Anti-science idealogues spin the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, on “Climategate”

Posted on  

"Anti-science idealogues spin the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, on “Climategate”"

Revkin quickly makes fool of Hoyt with dreadful front-page story

UPDATE:  With his latest story, one-time NYT science reporter Andrew Revkin embarks on a new career as drama critic — while utterly mocking Hoyt’s analysis.  I’ll discuss it at the end.

If you think the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, doesn’t have the whole story, doesn’t simply get a free pass from writing a balanced story, you should email him at public@nytimes.com.

One thing is clear from the story known as ClimateGate — the anti-science ideologues are much better at Working the Refs than the climate science realists.

On his blog, DotEarth, NYT climate reporter Andy Revkin has started turning reader comments into primary text.  Okay.  Here’s our own Ken Levenson from a comment on today’s CP post, British PM attacks “anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics” while UK Conservatives reaffirm climate science and need for “desperately urgent” Copenhagen deal:

What a breath of fresh air! Particularly after just ingesting Clark Hoyt’s pile of manure this morning.

http://””www.nytimes.com/ 2009/ 12/ 06/ opinion/ 06pubed.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

The only good thing I can say about Hoyt’s treatment is that it unintentionally allows Andy Revkin to hang himself. Revkin is quoted at the end saying “Our coverage, looked at in toto, has never bought the catastrophe conclusion and always aimed to examine the potential for both overstatement and understatement,”

EARTH TO REVKIN: THE IPCC IS THE MIDDLE GROUND AND ITS MIDDLE GROUND IS CATASTROPHE.

That Revkin betrays his inclination for the horserace over “truth” is just another nail in the coffin for his pathetic coverage. Too bad Hoyt has gotten used in the process.

I agree that Hoyt’s piece, “Stolen E-Mail, Stoking the Climate Debate,” raises questions about his own bias — and Revkin’s independence to cover the story.

What’s shocking is that Hoyt, the supposed “readers’ representative” only quotes from those who think the Times has underplayed the story, which is hardly what the independent public editor should be doing:

AS world leaders prepare to meet tomorrow in Copenhagen to address global warming, skeptics are pointing to e-mail hacked from a computer server at a British university as evidence that the conference may be much ado about nothing. They say the e-mail messages show a conspiracy among scientists to overstate human influence on the climate “” and some accuse The Times of mishandling the story.

Although The Times was among the first to report on the e-mail, in a front-page article late last month, and has continued to write about the issue almost daily in the paper or on its Web site, readers have raised a variety of complaints:

Some say Andrew Revkin, the veteran environmental reporter who is covering what skeptics have dubbed “Climategate,” has a conflict of interest because he wrote or is mentioned in some of the e-mail messages that the University of East Anglia says were stolen. Others wondered why The Times did not make the e-mail available on its Web site, and scoffed at an explanation by Revkin in a blog post that they contain “private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye.” What about the Pentagon Papers? they asked.

Others contended that The Times was playing down a story with global implications, coming as world leaders consider a treaty to limit the amount of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere from autos, power plants and other sources.

Luis Alvarez Jr. of Charlottesville, Va., was outraged that a front-page article on President Obama’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States had not a single mention of the e-mail, in which one scientist, for example, said he had used a “trick” to “hide” a recent decline in temperatures.

Richard Murphy of Fairfield, Conn., said, “Given that the hacked e-mails cast doubt on some of the critical research that underlies the entire global warming argument, I am astounded that The Times has treated the issue in such a cavalier fashion.”

Does Revkin have a conflict of interest, as Steven Milloy, the publisher of JunkScience.com, and others contended? Why didn’t The Times put the e-mail on its Web site? And, most important, is The Times being cavalier about a story that could change our understanding of global warming? Or, as The Times’s John Broder, who covers environmental issues in Washington, put it, “When does a story rise to three-alarm coverage?”

Is that really representative of NY Times readers???  Three straight quotes from those on one side, including the uber-extreme anti-science Milloy, of whom Source Watch writes:

In January 2006, Paul D. Thacker, a journalist who specializes in science, medicine and environmental topics, reported in The New Republic that Milloy has received thousands of dollars in payments from the Phillip Morris company since the early nineties, and that NGOs controlled by Milloy have received large payments from ExxonMobil [3]. A spokesperson for Fox News stated, “Fox News was unaware of Milloy’s connection with Philip Morris. Any affiliation he had should have been disclosed.”

Hmm.  I found that in 30 seconds using Google.  If Fox News thinks references to Milloy need to include his affiliations, perhaps the public editor of the NY Times might to the same.

I’m gonna give Hoyt a pass on quoting at length from “John Tierney, a Times science columnist.”  Yes, everybody who cares about science outside of the New York Times knows that he “makes up stuff, just like George Will” (see here).  But you can’t expect the public editor of the NY Times to ever believe that the so-called paper of record would actually employ on their staff the country’s worst science writer, can you?  But you might still point out the “hide the decline” nonsense is, well, nonsense.

Someone might also point out to Hoyt that the Times has been criticized for overplaying the story (see “Here’s what we know so far: CRU’s emails were hacked, the 2000s will easily be the hottest decade on record, and the planet keeps warming thanks to us! The NY Times blows the story“):

The NYT‘s Revkin has a piece whose headline and lede, typically, misses the entire point, “Hacked E-Mails Fuel Climate Change Skeptics.”  Note to Andy:  Everything fuels the disinformers! And that includes studies and data that prove the exact opposite of what they assert.

Who cares that, as Revkin says in his opening (!) sentence, this is “causing a stir among global warming skeptics, who say they show that climate scientists conspired to overstate the case for a human influence on climate change”?  This was a chance for Revkin to make up for his misinformation-filled post from September [see “NYT’s Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation“].  Even his most science-based sentence is hedged:  “But the evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so broad and deep that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument.”  Unlikely?  Ya think?

