Unstaining Al Gore’s good name, Part 1: The NYT’s false “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” charge began with a false charge by Pielke

In all the hubbub about George Will’s falsehood-filled columns and Andy Revkin’s equation of Al Gore with George Will in the New York Times, one simple fact has been a largely overlooked:

Contrary to Revkin’s assertions, Former Vice President Al Gore is not guilty of “exaggeration,” let alone “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.”

Having communicated at length with Gore’s staff and Revkin, I will show that not only did Gore do nothing worthy of the NYT‘s criticism, but in fact he acted honorably and in the highest traditions of science journalism. Contrary to the impression left by Revkin in his February 24, “News Analysis” piece, “In Debate on Climate Change, Exaggeration Is a Common Pitfall,” Gore and his team work overtime to accurately represent the data and the science.

Gore is very careful in his use of language, more careful than the NYT — and far more careful than the man who initiated the indefensible charge, Roger Pielke, Jr. As Dylan Otto Krider wrote at

It was Pielke who provided Revkin with his Gore infraction to “balance out” his article on Will to allow Revkin to say “both sides do it”….

As we will see in this two-parter, Revkin’s case is so weak, so nonexistent, that it rests almost entirely on his interpretation — on his indefensible overinterpretation — of one word by Gore, a word that Revkin didn’t even include in his article for reasons that will soon be obvious to all.

Part 1 focuses on how Pielke started all this by fabricating a bunch of baseless charges against Gore and smeared the good name of thousands of scientists.

To undestand what Gore was saying — as opposed to what Revkin and Pielke assert Gore was saying — we need some history.


DisastersIn Gore’s famous climate slide show, he discusses the science on the connection between human-caused climate change and extreme weather. Kalee Kreider, Mr. Gore’s spokeswoman on environmental matters, explained some of the history in an email that Revkin published in a blog post (here):

I can confirm that historically, we used Munich Re and Swiss Re data for the slide show. This can be confirmed using a hard copy of An Inconvenient Truth. (It is cited if you cannot recall from the film which is now several years old!). We became aware of the CRED database from its use by Charles Blow in the New York Times (May 31, 2008). So, it’s a very new addition.

We have found that Munich Re and other insurers and their science experts have made the attribution. I’m referring you particularly to their floods section/report [link, link] Both of these were published in a series entitled “Weather catastrophes and climate change–Is there still hope for us.”

Revkin notes that this figure was based on data “from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (also called CRED) at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels.”

Kalee explained to me that Gore’s office did a number of things to ensure the validity of making the overall argument that human emissions are in the process of helping to increase the frequency and severity of extreme weather catastrophes — and the validity of using this figure in that context.

[Note: Kalee is a long-time friend.]

First, the Gore folks contacted CRED to get their report, Annual Disaster of Statistical Review: The Numbers and Trends 2007. On page xiii of the Executive Summary, the report reviews the evidence that in 2007 many regions of the world “experienced some history making hydro-meteorological disaster” and states:

Although if the above mentioned trends are consistent with the conclusions of the IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) fourth assessment report — stating that climate change is likely to affect the severity, frequency, and spatial distribution of extreme climatic events such as hurricanes, storm surges, floods and droughts — the linking of past trends in the EM-DAT figures and to climate change needs to remain guarded.

Indeed, justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one — even if it impact on the figures will likely become more evident in the future. The task of identifying the possible impact of the climate change on the EM-DAT figures is complicated by the existence of several concomitant factors.

So the CRED folk say that “climate change is probably an actor in this increase” in hydro-meteorological disaster currents and impacts in recent years, as the IPCC says the scientific literature predicts, but note that it is not the major factor — though it is a growing one.

Second, the Gore folks monitored the NYT to see if CRED was critical of how Blow used their slide. If you read Blow’s 2008 piece, “Farewell, Fair Weather,” you will see that he uses the figure to help make his case:

We are now firmly ensconced in the Age of Extreme Weather….

Who do we have to thank for all this? Probably ourselves.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued reports concluding that “human influences” (read greenhouse-gas emissions) have “more likely than not” contributed to this increase. The United States is one of the biggest producers of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Furthermore, a White House report about the effect of global climate change on the United States issued Thursday (years late and under court order) reaffirmed that the situation will probably get worse….

This surge in disasters and attendant costs is yet another reason we need to declare a coordinated war on climate change akin to the wars on drugs and terror. It’s a matter of national security.

But CRED never issued any complaint about how their data was being used. So if CRED had a problem with using that chart to argue that human emissions were contributing to weather-related disasters, and that “we are now firmly ensconced in the Age of Extreme Weather,” they kept it to themselves.

Third, the Gore folks stayed on top of the scientific literature. And two major, highly credible reports were released in 2008. The first, in June, was by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (aka the Bush Administration) Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, detailed a clear increase in extreme weather even in North America. It pointed out:

Certain aspects of observed increases in temperature extremes have been linked to human influences. The increase in heavy precipitation events is associated with an increase in water vapor, and the latter has been attributed to human-induced warming.

In short, much of the rise in extreme weather events has been scientifically attributed to human-caused climate change.

In November, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change released a report, “Physical and socio-economic trends in climate-related risks and extreme events, and their implications for sustainable development,” which detailed a clear increase in extreme weather events around the globe. It published a figure that

shows an increase in climate and weather-related disasters over the last five decades compared with a relatively constant level of geological and geophysical disasters. The figure shows a clear distinction between geological disasters, which have remained fairly constant in number, and climate-related disasters, which have increased decade after decade. One possible explanation is that climate change has influenced the increase in climate-related disasters, and it is certainly set to be a more powerful force as it continues and accelerates.


On February 13, Gore gave his talk at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in which he used the slide. The video is here and the slide is at minute 7.

You’ll probably end up watching the whole video a few times because you’ll find it hard to believe how Pielke spun a perfectly reasonable presentation into a vicious assault not just on Gore, but on the integrity of the hundreds of scientists in the audience. You’ll find it even harder to believe Revkin swallowed this hook, line, and sinker.

When Gore shows the slide, “after a sequence of images of people from Iowa to South Australia struggling with drought, wildfire, flooding and other weather-related calamities,” he says:

This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.

