Dana Nuccitelli & Michael Mann have posted a response to the Economist story on climate scientists' assessment of the performance of surface-temperature models. I found it very interesting and educational -- and also heartening.
The response is critical. N&M think the studies the Economist article reports on, and the article's own characterization of the state of the scientific debate, are wrong.
But from start to end, N&M engage the Economist article's sources -- studies by climate scientists engaged in assessing the performance of forecasting models over the last decade -- in a scholarly way focused on facts and evidence. Actually one of the articles that N&M rely on -- a paper in Journal of Geophysical Research suggesting that temperatures may have been moderated by greater deep-ocean absorption of carbon -- was featured prominently in the Economist article, which also reported on the theory that volcanic eruptions might also have contributed, another N&M point.
This is all in the nature of classic "conjecture & refutation"--the signature form of intellectual exchange in science, in which knowledge is advanced by spirited interrogation of alternative evidence-grounded inferences. It's a testament to the skill of the Economist author as a science journalist (whether or not the 2500-word story "got it right" in every detail or matter of emphasis) that in the course of describing such an exchange among scientists he or she ended up creating a modest example of the same, and thus a testament, too, to the skill & public spirit of N&M that they responded as they did, enabling curious and reflective citizens to form an understanding of a complex scientific issue.
Estimating the impact of the Economist article on the "science communication environment" is open to a degree of uncertainty even larger than that surrounding the impact of CO2 emissions on global surface temperatures.
But my own "model" (one that is constantly & w/o embarrassment being calibrated on the basis of any discrepancy between prediction & observation) forecasts a better less toxic, reaction when thoughtful critics respond with earnest, empirics-grounded counterpoints (as here) rather than with charged, culturally evocative denunciations.
The former approach genuinely enlightens the small fraction of the population actually trying to understand the issues (who of course will w/ curiosity and an open mind read & consider responses offered in the same spirit). The latter doesn't; it only adds to the already abundant stock of antagonistic cultural resonances that polarize the remainder of the population, which is tuned in only to the "us-them" signal being transmitted by the climate change debate.
Amplifying that signal is the one clear mistake for any communicator who wants to promote constructive engagement with climate science.