Revkin asserts in the so-called paper of record that “some of the comments might lend themselves to sinister interpretations.”  So is this a news story or just a speculative opinion piece?  Instead of saying what interpretation might be possible, why not actually talk to the authors of the emails and other scientists and report what they emails actually were meant to communicate?  Oh, wait, later in the piece he notes “But several scientists whose names appear repeatedly in the e-mails said they merely revealed that scientists are human beings, and did nothing to undercut the body of research on global warming.”  Duh.

The bigger question Hoyt and Levenson raised concerns the question “Does Revkin have a conflict of interest” covering the story?

Erica Goode, the environment editor, said that as soon as she learned that Revkin was mentioned in the scientists’ e-mail, she consulted with Philip Corbett, the standards editor. She said she read the roughly one dozen messages containing Revkin’s name and decided they showed a reporter asking for information for news articles, with “no particular close relationship with the scientists other than the fact that he knew them.” Goode and Corbett said they agreed that Revkin did not have a significant conflict and was good to go, with an acknowledgment in the article that he and other journalists were named in the e-mail.

I read all the messages involving Revkin, and I did not see anything to keep him off the story. If anything, there was an indication that the scientists whom some readers accused Revkin of being too cozy with were wary of his independence. One, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, warned a colleague, Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia, to be careful what he shared with “Andy” because, “He’s not as predictable as we’d like.”

Hmm.  Well, it’s no shock to CP readers — or NPR listeners — that some scientists aren’t thrilled with Revkin’s unpredictably mistake-filled coverage of the science, especially the “global cooling” nonstory ]see “NYT’s Revkin pushes global cooling myth (again!) and repeats outright misinformation” and Revkin stunner on NPR: “I’ve made missteps. I’ve made probably more mistakes this year in my print stories than I had before”].

As for not posting the e-mail, Revkin said he should have used better language in his blog, Dot Earth, to explain the decision, which was driven by advice from a Times attorney. The lawyer, George Freeman, told me that there is a large legal distinction between government documents like the Pentagon Papers, which The Times published over the objections of the Nixon administration, and e-mail between private individuals, even if they may receive some government money for their work. He said the Constitution protects the publication of leaked government information, as long as it is newsworthy and the media did not obtain it illegally. But the purloined e-mail, he said, was covered by copyright law in the United States and Britain.

I think that any notion that The Times was trying to avoid publishing the e-mail messages is a manufactured issue. On Freeman’s advice, the paper linked to them “” on a skeptic’s Web site as it happens “” and they were a click away for anyone who wanted to examine them.

Linking to anti-science skeptics.  Awesome.

Revkin said last week on his blog that he was asking a variety of researchers if the e-mail changed our understanding of global warming. One, Roger Pielke Sr. of the University of Colorado, who has been critical of what he called “the climate oligarchy,” including some of the scientists involved in the e-mail, replied that it did not. Pielke has characterized some scientists in the field as inbred and wedded to their views, but he said that the temperature measurement by Jones’s group was only one of several showing a long-term warming trend, and that there was no doubt that carbon dioxide produced by humans was a major factor.

Yes, Hoyt quotes from yet another person representing the confused side of the story (see “Roger Pielke Sr. also doesn’t understand the science of global warming “” or just chooses to willfully misrepresent it“).

Does the public editor simply get a free pass from even bothering to write a balanced story?

But Revkin and Tierney both told me that, after that broad understanding among scientists, there is sharp debate over how fast the earth is warming, how much human activity is contributing and how severe the impact will be.

“Our coverage, looked at in toto, has never bought the catastrophe conclusion and always aimed to examine the potential for both overstatement and understatement,” Revkin said.

Goode, his editor, said: “We here at The Times are not scientists. We don’t collect the data or analyze it, and so the best we can do is to give our readers a sense of what the prevailing scientific view is, based on interviews with scientists” and the expertise of reporters like Revkin.

Again, there really isn’t a sharp debate about how severe the impact will be — if we don’t take any action at all! I have now emailed Revkin twice on this — and both times he has published what I wrote, but still ignores the central point:

His scientific mistake is bigger. He fails to realize that listening to the conservative ideologues who claim the science if false and counsel inaction will essentially end the uncertainty about future impacts. Concentrations will rise to very high levels, in excess of 800 ppm, with catastrophic for consequences ocean acidification, sea level rise, species loss, desertification, etc.

I draw your attention to:
http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com…

There isn’t any uncertainty about what happens if we keep doing nothing or very little. The people who are peddling the uncertainty myth are internalizing the notion that politicians are going to start deploying multiple wedges starting almost immediately. [“Wedges” comes from an assessment by two Princeton scientists of ways to get big CO2 emission reductions from particular sectors, like transportation and efficiency (see our 2006 graphic explaining some emission wedges). Mr. Romm’s posts provide good background on this thought experiment.]

This may well be my biggest disagreement with you. You understand this but you don’t convey this to your readers: Doing nothing or doing little eliminates the uncertainty.

Wedges discussion can be found here.

I challenge the Times to seriously do what Goode says:  Interview the top 100 climate scientsts and asked them to describe the future impacts if we listen to those who counsel inaction.  I dare say at least 95 would describe an unmitigated catastrophe — certainly the dozens I have interviewed in the past few years do.  Is the NYT even aware of the 13-agency report on U.S. climate impacts from earlier this year (see “Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“)

Indeed, a very significant fraction would describe the possibility of impacts beyond our imagination, see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

Again, it’s only in the “split the baby” coverage of Revkin and the NY Times that one gets left with the false impression that doing nothing or doing little might not drastically harm the health and well-being of billions and billions of people.

Some final points.  First, I think that by writing the story this way, Hoyt has harmed his own credibility as an independent representative of NY Times readers.

Second, Hoyt has put Revkin in a no-win situation.  Revkin is now officially on record as saying his coverage “has never bought the catastrophe conclusion,” in spite of the science to the contrary.  How can he budge from that now, even as the science gets stronger and stronger that he is wrong:

Here’s the final line in Hoyt’s piece:

So far, I think The Times has handled Climategate appropriately “” a story, not a three-alarm story.

