By Ran Aubrey Frazier
Originally published on Advocate.com March 20 2014 8:27 PM ET
The new version of out statistician and writer Nate Silver's website FiveThirtyEight went live Monday, and so far the reviews have been pretty dismal. The site, which covers politics, economics, science, life, and sports, drew some of its sharpest criticism for hiring a controversial science writer, Roger Pielke Jr.
Silver's choice of Pielke, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, met with some disapproval because of Pielke's views on climate change. "It is rather disappointing to see [Silver] hire for his new venture an individual who has displayed a pattern of sloppiness when it comes to the analysis of climate data," climate scientist Michael Mann wrote to the website Think Progress. Some critics say Pielke intentionally downplays the severity of climate change and the extent of its impact on the planet.
Recently, Pielke differed publicly with President Obama's senior adviser on science and technology, John Holdren, over the role of climate change in the current drought in the western U.S. Holdren asserted that climate change is definitely worsening the drought, a view that Pielke called "zombie science." Holdren responded that Pielke was bolstering his argument with statements that were "irrelevant" and "seriously misleading."
Other leading climate scientists, such as James Annan, have also faulted Pielke's work. Annan once wrote, "There's obviously a simple conceptual misunderstanding underlying Roger's attempts at analysis." Pielke's efforts for FiveThirtyEight will undoubtedly continue to be scrutinized in the coming weeks, along with the site's performance overall.
Silver, a former Out 100 honoree, gained a high profile with his statistics-driven political analyses and seemingly uncanny ability to accurately predict electoral outcomes, including the margin of victory. The New York Times hosted his blog for several years but sold it last year to ESPN, which promised him greater resources for when he relaunched it.