Saturday, June 26, 2010

Roger Pielke Jr. incorrectly ties flawed Inhofe list to a good study of climate researchers

(UPDATE:  Roger Pielke Jr. asserts I've got it all wrong - see his post starting around comment 89.  He did help clarify one minor point about the Inhofe list that I'm inserting below, but other than that I stand by everything I said here, as well as my posts about misinformation he's given on open-air capture and ocean sequestration.)

(Background on the good PNAS study here - it found that only a tiny number of active climate researchers are unconvinced about human caused climate change, and that the unconvinced ones don't produce as much work nor are cited by others as much as the mainstream scientists).

I'll cut RP Jr. more slack than I otherwise would, because it's his father being categorized as on the losing side of scientific history, and I'd have trouble maintaining perspective myself in that situation.  However, he still needs to be factually accurate, and he isn't when says this:

 "What qualifies one to be on the [PNAS study] APHS10 list of skeptics, which I'll just call the "black list"? ....In fact, it turns out that you don't even have to sign an open letter or argue against immediate cuts for emissions. You can simply appear unwillingly on Senator James Inhofe's list."

Actually, no.  Inhofe and Marc Morano compiled a list of climate denialists that's as flawed as everything else that the denialists put out, and it included climate believers with the skeptics.  RP Jr uses the inclusion of the Inhofe list to discredit the PNAS study, but the PNAS study didn't use the Inhofe list.

Three of us tried to get this clarified/corrected in the comments to Roger's post, with little effect.  He says that the study links to one of the co-author's website who relies on the Inhofe list, which provides legitimacy to a flawed (apparently broader) list.  He won't fix his post, so far.

Incidentally, he hasn't shown where the PNAS author Jim Prall relies on the Inhofe list, so the entire critique could be wrong.  (UPDATE:  Roger's additional comments did help with this at least - Prall uses Inhofe's list here, but never used it as the sole source of information on a skeptic, and again it wasn't used in the PNAS study as Roger says it was.)

Moving on from the Inhofe thing, the whole claim that it's "blacklisting" to point out a viewpoint is held by a tiny and mostly undistinguished group means that Pielke Jr. and the other critics object to an attempt to determine the state of scientific opinion.  I could imagine this type of analysis could apply very usefully to wholly unrelated scientific questions, but apparently Pielke Jr wouldn't want that to happen.

Finally, an interesting choice of tactics here - during the whole stolen climate emails thing, some people wanted to focus on the privacy invasion and illegal theft, which I thought would be viewed as an attempt to distract people from the content when the content wasn't that bad.  Here, denialists and unhelpful types like Pielke Jr. are ignoring the PNAS study content and screaming about blacklists.  Maybe it's like the lawyer's saying that if you can't pound any arguments in your favor, pound the table instead.

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