Madankerr criticised me for my climate science blogroll, which he/she saw as unbalanced. I said that I would fix it up in time, and here is part of the process. A preliminary question: why go to blogs anyway? Why not read the peer-reviewed articles themselves? A good answer, if you are not part of a university department which subscribes to nearly everything, and aren’t part of its network, is that going to blogs is a great way to find out what is being published, and whether or not a given article is relevant and useful.
And that is what I do. I have navigated over a sea of blogs, hundreds of them, in the past few years, and have narrowed down my landing ports to quite a small number. If something important appears in a website that I don’t know about, I’ll usually find out about it because one of my usual set refers to it, and off I go. Quite a lot of papers are behind paywalls, but then someone who is a subscriber will often publish it for others to read. In the long run I want to see all publicly-funded research made publicly available from the beginning, but that is another topic.
Another preliminary comment: most websites are partisan, and they use articles and perspectives that agree with their point of view. Some are loath to accept criticism at all, and simply send critical posts to the electronic wpb. I guess we are all captive of our own points of view, but it is instructive that so many sites, on all sides of the climate science and climate policy debates, are predictable almost at once. I hoped that mine would not be, and that is why madankerr’s comment was a spur to action. While my position on global warming is agnostic, I do consider articles, data and arguments that support the orthodoxy — I don’t just dismiss them.
What follows is a comment on what is the core of my new list.
My favourite is ‘Climate etc’, hosted by Judith Curry, a noted climate scientist at Georgia Tech. You could call her a lukewarmer, a label that would now apply to me, too. She encourages conversation between those of different perspectives, and publishes new posts regularly. I have learned more from the debates on her site than from anywhere else.
The standard orthodox website is ‘RealClimate’, established by a group around James Hansen of NASA-GISS. It is good at explicating new research that supports the orthodoxy, but is dismissive of critics. It has adjunct or supporting sites like ‘Tamino’ and ‘Rabett Run’. I understand that RC was set up in opposition to ‘Climate Audit’, which is one of the standard sceptical sites, established by Steve McIntyre, a Canadian mathematician and mining consultant, when he became suspicious of some climate science papers which looked to him like dubious mining prospectuses. He is basically interested in analysing climate data. So am I, which is why I like his site.
Then there is Anthony Watts, a meteorologist, whose ‘Watts Up with That?’ is probably the most visited sceptical site. He is a meteorologist who publishes at least once a day, and maintains a most useful data file on most aspects of climate. ‘Bishop Hill’ is run by Andrew Montford, who wrote a good book on the Climategate emails and on Michael Mann’s ‘hockey stick’. I don’t go there much, but he is literate and civilised.
The misnamed ‘Skeptical Science’ website is actually a temple of orthodoxy, and its main service is in presenting what it sees as typical ‘sceptical’ objections to AGW and dismissing them with scientific ripostes. If you want a counter to Skeptical Science, then go to Lubos Motl’s website ‘The Reference Frame’. Motl is a Czech physicist interested in string theory, but is quite wide-ranging. If you read his response to Skeptical Science you’ll get some idea why this whole domain is so difficult. My reading is that we know much too little about our climate, but the stakes are said to be very high. So there is undue certainty, both ways.
Now come three Australian sites (incidentally, ‘Skeptical Science’ is run by another Australian, John Cook, also a physicist). ‘Deltoid’ is a completely confident AGW site run by Tim Lambert, a computer scientist. It’s been a bit quiet lately. Jennifer Marohasy, an environmental biologist (jennifermarohasy.com) and Joanne Nova, a science communicator (joannenova.com)) both run sites questioning the orthodoxy, and both have scientific credentials; I would classify each of them as ‘lukewarmers’ — that is, adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere must in time increase temperature, all other things being equal. Whether or not this will happen quickly and whether or not the effects will be harmful or beneficial — these matters are unclear. This is my current position, too.
There are two Roger Pielkes, the Senior, who is a climate scientist, and the Junior, who is more of a social scientist. Both have blogs, the Senior’s being very much an account of his published work and his comments on others’ work, the Junior’s being much more wide-ranging (he has already made a comment on the Gillard Government’s decision to link the carbon tax to the EU ETS). I often go their sites, usually because someone else has commented on an essay there.
I like to go to Lucia Liljegren’s ‘The Blackboard’. Her site is about statistics and about statistical argument. I have learned a lot there, too. It is paradoxical that in a domain where numerical data are the basis for almost everything, climate science is poorly serviced with good statisticians, a lack that has been pointed out by review groups. I have an old basic knowledge of statistics, but it needs constantly to be updated, and Lucia’s site is a good place to see clever people at work on numbers.
Finally, I approve of ‘Climatedebatedaily’, though I don’t go there often because I see the relevant articles elsewhere. It a New Zealand site that presents both the orthodoxy and the dissent about AGW, neutrally and without comment. It’s worth having a look at.
That is my basic reference group of climate-related blogs. I like the ones where I learn something, and where the discussion is reasonably temperate. I recognise that many people, right across the debate, are absolutely sure that they are right; I’m not in that company. If you think I am missing a good website let me know, and I’ll check it out.