Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight Is Now Arguing With Itself on Global Warming

Nathaniel 'Nate' Silver, editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog, speaks during a panel discussion at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The SXSW conferences and festivals converge original music, independent films, and emerging technologies while fostering creative and professional growth. 
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Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
March 31, 2014, 1:08 p.m.

Nate Sil­ver’s Fiv­eThirtyEight has pos­ted a re­but­tal by MIT sci­ent­ist Kerry Emanuel to Ro­ger Pielke Jr.’s con­tro­ver­sial March 19 story that ar­gued cli­mate change isn’t to blame for the rising costs of weath­er-re­lated dis­asters.

“I don’t see how the data he cites sup­port such a con­fid­ent as­ser­tion,” Emanuel writes in the re­sponse that Sil­ver com­mis­sioned to run on the data-journ­al­ism site. (Click here to read more about why Emanuel’s not buy­ing Pielke’s ar­gu­ment.)

Emanuel’s post fol­lowed a note to read­ers Fri­day from Sil­ver him­self, who said the largely neg­at­ive re­sponse to Pielke’s item promp­ted Fiv­eThirtyEight to “think care­fully” about the story and their edit­ing.

“The back-and-forth is ex­tremely de­tailed, cit­ing pa­per upon pa­per, foot­note upon foot­note, and link upon link. The de­bate is hard for us to ad­ju­dic­ate without turn­ing to ex­perts for help,” Sil­ver writes in ex­plain­ing why he com­mis­sioned a story that re­sponds to the cent­ral ar­gu­ments of Pielke’s story.

Sil­ver also said there were some “peri­pher­al claims” al­lowed in­to Pielke’s piece and some oth­er prob­lems that “re­flect a poor job of edit­ing on our part.”

But the note says that broad­er cri­ti­cisms of Pielke — namely that the polit­ic­al sci­ent­ist isn’t qual­i­fied to write on cli­mate and that he’s a cli­mate “den­ier” — are “un­fair.”

As Na­tion­al Journ­al wrote here, Pielke of­ten en­rages cli­mate act­iv­ists and has drawn cri­ti­cism from sev­er­al prom­in­ent sci­ent­ists, al­though he does not dis­pute hu­man-in­duced cli­mate change and says it de­mands ac­tion.

Emanuel’s piece is just the latest chapter in the brouhaha over Pielke’s item and Fiv­eThirtyEight‘s de­cision to bring him on as a con­trib­ut­or.

Huff­ing­ton Post me­dia writer Mi­chael Cal­der­one re­por­ted Fri­day that Fiv­eThirtyEight apo­lo­gized to sci­ent­ists Mi­chael Mann and Kev­in Trenberth for emails Pielke sent them in re­sponse to their cri­ti­cism of his March 19 item.

HuffPo re­por­ted that Mann and Trenberth in­ter­pret Pielke’s emails as threat­en­ing pos­sible leg­al ac­tion. But Pielke told Cal­der­one that it’s “ri­dicu­lous” to char­ac­ter­ize the emails that way.

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