Significantly, Gore does not state what “This” is.

You may choose to infer that “This” is “global warming” but Gore didn’t say that nor is global warming ever close to being an immediate antecedent. A listener might easily think he was saying that the growth in floods, droughts, heatwaves and fires that he has been discussing separately over the last few minutes, many of which, as he says, have been linked to factors that are worsened by global warming, were combining to help create the overall trend in weather-related disasters that the CRED figure shows. There is simply no way of knowing for certain without asking Gore, which nobody bothered doing.

Why does this matter? Because it is almost entirely on the basis of the word “This” that Roger Pielke, Jr. slammed the entire audience of scientists for being “collaborators” in “the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain” and on which Andy Revkin is hanging his claim that Gore is “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.”

Let me be very clear here — I have already argued (see here and below) that it would hardly have been unreasonable if Gore had said “Global warming is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.” That is a scientifically plausible statement. And no doubt that is the close to (but not precisely) the impression his overall presentation here is meant to leave, as we will see. But it isn’t what he said when showing this specific slide.

In short, there is no “smoking gun” language in Gore’s talk on which to justify the extreme measure of the New York Times staining his reputation.

And if any person on the planet deserves NOT to have words put in his mouth, NOT to be attacked for words he never uttered, that would be Al “never said he invented the internet” Gore [I’ll have more to say on this in Part 2].

And all this makes what happens next doubly absurd.

On February 15, two days after the talk, our old friend Roger Pielke, Jr, wrote a blog post titled, “Not A Peep from Scientists” in which he quoted the CRED report just as I did and then not only sharply criticized Gore for using that slide to make his argument, not only attacked Gore for supposed “blatantly” misleading the audience with “scientific untruths,” but attacked every single member of the audience for not objecting:

And of all of those scientists in attendance, here is a list of those who sought to set the record straight on blogs and in the media:

OK, I couldn’t find any, but if you know of any such reactions, please share in the comments…. But as the non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths shows, the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain has many willing silent collaborators.

So for Pielke the entire audience of three thousand scientists are “willing silent collaborators” in the “misrepresentation of climate science” because of their supposed “non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths” shows.

But this string of “in-your-face untruths” doesn’t exist. Please listen to the video yourself and try to find them. I challenge any credible person to find them. Remember, we aren’t talking about one or two ambiguous word choices here. You need to find a bunch of blatant in-your-face untruths.

Good luck.

Pielke writes:

In his speech Gore attributed a wide range of recent weather events to human-caused climate change including floods in Iowa, Hurricane Ike, and the Australian bush fires.

No he doesn’t. That statement by Pielke is a blatant in-your-face untruth. Gore does show a picture of Ike and say

It is the view of many scientists that the intensity of hurricanes is affected by the warming issues.

That is a fact. I interviewed many such scientists for my book. Indeed, that carefully worded sentence should be a strong clue to any listener that Gore understands the science, that he understands the debates over what can and can’t be attributed directly to global warming right now, and is working hard not to make any inaccurate statements.

Gore doesn’t attribute the 500-year flood in Iowa to human-caused climate change. He does refer to the “heat that puts more moisture into the atmosphere that causes longer downpours,” but that is such a well-confirmed impact of warming that even the Bush report cited above acknowledges it.

As for bushfires, Gore says the fires have “ignited a nationwide debate that is very much focused on global warming.” That is also a fact. Many Australians who are suffering through a once-in-a-thousand year drought make the climate connection explicitly. For instance, Australia’s climate change minister Penny Wong recently said, “All of this is consistent with climate change, and with what scientists told us would happen” (see “Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in”).

So far the non-response of the audience to Gore’s quite reasonable statements does not seem very shocking at all. They heard what Gore said, not what Pielke claimed he said.

It is quite clear that Gore is not attributing every single extreme event that he shows to climate change — that is clear from his wording. Gore is making a statistical argument that we are seeing more extreme weather events and more intense (i.e. record-breaking) weather events — which is why he has so many “anecdotal” or individual extreme weather event slides — and that “many can be linked to factors that are worsened by human emissions.”

How do I know this is the case Gore is making? Because I went to the page (102) in the book An Inconvenient Truth where Gore has his original figure from Munich Re and other insurers (whose “science experts have made the attribution” of rising extreme events to climate change as Kalee explained to Revkin). Gore writes of ” hurricanes, floods, drought, tornadoes, wildfires,” and says:

Many can be linked to factors that are worsened by global warming.

All this is quite in the mainstream of scientific analysis. And has been for a long time.

As far back as 1995, published analysis by the U.S. National Climatic Data Center showed that over the course of the 20th century, the United States had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events, the very ones you would expect from global warming, such as more — and more intense — precipitation. That analysis concluded the chances were only “5 to 10 percent” this increase was due to factors other than global warming, such as “natural climate variability.” And since 1995, the climate has gotten much more extreme (see here).

So Gore did not speak a bunch of “in-your-face untruths.” He did not speak a single one. Pielke must apologize to the hundreds of scientists in the AAAS audience for the shocking attack on their scientific integrity in claiming that they were “willing silent collaborators” in “the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain.”

Pielke should remove that post and replace it with an apology.

The remaining issue — the only issue here at all really — is whether Gore’s use of the slide and specifically what he said about it, makes him “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.” It does not even come close.

For Pielke, what apparently makes Gore’s use of the CRED data an in-your-face untruth is what CRED wrote about its own dataset — which I cited above and which Pielke cites.

Two points. First, nobody in the AAAS audience could possibly have known what CRED wrote about their figure, so even if Gore had misrepresented it — which he didn’t — there can be no justification for Pielke smearing their reputation on the basis of their failure to object to what Gore said. [Of course, if they had known what CRED wrote, they still would not have had reason to object to what Gore had said about it.]

Second, Gore did not “[justify] the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change,” as CRED warns against. Just listen to the video. Gore never even uses the term climate change or global warming in conjunction with the figure. Yes, his entire talk is about global warming, but as we’ve seen, he is careful in his use of language and his attributions.

