Climate

An Introduction to Climate Progress

For any first time visitors here, this post is intended as an introduction to Climate Progress.  Tom Friedman described me in a 2008 column as

Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org.

In June 2010, Time magazine names Climate Progress one of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010″³ — and one of the “top five blogs Time writers read daily.” U.S. News & World Report featured me in their April 2009 issue as one of five “key players” who are “Driving Public Policy in Washington,” writing:

In terms of his cachet in the blogosphere, Joe Romm is something like the climate change equivalent of economist (and New York Times columnist) Paul Krugman.

Rolling Stone has a list of 100 Agents of Change of which I’m #88. The RS tagline for me is “America’s fiercest climate-change activist-blogger lets it rip.”

I am a Senior Fellow at the Washington, DC think-and-act tank run by John Podesta, the Center for American Progress, whose Action Fund sponsors this blog. You can read a longer bio here.

I try to inform and entertain here — and be a one-stop-shop for anyone who wants the inside view on climate science, solutions, and politics. A key goal is to save readers’ time, save you from wading through the sea of irrelevant information — or outright disinformation — on climate and energy that pervades the media and blogosphere.

I write from what I call a climate realist perspective — the emerging scientific view that on our current greenhouse gas emissions path we will will destroy the livability of the climate for 1,000 years. Three posts that lay out that case are:

I also spend a lot of time describing the solution(s), having run the federal program that helps develop and deploy virtually all of the key technologies. Fundamentally we have most of the needed technology now (or soon will), and avoiding catastrophe requires only a very small fraction of the nation’s and world’s wealth — one tenth of a penny on the dollar:

And I also spend a lot of time keeping readers up on the politics of energy and climate action:

And then there is the offbeat stuff:

Oh, and peak oil stuff:

And the media criticism:

And here’s one of my best written posts:

Readers can offer their thoughts again if they like — but you can also check out the comments here from my last introductory post.

If you like what you see, subscribe to my RSS feed here.

35 Responses to An Introduction to Climate Progress

  1. Harrier says:

    This blog is fantastic for the way it conveys its information: clearly and unsentimentally, but not with any tone of fatalism. I find that I can stay well-informed about all the details of the climate crisis- its peculiar effects worldwide, its potential solutions, its key players- without being overwhelmed by unhelpful dread. If you are going to follow one blog about climate change, the environment, and alternative energy in the United States, Climate Progress is it.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    Oft repeated and debunked comments which are not reality-based are censored by Joe Romm. See his comment policy. I find this most helpful as I grow weary of, on some blogs, constantly having to bat down the misinformation.

  3. Tops in my book too. Joe gives us a great resource for very current overview that includes links to source materials. Thanks so much.

  4. Tom Yulsman says:

    I’m wondering whether first time readers of Romm’s blog would really find language like that which I’ve copied below truly indispensable in understanding the complexities of climate change. I’ve strung the following words together in the order in which they appear in one of Romm’s recent blog postings — a posting in which he savages the scientist Freeman Dyson:

    shame; slanders; smears; absurdly indefensible; loopy; crackpot; outlandish; rant and rave; loopiness; slander-fest; uncivil, unjustified ravings.

    [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.” (I’m not including the link — people who really want to read the original can google it.)

    You can criticize my arguments, but not my language. But you never criticize substance of my argument. This one is easy. Dyson says of the warming isn’t global — that’s an extreme anti-scientific statement. Then Dyson says we don’t need to worry about solving global warming because we can genetically engineer carbon-engineering trees to replace our existing millions of year old eco-system. That’s what a crackpot says (look up the word).

    Do you agree that the warming isn’t global? What’s funny is that you defend Pielke’s attack on the integrity of thousands of AAAS scientists. Everyone knows that you are just a Pielke partisan.

    I urge new readers to read the entire Dyson post and judge for themselves.]

    [Snip.]

    Romm often seems incapable of that kind of intellectually honest and mature discourse.

