Stuck in the Middle, Attacked by Both Sides

An amusing comment today from Roger Pielke Jr. about his experience as ringmaster of an on line debate over the relevance of the hockey stick climate reconstruction, placing himself squarely between warring tribes as he tried (with some success, I thought) to spark a useful discussion.

I found it amusing to find myself being attacked simultaneously on both the RealClimate website and the ClimateAudit website for being in the camp of the other. As one post said, “if you are not with us you are against us”. This perspective, which is held not only among anonymous blog commentators, but some scientists, issue advocates and politicians helps to explain why the climate debate is locked in stalemate, and everyone chooses to fight about science instead.

Roger – this is how we journalists sometimes feel.


  1. Poor Roger… but it never seems to occur to him to wonder why people see him like this. Still, if it only amuses him, there is no harm done.

    Much of the rest of his post is poor. I must go and attack it some time.

  2. I can’t speak for Roger, but it seems to me there’s no mystery here as to why people see the Pielke’s of the world this way. It’s the tribal thing. If you’re not part of my tribe, you must be in the other tribe.

  3. John – thats part of it, but its not what I was suggesting.

    Anyway, following my comment being rejected by his blog I wrote: He has responded with

    “William- You are splitting small differences now. The IPCC SPM clearly identified the HS as a critical piece of evidence on attribution. Not “somewhat” important as you have suggested. Reasonable people can disagree about whether its importance was overstated in that report, that is a matter of interpretation and judgment. Now that I have learned quite a bit more about the issue, I believe that its importance to the attribution case was dramatically overstated because it made for a powerful symbol. We can agree to disagree on this point. No need to take it further than that. Thanks.”

    Now this is (a) junk and (b) pretty explicitly telling me not to come back at him on it. So much for tolerance of debate?

  4. William- I am happy to debate as much as you’d like. I am simply saying that there is no need to get worked up, as you apparently have, over a disagreement on this issue. I respect your point of view. I have another.

  5. Roger, William

    So the state of play is: William thinks Roger’s view (“the IPCC SPM clearly identified the HS as a critical piece of evidence on attribution”) is wrong; Roger is willing to agree to disagree and respect William’s point of view.

    OK. Well I respect both of you, but I respect Roger’s view less than William’s because I thing Roger’s view (as quoted by William) is wrong. The critical phrase is “on attribution”. The SPM gives some prominence to the HS (as Figure 1a) and makes statements apparently based on it:

    “New analyses of proxy data for the Northern Hemisphere indicate that the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely7 to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years. It is also likely7 that, in the Northern Hemisphere, the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year (Figure 1b). Because less data are
    available, less is known about annual averages prior to
    1,000 years before present and for conditions prevailing in
    most of the Southern Hemisphere prior to 1861.”

    But the *attribution* section talks about the last 50 years & the last 100 years and doesn’t mention the HS at all. Sure it’s lurking in the background, but I don’t see that it’s a “critical piece of evidence”.

    PS: Mind you, I do respect Roger’s point of view enough to respond to it constructively, I hope. It’s a tricky concept, respect.

  6. It seems that my contribution (no. 5) has been superseded by discussions on Roger’s site, Prometheus. In the unlikely event I decide to add my $0.02 again, I will do so there.

Comments are closed.