By “essentially,” CRED presumably means that you shouldn’t go around saying that global warming is the primary cause of the upward trend in hydrometeorological disaster occurrence and impacts. But Gore doesn’t go around saying that, I find no evidence he believes it, and, more to the point, he certainly didn’t do so here. While showing the slide, this is what he said:

This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented. On the left-hand side of this image you can see what used to be the norm. In recent years the increase has been quite startling. Four times as many in the last 30 years as in the previous 75. And the increases are continuing. This has a huge economic impact when you look at in the context of history of these fires. This from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. It is quite startling.

Hard to argue with that. Hard to imagine a bunch of scientists storming out the door or needing to “set the record straight on blogs and in the media,” as Pielke insists was the only conscionable action.

And again, from Gore’s perspective:

  1. CRED had written in its annual report that climate change is “probably” a factor in the trend
  2. CRED had never bothered to object to the use of that slide by Charles Blow in the New York Times to show global warming was significantly contributing to the trend in weather-related disasters.

So it is hard to see how the use of this slide and the language Gore used with it comes close to constituting “the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain” or even a single “in-your-face untruth”

This should have been a case of no-harm no-foul. But for reasons only Revkin can explain, he views Pielke as a credible source and he turned an indefensible Pielke blog post into an utterly indefensible print article in the New York Times.

In Part 2, we will see that CRED wrote an email to Pielke and Revkin in which they backtracked on what they had written in their report. But while Revkin makes a big deal of that, I will show that it is almost entirely irrelevant to the charge Revkin lays on Gore. I will show that all of Revkin’s charges are baseless.


Roger Pielke, Jr.’s indefensible smear against Gore and thousands of the leading scientists in the country is utterly beyond the pale — even for the blogosphere. Many in the media seem to view Pielke as a credible, middle-of-the road guy on climate, when he is the opposite of that. I’m hoping that those in the mainstream media who see what he did here will now realize he is a non-credible source who may spin them into the kind of blunder Revkin made.

58 Responses to Unstaining Al Gore’s good name, Part 1: The NYT’s false “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” charge began with a false charge by Pielke

  1. jorleh says:

    It´s a rather long story and there are few denier-rogues who are able to read or understand so large amount of facts. As said, one sentence of lies takes a long article to correct that sentence with science.

  2. john says:

    Once again, the “balance” meme contributes to false equivalencies and gross inaccuracies. And Revkin has shown himself to be the worst of the worst in this regard — he routinely shreds fact, accuracy, context and truth to satisfy his lust for balance.

    He should apologize — as well as Pielke

  3. John Richardson says:

    As a long time reader, and a Al Gore trained presenter of his slide show, I thank you again for clear scientific clarity on yet another denier talking point. You, sir, are a beacon of truth in this sea of disinformation, and I and others appreciate your efforts.

  4. Michael Jennings says:

    Since you have practiced the fine art of censorship on Mr. Pielke Jr., I will post this link to his rebuttal vainly hoping you are man enough to post it.

  5. Tom Yulsman says:

    Former Vice President Al Gore has done more than most people to raise awareness of climate change. He is certainly to be admired and his slide show applauded. But to argue here that Gore does not tie natural disasters to global warming is to ignore the obvious.

    Romm devotes something on the order of 3,000 words — the equivalent of a magazine feature — to ultimately make the case that there is no antecedent to the word “this” in the former vice president’s speech. Because of the missing antecedent, Romm argues, Gore was not really implicating global warming in disasters. But at the same time, Romm conveniently ignores the slide immediately following Gore’s three or so minute description of natural disasters (a discussion, by the way, that takes place in the context of an entire presentation that is ultimately about global warming). That next slide details the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    [JR: Tom, it is kind of absurd to mischaracterize my entire post, when everyone can read it for themselves. Very clever of you to use the ambiguous word “implicating” — when the whole point of my piece is that no single word describes the relationship between global warming and extreme weather disasters.

    I have explained in great detail the case that Gore was making. He was “implicating” global warming as a probable contributing factor. That is what the CRED report on which he based his presentation said. The rest of your comment is irrelevant, but I will print it anyway.]

    So I guess Romm is technically correct that Gore never actually says what the word “this” refers to. And his point is actually ideal for use today in my Principles of Journalism class as an example of how something can be factually true but substantially false. Thank you Joe for helping me with class prep today.

    It’s also curious, by the way, that Romm ignores the hurricane spiraling out of the smokestack on the book and DVD versions of Inconvenient Truth.

    Accuracy is a preeminent journalistic value. But accuracy must be judged not just on the minutiae of individual words and their antecedents, but what major impressions they give readers and viewers. And to imply that viewers don’t leave Gore’s presentation thinking that natural disasters are closely tied to global warming is laughable.

    Gore does indeed pay meticulous attention to scientific detail, and his achievements on this issue are singularly impressive. But in this case, Joe, he did exaggerate. (A politician who exaggerates? I’m shocked! Simply shocked!!)

    Lastly, your continued demonization of Roger Pielke, Jr. and Andrew Revkin is unseemly and actually detracts from your credibility and your cause. I know both men well. Yes, they they occasionally make mistakes. But Roger’s motives are not as you describe them. He is devoted to helping policy makers find sensible solutions to climate change. And Andy has devoted 30 years of his life to shining a bright and revealing light on the issue of human domination of our planetary life support systems. No journalist has achieved more in raising awareness of these issues than Revkin has. So I find your continuing attacks on these honorable men are undignified and counterproductive.

    [JR: Why do you so strongly defend Pielke but ignore the smear on the integrity of the 3000 scientists who listened to Gore and did nothing whatsoever to justify Pielke character assault? Since you don’t defend it, I’ll assume you are just conceding I’m right.strong>]

  6. Robert NYC says:

    For all you fools that contend that the debate is over and ALL scientists agree on man made global warming maybe you should read a little more. The ‘proof’ you people espouse is based on assumptions, mathematical models that cannot predict next weeks weather much less next decades, a prophet named ‘Gore’ that received a C and a D in his college earth sciences courses and data collected in the modern era that is of such a short time frame it cannot be used to accurately predict global trends. In short – you frighteners are frighteningly uneducated, unscientific, cultish and just plain morons. Have a nice warm day.

