Judith Curry, Climate Change’s Rorschach Test

Note: I have banned ATTP from commenting at this blog, as he has banned me from his. As I write critically of his post here, he is welcome to respond in the comments should he choose to do so.

Not being a scientist, I am not able to judge Judith Curry’s contribution to the field of climate science. She has published over 200 papers and was former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, so somebody must think she is good at her job.

Judith Curry

But I am capable of offering an opinion on her impact on the public discussion on climate change. Her impact has been considerable and to me seems largely beneficial. I have written before that just her engaging with skeptics has to a large extent defused elements of the debate, persuading skeptics to put down their pitchforks and pick up their pens. Sadly, it has had much the opposite effect on climate activists.

So when David Rose published an article in the UK’s Spectator on her, it seemed obvious to me that it would get quite a bit of attention. The article is reproduced on Judith’s weblog, which has gotten quite a few comments so far.

I feel like I have been defending Judith (who very clearly doesn’t need any help from me) since Michael Tobis carried out a (typical for him) hatchet job on her at his blog, an attack which he later admitted was political in nature. It couldn’t have been scientific, as he also admitted he hadn’t read any of her papers. Michael Tobis and I have been barely on speaking terms since then. In the meantime I awarded Judith my coveted (/sarc off) Blogger of the Year Award for 2014, joining Steve McIntyre and Gavin Schmidt as previous winners. I am a big fan of Curry’s, although I don’t agree with her on everything. (For example, like ATTP I am saddened that Curry has chosen to support Lamar Smith’s demand for emails from scientists at NOAA–I think she got it wrong on that one.)

Rose’s piece is close to hagiographic, but is also accurate. He writes, “Some consider her a heretic. According to Professor Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, a vociferous advocate of extreme measures to prevent a climatic Armageddon, she is ‘anti-science’. Curry isn’t fazed by the slur.

‘It’s unfortunate, but he calls anyone who doesn’t agree with him a denier,’ she tells me. ‘Inside the climate community there are a lot of people who don’t like what I’m doing. On the other hand, there is also a large, silent group who do like it.”

As if to prove Rose right, And Then There’s Physics was up within hours with a blazing critique (okay, another hatchet-job) on Curry, where he wrote, “So, as far as I can tell, Judith Curry gets criticised because she says things that – for a senior scientist who has a record that is apparently second to none – are embarassingly wrong. She also appears to have ejected herself from a tribe that only exists in her imagination.”

The title of his post is ‘There is no Tribe,’ which will seem ludicrous to those who have been participating in the discussion of climate issues for years. There are at least two tribes (and I’m agitating for recognition of a third, the lukewarmers, although I promise we will adopt a politically correct mascot if it ever happens), both largely created by the activist community supporting drastic action to combat the impacts of climate change.

They defined the criteria for inclusion in their own tribe, and then created another tribe called ‘deniers’ and tried to shove everyone who didn’t agree with them into it.

And Then There’s Physics was an active part of creating both tribes. On a previous blog he obsessively followed Anthony Watts’ blog, Watts Up With That, slamming Watts at every opportunity, and creating opportunities when he couldn’t find one in anything Watts wrote. And he, like Michael Tobis, has been clear that Judith Curry should be shunned by members of his tribe, slammed whenever possible–even worse than slamming Watts. And that is clearly because Judith has the scientific credentials to present a threat to his tribe while Watts is ‘merely’ a meteorologist turned blogger.

Curry quite openly started her blogging career as an effort to ‘build bridges’ between her side–the climate consensus–and the skeptics in the world. She is a scientist who supported the consensus view for decades–and largely still does. However, it is also clear that improved communications with those outside the consensus brought her into contact with information about sloppy processes and inadequate procedures by some climate scientists, and more importantly exposed her to the media tactics of what I call the Konsensus, the NGOs, complaisant media and rabid bloggers who are only to willing to slime to make a point.

As is clear from both Rose’s article and ATTP’s response, Judith Curry today has become a Rorschach test on climate issues. You can gauge someone’s opinion on climate science based on their opinion of Curry. And you can predict someone’s opinion of Curry based on which climate tribe they belong to.



