Is Forbes Magazine a Danger to Scientists?

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The other day a friend asked me, “Is Forbes Magazine legit? Should I believe what it says about climate change?”

It was a good question, since there are many outlets that have clear biases in favor of climate inaction, or even, climate reality denial.

I’m actually not sure if Forbes is a trustworthy source. I’ve seen articles about energy that are informative, and I’ve seen articles about energy that are misleading. I don’t remember off hand any articles about climate change per se.

Until now.

Roger Pielke Junior has an op ed that does damage to Forbes’ reputation, and to Roger’s reputation as well. And, unfortunately, it is a sad story. In the OpEd Roger seems to be claiming that the volunteer organization, Skeptical Science, has done damage to a short list of academics, including his father, his colleague Judith Curry, and himself. What Roger does not understand is that the criticisms that come from Skeptical Science are true. The damage to these three was self inflicted.

Here is the story.

There are two Roger Pielkes: Senior and Junior. Both are academics, and both have produced work that has been criticized by the climate science community. I’m not actually all that familiar with Senior’s work, but Junior’s work has been on my radar screen for some time, and it is an enemy ship, as it were. Junior’s main point is to contradict the increasingly well established science on the frequency, level of impact, and importance of major storms like Atlantic Hurricanes. He has variously made claims that they have not gotten stronger, that climate change is unrelated to these storms, that they are not coming with more frequency, and that their impact is not important. I believe that way down deep in his analysis, there is a fundamental flaw. He shows that the overall economic status of the US is not impacted by hurricanes, but the former is measured by GDP, and GDP increases with increasing devastation by major storms. This is because when a major storm comes along and wipes out cities or coastlines or whatever, there is so much economic activity spent on recovery that GDP goes up.

Junior has taken criticism from other academics poorly, and he has taken it personally. He has teamed up with another academic who has also been criticized heavily. This is Judith Curry. Curry’s work has been criticized by the climate community for a few reasons, but mainly this: She claims that the trend towards increasing global surface temperature is predictable by a non-global-warming scenario in which some other internal variation explains the warming. This idea, however, seems to come from a misunderstanding of the underlying stochastic (and other) dynamics of the models she has used. She is, I’m pretty sure, wrong. There may have been a time, perhaps 15 years ago, when her interpretation of the data could stay alive while more information was gathered, but that time has long past, and sadly, she has not allowed her hansom hypothesis to die an honorable death by fact.

The third element in the current drama is the organization and web site “Skeptical Science.” It is a volunteer run entity that has help from a lot of scientists and communicators. Some of my own work has been reprinted there, and I use it as a reliable and well organized source of information on climate denialism, and actually, climate change itself. If you don’t know skeptical science, you should. It is an excellent resource.

Now, here is the sad part. Rumor has it that Roger Pielke Sr. has recently become ill, and it appears that Junior is in a state of upset, possibly depression, and almost certainly in some kind of socio-psychotic episody state of some sort. I’m not qualified to diagnose so I won’t, but in the vernacular sense Junior has gone ’round the bend, and is in a mode of attacking the Skeptical Science people who, over the years, have been hard on Senior, Junior, and Curry, all three.

This is not an over the top inappropriate hardness, that Skeptical Science has produced. In fact, it is relatively toned down compared to the feelings the three deniateers have produced when they hate on science and love on the fossil fuel industry, indirectly, in their writings, their congressional testimony, and so on.

Having said that, I can’t say what exactly is going on with Roger Junior other than that he is clearly upset. He has produced a large number of tweets attacking Skeptical Science and its volunteers. He has tweeted out personal and private information about Skeptical Science people and other scientists, information that was previously stolen by denialist hackers. His tweets have been, at least in part if not majority, taken down by Twitter, and his account was, at least for a time, suspended.

Roger Pielke Junior attacked volunteers and scholars who had been defending science, attacked them, and science, in inappropriate ways, and for his trouble he has been chastised by Twitter.

I and several colleagues have contacted Roger, or friends of Roger, to see if someone can talk to him, to see if someone can talk him down.

