Skip to main content

 photo NateSilver_zps52feed4b.jpg

Here's a curious piece by Kiley Kroh I just ran across while looking for wind power articles in ThinkProgress' Climate section, that others here might find to be interesting.  Nate Silver’s New Science Writer Ignores The Data On Climate Science I hadn't realized that Nate Silver, who used to write here, and then at the New York Times, just started his own website, FiveThirtyEight, this week. This launch is receiving poor reviews, with extra scathing criticism for science editor, Roger Pielke Jr., who is apparently raising eyebrows in the scientific and environmental communities.

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight and the dangers of being ideologically neutral


To summarize: it's terrible. Reviewers from Paul Krugman to Tyler Cowen — who seldom agree on much — have panned the launch. If you need to be personally convinced, just check out this example. Yikes. ...

At this point, I'm not sure what more Silver could do to demonstrate the Judith Miller hazard. Because FiveThirtyEight's science coverage stinks of sublimated ideology. The opening science pieces were pretty bad, but far more telling was Silver's hiring of climate troll Roger Pielke Jr. ...

That kind of squid-ink careerist nonsense is what led Foreign Policy to put Pielke on its list of climate skeptics. It's what led the late, famed climatologist Stephen Schneider to dismiss him as a "self-aggrandizer who sets up straw men, knocks them down, and takes credit for being the honest broker to explain the mess." Pretty much.

This author notes that Pielke's PhD is in political science not climate science.

Kroh, of ThinkClimate offers so many examples of Pielke, Jr.'s "numerous distortions of data and statistics," that have been "debunked by actual climate scientists," it is challenging to choose just three examples.  

Pielke routinely seeks to minimize the impacts and severity of climate change and in the process, has been repeatedly criticized as inaccurate and misleading by some of the nation’s foremost climate scientists. ... Most recently, Pielke tangled with Obama science advisor and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John Holdren, over the relationship between the severity of California’s epic drought and climate change. In February, Pielke slammed Holdren for offering a scientifically-grounded explanation of how climate change is worsening western drought. As Joe Romm observed, “Holdren’s views are right in the mainstream of climatologists’ view of drought. I can think of no climate scientists who share Pielke’s startling assessment of Holdren’s views as ‘zombie science.’”

James Annan, another climate scientist, has written numerous takedowns of Pielke’s flawed analyses. “There’s obviously a simple conceptual misunderstanding underlying Roger’s attempts at analysis,” Annan observed. ... but Annan is quick to point out the lack of a foundation on which to base that claim. “I challenged this obvious absurdity and repeatedly asked him to back it up with a calculation,” Annan wrote. “After a lot of ducking and weaving, about the 30th comment under the post, he eventually admits ‘I honestly don’t know what the proper test is.’”

Kroh recounts several other cases of Pielke apparently misbegotten encounters with world famous, highly regarded climate scientists.

While discourse amongst scientists is necessary and beneficial, Pielke has a track record of consistently cherry-picking and mischaracterizing the work done by climate scientists and has made a name for himself by disparaging their work. Pielke’s methods echo a key problem observed by leading climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf: “blind application of statistics, without understanding of the science (both in terms of the physics and in terms of knowledge of the technical literature) is very dangerous​.”

Pielke was also included in Foreign Policy's 2010 "Guide to Climate Skeptics.

I should point out that this is the first I am hearing of these concerns, and know nothing about this other than what is in this article. There are always many sides to every story, and as this criticism was just published today, I do not believe Nate Silver, and Roger Pielke Jr.,  have had an opportunity to respond to these criticisms, yet.  I just checked their new site.  If, or as soon as they do, I will post links in an update.  I was not even aware that Five-Thirty-Eight had spun out its own website.  

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  What is the deal? (6+ / 0-)

    Ezra Klein and Nate Silver start their own independent news outlets and both hire questionable cats out the gate. Weird.

    •  Not surprised about Klein, actually. I am (7+ / 0-)

      surprised about Silver.

      Even as Maddow's sub, it was not uncommon for Klein to expose an openness and susceptibility to if not fondness for popular establishment myths and cons.

      I haven't followed Silver as closely and perhaps that's the source of my surprise. You just always figure that someone who knows the percentages, as it were, wouldn't take a hacker's swing at such an obvious junkball as Climate Denial. And you would hope he felt secure to believe he didn't need to play three card monte to earn a living.

      Trust, but verify. - Reagan
      Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

      When the rich have tripled their share of the income and wealth yet again, Republicans will still blame the poor and 3rd Way Democrats will still negotiate.

      by Words In Action on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 02:41:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I can't make an informed statement about Nate (0+ / 0-)

      Silver, since I'm not familiar with his work, but Ezra Klein? Man, talk about sucking. He is just awful.

      “In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” Terry Pratchett

      by 420 forever on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 02:43:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They both committed career suicide. Egos too big. (0+ / 0-)

      Both of them made the mistake of assuming their brand was big enough to transcend the medium -- that they were bringing eyes tot he New York Times, WaPo and MSNBC...and that their legions would follow them to new platforms.

      I love Ezra Kleln -- he was one of the best wonks in the WaPo/MSNBC mediaverse -- but I'm not gonna go seek him out wherever. I go to MSNBC and he's on o show I like, so I watch -- or I go to WaPo and I see a front-page link to his stuff, and I click it. But, I never did any of that to seek him out.

      Nate Silver's on even shakier ground. All he does is aggregate data that others collect and publish. Very little value added there. Not much chance that I'm gonna go to his ego-brand vehicle.

      They're certainly not the first media personalities who thought their brand was big enough to carry their audience to another venture. It rarely works out that way. Even in the new media in the internet age.

      Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

      by FischFry on Fri Mar 21, 2014 at 08:19:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A link to a 538 article in question. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, Catte Nappe, trkingmomoe
    •  To be clear: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trkingmomoe, HoundDog

      The Arctic Methane Emergency Group speaks for me. The opposite of Nuclear Winter.

    •  It has suck (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As noted in other comments above, Pielke cherry-picked noisy data and claimed to find no signal. The opposite of what should happen, according to Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise.

      Instead of analyzing the frequency and severity of storms based on, you know, scientific storm severity scales, Pielke chose to analyze monetary estimates of storm damage, which depend on where stuff is built and how much and when, and on the randomness of storm tracks. He ignored other factors, such as sea-level rise. He picked a period when the numbers look good for his pet idea out of the much longer period for which we have good data, which show the opposite. He included irrelevant natural disasters, such as volcanoes.

      He is being savaged in the comments as I write. I added my own 2 cents.

      I was prepared to cut Pielke, Jr. some slack before today, since he admits to the reality of Global Warming due to greenhouse gasses, unlike his father, Roger Pielke, Sr., who claims that AGW is real but from other causes. But after this abysmal performance, no.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 06:52:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  pielke is a train wreck (7+ / 0-)

    the joke is that while silver claims to be about data driven news, pielke is on the fringe of the fringe, and doesn't even understand statistics. but this isn't silver's first facepalm fail on climate change. michael mann excoriated silver for misunderstanding and misrepresenting what mann told him.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 01:51:53 PM PDT

    •  I almost put in a paragraph on that. Mann bashes (5+ / 0-)

      a whole chapter of Silver's book, but I decided to stay focused on the indisputably egregious example of Pielke until Silver has a chance to respond as a professional courtesy, and as a break to one of our own, who made it to the big time.

      "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

      by HoundDog on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 01:56:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it's inexcusable (7+ / 0-)

        silver is getting hammered by climate scientists, and apparently (i haven't checked) even the comments are harshly critical of pielke's first 538 post. nate hasn't just jumped the shark, he's in orbit.

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 01:58:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, it's sad. People learn though. Silver is (4+ / 0-)

          still young for someone who has accumulated so much fame, experience, and a body of work.

          Perhaps, he will gain a deeper insight and respect for editorial writers, and the non-quantitative aspects of the affects of ones paradigm on what how one perceives reality,  

          To the best of my understanding, his work on political polling has been respected and held in fairly high regard, for the most part.

