Texas’s state climatologist suggests ‘hierarchy of credibility’ could help public sort out competing climate science claims.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Dec. 3, 2012 — Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, addressing a climate education session during AGU’s fall meeting, outlined what he calls a “hierarchy of credibility” he hopes the public can use in evaluating climate science claims.

Least credible of all, Nielsen-Gammon told a meeting, are “talking heads” populating television programming. A notch above them are press releases, he advises.

Next comes an individual study, and above that comes a whole series of studies supporting the earlier findings.

The “gold standard” in climate credibility, in Nielsen-Gammon’s book, is a report from the National Academy of Sciences.

Nielsen-Gammon, a Texas A&M faculty member who is the Texas state climatologist, said “the more unexpected the results of a study are, the more likely the study is to be incorrect.” But he noted too a propensity for many in the news media to find those “most unexpected” studies to be the most newsworthy, so they’re often the studies that get the most attention … even though they’re the least likely to stand up under the rigorous scrutiny of further review and testing.

Nielsen-Gammon, who said he generally has found state climatologists to be largely unpoliticized, offers this advice for his climate science and state climatologist colleagues and counterparts: “Be, in practice and reality, a reliable and apolitical source of climate information.”

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