Climate change is the most important issue humanity has ever faced. On the questions of whether it is happening, whether humans burning fossil fuels are the primary driver, and whether the impacts are happening and will only grow worse, there is no credible debate. The scientific consensus is overwhelming. To promote disinformation and misinformation about climate change is inexcusable and unconscionable, but by hiring Roger Pielke, Jr., that is exactly what Nate Silver is doing. It would be bad enough if Silver had hired Pielke in conjunction with a credible climate scientist, to create the sort of false equivalency that the traditional media so loves to promote, but to have hired Pielke at all undermines the very premise of what Silver claims to be trying to do. It undermines the credibility of Silver's blog and of Silver himself. The question is whether or not this was a mistake that will be corrected, or whether it tells us something about Silver himself.When Pielke threatened legal action against two of his critics, climate scientists Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, Silver responded:
"Roger is a freelance contributor and his private communications do not represent FiveThirtyEight," Silver said in a statement to HuffPost. "We had candid conversations with Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth. We made clear that Roger's conversations with them did not reflect FiveThirtyEight's editorial values."Please read below the fold for more on this story.
Pielke then disappeared from FiveThirtyEight for a while, and when he returned began posting about sports. He never again had a post on climate at FiveThirtyEight. Now this:
Roger Pielke, Jr., a climate analyst with a contrarian streak, is no longer writing for Nate Silver's data journalism website FiveThirtyEight.Contrarian streak is an extremely generous framing, as my earlier post elucidates, but Pielke doesn't seem too happy about losing his position at FiveThirtyEight.
Pielke, who wrote several sports-related items for FiveThirtyEight but almost nothing else about climate, told Kloor that Silver's site showed "reluctance" to keep publishing his work, but that he wished them well and remains a fan. However, Pielke also criticized the way Silver handled criticism of the March story on disasters, noting, "I do wish that 538 had shown a bit more editorial backbone."Of course, backbone is exactly what FiveThirtyEight did show. Just not in the way Pielke would have liked.
The real story here is that Silver and FiveThirtyEight have answered the questions about their credibility, and will no longer be used to promote disinformation about climate change. This is a victory for the cause of accurate and honest climate change messaging. The criticism of Pielke was substantive, and Silver and FiveThirtyEight have disassociated themselves from Pielke. They deserve credit for that. For the sake of accuracy, the BBC also recently decided to stop giving air time to climate change deniers. If only more media cared as much about accuracy and credibility, and stopped posting, publishing and broadcasting climate disinformation.