    [I am putting you on permanent moderation for repeatedly engaging in such ad hominem attacks. The difference between you and me is that while we both engage in the strong use of language common to the blogosphere — you simply hurl the invectives without any substance and do so in defense of a do-little (i.e. Roger Pielke, Jr-esque) perspective that would, like Dyson’s and Pielke’s, ultimately lead to incalculable suffering and misery for the next hundred billion people to walk the planet. I think that blinkered view demands a strong response.]

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    Tom, not only was that a cheap shot, you’re wrong on the substance:

    Dyson, an 85-year old with a well-deserved reputation for long-past work in areas of physics having *nothing* to do with climate, went completely off the rails when he attacked the field of climate science generally and leading scientist Jim Hansen in particular for relying primarily on models. This is not true, and it would have been a trivial exercise for Dyson to confirm it before shooting his mouth off to the NY Times reporter. Had the reporter’s primary past experience been in something other than baseball (I wish I were kidding), he might have known enough to ask Dyson an appropriate follow-up question.

    In fact, climate science relies first on past climate behavior, second on modern observations, and only third on the models. The models provide important information about the possible pattern and speed of future climate change, but knowledge of the past (primarily the relationship between CO2 levels and the global climate state) and of the present rate of climate change means we don’t need to consult the models to know we’re headed for a world of trouble unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions both quickly and massively.

    For more detail on this, I recommend reading Hansen et al’s recent and accessibly-written paper “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where should humanity aim?” (NASA Science Brief here, full text of paper here here). The abstract (with the sentence proving my point bolded):

    “Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, the planet being nearly ice-free until CO2 fell to 450±100 ppm; barring prompt policy changes, that critical level will be passed, in the opposite direction, within decades. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less that. The largest uncertainty in the target arises from possible changes of non-CO2 forcings. An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.”

  6. ken levenson says:

    Joe,

    I almost fell out of my chair this morning when I saw the column – congrats! (you putting something in his water?)

    Now not only is Friedman repeatedly dissing DotEarth but he’s quoting the Washington Post!!!!! – I wouldn’t want to be in the NYTimes news room this week. ;)

    Hey, or maybe the Times could actually reflect and change – and provide meaningful and integrated coverage of climate change…..on the front pages of their paper.

    Doubt it – I think a cat-fight is more the order of the day… Gotta love Friedman for calling them on it though!

  7. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, let me add my congratulations for that ever-growing pile of well-deserved accolades. Not all that long ago I was hoping the new administration would be able to twist your arm into coming to work for them, but now I live in dread of that happening since I can’t imagine CAP finding anyone to replace you!
    ______________________________

    For new readers of this site who want to learn more, I want to suggest two key resources in addition to the indispensable Climate Progress:

    1) The RealClimate blog, which is the best source for understanding and keeping up with current climate science. Post frequency is about one per week, plus there’s an archive stretching back about five years.

    2) Jim Hansen’s e-mail list; see here for subscription instructions and links to recent e-mails. Frequency is about one every two weeks.

    Joe has other resources listed on the right side-bar.

    (Note to Joe: Speaking of resources, I’m afraid it’s time to lose the Accuweather blog, as about every third post these days has a denialist slant. You might consider replacing it with the uniformly excellent Wunderground climate blog written by Ricky Rood, formerly of NASA and currently a UMichigan prof.)

  8. Bob Wallace says:

    “shame; slanders; smears; absurdly indefensible; loopy; crackpot; outlandish; rant and rave; loopiness; slander-fest; uncivil, unjustified ravings.”

    Well, Tom. That’s our Joe.

    Just an excitable boy….

  9. DavidCOG says:

    Tom Yulsman,

    When people lie and say stupid things, it’s appropriate to call them liars and idiots. I note that you don’t address or falsify anything that Romm has written about Dyson.