  7. Joe says:

    [JR: I will post Pielke’s reply, since he does not dispute any of the relevant points. You can go to his site here for his links. I kept one to make my point — they simply don’t assert what he says they assert, which is no surprise because neither does Gore.

    Everything below in regular type is what Pielke wrote. Any comments of mine are in brackets and/or italics.

    And no, given Pielke’s fabricated assault on 3,000 leading U.S. scientists — and his refusal to retract or apologize that assault — I will not be making a habit of publishing his words here.]

    Q&A Thread to in Response to Joe Romm
    March 2nd, 2009

    Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

    Joe Romm has a post up today criticizing me as only Joe Romm can. It is full of misinformation and inaccuracies. I thought I’d open up a thread for anyone to ask direct questions of me, if they have any, in response to Romm’s allegations.

    Let me say unequivocally, the following things:

    1. Gore was right to admit that the slide was problematic and then pull it from his talk.

    [JR: Gore never admitted the slide was “problematic,” in the way Pielke is implying. He simply agreed to remove the slide after the Belgians backtracked about what they will had previously said about their data. I have talked to the Gore folks. Has Pielke?]

    2. Gore has continuing problems using the Munich Re slide to make the same point.

    [JR: Irrelevant to my expose on Pielke’s fabrications. Nor does the link refute anything Gore said at AAAS.]

    3. Munich Re has published in the peer reviewed literature arguing that attribution of disasters to GHGs is not possible at this time, most recently last week.

    [JR: Irrelevant to my expose on Pielke’s fabrications. Also, the link does not say what Pielke says it does.]

    4. An expert workshop that I co-organized with Munich Re concluded the same thing (PDF), and the results were published in Science (PDF).

    [JR: Irrelevant to my expose on Pielke’s fabrications. Also, the link does not say what Pielke says it does. If you want to waste your time, read the Science article and please tell me where it says that AGW is not a contributing factor to the recent growth in extreme weather. It does say, “In coming decades, the number of people at risk from extremes will very likely grow, and extreme weather will likely increase” — citing the IPCC report. Duh! Gore is merely saying — as his Kalee emailed to Revkin — that based on his reading of the literature and “As the result of briefings from top scientists, Vice President Gore believes that we are beginning to see evidence of that now.”]

    5. There are no peer-reviewed papers documenting a link between GHG emissions and the long-term trend in disasters.

    [JR: There are many peer-reviewed papers saying that the frequency and/or intensity of some extreme weather disasters are linked to GHGs. I have repeatedly posted links to those. Gore (and I) have spoken to many scientists who agree with that view. I have explained the argument Gore was making, and it is a perfectly plausible one to make.]

    6. In the United States extreme events have actually declined over the long-term, not increased.

    [JR: I have previously debunked Pielke on this claim, which, in any case, his link does not prove — see “Sorry, delayers & enablers, Part 2: Climate change means worse droughts for SW and world.”]

    7. I will not parse the meaning of the word “this” as Joe Romm wants to do. The science on this subject is clear and unambiguous.

    [JR: I take this as a concession that my analysis cannot be disputed. You can listen to Gore’s video yourself.]

    8. I have been banned from Joe Romm’s blog, so I cannot post this link there, so if a reader would do so, I would be obliged.

    I trust that readers can see what Joe says, see what I say, and come to their own informed judgments about what to believe. If you have any questions, please ask me. I am perfectly happy to discuss any and all aspects of this issue, including the various technical details of the many peer-reviewed research papers that I have on this subject.

    [JR: Please note that he doesn’t devote a single word to refuting my charge that his assault on the character of the 3,000 scientists in the audience was beyond the pale. So indeed that assault was indefensible. Gore was very careful in his word choice — because he has an understanding of the issue and a message that is far more nuanced and justifiable than Pielke asserts. Again, listen to Gore’s talk for yourself. The reason no one in the audience objected to what Gore said, is because nothing he said it was scientifically objectionable, as I have shown.]

  8. jae says:

    Well, it’s hard to get excited about this. Wasn’t Gore’s whole “show” questioned by even the British Court, who pointed out some 11(?) major errors? It’s hard for me to believe anything Gore says.

  9. Kkloor says:

    Joe, I have made the case here ( that your prior rants against Revkin are unhinged.

    I’d now argue that your continuing vendetta against anyone who supposedly stains Al Gore’s name has gone beyond unseemly. It’s starting to look like a jihad from a fanatic.

  10. Gail says:

    Joe, I find your continuing “attacks” on Roger Pielke, Jr. and Andrew Revkin to be essential and enlightening. I am thankful someone as erudite as you is devoted to exposing their very deliberate twisting of science, and countering the smears on Al Gore.

    So keep it up, please. I look forward to part II.

  11. John Hollenberg says:


    In response to a lawsuit, a British court examined the issue and found that on the whole, Gore’s presentation was solidly supported by the scientific evidence. They found 11 specific points where there was some question about the details, and thus included these areas for classroom discussion. The court upheld the validity of the vast majority of the information presented. Hardly a win for the deniers.

  12. Jason says:


    I just want to make sure I understand your position.

    1. Do you believe that Al Gore has NOT repeatedly attempted to link natural disasters to global warming?

    2. Do you believe that members of AAAS are NOT reluctant to criticize perceived scientific accuracies from Al Gore and other global warming crusaders out of fear that their comments could be used by those who oppose political action?

  13. Dana says:

    Pielke seems to have a one-track mind on this issue. He’s determined to show that there is no conclusive evidence that global warming has caused an increase in extreme weather events, and ignores the fact that Gore never claimed otherwise – which is the whole point!

    It’s a classic strawman argument.

  14. paulm says:

    Interesting graphic…

    Weather and mortality

    Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes get the attention-grabbing headlines when a natural disaster kills people in the U.S. Yet heat waves, cold winter weather, severe thunderstorm winds, and flooding all killed more people in the U.S. between 1970 and 2004, according to a December 2008 article published by Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina. Tornadoes and lightning were tied for fifth place, and Hurricanes and earthquakes tied for eighth place.

