Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What to Make of Judith Curry?

Or   Watt's Up With Judith Curry?

This article is something of a "spin-off" of Global Warming and the Controversy: What is Scientific Consensus? Continental Drift as Example.

   A Common refrain of those who call global warming a hoax, is that mainstream climatologists are "calling an opposing scientist a 'denier', ostracizing him/her and ridiculing them".

 So what to make of Judith Curry, who while continuing to publish studies supporting the general trend of global warming, has done more to impugn the integrity of her colleagues, and encourage those who call them liars than most actual climate change deniers

[Now regarding the word "denier", it has always seemed to mean someone who denies some position.  It is used mostly by those who find the denial wrong in some serious way.  "Deniers of God" has been used often, including by Gandhi, and Google books seems to turn up 116 books with the phrase.  Holocaust denier has been the most common use for several decades; also HIV denier.  You might consider that for those who sincerely believe global warming is apt to be catastrophic, causing millions of deaths, the consequences of denying it could be similar to those of denying HIV, only far worse.
  There is also a book, The Deniers, published in 2007 and revised in 2010 which embraces the word and gives it a positive valence, much as Quakers and Methodists decided at some point to stop resisting a label despite its derogatory origin.
  If the critics of "denier" really think the label is so awful, they could come up with something more accurate than "skeptic", except for those somewhere in the middle -- for those who call global warming a heinous hoax and those who support the idea liars].

Curry is a professor and former department head at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology., and is [co]author or [co]editor of 140 scientific papers.  When "ClimateGate" was declared (and she continues to use that label), she became very critical of colleagues.

Some notes from Wikipedia:
Curry also hosts a popular science blog in which she writes on topics related to climate science and the science-policy interface.

While Judith Curry supports the scientific opinion on climate change,[17] she has argued that climatologists should be more accommodating of those skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change.[17] Curry has stated she is troubled by what she calls the "tribal nature" of parts of the climate-science community, and what she sees as stonewalling over the release of data and its analysis for independent review.[17]
In February 2010 Curry published an essay called "On the Credibility of Climate Change, Towards Rebuilding Trust" on Watts Up With That? and other blogs.[18]  ...

In September 2010, she created Climate Etc., a blog related to climate change and hosted by Curry. She wrote that "Climate Etc. provides a forum for climate researchers, academics and technical experts from other fields, citizen scientists, and the interested public to engage in a discussion on topics related to climate science and the science-policy interface."[8] She wrote: "I have a total of 12,000 citations of my publications (since my first publication in 1983). Climate Etc. gets on average about 12,000 ‘hits’ per day, and 300-400 comments." She gets "zero academic credit or incentives for my blogging and tweeting," but hopes that " social media and the associated skill set [will become] better recognized within the academic system."[19]
Curry testified before the US House Subcommittee on Environment in 2013,[20] remarking on the many large uncertainties in forecasting future climate.
 I spent some time following the blog.  Curry makes long posts about every other day, and it is typical for a post to get 500 comments.  The quality of discussion is mostly very poor.  Recently, a post commented on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article "Ga. politicians cool to global warming" and this post got 758 comments.  When I was watching it, the majority seemed like mutual admiration of most of the discussants and abuse slung at those who didn't agree with them. Part of a response to one of my comments was:
Whether Hitlery is shilling for the UN or the US does not make it right. Without the gunboats nothing is going to happen until we do get rid of the UN and put rational HONEST humans in their place.
"Hitlery", yeah, and I don't think that was so unique, although much of the rest was more turgid sarcasm than plain abuse, and it also seems to have been toned down lately by Curry excising some of the worst comments.  There are also a dozen or so regulars espousing their own pseudo-scientific theories.

