The NY Times starts 2010 pushing the same damn disinformation about climate science it did in 2009

A few people were critical of me for putting the NY Times third on the list of the 2009 “Citizen Kane” awards for non-excellence in climate journalism.

But now the NYT has started the year with a true piece of anti-scientific crap masquerading as clever pop commentary, “It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It,” by Denis Dutton, a man Wikipedia — but not the NY Times — explains is a “libertarian media commentator/activist.”

For the record, the science is quite clear that unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions are projected to lead to the end of the world as we know it, including “towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions” — as this literature review makes clear.  It’s no surprise that a libertarian professor of philosophy would write an anti-science screed.  But what is the NYT’s excuse for publishing it?

Indeed, it was the NYT, not Dutton, which came up with the graphic above that lumps “Global warming” with “Evil Aliens” and “Nostradamus.”  Seriously.

Long-time CP commenter has saved me the trouble of a longer response on this New Year’s Day, with a letter to the editor he posted here:

To the Editor:

I want to report a mugging. I thought I was enjoying a quiet and safe New Years at home.
Re “It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It” (opinion article, Jan 1). 2010/ 01/ 01/ opinion/ 01dutton.html?ref=opinion

Mr. Dutton, provided an entertaining and benign exposition on human fascination with Apocalypse and it’s counterproductive nature, speaking of Y2K, religion, UFO cults and “Frankenstein” – noting: “Such end-time fantasies must have a profound, persistent appeal in order to keep drawing wide-eyed crowds into movie theaters, as historically they have drawn crowds into churches, year after year.” Mr. Dutton’s theme is clear. And having read 90% of his 1,332 word article, never once encountering climate change, Mr. Dutton decides to pivot, and magically concludes in 77 words:

“This applies, in my view, to the towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions of popular climate catastrophism. Such entertaining visions owe less to scientific climatology than to eschatology, and that familiar sense that modernity and its wasteful comforts are bringing us closer to a biblical day of judgment. As that headline put it for Y2K, predictions of the end of the world are often intertwined with condemnations of human “folly, greed and denial.” Repent and recycle!”

Suddenly I was no longer reading at my dining table but felt as if standing in Times Square, just conned by a Three Card Monte street hustler – and the hopes for the New Year were just sucked out of the room. I sit, mugged by the New York Times.

Yes, I realize Mr. Dutton has written an opinion piece and that he is a “controversial” libertarian figure – although the paper’s one line bio gives no hint. However, The New York Times must realize that this opinion piece does great damage to the public understanding of climate change.

Mr. Dutton does more damage than just executing an “elegent” con on The New York Times and its readership in presenting what amounts to little more than a one sided political screed masquerading as observations of the human pyche. Mr. Dutton presents the BIG LIE.

Perhaps other readers noticed as I, that in his 1,332 words, Mr. Dutton spends not a single one explaining why he thinks climate science is based on eschatology. One might expect such libelous assertions to be presented with some form of basic, sound, scientific underpinning. But no, he provides nothing to support his outrageously wrong-headed assertions about climate science. He instead leaves us to infer that “climate catastrophism” – the mainstream position of business-as-usual climate science – to be somehow deserving of categorization with the likes of Y2K, and End of Days cults and providing an almost sublime rhetorical service to climate change deniers the world over.

I don’t expect The New York Times to be an advocate of climate change energy policy but at a minimum it would be nice to get from the paper a greater understanding of climate science and the catastrophic risks facing me and my family.

Instead, on this 2010 New Years Day morning, the paper is a mule, smuggling counterfeit information into our homes.

Ken Levenson
Brooklyn, NY Jan 1, 2010


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54 Responses to The NY Times starts 2010 pushing the same damn disinformation about climate science it did in 2009

  1. espiritwater says:

    Hope they published his letter to the Editor! (But I doubt it! The New York Times, like the Wall Street Journal, is dispicably deceptive!)

  2. Andy Gunther says:

    Here’s my letter to the NYT:

    The physics of climate change was established in the 19th Century, and yet Dennis Dutton (NYT, January 1) claims the projected impacts of the observed physical alterations of the earth’s atmosphere are a “diversion from real problems.” He writes as though a body of information exists that falsifies climate theory and provides an alternate hypothesis consistent with physics that explains the changes we are observing. This information does not exist.