    However, had this study extended one more year into 2005, the roughly 1800 hurricane deaths from Hurricane Katrina would have vaulted hurricane deaths into third place, behind heat wave deaths and cold weather deaths. The study also showed that people living in rural areas were most likely to die from a natural disaster than those living in cities.

  15. jae says:



    In response to a lawsuit, a British court examined the issue and found that on the whole, Gore’s presentation was solidly supported by the scientific evidence. They found 11 specific points where there was some question about the details, and thus included these areas for classroom discussion. The court upheld the validity of the vast majority of the information presented. Hardly a win for the deniers.”

    HUH? Can you please provide a decent reference for this interpretation?

  16. Tom Yulsman says:


    It really is hard to take you seriously given your repeated, over-heated, emotional, and undignified use of words like “vicious attack,” “smear” and “fabrication.” But I will try…

    [JR: Spare me the fake outrage, Tom. What about your “over-heated, emotional, and undignified use of words like “sensationalism and hyperbole” to describe of “much of his work at Climate Progress.”

    You can criticize my arguments, but not my language.

    Second, I take it you are defending Pielke’s attack on the integrity of the 3,000 scientists in the A.A.A.S. audience. If so, then I think my readership will understand that you are an extreme Pielke partisan from the same university that can’t be objective at all.]

    Please accept my apologies if I misunderstood your post. It is a little difficult to read through a feature-length post and figure out exactly what your point is. On the one hand you go on at length about how there probably IS a link between global warming and natural catastrophes, and then on the other hand you go on at length about how Gore did not say there was such a link. So Gore was right to highlight a link but he did not actually highlight a link. Huh? What am I missing Joe?

    [JR: You are a smart guy, I’m told, and this isn’t very hard. The scientific literature and many scientists have made a link between global warming and extreme weather events. It is possible to accurately state what that link is, which I argue Gore has done. It is possibly to inaccurately state what that link is — intentionally or unintentionally. Pielke and Revkin are arguing that he has intentionally inaccurately stated what the link is. But they have no case. In this particular slide show, on this particular slide, they have to hypothesize precisely what Gore was saying because they don’t know. I am saying you can’t trash someone’s integrity on a blog, and most certainly not in the New York Times, on the basis of hypothesizing what they said, especially when they have been so careful in word choice throughout.]

  17. John Hollenberg says:


    Here is the reference, straight from the climate experts:

  18. Brewster says:


    Much as I’m on your side, and I honestly believe that violent weather is directly tied to GW, I did find this “feature length post” rather difficult to follow.

    I’m still not sure what Gore did or didn’t do, should or shouldn’t have done, and what Pielke is really up to…

    [JR: Sorry I wasn’t clearer. I will try to be so in the next post. I would not use the word “directly” myself.]

  19. Gail says:

    Tome and Joe,

    If I may, I think the point is that yes, it is obvious emissions are tied to climate change, of which violent weather is a part. I can say that, and Joe can say that. But Al Gore, when presenting the science, cannot say that and DOES NOT say that because, that isn’t the way science works.

    Look at it this way. Plate tectonics and evolution are still “theories” too.

    Does anybody here want to dispute they are true?

  20. Gail says:

    Sorry, Tom not tome!

  21. ken levenson says:

    Joe, Great stuff.

    Seeing Pielke referenced in print gives me the same feeling I get seeing Dick Morris spew forth with political “analysis” on TV. I stupidly thought a sense of shame would be restored in our post-Bush world. And while stunned, I’m left to wonder: Why Andy? Why?

  22. Dano says:

    When Benny Peiser is supporting you, it is time to rethink your strategy; such is the place where RP Jr is right now. And Roger’s obsession with whatever it is he is obsessed with is fascinating.

    Nonetheless, I’m reminded of a line from an Ursula K LeGuin book: “To oppose something is to maintain it.”. Ignoring Roger, IMHO, is much more potent medicine than a feature-length article that allows him to fluff his feathers and preen.



  23. Aaron d says:

    Great post. I find it funny that they (Pielke and the like) are still trying to argue the link between climate change and increased natural disasters, especially hurricanes. The literature on the subject is fairly conclusive. One might even call it a “consensus.” (I know deniers hate this word :-) ). Do a quick scientific literature search on the subject, you won’t be disappointed by the numbers of papers on this subject. The overall scientific message on the subject hasn’t changed for over 10 years, funny its still trying to be debated.

  24. Andrew says:

    Jeff Master’s latest blog on the Weather Underground web site has a great graphic illustrating weather related mortality world wide. He also has a great discussion regarding heat versus cold related deaths. I also think it interesting that recent work on the flu virus points to low indoor winter humidity rather than cold as one of the reasons for a wintertime flu season.

  25. Tom Yulsman says:


    Whether natural catastrophes such as floods and hurricanes are linked to global warming is not on the same theoretical scale as plate tectonics and evolution. The former is a hypothesis, the later two are major scientific paradigms.

    We also have the climate change paradigm, which very broadly states that more greenhouse gases = a warmer world, with a host of attendant fallout, some of it better documented than other aspects. One hypothesis under the climate change paradigm is that losses from floods, hurricanes etc. are going up dramatically because of global warming. There are solid scientific reasons to believe that this is a very credible hypothesis, and it is something many scientists believe may be happening now. But the scientific evidence simply does not solidly support that idea yet. It may well be happening now, but scientists cannot yet find the signal.

    Roger Pielke, Jr. believes the science should be stated correctly (especially since he has played a major role in looking for the signal). And evidently so does Al Gore, since he removed the offending slide. But why Joe Romm and others have mounted such an unseemly attack on Pielke, as well as Andrew Revkin, who makes mistakes but has done more to advance understanding of climate change than any other journalist, is beyond me.

    In case anyone is interested, Boulder is a hotbed of climate change research, and within this community, Roger Pielke, Jr. is not widely regarded as he seems to be on liberal blogs. I worked with him on an interdisciplinary NSF project called “Carbon, Climate and Society,” and I know him well. I think I understand why he puts some people off — because the job of a policy scholar like Roger is in part to challenge cherished assumptions with the goal of advancing effective policy making. It’s very uncomfortable to be challenged. And that’s the whole idea, because if we don’t challenge our assumptions we may head down blind alleys. But I honestly don’t understand why people demonize him. I find it alarming, actually.

