Part 1: NASA’s Gavin Schmidt explains how “Pearce includes a statement about me that is patently untrue.”
Many people said to be jumping the shark — “the point in a television program’s history where the plot spins off into absurd storylines” — were not serious to begin with. Fred Pearce was, however, having written a climate book as far back as 1989, Turning Up the Heat: Our perilous future in the global greenhouse.
Last year, however, RealClimate eviscerated Pearce’s 12-part series about the stolen CRU emails, identifying myriad “errors and misrepresentations.” Now Pearce has thoroughly misrepresented the views of one RealClimate writter, NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, and repeated a variety of anti-science myths, in a truly dreadful piece in New Scientist.
The entire premise of the piece, “Climate sceptics and scientists attempt peace deal,” is beyond absurd. It’s about this fossil-fuel funded confab in Portugal between the post-normal confusionists (led by Judith Curry) and the extreme disinformers, including … wait for it … Steven Goddard, a guy so extreme that Anthony Watts gave him the early gold watch at WattsUpWithThat (see Fastest disinformer retraction: Watts says Goddard’s “Arctic ice increasing by 50000 km2 per year” post is “an example of what not to do when graphing trends”). Also attending were Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick and Steve Mosher.
Serious climate scientists would not knowingly attended a meeting with Goddard, let alone many of the others. These folks aren’t interested in a serious debate, let alone a ‘peace deal’. They just desperately want the credibility of the mainstream media so they can continue their campaign of anti-science disinformation and anti-scientist smears.
And that brings us to the “made-up quote” that blatantly misrepresents Schmidt — whom Pearce did not even interview for this piece. This quote should be retracted as soon as possible (along with most of the rest of the piece):
But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.
Across the spectrum, participants were mostly united in disagreeing with Schmidt. Climate science, they said, is much less certain than the IPCC mainstreamers say, and peace can be found only if all accept what they dubbed “the uncertainty monster”.
So much misinformation packed into so little space.
Schmidt sets the record straight in an email to New Scientist (and me and many others):
In the piece entitled “Climate sceptics and scientists attempt peace deal,” Fred Pearce includes a statement about me that is patently untrue.
“But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.”
This is completely made up. My decision not to accept the invitation to this meeting was based entirely on the organiser’s initial diagnosis of the cause of the ‘conflict’ in the climate change debate. I quote from their introductory letter:
“At this stage we are planning to have a workshop where the main scientific issues can be discussed, so that some clarity on points of agreement and disagreement might be reached. We would try to stay off the policy issues, and will also exclude personal arguments.
“The issues we have in mind are Medieval Warm Period, ice, climate sensitivity, and temperature data. We would hope to have smaller groups discussing these in some detail, hopefully with scientists who are very familiar with the technical issues to lead the discussion.”
Since, in my opinion, the causes of conflict in the climate change debate relate almost entirely to politics and not the MWP, climate sensitivity or ‘ice’, dismissing this from any discussion did not seem likely to be to help foster any reconciliation.
At no point did I declare that the ‘science was settled’ and that there was nothing to discuss. Indeed, I am on record as saying the exact opposite:
Pearce might well note that even I am included in the “spectrum” that “disagree[s] with Schmidt”!
Fred Pearce did not interview me for this piece. I should like to request that in future, if my views are of interest, that he (or anyone else) should actually ask me directly. I am not hard to contact.
PS. I am not a ‘leader of mainstream climate science’ either.
Pearce and New Scientist should quickly issue a retraction and apology for this misrepresentation. Failing to do so could only be seen as an effort to intentionally smear a leading NASA scientist. It would be a big blow to the credibility of New Scientist.
It is it is a canard of Curry-esque proportions to assert that scientists have not clearly explained the nature and extent of these uncertainties (see “Hockey Stick fight at the RC Corral” and “Judith Curry abandons science“). As Schmidt himself has written:
But one of the strongest methods to deflect attention away from what the science has actually concluded is to find ways to exaggerate thea mount of uncertainty. Since there is always uncertainty in science — scientists work at the boundary between known and unknown — any strongly supported result can be politically “countered” by reference to uncertainty in an assumption, a piece of data, or an experimental procedure regardless of how well characterized that uncertainty is or how robust the original result. This tactic implicitly constructs the logical fallacy of suggesting that because we do not know everything, we therefore know nothing.
The whole conference was absurd. One reporter (not Pearce) actually tried to convince me that the conference was legitimate because Peter Webster attended. Yes, Webster was certainly the most serious scientists to attend the conference — but he is Curry’s husband! Seriously.
Eli Rabett explains who “fronted the money for the Great Lisboa Reconciliation Bunfest” here. I know that you will be shocked to learn it was directly connected to a large fossil fuel company.
SheWonk has a video too silly for me to embed, but she explains:
This post is in honour of Judith Curry being declared “Climate Scientist of the Year” at the Post-Normal Conference in Lisbon…. Tallbloke gave her a commemorative t-shirt with a Josh cartoon on it “” the cartoon depicts a trash can labelled “Climate Science”. Curry quips “My reaction to climate change”. Say no more”¦
Pearce’s article is as absurd as the conference.
Pearce 1.0 could have written a book debunking the nonsense that Pearce 2.0 publishes in this article without any response from a serious climate scientist or without any evidence that he reads the scientific literature in the least bit anymore. Consider this paragraph:
The biggest, most totemic, issue remains the IPCC’s adoption of the “hockey stick” narrative, which holds that 20th-century warming is unique over the past millennium. Most in Lisbon saw this as a scandalous example of IPCC editors taking sides in an unresolved debate, and of how “scientific findings were judged according to their political utility”.
Pause to clean up gray matter and reattach those head vises.
Pearce never points out that the Hockey Stick was affirmed in a major review by the uber-prestigious National Academy of Scientists (in media-speak, the highest scientific “court” in the land) “” see NAS Report and here. The news story in the journal Nature (subs. req’d) on the NAS panel was headlined: “Academy affirms hockey-stick graph“!
Pearce seems completely unaware that the Hockey Stick has been replicated and strengthened by numerous independent studies since then:
- Temperatures of North Atlantic “are unprecedented over the past 2000 years and are presumably linked to the Arctic amplification of global warming” “” Science (1/11)
- Human-caused Arctic warming overtakes 2,000 years of natural cooling, “seminal” study finds. (9/09)
- Unprecedented warming in Lake Tanganyika and its impact on humanity (5/10)
- GRL (9/10): “We conclude that the 20th century warming of the incoming intermediate North Atlantic water has had no equivalent during the last thousand years.”
- JGR (9/1) “The last decades of the past millennium are characterized again by warm temperatures that seem to be unprecedented in the context of the last 1600 years.”
Any conference where most of the participants are obsessed with the Hockey Stick, consider it “totemic,” and think its underlying science is unresolved simply isn’t a serious scientific meeting. Similarly, no serious journalist should simply publish two sentences questioning the underlying science without any quote from a real climate scientist or citation to the NAS and the multiple, confirming studies.
Pearce’s byline for the piece reads, “Fred Pearce, consultant.” Wikipedia states Pearce “is currently the environment consultant of New Scientist magazine.” I take it what that means is he is acting as some sort of expert whose work doesn’t actually have to be fact-checked. If so, the magazine has picked a very poor choice of expert, since he hasn’t done his basic homework on the science and hasn’t bothered to even interview the people he is grossly misrepresenting.
Pearce and the magazine should retract the piece and apologize to Schmidt.
Feel free to debunk other parts of the piece in the comments. I will be doing another post.