Shame on Nature for quoting someone on behalf of Pielke without noting they’re colleagues!

Suppose the prestigious journal Nature published an analysis of mine that they knew many people would disagree with. How would you feel if Nature then wrote an accompanying news story about the commentary that quoted people for and against my analysis, including another Senior Fellow from the Center for American Progress (CAP) raving about how important and brilliant my analysis was? You’d probably think that was kind of lame of them.

Now suppose the Nature article never mentioned that I was a CAP Senior Fellow or that my mysterious admirer was, either. No way, you say. No way a journal like Nature would ever do that. That would be like the New York Times asking a CAP Fellow to review my book and not mentioning the connection. Few things could be more inappropriate for a major publication. I have one word for you — “way!”

Yes, amazingly, Nature did just that — twice! — with the Pielke et al. piece that I have previously debunked. Here you can read the Pielke piece, “Dangerous Assumptions.” Note Pielke is identified at the end simply as “Roger Pielke Jr is in the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0488, USA.”

Online, Nature has an article (subs. req’d) “Climate challenge underestimated?” on the Pielke et al. piece in which we are told:

“The paper is a bombshell,” says Marty Hoffert, former chair of the Department of Applied Science at New York University. “It explodes the idea that sufficient technology exists to solve the climate and energy problem, and that global warming can be dealt with by market incentives.”

[I like Marty, but in fact the Pielke paper provides no evidence whatsoever to refute the two notions that “sufficient technology exists to solve the climate and energy problem, and that global warming can be dealt with by market incentives.” It doesn’t address those issues at all.]

In print, Nature has yet another news article on Pielke et al. — [so much coverage for so little substance] — optimistically titled “Are the IPCC scenarios ‘unachievable’?” (available here). As you can plainly see on the second page, we again hear the ever-so-unexpected praise from Hoffert:

Marty Hoffert, former chair of the Department of Applied Science, New York University:
This analysis is long overdue. We’re under a delusion that we will solve the problem of climate change casually. But what we have — cap-and-trade systems and the like — is plainly insufficient. We need a massive engineering effort, the size of the Manhattan Project.”

[Note to Hoffert: A few people may have that delusion — such as Senator McCain and his advisors — but certainly not readers of this blog. And the engineering effort we need is much closer in size to all of World War II — the Manhattan project is way too puny. Hoffert should know that.]

But guess what — both Hoffert and Pielke are in fact Fellows at the Breakthrough Institute (as you can see here). Gosh, Hoffert thinks Pielke’s stuff is great. Who would have ever guessed? And what is the Breakthrough Institute? Why it’s the brainchild of everybody’s favorite technology-breakthrough lovers, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus. [Note to Shellenberger and Nordhaus: Your love of technology breakthroughs appears to be unrequited.]

So shame on Nature for quoting Hoffert in praise of Pielke in the first place and double shame for not letting readers know they work at the same place–a place that happens to be dedicated to promoting the very (mistaken) idea at the center of Pielke’s piece (namely that “Enormous advances in energy technology will be needed to stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations at acceptable levels”).

2 Responses to Shame on Nature for quoting someone on behalf of Pielke without noting they’re colleagues!

  1. Danny Bloom says:

    Yup, editorial sloppiness. Nature should publish a “correction”, er, “clarification” ASAP.

    Readers need to be treated fairly, and that means telling them not only who is who, but if and how WHO and WHO might be friends, colleagues, lovers, or on the same payroll. It’s basic Editorial Etiquette 101.


  2. mercey says:

    After following the political campaigns and hearing and seeing all the
    nonsense that is going on there, both real, spin, and media and blog
    fed misrepresentation, nothing surprises me anymore.

    Truth, or rather distruth and misrepresentation, seems to be in the mouths of the bespoken.

    The once accepted concept of a ideal and universal principle of ethics, honesty, and truth where one’s word, was ones word, whereever and whenever it was spoken has evaporated from the minds of Americans.

    I know that I knew one thing growing up, that if my father told me something, it was truth, and his words proved themselves to be the truth.

    That said, science isn’t about the truth. It’s about any number of things: hypothesises that support ones data, data that supports ones hypothesises, or the sad collapse of previous concepts of cause and effect into the synthesis of failed hypothesises.

    As to Nature, they don’t have to stand behind the science, or the scientists, but they do have a civiv responsibility to be as honest as they can.

    Nature failed in being honest.