But what happened instead, is Roger published an OpEd airing his grievances in Forbes, raising the stakes, and making his attack official and sanctioned by a major publishing outlet.

This is a credibility hit for Roger, but not one that will matter to him. This is a credibility hit for Forbes. I have no idea if Forbes Magazine cares about its credibility in the science community, or in the environmental community.

Regardless of what Forbes intended, or wanted, it got this: Scientists and science communicators must now regard Forbes Magazine, or its editorial staff, as dangerous. Roger Pielke Junior, having some sort of apparent breakdown, was easily able to weaponize Forbes. That can only have happened if Forbes wanted it to happen. Stay away from Forbes, my friends and colleagues. Don’t touch it with a ten foot pole, unless your ten foot Pole is a very tall Eastern European attorney with experience in libel law.

This is a developing situation. Much of it is happening on Twitter. One of the more pertinent tweets I’ve seen so far is this one by Climate Scientists Gavin Schmidt:

And now (added) Dana Nuccitelli has tweeted this, with a link to a new Skeptical Science post addressing this issue:

And from Katharine Hayhoe:

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
*Please note:
Links to books and other items on this page and elsewhere on Greg Ladens' blog may send you to Amazon, where I am a registered affiliate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, which helps to fund this site.

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56 thoughts on “Is Forbes Magazine a Danger to Scientists?

    1. I’m not sure, and were it not for Junior’s meltdown I wouldn’t know. But I suspect that it has left his fingers usable

    2. I noticed that too Paul, and hence I’m slightly surprised to hear that Roger Senior is ill.

      Perhaps that is a partial “explanation” for Junior’s behaviour, but surely not any sort of “excuse”?

  1. Well, people can be pretty sick and still use the tips of their fingers. My wife is in bed with the flu but she is managing the remotes.

  2. Could some of this be just another bit by a right-winger to attempt to claim conservatives are being silenced by the Evil Left? We know many of the more gullible MAGATS buy into that.

    1. Dean – You may well be right that the “more gullible Trumpettes” will buy into Roger’s tall tale.

      However he insisted on Twitter that he’s not even a Republican voter, let alone a supporter of The Don.

    2. I don’t think this is clearly a right vs. left wing issue. The weak deniers discussed here are probably not too far to the right politically, but they have found some benefit in their contrary stance that happens to help the right.

  3. I find it ironical that Roger had this level of a meltdown over stuff that is a daily par for the course coming from any number of climate denial sites attacking climate scientists.

    If you can’t take criticism maybe science is the wrong field for you. Especially climate science.

    1. I note Rob that you and Curry are having a bit of an exchange. At one point Curry says “The reason I am unemployed in academia is NOT on me” and you replied “Classic failure to take personal responsibility.”

      It may interest the casual observer to know how Curry might not be taking personal responsibility. To that end, there’s a story here:

      https://blog.hotwhopper.com/2015/11/turned-not-tossed-judith-curry-denier.html?showComment=1448891582466#c7939917151036014467

      Apologies for the link-rot to the graphs. It’s been a few years since those posts and I’m not sure that I have the files on my current crop of computers and USBs, but I’ll see if I can track them down. The tale is still in the text though, even if it’s not clearly illustrated by the very telling graphs.

  4. “However he insisted on Twitter that he’s not even a Republican voter, let alone a supporter of The Don.”

    Didn’t know that, although given his reputation I’m not sure I believe it either but, once again, benefit of the doubt.

  5. Behave badly, say indefensible things, then when rightly criticised, play the victim noisily. Standard climate contrarian MO and tedious as hell.

  6. To recap:

    Roger writes an article summarizing hacked email evidence from SkS that puts the organization in a poor light and at minimum shows their motives to be suspect.

    In response, Greg writes an article launching ad hominem attacks on Roger for writing his article.

    Then all of you knuckleheads pat each other on the back over the great victory.

    Congrats one and all.

    Simply pathetic.

