Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stealth Issue Advocate Pielke

Roger Pielke Jr's turn on the pole has not been pleasant, either for Roger, or Nate Silver and bunnies can go here there and everywhere to read about it.  Some of the reads are funny, some are.... . well they just are. but Eli and Ethon (who is looking remarkably fat and sleek recently) would like to point to an interesting thing that Nate Silver wrote over at 538

Roger’s article also contained an implicit policy recommendation in its closing paragraph. Whether or not the recommendation was justified by Roger’s thesis and evidence, we generally prefer to avoid these kind of recommendations, and instead allow readers to draw any policy conclusions for themselves.(em added ER)
That last paragraph reads
When you next hear someone tell you that worthy and useful efforts to mitigate climate change will lead to fewer natural disasters, remember these numbers and instead focus on what we can control. There is some good news to be found in the ever-mounting toll of disaster losses. As countries become richer, they are better able to deal with disasters — meaning more people are protected and fewer lose their lives. Increased property losses, it turns out, are a price worth paying.
You don't have to be a bunny to see that Nate is right. So where does this put Roger, in Roger's taxonomy of the pure scientist, the science arbiter, the honest broker, the issue advocate and the stealth issue advocate, which he describes as follows
"stealth issue advocacy" occurs when scientists claim to be focusing on science but are really seeking to advance a political agenda. When such claims are made, the authority of science is used to hide a political agenda, under an assumption that science commands that which politics does not. However, when stealth issue advocacy takes place, it threatens the legitimacy of scientific advice, as people will see it simply as politics, and lose sight of the value that science does offer policy making .
And he does not consider "Stealth Issue Advocacy a good thing.  Nonono.  And he is not shy about saying whom he considers such, c'mon down Mike Mann, and you Gavin Schmidt, and the Real Climate Crew, and Roger is not right complementary about this

Roger and friends have long tried to pose as the "honest brokers", but as Eli has long pointed out this is empty rhetoric no matter how many books it sells.  What it really is is an attempt to control the Overton Window.  But, of course, what Roger and the rest of the Impact Denialists (Roger, Tol, Lomborg, etc) have been doing all along is preparing the fall back position for when the fact that the climate is changing because of what people are doing becomes clear to the public and governments.

Nate may not be the innocent waif he plays of TV.


Russell Seitz said...

To understand what Roger is about , best hop over to Nature and read his rediscovery of the founding father of Framing, J.D. Bernal.

And Then There's Physics said...

I read Roger's Nature article. Didn't really know what to make of it. Just seemed rather confused, but maybe that was just me.

Neven said...

I read Pielke's Nature article as well. Given his agenda, I can only interpret it as: "Scientists who want to serve society instead of doing science for the sake of (pure) science, want the government to plan what science is done, and consensus is automatically communism, inevitably leading to lysenkoism. J.D. Bernal is conclusive proof of this, and his ideas have changed history to the point that it is highly influential today, and thus climate science consensus must be communism."

I'm pretty neutral on the question whether scientists should serve the public interest, or should be free to do whatever they like. I think it's a bit of both, really. But coming from Pielke, I suspect the atmosphere he wants to create is: climate science isn't settled, trying to settle it is communism, and therefore do nothing, or almost nothing, at least not systemic.

It's a much more devious method to undermine climate policy, (hence my greater disdain for Pielke than for folks like Watts).

Considering the fact that Pielke is from '68 (just 6 years older than me), I find it quite surprising to see the underlying Cold War-mentality behind all this. His father must have (had) a great influence on his thinking.

I also find it surprising that Nature publishes this wolf in sheep's clothing kind of article.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Science by its very nature is a service to society. And I trust scientists to know what is most likely to advance science--and therefore society--much more than I trust a bunch of semi-numerate politicians.

It is a pity that people have forgotten Vannevar Bush. That said, I rather doubt Roger the Dodger gives a damn about science or society.

Neven said...

I rather doubt Roger the Dodger gives a damn about science or society.

I concur. I think he just wants his dad to be proud of him.

I'm like that too, but my dad isn't buddies with folks like Anthony Watts, you know. And his brain didn't fossilize because of the Cold War.

Bernard J. said...

Pielke's opinion in Nature is typical of his fuzzy thimblerigging but his implicit leaning is still there.

I'd be surprised if there wasn't an ascerbic relpy or two in the next few weeks or so, and I'm sure that there will be some mild commentary on the blog.

Anonymous said...

From HuffPost:
--"I do not threaten," Pielke told HuffPost, adding that he found "the idea offensive that they would characterize my correspondence in this way."--
--"In a nutshell this is ridiculous."--

But the text of the Trenberth email, according to the article, reads:

--"Pielke wrote that Trenberth had "made some pretty coarse and perhaps even libelous comments" in the ThinkProgress article. Pielke requested that Trenberth correct his public claims and noted that "an apology would be nice also."--
--"Once again, I am formally asking you for a public correction and apology," Pielke wrote to Trenberth and his bosses. "If that is not forthcoming I will be pursuing this further"--

Also, Pielke's characterization of the email exchange was
--"but rather to two scientific peers I have known for decades."--

This email was sent to, at least, Trenberth's bosses, making it much more than "his [Pielke's] correspondence to the two colleagues".


