Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interview with AGU President Michael McPhaden

I spoke with American Geophysical Union President Michael McPhaden tonight, who was in Australia. He answered my questions about the Peter Gleick/Heartland Institute incident and Gleick's resignation as Chair of the AGU Task Force on Scientific Integrity. We also discussed its potential impact on AGU, scientists who are also activists and/or concerned citizens, and politicalization in the climate debate, including that of Chris Mooney who was on the Board of Directors of the AGU.

As background, see today's AGU statement on the Gleick affair. The full podcast is about 21 minutes long.


5 comments:

Maurizio Morabito said...

I believe people show their true colors in a time of crisis...so let's celebrate Gleickgate as an opportunity to tell the wheat (eg Revkin, Mosher) from the chaff (eg Romm, Gleick).

Thereafter, I don't think we should be any more concerned with the chaff.

Mickjo said...

I thought this was a good interview. What I suspect McPhaden didn't realise was that despite his protestations that science has primacy, he demonstrated admirably the primacy of his political views. Not only that, but also, he made some factual errors -- about increasing air temperatures and increasing adverse weather events, for example. The misinformation he's complaining about comes as much from his own side as anyone else's.

In the end, he argues from authority, and carries on promoting the idea that anything he doesn't believe in is false. I don't know who he thinks he is convincing - only the already convinced will have swallowed whole what he said. And incidents like climategate and Gleichgate will just continue to undermine his credibility, all the more so if he carries on this way.

It isn't a question of communicating - the reason climate science is in the trouble it is, is precisely because it has been communicating the same old message for years in the face of all contrary evidence, the failure of predictions, the attempts to silence opposition, and so on.

He will get no new recruits; he will only lose existing ones if he carries on like this.

Richard said...

~@15:02 : "We don't appoint people to the AGU Board based on their ideological background, we appoint them because they have skills that can contribute to help us carry out our mission."

That's a crock, and he knows it.

Good work David. Some very good questions here. Very few of these folks are understanding that they're being their own worst enemies. They're so focused on preaching to the choir that they forget that there are many in the congregation who may not be so unwavering in their beliefs. The fire and brimstone (us against them mentality, ugly name calling, ad hominem attacks, etc.) do nothing to keep those folks around, and certainly does little to convert any non-believers. They are losing supporters, not gaining them.

I've grown to be more skeptical of AGW for no other reason than the behavior of the scientists involved. As someone with a strong science education (MS in Chemistry) and 20+ years experience in science and research, it's appalling to me to see how these supposed adults behave. I consistently disappointed by the science and scientists in this arena. The lack of openness of data and methods is quite frankly unbelievable.

Steve McIntyre said...

Good interview, David.

As your questions illuminate, McPhaden is sure willfully obtuse on the message sent by appointments like Mooney (or his replacement, Hassol). At some point, they have think about not merely preaching to the choir and how to persuade the many people who have by no means dismissed the issue but who question whether it's as big a problem as it's being made out. People like Moooney or Hassol aren't going to do that.

A technical point. One of McPhaden's points was that drought and flood extremes were unprecedented. AR5 ZOD said, based on proxy evidence, that present levels were "not unusual". This was watered down only slightly in FOD and I expect this (correct) point to be under siege in revisions. As matters presently stand, McPhaden had no basis for making this particular assertion.

Anonymous said...

Whether or not what Gleick did is tactically a good thing is debatable but he certainly didn't violate any scientific ethics. Unless, we are talking to 5 y.o. to claim that "lying is bad" no matter the context. HI isn't "the public"; it's a propaganda organization for corporate interests that routinely deceives the public to muddy the climate change issue and prevent mitigation.