  26. jae says:


    “Here is the reference, straight from the climate experts:”

    LOL, I thought so!

  27. Andy Gunther says:

    As somebody who was trained to give Gore’s presentation, and who was in the audience at the AAAS meeting, a couple of notes.

    1. Joe, thanks for defending those in attendance. However, I really don’t care what Roger Pielke thinks of me…his focus on this single issue is just more media foolishness.

    2. In Chicago Gore just pointed out, using effective graphics as usual, that many respected scientific sources expect extreme weather events to become more common in our future, and available data suggests this already may be happening.

    3. Nobody should underestimate Gore’s grasp of the science. At my training we had a day with Gore and Richard Alley to go over the science. Alley was there in case questions were asked that Gore could not handle (many trained scientists were in the audience). Alley only had to weigh in a couple of times in 8 hours.

  28. John Hollenberg says:

    > LOL, I thought so!

    A denier, as I suspected. Asking the climate scientists about climate science makes sense to the rest of us.

  29. Gail says:

    Well Tom, you are kind of restating my point. There isn’t enough empirical evidence and research, yet, for scientists to link a particular weather event to global climate change, and that is why Al Gore didn’t do that, as Joe so meticulously demonstrated, and why he shouldn’t be accused of doing so by those two pillars of veracity you defend.

    And you are right to distinguish, from a scientific point of view, the difference between the level of scientific certainty about evolution and plate tectonics vs. climate change.

    However, from a common sense viewpoint, which is mine, since I’m no scientist, the validity of climate change is just as clear as the other theories. I can remember in college (long long ago!) being taught about plate tectonics and being given all sorts of warnings from the Prof. that it was just a theory at that point. Which struck me as ridiculous because just between all the continents fitting together like pieces of a puzzle and volcanic island chains it was so obviously true.

    Maybe that’s why I’m not a scientist…

  30. Fred Jorgensen says:

    Tom Yulsman got it right.
    Perhaps cataclysmic AGW is real, perhaps not.
    However, there’s no doubt that Al Gore runs a carefully crafted,
    political spin machine!
    His intentions are obviously good, but his righteous end seem
    to justify dubious means.

  31. John Hollenberg says:

    It seems that Joe’s post touched a nerve, with all of the deniers coming out of the woodwork to post here on Climate Progress. You must be doing something right, Joe, to be worthy of so much attention from them. Keep up the good work!

  32. Aaron d says:

    Fred, I think you misinterpreted Tom’s point. He does nothing to refute AGW, just some of the causal links that are being drawn from it in Gore’s now famous ‘slide.’ Which IMO are supported by the current scientific literature on the subject.

  33. Jim says:

    >>the whole point of my piece is that no single word describes the relationship between global warming and extreme weather disasters.

    I have explained in great detail the case that Gore was making. He was “implicating” global warming as a probable contributing factor.

  34. Aaron d says:

    You use slander to describe Gore, sealing the “road” you will travel. The difference is that Gore has the science to back up the “disaster” that is being created by us.

    Its also not about “whomever ends up being right.” Its about when those ignoring the science, will wake up and make the tough decisions to help preserve this world.

    I’m not sure if most of the public knows, but the “debate” is largely in the public arena. The vast majority of scientists are in agreement on the science.

  35. Jason says:

    Pielke has done a pretty good job of providing references to peer reviewed articles that support his position.

    [JR: None of them support his position. He just says they do. Please provide links and direct citations.]

    Many people here seem convinced that global warming has been shown to increase natural disasters. If you had to select a single peer reviewed article that most clearly establishes this link, which one would you select? Could you provide a reference?

  36. Jim says:

    WOW, I quoted JR to refute his basic contention and all the gets published is my quoting him. Al Gore has made about $100 million off this. Doesn’t that make him at least a little suspect?

  37. Fred Jorgensen says:

    Aron D:
    We should expect the highest standards and exactitude from the
    science consensus that claim the high ground.
    The data is too uncertain to claim the broad implication Al Gore is
    making, and we shouldn’t have to perform ‘Slick Willy Clinton’ parsing
    of words from a scientific spokesperson.
    Of course this has little to do with supporting or refuting AGW.
    Deniers sometimes play dirty; scientists that claim objectivity should not.

  38. Aaron d says:


    I agree! The data however is matter of opinion I guess. While doing a literature search for myself through webofscience regarding hurricanes and climate change, the vast majority of publications point towards increased intensity and periodicity of hurricanes for most of the worlds ocean basins. How much of this has already happened, I cannot say. But I find it misleading to argue past changes when the science about future changes is largely in agreement. I say this because, on the majority of blogs discussing this matter, it turns into more of discussing the validity of the link between climate change and increased catastrophic weather events, not whether we’ve seen the evidence already. I do think Joe has shown, that the Gore groups fact checking efforts were far above and beyond any of the common denier media pieces.

  39. Wes Rolley says:

    I would suggest that anyone who wants to understand the political and sociological relationships between the scientists involved in analyzing our climate collapse and it’s relationship to extreme weather events should start with Chris Mooney’s Storm World. It is a great example of what science journalism should be but unfortunately far too often does not even come close.

  40. Dano says:

    The data is too uncertain to claim the broad implication Al Gore is making, and we shouldn’t have to perform ‘Slick Willy Clinton’ parsing of words from a scientific spokesperson. Of course this has little to do with supporting or refuting AGW. Deniers sometimes play dirty; scientists that claim objectivity should not.

    Whoa, Nelly.

    Your argumentation conflates Algore with scientists. Thus your argument falls flat.

    Stick to Algoooooore’s interpretation of the empirical evidence, or quote from the empirical evidence. Don’t conflate one with the other. Thank you in advance for tightening up your argumentation so it actually makes sense.



  41. Fiskur says:

    “For all you fools that contend that the debate is over and ALL scientists agree on man made global warming maybe you should read a little more.”

