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Judith Curry on NPR

Judith Curry was interviewed by NPR recently, and the results are here - a print article and an audio interview.

I walk to work, I drive a Prius, I'm a fanatic about turning lights off and keeping air conditioning high and heating low, so I try to personally minimize my own carbon footprint. But in terms of telling other people what to do, I don't have any big answers.

Her humility and integrity are a stark contrast to the bluster and demands for behaviour change that spew from her critics.

Judith's own thoughts on the interview are here.

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Reader Comments (28)

The same is true from the sceptic side also, lets not forget that. I see no problem with encouraging behaviour change or do people see that as something that should be done within families/communities and not by state?

Aug 23, 2013 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

To a point it really depends on how genuinely seriously you take a problem.
The UK has, over the decades, had a pretty good record on public health — vaccinations, cleanliness of drinking water, efficiency of sewage disposal including work on outfalls once it was understood and accepted that simply pumping partially treated sewage into the sea was not acceptable.
The emphasis here is on "understood and accepted".
One could add the work done by local Medical Officers of Health over the years and many still remember McQueen's work during the outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen in 1964.
Nor have these and all the other improvements to public health resulted in politicians, ex-politicians and others lining their pockets at the expense of the taxpayer.
Therein lies the difference.
The hypothesis of global warming is not either well understood or accepted but it has served to make the taxpayer a milch cow for all sorts of troughers and politicians who see only their self-aggrandisement and, for the guilt-ridden middle classes, an opportunity to polish their haloes (they think) in the eyes of the world.
Curry is one of the few scientists who does understood the global warming hypothesis and sees and accepts its limitations. To be more accurate (probably) she is one of the few who sees and is also prepared to accept the limitations unlike many — mainly men, which should come as no surprise — whose egos stand in the way.
Like you I see lots of good reasons to save energy, to recycle when recycling makes sense, and to be good stewards of the environment and I would expect government to behave responsibly in these areas and encourage citizens to do the same.
When government policy (eg Landfill Tax) adds one more piece of legislation to the Law of Unintended (but patently foreseeable) Consequences or local authorities demand that the citizen separate rubbish into nine separate containers on pain of death (I exaggerate but you sometimes wonder what council officials do dream about!) you could reasonably argue that things have got out of hand especially when the total costs exceed the total benefits which are in any case marginal in environmental terms.
I think Curry is right to row back from the over-heated consumer society. We could all do with a bit more walking and a bit less driving and another layer of clothing rather than automatically turning the central heating up a notch but those decisions need to be ours not government's.

I should add that the interviewer's editorial bit at the end of the interview had me banging my head on the desk:

But leaving climate change actions to individuals will not solve the problem. You can't affect global warming simply by buying a Prius and adjusting the thermostat. And there's no uncertainty about that.
So why go all the way up to Lake Tahoe if at the end you're not going to believe a word she said?

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:38 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Thanks MIke, not sure journalists have to believe anything people say, they just report on it. Clearly Judith Curry believes in global warming, she is just not sure on how to deal with it due to complexity of the situation, which is fair enough. The UK wastes money on things I wholeheartedly disgree with, I'm less worried about efforts to reduce the Uks emissions and the money spent on that, so I guess I'm ok with it! Although I personally have little time for politics in the UK currently.

Aug 23, 2013 at 9:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I quite agree, Mike J, that last bit of the article is extraordinary. Talk about a hermetically sealed mind.

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

"...I walk to work, I drive a Prius, I'm a fanatic about turning lights off and keeping air conditioning high and heating low, so I try to personally minimize my own carbon footprint. But in terms of telling other people what to do, I don't have any big answers..."

So she is really a closet eco-greenie, then, who feels piously better within themselves because they do all these seemingly pointless things, even though most of us appear to believe that "carbon footprint" is a nonsense, and CO2 is really not any sort of villain at all, and all that is done to reduce it is a futile exercise, anyway. My estimation of Dr. Curry has gone down a notch...

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

We need less holier-than-thou angst from journalists and more rational thought as to whether the proposed solutions to this putative, potential problem leave us better or worse off.

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Old Goat: Oh come on. Surely we believe in individual choice if we believe in anything. I read this passage a couple of hours ago and thought nothing less of a great person. And if Dr Curry saves some money by being careful with her use of power that's also fine by me. The key phrase has to be this:

in terms of telling other people what to do, I don't have any big answers

It's a totalitarian instinct that wants to make everyone the same. Happily Judy doesn't have it.

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:26 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Agree with Richard Drake...Old Goat..umm!

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The thing is that despite Judiths protests, you cannot sensibly divorce the policy from the science. They are bedfellows and always have been. The IPCC policy document beaars no relaation to the science behind it. So you really should have a sensible policy opinion if a journalist asks you. Otherwise you just look selfish.

Personally I had a miniscule carbon footprint for years just by living in a warmer climate and working from home. Those selfish, hypocritical faux-greens who live in cold places and travel to work just for more money clearly don't care a jot about their grandchildrens future - unless deep down they really know that the real solution for us is prosperity. There is nothing wrong with saving energy where possible; it saves money. The real issue is that ever increasing energy costs impoverishes us all so we better make very sure that the science behind it is sound. Alas those shouting loudest about policy are those who seem to least know the huge extent of the scientific speculation and contradiction that we are betting our future on.

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Old Goat
Judith Curry thinks that there is a problem with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere and does what she thinks will reduce her contribution fair enough, Where a Prius achieves anything is a moot point, particularly in non-urban driving. She also leaves it up to me whether I do anything also fair enough. Until this interview neither you or I knew about the Prius so she doesn't really shout it from the roof tops.