    Projections of future climate are not manifestation of “our inner demons,” but rather the product of a theory tested and refined over time using the scientific method. President Johnson’s Scientific Advisory Committee warned about climate change in 1965, and atmospheric scientists predicted decades ago the global pattern of warming we observe today.

    It is Mr. Dutton’s “inner demons” on display as he and other’s like him confuse the unprecedented with the improbable to placate their fears.

  3. Tom Street says:

    I saw this coming from the title of the piece and,therefore, didn’t read it. Since I was already aware of the low standards applied to op Ed pieces, I am not surprised.

    The NYT would better serve its readers by putting this kind of thing in a debate format.

  4. David Harington says:

    I like the New York Times and if I lived in NYC I would buy it.

    Seems to upset you guys though.

  5. David Harington says:

    Andy Gunther

    “Projections of future climate are not manifestation of “our inner demons,” but rather the product of a theory tested and refined over time using the scientific method. President Johnson’s Scientific Advisory Committee warned about climate change in 1965, and atmospheric scientists predicted decades ago the global pattern of warming we observe today.”

    Projections of future climate come from flawed models. You might as well use a crystal ball.

  6. espiritwater says:

    Last night was the first time I experienced anxiety while contemplating a new decade ahead. Still…

    Restore the Arctic, bring back winter for the Inuits, ice for polar bears and cooler climate for our planet!

    Bring about the dissolution of the fossil fuel industry, and end the fossil fuel era

    (High Expectations!)

  7. Chris Dudley says:

    What is very strange is that the denialist hero of the piece, Bill Gates, ran a company that issued a large number of Y2K patches so the whole story seems to be wrong from the git-go.

    Averted problems are always vulnerable to ex post facto criticism of this type by loudmouth know-nothings. Best to ignore them.

  8. mike roddy says:

    Henry Raymond, the founder of the New York Times, was a brilliant visionary, and one of the first to understand President Lincoln’s abiding spiritual qualities. His legacy of a newspaper as a sacred bedrock of truth and freedom endured for a long time. That paper is now gone.

    Some of us here are a little older, and give the Times way more credit than it deserves. The Sulzbergers themselves made a spiritual transformation: going from being the heralds of Mi Lai and the Pentagon Papers to groveling in the ditch of money, especially Wall Street, oil, and military contractors.

    It’s not a coincidence that national embarrassment John Tierney is their “Science Editor”. He, too, is a Libertarian, which these days is code for “Live high now. Future generations’ comfort and survival is not our responsibility”. Denying climate science or, in the case of Dutton, conflating it with superstitious doomsdayers (it’s the opposite, of course) is not a matter of poor choices or ignorance. Tierney and Dutton are the Sulzbergers’ soulmates.

    Thinking young people don’t read the Times; it’s obviously corrupt, so they go to blogs, The Guardian, and here. The rest of us need to do the same.

  9. Sam Spade says:

    Louisiana is first on the list of the sea-level vulnerables. But Manhattan isn’t far behind.

    Manhattan once escaped major storm-surge flooding only because the hurricane arrived at low tide.

  10. Andy Gunther says:

    Mr. Harington, I suggest you think a little bit more thoroughly about my comment, read up on the accuracy of climate predictions made in previous decades, and not toss around phrases like “flawed models” without backing up such assertions. Past projections have proven to be true…these were derived from models based on physics and chemistry, not on crystal balls. When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991 the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences at NASA predicted (using their “flawed” model) that the global average temperature would decline 0.3°C, and they were right on.

    There is uncertainty in projections of future climate, driven both by the uncertainty in model inputs (future emissions) and some finer points of atmospheric physics. However, these uncertainties drive projections both ways, and the vast majority of projections made by climate modelers are turning out to be conservative (this is no surprise to anybody who understands the skeptical nature of the scientific community, which leads scientists to make conservative projections to maintain professional credibility). This conservative nature of science has led to the use of models without positive feedbacks (such as outgassing of CO2 and CH4 from arctic soils and sediments in response to rising temperatures)…I believe these will be shown to be the real flaws in our models.