Ironically, Hoyt got the right bottom line — this isn’t a “three alarm story.”  But that wasn’t news.  It didn’t deserve a story, particularly one as flawed as the one Hoyt wrote, that simply rehashed a bunch of anti-scientific talking points with no balance or rebuttal.  Many other media outlets had already explained the story was overblown or largely irrelevant to our understanding of climate science, including the leading UK scientific journal Nature:

If you think the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, doesn’t have the whole story, doesn’t simply get a free pass from even bothering to write a balanced story, you should email him at public@nytimes.com.

UPDATE:  Making an utter fool of Hoyt and his ultimate conclusion that this is “not a three-alarm story,” NY Times editors publish another dreadful Revkin piece on the front page.  Interestingly, the headline of the piece (coauthored by John Broder) is actually good — “In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril.”  Too bad that isn’t quite how one-time NYT science reporter Andrew Revkin frames the piece as he embarks on a new career as drama critic

Let me quote from Levenson again in the comments — since he “broke” this story for CP:

THE NEW YORK TIMES JUMPS THE SHARK”¦.with it’s coverage devolving into Birther/Flat-Earther/Intelligent Design entertainment. What a public service – NOT!

Good god – Revkin has an A1 story that concludes (in a perfect summary of this absurd article):

“Whichever view prevails, the questions will undoubtedly linger well after the negotiators who are trying to work out the complex issues that still stand in the way of an international climate treaty leave Copenhagen.”

Too bad there isn’t someone at the New York Times who, say, actually covers the science, reads the dozens of major papers that are published every year, talks to the leading climate scientists, actually visits the places around the world that are experiencing climate change, and then can explain to the public that the scientific view is the one that invariably prevails, rather than the anti-scientific one.

There’s simply too much real news and real reporting for me to cover to spend time on Revkin’s embarrassing piece, so I’d just urge you to read Levenson’s comments here and here.

History will judge that there is only one “three alarm story” — global warming science itself, the grave threat posed to humanity by unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions, a story that the NY Times seems unwilling or unable to cover accurately.  Indeed, if humanity keeps listening to the anti-scientific ideologues that Revkin listens to with undeserved credulity, then global warming will in fact be a literal million-fire-alarm story for decades to come.

Shame on the New York Times editors and reporters for not even being able to come to the same obvious conclusion as Hoyt did in his admittedly lame piece.

The United States has laid the groundwork for negotiations

  • The Obama administration set a provisional target for greenhouse gas pollution reductions. President Obama announced on November 25 a provisional U.S. greenhouse gas pollution reduction target “in the range of” 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This was the first time the United States proposed its own reduction targets as part of the international negotiation process. This provisional reduction proposal is dependent on congressional approval.
  • The federal government made the largest investment in clean energy in U.S. history. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested $90 billion in clean-energy programs and tax incentives.
  • President Obama set aggressive new fuel economy standards. The president announced new motor vehicle fuel economy standards in May that would reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 950 million metric tons annually starting in 2016.
  • The Obama administration established new federal greenhouse gas regulations. An October executive order requires federal government agencies to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets that must be met by 2020. All of these actions, along with additional steps forward, will help enhance American economic competitiveness.
  • Climate change legislation is on track for passage next year. The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act in June and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a similar bill in November. Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are writing clean-energy and global warming legislation that should appeal to Senate moderates and demonstrate strong momentum for a bipartisan Senate bill. Senator Kerry has introduced the International Climate Change Investment Act, which will help the United States fulfill its expected obligations to developing countries by providing immediate assistance for adaptation to climate change and access to clean-energy technology.
  • Clean-energy jobs provisions could spark additional energy investment. Congress is likely to consider a job creation bill that could include significant investments in clean-energy job creation and manufacturing.

Large emitting nations are ready to cooperate

  • China announced a carbon reduction target. The Obama administration’s hard work with China and India is starting to pay off. China announced on Thanksgiving Day a target of reducing carbon pollution per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. This is the first time China has committed to specific carbon reductions. The November joint statement by Presidents Obama and Hu Jintao on the creation of a greenhouse gas inventory between the U.S. EPA and China will make it possible to measure and verify these reductions.
  • India announced a carbon reduction target. India announced on December 2, soon after the U.S.-India summit in Washington, that it intends to offer a target for decreasing its carbon intensity 24 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. This is the first time India has proposed its own specific carbon reduction target, which adds to its already established commitment to set the largest solar power generation target in the world.

China and India’s new goals are clear signs that the largest economies in the developing world are repositioning themselves to be constructive players in Copenhagen and may be prepared to begin committing to transparent and accountable reductions. Other major economies in the developing world have similarly stepped up with their own carbon pollution reduction plants, including Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and South Africa, significantly increasing the likelihood for success at Copenhagen. They are joined by Japan, South Korea, Australia, the European Union, and other countries that have increased their ambition for carbon reductions in advance of the Copenhagen meeting.

Existing policies get on the right path

  • Current and planned policies would already yield 65 percent of needed reductions. Project Catalyst and the Center for American Progress modeled the pollution reductions from policies implemented and proposed by the 16 nations of the Major Economies Forum and the 27 countries of the European Union. The best-case scenario shows that these policies provide 65 percent of the immediate reductions science recommends by 2020. This would help the world limit total atmospheric concentration to 450 parts per million of carbon equivalent. This is the stabilization pathway that the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change estimates is necessary to limit temperature increase to 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels. An international agreement should allow for a full accounting of each nation’s commitment to achieve these goals and eventually increase to the full reductions needed for climate stability.
  • U.S. state and regional efforts will achieve emissions reductions. Executive actions, state and regional efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, and greenhouse gas pollution reduction programs provide a backstop for the United States to make international commitments to decrease its emissions, even without final passage of a comprehensive clean-energy and climate change bill.

