The piece, written by Roger Pielke Jr. under the headline "Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change," has drawn negative responses from The Guardian, ThinkProgress and Paul Krugman.
"When you read that the cost of disasters is increasing, it’s tempting to think that it must be because more storms are happening," Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder, wrote in the March 19 piece.
"They’re not. All the apocalyptic "climate porn” in your Facebook feed is solely a function of perception. In reality, the numbers reflect more damage from catastrophes because the world is getting wealthier."
Silver pushed back on the notion that Pielke is a climate change skeptic and that he's unqualified to weigh-in on the issue.
"Roger has published dozens of peer-reviewed articles on estimating the incidence of climate-related disasters and their associated costs," Silver wrote. "That was the subject of his FiveThirtyEight piece."
But Silver said he's sympathetic to other criticisms. He said Pielke's piece used "loose language" and shouldn't have closed with "an implicit policy recommendation."
Silver also insisted that Pielke wasn't hired "to write solely about climate."
"Roger’s piece is not the complete story about climate change. Nor is it the complete story about how FiveThirtyEight plans to cover the climate," Silver wrote, adding that "some dissenters feel just as firmly" as Pielke.
To that end, Silver promised that FiveThirtyEight will commission a rebuttal to Pielke, but it might not be published immediately. The site's top choice to pen the rebuttal — an unnamed scientist — is currently traveling, according to Silver.
Silver closed with a plea to readers:
We appreciate your patience in the meantime. Climate change is not going away as an issue, and we want to get this right. All journalism relies on trust — between reporters and sources, between editors and writers, between a publication and its readers. Any time that trust is undermined, it’s a huge concern for us. We thank you for your continued feedback. We’re listening and learning.