Sometimes Curry's posts are reports on this or that meeting, convention or event; other times she expounds some possibly deep philosophy of science and/or sociology.  The resulting discussions seemed like mediocre college bull sessions. I just have to wonder what a highly proficient scholar of climatology gets from writing so many long articles and attending to 500 or so often long comments.  She definitely reads and gets involved in them.  On the other hand, I can easily see the value to the "Global Warming is a Hoax" believers and those who leverage this apparent perfidy of a community of scientists and NGOs into proof that liberals and the MSM tell nothing but lies.  To many readers it seems, like the reports from conservative think tanks that get briefly interpreted and spun on right wing blogs, like proof of their respectability, and again, of the perfidiousness of politicians, scientists, and international bodies that claim to have different opinions, though of course they're lying.

While always among the "97%" who say AGW is real, Curry has been a very big thorn in the side of the AGW establishment, mostly by severely criticizing her colleagues as not doing things quite right, by saying "It's not as bad as all that" (followed by maybes and hedges), as in a recent WSJ opinion piece titled "The Global Warming Statistical Meltdown: (the WSJ version had this long subtitle:
 Mounting evidence suggests that basic assumptions about climate change are mistaken: The numbers don't add up."

 As with tabloid journalism, the screaming title is only moderately backed up by the article, but many more people will hear about the piece than will read it.  It will appear prominently in every Liberal-hating blog in the land, and the take away will be "...Meltdown:  Mounting evidence ... The numbers don't add up".

    Now one thing Curry illustrates is that while her colleagues are infuriated and call her terrible names like "denier" -- she remains a well placed professor, and keeps getting her papers published in major journals and makes presentations at conferences because these journals and conferences, believe it or not, evaluate papers based on their merit, not on whether the writer is a team player.

She also heads a consulting company reported to make ($1-5 million yearly), Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) whose "innovative OmniCast(TM) suite of weather and climate forecast products for the energy sector incorporates the latest research in weather and climate dynamics...". OmniCast(TM) was
"developed by CFAN in response to the needs of a major client in the petroleum industry for extended range, better-than-market weather forecasts to support energy trading, sales and marketing."
Omnipage(TM) is accessible from the "Solutions" tab on all or nearly all pages of the web site; it is the only thing there for which there is a PDF brochure (very nicely designed), and the only CFAN trademark that I saw; it also appears to have been introduced about the same time the company was founded, all of which suggests it is not a small part of their business.  The quote above seems designed to catch the eye of potential clients in the petroleum industry.

Her ability to retain her academic position, publish papers and attend conferences just serves to illustrate why scientific institutions are needed if we want continued growth of knowledge, and if they have on occasion mistreated someone for their views, it is rare, in stark contrast to the situation on the anti-science side.  I doubt that any FOX performer or Republican congress-person, or conservative/libertarian Think Tank employee would be cut a tenth as much slack as she has gotten.  The FOX person would likely be fired as would the Think Tank employee, and the congress person would be "Primaried" out of existence.


  1. On the issue of "denier" - you say "it has always seemed to mean someone who denies some position".

    That is true.

    However, to use the label when the person agrees with the position seems to be inaccurate.

    For example, Judith Curry believes the world has warmed - so to call her a global warming denier is not accurate.

    Judith Curry believes the climate changes - so to call her a climate change denier is not accurate.

    I think you get my drift.

    People don't actually use the label because someone disagrees with their position so much as they use it as name calling and an insult.

    When children are name calling, we do not place the burden on the children being called names to suggest what they should be called. Instead we chastise the name caller for calling names.

    You shouldn't call people denier.

    It is name calling.

    Here is my suggestion.

    Call me wrong.

  2. Richard: You are wrong.
    I'm afraid you have an overactive "denier"-name-caller detector. It looks as if you see certain word combinations, and your {rant at liberal 'denier'-name-caller} is triggered. You need to actually read the words and in the right sequence. Other people have called Curry a climate denier but the fact that I do not runs all through the article beginning with

    "while continuing to publish studies supporting the general trend of global warming, has done more to impugn the integrity of her colleagues, and encourage those who call them liars than most actual climate change deniers "

    The whole point of my article is why on earth would she be dealing with 2-300 comments per day largely from people who think in the way you've just been illustrating so well? I spent a long time reading and occasionally posting on that site, and could not imagine a life of wading through such 95+% unilluminating stuff. I started out rather sympathetic to her, and here is an illustration of what I thought we had in common.

