Why Did Nate Silver Hire Climate Change Skeptic To Cover Environment?

Roger Pielke Jr. Earns Howls of Protests on New Blog

Warming to Task: Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight blog aims to use data to address thorny public issues. Is hiring a skeptic of climate change to cover the environment sending the right message?
wikimedia
Warming to Task: Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight blog aims to use data to address thorny public issues. Is hiring a skeptic of climate change to cover the environment sending the right message?

By J.J. Goldberg

Published March 27, 2014, issue of April 04, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Nate Silver, the former New York Times data maven, has launched his own data-driven news site, and the reviews aren’t good. Liberals who once lionized him for his spot-on 2012 election predictions are now dismissing him as a chump.

What’s wrong? Well, a few pundits question his naïve use of statistics to tackle subjective questions of philosophy and values. But most of the attacks involve one controversial hiring decision: the contrarian environmental scholar Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, named contributing writer on science and climate.

Trained as a political scientist, Pielke is an ornery, combative smart-aleck who claims to accept the facts of man-made climate change, but spends much of his time debunking new climate research, downplaying the threats and ridiculing scientists who disagree. He expends so much energy belittling climate experts — he recently accused White House science adviser John Holdren of “zombie science” — that he was listed in Foreign Policy’s 2010 Guide to Climate Skeptics. (The rest of his time seems to be spent crying foul when his victims hit back.)

Critics from columnist Paul Krugman to leading climatologist Michael Mann to liberal bloggers at ThinkProgress and Salon all claim Silver hurt his website’s credibility — fatally, some huffed — by hiring a “climate confusionist” like Pielke. The right, naturally, had a field day, calling it a case of left-wing censorship and ideological purism. “Greenies furious,” crowed The Daily Caller.

And while the mud flew back and forth, the ice continued to melt.

In fact, on March 16, the day before Silver launched his website, a major new study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change, showing alarming, previously unknown melting on a glacier in frigid northeastern Greenland that had been thought stable. The Greenland ice sheet is the earth’s second largest after Antarctica.

The impact of melting ice in Greenland or Antarctica is different from the more familiar ice melt in the Arctic Ocean. Melting sea ice exposes dark water surface that then absorbs solar rays, acting as a heating element to the earth’s oceans. The warmer water changes polar wind patterns, pushing the cold polar vortex southward and generating extreme weather. What it doesn’t do is add water to the earth’s oceans.

university of colorado

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.