    Your argument – “we must be nice otherwise we lose the argument” – is the same one that’s been levelled at PZ Myers (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/) in his assault on creationism / religion. Myers’ blog is the most popular science blog on the ‘net. He just landed a column at the Guardian. His readers evidently appreciate his straight-talking, abrasive delivery. Calling liars and idiots out for what they are is a

    No, the Deniers and the idiocy they peddle need to be exposed for what it is. Joe does that very well and does not “undermine his credibility” with his forthright delivery – quite the opposite – he enhances it.

    However, you are correct in one thing – this may not be the blog for you if you need sugar-coated false civility in order to be informed and persuaded.

  10. Magdalena Nord says:

    Joe Romm is a true American hero and a role model for anyone imagining that what they themselves do matters.

    I think a lot of lesser writers are frustrated by Romm’s truly stunning capacity for real-time critical analysis.

    U.S. readers new to Joe’s blog can easily scroll through and feel a surge of pride that such comprehensive in-depth expertise is available to the public.

    Readers abroad can, and do, note that it is unclear whether anything else even remotely approaches Climate Progress.

    Different writers will have different ideas about how to communicate effectively. But every now and then tragedy ensues when we don’t call stuff by its real name.

    Kudos to everyone going to bat for the real world, and especially to Joe Romm.

  11. Jeff Green says:

    I have been reading Joe’s column for over a year now and look forward to the daily new articles. If you enjoy spilling a little denier blood once in awhile, this is exactly the blog to do the trick.

    What stronger position can a person take is that this is what the science says. Then ask the other person what is your source? Most of the time the source is very laughable in its credibility.

    The strength of my arguments improved dramatically finding Joe’s blog.

  12. Gail says:

    I was so happy this morning with my cup of coffee when the first thing I saw was Friedman’s headline, and I knew he was putting climate change front and center again. And then I was even happier to see that he once again referenced you Joe Romm. YAY!!

    This is excellent because your blog is the clearest and most comprehensive site for climate change information, among many other worthy alternatives.

    Some fellow named Mike said this in the NYT comments:

    “For every so-called expert who says this is happening there is another so-called expert who holds that the opposite is true.”

    I don’t know if my reply will get through their moderation, so I’ll post it here too:

    “This is plainly incorrect. I urge you and any other truly open-minded reader to visit the blog Tom Friedman referred to climateprogress dot org, and read up on the actual science.

    If you become informed, you will never make a statement like that again.

    Someone once wrote that climate change was in the dot Earth ghetto and I agree. Time to put it on the front page where it belongs.”

    Congratulations ClimateProgress you are a beacon of light in topic that can be very dark and disheartening indeed.

  13. nate says:

    Nice resume :P JR is the bomb. Just discovered this gem!!!!! and its helping me make

    sense our FUBAR planet, now lets all man up and get this bitch fixed!!!!

  14. I have taught science and read the independent data from Lovelock, Revelle, Hansen and others for 20 years. It is horrifying to see the systemic changes from feedback loops in our dynamic climate system that were long predicted with computer models coming to fruition.

    Thank you for standing up and telling the truth in the face of some many skeptics who will do anything to discredit reality. “It’s hard to get a man to understand something that his livelihood depends on him not understanding.” -Sinclair

  15. Steve Bloom says:

    Joe, you should add a media criticism category to the list in the post.

    Speaking of which, I assume you must have seen Andy Revkin’s weird “tipping point” article by now. Ugh. It really begins to sound as if they’ve made a conscious decision to amp up the controversy over there. I suppose it was too much to expect that their approach to the news would be unaffected by the need to pay off that Mexican loan shark.

    [JR: I saw it. I will get to it — it is a very tricky subject. I also have to deal with the Wald piece. Too MUCH to blog on! And it’s a Sunday!]

  16. Joe says:

    I quite touched by these comments, and they are a great motivator for me to keep blogging.

