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Judith Curry in Discover

An omigosh moment, this. Read Judith Curry's interview with Discover magazine. (Judith is a senior climatologist, from Georgia Tech).

Some choice excerpts:

Where do you come down on the whole subject of uncertainty in the climate science?
I’m very concerned about the way uncertainty is being treated. The IPCC [the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] took a shortcut on the actual scientific uncertainty analysis on a lot of the issues, particularly the temperature records.


Is this a case of politics getting in the way of science?
No. It’s sloppiness. It’s just how our field has evolved. One of the things that McIntyre and McKitrick pointed out was that a lot of the statistical methods used in our field are sloppy. We have trends for which we don’t even give a confidence interval. The IPCC concluded that most of the warming of the latter 20th century was very likely caused by humans. Well, as far as I know, that conclusion was mostly a negotiation, in terms of calling it “likely” or “very likely.” 


Are you saying that the scientific community, through the IPCC, is asking the world to restructure its entire mode of producing and consuming energy and yet hasn’t done a scientific uncertainty analysis?


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  • Response
    In a one word answer; "Are you saying that the scientific community, through the IPCC, is asking the world to restructure its entire mode of producing and consuming energy and yet hasn?t done a scientific uncertainty analysis?"...

Reader Comments (47)

This doesn't appear to be a career enhancing interview; acknowledging the good work of McIntyre and McKitrick! Truly amazing. Is she gradually becoming a sceptic?

Mar 15, 2010 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

She's doomed.

Mar 15, 2010 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSean Peake

I grew up in the days when Discover, Scientific American and National Geographic were science publication for the general public. It sad that these magazines now shill for politicians.

Your post "An interesting medical paper" sums up science today. Here in the former colonies, what 20 years ago would have been legal home based science research has been made illegal. Science is all about big companies and government directed grants.

God save the engineers, and the queen.

Mar 15, 2010 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael not Mann

"... a lot of the statistical methods used in our field are sloppy." Others are risible, crooked, bogus......

Mar 15, 2010 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

You should post Curry's third response in its entirety.

Mar 15, 2010 at 8:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMack

Umm.. there's a question to Curry here: "You wrote an article for, a conservative Web site.[..]"

Is ClimateAudit a conservative website? Bugger. Technically, I'm a lefty in political terms.. but whatever my personal politics, science trumps them. That's why I'm a reader there, and here, not for political reasons.

Still reading the interview. My personal Curry Rating is rising a bit at the moment.

Mar 15, 2010 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH

.. okay, I just got to where Curry describes the email liberation as "extremely well orchestrated, a very professional job."

CurryRating near-bottom again.

Mar 15, 2010 at 9:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH


McIntyre has described himself as a "Clinton Democrat", so it's fair to say he's no conservative.

Mar 15, 2010 at 9:01 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Oh berluddy hell.. Bish, feel free to delete my idiocy at your leisure. It's Mann that's being an idiot over the "hack", not Curry. I should have realised with the increase in idiocy within the responses.

Mar 15, 2010 at 9:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimonH

Judith C. would be a very interesting replacement for Rajendra P, and it might even save the IPCC from oblivion.

Mar 15, 2010 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

Of note: continue past the Curry interview, and it segues into a separate interview with Mann.

Elsewhere on the Discover site, another interview with Brian Greene, a physicist with a lifetime devoted to work on string theory is good for comparison and contrast between the hard and the soft sciences. He's asked:

If today you somehow found out that string theory is wrong, how would you feel about all your work of the past 25 years?
If it was false by virtue of an actual error that we all overlooked for 25 years, I’d feel pretty bad... The bottom line is progress, and if we can understand why it is that string theory failed, that will be progress...and that’s how science works.

How confident are you that string theory is correct?
One time I was listening to a radio program and I was described as a believer in string theory. I almost hit the roof because I don’t “believe” in string theory. I don’t believe in anything until it’s experimentally proven... There are a lot of very interesting ideas that are worthy of attention, and sometimes worthy of decades of attention, because they have such capacity to make progress on deep, unsolved questions. But that doesn’t mean that you believe the ideas are right.

Mar 15, 2010 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Judy writes

"...This made us reflect on the bigger issues of how scientists should be interacting with the media and how we should be dealing with skeptical arguments. I think the way that Mann and Phil Jones [the former director of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia, who resigned over the scandal] and those guys were going about it was wrong, not just in terms of ethics. It also backfired.

How we should be dealing with skeptical arguments. Recently she wrote about tribalism. She is clearly tribal herself. Not scientific.

And then "wrong, not just in terms of ethics".

But don't worry - she's rehabilitated herself:

because I’d been thinking about these issues for a number of years.

