Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch Has Died


Word comes that Rick Piltz of Climate Science Watch has died.  It is one of the sadnesses of living to watch those you like and respect die.  In a strange way Rick left his statement of being at Climate Science Watch just before he went into the hospital, responding to one of the usual suspects who was trying a double Dunning-Kruger with backflips, just the sort of thing Rick hated:
"I did my graduate study in political science and my undergraduate in experimental psychology, at Michigan, long ago. I listen to leading climate scientists, I know leading climate scientists. I would never pass myself off as one.  
I have been focused first and foremost on the problem of global warming and climatic disruption since Jim Hansen testified in 1988. I came to that interest, as with other environmental, natural resource, and energy issues I have worked on for the past 35 years, primarily from the policy side. I spent four years on the professional staff of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and 10 years in a senior staff position in the U.S. Global Change Research Program Coordination Office here in Washington (that's the $2 billion multiagency program that supports the research and observing systems on climate and global change).  
During those years I became very attuned to what I came to refer to as the "collision" between the world of climate science and the realities of Washington politics. I saw how politicians in Washington used, misused, and denied what scientists were telling them, and how difficult it was to make this essential communication channel function productively.  
So at this point I know considerably more science than most people in the arena of policy and politics, and more about the latter than most scientists. My project, and whatever contribution it makes, is primarily aimed at government accountability in national policymaking. I have an analysis and an approach for doing that, and Climate Science Watch is the vehicle via which I and various collaborators express that.  
At this point, I think the discourse about climate change, certainly at the power elite level, is shifting, or has shifted, from what we might call the science-policy nexus, toward questions about economics, business, politics, energy policy, national security planning, and so forth. I can deal with that and that's where our attention is moving, I think.  
Of course there are many important scientific questions about the physical climate system to research, and I spent quite a few years doing what I could to encourage bipartisan support for a strong research program, regardless of people's policy disagreements. But this is not a science education and debate site, and the discourse about unresolved research issues on the physical climate system are well-argued in many other venues by people with serious qualifications.
But when Rupert Murdoch and the Wall Street Journal put out a piece with a "take no action" slant on the eve of a big UN climate summit and climate movement rally, I take what the WSJ is doing as essentially a political gesture. They print only 'skeptic' or 'contrarian' pieces, there's no real balance in their coverage, they are trying to frame a political narrative for the corporate elite. When there's an opportunity to post something with an alternative view, that raises questions about what they've published, I can do that. I don't have to be able to resolve the science issues in order to do it."
Rick will be missed.


Winner of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling (2006).

4 comments:

Nancy said...

Very sad news. Rick Piltz was truly a climate champion.Perhaps his legacy will give others the strength to step up and speak out.

Lionel A said...

Rest in Peace Rick, you will indeed be missed.

I noticed that the blog entries had slowed of late, in a blog I followed regularly, but had no clue that this was coming.

Thanks for that link Eli, everyone needs to read that.

Rick Piltz and Stephen Schneider just two who left their mark on the asymmetric debate with the forces of obfuscating rhetoric and Gish Gallops. Both much missed.

J Bowers said...

Very sad news. A man who really did expose the politicisation of science. Rest in peace.

Russell Seitz said...

As one who cherished the idea of objective science advice, Rick was a sharp thorn in Newscorp's side.