Cooperation on climate will boost the economy

  • An international agreement would restart the global economy. A binding international agreement would spark more public and private outlays for clean-energy technologies to capitalize on emerging clean-energy investment opportunities abroad and at home. A report to be released at Copenhagen by the Center for American Progress as part of the nine-party Global Climate Network estimates that part of the current and proposed clean-energy proposals in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, South Africa, India, China, Australia, and Brazil would produce a total of 19.7 million jobs. This report also demonstrates that job growth will accelerate and multiply as more countries adopt clean-energy policies and trade their various clean technologies across borders.
  • Financing technology leads to job growth. An expenditure of $4.5 billion on smart grid technology as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act should create 278,600 U.S. jobs during installation, and 139,700 of these would be ongoing. This is a fairly modest example, and an additional 138,000 U.S. jobs could be created to serve an export market if other countries also install smart grid technologies.
  • Cooperation on clean-energy technology creates jobs here. According to a CAP-Asia Society report, a U.S.-China collaboration to research, develop, and deploy carbon capture and sequestration technology could lead to a five-year acceleration of the commercialization of this critical technology to slash carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. This program would create an additional 403,000 jobs in the United States, and a 10-year acceleration of deployment could create as many as 943,000 new U.S. jobs by 2022.
« »

49 Responses to Anti-science idealogues spin the NY Times public editor, Clark Hoyt, on “Climategate”

  1. Jeff Huggins says:

    The New York Times, Clark Hoyt, Dot Earth, and Etc.

    Just for the record, I’ve written to, and called, Clark Hoyt’s office a number of times since he’s been the Public Editor, and I haven’t received a reply or a call of any sort, other than the automated acknowledgement that my message had been received. In essence, he has totally ignored the observations and complaints I’ve offered, as far as I can tell.

    I’ve also raised my observations, concerns, and complaints to Andy Revkin, many times over the last two years.

    The New York Times seems to be missing some KEY points, including that of the big picture itself and of journalism’s responsibility to genuinely serve the public good.

    Even today, I don’t think (as far as I can tell) The New York Times has even covered the clear letter from eighteen leading scientific organizations to all members of the U.S. Senate. That letter should have been given front-page — and excellent — coverage.

    FYI, this past week, I sent some observations, assessments, thoughts, and ideas regarding the media’s coverage of climate change to Andy, to Curtis Brainard, and to Joe (the latter, for his info and the record). About 70 pages, including a collection of concrete observations, quotes, references, responses, ideas, and so forth.

    I have given up on The New York Times and am enjoying other better sources of information.

    I would also like to know when The New York Times will put investigative journalism energy into, and shine light on, ExxonMobil?

    The Times has been incredibly, incredibly irresponsible and lackluster, and confused, in its news coverage of these matters. That’s too bad — for all of us, and for the future.

    (Here, I’m not talking about the views expressed by some of the more concerned columnists, of course, although even those have not gone into certain aspects of the matter to the degree that they should; and the columnists have also stayed clear of discussing the terrible coverage in The Times itself, naturally.)

    Jeff Huggins
    U.C. Berkeley, chemical engineering, class of 1981
    Chevron Research Corporation, 1981-1984
    Harvard Business School, class of 1986, Baker Scholar
    McKinsey and Company, 1986-1990
    Concerned citizen and parent
    Deeply disappointed ex-reader of The New York Times

  2. I had no idea about the letter from eighteen scientists, Jeff. Do you have a link to good coverage; ie like I used to expect from NPR back in the 80’s, when we had the Fairness Doctrine. Or the NYT. That was journalism.

    Even their coverage of the early Iraq war was really good.

    But the climate coverage, at the opinion page, at Green Inc and Dot Earth has been either paid-off, or is just plain masochistic.

    There is no reason to give such dangerous fossil-funded anti-science flat-earthers this kind of kid-glove treatment.

  3. ken levenson says:

    Thanks for the shout out Joe! Like Jeff Huggins – and others I suspect – I find it bizarre that the NY Times Editorial page and columnists like Friedman and Krugman have been clear-eyed regrading the catastrophic risks we face and the urgency of the matter, yet the science writers have been anything but illuminating.

    Therefore, ironically, if Hoyt has gotten a deluge of anti-science emails, to gain clarity on the matter, he should have turned to the Times columnists not the Times reporters – this much is clear.

    (Oddly at the Washington Post the exact opposite dynamic appears to be the problem.)

  4. Anna Haynes says:

    Ditto to Jeff’s experience that emailing Hoyt is hopeless. The only time I got an answer was when (in exasperation) I wrote on a listserv, “I don’t think Clark Hoyt works there anymore” (then his minion did reply, saying they had no objection to Stephen Dubner’s deleting blog comments that linked to critical New Yorker, etc. reviews of his book.)

  5. Anna Haynes says:

    > I challenge the Times to seriously do what Goode says: Interview the top 100 climate scientsts and asked them to describe the future impacts if we listen to those who counsel inaction.

    This sounds like a project for Seth Borenstein. Or for us, but how do you determine who the top 100 are?

    [JR: Citation index is one. You could ask 10 climate scientists to list 20 leading climate scientists (or ask 20 to name 10), and then take the top 100 and you’d get a similar list. Interviewing 100 is a lot. I’d say 30 to 50 would be more than enough.]

  6. lgcarey says:

    I admire your persistence, Jeff. Re the 100 top climate scientists comment which Anna noted, the Times — what about Bryan Walsh at Time? He’s another of the few MSM journalists who seems to get it.

  7. Anna Haynes says:

    Thanks lgcarey#6 – I’ll email Walsh too.
    The other thing we should be doing, BTW, when we run across climate journalism that could use improvement, is email the journalist (& their editor?) to recommend the NewsU (free journo training) course Covering Climate Change.
    (there’s also the shorter (40 min.) Improving Climate Change Coverage: A Seminar Snapshot; I haven’t looked at it yet.)

  8. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I would like to know what the climate scientists really thought, off the record, not waiting for the data to go through multi authorship peer review and then publication delays. While I can see problems with the peer review publication process, I cannot see any way to improve it. To steal someone else’s quote “the worst possible system, except for all of the alternatives”

    What are the odds of the slow feedback actually being a little (or a lot) faster. In terms of the science process, we do not know enough to quantify the changes to the slow feed backs. We do not know enough to quantify the odds of rapid ice shelf collapse.

    We know tipping points are there so can we at least guess at how close.