  11. Jeff says:

    Well, as one of those thinking young people, I would like to affirm mike’s assertion; I can say with certainty that the NYT has provided shoddy coverage of climate change related stories, and on many occasions has actually contributed to peoples’ misunderstanding of climate science and the global devastation it has the potential to cause. It’s only thanks to professional, honest and comprehensive publications like Joe’s that I have a good understanding of the issues my generation and future generations face, and the ways in which we can work to address them. Thanks Joe for a great year of reporting on the issue that most matters to me. May 2010 bring revelations for all that now is the time to act – we have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to make sure people like Mr. Dutton here do not prevail.

  12. Ben Hale says:

    This essay is immensely dumb, and not simply because it fails on the science. The logic of the essay is deeply flawed. A philosopher of Prof. Dutton’s background should know better:

  13. Steve Bloom says:

    The main evidence for where the climate is headed given continued increases in GHGs is paleoclimate studies, not the models. This new paper tells us with considerable precision what ocean surface temperatures were like in the mid-Pliocene, the last time CO2 levels were in the range we’ve now entered. What’s most significant about this work (part of a large long-term USGS-sponsored project called PRISM) is that the planet has changed very little in the intervening 3 million years except for the decreased CO2 level and its effects (decreased temperature, increased ice and decreased sea level). In other words, all that stands between us and this prior climate state is the time needed for the climate system to reach equilibrium. We look to the models to tell us how much time.

    The bad news is that the high Arctic temperatures indicated in the paper are enough to melt not only the Greenland ice sheet (and a lot of the Antarctic ice as well, but the paper is focused on the Arctic) but also the permafrost. If that happens quickly enough, we will get a big spike of methane and CO2 that will push us into a much warmer climate state (goodbye East Antarctic Ice Sheet among other things) and possibly a repeat of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) event. As they used to say in the ’60s in a different context, “speed kills.”

    Joe, I think it would be good to do a post on this paper (and the PRISM project generally). This ought to be big news, but of course it came out during the holiday week and the media seem especially dense when it comes to this sort of thing.

  14. The goal of the Times is to sustain the economic interests of the advertisers. They are doing a terrific job at this.

    However, readers, citizens and future generations are not well served by such science denial…. They play a risky game hoping that people will forget such misdeeds – not very smart for something wanting to be the “paper of record.”

  15. Steve Bloom says:

    I should add that the paper has another key implication: The 2C temperature increase maximum being bandied about in climate policy circles is, to borrow Ken’s metaphor, like expecting consistent winnings playing 3-card monte in Times Square.

  16. joe1347 says:

    Somehow I think that we’re just now seeing the tip of the nutjob crazyland iceberg from the global warming/climate change deniers and their supporters. Just wait until health care reform is passed (and signed by Obama) in a few weeks and the Senate starts debating (hopefully) or at least talking about climate change legislation. The attention of the tea bagging crazies has been temporarily diverted on fighting health care reform – but once that battle is over – you can bet that they’ll be all over the global warming debate. Look for lots of irrational unscientific anti-global warming claims that the main stream press will continue to both print or televise – but not challenge. It will make for some ‘great’ confrontational TV. Types like Michele Bachmann, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” and the rest of her ilk will be out front leading the anti-global warming media circus.

  17. Marshall P. says:

    Another letter draft, which I’ve just sent to the Times’ editor:

    Dear Sir,

    What a disappointing way to start the new decade! Mr. Dutton’s op-ed today [] seems at first just a light-hearted look back at the Y2K issue, but at the very end turns into yet another denialist screed discounting the dangers of climate change. Based on no argument more stronger than “in [his] view”, he dismisses warnings about climate change as “entertaining visions” rather than serious warnings of real changes occurring in the world around us.

    What qualifications does this professor of philosophy have to assess the state of climate science? Let’s listen instead to our leading scientists at NASA, NOAA, and many other federal agencies and private universities, and their counterparts worldwide, who have concluded that global warming is unequivocal, caused primarily by humanity’s actions, and demands immediate action to avoid catastrophic harm to our way of life [] Let’s listen to the assessments of our national security experts, who have concluded that climate change “will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics” []

    The world came together in Copenhagen to forge a plan for dealing with this critical issue. The challenge is clearly great. To continue giving a platform to denialists like Mr. Dutton does a grave disservice to the Times’ readership. To lump global warming with “Evil aliens” and “Nostradamus” as the op-ed’s banner graphic does is shockingly intellectually dishonest. I expect better from the Times!

