04 December 2009

Interview with Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang

I am interviewed by Andrew Freedman over at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. Here is an excerpt:
I have been critical of the behavior of activist climate scientists for many years. Their efforts to wage a battle with their political opponents (who they call "skeptics" in the emails) on the turf of science has contributed to the excessive politicization of climate science. The appropriate place to wage political battles is out in the open, and in full consideration of the many factors beyond science that shape our political agendas.

While it is clear that the "skeptics" were/are often hiding their political agendas behind science, that doesn't make it right for the activist scientists to do the same. In fact, there is much more at stake for the scientific community from the activist scientists than the "skeptics" because the activist scientists have claimed to be representing the scientific establishment and are in fact part of leading scientific institutions like the IPCC, and thus a loss of credibility is disproportionately more consequential.

If it seems like the issue of politicized science falls in the favor of the skeptics, that is correct. They can politicize science with less consequences than can the activist scientists. That is just a fact. No one said that politics is fair.

Despite the stated intentions in the emails, the reality is that no one controls peer review in all of academia or even in a field like climate science, and it is futile to try to do so, though apparently this did not stop some of these activist scientists from at least talking about trying to manage the peer review process in ways favorable to their work and unfavorable to their perceived opponents. No matter how well the succeeded in this effort, seeing their efforts described in the emails looks really bad to most observers.

The IPCC is different however, in that it is controlled by a much smaller group of people. I've had my own experiences with the IPCC that lead me to believe that a few individuals can indeed successfully serve as gatekeepers to keep certain peer-reviewed science out of the report. In areas where I have expertise -- disasters and climate change specifically -- the IPCC has failed miserably. [Note: Pielke laid out this argument in more detail in a June blog post.]
Please head over there to read the entire interview. And if you have any questions about my comments, feel free to come back and ask them here.