  7. BTW, I challenge any of you to prove that the theory that 100% AGW theory holds up under the scrutiny of the Scientific Method. Show me a study that has falsified the null hypothesis with 95% confidence. While you’re at it, explain why when your models are tested with empirical data they almost universally fail. Thanks

    1. “Show me a study that has falsified the null hypothesis with 95% confidence.”

      If you don’t understand the language of hypothesis testing it’s a sure bet you don’t understand testing itself, or what would even be tested.

  8. “Roger writes an article summarizing hacked email evidence from SkS that puts the organization in a poor light and at minimum shows their motives to be suspect.”

    Would this be anything like the hacked emails from the CRU at the University of East Anglia prior to COP15, commonly known as “Climategate,” but more accurately labeled as ‘Swifthack”?

    You may recall, if you are truly open-minded, that when analyzed these proved to have been cherry-picked to support a debunking of climate science. Their story did not bear close examination. And neither does yours.

    1. The Climategate emails were revealing. Regardless of whether you perceive that they showed any wrong doing, on a factual basis they definitely showed a level of subjectivity and opportunity for manipulation that was not well understood. They also brought to light an effort to discredit those who do not espouse the party line. None of this inspired confidence re the AGW story, or the data that was supposed to support it.

  9. Bernard J on that Tamino Models post, I noted an interesting exchange between ‘DocSnow’ and ‘hypergeometric’ where the latter reminds us of an excellent piece in PNAS by Ray Pierrehumbert “Hot Climates, high sensitivity” PDF which, amongst others, should be put in front of the likes of RickA and Bob.

    hypergeometric quotes the fiinale to Ray Pierrehumbert’s article which should make any petrol-head think about what they are doing.

    One sure solution to the problem posed
    by uncertainty of climate sensitivity in hot
    climates is simply not to go there. Unfortunately,
    it looks increasingly like Nature will
    step in to answer some of our questions for
    us, and I doubt we’ll like the answer. The
    highest emission scenario currently being
    considered by the Intergovernmental Panel
    on Climate Change is Representative Concentration
    Pathway 8.5 (8), which would
    bring CO2 concentrations up to 2,000 ppm,
    which is in the upper reaches of the range
    considered in ref. 2. Even this scenario can be
    considered somewhat optimistic, in that it
    assumes that the annual growth in CO2
    emissions rate (which has been hovering
    around 3% for decades) will tail off by 2060
    and that the emissions rate will cease growing
    altogether by 2100, whereafter emissions will
    trend to zero; unrestrained growth could easily
    dump twice as much carbon into the atmosphere.
    It is not known if there are actually
    enough recoverable fossil fuels to emit that
    much CO2. Hoping that we run out of fossil
    fuels before bringing on a climate catastrophe
    does not seem like sound climate policy,
    but at present it seems to be the only one
    we have.

  10. Oh dear, here we go again, a denier (Bob) comes onto this blog acting as if the field of climate science was in its infancy. This is typical denier behavior: demand proof when the empirical journals are full of studies providing it. Then demand that everyone else pulls out these studies and shove them right under his nose. And even then he will turn away and call it a ‘left wing, UN-mandated hoax’. Deniers are predictable.

    As for Jr., this abominable piece is surely going to backfire on him. How desperate can he get?

    As an aside, does anyone here remember John “Hard to” Swallow? One of the internet’s most persistent deniers? How he carpet-bombed this blog until Greg banned him last year? He somehow tracked me down and since his dismissal he regularly sends me emails attacking me, smearing me, and calling me everything under the sun. It is actually quite pathetic. The rants go on for page after page. I read a few of them and now just push the ‘delete’ button.

    1. …does anyone here remember John “Hard to” Swallow?

      How could I forget, his rant here were lengthy and repetitive he clearly finds rolling out sheet after sheet of vapid nonsense as easy as Andrex do bog paper.

      His behaviour is tantamount to stalking Jeff, but then I am not surprised.