    I do use strong language from time to time, especially to describe people who are actively engaged in spreading disinformation or who attack the reputations of climate scientists who are trying to wake humanity up to its mortal peril. Like anyone on the blogosphere, I can occasionally go too far, and when I do, I correct myself as quickly as possible. But in general I try to imagine what somebody in the year 2050 (or 2100) might say, assuming we don’t avert the climate catastrophe. The language I and others use is in fact quite mild compared to the bitter cursing about our myopic greed that future generations will utter.

  17. Gail says:

    Joe, your pithy and forthright analysis is one of the aspects of your writing that is so refreshing. Don’t be distracted by people who moan about your method of delivery – it’s really the content of the message they don’t want to accept. And don’t mince words, we need you to continue your sparkling critiques!

  18. Will Koroluk says:

    Anyone who is really busy (and that’s probably most of us these days) needs Joe’s blog as a roadmap to be consulted a couple of times a day. There are a lot of excellent climate blogs out there, and a lot of trash, as well. I don’t have the time to sort all the crap out for myself, but Joe does that for me–pointing me to good pieces by Tom Friedman, for example, and telling me about excellent climate blogs I had not yet discovered.
    You’re a one-man clearing house, Joe, and for that, I thank you.

  19. Kaj says:

    I just want to thank you about the great job you are doing by writing this blog. I try to follow it as good as i can. My time is limited so I do miss some posts.

    I’m not a scientist but still I’m trying to fight against all that pseudo-science coming in all the time. The biggest issues at my sight of the wiew, according to pseudo-science at the moment, is to blame the Sun (yes, there are no sun spots at the moment and the Sun looks like “cooling down”) for the warmig and then to say that heating stopped ten years ago.

    So something about these I’d like to read. Perhaps in this blog?

    This maybe too stupid to spend any time on:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/0707.1161v4

    It’s really looks like denialist don’t have much more to say and they will be dead in tne near future. Hope so.

  20. Lew Flagg says:

    I saw the article in USNews. I have also seen charts that show that the long term affects of global warming preceded the ramp up in fossil fuel consumption by about 100 years. They also show that we are just now approaching (from below) the average temperature for the last 3000 years.

    When I went to MIT (long ago, so maybe physics has changed) we learned that affect follows the cause. It does not preceded it.

  21. Jim Bullis says:

    Maybe “ClimateProgress” could shift emphasis from discussing the need for climate progress and redirect our sharp pens (Few as sharp as Joe’s.) at a broader set of solutions than those that are now getting a lot of attention. After all, there will always be a certain fraction of the population that can not be convinced, and maybe efforts to do so have reached a point of diminishing return.

    The lost opportunity is in failing to raise the problem to a level where it becomes a part of how we fix the economy. The very “fabric of society” (the name of a college textbook) seems to really be the issue.

    I get the sense that the call to “restructure” the automobile industry is going to result in continued production of inefficient cars, albeit cars loaded with electric motors and batteries. Similarly the call to restructure the electric grid will result in perpetuation of our system of massive centralized power plants designed to waste much more heat energy than the electric energy actually delivered. And we as a society seem to be poised to be taken in by these kinds of deception.

    The fact that we are willing to print money to buy our way out of the conspiratorial use of our financial system that foisted bad debt on unsuspecting, but greedy investors, gives me the sense that there is not a lot of interest in making the financial system into a straight operating backbone. This impression is further supported by the fact that the loan sharking credit card system has yet to be recognized as the next slimy disaster which will hit us in the face. And we as a society only notice the impending disasters after they blow up.

    So how might this society get into a high minded mode and actually be willing to sacrifice present wealth, real or imaginary, to fix a climate problem that is nowhere near as obvious as loss of retirement savings or unemployment?

    Ever the optimist, I like to hope there is an answer based on innovation. I imagine that Pres. Obama was thinking similarly when he exhorted us to better motivate people away from occupations in the financial industry, and into “engineering, science, teaching –.” Who can deny that the financial industry that bilked the world out of such yet to be known trillions of dollars was innovative? So maybe creativity needs to be motivated in the right direction? Ultimately this may be the answer and government and influential people could help make this shift.

