Nate Silver’s Climate Author Accused Of Threatening Critics

Not only has Nate Silver pledged to run a rebuttal to a heavily criticized article on natural disasters and climate change, but the FiveThirtyEight founder was apparently forced to apologize recently for the actions of the piece’s author.

The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reported Friday that a pair of climate scientists received what they considered threatening emails from Roger Pielke Jr., the author of the piece published earlier this month and a freelance contributor at FiveThirtyEight.

In the piece, titled “Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change,” Pielke argued that the cost of natural disasters has risen not because of climate change, but as a result of an increase in wealth.

The article drew an extremely negative reaction from the science community, including from Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, both of whom were critical of Pielke in an interview with ThinkProgress.

Mann and Trenberth said that Pielke responded to their comments with what appeared to be threats. ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum informed Silver and FiveThirtyEight managing editor Mike Wilson of Pielke’s emails.

Legum told the Huffington Post that he interpreted the emails as threats “to pursue legal action against” Mann and Trenberth.

While Mann opted not to make the email public, Trenberth forwarded a copy to the Huffington Post.

“Once again, I am formally asking you for a public correction and apology,” Pielke wrote in the email that was sent to both Trenberth and his bosses. “If that is not forthcoming I will be pursuing this further. More generally, in the future how about we agree to disagree over scientific topics like gentlemen?”

Pielke dismissed the notion that he was making a threat, calling the claim “ridiculous.” Nevertheless, Silver told the Huffington Post that he apologized to both Mann and Trenberth and made clear that “Roger’s conversations with them did not reflect FiveThirtyEight’s editorial values.”

Silver has dealt with several harsh reviews since the FiveThirtyEight’s launch earlier this month, but Pielke’s article has received the most negative reaction by far.

In a post published Friday, Silver said that FiveThirtyEight will commission a rebuttal to Pielke.


Tom Kludt is a reporter for Talking Points Memo based in New York City, covering media and national affairs. Originally from South Dakota, Tom joined TPM as an intern in late-2011 and became a staff member during the 2012 election. He can be reached at