Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Judith Curry admits she gets her science from (denier interpretations of?) stolen emails

Sou | 9:21 PM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment

Apparently Judith Curry took a trip to Australia recently. I guess it was for personal/family reasons because all I know of it is from an interview she gave to a science denying "literary" magazine, Quadrant.

Anthony Watts has copied and pasted excerpts (archived here). I've archived the report of the interview, which was suitably in the "opinion" not fact section of Quadrant Online.  She admits to the interviewer, Tony Thomas, that she's now a dyed in the wool denier, saying:
TONY THOMAS: If the skeptic/orthodox spectrum is a range from 1 (intense skeptic) to 10 (intensely IPCC orthodox), where on the scale would you put yourself
(a) as at 2009
(b) as at 2014,
and why has there been a shift (if any)?
JUDITH CURRY: In early 2009, I would have rated myself as 7; at this point I would rate myself as a 3.  Climategate and the weak response of the IPCC and other scientists triggered a massive re-examination of my support of the IPCC, and made me look at the science much more sceptically.

As you can see, she admits that rather than basing her opinions about climate science on research, she bases it on disinformation about snippets of stolen emails. And rather than being "sceptical", Judith has moved further and further into the fake sceptic camp as time goes by.

I'm not sure that she's being strictly honest even then. Although I agree that the evidence suggests she's become more of a fake sceptic over the years, I suspect it had more to do with her ideology overwhelming her reason than anything to do with "science by hacking" (her choosing to accept disinformation about stolen emails) or climate science.  Remember that Judith only applies her "do nothing it's all too uncertain" notion to mitigation of global warming, which is so "virtually certain" you can regard it as immutable fact. When it comes to matters that affect her directly and immediately, she'll urge action even when the likelihood is only 30%.

Here's a graphic of Judith's confessed transition to denialism, according to herself.

Her transition is well supported by the evidence she's provided over the years. Every now and then we see a glimpse of her former scientific self but those glimpses are becoming more rare.

Judith opts for "it's the sun, stupid"!

As if it wasn't enough her admitting she's moved well into science denying territory, in the interview Judith tosses in an "it's the sun" type of comment.
THOMAS:  Are you supportive of the line that the ‘quiet sun’ presages an era of global cooling in the next few decades?
CURRY: One of the unfortunate consequences of the focus on anthropogenic forcing of climate is that solar effects on climate have been largely neglected.  I think that solar effects, combined with the large scale ocean-circulation regimes, presage continued stagnation in global temperatures for the next two decades.

All that comment shows (apart from giving a boost to Marcia Wyatt's stadium wave hypothesis) is that Judith probably doesn't read much scientific literature these days (like this). Recent research (here) shows that even a grand minimum would only set back the trend of global warming by a few years at most.

What motivates a (former?) climate scientist to accept denier disinformation about stolen email snippets and reject climate science from the experts?

Yes, I know a lot of readers object to speculation about motivation. However there has been relevant research on the topic of motivated reasoning.

Dan Kahan did some research and postulated that:
...the study found that ideologically motivated reasoning is not a consequence of over-reliance on heuristic or intuitive forms of reasoning generally. On the contrary, subjects who scored highest in cognitive reflection were the most likely to display ideologically motivated cognition. These findings corroborated an alternative hypothesis, which identifies ideologically motivated cognition as a form of information processing that promotes individuals’ interests in forming and maintaining beliefs that signify their loyalty to important affinity groups.

I expect Judith would argue that she would score high in cognitive reflection. It doesn't take any cognitive reflection to keep shouting "wicked" and "uncertain" over and over without any cognition or analysis.

There's a paper here about party politics and motivated reasoning, which looks to be an interesting analysis. At one stage it notes how people motivated by self-interest become more polarised as new information emerges (even when that new information contradicts their opinion), whereas other people will moderate their opinion in response to new information:
Leeper (2013) shows that individuals motivated – through primed self-interest – to defend their prior attitudes polarize over-time in response to new issue-relevant information. By contrast, individuals primed to have weaker issue attitudes moderate in response to new information, ultimately holding opinions that reflect the consideration of contradictory evidence. The selection of highly contentious issues on which individuals have strong attitudes (see, for example, Taber and Lodge 2006) might bias research toward findings evidence of strong directional motivations and their effects. Thus, the operation of motivated reasoning will look differently for individuals depending on what issues are at stake and how intensely they need to defend their prior attitudes or identities.

