As the World Burns, Episode III: Judith Curry, Climategate Junkie

If you defy science, this can happen to you!
If you defy science, you could be next!

My name is Tony Heller (aka Steven Goddard). I’m a professional climate change denier and I use this blog to blow the whistle on myself and sometimes others, too.

A note from Tony: This is the fourth installment of our series on Judith Curry’s recent promotion of Mark Steyn’s book, “A Disgrace to the Profession.” For more background, please read the prologue, Episode I, and Episode II.

You never forget your first rush. It was November, 2009 and the exhilaration coursing through Judith Curry’s head surpassed anything she had ever experienced before. A hacker had just broken into a server at the Climatic Research Unit unleashing a trove of private emails from some of the world’s leading climatologists about their work on the famous hockey stick graph which proved that temperatures had risen sharply over the last 150 years. “Climategate” was born. Judith was infused with new creative energy and dove headlong into the public controversy. Reminiscing about that memorable weekend, Curry wrote:

Over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2009, in the midst of extensive email discussions with Andy Revkin and Joe Romm (!), I penned my essay An open letter to graduate students and young scientists in fields related to climate research. Which followed my essay (published at Climate Audit) On the credibility of climate research. In February 2010, I wrote an article Towards rebuilding trust.

The following year, Judith launched her new blog, “Climate Etc.,” and her reputation as a champion for the climate “skeptics” began to take off. The Climategate emails had provided new ammunition for climate deniers seeking to prove that Michael Mann, a lead researcher in the development of the hockey stick graph, was part of an elaborate global warming hoax that politicians and the scientific establishment were playing on the public. Mann’s many enemies lifted quotes and twisted the meanings of the hacked emails to paint Mann and his colleagues as sinister researchers fabricating data. And Judith was there, ready and willing to help legitimize the voices of the heretofore marginalized deniers.

At first, it paid off well for Judith. Soon, she was making headlines in major science publications like Scientific American and major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Judith went from an obscure researcher studying the effects of climate change on hurricanes to testifying before Congress. Climategate was the ultimate stimulant for her career, a true wonder drug.

But then Judith encountered a problem. Eventually, hard science and facts won out and the Climategate controversy fizzled. After many independent reviews of the climate researcher’s emails, no wrongdoing was uncovered and the science behind the hockey stick graph was found to be sound. Rather than becoming the recognized leader of the overthrow of the ensconced scientific priesthood, Curry ended up looking like part of an angry mob with a tricorne hat screaming “End the Fed!”

Five years later, Judith’s rocket ride to climate science stardom was over. She wrote, “The net effect of [Climategate] is that my ‘academic career advancement’ in terms of professional recognition, climbing the administrative ladder, etc. has been pretty much halted.”

Somewhere along the way Judith had forgotten an important lesson: truth is always on the side of science, not politically motivated accusations. How did Judith forget this? Why was she quick to rush to the side of the deniers without a full investigation of the real facts? It’s impossible to say for sure, but allow me to speculate.

Prior to Climategate, Judith had a comfortable academic career in climate science. But she had always found it unsatisfying. It was too rigorous, too constraining. It was too much damn work for too little reward. She looked enviously at the other climatologists doing pioneering work and getting attention. Her particular expertise, how hurricanes might be affected by climate change was rather hum drum and wasn’t delivering any excitement for her.

She had also always looked longingly over at the “skeptics.” There was something alluring, even romantic, about the life the “skeptics” led. They weren’t bound by any rules of engagement like peer review or shackled by the politics of academia. They weren’t even bound by the rules of scientific discovery. They were free spirits, rebels poking holes in the arguments of arrogant and pompous scientists. In that respect, Judith felt she was a kindred spirit. And perhaps even more important than that, she believed in the sincerity of their efforts. So what if many of them were conspiracy crackpots driven purely by ideology? Who was she to judge the merits of their science? She wasn’t going to be another gatekeeper like her peers.

And so Climategate was Judith’s opportunity to cast her lot with the skeptics and help them build a bridge to respectability so they could participate in the scientific debate on climate change. It was a noble—though perhaps naive—goal in the highly politicized climate debate arena. But in her attempt, she ended up abandoning the science and in the process destroying her own reputation. She writes, “By the time 2011 rolled around, my ostracization by the climate establishment was pretty complete.”

Unfortunately, against all odds, Judith continues to bet against science. In her single-minded zeal to tear down barriers to entry into the debate over climate change, she still forgets that no matter how unfair or imperfect she might think the process for uncovering new knowledge may be, the actual science is what matters at the end of the day. And no amount of slinging of non-science based bullshit at those that have the math and data to back them up will help her prevail.

The tragedy is Judith is still living in the shadow of Climategate trying to win a debate she’s already lost. It’s as if she’s trying to recapture some of the glory she enjoyed five years ago during Climategate’s peak. Out of other options, Judith continues to flog Climategate for all its worth. Recently, Judith found a new supplier for her Climategate addiction, Mark Steyn, who is dredging up ten and fifteen year old mined quotes from the Climategate emails in an act of revenge for a lawsuit that Michael Mann brought against him. Curry highlights some of the out-of-context Climategate email quotes in her blog even though all they demonstrate is healthy debate and give and take between Mann and his colleagues. But unable to stop her compulsive behavior and desperate to try anything to revive the feeling of that first high, Curry is an eager lapdog, ready to sell any shred of credibility she might have left for disreputable showmen like Steyn.

And so, my friends, let this be a cautionary tale. This is what can happen to you when you leave the realm of science and make the blogs your battleground in the climate change debate. Eventually your discussions devolve into ego-driven bullshit and you end up like Curry shilling books for third-rate showmen and complimenting cartoon parodies of other climatologists. Next thing you know you’ve got other bloggers like me Photoshopping you into a smack addict.

Now please, for the sake of civilization, let’s base the climate debate on hard data, established science, solid math, and strong evidence. If you’re incapable or unwilling to engage in debate like that, you have no place in it, so kindly get the fuck out. And if you’re whining that you aren’t in the debate, there’s probably a pretty good reason why. Hint: it’s not because there’s a global conspiracy of liberals. And please, for the love of God, quit sabotaging and the scientific process by maligning the reputation of good scientists who are working sincerely and diligently on this extremely important work. You’re not contributing to the debate, you’re just an asshole.

That is all. You may now proceed to hurl your best insult or toss a compliment my way in the comments below. I look forward to reading them.

7 thoughts on “As the World Burns, Episode III: Judith Curry, Climategate Junkie

  1. ** sigh ** m(

    Where exactly is the difference from accusing, lying, manipulating, name-calling deniers to you? Claiming that you are on the right side? They do this too.

    Photoshopping someones Photo to ridicule and nam-call him (or her) has nothing to do with facts, nor with grown up discussion.

    The facts are on the side of AGW – but you are undermining the facts, as you resort to the same dirty tricks and rhetorics the deniers must use, because of their lack of facts.

    Its theTroll-fallacy: First they drag you down to their level, then they beat you with experience.

    Of course you are welcome to use irony, sarcasm and satire; but your attacks are beyond that.


    • I don’t know what you are talking about. I am a denier. But I am absolutely, positively thrilled to hear you approve of my use irony, sarcasm and satire. Because every once in a while need a little chuckle to get you through the day. You should try it.


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