I have made it pretty clear before that I am no fan of Roger Pielke Jr. Everytime I stick my nose in there the smell seems to get a little worse.
His latest effort at sabotaging productive discourse on climate science and policy is a really low blow, putting to rest any lingering hopes one might have had that he still had some integrity stashed away in there somewhere. Now I know these are strong words, but I have to confess this really gets my blood pressure up, it is just the slimiest of tactics. (I will happily retract this post and apologize if Roger makes ammends for his ethical vacuity, or shows me how I have terribly misunderstood things)
Alright already, what am I talking about anyway….?
Back in April, 2006, Roger published a post about Jim Hansen predicting a “super El Nino” for 2007. This month, he is revisiting that prediction and noting that it did not happen. Tsk, tsk. Silly, bad scientist. Chalk up another entry on the “Hansen gets it all wrong list.” Even if that were the whole story, this is not the whole story. What Hansen said was:
“We suggest that an El Nino is likely to originate in 2006 and that there is a good chance it will be a “super El Nino””
and there was an El Nino though not a strong one. If you forecast 60% chance of rain and there is no rain, were you just plain wrong? Besides, what precisely does “a good chance” mean in terms of the likelyhood of a rare event?
But what’s the real problem? Well, Jim Hansen never actually came out with that “prediction”. Roger had publicized a draft paper on an FTP server that had been mistakenly announced on a mailing list. Did Roger know that was a mistake at the time? No reason to think so then, as he noted exactly that fact in a follow-up post a couple of days later:
“In fairness to Jim Hansen, I have an obligation to post this follow up email to his list serve related to his super El Nino prediction that I discussed earlier this week”
In that email Hansen stated:
“Apologies for another e-mail, but I inadvertently sent the first draft of “Temperature” paper to my full e-mail list, so need to also send out the revised version.”
and specific to his El Nino “prediction”:
“Present version should make clear that what we are saying is: Global warming has increased the east-west equatorial temperature gradient and that should increase the probability of a super El Nino. It is still a crap shoot, so it requires many rolls of the dice for empirical verification.”
So what happend to all that fairness he owed Hansen then? Swept away with the makeover? He can not now say he did not know that the material he was quoting was not for public release, so it can only be a very intentional misuse of an inadvertently sent email.
The net result? For one thing, the septic community gets to again hail Roger as a light in the dark (despite his consistent, though very quiet, insistence that he thinks they are wrong and the consensus is right. They can’t even get that right!). They also get another false talking point to hit everyone over the head with.
But most importantly, Roger gets to once again self-fulfill his continual prophesizing about how climate scientists leave themselves vulnerable to political attacks. “See, I told you that email would come back and bite you in the ass!”
Nothing safer than predicting your own behaviour.
[update: John Fleck remembers this as well]