Most climate blog readers will be familiar with Lewandowsky13, the "moon landing" study, which found that right wing ideology was a predictor of the rejection of climate science.

Another recent paper found that motivated reasoning was a big factor where people were more engaged in thinking about climate change, and personal experience was the larger factor influencing the opinions of those who didn't know or think much about the subject. From the abstract (my paras):
We use data from a nationally representative sample of Americans surveyed first in 2008 and again in 2011; these longitudinal data allow us to evaluate the causal relationships between belief certainty and perceived experience, assessing the impact of each on the other over time.
Among the full survey sample, we found that both processes occurred: ‘experiential learning’, where perceived personal experience of global warming led to increased belief certainty, and ‘motivated reasoning’, where high belief certainty influenced perceptions of personal experience. 
We then tested and confirmed the hypothesis that motivated reasoning occurs primarily among people who are already highly engaged in the issue whereas experiential learning occurs primarily among people who are less engaged in the issue, which is particularly important given that approximately 75% of American adults currently have low levels of engagement.

It could well be that Judith has indeed looked at research and realised that people's opinion could be pulled out of shape by misrepresentation of snippets of stolen emails, provided they'd heard about it and weren't familiar with climate science itself (and were predisposed to reject science). This was the finding described in another paper. Although the authors did point out that shrieking "climategate" only really works when preaching to the denier choir:
We also found that the loss of trust in scientists among those Americans who followed the Climategate scandal was primarily among Americans already predisposed, for ideological or cultural worldview reasons, to disbelieve climate science. 

From the WUWT comments

Judith is an occasional hero of deniers, although they don't much like it on the rare occasions when she admits that the greenhouse effect is real. Today they've forgiven her that crime and the choir of deniers are singing her praises.

Orson points out that Judith's transition to denial has been known for some time and says:
May 21, 2014 at 1:13 am
Her regular readers will not be terribly surprised to read this.
Still – it is bracing to remember Professor Curry’s recent years of rethinking. And “rethinking the science” is something absent from worthy, accomplished scientists like Susan Solomon, or the less worthy Sir John Houghton. Their youtube presentations on global warming show really none at all through the years. 

Martin A will be disappointed, given that Judith doesn't seem to be doing any research of her own these days - she only publishes as a co-author on her underlings papers:
May 21, 2014 at 1:30 am
Climate science needs to be re-done, essentially from scratch. Professor Curry is one of the few existing climate scientists I’d wish to see involved in the task.

Tom Bowden wishes that Judith would give up emails and read (or do) some real science (isn't that what Tom's saying?) and says:
May 21, 2014 at 2:14 am
Although I am not a Keynesian by any stretch, I’ve always liked this quote: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Seems to capture the point nicely. 

xanonymousblog doesn't agree with Judith's "it's the sun" argument and says (excerpt):
May 21, 2014 at 3:08 am
...When even Lindzen (who is, by the way, the best) doesn’t buy into the solar argument, I think it’s fair to say he and I both deny solar influence, and unashamedly so, since the argument is so poor in the first place. To be sure, the question can be asked “what are we denying?”
Same goes for CO2 (although the argument here is stronger)… 

Schurer, Andrew P., Simon FB Tett, and Gabriele C. Hegerl. "Small influence of solar variability on climate over the past millennium." Nature Geoscience 7, no. 2 (2014): 104-108. doi:10.1038/ngeo2040

Meehl, Gerald A., Julie M. Arblaster, and Daniel R. Marsh. "Could a future “Grand Solar Minimum” like the Maunder Minimum stop global warming?." Geophysical Research Letters 40, no. 9 (2013): 1789-1793.  DOI: 10.1002/grl.50361

Kahan, Dan M. "Ideology, motivated reasoning, and cognitive reflection." Judgment & Decision Making 8, no. 4 (2013).

Leeper, Thomas J., and Rune Slothuus. "Political Parties, Motivated Reasoning, and Public Opinion Formation." Political Psychology 35, no. S1 (2014): 129-156.