    Earlier today, I posted an article that ended with:

    Your condescension obscures your valid point
    You need to let go of that. Propoganda works because it works even if you're intelligent.

    Yeah, in this case, the anti-liberal came off more civil.

    Yeah, I agree he (the one I called "liberal") needs to let go of that, the condescension, the calling people stupid.

    1. Oh, I forgot to give the URL of that article I was just describing:

    2. You are right.

      I shouldn't have said "You shouldn't call people denier".

      I should have said people shouldn't call other people denier.

      The label shouldn't be used at all because it is meaningless and just name calling (in my opinion).

      That is what I was trying to say (badly).

      I am talking about the utility of the denier label in general - I think it has no utility.

    3. I can agree somewhat about "denier" by itself, though people will fall into shorthands when the context is obvious.

      If you don't like "Climate Change Denier" (kind of long so I can understand people abbreviating it) -- then I'm back to asking what phrase you would substitute that isn't a total euphemism.

      Every once in a while I run across a climate skeptic, and don't mind calling them that, but once again, "skeptic" is not the word for "those who call global warming a heinous hoax and those who support the idea liars".

  3. One issue with Curry is that she knows very little physics. I pointed out her fundamental misuse of Bose-Einstein statistics for describing cloud nucleation in her recent textbook and was subsequently banned.

    The key to following climate science is to seek out those that understand science at physics in a fundamental way. Curry is not one of those people.

    1. It isn't the physics that is in question. Everybody agrees what the no feedback increase should be from physics for a doubling of CO2.

      This is about 1.2C for doubling from CO2 of 280 ppm to 560 ppm.

      What is not derivable from physics is the feedback amplification factor (i.e. indirect warming).

      No observations actually support that this factor is very large (say .1 or .2 C per decade).

      Right now the data show very low sensitivity to doubling CO2.

      We will see who is right.

      We will be able to measure the transient climate response (TCR) when we hit 560 ppm just by measuring the temperature mean that year and subtracting the mean temperature when CO2 was 280 ppm.

      The we will see whats what.

  4. " If the critics of "denier" really think the label is so awful, they could come up with something more accurate than "skeptic",

    There is an easy solution to the "denier" issue. One can label those who are impervious to reason as rejectionists. "Denier" is fundamentally deceptive and dishonest with respect to those who oppose AGW orthodoxy because the clear innuendo (a concept from defamation law) is that those who challenge the idea that CO2 will cause catastrophic problems are linked to holocaust deniers. The fact that the term "denier" is almost universally used by warmists demonstrates that the innuendo is intended. If not, a more accurate term not linked to Nazis would be used by warmists.

  5. >One can label those who are impervious to reason as rejectionists.
    OK not sure what this has to do with anything.

    As to the rest, I would not characterize Nazis primarily as "Holocaust Deniers". The latter are historians or pseudo-historians who insist the account of the Holocaust was a massive hoax. HIV deniers, basically centered around one brilliant scientist with a huge excess of contrarianism, said the idea of HIV causing AIDs was a massive hoax.

    Lawrence Solomon author of the book The Deniers (see above), in a Huffington Post article called "Why the Press Shouldn't Dismiss Vaccine Skeptics" wrote "Those who question vaccination programs are kooks or quacks, the press repeatedly tells us. The Globe and Mail, CBS News, Mother Jones and even scientific journals like Nature label skeptics as 'vaccination deniers,' but I don't think they were calling Jenny McCarthy or Rosie O'Donnell Nazis. The "vaccination deniers" tend to be more New Age types than right wing, though I'm sure there is some overlap.

  6. It is wrong to label critics "deniers."

    As noted on page 3 of this manuscript (under review) neutron repulsion is only increasingly important in atoms (planets, stars and galaxies) heavier than 150 amu (atomic mass units):

    I went ahead and completed page 3 on nuclear forces and modes of nuclear decay.

  7. The worst and stupidest group are the Pause Deniers. Shocking!