Nate Silver’s Embattled Climate Author Leaves FiveThirtyEight

July 29, 2014 9:28 a.m.

Roger Pielke Jr. said Monday that he left FiveThirtyEight, ending a short-lived but turbulent stint with the site launched by Nate Silver earlier this year.

Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, told Discover Magazine that after editors at the site “showed some reluctance” in publishing his work, he told FiveThirtyEight managing editor Mike Wilson that “it was probably best that we part ways.”

Pielke’s time at FiveThirtyEight got off to a stormy start shortly after the site went live in March. In his first piece for the site, Pielke wrote that the increased cost of natural disasters is not the result of climate change β€” a premise that was heavily criticized.

Pielke wrote a follow-up to that article two days later, and Silver commissioned a rebuttal the following week. But Pielke only wrote three more pieces for the site after that, all of which focused on sports and not climate.

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The fallout was compounded after two climate scientists who criticized the article, Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, came forward citing emails Pielke sent them.

“Once again, I am formally asking you for a public correction and apology,” Pielke wrote to Trenberth in an email, which was shared with the Huffington Post in March. “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 called the criticism “pretty coarse and perhaps even libelous” in his email to Trenberth, and he used similar language in his email to Mann.

“I see you quoted in the media characterizing my work, and in light of your ongoing lawsuit related to libel, I want to make sure that you have been quoted correctly,” Pielke said in the email, which was provided to TPM by Mann.

Pielke went on to cite three instances in which he claimed Mann engaged in “false and potentially libelous smears.”

Pielke said the idea that he was making a threat was “ridiculous,” insisting, “I do not threaten.” But Silver nevertheless apologized, telling HuffPost that “Roger’s conversations with [Mann and Trenberth] did not reflect FiveThirtyEight’s editorial values.”

In his interview with Discover, Pielke lamented that Silver and company didn’t give him more support. He said that he hasn’t “spoken with or corresponded with Nate since that first piece.”

“Of course, I do wish that 538 had shown a bit more editorial backbone, but hey, it is his operation,” Pielke said.

When reached for comment by email on Monday night, Pielke indicated that he was not pleased with TPM’s reporting on his time at FiveThirtyEight.

“Given your past work I’m not very inclined, but if you’d like to send some questions by email I’ll take a look,” Pielke said.

TPM reported in March on Silver’s decision to commission a rebuttal to Pielke’s piece, as well as his feud with Mann and Trenberth.

After reviewing TPM’s questions about his time with FiveThirtyEight, Pielke opted to take a pass.

Hi Tom-

This is a lot of drama, which I’m not really interested in, so I’ll pass, leaving my thoughts to that posted today at Discover. Instead, you might track down Mann and Trenberth to follow up on that alleged “lawsuit” πŸ˜‰

I’ve had pieces out recently in he Financial Times, USA Today, the Guardian and Sporting Intelligence. Do let me know if you have any question about any of the analyses in those.

Otherwise, best wishes,


Silver did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.

This post has been updated.

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