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles E. Gignac. "NASA Faked the Moon Landing—Therefore,(Climate) Science Is a Hoax An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science." Psychological science 24, no. 5 (2013): 622-633.

Myers, Teresa A., Edward W. Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Karen Akerlof, and Anthony A. Leiserowitz. "The relationship between personal experience and belief in the reality of global warming." Nature Climate Change 3, no. 4 (2013): 343-347. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1754

Leiserowitz, Anthony A., Edward W. Maibach, Connie Roser-Renouf, Nicholas Smith, and Erica Dawson. "Climategate, public opinion, and the loss of trust." American behavioral scientist 57, no. 6 (2013): 818-837. doi: 10.1177/0002764212458272


  1. "I think that solar effects, combined with the large scale ocean-circulation regimes, presage continued stagnation in global temperatures for the next two decade"

    So she's jumped on a bandwagon that's careering towards the rocks...

    1. Her statement is not so unlikely to be half true: e.g. this year and next the temperature might set a new record due to El Nino, then it might "stagnate" around that higher level for 10-15 years. Noise + linear trend can easily look like a step function, and then you can talk of stagnation at each step.

    2. The deniers are busy gearing themselves up for that in case there is a temperature hike with the possible El Nino this year.

      Perennially puzzled Bob Tisdale is all over it with his sunlight fueled ENSO that miraculously warms but never cools the earth. Goodness knows where he thinks the sun was hiding prior to 1970.

    3. There is some credible research that suggests that the hiatus may continue, until 2027...


      ...though that is disputed here...


      It is entirely possible, in my ignorant opinion, that the Atlantic MultiDecadal Oscillation should, under normal circumstances, cause global temps to oscillate up and down in a 60 year long sinewave.

      Add CO2, and that sinewave looks like a staircase, with 30 year long risers, and 30 year long treads.

      The giveaway as to Judith's ideological bias is the absolutely trashy denialist neoliberal nonsense articles which "catch her eye" every week. If it's bashing science, and other scientists, Judith's buying it.

    4. The hiatus in surface temperatures is, I think, mostly down to the PDO phase-shift between warm and cool which happened around 2000. That shift is pretty much factored-in by now, considering the La Ninas of 2008 and 2011. Which is to say that the AGW trend is about to re-emerge.

      April looks like being a joint-record, even before a formal El Nino. That big red blob is surfacing ...

  2. I know that a large majority of scientists base their interpretations of their research areas upon out of context snippets of other people's emails (rolls eyes).

    1. hey, don't knock it: it's way less effort than trying to discredit them by finding flaws in their research.

  3. If we don't see some warming soon, I suspect that more scientists will begin to question the "settled science".

    1. and if the moon suddenly turns to cheese, i suspect that more scientists will begin to question that "settled science" too.

    2. And when we do, are you actually going to shut-up?

      Or just reset the 'no warming since...' calendar to that date?

      (Rhetorical question - we all know the answer, including you, and for once we're all in agreement...)

  4. Not here much Sou but sharing your stuff around, great, How the hell do you keep going?

    1. Thanks, John. As for keeping going, you've been doing more than your share for longer :)

  5. The Overton window here is intriguing: "Legitimate" opinion spans died in the wool denier to "IPCC-orthodox"?

    BS - "IPCC-orthodox" should be a 5 on the scale - there are plenty of people (including quite a few IPCC contributors) who think things are worse than the very conservative IPCC reports - remember, they are driven by the minimal positions that the vast majority of contributors can sign up to, not truly the "average" of those positions. Then there are people (no worse informed than deniers, though often no better informed either) who think things will be much, much worse - the real 10's on the opinion scale.

    So Curry hasn't moved from a 7 to a 3. She's moved from a 3.5 to a 1.5. I'd probably rate myself, and some of the more "alarmist" commentators here as the "real" 7's.

    Of course, to represent the IPCC reports as centrist would be a disastrous concession for the fake skeptics, so that will never happen.

    1. You're spot on Frank. Where there is not universal agreement, the IPCC reports gravitate (in summaries/conclusions) to the lowest common denominator. The detailed text usually has more of the nuances though.


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