          He  did seem to make one subtle but consequential  mathematical/methodological "misjudgement", IMO, during the last election, however, I would be the first to admit that it was most likely due to different approaches in the methodologies we were brought up in, and would be controversial among academics of different fields.

          I have no personal familiarity with it, but have heard positive reports of his approach to sports analysis.

          Hey, Laurence, maybe if we say upbeat things here, he will hire one of us to come over and bring the place upscale a bit?  I'd love to have a job like that.

          Heck, I almost work as much as many full time writers, as a volunteer just for the fun of it. Can you imagine how much fun it must be to get paid for it? I've been thinking of setting up a blogsite devoted to the progressive-liberal-scientific-consumerist-worker perspective-humanist viewpoint. But, I need a better name.  lol  

          "Seriously, Folks, WTH?" - ("What the Heck? "h/t Joan McCarter, Seriously, Florida. WTF?)

          by HoundDog on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 02:17:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If only we could bottle that and (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Laurence Lewis

          and let Virgin use it for additional propulsion.

          What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

          by agnostic on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 02:45:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I just came from there (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Laurence Lewis

          Pielke is getting hammered.

          Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

          by Mokurai on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 06:53:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Nate Triggered My Con-Dar a Very Long Time (4+ / 0-)

    ago, with some remarks not about polling upcoming contests.

    Elections are subjected to a hard measurement within 1-4 years so there's a strong and immediate incentive to deliver predictions that match reality; most important political issues are not, and certainly not climate change.

    And that means it's wide open to conservative speak and every kind of weazling.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 02:16:08 PM PDT

  •  This controversy has been around for at least ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    a couple of days. I think I first read about it Sunday or Monday. Also, Silver has owned his website for years, before, during, and after his stint at NYT. It used to be his baseball blog cum political blog.

    If you don't watch news, you're un-informed. If you watch Fox news, you're mis-informed. (paraphrasing Mark Twain)

    by edg on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 02:38:51 PM PDT

  •  Is there any criticism specifically of the article (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, MGross

    as opposed to the general reputation of the author?

    •  Quick read by non-professional (0+ / 0-)

        the "argument" seem to reside generically bland type of values - it wasn't so much the storm it was the GDP of the the country.    it wasn't so much the storm but the number of people who died.   They seem like false comparisons, but it was a quick read, not real reflection / thought....

          The tone is what one often reads on sites who obscure the facts by setting up a false front / comparison.    RE:  folks are poor because they own a cell phone or refrigerator or microwave.

    •  I wondered the same; you've gotta (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ashaman, Naniboujou, BYw, Mokurai

      read the comments for that.

      The first one says:

      Note to Nate Silver... I'm rather taken aback by this article by Roger Pielke. It's just fundamentally wrong. Not just a little wrong. It is statistically and demonstrably wrong. It's easy to show by just looking at this information from Munich RE.

      Geophysical disasters (and losses) have remained flat while weather and hydrological disasters (and losses) have escalated dramatically over the past 30 years.

      (Much more where that came from.)

      "Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror."

      by GussieFN on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 03:08:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, as I commented above eom (0+ / 0-)

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 08:44:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Really? (0+ / 0-)
    This author notes that Pielke's PhD is in political science not climate science.
    Michael Mann's PhdWin is in geology.  Actual degrees in "climate science" are pretty rare, even now (Maybe you mean Meteorology?)
    •  Geology is a form of climate science (0+ / 0-)

      because so much of geology is formed according to the climate of the time, and allows us to measure the CO2 content of the atmosphere over many millions of years in the past.

      Undersea rock formation depends on the level of the oceans, and their acidity, which goes back to CO2 being added to the atmosphere by volcanoes or removed by carbonate rock formation, such as limestone.

      Ice age glaciers press the landscape down by a considerable amount, and it rebounds upwards during interglacials. Glaciers also cut through the landscape, as at Half Dome in Yosemite, and leave large quantities of rock behind in moraines.

      The Channeled Scablands in eastern Oregon and Washington were formed by repeated outflows of glacial lakes covering nearly all of Montana after several Ice Ages.

      There is much more of this. There are of course other disciplines involved in modern climate studies and paleoclimate studies.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Wed Mar 19, 2014 at 08:56:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site