    Yours sincerely,

  18. Mr. Harington,

    George E.P. Box once said “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. For example, models of combustion are limited to certain conditions of temperature, pressure, and fuel characteristics. They rely on empirically based approximations, but they (like all models) are imperfect. That doesn’t mean your car engine won’t start, but if you doubt me, go outside and try it yourself. Andy Gunther quite rightly implied that these models are based on some of the most well established principles in physical science, and they have been empirically validated in many ways. It is a simply a fallacy to claim that the existence of any imperfections in models make their predictions invalid.

    The basic conclusions of climate science haven’t changed in decades, even after thousands of scientists have tested and retested the various assumptions in those models. For example, the accepted climate sensitivity in the late 1970s was approximately the same as that accepted in the most recent IPCC reports, even though the later models are far more sophisticated. You are of course entitled to your own opinions, you’re just not entitled to your own facts. And the fact is, the preponderance of the evidence points to disastrous consequences if we don’t sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

  19. Leland Palmer says:

    It’s really amazing, after the NYT coverage of the Iraq invasion and the WMD fiasco, that people think it has any credibility left at all.

    It’s a propaganda rag, pure and simple.

    It’s the flagship newspaper of the Eastern financial establishment, which has a huge stake in fossil fuel corporation profits and business as usual.

    It’s good to keep pointing out the nonsense and the bias, though.

  20. Molnar says:

    I cancelled my subscription to the New York Times in 2004 – too bad I can’t do it again. However, I recommend that others do the same.

  21. It’s not AGW, but the WaPo starts off a new decade of ineptitude by printing an article pointing out Chertoff’s conflict of interest in pimping body scanners:
    Ex-Homeland Security chief head said to abuse public trust by touting body scanners,
    then giving him a wide swath of op-ed space to do precisely that!

  22. GFW says:

    Ok, I wrote one too. Following NYT guidelines, I tried to keep it under 150 words

    To the Editor:

    Re: “It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It” (opinion article, Jan 1). [the url]

    A properly constructed Y2K metaphor would actually support a high level of concern over global warming. The correct comparison is: If you polled relevant software experts each year from 1991 to 1999 and tracked their opinions regarding the severity of the Y2K problem, the responses would have started somewhere near “Well, civilization probably won’t fall, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.” and wound up in 1999 at “It’s going to be a total non-event. A few glitches will be found in unimportant systems but almost no one will notice.” (I can attest to having given that answer in late 1999 to an acquaintance who wanted to know if she should run up her credit cards.) So, actual experts were generally right about Y2K. Similarly, experts, like the thousands of researchers summarized by the IPCC, are almost certainly correct about AGW in general, but in contrast, their warnings are growing increasingly dire.

  23. Dirk says:

    Look up the SKY experiment and CERN’s CLOUD experiment and the fact that CO2 concentration trails tmperature, and you’ll see global warming is driven by solar activity- period.

    The effects of CO2 warming via IR re-radiation are minimal, like passing gas on a breezy day. Wishing everyone would just be quite and accept warmer dogma is a play right out of the communist playbook. Warmers, like Bolsehviks, probably thought they were on to something, but at this point are just trying to hold their sadly errant theory together as it falls apart.

  24. This latest visceral manipulation by the NYT is all of a piece — and that includes Dot Earth.

  25. Lou Grinzo says:

    richard pauli: “The goal of the Times is to sustain the economic interests of the advertisers. They are doing a terrific job at this.”

    Bingo! As I keep saying, many mainstream media outlets have become arms merchants in this war of words. As long as the words keep flying and attracting eyeballs, the outlet’s advertisers are happy and they (the outlets) stay in business.


    As for the Y2k issue, I can say with absolute certainty that it was a gigantic problem. I was a programmer, consultant, and writer (in the computer field) at the time, and my wife ran the internal “Y2k remediation effort” at a company far too big to name. Y2k, if not addressed, likely would have been “the end of the world as we know it”, or minimally an almost unimaginable hassle and expense, far beyond what it cost to fix. It would have been Very Bad, except for one little detail–we saw it coming and we found a way to fix or neuter it wherever it appeared.