  9. WAG says:

    And then there’s “Climate Change Conversations”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/science/climate-change-conversations.html?ref=science

    At first I thought it was collecting NYT stories, or explaining the relevant issues. But as I looked through it, it’s literally just comments – yet another forum for ill-informed lay people to regurgitate talking points they know nothing about and reinforce ignorance.

    According to a recent poll, 40% of Americans said they doubted a health care professional’s opinion because of something they read on the Internet. Climate science is under similar assault, from a public with access to too much raw information and too little understanding of what it means.

  10. Syd Baumel says:

    Contrast Hoyt’s volubly superficial assessment with Curtis Brainerd’s (Columbia Journalism Review, http://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/hacked_emails_and_journalistic.php) effort to fact-check some of the main “controversies” generated by the email heist and scolding of the media for largely failing to do so. I think Brainerd’s is the best non-science media or blogosphere article on the subject I’ve read, although that’s not saying much. Has anyone seen better or comparably responsible coverage?

  11. Chris Winter says:

    Anna Haynes wrote (in part): “…(then his minion did reply, saying they had no objection to Stephen Dubner’s deleting blog comments that linked to critical New Yorker, etc. reviews of his book.)”

    Do you mean the NYT was OK with Dubner deleting critical comments from a New York Times blog? That seems amazingly stupid if true.

  12. Anna Haynes says:

    re Chris Winter’s “Do you mean the NYT was OK with Dubner deleting critical comments from a New York Times blog?”

    Basically yes. The minion said:
    a) the public editor’s office doesn’t address blog moderation (“Because of the unending volume of comments submitted… this office does not second-guess the moderators or get involved in judging the judges”), and
    b) he personally saw no problem with deleting a comment that was just providing an external link. (“…a comment forum is a place for readers to give their views and a place for spirited debate. … the back and forth is diminished if a reader relies on someone else to speak for him.”)

  13. This is what I wrote to Hoyt in an email:

    Mr. Hoyt, the seriousness and the urgency of Global Warming is beyond doubt and comments of trivia nature that you quote are not helping the public grasp the issue. As our governor of California said, if 98 doctors tell you that you have cancer and 2 tell you, you do not, will you listen to the 2 or the majority?

    So, please understand that humanity have little time to reduce GW in a substantial way and the interference you and others are adding to this severe problem is damaging the chance we can fight well.

    You see, with all due respect, people who are not in this field do not have the knowledge to grasp the severity of the issue.
    This is not open to public debate if it is real or not.
    We gave it to the conservative over cautious IPCC to study. And they are saying it has catastrophic potential.

    Dr. Matania Ginosar
    Environmental Scientist and Electrical Engineer
    Prev. mgr of the solar Office California Energy Commission.
    ginosaronglobalwarming.org

  14. Jeff Huggins says:

    The Letter, and Thanks

    Thanks for your comments.

    Susan (Comment 2), regarding your question …

    Here is the recent letter regarding climate change sent by eighteen leading scientific organizations to all members of the U.S. Senate. I include the letter here as an example, because the last time I checked, The New York Times had not covered this letter at all, let alone with the prominence and excellence that the letter and issue deserve:

    http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2009/media/1021climate_letter.pdf

    (If the link doesn’t work, you can find the letter at the AAAS website.)

    I haven’t searched for examples of good coverage of the letter. Of course, Joe’s coverage was very good, and that’s how I learned about the letter in the first place.

    I’ve discussed the lack of coverage at The New York Times with the AAAS itself.

    Also, I posted comments on “The Observatory” (Curtis Brainard) asking and hoping that he would use the AAAS letter as an opportunity to track the degree and quality of coverage of such a focused and important event, but to no avail. So, it’s unclear to me what media outlets actually covered the letter. The AAAS issued the letter with a press release, I believe, and it is basically irresponsible, irrational, and unconscionable that the media didn’t give prominent coverage to the letter, given the stakes and all things considered.

    (It’s also not helpful that “The Observatory” didn’t track the media’s coverage of such a distinct, focused, timely, and trackable event, in my view.)

    In any case, thanks for your comments.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  15. Dr. Romm, thank you for your strong response to the Time and for giving your energy, your time and your dedication to expose the time-urgency and gravity of GW.

  16. mike roddy says:

    It is not an accident that Tierney writes the NYT Science “Lab”. There are thousands of very good and unemployed science journalists right now.
    I agree with the Worst in the Country assessment for our boy at the Times. I don’t think Tierney could get hired at the Texarkana Tribune as a copy boy.

    The Times editors don’t even care if the readers like him. He’s the man to block information that might make readers uncomfortable, especially if it’s true. Tierney’s job description is to BS his way into everything, and end the story with a wry smile. Absolutely sickening.

    Revkin is another matter. We keep hoping he’ll return to some of the really good journalism he used to do years ago, and even once in a while lately. I fear he’s trapped, too, though- I asked him for almost two years to run a series on positive feedbacks, including methane. Nope, that little set of facts is not a good starting point for a topic.

    But he does write well and knows a fair amount, maybe he can be saved some day. It’s not as if he’s Mike Morano.

  17. Ben Lieberman says:

    How many other American newspapers have a reporter with Revkin’s beat?

    His comments would be incredible if they were not so: he’s basically proud of his record of minimizing the evidence for and dangers caused by global warming.

  18. Hy D. Klein says:

    Andy:
    Copenhagen prostitutes?
    Climate prostitutes?
    Shame on you for this gutter reportage.
    This is the second time this week I have written you thereon, the first about giving space in your blog to the Pielkes.
    The vibe that I am getting from here, there and everywhere is that your reportage is very worrisome to most climate scientists.
    Of course, your blog is your blog.
    But, I sense that you are about to experience the ‘Big Cutoff’ from those of us who believe we can no longer trust you, me included.
    Copenhagen prostitutes?
    Unbelievable and unacceptable.
    What are you doing and why?
    Michael [Schlesinger of the University of Illinois]

  19. Leif says:

    Joe, Ladies and Gentleman Above: Thank you all for your diligence and commitment to the cause. I to am a frustrated NY times all but ex subscriber. My wife still reads it. I have sent numerous letters as well, and just a few moments ago sent them a copy of the “Letter” linked by Jeff H and first seen by me on this site as well.
    Perhaps we should be sending these pertinent links to our respective papers as well. We assume that since the information is available to us that our local reporters are cognizant of the information but think for a moment how much we rely on each other to keep ourselves informed. Reporters have only so much time in the day as well. Lets help them out.

