Nate Silver Promises To Run A Rebuttal To Heavily Criticized Climate Change Piece

FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver said Friday that his newly re-launched site will commission a response to an article on disasters and climate change that has come under widespread scrutiny.

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.”

After acknowledging the criticism during his interview on “The Daily Show” last night, Silver addressed the response to Pielke’s article.

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To that end, Silver promised that FiveThirtyEight will commission a rebuttal to Pielke, but it might not be published immediately.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.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest Livewire
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: