Climate Change Scientist Exits Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Blog Following Controversy

Robert Jonathan

Leaving under a "cloud," as it were?

University of Colorado environmental studies professor Roger Pielke, Jr., voluntarily ended his participation in Nate Silver's much hyped, numbers-crunching FiveThirtyEight blog after a controversy arose over an article about natural disasters.

Pielke is not considered a skeptic, but he nonetheless apparently ran afoul of the settled, so-called, climate change science. As a result, FiveThirtyEight reportedly became unenthusiastic about publishing any more of his work on the site.

According to Politico, "In March, Pielke wrote a piece for FiveThirtyEight claiming that climate change is not the cause behind the increasing cost of natural disaster. The article unleashed a torrent of criticism directed at both Pielke and the site, which had only just launched. Silver published a conditional defense of the article and a rebuttal."

Last year, Dr. Pielke testified on Capitol Hill that "It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally. It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases. Hurricanes have not increased in the U.S. in frequency, intensity or normalized damage since at least 1900. The same holds for tropical cyclones globally since at least 1970."

In an interview with Discover Magazine, Pielke indicated that he had no contact with Nate Silver directly since that controversial article was posted. "Of course, I do wish that 538 had shown a bit more editorial backbone, but hey, it is his operation... For me, if the price of playing in the DC-NYC data journalism world is self-censorship for fear of being unpopular, then it is clearly not a good fit for any academic policy scholar."

Pielke added that, although measures need to be taken to address the climate issue, it is self-defeating if the climate change establishment seeks to manipulate climate science data:

"Trying to trick policy makers or the public to believe that -- say, disasters are getting worse because of climate change or that we have all the technologies we need for deep decarbonization -- will only backfire in the end. I am a big fan of playing it straight with the science, because over the long term that reinforces public trust and leads to more reliable policy recommendations... I believe that policy debates deserve a plurality of voices, not a harmonization of views. I do not focus obsessively on the skeptics and deniers."

Concluded Pielke:

"Disaster losses continue to increase worldwide. Carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere. The world continues to demand ever more energy. Climate policies in place or proposed are not up to the task. In short, we need more ideas, more debate, more disagreement if we are to make intelligent progress. Efforts to demonize or silence unwelcome voices probably don't move the dial very far on any of these issues Was this campaign to have me removed from 538 a victory for the climate movement? Was it the right battle to wage? I hope the climate hawks ask themselves these questions."

As the issue has developed, it appears that in general if you aren't 100 percent on board with man-made climate change, you are pushed into the denier camp, even though the role of science is to constantly challenge accepted hypotheses.

Along those lines, Dr. Pielke noted that "parts of the climate science field are indeed 'fully politicized.'"

Do you agree or disagree with the notion the often lucrative climate change movement and/or industry has become overly political?