30 September 2010

Let the Misrepresentation Begin

It was only a matter of time before the blogcritics engaged The Climate Fix, which I welcome.  Unfortunately, they are off to a very bad start.  William Connolley, formerly of Real Climate fame, accuses me of spreading lies:
Well, not quite direct lies, more in the nature of deliberately-misleading by omission.
What is it that Connolley accuses me of omitting?  It is part of a quote from Steven Schneider. Connolley explains, based on his reading of Greenberg's review in Nature:
There is a long-standing tradition of abusing this quote from Schneider: which means that neither RP Jr nor DG can have done it accidentally, which makes the abuse all the more surprising. If you don't know the context, the quote continues:
This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both
You can find Schneider complaining about being misrepresented in this way by Julian Simon all the way back in 1996 in the APS newsletter.
The problem with Connolley's accusation is that I include the supposedly omitted quote in The Climate Fix and I also cite and quote from the APS Newsletter.  All of this appears on pp. 202-203, and here is that discussion in full, and you can see clearly that Connolley is simply wrong in his accusation.
Demands for certainty, however, don’t just come from politicians. Climate scientists also impose such demands on themselves, in order to make their scariest projections even scarier. This leads to more problems. In one of the more widely quoted comments ever made by a climate scientist, Steve Schneider wrote:
On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but—which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This “double ethical bind” we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and bein honest. I hope that means being both.19
For his part, Schneider emphasized that this double ethical bind should never be resolved by resorting to mischaracterizing uncertainties. In response to the frequent use of his quote to suggest a green light for alarmism, Schneider wrote, “Not only do I disapprove of the ‘ends justify the means’ philosophy of which I am accused, but, in fact have actively campaigned against it in myriad speeches and writings.”20 Indeed, the vast majority of climate scientists that I have had the pleasure to get to know and work with over the years shares Schneider’s passion for accurately conveying climate science to the public and placing it into its policy context. However, not all of their colleagues share this passion, coloring views of all of the climate-science enterprise.
I welcome engagement and criticisms from the blogosphere, but making things up and failing to do one's homework is pretty uncool.

[UPDATE 10/1: William Connolley has begrudgingly struck through a few words in his post, which I suppose indicates the minimal possible admission on his part that he was wrong.  Even so, syndicated and unchanged versions of his post circulate in the blogosphere.  I suspect that I'll see much more of this type of attack based on public discussions of The Climate Fix.]