    2. Jeffh, You can apply labels until your heart is content. The fact of the matter is that not a single scientist or other 100% AGW adherent has been able to point me to any study that would falsify the null hypothesis (at p=.05 or better) regarding the 100% AGW theory. If you believe that this information is so readily available, then it would make sense for you to simply post a link rather than rambling on about how much you know. Simple, right? Can the 100% AGW theory withstand the scrutiny of the Scientific Method, or can’t it?

    3. Can the 100% AGW theory withstand the scrutiny of the Scientific Method, or can’t it?

      AGW isn’t a ‘theory’ and you are indulging in sciency-sounding bullshittery.

  11. Bob, we have known the basic physics linking CO2 and climate for almost 200 years, since Tyndall. We certainly have known since the 1980s that humans are conducting an atmospheric experiment with potentially nasty consequences. There is nothing remotely controversial about the theory of AGW now. Indeed, there has been a scientific consensus for over 20 years. The information you seek was discussed and debated among scientists contributing to the last IPCC report, the most peer-reviewed document in scientific history. The pages of scientific journals are filled with studies confirming the consensus. By now, climate science denial ranks up there with flat Earth theory. The most remarkable achievement of the deniers is to convince many people that AGW is some controversial theory when it is accepted science by the vast majority of scientists (me included). The doubts lie in our understanding of consequences and in formulating the most effective responses. Process and causation are clear. Right now, at only 1 degree of warming, we are beginning to see worrying signs of what is in store. Record heat waves and droughts, heavier downpours, ever more severe fires etc. The ecological and societal costs are accumulating. Deniers will, however, never claim that we know enough. They are like someone who sees the first flames of a fire lapping along a corner wall in a house, but they refuse to let anyone put it out. They demand to be proven that the fire really exists, that it will spread, and that it poses a threat, before they will shrug their shoulders and say that it needs to be attended to. By that time it has spread along the whole wall to other rooms, is racing to higher floors and it is too late to prevent a full-scale conflagration.

    So to answer your point: you are 40 years behind. AGW is a fact. Even Exxon-Mobil and Shell knew this in 1982, before they decided to abandon science in favor of short-term profit maximization and to fund their own industry of denial. The fact is that deniers, for the most part, are not scientific skeptics; they are political ideologues, camouflaging this with shoddy science.

    1. Jeffh, You are hiding from the question. I don’t doubt the physics behind co2’s role in creating some amount of forcing. I do doubt the certainty with which you and others project in understanding co2’s role. I doubt it more still, when I ask for proof (or falsification of Ho) and you give the “it’s the consensus” answer. Whether there is a consensus or not (there’s no compelling proof of consensus) doesn’t matter, what matters is whether your theory holds up under the scrutiny of the Scientific Method and observational testing. From what I have seen thus far, it does not meet these hurdles.

    2. Bob

      Can the 100% AGW theory withstand the scrutiny of the Scientific Method, or can’t it?

      Can and has.

      Looks like you are confusing the terminology. For a statement to be scientific, it must only be capable of falsification. The hypothesis that manmade CO2 emissions are the principal driver of observed modern warming *is* falsifiable in a variety of ways. But it has not been falsified so far, despite vast scrutiny. Hence the emergence of a very strong scientific consensus that manmade CO2 emissions are the principal driver of observed modern warming.

      As I said, you are indulging in sciency-sounding bullshit. You don’t appear actually to understand how science works at all.

  12. The Climategate emails were revealing inasmuch as they exhibited desperation by climate science deniers to find a scintilla of wrongdoing in the face of a huge volume of empirical evidence. Quote mining and stitching together phrases to create a story was risible and in the end the only people who believed there was foul play were those with political agendas aimed at maintaining the status quo. Bob, that you even mention Climategate here simply reflects your desperation to clutch at any straw, no matter how insignificant. You should stick with Delingpole at Breitbart.

    1. Jeffh, that’s not a very rational response. The climate gate emails don’t reveal anything about “deniers” as you call them. The “deniers” didn’t send the emails, and they play a minor role in the content I have mentioned. It sounds like you have lost the plot.