Just a pity she only did the thinking and didn't tell anyone else. Or do anything.

Mar 15, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Jack Hughes,
Please let Dr. Curry continue her progress.
She has made huge strides since she first started this process in December.
Let us encourage more skeptics, and allow them to prgress at their own speed.
People get duped into popular delusions in great crowds. They recover, if at all, as individuals.
She is farther along than anyone else from the AGW promotion community who has yet come forth.
Let us praise her strength of character and move forward together.

Mar 15, 2010 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

More sophistry from the stick handler in the article too. Mann's ego is incredible. Climategate gave some pretty strong insights into his character; his communication skills simply don't register, yet he dares to write this:

Mann on Jones:

"Frankly, he showed some poor judgment, and there are things I said that I would phrase differently, obviously, if I were saying them in public."

No, Mikey, the only sane thing for you to do now is shut up, go away and never be heard of again. We know all we need to know about you and the value of things you say and do. Enough.

Mann on Mann:

"And needless to say, I’m not getting a lot of science done right now."

No change there then.

Mar 15, 2010 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimD

Q (to Mann):Do you think you and your colleagues did anything wrong?
A: There’s nothing in any of these e-mails that demonstrates any inappropriate behavior on my part.

Not exactly a "robust" denial of wrongdoing, as he (deliberately?) leaves open the possibility of wrongdoing *not* demonstrated in the e-mails.

Maybe I'm overlawyering this, but anytime someone answers a question this way, it's a "dig here" sign to me.

Mar 16, 2010 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterMark C

March 16, 2010 | Mark C

Maybe I'm overlawyering this, but anytime someone answers a question this way, it's a "dig here" sign to me.

Remember this?

"There is no controlling legal authority that says this was in violation of law."

Who says Al Gore no longer has any influence?

Although, I suppose he could have said "I was never alone in a hotel, with those e-mails".

Mar 16, 2010 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

I'd say Dr. Curry is a work in progress. Vestiges of tribalism have surfaced several times recently, but her comments seem to be trending towards an even-handed, scientific take on Climategate issues. She seems sincere. I'm hopeful that others will abandon politics and join her.

Mar 16, 2010 at 12:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Is Judith the story here? She at least is being honest. Is she contradictory? Well who isn't when faced with something as complex as AGW.

Mann's arrogance in the second part of this article is astounding. He's the operative working within the corrupt system who's convinced he's invincible. More and more he seems to be the centre of all that's unreasonable about the AGW argument. Jones, in the emails, shows doubt and disagreement with Mann. Even colleagues like Gavin will try to reason with anyone who disagrees (albeit he's a little superior and pedantic when he does, but he has earned that right:-)) and for that he deserves respect.

Mann is the Cheshire Cat, grinning with self satisfaction. His University's whitewash has emboldened him further. Oh if we could see the day when Mann's brand of dendro is exposed as so much reading of entrails and bones.

Mar 16, 2010 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve E


"Judith C. would be a very interesting replacement for Rajendra P, and it might even save the IPCC from oblivion."

I can't believe I'm saying this but what a brilliant idea. Someone who's on the AGW side who also values the input of skeptics...things that make you say hmmmm

Mar 16, 2010 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve E

Sometimes it's worth reminding ourselves what it means to be a skeptic

"The scientific method details the specific process by which this investigation of reality is conducted. Considering the rigor of the scientific method, science itself may simply be thought of as an organized form of skepticism."

Personally, I support Judith Curry's stand; it is a step in the right direction.

Mar 16, 2010 at 2:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndy Scrase

Speaking with first hand knowledge of her institution, TECH, my theory is that Professor Curry has grown very weary of cold shoulders. The Georgia Institute of Technology is a hard core engineering university that draws most of its students from households that are only recently upper-middle-class. Its Trustees share a no nonsense view of the world. Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and their minions are nothing if not masters of nonsense.

Mar 16, 2010 at 2:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Got to hand it to Judith. She is willing to really do science, which is debating the issue. She is a breath of fresh air and a real vanguard for "climate science, IMHO. LOL and cheers to Judith!!! (Hope she's not burned at the stake).

Mar 16, 2010 at 2:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJAE

Yes, Dr. Curry, there hasn't been enough scientific criticism from within the circled wagons. We on the outside are wondering -- how many scientific organizations have at their head someone who is not a qualified expert in that scientific field. Does the American Medical Association have a engineer as its leader? Does the American Bar Association have someone who holds a joint Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Economics as the person in charge?

Now I'll grant you some of us on the outside don't possess a degree in fields related to that of study of climatology, and yet we criticize. I can understand part of the issue -- the appeals to authority and that sort. But even though some of us don't understand all of the issue, it's been pointed out the methodology used to make some of the conclusions and to my eyes (I come from the field of geology) some of the data look fudged.

