them below, but let’s try and keep it light and thoughtful. I know people have strong views, and I certainly share some of the frustrations, but let’s try and express them in ways that are acceptable to most and that minimise the need for any kind of moderation.