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A Climate Claim in Tatters

By Keith Kloor
Feb 25, 2011 12:35 AMNov 20, 2019 3:17 AM


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The evolution of Judith Curry, the outspoken Georgia Tech climate scientist, continues. Her emergence in the last few years as a persistent critic of the climate science community can be marked by distinct stages. At first, in the immediate aftermath of Climategate, Curry's critiques focused on "climate tribalism" and "transparency" issues. By April of 2010, she had expanded her criticism to include the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggesting it was rife with "corruptions" due to bad practices and the behavior of individual scientists. Last December, her transformation from consensus-believing insider to dissenting outsider was cemented in a Scientific American profile, which called her a "climate heretic." All along, Curry has maintained that one of her goals is to help build bridges between the vociferous climate skeptic camp and the mainstream climate science community. But Curry's recent trajectory has some of the cooler heads wondering if she's become just another antagonist in the the fractious climate debate. This week she seems to have reinforced that belief with a post that accuses climate scientists of being "dishonest" in the way they presented data in an IPPC report. NASA's Gavin Schmidt quickly responded:

You have gone significantly over the line with this post. Accusations of dishonesty are way beyond a difference of opinion on how a graph should be displayed.

A caustic exchange between Curry and Schmidt ensued, which Joe Romm reproduces here. Now, what interests me most about this latest contretemps is Curry's apparent larger rationale for her escalating (and harsher?) drumbeat of criticism. The justification is inferred in a response to Bart Verheggen on the thread of that explosive post, in which she claims that

the public credibility of climate science remains in tatters.

That's one of those sweeping statements that I don't see any evidence for. Did some climate scientists get a chink in their reputations after the batch of East Anglia emails were released? Sure. But there was no larger indictment of climate science, or any revelations of fraud that undermined the large body of cumulative research pointing to man-made warming of the climate. Now just because a new breed of U.S. Republicans uses this affair to reinforce their own biases doesn't mean the credibility of climate science is in tatters. Same with conservative-leaning TV meteorologists, who seem unduly influenced by Climategate. But what about the public at large? Here's what Jon Krosnic wrote last year about his Stanford Study:

First, we found no decline in Americans' trust in environmental scientists: 71 percent of respondents said they trust these scientists a moderate amount, a lot or completely, a figure that was 68 percent in 2008 and 70 percent in 2009. Only 9 percent said they knew about the East Anglia e-mail messages and believed they indicated that climate scientists should not be trusted, and only 13 percent of respondents said so about the I.P.C.C. reports' alleged flaws.

And in the UK, where Climategate got wide and frequent play, here's the findings from a recent Guardian poll:

Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat. Compared with August 2009, when the same question was asked, opinion remained steady despite a series of events in the intervening 18 months that might have made people less certain about the perils of climate change.

Last June, a similar poll in the U.S. also found that

public belief that global warming is happening rose four points, to 61 percent, while belief that it is caused mostly by human activities rose three points, to 50 percent.

If public credibility of climate science is supposedly "in tatters," as Curry asserts, it's certainly not reflected in public polls. You want to know when something is in tatters?

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