MARCIA McNutt, Editor of Science Magazine, wrote a Science editorial saying the time for debate has ended and we should act on climate. (The general argument to mitigate our net emissions made sense, and for the same reasons, 20 years ago. And it’s one that’s even more relevant today.)
Yet to castigate McNutt and Science in response, former Georgia Tech School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Chair and sometimes Congressional climate “expert” Judith Curry wrote a brilliant piece of rhetoric in response, that ultimately devolved into a sophisticated, inflammatory, and innuendo filled condemnation – just like most of Curry’s pieces that aren’t otherwise focused on cherry picking facts, taking extreme ends of ranges and positing them as the norm, or ignoring almost the entirety of the relevant picture.
Curry based her piece on the fact that the Editor of Science wrote an editorial urging action on climate change, not debate on “whether to act.” (The time to “debate” whether or not to mitigate our ongoing net emissions that have caused, and are continuing to add to, radical long term atmospheric alteration is over, McNutt suggested.)
A response examining the broader issues, as well as the other increasingly inflammatory allegations and innuendos in her piece, is here. But in short, before going into an increasingly manipulative and implicit demonization of the integrity of not just McNutt, but Science, science journals, and science in general, here is what Curry wrote:
By stating ‘the time for debate has ended,’ she appears to be speaking beyond her expertise and has latched onto a real tar baby. The IPCC doesn’t think the time for debate has ended‘;they are gearing up to write their 6th Assessment Report.
The IPCC doesn’t think the “time for debate” over whether we’re significantly impacting climate has ended, or that we shouldn’t act but instead continue to debate whether to act, simply because it continues to exist?? What kind of “logic” is that?
So because the International Panel on Climate Change still exists and reports, the time to debate whether to act on climate change (false debate that it may be in the first place aside) – instead of acting – thus has to continue by definition, a person who testifies before Congress on this issue just ludicrously suggested.
Before of course going on to impugn all of science for it. For Curry also esssentially argues: “We’re still seeking to learn, therefore Science magazine can’t editorialize that we should act, without bastardizing science.” And then, in increasingly inflammatory style, goes on to in fact just so bastardize science herself.
This is only a slightly more sophisticated version of Curry and other skeptics’ irrational and issue misconstruing idea that because there’s uncertainty on exactly what will happen with climate from our now multi million year increase to long term atmospheric molecular energy re-capture – which is exactly what makes it a “risk” in the first place – acting is imprudent. (And calls for acting, and assertions that the “time for debate over acting has ended,”apparently, inappropriate and worse.)
This, when if not knowing exactly what will happen and when it will happen was a reason for inaction, ALL risk would require inaction, which makes the argument nothing but nonsensical tautologic rhetoric; nonsensical rhetoric that, because climate change is complex, and rhetoric works (both to convince others and self convince of what one wants or has come to believe), has in fact somewhat worked. (And not just worked, but worked to the tune of 55% of U.S. adults polled – see right hand column – refusing to acknowledge or believe that human activity is causing global warming – as well as, despite a crescendo of increased knowledge on the topic as well as a mountain of corroborating evidence supporting signs of increasing effect, almost no movement in overall U.S. public perception on the issue over the past 25 years.)
And Curry implies, such a basic editorial – i.e., climate change is bad let’s act already to stop adding to it – from a science magazine no less, isn’t simply a reasonable point of view and one that it or its editor is entitled to present, but a “tar baby”; namely, something somewhat illogical, aggressive. and that worsens what it’s trying to do through the attempt to do it. Which is precisely what Curry, in response – and worse – then does to impugn McNutt’s opinions, the publication of them, and ultimately science in general.
In essence an editorial stated we should stop debating, and instead act to mitigate additions to climate change. (Putting aside that the case for addressing climate change is also overwhelming, it’s also by a person who probably has more credentials on the broader subject context than Curry: Only relevant here because Curry directly questioned whether the Editor of Science magazine was “qualifed” to write this editorial for it. See footnote**).