And from the look of the email that we have been able to see so far, it looks like there was never any checks and balances in place.

So, you have no checks and balances, and the head of the organization is essentially a figurehead with little scientific sway within the organization that supposedly provides the scientific reasoning for changing the very way we live.

Even if the conclusions eventually reached are essentially the same ("truthiness" anyone?) science should not and can not be bent to accomplish that level of proof before it passes significant testing (or "uncertainty analysis")

Bring back the scientific method.

Mar 16, 2010 at 2:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterWalt Stone

With AGW, science has finally become religion. Reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke's Foundation series. The problem is, established religions keep people apart. I think that we need to abolish all religions (not culture) and replace them with Codes for Living, based on the Golden Rule.

Mar 16, 2010 at 2:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Z.

I can hear Gavin scratching his next unReal Climate post right now:

"Judith Curry disappoints..."

Mar 16, 2010 at 3:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Isaac Asimov wrote the Foundation books.

Mar 16, 2010 at 5:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan stendera

Speaking of the Chairman, he's coming to the warm and sunny Gold Coast Australia, with some keynote speakers for a climate change conference at the end of June early July:

- Dr R.K. Pachauri (Chair, IPCC)
- Professor Stephen Schneider (Stanford University)
- Neil Adger (Tyndall Centre, UK)
- Martin Parry (Co-Chair, IPCC Working Group II for the Fourth Assessment)

Does the Gold Coast still have bikini clad car parking meter maids there?

Mar 16, 2010 at 6:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterE O'Connor

Oops, sorry, You're right Stan, it's Asimov of course. Slip of the neuron there.

Uncanny, the similarities between AGW and Seldon's psychohistory in Foundation. Or for that matter, the similarities between the Scientology cult and AGW. As they say, always a sucker born every minute.

Mar 16, 2010 at 9:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul Z.

My file of mind-boggling quotes has just got bigger -- that Curry answer to the question about uncertainties is devastating. The question might just as well have been 'have we bought a pig in a poke?'

The response by Mann to the question about decadal oscillations (good reporter, she/he should win an award for asking relevant and penetrating questions which go right to the nub) is very revealing. Bluster, trust me I'm an expert, she's uninformed about these matters. Too much smoke and mirrors I think. Does this mean that even he realises that the fiddling with the pre-war temperatures is not justifiable?

Eventually someone is going to dig down into the bucket correction (see McIntyre's work) and publish a refutation. This will be combined with a correction for the ocean oscillations. Then things will really hit the fan. There will be an unexplained warming from 1910 to 1939, a blip from '39 to '45 (see the response of Tom Wigley to the blip in the emails -- he blatantly tried to fiddle the data to get rid of it) a cooling and then the ohmygod the world is ending [OTWIE] warming from 1975 to 2000. Having been tuned to the OTWIE, the models will then fall over.

Dr Curry, I bows. I also doffs my cap. It is so good to meet an honest scientist.

DISCOVER is a useful... err... discovery. Lots of articles I want to read and it's worth looking at the sunglasses. Gold plated designer shades, how cool is that?


Mar 16, 2010 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

I wrote in support of Dr Curry several weeks ago.

She has made more progress since.
Recanting is not easy. particularly recanting to yourself (in public too).

Mar 16, 2010 at 11:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterAusieDan

Another, perhaps not very generous, way of putting it is that Dr Curry is good at recognizing a sinking ship.

Mar 16, 2010 at 12:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter B

I'm still waiting for the AGW crowd to explain how shutting down clean steel mills here and moving productions to much dirtier steel mills in China would reduce pollution.

Mar 16, 2010 at 2:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterStan

McIntyre is a Canadian. It should follow that he is neither a Democrat or Republican. Perhaps he is a liberal or conservative. However, my understanding of Canadian politics leads me to believe that a conservative would be a centerist Democrat.

Mar 16, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaddy

Oh Judith, you are like they guy that everyone knows is gay but stays married to a women and tells dirty jokes to keep up appearances.

Judith Curry is DYING to come out of the Climate Change Closet. She knows her field better than anyone. She knows the number fudging, loose conclusions, and lack of causation that were destined to sink the ship eventually. Yet it is natural for her to fear her life's work being viewed as a patch on a giant quilt of fraud. So we must lure her out of her hiding with kindness and acceptance. She has put herself at great risk by simply dipping her toe in the water of denial. We must convince her that we will embrace her as our own as soon as she throws off the shackles of groupthink and rejects AGW doctrine. She will after all be a powerful ally, but is only marginally effective so long as she occupies this wishy washy middle ground.

