I thought that those familiar with the climate debate might be interested in the latest saga. About a year ago, Roger Pielke Jr and Justin Ritchie wrote a paper called Systemic Misuse of Scenarios in Climate Research and Assessment, which I briefly discussed in this post. They also promoted this in Issues in Science and Technology, in an article called How Climate Scenarios Lost Touch With Reality.
Yesterday, Issues published some responses to the claims made by Pielke and Ritchie. The authors include Marcia McNutt (current President of the National Academy of Sciences), Chris Field (co-chair of the IPCC’s Working Group II), Kate Marvel (climate scientist at NASS GISS and Columbia), Gavin Schmidt (Director of NASA GISS and Senior Climate Science Advisor to the NASA Administrator) and Peter Jacobs (Strategic Science Advisor, Earth Communications, NASA GSFC).
I think the resonses are very good, although I don’t entirely agree with McNutt and Field that it is still 100% accurate to regard RCP8.5 as a business-as-usual pathway. I think most now agree that this is not a good descriptor for this pathway and that maybe we should avoid using this desriptor altogether.
I did particularly like the ending of the response by Schmidt & Jacobs
Thus, assessing the worth of scientific contributions by counting which scenarios are mentioned is like assessing honesty by counting the number of times the word integrity is used in an article; it is both pointless and misleading.
The response on Twitter from Roger Pielke Jr was rather predictable. He complained that some of the responses were lying about their work. Some of the responses suggested that Pielke and Ritchie were claiming that the “use” of these scenarios was a failure of scientific integrity, when what they were really suggesting was that the “misuse” was a failure of scientific integrity. Of course, they also suggest that there is systemic “misuse” of scenarios, so it’s not entirely clear when their “use” isn’t “misuse”.
Roger also suggested that the reason climate scientists are mad with him is because he’s spent many years writing about the conflicts between the special interests of the climate science community and the broader social responsibilities of this community, rather than because he’s spent decades criticising climate scientists in ways that have provided ammunition for those who either dispute AGW, or its significance.
Climate science is a complex science and there are certainly valid criticisms that could be made about the development of scenarios, the modelling choices, and how some of this work has been presented publicly, to name but a few. However, I suspect that measured, constructive criticism will produce far fewer headlines than claims that there has been systemic misuse of scenarios, and that this is a failure of scientific integrity. It also won’t appeal nearly as much to those who dispute that dealing with climate change requires urgent action, but far be it for me to suggest that this might have been a motivation behind the Pielke and Ritchie critique.
For those who are familiar with the climate debate will realise that this is just another example of same ol’ same ol’. As Gavin Schmidt pointed out on Twitter, it’s not as if Roger doesn’t have form.
Systemic Misuse of Scenarios in Climate Research and Assessment — Article by Pielke & Ritchie.
How Climate Scenarios Lost Touch with Reality — Issues article by Pielke & Ritchie.
Climate Scenarios and Reality — Response from McNutt & Field, Marvel, and Schmidt & Jacobs
Poor Roger — post I wrote about some of Roger’s contributions to the climate debate.