Having Scottish blood coursing through my veins I hate paying more than I have to for anything, so I have insulated everywhere we can, I've stopped using E10 fuel as much as possible because it is more expensive per mile. But I'm sceptical to the extreme on whether CO2 has many measurable effect on climate.

Unlike Ms Curry I hate the gloom, probably due to growing up without electricity and making do with paraffin* lamps and candles and we're gradually switching to LED lights so I can leave them on without breaking the bank..

I wouldn't force a true believer to follow what I or Judith Curry do, that is up to their conscience.

My Hero or it might have been only candles

Aug 23, 2013 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

This interview was put together in order to affirm the notion of consensus and to make reasoned skepticism appear lacking in conviction. Curry is what scientists should be, and very often what they are not (skeptical, measured and modest); but as the voice of opposition to the activists among the scientific community she seems a little too meek.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered Commentercd

I always have to wonder what makes a scientist believe, against all the evidence to the contrary, that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is having a detectable impact on the global climate. It is my "belief", based on the evidence, that increased carbon dioxide is a great benefit.

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:48 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

If you are a climate scientist Phillip, your opinion has credibility!

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

What's a climate scientist?

Aug 23, 2013 at 12:10 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

- (NPR Transcript) Key line : Harris "..their solution seems to be don't do anything."
JC :"I can't say that that is not the best solution".. "well that's when she parts company with her peers ..for example the AGU" (He bigs it up as credible BIG REPORT when we know it's just the opinion of 12 activists on an AGU committee and the only non-activist on that commitee Robert Pielke Sr refused to sign that report)
... "Curry's descent from that position is about the economics.." ..Harris big's up CO2 increase.. "By now Curry has strayed far from science" (no she is the one WITH science it's the Sc-activists who extrapolate "science" into scareporn opinions.)
.. "Her opinion is not about science" "leaving actions upto individuals will not solve the problem" (that is your opinion Harris who are you to claim authority over Curry)
..And he ends "and there is no uncertainty about that !"
Wow look how Harris tries to hammer home a point "There is NO uncertainty" ..just a pure deluded propagandist

.. note all the deluded who parrot 97%, 97% in the comments as if that figure had any credibility ..That shows their disrespect for science

Aug 23, 2013 at 12:12 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Phillip, ok, lets avoid silly word debates. Someone who has extensive experience of climate science or within that area..of course it is a massive area of study but so is medical science. So I think you know what I mean. Essentially, to hold someone's view with credibility you need to know whether or not you feel their opinion is credible.

Aug 23, 2013 at 12:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Comparing Judith to Richard Betts leaves a huge, cavernous hole. I'm not a supporter of Judith's work although I find it honest and methodically sound much, much more so than I can opine of RB's prognostications.

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

If you are a climate scientist Phillip, your opinion has credibility!

Aug 23, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

WHY? Not even climate scientist within the climate science community believe that they all have credibility.

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Richards

Stephen, you missed the point. I am talking about me taking Phillip's opinion with credibility. Exhausting in here!

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

@ Stephen Richards DNFTT

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:29 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Push out reasoned debate, why? Again, here it comes...troll etc. I am trying to contribute to the debate but as soon as challenge comes, out comes the DNFTT.

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I don't see anything to criticize in Phillip B's statement. The changes seen over 20th C are very small, and there are numerous potential causes, both man-made and natural; natural effects, especially longer term ones, are still not well-understood or quantified. Therefore, I think it's quite reasonable to suggest that the impact of CO2 on the global climate may so far be undetectable. In terms of plant growth, it also seems to be uncontroversial that at both current and projected levels CO2 is a benefit. Where's the problem?

Aug 23, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Thanks Philip R, fair enough.

Aug 23, 2013 at 2:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Be it NPR, BBC, CBC, or whatever publicly funded broadcasting agency, they are all quite incapable of just conducting an interview without 'interpreting' the interviewee's comments on our behalf. I don't want Harris' opinion of Ms. Curry's thoughts and views. A disservice to the listeners.

Aug 23, 2013 at 3:22 PM | Registered Commenterbracebridge

@Steve sorry mate it looked like you 2 were having a troll like argument
you said - "If you are a climate scientist Phillip, your opinion has credibility!"
- well that's the standard logical fallacy of "appeal to authority argument"
.. a valid argument is a valid argument, it doesn't any difference who makes it.

-as some one just said with "validated science" you can make good predictions. But if someone whether scientist or expert tries to go further and make extrapolations on that well that is just an opinion and it's no more valid than anyone elses.

Aug 23, 2013 at 6:49 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Of course this unfortunately shows that Judith has been sucked in like so many people. A Prius actually has a lifetime "eco-footprint" roughly equivalent to a Hummer (a bit smaller, yes, but larger than almost any standard saloon available). So by "doing her thing" for the environment, she degrades it more than most. Nice one, Judith.

Aug 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterEd Snack

Richard Drake. I feel you missed the point of my post. Ms Curry refers to her "carbon footprint" which we here (and elsewhere) have often vociferously considered a mythological nonsense. She does not, as far as I can see, suggest that whatever she does to reduce this "footprint" is for any economical reason, rather than for an ideological one ('fanatical', is the description I believed she used). I suspect that most of her support here may be for who she is, rather than for her beliefs. And the influence of others via one's own beliefs should be a no-no as a given, anyway, so it is right and accepted that she she not attempt to persuade others into her own way of thinking..

I can imagine the winking, nudging and nose tapping which would be have displayed in this august blog had it have been, say, Michael Mann who expressed these views.

Aug 24, 2013 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterOld Goat

Old Goat: I think I got the point, based on your fuller explanation. There's nothing here that makes me respect Dr Curry less. But everyone to their own.

Aug 24, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

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