    Who are you talking to? No one ever claimed the debate is over in every single respect and no one ever claimed that “ALL scientists” agree on AGW.

    “The ‘proof’ you people espouse is based on assumptions, mathematical models that cannot predict next weeks weather much less next decades, …”

    Try to figure out the difference between weather and climate and then get back to me.

    “…a prophet named ‘Gore’ that received a C and a D in his college earth sciences courses…”


    “…data collected in the modern era that is of such a short time frame it cannot be used to accurately predict global trends.”

    How many years of data do you want? Pick a number. I guess I can say that you are “frighteningly uneducated, unscientific, cultish …” etc.

    Now YOU have a nice day.

  42. Aaron d says:


    Please come back when you’ve read the relevant science regarding the “past 10 years” of global temperature data. When compared to 1998, yes the last 10 years show only a marginal increase. But 98 was one of the hottest (if not the hottest- don’t have source handy) years on record. To have the last 10 years only marginally higher, is not the trivial fact you make it out to be.

    And its not just a .01 degree per decade. We’re on course for 5-7 degrees C in 2100. Do the math, that’s .56 to .78 degrees per decade for the next 9 decades. Not a trivial amount by any means. To put it into perspective, the difference between life and death of most corals, is 1 degree C. Corals thrive only 1 degree from their thermal tolerance but raise the temp much over 30 degrees C for any long period of time and the corals will bleach and can die.

  43. Jason says:


    Here is one of many papers (This one coauthored by Pielke) that shows that losses from hurricanes have not increased any faster than would be expected from changes in non-climate related human vulnerability.

    To my knowledge there are NO studies showing otherwise over a long time frame. (Although most methodologies agree that there is a trend if you exclude 1925 through 1950, I’m not sure what the basis for excluding such a well known period of heavy activity would be.)

    I’m surprised that the only reference supporting a link between global warming and disasters comes from Scientific American. I did expect to get a peer reviewed article on the subject. By asking folks who agree with this perspective for the best piece of evidence, I hoped to gain better insight into why so many here believe that the relationship is clear.

    [JR: Hurricane “losses” are irrelevant. Intense precipitation, for instance, has increased, as I cited. I have already provided many links in previous posts to many different extreme weather events that are rising. I’ll try to put some of them together this week.]

  44. jae says:

    And its not just a .01 degree per decade. We’re on course for 5-7 degrees C in 2100. Do the math, that’s .56 to .78 degrees per decade for the next 9 decades. Not a trivial amount by any means. To put it into perspective, the difference between life and death of most corals, is 1 degree C. Corals thrive only 1 degree from their thermal tolerance but raise the temp much over 30 degrees C for any long period of time and the corals will bleach and can die.

    I can’t do that math. It must be some type of neo-math.

  45. MarkB says:


    I’ve seen this study before and I’ve been meaning to look at it more closely. The implication or spin behind the study is that there’s no relation to global warming and hurricanes. Financial damage isn’t the best indicator, since it requires normalizing the data to societal trends, as Pielke et al attempt to do, and I think it varies wildly with assumptions. So it’s arguably appropriate to change “probably” to “possibly” given the difficulties in making this connection.

    While the Pielka group normalize based on population, a missing ingredient appears to be the fact that efforts to mitigate damage have improved over the last century, through a variety of actions, such as much better meteorlogical forecasts and warnings, the building of levees (yeah, I know it failed during Katrina) and resistant buildings. The study mentions the latter factor as a shortcoming but appears to underplay it.

    Let’s assume for a moment their normalization is sound. Note that their study only covers U.S. hurricane damage. It would be interesting to see how this scales globally. Remember, the regional temperature trend for the U.S. has noticeable differences with the global trend. The 1930’s were on par with the 1990’s, for instance but globally, the 1990’s were much warmer. So I took data from one of the normalization techniques from the Pielke study (columns 1 (decade) and 3 (damage) below) and calculated the average annual mean temperature for the U.S. for that decade (column 2), then sorted the data by decadal mean temperature anomaly. From this analysis, the trend is more clear. There’s a fairly strong correlation between U.S. mean temperature and hurricane damage, using their normalization procedure. The correlation coefficient is 0.78.

    1916-1925 -0.12 2638
    1966-1975 -0.12 5947
    1906-1915 -0.1 6775
    1976-1985 -0.08 3734
    1956-1965 0.04 9100
    1946-1955 0.22 11255
    1936-1945 0.27 10833
    1926-1935 0.27 20690
    1986-1995 0.4 8652
    1996-2005 0.56 19868

    This has implications for the future. Clearly, we’re going to see much warmer global temperatures going forward, and U.S. temperatures, while varying much more than the global trend, will ultimately follow.

    Anyone is free to use this analysis (no permission needed).

  46. Jason says:

    Mark B,

    I thought of that for the first time as I was writing my previous post. 1934 is still tied with 1998 for warmest year in the past century according to Hansen’s analysis of US temperatures. There was also a significant increase in many arctic temperatures at this time, and numerous reports of decreased arctic ice cover.

    This could support the notion that increased temperatures result in increased Hurricane damage.

    But it could also support the notion that natural climate variability is responsible in part for both the rise in temperatures and the increased hurricane activity that is seen during both the periods of time.

    It does continue to surprise me that the geographic pattern of global warming is such that although the world has experienced 75 years of global warming since 1934, the United States has yet to eclipse that year’s record anomaly.

  47. Dano says:



    ’34 was the warmest year IN THE U.S.

    And, somehow, you forgot to read the reports explaining the empirical evidence surrounding the talking point “natcheral var’bilty”.



  48. Steve Bloom says:

    That’s very interesting, MarkB, but would it be possible to do the same analysis based on temp trends in the hurricane-vulnerable coastal states?

  49. MarkB says:


    “But it could also support the notion that natural climate variability is responsible in part for both the rise in temperatures and the increased hurricane activity that is seen during both the periods of time.”

    There’s a much higher standard deviation in global mean temperatures at regional levels than the global level. In any given decade, the range is up to 2 C for U.S. temps (an area that makes up less than 2% of the Earth). Globally, the decadal range (land + ocean) is typically not more than 0.3 C – much smaller than the U.S. variability but large enough to confuse contrarians during ENSO cycles.

