02 December 2009

Judy Curry in the National Journal

Judy Curry of Georgia Tech (and formerly a colleague here at Colorado, where she was instrumental in setting up our Environmental Studies Graduate Program) is finding her voice on the politicization of climate science, and has some really smart things to say in an interview in the National Journal. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but here are a few key passages:
NJ: What can the science community do to strengthen public confidence in dispassionate science?
Curry: We need climate glasnost: openness, transparency, and freedom of information. Scientists who engage in advocacy activities generate lack of confidence in their science, both from within the scientific community and from the public. The public should expect accountability from our major institutions, particularly the IPCC.

NJ: Is the outside scrutiny from the skeptics making the science stronger?

Curry: Scrutiny from scientific skeptics makes the science stronger, either by identifying problems that can be addressed or by increasing confidence when problems and errors are not found. Scrutiny from [politically motivated] contrarians and deniers and the noise generated by such people do distract scientists from their real work... The scientists involved in the CRU emails are dismissing certain people as skeptics, assuming that they all have political motivations. Well, the motivation of the skeptic isn't really the point. The point is whether or not they have a valid argument.

NJ: What's the role for the IPCC?

Curry: I staunchly support the IPCC, but when [chairman] Rajendra Pachauri comes out making all these really strong policy statements, such as the developed world has to cut back its energy use... and stop putting ice cubes in their water, and other crazy stuff... I don't like that. These guys should pick people who don't want to be advocates and will shut their mouths about advocating for policies. Otherwise, we don't look credible.

NJ: Have you heard from the science societies?

Curry: We need to hear from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academies what they think of this. These are the two institutions that should be the watchdog on all this.

This is a black eye on our whole field. We have to defend our field, and show the broader scientific field -- the biologists, physicists and chemists -- that this is real science, not political science. What a lot of them are thinking... [is that] this is a politically tainted field.