    But there is more to turning us into an innovative people. Certainly, innovation is different to different beholders, but there seems to be something in human nature that is very resistant to change. Since it is one of my main interests, the way this works out in the auto industry is an area I can readily discuss. But it is only an example.

    A present topic in the forefront is the call for restructuring of the auto industry in order to justify great financial infusions. But really, few seem to understand that restructuring to go ahead and make the same basic products is not going to fix things. In this regard, resistance to change is the same as attachment to tradition.

    But the world auto industry is sinking under the weight of 100 years of tradition. From the original horseless carriage, there have been a variety of refinements, but few real innovations. We still have the four wheeled box and we have come to love it. Each year we put a cute new outfit on it. Sometimes we get really brave and put an electric motor in it with batteries, and thus copy technology that is about as old as the original horseless carriage. Toyota showed that the basic car could be refined substantially, but the USA companies seem unable to get the idea. Rather, they would prefer to put electric motors in Yukons and continue to please us and to make the big profits. Pretending to innovate is a lot cheaper than really doing so.

    Where might we take this? We worked the motorcycle quite well, added a side car, put three wheels on it, and added some fairings and protective bars from time to time. Some really good aerodynamics has been added with the Aptera being a good example of that (see http://www.aptera.com). But it is still a motorcycle. Still this is the best innovation we seem to be capable of accomplishing. The “we” here is not only the major auto industry. They still cringe at anything that violates the current auto fashion statement, and so does the car buying public in overwhelming numbers.

    Sufficient restructuring would take a mighty effort on the part of both industry and the public. Together we need to think far outside the four wheeled box. The Aptera is a move in the right direction, but it seems to only be a start. It is hard to know how things will turn out in the end, but the right answer might look more like the Miastrada car which is roughly discussed at http://www.miastrada.com. What a change it would be for GM to retool to build something this different. But then maybe we would have a US product worthy of our industrial capacity.

    The Miastrada represents innovation, as does the Aptera to a lesser extent. Either could represent 90% solutions, that 90% being the reduction in CO2 per mile driven. In contrast, the Volt is an example of trickery and deceit that will end in greater use of coal with more CO2, and with higher electric power prices. Things will look good for a while since a lot of Volts will help hold down the price of oil. The climate issue will only come back to haunt us later.

    By the above discussion I have tried to show that there is a need for major change and that this should include stimulating critical thinking about innovation. Of course it represents my point of view which includes self interest, that being my promotion of a plan based on the Miastrada car. That plan should be subject to as much criticism as I have given to the US auto industry products, and it should come based on financial considerations as well as engineering and scientific values.

    Perhaps discussion along these lines would help bring about more Climate Progress.

  22. paulm says:

    Theres not much else to add. ClimateProgress separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Joe, I would love to see some dynamic content on the blog page. Of course your postings are pretty dynamic but, for eg maybe a CO2, meathane counter; embedded sea ice graphs, oil price graph….

  23. paulm says:

    top ten CC books; top ? videos; top 10 weekly articles;

    editors choice and readers vote….

  24. David B. Benson says:

    Recommended beginning books include (in my order):

    “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum” by W.F. Ruddiman
    “The Long Thaw” by David Archer
    “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas
    “Hell and High Water” by Joseph Romm (now in paperback)

    I am sure there are many more which I have not read.

  25. Bob Wallace says:

    Lew – There is some data that suggests that humans started heating up the climate when they began farming. Not a lot of data to date, but probably more to come.

    Cause and effect has not ceased to rule. What we are seeing right now is a rapidly heating planet. So we look for a cause. Here’s what we’ve found:

    It’s not the Sun getting hotter.

    It’s not high levels of volcanic release.

    It’s not the Warming Fairy. (At least no one has been able to detect her at work.)

    What we have found is that CO2 (and some other gases) do trap heat and prevent it from exiting the atmosphere and that CO2 levels have been increasing in our atmosphere.