Kudos to Judith for putting the truth above comfortable conditions here. In this regard she is already a heroine of sorts. I just hope she can make a clean break for her own good, and finally live her life in the sunshine...

Mar 16, 2010 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterHey Jude-ith


Mar 16, 2010 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered Commentermojo

All of this is because of Planet X, which is what theyre hiding with the chemtrails sprayed every day globally and is causing the earthquakes. It is also the sign in the heavens warning of the war of Armageddon, which will see America destroyed by Russia, China and the SCO the same day as the next false flag to invade Iran. News here:

Mar 16, 2010 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAntiLieGuy


McIntyre is definitely not a New Democrat which is our loony left, third national party (NDP) in Canada. He could be a Liberal or a Conservative. If Liberal he'd be left centrist democrat, if conservative he could be right of centre democrat or whatever the equivalent of red tory is in the republican party. But I would never speak for someone else's politics, for as the saw goes, it makes for strange bedfellows. :-)

Mar 16, 2010 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve E

Hers has been a gradual conversion, not a St Paul moment. Now she needs to write a thesis and nail it in the AGW coffin

Mar 16, 2010 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard

Why does anyone think the IPCC is still worth saving?

Even to install a far better person in Dr. Curry would still fail to fix the problem of the IPCC organization, because it was created from the start to advance a particular agenda.That would NEVER change since the government masters of that organization will never allow their political control over the propaganda angles be dropped.

I think it should be scrapped and destroyed to allow the scientists to go back to sober science research mainly free of political pressure.

Mar 16, 2010 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered Commentersunsettommy

Curry is just setting herself up to be chosen to be a lead IPCC scientist post Climategate, because a whole lot of new faces will be needed. She is trying to show that she thinks about things while still being firmly in the AGW camp, and thus reliable to her political masters. Climategate was useful to her in that it will get rid of a lot of old white males in the IPCC heirachy.

Mar 16, 2010 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Archibald

Re Jack:

Just a pity she only did the thinking and didn't tell anyone else. Or do anything.

Given the bunker mentality and the personalities, may be she was just waiting for the right time. The climate debate is unfortunately highly charged and highly polarised, with battle lines drawn and sides picked. People that cross the line and break consensus get treated harshly. As she says, she feels her position is secure enough now to speak out and try to calm things down a little. At the risk of sounding sexist, there's probably too much testosterone in the debate sometimes and Jo Nova did a good article on this:

Mar 16, 2010 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Curry will never be allowed to be a protagonist for the warmers. Yes, she gets bonus points for being reasonable, but that reasonableness erodes the warmers position.

Mar 17, 2010 at 12:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobert of Ottawa

I am a Georgia Tech alum [no degree, but I tried] and I can tell you the wrath of God will come down on anyone who trashs Dr. Judith Curry. GaTech grads are scattered all over the world in very influencial jobs and they are proud of her. There is a long time usage of "Techman", well, and I hope she reads this, she is a Techwoman.

Mar 17, 2010 at 2:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterstan stendera

I think Mann came off very poorly in that interview. Especially after you read through the measured, balanced and well-spoken words of Dr. Curry.

I can't imagine anyone reading that not coming away with the same conclusions. The best thing that could ever happen to skeptics is for Mann to keep giving interviews, he does more harm than good.

Mar 17, 2010 at 4:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterAdam

A point all should remember is that Dr. Curry is a victim of the hoax. She has done considerable work, trusting that Mann, Jones, Hansen, et. al. had actually done the legitimate work to justify their conclusions. That they hadn't means some of the underlying basis for her own work is gone. She now faces having to rethink and redo quite a bit of that. It's a very difficult postition for a scientist of her obvious integrity. Considerable slack is an appropriate courtesy.

Mar 17, 2010 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn W.

Here is the link to the interview in its entirety.

Mar 18, 2010 at 9:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterjulie

Judith Curry on IPCC:
"The IPCC itself doesn't recommend policies or whatever;they just do an assessment of the science. But it's sort of framed in the context of the UNFCCC [the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. That's who they work for, basically. The UNFCCC has a particular policy agenda - Kyoto, Copenhagen, cap-and-trade, and all that - so the questions that they pose at the IPCC have been framed in terms of the UNFCCC agenda. That's caused a narrowing of the kind of things the IPCC focuses on. It's not a policy-free assessment of the science. That actually torques the science in certain directions, because a lot of people are doing research specifically targeted at issues of relevance to the IPCC. Scientists want to see their papers quoted in the IPCC report."

In other words: Only send us the songs that the boss wants to hear!

Mar 19, 2010 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterLyle

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