And in response, Curry used “reasoning” that’s derogatory, manipulative, and illogical to cunningly claim that by publishing a basic journal editorial, by the journal editor, on a broad global issue with an overwhelming relevant scientific consensus (itself also, naturally, “disputed” by skeptics – here’s how – McNutt and Science Magazine were engaging in inappropriate, somewhat manipulative, “stuck in tar” trapping behavior. (Especially considering the context of the full piece, which later implicitly and severely condemns Science and McNutt, heavily impugns science in general, and makes several highly inflammmatory suggestions.)
Curry’s ridiculous claims about McNutt’s opinion that it’s time to act to mitigate climate change (let alone long past time) and in particular that Curry makes and implies in the rest of her piece, also makes the “tar baby” claim of a no win stuck in tar mistake by McNutt itself self fulfilling; namely by doing everything possible to misrepresent and condemn McNutt’s action and the practice of science as such in general.
In other words, for writing an editorial, as editor, that conflicts with what Curry wants to believe, this favored congressional “expert” creates exactly what she otherwise ridiculously accuses McNutt of creating.
Since skeptics or borderline skeptic curmudgeons like Curry want to believe there’s real debate over whether our actions are significantly altering future climate, saying there isn’t, or implying that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists know that we are (never mind that it happens to be true), is now suddenly grounds for an increasingly inflammatory castigation of Science Magazine, it’s editor, and science in general.
This is a somewhat veiled and rhetoric driven version of the same type of practice skeptics have clung to in order to perpetuate their “skeptical” belief, and as briefly covered in the this earlier piece on the rest of Curry’s response. That is, engaging in exactly what is falsely being accused of others:
Or the latest “data tampering” where the“scandal of the century“ left out that 1)re-calibration is normal and in fact often required, not the fraud that it was fraudulently presented as to the world, 2)NOAA re-calibrated both up and down, not the fraud and outright lie or zealot blindness of only upward re-calibrations it was presented as, and – though irrelevant but incredible nonetheless – 3) had NOAA not done any re-calibrations, total surface air warming would likely appear greater, not lower.
Skeptics take some possibly mistaken but either way routine and necessary re-calibration, and find a way to self convince themselves and turn it into a huge scandal, so that relevant data can be dismissed in order to further reinforce the skeptic belief; namely, by engaging in the (blind) fraud, of calling it – i.e., what NOAA did, routine re-calibration – a fraud. And then, on top of that, blatantly misrepresent not only that re-calibration is fraud and not a routine and necessary part of science, but that re-calibrations were only done upward.
Skeptic Curry here takes a possibly mistaken editorial – if an editorial can be objectively “mistaken” on a subjective idea – here calling for redress of a widely recognized accumulating and amplifying global environmental problem, or prohibited simply because it’s by an editor of a science journal), and by being derogatory, manipulative (even if in self reinforcing zeal to find ways to reinforce and cling to her pseudo “skepticism” she doesn’t realize it) and illogical, with no basis, instead implies this and ultimately more upon McNutt and Science itself.
That is, other than of course the specious “basis” that somehow the Editor of Science Magazine is someone who despite being the editor is not qualified to write an editorial for it, and the ludicrous basis that the time to not act and instead continue to debate can’t be over, because we still have an IPCC. Or – as the IPCC line is meant to represent, and just as inanely – because we are still learning about climate change, as with most things in life, and more importantly want and seek to learn objective physical truths – what science is.
But skeptics have turned the “we don’t know all there is to know” generality into an argument for not acting, as if acting based upon what we do know is never rational, and that we can only act after we know all there is to know; which of course in most things happens after the fact (if ever) and thus after having any opportunity to act. Even more so on an issue like climate change, which has a large lag between cause and effect, and would be impossible to precisely prove the exact impact of in advance since it represents an enormous net long term (and still increasing) energy dump upon an otherwise completely open and itself unpredictable global system.