    1. The climate gate emails don’t reveal anything about “deniers” as you call them.

      To the contrary (and, importantly, the facts): the “climate gate” email investigation showed none of the wrongdoing the scientists were accused of, but they did put on display the willingness of the science deniers (that word describes the people who raised the ruckus, and you, perfectly) to cherry pick and lie.

    2. Evenin’ yet again Bob (UTC),

      Roger still hasn’t responded to my request for evidence, but he has slunk off with his tail between his legs:

      “I’m stepping back from social media for a while … for obvious reasons TTFN”

  13. I might take this more seriously if Greg hadn’t written a letter and tried to get others to put pressure on NYT to fire Bret Stephens.

  14. A side issue but it struck me:
    “GDP increases with increasing devastation by major storms. This is because when a major storm comes along and wipes out cities or coastlines or whatever, there is so much economic activity spent on recovery that GDP goes up.”

    I seem to remember reading decades ago (when reading up to teach environmental geology) that the costs of pollution on the population and the clean-up (if any) are also included in economic measures as if they were all good things. So polluters can claim that they are benefiting the economy in two ways.

    1. “I seem to remember reading decades ago (when reading up to teach environmental geology) that the costs of pollution on the population and the clean-up (if any) are also included in economic measures as if they were all good things. So polluters can claim that they are benefiting the economy in two ways.”

      That is the position of many right-wingers. Not surprising, since critical thinking is not their strong point (or a middling point, or even a weak point) for them.

    2. “GDP increases with increasing devastation by major storms. This is because when a major storm comes along and wipes out cities or coastlines or whatever, there is so much economic activity spent on recovery that GDP goes up.”

      “Gross Domestic Product” – the PRODUCT is the key issue here. Do we grow the economy by producing clean energy, housing for the homeless, better schools and healthcare, etc., or do we expand the economy by more often having to replace buildings destroyed by storms?

    3. “Gross Domestic Product” – the PRODUCT is the key issue here. Do we grow the economy by producing clean energy, housing for the homeless, better schools and healthcare, etc., or do we expand the economy by more often having to replace buildings destroyed by storms?

      This always troubles me. That for rightwing economists, growth is absolutely paramount, even to the extent of implying an upside to the costs of climate impacts.

      And if the tax-averse think that they will end up better off backing inaction, they will be in for a nasty surprise when the bills for rebuilding hit their insurers.

  15. Trump: “We’re going to do a big fireworks display, right, Mount Rushmore… They haven’t been there for like 20 years. I said, ‘Why?’ Environmental reasons. I said, ‘You can’t have fireworks for environmental reasons?… What can burn? It’s stone.'”

    The standard right-wing defense of these (for the supporters who can break the seal between trump’s butt and their lips) is that he was joking.

    That level of dishonesty (with a straight face, simply to defend him) from the supporters is a major concern as the presidential election gets close

  16. Bob, who isn’t a scientist, has doubts over the role that CO2 plays in driving climate change. He questions the conclusions reached by thousands of studies, thousands of climate scientists, and more than 97% of the scientific community. He is saying that the consensus of experts doesn’t matter because he isn’t convinced. He doesn’t believe that the agreed position of the role CO2 plays in the recent warming reached by National Scientific Academies in every industrialized nation on Earth, as well as every important relevant scientific organization including the AGU, the AMS, NASA, the NOAA, the AAAS, and others – is important.

    Bob is a flat Earther. He has a political ideology that conflicts with science, but he camouflages it (badly) in an attempt to appear open-minded.

    Bob, short of the planet literally going up in flames (and Australia is surely headed in that direction), you are just one of many who will deny until there is nothing left to do but sift through the ashes. Yesterday, a prominent colleague who studies the effects of warming on polar soils gave a keynote lecture at an annual ecological conference near my home. His story was both terrifying and depressing. He said how he has personally witnessed polar soils, thawed of their permafrost, sliding into the ocean en masse. He explained how carbon and methane, locked up in these soils for millennia, is being released in industrial quantities into the atmosphere at incredible rates as anthropogenic warming melts the poles. He explained the potentially catastrophic implications of this rapid thaw and the positive feedback loop that is accelerating.