    If anything, Y2k is an even bigger success story and more relevant to climate chaos than is the often touted Montreal Protocol and saving the ozone layer, yet it’s somehow morphed into a punchline to make fun of chicken littles. (Which is not to excuse the endless and groundless fear mongering that happened online. One of the biggest doomers in the Y2k run-up was the very same James Howard Kunstler so many are slavishly following now on the peak oil problem.)

  26. dhogaza says:

    Look up the SKY experiment and CERN’s CLOUD experiment

    Most of us here are aware that the CLOUD experiment thus far has only shown results contaminated by wall effects, which is why the researchers haven’t published any conclusions from their experiments.

    Just recently, NASA announced that the AIRS sensor on AQUA has confirmed that water vapor feedbacks closely match with model predictions. One more thing the models have been shown to get right.

    The effects of CO2 warming via IR re-radiation are minimal

    And, of course, this demonstrates ignorance of just how CO2 directly warms the atmosphere, but we will not allow ourselves to act surprised.

  27. Anna Haynes says:

    When there are quid pro quos involved in publishing op-eds, how do they work? are they typically in writing? are they typically even verbalized, or does everyone involved understand without having to come out and say it?

    On the good-NYTimes side, there’s the Dec 29 Red River Flooding Solution Is a Problem to Some by Monica Davey – although it doesn’t mention climate change, it does illustrate the cui-bono-snarls we’ll get into, when we have to adapt to climate change.

    An ounce of prevention…

  28. Leif says:

    MY third letter today.

    This morning, first day of a new year, I am confronted with the above. This morning I called it tripe and see no reason change . (Perhaps more intense.) Never the less I have been a subscriber for ~10 years. I would of canceled by now but my wife still likes to read the paper and it is in her name. So I do have a bit of loyalty and would like to see you succeed. ( More importantly I would like to see civilization succeed and you can play a strong roll even at this late date.) To that end I offer a solution. Pick a dozen people that have some ability to reason and give them a reading list and access to peer reviewed people to learn if we should be worried or not. Then get on the bus… ( Quit this “he said, she said” BS!).

    Lets look at your record….. weapons of mass destruction………………………… wrong
    Gulf war…………………………………. ”
    housing bubble …………………….. ”
    economy ………………………………. ”
    Global climatic disruption……… ” +++
    Do you see a pattern here???
    I would put a couple of people on reviewing Climate Progress for a week to get a great picture of real people trying to look rationally at a serious problem that you are missing completely . If for no other reason than to keep the dialog moving along. If you have a “died in the wool” denier, (Anti_Science), give him a 1 in 10 seat. Really only 1 in 20 climate scientists!. Then make your paper reflect your findings. Start with new IPCC report. “Plan B 4.0,” Lester Brown Ask for a reading list from posters on CP. They will be happy to oblige. Give “us a heads up” so we can give you are best stuff and not the rambling that we can get into. Read Joe’s best stuff.


  29. ken levenson says:

    Joe, thanks for posting my letter. I’m always happy to be of service in keeping things up to 11…and beyond. Happy New Year to everyone in the CP community!

  30. Leif says:

    Sorry: “Its always the end of the world…. NY times. Above

  31. Donald says:

    Whoa! Deep breath everybody. I have just read Prof Dutton’s piece and suggest that you re-read it from the perspective that he has something very useful to say about what happens when science enters the public domain. I could find nothing in the article about science but plenty about the wilful misuse of science outside the scientific community.

    Let’s agree that the piece could have been written better and possibly should have been developed into a substantive article rather than being published as a short op-ed. Even so what are the major points?

    1. From a public perspective Y2K was a joke. Prof Dutton doesn’t bring this out but I agree with Lou Grinzo that the world did deal collectively with a real problem and did it well. So far it is our only example of collective global action in the face of a real threat and yet is now held up in the media as a source of ridicule. This is very concerning. Those who were involved with Y2K on the inside know that the “science” as it was articulated from 1993 was unassailable. We also know that the belated public and private policy responses and the media coverage of 98-99 bore little, if any, relationship to the original technical assessments and advice.

    What I took from this piece is that when an issue like climate change hits the public arena the discourse gets seriously affected by all sorts of factors. The ‘End Days’ crowd will have a field day, the media will sensationalise the issues and so on. What is almost certain is that serious science and appropriate policy will get lost in the noise. AND it will be harder to get appropriate action implemented.