  20. re: #17

    Andy might as well be Marc Morano for all the harm he’s done.

    It is more subtle and thus far more insidious.

  21. Syd Baumel says:

    As frustrated as I am with MSM coverage of this story, the Oct. 21 letter is way too “old” to be covered now as news. But reporters made aware of it (or reminded) could mention it if there’s an appropriate slot for it in their coverage. E.g.: “As recently as October 21, eighteen leading American scientific organizations affirmed the IPCC consensus in an open letter to U.S. senators. ‘Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver,’ they wrote. Spokespersons for all of these organizations reaffirmed their position in the aftermath of “Climategate” when contacted by this reporter….” That would make it “news.”

  22. Re: select 100 top climate scientists.

    A better approach might be to list all known climate scientists and randomly select 100. If, in fact, 95% or more of climate scientists believe in the threat of catastrophic warming, this should show up in the statistics.

    By the way, is there a list of all such scientists somewhere? I will be happy to conduct the survey.

  23. richard pauli says:

    OK Now for some Beavis and Butthead… a new Climate Crock of the Week is out.. this one Smacking the Hack Attack

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P70SlEqX7oY

  24. dhogaza says:

    Revkin is another matter. We keep hoping he’ll return to some of the really good journalism he used to do years ago, and even once in a while lately. I fear he’s trapped, too, though- I asked him for almost two years to run a series on positive feedbacks, including methane. Nope, that little set of facts is not a good starting point for a topic.

    But he does write well and knows a fair amount, maybe he can be saved some day. It’s not as if he’s Mike Morano.

    He’s on the path. No mercy for Revkin, I’m sorry. He’s treating RPJr as being a more credible source than working climate scientists …

  25. Passerby says:

    Please remember that the fake email controversy you are so valiantly fighting is being fed in large part by heat rising from barber shops, water coolers and church foyers into various websites where paranoia and contrarianism are red meat and easier to swallow than the truth. Many if not all of the proprietors feed on their readers’ fear of the unknown. They know the average person cannot understand the issues as they are discussed in places like this because they are too busy winning bread to study them. The readers are not stupid or uneducated, but their involuntary ignorance on the climate and general ecological decline makes them targets for disinformation. Which in turn makes it easier for them to deny the problem and suppress conflicting natural instincts. Some of the sites are scary places but I implore you to go there and post rebuttals in the language of the average person. They need friendly, informed voices of reason to address their worst, basic fears: loss of control over their own lives, the future of their children and the whole world itself. What you do here is for every last person on Earth. Please take a moment out of your day to ease the confusion of weary common men by visiting these sites and giving them a plan, hope and slap on the back.

  26. ken levenson says:

    THE NEW YORK TIMES JUMPS THE SHARK….with it’s coverage devolving into Birther/Flat-Earther/Intelligent Design entertainment. What a public service – NOT!

    Good god – Revkin has an A1 story that concludes (in a perfect summary of this absurd article):

    “Whichever view prevails, the questions will undoubtedly linger well after the negotiators who are trying to work out the complex issues that still stand in the way of an international climate treaty leave Copenhagen.”

    EARTH TO REVKIN: QUESTIONS STILL LINGER FOR MANY ABOUT EVOLUTION, GRAVITY and OBAMA’S PLACE OF BIRTH – BECAUSE IT IS SO, DOESN’T MAKE IT NEWS!

  27. ken levenson says:

    Sorry, I can’t help but make a couple more comments:

    This article is a beautiful exposition of everything that is wrong with Revkin’s reporting:

    1. conferring on skeptics an unearned level legitimacy
    2. understatement of range of catastrophic outcomes
    3. quoting absolutely compromised “authorities” like Pielke Jr. & company.
    4. providing no quotes from climate science leaders.
    5. resulting in another horse-race article of ZERO news value
    6. resulting in more UNWARRANTED CONFUSION on the issue – instead of the growing clarity that reflects reality.

    Thanks Andy!

    (apologies to Broder for not blaming you – give me more examples of this garbage and i’ll take a shot.)

  28. Leif says:

    It is 4 AM PT for me and I woke up at 2AM. If these thoughts are half-baked bear with me.
    A few observations to start.
    There are so many great reports by Joe and others on this site that are begging for a wider audience.
    Time and again I read comments as well that are precise and informative.
    Many of us complain about the lack of meaningful AGW coverage in the local and national media.
    The media gives far to much attention to the anti-science sound bites.
    Science information is far to slow to compete with the payed and staffed competition of Rush, Beck, FOX, etc.
    Our side is constrained by truth and accuracy that the Anti_Science Sink Hole, A-SS Hole, FOX is not. (love that acronym from an early post here) (Will give credit another time but thanks,) Was it Twain who said?, “a lie will travel half way around the world while the truth is still tying its shoes.”
    How to counter such an opponent???
    Look at the success that open source soft ware is having against MS and all.
    My local paper never covers climate change and I bet yours doesn’t either. Why? They cannot afford a science writer. Even big papers are behind the curve as we all know. (NY Times.)
    Enter “Climate Corner” or whatever. An open source news article that we can print out and present to our local paper that is spell checked, fact checked, source checked, and all the rest that editors love, that they can print as a counter to the tripe that they are fed daily by the likes of A-SS Hole Fox and ALL.
    We try to digest an important point into something that can catch the eye of JQ Public and give them something to talk about. For instance. Newest information links hacked climate E-mails to Russian source. Rush & Beck help advance profits for Russian Oil Industry. Etc. Links to complete articles, CP etc.

  29. ken levenson says:

    I promise this is my last post on this, promise!