But then, Curry’s assessment of the whole issue; the risk range it presents, and the relevance of uncertainty; are all completely backward. (See the original piece, and in particular Curry’s idea of the “uncertainty moster” on climate change, which she has flagrantly wrong; not just misconstruing what the basic problem is, but completely reversing the relevancy of risk ranges and what they structurally represent in the first place.)
In very understated fashion – it is after all in likely the leading science journal in the world – Nature published a revealing and interesting piece examining the phenomenon and patterns of climate change “skepticism.” It suggested:
Many climate sceptics seem to review scientific data and studies not as scientists but as attorneys.
Though here “many” essentially means “all.” This is because the whole tautology of “skeptical” belief over this issue is that to remain skeptic requires advocating to fit “facts” and “ideas” into an already arrived at conclusion; or to simply believe those who do, and ignore almost all climate scientists.
That is how someone smart enough to be former Chair of the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Environment Department at Georgia Tech can otherwise make such flagrantly basic and illogical mistakes on an issue they have presumably “studied,” and are even ostensibly “expert” on.
Along with, of course, not recognizing it. Nor – further enabling and facilitating the pattern itself and its widespread influence on overall climate change “information” and understanding – has this pattern been very effectively and more broadly shown:
That is, even the media barely covers skepticism relative to the relevant facts on climate change, let alone why the relevant facts are relevant. And many climate change advocates and leaders have a hard time believing that skeptics actually believe most of what they are saying, or in recognizing the huge amount of influence of the attendant rhetoric and rampant misinformation upon the general populace and overall discussion and understanding of the issue.
But in Curry’s “logic” above, it is once again clearly illustrated: Skeptics use rhetoric under guise of reason to self convince of a conclusion, while engaging in a pattern that in many key respects resembles a person charged with a pre-determined position of advocacy who must then find ways to support that advocacy and maintain it, any way possible.
Except the advocacy here is to support a belief, or an unrecognized desire to believe: That is, a belief, reinforced by massive misinformation and rhetoric, that a multi million year increase in earth’s long term chemical atmospheric energy recapture wouldn’t ultimately significantly impact earth. And maintain that belief even though, aside from cherry picking and misrepresenting slivers of the total picture of data, there’s absolutely nothing to support it. And even that’s only misrepresentative or issue misconstruing cherry picking at the otherwise fairly extensive record of overall corroboration; not providing any basis for why a geologically relevant shift in long term energy recapture wouldn’t change total earth energy, which ultimately, means climate. And which has never been done. Mainly because it doesn’t make sense.
But because the issue is complex, long term, involves risk ranges – and of course while a general understanding is achievable based on a mountain of geophysical knowledge and data, by its very nature can’t be precisely predicted in terms of exact climatic path and time period in advance – skeptics find ways to reinforce the belief and really believe it, while the great bulk of the climate change advocacy community and the media both largely ignore this remarkable and rather major long term lack of redress affecting pattern; even with polls showing that, as a result, the gap between what climate scientists know, and what the public “thinks,” is stunningly large.
And as democracy is only as strong as the quality of its mainstream information, the United States elects representatives who reflect this understanding, and then, in turn, turn to “experts” like Curry, and several others who may be reasonably credentialed but essentially have almost the entire relevant issue fundamentally incorrect, for insight and information.
*Since we can’t both act in response yet at the same time debate whether we should.
**Not that credentials are relevant here. But Curry implied because McNutt is an Editor of Science she should not be allowed to editorialize – yet, apparently, and illogically if not bizarrely, still be SCIENCE EDITOR – unless her credentials apparently meet Curry’s standard for each editoriall. So Curry’s logic is that McNutt is credentialed enough to be editor of Science, a bigger role than writing an editorial, but yet not credentialed enough to write an editorial because she is the editor. Which is tautological.