    2. “popular climate catastrophism” is the full phrase Prof Dutton uses. I did not find any part of his piece where he accuses any scientist or activists of catastrophism. With all respect to the good folks of CP this site is not “popular”. Popular is Hollywood, Fox and tabloids not the IPCC or sites like this. I am sure “2012” was in Prof Dutton’s mind when he wrote that paragraph. Sure,that movie is a crock from a scientific point of view but it is also a pertinent reminder of what happens when Hollywood jumps on the bandwagon. With friends like them who needs enemies?

    With Copenhagen behind us and the global legitimising of climate change at the political level there is a now a new problem to deal with. Climate change activists and governments must now deal with those who accept climate change but want to co-opt the discourse into something irrelevant and potentially verty dangerous.

    [JR: Uhh, not even close, as explained.]

  32. We have been far to polite in criticizing Denis Dutton. He is an intellectual pimp. I refer you to that exists only to promote the false debate on global warming. (Not – that is where I criticize them)

    By promoting a debate about make that carbon emissions – he is in direct service of the carbon fuel industry. But the science is solid, the EPA has ruled, courts are about to tackle this issue directly – but by pretending to offer a debate, he is able to spend half his energy in promoting a scientific falsehood, sustaining horribly risky behavior, and poison PR attitudes of his own students.

    Shame on the NYTimes and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.

    The site says:
    “Prof. Dutton is skeptical about the degree to which human activity has contributed to the general warming trend that began in the 1880s. He adds, however, “Working at the university where Karl Popper taught in the 1930s and 40s, I am more than a little aware of the way that good scientific hypotheses must always be open to falsification. The best way for science and public policy to proceed is to keep assessing evidence pro and con for anthropogenic global warming. That is the idea behind Climate Debate Daily.” Denis Dutton’s personal website is here.” (
    “Climate Debate Daily is an independent website which began its life on the internet on January 1, 2008. It has no financial or institutional connection with the University of Canterbury, Arts & Letters Daily, or Philosophy and Literature. Climate Debate Daily is generously supported by a grant from Dr. Peter Farrell of ResMed Corp. ( Like Denis Dutton, Dr. Farrell is skeptical of the threat of anthropogenic global warming. But he also says, “Let the best argument win.””

    Written intent aside, his site is promoting the empty controversy. This PR tactic is taken from the tobacco industry – “we are not sure tobacco causes cancer” and it is about 30 years old… but it still works well.

    The site ClimateDebateDaily.COM is packaged pseudo debate that appears to be an ideological rant funded by a medical instrument manufacturer. (Kind of arrogant for such a company)

    I get tired of pointing the finger at such idiocy. Now it will be interesting to see how he folds up. How shrill will be his anti-science screed?

  33. Logic Deferred says:

    It is worth noting as well that Dutton has no background in science or philosophy of science (despite the fact that he teaches a 101 class on “Science: Good, Bad and Bogus.”) The man’s AOS is in art and media; his qualifications to address even basic critical thinking issues are less than well established. His real expertise is in rhetorical excess: ideally in analyzing it.

  34. Craig says:

    I get a little nervous when people start calling for newspapers to censure the opinion section for the protection of the public. It sets a dangerous precedent.

    Is the opinion unfounded and based on ignorance? The writer certainly offers nothing to suggest otherwise. But it is hardly an uncommon opinion.

    In any case, as Steve Jobs says: Nobody reads anymore. The audience of the NY Times is presumably made up of the educated few who still pay attention to newspapers. That group should be capable of deciding for themselves whether or not this opinion piece carries any weight. I certainly don’t feel the need to be protected from ‘dangerous opinions’ such as this.

  35. Anna Haynes says:

    Some Dutton background, in Who Killed Lingua Franca (who is Denis Dutton, and why won’t he talk?)

    His ALDaily was contrarian back when contrarianism was still mainstream; but a decade later, he still seems not to have moved beyond it.

  36. Anna Haynes says:

    Dutton’s review of Lomborg’s Skeptical Environmentalist, in Washington Post
    (Joe, don’t read this, lest you explode)

  37. Richard Brenne says:

    Dirk (#23):

    Could you please pass gas elsewhere?

