One-Sided 'Skepticism'

As the banner at the top of the Skeptical Science (SkS) webpage notes, the primary purpose of our site is to "get skeptical about global warming skepticism" by examining what the peer-reviewed scientific literature has to say about the climate myths promoted by self-declared "skeptics."  We strive to examine the full body of scientific evidence, and see how the "skeptic" claims stack up.

In a recent post on his blog, Roger Pielke Sr. criticized our performance in meeting those goals.  We at SkS are always open to constructive criticism.  Unfortunately, Dr. Pielke has not actually offered any.  In fact, it appears that Pielke has not even bothered to make the effort to read the series he is criticizing.  He seems to think Christy Crocks and Spencer Slip Ups pertain to satellite temperature data analysis:

"As a result of the persistent, but incorrect (often derogatory) blog posts and media reports on the robustness of the University of Alabama MSU temperature data....The ad hominem presentations on this subject include those from the weblog Skeptical Science who have sections titled Christy Crocks and Spencer Slip Ups"

Unfortunately for this piercing critique, these two series of articles do not touch upon the topic of the satellite temperature data. Indeed, the only time SkS has mentioned this work was when we used it as an example of the self-correcting nature of the scientific process.  What the series have bored in on are the wide range of topics relevant to global warming concerning which Spencer and Christy have propogated numerous myths and copious misinformation.  This frequent myth propagation by Spencer and Christy is an unfortunate reality which it seems Pielke would like to sweep under the rug.

Pielke's One-Sided Criticisms

What we find strange is that, although Pielke often rushes to the defense of Spencer and Christy, he never criticizes them for blatant errors of logic and fact that they have made; even though he is happy to criticize more mainstream climate scientists.  His critiques seem a tad one-sided.

For example, Christy's testimony before US Congress earlier this year was riddled with myths and misinformation.  Pielke said not a word about it.  Christy later went on Australian and Canadian radio talk shows and propagated many of the same myths.  In fact, these interviews and testimony were the basis of the Christy Crocks. 

Not only does Pielke refuse to criticize his fellow "skeptics" for misinforming the public and policymakers, but he then denounces SkS for doing just that.  In the process, Pielke is effectively endorsing the myths and misinformation propagated by Spencer and Christy, documented in the very series that he criticizes.

The Scientific Basis of the Series

Let's put more effort into this question than Dr. Pielke and actually examine the content of the two series.  Spencer Slip Ups currently consists of seven posts.  Three of these are an analysis of one of Spencer's books by Dr. Barry Bickmore, in which Bickmore tested Spencer's results by replicating his simple climate model, and found that Spencer's conclusions were invalidated when physically realistic parameters were input into the model. 

In another post, we responded to Spencer's challenge to produce peer-reviewed scientific research ruling out internal variability as the cause of the current global warming by doing exactly that.  We also examined what the peer-reviewed literature has to say about Spencer's hypothesis that the PDO is causing global warming.  And finally, in two recent posts we examined Andrew Dessler's peer-reviewed response to Spencer & Braswell (2011). 

Christy Crocks are much of the same.  For example, we examined what the peer-reviewed literature has to say about Christy's claims with regards to climate sensitivity, climate model accuracy, internal variability, global warming causation, and satellite temperature data vs. models.

In keeping with the purpose and standards established for SkS by John Cook, in every Spencer Slip-Up and Christy Crock we have either evaluated how their statements stack up to the body of scientific literature, or attempted to replicate their results.  And we have found that Spencer and Christy consistently make statements which are inconsistent with the body of scientific literature, and often which are well outside their range of expertise.

Misinforming Policymakers

One of the most egregious examples of a Christy Crock was in his testimony before US Congress, when policymakers twice presented Christy with assertions that scientists were predicting impending global cooling in the 1970s, and twice Christy refused to dispel the myth, instead claiming:

"In this sense yes [1970s cooling predictions were similar to current warming predictions], our ignorance about the climate system is just enormous"

This statement, made to those who are determining what if any policies the United States will implement in response to climate change, is a crock.  We examined the peer-reviewed scientific literature in the 1970s, and found that contrary to Christy's depiction, most climate scientists at the time were predicting global warming.

We wonder if Dr. Pielke approves of Christy's testimony here.  When presented with a climate myth by a policymaker, is it appropriate to mislead the Congress with such statements, instead of reporting the situation as it was?  We would very much like to know Dr. Pielke's answer to this question, and why he continues to turn a blind eye to the repeated transgressions of Spencer and Christy.

Reality Check

In reality, Pieilke was off-base in trying to implicate SkS in criticism of the UAH satellite record; we didn't do that. Even more to the point, Spencer and Christy have both made a number of statements to the public that contradict the body of scientific literature.  These statements were the starting point of our critical series. By defending them but ignoring their errors, Pielke is providing cover for the misinformation propagated by Spencer and Christy.  That's not being skeptical, that's excusing the blatant misinformation of the American public and policymakers.  Pielke Sr. needs to decide what is more important, covering up misinformation or standing up for science and truth.

Note: this post represents the SkS contributors' consensus response to Roger Pielke Sr.'s recent criticism of our site

Update: Pielke has responded, if you can call it a response, since he didn't actually address anything we said here.  A total shifting of the goalposts, once again trying to deny Spencer and Christy's constant propagation of misinformation.  In fact, Pielke's response simply confirmed what we said in this post - he seems unwilling to read the content of our posts, and is totally unwilling to crtiicize his fellow "skeptics." 

Dr. Pielke, we once again ask that you answer the question - do you or do you not approve of John Christy's misleading testimony to US Congress, including his assertion that predictions of global cooling in the 1970s were the same as predictions of global warming today? 

As another example, do you agree with Roy Spencer when he said that as a result of addressing climate change, "Jogging will be outlawed. It is a little known fact that the extra carbon dioxide (and methane, an especially potent greenhouse gas) emitted by joggers accounts for close to 10% of the current Global Warming problem"? 

And do you agree with Spencer's assertion that "warming in recent decades is mostly due to a natural cycle in the climate system — not to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning"?

Please stop changing the subject, stop pretending Spencer and Christy are faultless Saints, drop the charade, and answer our questions, Dr. Pielke.

Posted by dana1981 on Friday, 16 September, 2011

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