    And we’ve learned that pulling billions of tons of fossil fuels from where they were sequestered underneath the Earth’s surface and burning them releases CO2 into the atmosphere.

    When you were back at MIT did they teach you to read the literature?

    If so, re-hone those skills and dive into the data.

  26. Bob Wallace says:

    Joe –

    Take a lesson from what is currently happening to Obama.

    The opposing forces can’t find anything of substance to use in attacking him, so they attack him for using a teleprompter. (And his wife because she wears sleeveless dresses.)

    The deniers don’t want to allow the facts to get in the way of their agenda, so they will use what they can to attack the messenger.

    Keep giving us the good stuff.

    Keep maintaining the “foolishness firewall” so that we can talk about the issues, not right wing fantasy land crap.

  27. Roger says:

    Yes, when it comes to covering global climate disruption, Joe blogs best!

    Like so many other readers, I get tired of the oft-repeated denier dross.

    By the way, did everyone thank our brave new president for ‘connecting the dots’ between the more frequent flooding of the Red River and climate change? I’ve heard that the previous administration discouraged the media from making this type of connection–a practice that, with a very few exceptions, continues to this day! We hear our TV personalities carry on about the “wild weather” we’ve witnessed without ever a mention of the fact this type of weather is right on track with what has been predicted.

    So, to thank Obama, go to “Comments” (on rt.) at http://www.whitehouse.gov.

    Idea: Adapt digital TV ads to educate Americans about climate change!

  28. Roger says:

    Opps—make that “Contact” (not “Comments”) at http://www.whitehouse.gov!

  29. Emerson says:

    thanks for links and information, all must be vigilant and well informed about the future of the environment and our planet!

    http://www.artezanalnet.com.br/Artezanal/Poltronas.htm

  30. Anna says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive summary.. you obviously know your stuff. It’s going to take me a while to read through all this, but I’m glad to have found as “dashboard” where all of the info is listed in consisely in one place!

    thanks again

    Anna

  31. gsbhati says:

    Mr Joe,

    Of course the best blog on climate change.Can you suggest some India specific readings or something which can show the effects of developmental activities of developed world which India should avoid as a learning experience from other countries.
    I am an engineer and working for the state government of Rajasthan in India.I live in the arid zone of the state and want to learn almost everything about the future of water in my state.

    gsbhati

  32. John says:

    Thanks for all the great info. There is a lot of great information in the reply field.

  33. DD says:

    How exactly will the EPA require company’s to reduce CO2. The EPA already requires that industrial burner’s fuel air ratio curves be set and tested at 15% excess air (3%O2)to meet existing NOx compliance regulations. In the combustion process, the only way to reduce CO2 is to increase the excess air which would increase the NOx emissions and make the burners less efficient and waist fuel. 15% excess air is a EPA and industry standard to ensure complete combustion and to minimize CO and NOx emissions. CO2 and O2 the reciprocal of each other and react in exact opposite in the combustion process. To reduce one the other has to go up. I have been setting up industrial burners on natural gas, Fuel Oil, Coal, Biofuel, etc for 16 years and there is no way to reduce CO2 from stack emissions without either increasing NOx by increasing the 15% excess air above stoichiometric ratios and contradicting EPA requirements already on the books. The burner technology doe not exist that can reduce everything from stacks. So we either turn off the lights or switch to nuclear power if folks are serious about reducing emissions.

  34. Thanks for sharing :)

  35. jph says:

    I’m a scientist, chemist, and worried about what we are doing to our planet. I’m not a climatologist, but I have done research on planetary atmospheres, so I have an above average interest in this scientific, social, political, economic fiasco we are watching. Truly it is sad.
    This blog is excellent. I use it to stay informed.
    This may be of interest to some. I am an economic and political conservative, a social realist, and a worried citizen of the world. I am disappointed that there are not more of my “persuasion” who understand and accept the scientific facts.

    [JR: Thanks for posting!]