  38. Stephen Watson says:

    I never fail to be amazed that that a software issue which was scientifically predicted from clear ‘evidence’, worked on and then resolved, is used over and over to show how “doom sayers” are so wrong. In 1999, I was charged at our company to look over the 250,000+ lines of our product’s code to check for cases where the Y2K issue would cause us and our customers problems. I seem to remember that I found them all and ‘repaired’ the code. Our software dealt only with job recruitment so failure would hardly have caused an international incident. If however, our software had been handling millions of credit card transactions, plane flights, nuclear power stations, government benefit payouts etc etc then things could have been different.

    What Y2K shows is that when you can see a problem coming and you work to address it in time then that problem can be resolved. Yet bizarrely it seems fated to be used by shrill advocates of Business As Usual as evidence that critical issues for which we need responses can safely be ignored or discounted, safe in the knowledge that everything is really just fine.

    But then, that’s mainstream journalism for you I suppose.

  39. Michael says:

    “But what is the NYT’s excuse for publishing it?”

    Freedom of press, anyone?

    [JR: Nice try. So why don’t they publish some opinion pieces saying that whole “cigarette smoking is dangerous” stuff is like Y2K? Try to distinguish between freedom of the press and responsibility not to spread disinformation.]

  40. Molnar says:

    Michael, freedom of the press is not an excuse for publishing rubbish, but a doctrine to prohibit prosecution for publication. The distinction seems to be getting lost in our modern kakistocracy.

  41. ken levenson says:

    Donald #31,

    You state: ““popular climate catastrophism” is the full phrase Prof Dutton uses. I did not find any part of his piece where he accuses any scientist or activists of catastrophism. ”

    Your point would be valid if there was meaningful daylight between “popular” and “scientific” climate catastrophism.

    As Dutton himself in the piece describes “popular climate catastrophism”!!!:
    “This applies, in my view, to the towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions of popular climate catastrophism.”

    Let’s see….towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions….that sounds a lot like the scientific consensus to any living human.

    The absolute mainstream scientific case says it will be incredibly difficult to stop warming at or under 2 degree Celsius.

    I think this whole nonsensical debate shows how weak the MSM reporting has been on the subject. BUSINESS AS USUAL IS CATASTROPHIC PER THE SCIENCE.

    So again let’s refer to his key lines (Because the entire rest of the piece is little more than window dressing.):

    “This applies, in my view, to the towering seas, storms, droughts and mass extinctions of popular climate catastrophism. Such entertaining visions owe less to scientific climatology than to eschatology.”

    So it is very clear – Mr. Dutton seeks to conflate this very real catastrophic threat and the completely rational response one might expect in facing such threats with the End of Days crowd. The special gift he provides the denier crowd is conflating their natural libertarian disdain for the Y2K “fix” with the likes of the IPCC. Dutton is calling out to the impressionable….Just another misinformed big brother trying to save us – Ignore them and go about your business.!

    Mr. Dutton is very clever and as you’ve noted, chosen his words very carefully. But I think he is too clever by half and shows his hand.

    I more apt analogy to the popular psychology we are dealing with is Stalin’s refusal to believe his generals that Germany was about to invade/invading – it didn’t fit his world view so it wasn’t happening. The catastrophe unfolded no matter what Stalin may have wanted to believe. And so the libertarian/right wing has stuck their heads in the sand and refuse all manner of reason and evidence. EVIDENCE, because as we know, the climate catastrophe is unfolding now in real time – it is not an imagined future calamity….so, not unlike the war that swept across Stalin’s Russia, this is sweeping around the planet.

    Mr. Dutton is very good at publicizing himself…too bad it’s at the expense of us and our children.

    Happy New Year.

  42. mark says:

    I am not young, but I lost any interest in the NY Times after it became the foremost cheerleader for the Iraq invasion;

    When millions of people easily saw that the there was no basis for the invasion, the New York Times thought that there was a strong case, and led the propaganda war in favour of the invasion.

    That was an insurmountable loss of credibility for me. I have not bothered to read it since then.

    So, I am disgusted, but not surprised by this.

  43. Bryan Walker says:

    Denis Dutton is a foundation member of the misnamed New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, a denialist organisation unremitting in its search for media publicity. I find it quite possible to imagine that the final paragraph was the real reason for his article and would be regarded as something of a triumph for the cause.