    You can deny all you like. Frankly, I am tired of deniers and their time wasting antics and their fake views about ‘science’. Your skepticism has nothing to do with science. It is about political ideology. Just like another right-wing ideologue who writes on here, RickA. It is about time that you faced up to that.

  17. Bob, no need to put deniers in quotations. The term fits. You are one of them. Climategate was all about denial because climate science deniers did everything they could to make it seem like a big event. As several investigations showed, there was absolutely nothing to it. And the idea that a small number of climate scientists are involved in some massive conspiracy to manipulate data is beyond parody. Conspiracy ideation is one of the 5 tenets of climate science denial. You have already exhibited at least one of the other ones (e.g. impossible expectations).

    Since the non-event aka Climategate, the planet has continued to warm. Indeed, the past 5 years are the warmest on record. January was the warmest yet. Deniers are now scrambling around in their desperation to find memes to use as counter-evidence. They are becoming more desperate. Alaska has had a cold winter and Arctic ice extent is ‘only’ the 14th lowest on record. But of course this is also short-term seasonal variation; the longer trend is unambiguously clear. Extent masks ice volume, which is near or at its lowest in recorded history. Then I see denier blogs posting that there has been a lot of snow in parts of Turkey. Again, a local, short-term event. The biosphere as a whole had its warmest-ever January and the warming trend is detectable over the past 40 years. Then I see Judith Curry, desperately clinging on to whatever credibility she once had, rehashing another outdated meme, that lower solar activity, combined with volcanic eruptions, will generate cooling over the next three decades. How ridiculous can she get? Solar activity has declined since the 1980s, as the biosphere has steadily warmed. CO2 is overwhelming climate forcing. The scientific community by-and-large accepts this, yet she stands out as a lone figure trying to say anything to get attention. Volcanic activity? That could lead either way, and there is no indication that there is suddenly going to be a spate of volcanic eruptions anytime soon.

    You claim to want ‘sound science’. Well, it is there, right in front of you, but you choose to ignore it.

  18. The latest “Shock News!” from the Twittosphere:

    I guess now I’ll have to wait for ever and a day for Roger to provide any evidence for his sequence of scurrilous allegations?

    P.S. How do I embed an image in here?

    1. I suspect that there’s an interesting story here. Unfortunately I’ve been buried in ARC forms the last week and missed the conversation in the RPJ department – anyone know the background?

    2. I suspect that there’s an interesting story here. Unfortunately I’ve been buried in ARC forms the last week and missed the conversation in the RPJ department – anyone know the background?

      Not on social media, so no idea either. RJP is a fan of the shirt-rip, sharp exit riff and he’s got pressures – father maybe ill, a history of climate minimalising coming home to roost. Enough to make someone a bit fragile and snappy.

  19. Hi Bernard,

    I’ve been following Junior’s “meltdown” on Twitter very carefully.

    A few (moderately) well known academics have been coming out to support him. As of this morning (UTC) not one of them has answered my $64,000 question:

    https://twitter.com/jim_hunt/status/1229323526936678401

    And still nobody, least of all Roger himself, has provided any evidence to support his (now invisible!) claim that “the @skepticscience science team is spreading lies about me on social media”

    1. A few (moderately) well known academics have been coming out to support him.

      Who? Didn’t think he had many friends left, after alienating most people with his incessant shirt-ripping nonsense.

  20. Afternoon BBD (UTC),

    Off the top of my head Matt Nisbet, Reiner Grundmann and Matthew Kahn.

    Probably one or two have slipped my ageing mind!

    P.S. And of course Judith Curry and Ryan Maue!

    1. Ah, the usual suspects then. Thanks for that. For a moment there I was worried that RPJ might be garnering fresh support from new quarters.

      Which, given all that has passed, would never do.

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