James Annan Critiques RealClimate

This critique of RealClimate by James Annan resonated with me:

More recently, they have plucked a couple of fairly minor papers out of relative obscurity and thrust them into the limelight for no apparent purpose other than to tear into them …. The authors’ crimes? In each case, they included a throwaway phrase which appears to pose some sort of challenge to the “consensus” view. In both cases, the papers make some valid points, and I don’t find the RC rebuttals entirely convincing. But it’s not so much the science I’m objecting to, as the tactic itself, which I don’t think is really warranted. With RC’s dominant influence on the web comes a responsibility to treat people – and the issues – fairly. They risk looking more like a playground bully than an honest broker.

I had the same reaction that James did. In one of the two cases (Cohn and Lins), I’d just read the paper and found it interesting because of my own adventures in trying to understand the effect of persistence on drought.

Rasmus’s criticism looked as though his primary goal was to quickly knock the legs out from under a bit of work that might otherwise be of use to “the skeptics.” That’s different than trying to help readers untangle the very difficult problem of distinguishing persistence from genuine trends, which is a difficult and important problem in climate science.