  44. fred g says:

    The NYT piece is too kind in comparing pushers of global warming to those who espoused the Y2K scare. The Y2K scare had some rational basis. Real problems may have been averted by implementing fixes in computer code. In contrast, the global warming hoax involves proposed actions that would devastate the world’s economy for absolutely no rational reason. It also is giving money to greedy and undeserving “scientists” who are pushing this fraud.

  45. Donald says:

    Ken #41

    I take your point. Unlike Y2K it is not possible with climate change to overstate the threat.

    Nonetheless there are some very valuable lessons to be taken from both Y2K and the avian flu scare of 2005 about how multiple societies globally react in the face of a severe but “future” threat. Sadly although there was efficacy it was not always efficient or rational.

  46. Leif says:

    Richard Brenne. Personal: If memory serves me correct you volunteered to fact check “melting aircraft carriers.” On the “Hottest Decade….” about comment # 50 on is my latest attempt. I had to be a bit creative to put math in this format but not complicated. Just lots of zeros. However my answer is no where close to my original answer. Big Surprise. Enjoy

  47. Leif says:

    Richard Brenne. Personal: If memory serves me correct you volunteered to fact check “melting aircraft carriers.” On the “Hottest Decade….” about comment # 50 on is my latest attempt. I had to be a bit creative to put math in this format but not complicated. Just lots of zeros. However my answer is no where close to my original answer. Big Surprise. Enjoy

  48. Leif says:

    I posted this on the above thread but appears appropriate here as well.. Thank you for your indulgence all.

    Soldiers take orders to survive. Reporters should be “investigating” to present consensus “truth” to unanswered questions so that the public will be well informed come judgement time. If the “reporters ” reach a preordained conclusion, and I believe most have, then their opinions get as muddled as the masses. (Also recall their job depends on sales.) Failure to “investigate” means that you just rewrite history, (think “1984”), you become soldiers, not “reporters.” Freedom of speech is a corner stone of any democracy, without you REPORTERS, we cannot stand as a democracy. All this falls on the backs of the editors so I blame them first.
    Perhaps one tactic is to be merciless with the editors. Hit them with every “big gun” we got. Get people, CP, to the top of twitter? What ever that means?

    Very good insight offered by Graham, #10. (different thread) Thank you. There appears to advantages to explore this Twitter thing more. First thing in the morning.

  49. Leif says:

    Is it possible to have a “box” where commentators could vote to send stuff? I was thinking that all these great posts should be able to be accessed by the media and editors so they could see at a glance what we think of them. They would not be sprinkled through cyberspace. A one stop, place to go for some humility. Constructive criticism? Hopefully even an “ATTA BOY” thumbs up from time to time. Maybe we could even get a few addicted. (Take that “out of context” A-S crowd…)

  50. Richard Brenne says:

    Thanks Leif! Nice work – as always, with your thoughtful comments. My partner in the class, Toby Dittrich, will be checking and we’ll get back to you with our gratitude and any comments.

  51. Leif says:

    Richard: Right on! Looking forward to some numbers, I was not impressed with my error bars…

  52. James Newberry says:

    In our Ameristan, centralized, corporized and corrupt Orwellian world of the US “economy” the paper of record is brought to us by front page color adds from the deniers. The deniers are the causers. The causers are the corrupters and they own government (via the political power of money). A plutocracy at best, with discontinuities for all. War is peace. Debt is wealth. Long live fraud, abuse and denial (which is good for business until it isn’t).

  53. JeffM says:


    If global warming is the catastrophic nightmare we so often read about, why are governments of the world not in crisis mode? Why are governments not spending $billions for development of alternative sources of 24/7 energy? Why are government pushing for conversion to as-yet-nonexistent and unspecified sources of “clean” energy?

    Why are governments, instead, creating a new “sub-prime mortgage” type of investment security? If (should Cap and Trade actually work) we dramatically reduce CO2 emissions, and the value of so-called carbon credits thus lose their original value, whose money will bail out the companies left holding them? Has this cost been factored in to the total cost to the Taxpayer?

    Perhaps you should consider that man’s ability to control planetary climate is the stuff of science fiction.

  54. Dingo says:

    Still running Earth 1.0? Check in every Tuesday for new climate patches! Where do you want to go today anyway? Venus?