7 responses to “Judith Curry, Climate Change’s Rorschach Test

  1. Like many groups, ATTP and buddies, punish defectors more harshly than those who were always on the other side. It hints that the arguments of sceptics are persuasive. The amusing thing is that part of the consensus’ weakness is its confidence in being right. My own first stirrings of scepticism were sparked by overly confident statements on issues that were clearly complex or premature. When supporters blithely said things that I knew were wrong, I began to wonder if they could lie as easily about the things I knew nothing about. You’d think that Dr Lew could draw parallels with those questions in psychometric tests that are suppose to test fakers with improbable answers (eg ‘I never tell lies’), and advise the consensus but he is one of the worst offenders.

    Personally I think there are only two sides to this debate – those who think that the consensus exists and everybody else. If you question any part of the most extreme views on either the science or the solutions, you are the enemy. It’s why quite clearly detrimental and ineffective solutions are supported, even by groups that should be 100% against them (eg RSPB + National Trust should not be pro windmills and Age UK should be firmly against higher energy bills and unreliable supply). Too many people and organisations are suppressing natural concerns because they don’t want to break ranks from the fictional consensus. It adds to the sense it’s all one massive lie.

    I might start to trust the climate change bandwagon when Judy Curry is considered mainstream and ATTP claims he didn’t understand what she was trying to say but that on reflection he agrees with much of what she stands for. I won’t hold my breath.

  2. I visit climate blogs to learn about science of climate and the cultural struggle that is the climate wars. I visit Judith Curry’s blog to learn about life. Her best blogs have little to do with climate – but everything to do with how people perceive and interact with the world.

  3. “But I am capable of offering an opinion on her impact on the public discussion on climate change. Her impact has been considerable and to me seems largely beneficial.”

    Indeed. And likely ‘very’ beneficial.

    “There are at least two tribes…”

    Formerly speaking and looking at the wider world (rather than just some core venues / blogs), there is only one tribe. While emotive memes, ideological overlap / leverage (e.g. with US conservatives), and downright wacky theories occupy part of the spectrum of climate skepticism, this skepticism does not form a culture in its own right that can be picked up via the normal identifying characteristics. Whereas a culture based on the certainty of imminent (decades) climate calamity, most certainly does light up all the typical indicators.

    Climate skepticism is to belief in climate calamity as atheism is to religion, i.e. it is not a culture and not adhered to by a tribe, and only has meaning in the context of resistance to a culture. It would have no stand-alone existence. The high polarization of the domain knowledgeable at core venues, is itself an expectation of this situation. And the most important feature of a culture is a socially enforced consensus, which is absent for skeptics.


  4. Tom, you are right about Curry. She is hated because she is one of the highest profile ” insiders” who has not only pointed out the hype and fraud of the climate consensus but has done so consistently and not backed down. That makes her an apostate. Fanatics hate apostasy more than they hate agnostics or even atheists. It is too bad that even in the face of whistleblowers you still defend the idea that the Constitution does not apply to scientists. Belated happy Thanksgiving, by the way.

  5. I thought of replying to ATTP / Ken Rice’s attacks on Judith Curry, but then I realised that I would be repeating the same things after his attacks on many other people who don’t share his (apparently) alarmist view of our future.

    It’s funny that, by saying that there is no tribe, he immediately puts himself in that tribe 🙂

    I’m sure that if (as some predict) we are due for a cooling phase (for which suggestion he attacked the authors of a submission to the National Astronomy Meeting recently) he will say (like the other alarmists) that it is just a brief interlude in the overall catastrophic warming 🙂

    He even co-wrote an article in Nature with Stephan Lewandowsky, Miriam O’Brien (alias Soo / Hot Whopper) and Bart Verheggen – enough said.:-)

  6. ATTP is a joke.

    ‘Nuff said.

    As for a woman of – er – “a certain age” – who is preoccupied with “Hot Whoppers”…

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