    1. Deep Thought: Andy Revkin is auditioning for Lou Dobb’s old show?

    2. At the start of the article Revkin/Broder write:

    “The debate, set off by the circulation of several thousand files and e-mail messages stolen from one of the world’s foremost climate research institutes, has led some who oppose limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and at least one influential country, Saudi Arabia, to question the scientific basis for the Copenhagen talks.

    The uproar has threatened to complicate a multiyear diplomatic effort…”

    HOW DOES THE SECOND [GRAF] FOLLOW FROM THE FIRST????

    WHO OF CONSEQUENCE IS IT COMPLICATING THINGS FOR ANDY????

    He does us the kindness of answering that in the next graph: NOBODY…

    “In recent days, an array of scientists and policy makers have said that nothing so far disclosed — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in research data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science.”

    But our Revkin can’t help himself and goes on!!!!

    “Yet the intensity of the response highlights that skepticism about global warming persists, even as many scientists thought the battle over the reality of human-driven climate change was finally behind them.

    On dozens of Web sites and blogs, skeptics and foes of greenhouse gas restrictions take daily aim at the scientific arguments for human-driven climate change.”

    THIS IS FOX NEWS COVERAGE!!!

    Last thought: WHY IS THE NY TIMES ALLOWING ITSELF TO BE USED BY THE CORPORATE CRIMINALS BEHIND THE EMAIL HACKING BY SUBVERTING THE STORYLINE????
    The NY Times institutional memory is about as short as the average american’s it appears. The entire mast head deserves a Walter Duranty Waward for this sordid affair!

    i’m done….. ;)

  30. mauri pelto says:

    I no longer visit Dotearth for the reasons documented here. Why do you still visit it?

  31. ken levenson says:

    I also stopped reading Dot Earth long ago – but we’re talking about A1, the biggest print megapnone in America

  32. Leif says:

    I keep hoping that if we continue to pile on the NY Times that they will in fact wake up. Perhaps even become relevant once again.
    How about it, NY Times. The right call you a ‘Liberal” paper. Why not give us a reason to be proud of you. Get some stones. As my pappy would say were he still alive: “Never go to sea in a boat you would not be proud to have as a coffin.” Right now about the best I can say about you is the cross word puzzles are OK and you make good morning fire starter. You wonder why readership is down?

  33. Bill R says:

    I have less issues with Revkin than I do Tierney. He has time after time shown himself to be a neo-classisist libertarian free-marketeer more so than a scientist. Whenever the idea of growth comes into conflict with the idea of a planet with climatological, resource, or natural limits he will ignore good science. I’ve seen it over and over.

  34. Sable says:

    I would echo Passerby’s admonition above and add that it would be really great if some you “climate knights” – those who know the science well, and who regularly debunk denier claims on climate blogs – would pay attention to climate stories on major web news outlets like Huffington Post. The other day Johann Hari had a good piece on climate issues and deniers, although he was a little fuzzy on the e-mail hack thing.

    The comments on any of these stories invariably attract a swarm of denier talking points and lies. The rebuttals are all too often muted or non-existent. Please, those who have the knowledge and time, go to these sites and fight the good fight. And yes, please tone down the snark and impatience with the willfully ignorant, and the bald faced liars, although I know how hard it is to stay calm in the face of such nonsense. Thank you.

  35. Chris Winter says:

    After reading this article [“In Face of Skeptics, Experts Affirm Climate Peril”] I have to say, as I did once before about an article by Revkin, that I can find little to fault in the substance of it. For example, some complain that it mentions Roger Pielke Sr. But what it does is quote him as accepting the reality of man-made global warming. Surely this is not a bad thing?

    But it is true that a casual read could leave the impression that the CRU e-mails might be a show-stopper. This is due to the “scattershot” organization of the article (which might be better characterized as “he said, she said.”) The e-mails are hot news right now, and should have been mentioned in the lead graf. But all further discussion of them should have been moved to a sidebar. This would reflect their true importance: that of a side issue.

    And yes, the conclusion of the article is far too equivocal.

    By the way: Saudi Arabia now questions “the scientific basis of the Copenhagen talks”? Call me Gomer Pyle: “Surprise, surprise!” So now they’re right up there with Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic. No big deal.

  36. Chris Winter says:

    Sable wrote (in part): “The comments on any of these stories invariably attract a swarm of denier talking points and lies. The rebuttals are all too often muted or non-existent. Please, those who have the knowledge and time, go to these sites and fight the good fight. And yes, please tone down the snark and impatience with the willfully ignorant, and the bald faced liars, although I know how hard it is to stay calm in the face of such nonsense. Thank you.”

    Indeed: in my experience an article like this (if it allows comments, which front-page NYT articles apparently don’t) will draw several hundred comments at least. (One Boston Globe article topped a thousand.) Just paging through such a swarm, at 10 or 20 per page, can eat up an afternoon. And before long it feels like being in a long echo chamber. Replying can be a tedious process, especially when the newspaper’s software prevents distinguishing the quoted comment from your own.

    But you’re right; we need to respond more. I do what I can. Just last night I commented on a Daily Mail piece about the e-mails.

  37. Andy says:

    Tierney “….evidence for global warming not as unequivocal….”

    Mr. Tierney should be made to explain that one; with the full email and its context in hand as exhibit one. He should be called out on the mat for that. That one is inexcusable. His journalism career should be over. He has fully exerted his personal bias out into the open for all to see.

  38. Sable says:

    Thanks Chris. I wonder if a more organized response is appropriate – something like RAF fighter command in the last war – a pool of volunteer “fighters” who get intercept orders from one or more story researchers. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a lot of the comments on these stories in the popular news media are by paid, professional liars. It’s probably easy for the uninformed to dismiss climate science if no one is going to bat for it in public comments.

    Humor, intelligence, common sense and unassailable logic must be brought to bear. If I had the chops in chemistry, physics and statistics I’d do it myself – but I’m one person, and I can’t effectively disassemble the polemics of the more sophisticated liars (I’m still slogging through Spencer Weart’s website). Nor do I have much time. Commenting on these climate blogs is all good and well, but more people are exposed to climate news elsewhere. It’s great for drive by visitors and newbies like me to observe the arguments and then see who’s making sense, and who isn’t. But here and at Greenfyre’s, etc. you are largely preaching to the choir. I repeat, if you have the knowledge, and some time, please, please take this fight where more people will be exposed to it. I thank you for it, all of our children will thank you for it.