    Since the 1930’s U.S. temperatures were much warmer compared to the rest of the Earth during that period, one has to wonder what U.S. temperatures will be like if that scenario returns, given the current heat balance of the Earth.

    “It does continue to surprise me that the geographic pattern of global warming is such that although the world has experienced 75 years of global warming since 1934, the United States has yet to eclipse that year’s record anomaly.”

    Given the high standard deviation, it’s not all that surprising. As a sidenote, the 2000s have also clearly eclipsed the 1930’s in the U.S. record.


    Steve Bloom,

    It’s possible and would be a somewhat better indicator.

  50. Elaina says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  51. MrPete says:

    Joe, you say with reference to Al Gore’s talk,

    While showing the slide, this is what he said:

    “This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented. On the left-hand side of this image you can see what used to be the norm. In recent years the increase has been quite startling. Four times as many in the last 30 years…This from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. It is quite startling.”

    Hard to argue with that.

    It is quite easy to argue with that. I did so on RPjr’s blog (here and here, and CRED acknowledged I was correct. Simply put, you (and Gore) ignored what the graph actually shows: increases in reported rather than actual disasters. The historical reporting increase is largely due to better worldwide connecting technology, particularly when comparing today to mid-20th century and earlier.

    As a result, this particular argument is mostly a tempest in a teapot.

    [JR: Let me be clear — based on what CRED said in their authoritative annual report, which was the basis for Gore’s remarks, it is impossible to (credibly) argue with what Gore said — assuming you even know what he meant by “this” which you don’t.]

  52. MrPete says:

    (sorry, quote-of-quote in the above apparently doesn’t come across properly. My comment begins with “It is quite easy to argue with that.”)

  53. MrPete says:

    JR, I respectfully disagree.

    1) The CRED report only suggests climate could be a “contributing” factor. Gore’s statement is much more extreme.

    2) I don’t need to parse “this” to critique Gore’s statement. I’m not critiquing cause but effect. The graph, and the report, is only presenting disaster reports, not disasters. Gore misinterprets the data as “weather-related disasters.” It is not. The data represents disaster reports.

    Please tell me how you can credibly argue that the extreme rise in disaster reporting worldwide over the last hundred years is primarily due to any source other than the obvious and well-documented increase in communication and connection worldwide. A hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, telephone, air travel, cars and postal service were hardly universal. They only grew to ubiquity since the 1960’s. From my own research, those are the technologies that “went global” starting in the 1960’s.

    As CRED has agreed, these factors were primary until very recently. One can make other arguments for the last decade, but that’s about it.

  54. Brian S. says:

    This reader concludes from this huge post and the subsequent comments that Al Gore doesn’t deserve characterization as someone *prone* to exaggeration and misstatement. So perhaps Revkin went too far. But the discussion of the word “this” reminds me of Clinton arguing about what “is” means. Such zeal to defend Al Gore hints at biases that make me, and I suspect other readers, worry that sometimes we don’t get the full story on this (quite impressive) blog. doesn’t give me the same misgivings, probably because the climate alarmists (I’m not saying Gore qualifies as such), not just the denialists, come in for harsh criticism frequently. Gore, too, gets criticized, though at an appropriate level. For example, in reviewing a book by Mark Lynas, Eric Steig writes that Lynas is typically careful in his statements; for example, “unlike in Gore’s discussion of sea level in ‘Inconvenient Truth,’ Lynas does emphasize the long timescales (thousands of years) in this case.” (this case being Lynas’ discussion of the melting of the poles)

    I do remember sitting in the theater watching “Truth” and at that point (the sea-level rise montage) thinking, “Come on, Al, it’s scary but you’ve got to remind the viewer that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s starting to feel a little like ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ in here.”

    I do suspect Gore has modified and improved his presentation, but I do believe there were a few times when his understandable desire to warn humanity about the real crisis of global warming caused him to stretch things a bit or mischaracterize the science. Perhaps that continues today, perhaps not, I don’t know enough to say.

    Such exaggeration is very, very hard not to do; it’s also difficult to talk about anything for an hour without making several errors of fact. Steig, in a review of “Inconvenient Truth” three years ago, concluded that Gore did an “admirable” job of presenting the science accurately. Other climate scientists with whom he saw the film had a few more problems with Gore’s discussion of CO2 and temperature rise, but also seemed pleased overall.

    Better to continue to emphasize the scary climate science in the last two years and the possibly too-conservative nature of the 2007 IPCC report, as you’ve done so well on this site, than spend so much time defending Gore, IMHO. But it’s easy to be an armchair critic, so: Thanks for the great blog. And if you have blasted the left when it mischaracterizes climate science, sorry that I missed that; I’m a newcomer here.


  55. Brian S. says:

    …I also should keep my comments a little shorter if I’m going to criticize you for long posts!! sorry….


  56. JohnP says:

    I’m definitely sympathetic to the notion that there are windbags out there who are either shilling for energy companies or just like to be contrarians and will throw a thousand criticims on the wall to see which ones stick. However, in this particular case, I think Gore’s use of the chart was poorly considered.

    There are many reasons why we might see this rise in actual disasters – e.g. as somebody said, because they are reported more readily, because there are more people living closer together, because the environment has been degraded, etc. Gore was clearly inviting his audience to make a leap of logic by incorporating this graph into a discussion of climate change, which is that of all the other possibilities out there, that at least some of the credit can be given to climate change. That may or may not be true (I’d guess it probably is), but he’s clearly shoehorning a dramatic looking chart into his talk for effect, and implying if not stating explicitly, that global warming is a major reason for that effect.

    I thik your refutations of climate deniers would be more effective if you focused on more egregious offenses than the one discussed here. Clearly Pielke is a blowhard who’s harping on a relatively minor offense to distract from the larger picture, but by choosing to engage him in something that itself is fairly questionable, I think you do your more substantive points a disservice.

    p.s. Thanks for posting and I appreciated your critique of Superfreakazoidnomics.