Blog Archive

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Currygate from Sourcewatch: Judith Curry, High Priestess of the Climate Denial Machine

UPDATE: Joseph Romm of Climate Progress has an excellent post on his take on Judith Curry testifying before a Congressional hearing on Nov. 17th:


Judith Curry

Learn more from theCenter for Media and Democracy's portal on climate change.
Judith A. Curry is an American climatologist and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology; her research interests include hurricanes, remote sensing, atmospheric modeling, polar climates, air-sea interactions, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles for atmospheric research.



Climate views

Curry believes the IPCC has done a bad job of characterizing uncertainty".[1]
While Curry herself is not a climate change doubter, she has urged that climate scientists listen to doubters' criticisms (ref.?), and she does not view herself as a climate hawk[2] (one who judges that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.[3]) - though somewhat confusingly, she also says "I am not playing down the urgency of climate action, I am saying nothing about that one way or the other".
In September 2010, Curry started a weblog, Climate Etc.; in its first two months, her blog has adopted the same "stress-the-uncertainties" approach taken by past efforts to thwart science-based policy actions, as documented by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in Merchants of Doubt[4].

Criticisms from climate scientists

Outside her own published research, Curry's "public outreach" communication has been severely criticized by prominent climate scientists and other science-aligned climate bloggers for a propensity toward "inflammatory language and over-the-top accusations ...with the...absence of any concrete evidence and [with] errors in matters of simple fact."[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10].
Coby Beck said:[5]
"...Examples of the unreliability of Curry's blog publications are illustrated by Michael Tobis[11] and James Annan[12], who both showed basic flaws in her understanding of uncertainty and probability, or at least an irresponsible level of sloppiness in expressing herself. Arthur Smith pointed out an under-grad level misunderstanding[13] in her own field's basic terminology. In one comment some months ago[14] she called the blogger Deep Climate's detailed and documented investigation into the Wegman Report "one of the most reprehensible attacks on a reputable scientist that I have seen" even as she revealed in her incorrect synopsis of the charges that she had not even read it for herself. ... [i.e.] she shows herself ready to publicly criticise someone else in the strongest terms based entirely on second hand information gleaned from places like Climate Audit and Watts Up With That."
Gavin Schmidt has criticised Curry for "not knowing enough about what she has chosen to talk about[15], for not thinking clearly about the claims she has made with respect to the IPCC[16], and for flinging serious accusations at other scientists without just cause."[17]

Interests and disclosures

Dr. Curry does not appear to have any substantive conflict of interest driving her climate views.
Curry and Georgia Tech colleague Peter Webster have had a weather prediction consulting business, Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN), since 2006.[18] During Michael Lemonick's interview with Curry for a October 2010 Scientific American profile[19], Lemonick reports (pers. comm.) that he asked Curry about potential conflicts of interest, and she responded:
"I do receive some funding from the fossil fuel industry. My company...does [short-term] hurricane forecasting...for an oil company, since 2007. During this period I have been both a strong advocate for the IPCC, and more recently a critic of the IPCC, there is no correlation of this funding with my public statements."
Curry has since clarified (pers. comm.) that this is the full extent of her ties to fossil fuel interests, and that she has no ties to organizations or individuals with an interest in delaying climate action, or to organizations working on behalf of such interests such as PR firms and science-for-hire firms like New Hope Environmental Services, or subcontractors of such firms.

Views on disclosure

Curry has said she is not willing to accept non-disclosure as acceptable behavior by scientists.[20] But it's nuanced: when asked "If someone was...[publicly] playing down the urgency of climate action, and they had a relative affiliated with a libertarian organization, would there be an obligation to [voluntarily] disclose the connection?," she replied "No."


Curry is not related to Manhattan Institute trustee Ravenel Curry III.[21]

