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Nye’s Quadrant

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | May 2, 2017

The scary emergence of Nye’s Quadrant in dominating the public discourse on climate change.

If you are unfamiliar with Pasteur’s Quadrant, read my previous post [link].  The focus of my previous post was on use-inspired basic research. I struggled with the 4th quadrant (lower left), which is sometimes referred to as ‘taxonomy’. In the context of climate science, I interpreted this as climate model taxonomy, which analyzed the results of climate model simulations to identify alarming future possibilities.

Nye’s Quadrant

In response to my previous post on the Science March, which mentioned Pasteur’s Quadrant, Peter Deeble tweeted this version of the Quadrant diagram:

Besides being hysterically funny, the more I thought about it, I realized how profound this is.

Apart from the twitter aspect, here are other attributes of this quadrant:

  • Second order belief – allegiance to consensus. Individual has not done primary research on the relevant topic or has not conducted an independent assessment of the evidence and research.
  • Shutting down scientific debate; science as dogma
  • Alarmism as a tactic to influence the public debate
  • Political activism and advocacy for particular policy solutions
  • Scientism: a demand that science dictate public policy
  • Advocacy research

Some recent articles on Bill Nye’s pernicious influence on the scientific debate:

And then there is Neil DeGrasse Tyson (sorry Neil, you don’t get a Quadrant named after you)

The scariest thing about this quadrant is that this is the quadrant of science that is driving the media and public debate.

Within the field of climate research itself, the quickest litmus test for the Nye Quadrant is twitter addiction (~100 tweets per day)

The group of scientists operating in the Nye Quadrant are getting really political. Unfortunately (or fortunately), they are lousy at politics.

Blair King has a very good post on this:  The climate crew: alienating allies and fighting the wrong fights.

See also:  Climate change activists are the real science deniers.

Litmus test: Bret Stephen’s recent op-ed

NYTimes recently hired an op-ed writer by the name of Bret Stephens. Mr. Stephens is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who specializes in international affairs but has also written some controversial articles about climate change.

His first op-ed was Climate of Complete Certainty.  Its actually very good. Blair King’s article provides the following summary:

Any reasonable read of Mr. Stephen’s first piece identifies some very important arguments that the climate activists have failed to address. The unrealistic confidence the climate activists have placed in their models even though those models are barely able to hindcast, let alone forecast. The growing divide between what climate scientists are saying about climate change and what the climate activists claim they are saying. Most importantly the growing disconnect between what the scientists are saying about the risks of climate change and public sentiment about the topic.

The Climatariat was not pleased. From an article by Julie Kelly:

Gavin Schmidt, a leading climate scientist and head of, has been on a Twitter bender since Friday, calling the column “pathetic. If you want ‘real conversations’ have it w/real people (& scientists) instead of cardboard cutout caricatures.” Stephens was even slammed by Andy Revkin, a climate journalist Stephens favorably cites in his column: “The column also features the kind of straw men and other familiar foils used by those more wedded to a world view or policy position than committed to a deep examination of a complex and consequential problem.” Hundreds of climate activists and science journalists slammed the Times, cancelling their subscriptions and comparing the Times to flat-earthers, creationists, and anti-vaxxers.

Many NYTimes readers are canceling their subscription over Stephens’ op-ed [link].  Stefan Rahmstorf and Ken Caldeira are canceling their subscription to the NYTimes [link]. Michael Mann also.

The NYPost has a good roundup of the hysterical responses.

Even the relatively moderate green journalists are up in arms:

And finally, a philosophical basis for canceling your NYTimes subscription over this: The righteous folly of canceling your NYTimes subscription.

Yes, of course it is fine to disagree with an op-ed, preferably with carefully formulated critiques and arguments. But trying to silence that person’s voice — a very serious journalist — over statements about climate change that don’t hew to the ‘party line’ sends you to Nye’s quadrant.
Michael Mann, Ken Caldeira, Stefan Rahmstorf, Dave Roberts, Nate Silver — welcome to Nye’s Quadrant.

JC reflections

How much do the shenanigans in Nye’s Quadrant in the name of science actually ‘matter’? Well fortunately, I don’t think these folks are very good politicians.

The issue of greatest concern is the impact all this has on the scientific community. The fame and fortune of Michael Mann — derived from Nye Quadrant tactics — is going to be tempting to some young scientists to emulate. I am already seeing hints of a few mid career climate scientists that seem ready to go full Nye.

Can we get back to the top half of the quadrant diagram, please.

May 3, 2017 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | | 3 Comments