  39. Anna Haynes says:

    Re responding in blog comments, consider what Hank Roberts said:
    “one partisan can tie up a whole company of the enemy’s troops by sniping from good cover and forcing them to pay attention to him, while maneuvers are going on elsewhere.”

    If you respond in a noise-infested thread, do so constructively – by redirecting readers to a more info-rich habitat.

  40. Sable says:

    You make a good point Anna, and I interpret it as a caution to diving in and slugging it out with the deniers in comment forums. But a big part of this is public perception and opinion, and that’s where scientifically discovered facts are being swamped by a flood of misinformation. The deniers seem to own this part of the battlefield. One well informed person could do much in these threads at any given time, just by speaking up and thereby letting every reader know that the denier’s statement is contested. The strategy/tactic you allude to works both ways.

    Naturally, provide links to this blog and other places like RealClimate, etc. There are some useful pages like the hot map one, and the photo documentation of global warming for all the people who “can’t see it happening”. But here again the deniers are providing links to more “info-rich habitats” as well. Places like Watts up, and other denier sites.

    There has to be more “on location” push back. My somewhat unfocused, and admittedly anecdotal observation is that these global warming stories on web news outlets are being tag teamed by two or three individuals who offer up lies and misrepresentation, and personal attacks on anyone who agrees with the story or editorial, or expresses concern. It would be nice to see some of the more knowledgeable stalwarts who regularly post comments on these climate science blogs go forth and engage the deniers on the more highly trafficked sites. It’s messy, it’s noisy, and the deniers are tireless, should “our side” be doing any less?

  41. Ben Lieberman says:

    More dot earth magic-at the dot earth blog Revkin actually chose to highlight a contribution by one of the many posters who have dedicated themselves to filling the blog with denialist postings:

    For the details see post 13 at http://community.nytimes.com/comments/dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/roundup-copenhagen-and-climategate/

  42. Chris Dudley says:

    I was interested in the comments on Hoyt’s piece which seemed to be pretty one sided. I noticed a error in the piece and sent in the following comment which is still up at my user account http://timespeople.nytimes.com/view/user/5479109/activities.html

    “It seems very bad form for the public editor to accuse people of a cover up when they have published a paper on the precise issue in a prominent journal. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v391/n6668/abs/391678a0.html Isn’t the paper suppose to verify the accuracy of such accusations? You don’t have to look far to find out they are false.”

    It has not appeared in the comments for the piece as far as I can tell though others have. I’ve had good relations with other public editors who have been responsive and fair. I wonder if there is a problem with this one?

    Full disclosure: a comment of mine regarding how old hard disks are treated when there is a persistent threat from foreign intelligence agencies did not appear at this blog either though it did at Dot Earth. http://community.nytimes.com/comments/dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/04/roundup-copenhagen-and-climategate/?permid=31#comment31

  43. Seth Masia says:

    Specialized beat reporters, with training and experience in science reporting (I think Tierney does not) do a good job communicating underlying issues to their readers. But they contend daily with pressure to balance technically accurate reporting against vociferous and often irrational counterclaims. This is not a process designed to produce clarity for the reader. At some level, the perceptive reader, already educated by long-form media, understands that “balance” in a news story can be meant, by one or more of the reporter’s sources, to sow confusion. That reader may easily feel disillusioned with the newspaper itself.

    In defending the reputation of the newspaper, the conscientious science reporter should omit from the story anything obviously distorted. This is where specialized training is useful: The expert reporter recognizes nonsense and declines to legitimize it. There’s no room for nonsense in an 800-word news story on a complex issue.

  44. Anna Haynes says:

    Chris Dudley (“It has not appeared in the comments for the piece as far as I can tell though others have. I’ve had good relations with other public editors who have been responsive and fair…this one?”), the Public Editor minion who responded to me signed his email “Michael McElroy”; he said he was the only one in that office besides Clark Hoyt. There is also a Mchael McElroy in climate science, at Harvard (if you google he’s the one who comes up); I emailed him a day ago asking if he was related to the Public Editor’s Michael McElroy, haven’t heard back.

    So, either someone is spoofing emails, or it’s odd.
    (obligatory spookworld connection: Harvard’s McElroy is a member of the Intelligence Science Board.)

  45. Anna Haynes says:

    re the duplicated Michael McElroys, I got an answer from the NYT public editor’s office one, who says “No, there is no relation… There is also a Michael McElroy famous on the Broadway stage.”

  46. pesadilla says:

    I noticed that you quoted from the UK MET OFFICE. You may like to know that the UK MET OFFICE has not made an accurate seasonal forcast in the last three years. They promised us a very hot (Barbecue) summer which we are still waiting for followed by a mild winter. They only changed thir winter forcast after the event. There is no way in which these people can forcast more than five days ahead. To suggest that they can forecast twenty of fifty years ahead is laughable. As to the e-mails, i suggest that you read through them and then comment on them. Incidentally, they wre not hacked, it was an inside job; it was a whistle blower who thought the world aught to know about this cabal of scientists who peer reviewed each others papers and conspired to suppress scientifics papers of others who disagreed with their dogma. Truth is ridiculed at first, violently opposed second but finally accepted. The truth of this matter is currently in stage two.
    One of the reasons that co2 cannot lead to an increase in temperatures because that would conflict with the second law of thermodynamics.
    If the earth’s climate wasn’t changing, that would be a problem, but it is and that isn’t a problem. CO2 is NOT A POLlUTANT, it is a plant food and we cannot survive without it.

  47. Leif says:

    Pesadilla: Water has been proven to be a vital ingredient for life but the wrong proportion in your life can be deadly as well. Do you see how that simile fails. Unless, given millions of years of painful slow adaptation and we could look like a fish?… or a lizard should the climate drift toward desert.