Articles and Resources


  1.  Keith Kloor (2010-04-23). An Inconvenient Provocateur. Collide-a-scape. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “"Chapter 2.3 in the IPCC WG1 Third Assessment Report and Chapter 6 in the IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report, both of which address the paleoclimate proxy record, were not accurate assessments of the science and its uncertainties."”
  2.  John Rennie (2010-10-25). Update on Climate Hawks, Judith Curry and more. Retort. Retrieved on 2010-10-28. “"...So the answer is no, I am not going to sign up to be a climate hawk"”
  3.  Dave Roberts (2010-10-20). Introducing ‘climate hawks’. Grist. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “it evokes a judgment: that the risks of climate change are sufficient to warrant a robust response.”
  4.  Brian Angliss (2010-07-08). WordsDay: Merchants of Doubt. Scholars and Rogues. Retrieved on 2010-10-28. “Merchants of Doubt also describes how Seitz et al misrepresented scientific uncertainty to their advantage over the course of the last 60 years. The scientists did this in a number of ways...”
  5. ↑ 5.0 5.1 Coby Beck (2010-11-05). Judith Curry plants her flag. A Few Things Ill Considered. Retrieved on 2010-11-05. “inflammatory language and over-the-top accusations, complete with the predictable absense of any concrete evidence and errors in matters of simple fact”
  6.  Steve Bloom (2010-08-23). comment on Currying confusion. Not Spaghetti. Retrieved on 2010-11-03. “She...specifically asserts that a Charney sensitivity well below 2C is plausible...her response was to point me to a recent review paper (Hegerl co-auth) she said agreed with her. I looked and... no, it didn't.”
  7.  Tim Lambert (2010-07-29). Judith Curry and the hockey stick. Deltoid. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “Tamino has written a detailed review of the [Montford] book with particular emphasis on two of the three main critiques that Curry identified. The response from Curry was perplexing. Instead of thanking Tamino for addressing the main critiques that she had identified, Curry wrote that the cons for Tamino's review were: "numerous factual errors and misrepresentations, failure to address many of the main points of the book..." Pressed to identify these errors, Curry instead moved the goalposts, coming up with nine different "key points" of the book. When Gavin Schmidt demolished these, rather than concede that some, at least, were wrong, Curry asserted that Schmidt's rebuttal was full of logical fallacies (though once again without identifying any of them at all)”
  8.  William M. Connolley (2010-04-23). Curry. Stoat. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  9.  Joe Romm (2010-04-26). Beef with Curry. Climate Progress. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  10.  Things Break (pseudonymous blogger) (2010-09-12). Welcome to the blogosphere, Dr. Curry!. The Way Things Break. Retrieved on 2010-10-29.
  11.  Michael Tobis (2010-10-29). Judith Curry: Born Beyond the Shark?. Only In It For The Gold. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “It's one thing to tolerate cranks. ... It's another thing entirely to encourage them and agree with them. Crank: 'There are many forcings and some are known to be underrepresented in the modeling such as aerosols / clouds and black soot.' curryja: 'very true, same goes for solar also.' ... [I]f you buckle down and try to understand what she is saying (instead of just nodding in enthusiastic agreement with the "not the IPCC" position) it is incomprehensible.”
  12.  James Annan (2010-10-29). More Curried leftovers. James' Empty Blog. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “...she apparently conflates the concept of evidence for and against the proposition "most of the observed warming was very likely due to the GHG increase" with an estimate of the proportion of warming that was due to anthropogenic vs natural factors. This seems like a rather elementary point to get confused over ... Note that in the very first premise of her argument, she only assigns 70% probability to the fact that surface temperatures actually show a warming at all! This is the warming that the IPCC famously called "unequivocal" in their 2007 report. As far as I can tell, at this point she is simply so far out of touch with mainstream climate science that her analyses aren't worth the time it takes to read them. End of story.”
  13.  Arthur Smith (2010-08-18). Currying confusion. Not Spaghetti. Retrieved on 2010-11-05. “Where all the uncertainties in climate science lie is in the feedbacks, and the complex land and ocean processes Curry refers to play a critical role in those uncertainties. But on the "without feedbacks" number, as far as I can tell, she was just plain wrong.”
  14.  Judith Curry (2010-04-25). comment on An Inconvenient Provocateur. Collide-a-scape. Retrieved on 2010-11-05.
  15.  Judith Curry (2010-07-24). comment on The Montford Delusion. RealClimate. Retrieved on 2010-11-03.
  16.  Gavin Schmidt (2010-08-08). comment on The Curry Agonistes. Collide-a-scape. Retrieved on 2010-11-03.
  17.  Gavin Schmidt (2010-11-03). Science, narrative and heresy. RealClimate. Retrieved on 2010-11-03.
  18.  About CFAN. CFAN. Retrieved on 2010-10-28.
  19.  Michael D. Lemonick (2010-10-25). Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues. Scientific American. Retrieved on 2010-10-28.
  20.  Judith Curry (2010-09-18). Recent challenges to the credibility of climate science. Climate Etc.. Retrieved on 2010-10-29. “As a scientist, I am willing to accept sound science. I am not willing to accept tribalism, non-disclosure, shoddy methodologies, demonization of critical inquiry, nor shutting out public discourse as acceptable behavior by scientists.”
  21.  (Curry, pers. comm.; and confirmed with another source)

Related SourceWatch Articles

External resources

External articles


susan said...

Thanks. The more I try to tolerate her based on respect paid by the likes of Gavin Schmidt, the less I find of her recent work that is credible. Why is she so respected?

Tenney Naumer said...

Susan, Curry has pretty much left credibility and respect behind, with the exception of the fringe non-scientist denialists.

Having one's early work cited is not indicative of long-term respect by colleagues -- Lindzen comes to mind.