Albatross said...

FYI, Roger is on spring hols., so this is the time to soundly refute his nonsense and clear the Pielkian fog before he returns ;)

Und that is exactly what the Eli seems to be doing...more carrots for Eli!

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

'someone with very strong credentials'

Evidence that Nate Silver and his 538 are data driven? I think not.

Nate and Roger's 'credentials' don't seem to ba able to pass the most superficial of 'credibility' tests.

Magma said...

An excerpt from an interesting opinion piece by Dale Jamieson appearing on Salon:

What is most troubling about Pielke Jr.’s account is its lack of balance. As we will see, the politicization of science by a handful of climate change deniers and their patrons is extremely well documented, and continues to be a major obstacle to the United States adopting effective climate policy. Yet in a 26-page chapter on the politicization of science, Pielke Jr. devotes only one paragraph to the behavior of those “opposed to action on climate change.” Their worst offense seems to be “[blowing] out of proportion papers at odds with the views of most other scientists.” If only.

Anonymous said...

Corporate money will buy the Senate for the GOP in 2014. President Obama will have veto power to protect NASA, NOAA, NCAR and climate research generally unless there are enough votes to override.

Fast forward to the 2016 election. Corporations will not hesitate laying down several billion dollars to win in 2014 and 2016. Kochs threw down $400 million in 2012.

The 1% are almost there. House locked up for years; Senate GOP majority, a republican in the Oval Office.

They will kill NIOSH, OSHA, Roe v Wade, renewable energy (gas and oil predators) and Roger-dodger will be welcomed into the new President's office.

Yes, the climate is changing and our children will suffer the full effects.

John McCormick

Russell Seitz said...

There is cause for bipartisan concern when anybunny forgets that ideas have antecedents.

Science is socially constructed, and the extent of the continuing influence of Bernal and Haldane is as evident in today's political discourse-- CF Climate Progress, as when I wrote of it in The National Interest in the 80's and 90's.

I think Nature's continuing refusal to collapse into a single political dimension is something John Maddox would approve.

Steve Bloom said...

But correlation is really, really not causation, Russell, especially when it comes to this sort of thing. WW II e.g. had a lot more to do with the present shape of science in this country than any of the stuff/people RP Jr. mentions, although the direction of things was already quite apparent by the time of the 1939 World's Fair. Bernal may have been the first to run a spreadsheet on the nascent new system, but that's a descriptive rather than proscriptive role, maybe useful for thinking about it but nothing to do with why and how it happened.

That the erroneousness of that article wasn't apparent to the Nature editors is kind of depressing.

Steve Bloom said...

Sez RP Jr.:

"It is ironic that this conservative Republican's demands that research be carefully planned and focused on social objectives can be traced directly to the writings of an Irish-born communist crystallographer 75 years ago."

Sez Wikipedia re land-grant universities:

"A land-grant university (also called land-grant college or land-grant institution) is an institution of higher education in the United States designated by a state to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890.

"The Morrill Acts funded educational institutions by granting federally controlled land to the states for them to sell to raise funds to establish and endow "land-grant" colleges. The mission of these institutions as set forth in the 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering (though "without excluding ... classical studies"), as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class. This mission was in contrast to the historic practice of higher education to focus on an abstract liberal arts curriculum." (emphasis added)

But really this was just the U.S. manifestation of the Humboldtian model for universities instituted in Germany decades earlier.

Note that it was Lincoln who signed the 1862 act, and a product of a German research university was a well-known fan boy of his. Mere coincidence? I'm sure RP Jr. wouldn't think so.

Russell Seitz said...

Steve may be eliding Alexander von Humboldt, who helped Thomas Jefferson draft Lewis & Clark's marching orders, and Wilhelm v.H., the Prussian Minister of Education who quite despaired of exporting critical historiography to America. The idea of the research university didn't take hold here until well after the Civil War

But thanks for the link which provides welcome relief from ecopolitical epopolia-- not even Rush Limbaugh can match Marx at full gargle:

"From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class.

The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

Steve Bloom said...

Of the assorted Humboldts, I have always preferred the squid.

You'll perhaps be amused to know that during my childhood, and who knows, perhaps to this day, Humboldt, Iowa, named after one or another of them, was home to the Reasoner Casket Company. Reason in those parts always did seem to me to be rather embalmed.

That Morrill Act language sounds plenty researchy to me, Russell. But regardless of when the term got formally applied, organized science in the U.S. seems to have been following that template from the outset (with later additions, of course).

It occurs to me to wonder if RP Jr. is representing Bernal very accurately.

Russell Seitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Seitz said...

Everybody has heard of the elder starting comparative linguistics, and the younger founding physical ecology, but how Sagan talked the squid out of the Cosmos franchise is a complete mystery.