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!
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • 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.