Welcome readers of the NYT’s front-page climate story with the bad headline

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"Welcome readers of the NYT’s front-page climate story with the bad headline"

Memo to New York Times: We are NOT in a Deep Freeze

People here because of the NYT link might want to start with “An Introduction to Climate Progress” and other “Most Popular Posts” on the sidebar.  My bio is here.

I’m featured in John Broder’s story, “Climate-Change Debate Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze.”  Before getting to the story, I must comment once again on how a dreadful headline mars an otherwise fairly reasonable story for the NY Times.

We are not in a deep freeze.  Quite the reverse.

Let’s see.  The 2000s were easily the hottest decade on record (as NASA and  NOAA and the World Meteorological Organization report).  And 2009 was one of the hottest years on record — tied for second hottest in NASA’s dataset.  And we are now in the warmest winter globally, as I noted in my Monday post, “Massive moisture-driven extreme precipitation during warmest winter in the satellite record “” and the deniers say it disproves (!) climate science.”

Heck, even over the tiny fraction of the planet’s surface that is the continental United States, NOAA just reported that January was “0.3 degrees above the long-term average” — notwithstanding the media coverage (and hype by the anti-science ideologues) that might have left you with the serious misimpression last month was unusually cold.

I know Broder reads the blog since he quoted my Wednesday post in his piece, and he links to Climate Progress.  And yes, I know he almost certainly didn’t write the headline.

We are living in a world where the media is desperate for eyeballs and looking for the most sexy and sensational headlines, even if they don’t match the story.  And since many people don’t get far past the headline, they’ll be left with a profoundly mistaken impression.

The story itself is much better, if you read the whole thing.

As millions of people along the East Coast hole up in their snowbound homes, the two sides in the climate-change debate are seizing on the mounting drifts to bolster their arguments.Skeptics of global warming are using the record-setting snows to mock those who warn of dangerous human-driven climate change “” this looks more like global cooling, they taunt.

Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.

But some independent climate experts say the blizzards in the Northeast no more prove that the planet is cooling than the lack of snow in Vancouver or the downpours in Southern California prove that it is warming.

Okay, this sets up a standard he-said, she-said.  The third sentence gets it right.  What’s happening is fully “consistent with” climate science.  The anti-science ideologues are pushing nonsense.  And of course, not only is weather not climate, but precipitation is not temperature.

Broder’s fourth sentence is a puzzle — especially the “But” — since I don’t know any people who use the word “prove” in the context of individual weather events and global warming.  I try to use “consistent with” or similar language.

For uber-extreme weather events that are record-smashing and consistent with the predictions of global warming science I also sometimes use the phrase “global-warming-type” as in “Weather Channel expert on Georgia’s record-smashing global-warming-type deluge.”

The weather is definitely getting more extreme as I discuss at length in Was the “Blizzard of 2009″³ a “global warming type” of record snowfall “” or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)? (see also Preparing For Frankenstorms: “The most powerful low pressure system in 140 years of record keeping” slams the Southwest).

Even the Bush Administration in its must-read U.S. Climate Change Science Program report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, acknowledged:

Many extremes and their associated impacts are now changing”¦. Heavy downpours have become more frequent and intense”¦.

It is well established through formal attribution studies that the global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases.“¦ The increase in heavy precipitation events is associated with an increase in water vapor, and the latter has been attributed to human-induced warming.

And yes, this applies to snow.  A 2005 study, coauthored by the National Climatic Data Center, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States,” found:

The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.

Finally, we have the 2009 government report on U.S. climate impacts, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, which concluded:

- “Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.”

– “In winter and spring, northern areas are expected to receive significantly more precipitation than they do now, because the interaction of warm and moist air coming from the south with colder air from the north is projected to occur farther north than it did on average in the last century. The more northward incursions of warmer and moister air masses are expected to be particularly noticeable in northern regions that will change from very cold and dry atmospheric conditions to warmer but moister conditions. Alaska, the Great Plains, the upper Midwest, and the Northeast are beginning to experience such changes for at least part of the year, with the likelihood of these changes increasing over time.”

– “There is also evidence of an increase in the intensity of storms in both the mid- and high- latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with greater confidence in the increases occurring in high latitudes. The northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights.”

I would add that global warming clearly makes some extreme events worse — for instance, record-breaking droughts are far more brutal when they are hot weather droughts than, say, cool weather droughts (see Australian Scientists: Contrary to media reports, “our paper does not discount climate change as playing a role in this most recent drought, the ‘Big Dry’. In fact, there are indications that climate change has worsened this recent drought”).  I would also add that a 13-year long record-smashing drought is obviously much more of a climatic event than, say, one big snowstorm.

Back to the NYT piece:

As an illustration of their point of view, the family of Senator James M. Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma, a leading climate skeptic in Congress, built a six-foot-tall igloo on Capitol Hill and put a cardboard sign on top that read “Al Gore’s New Home.”

The extreme weather, Mr. Inhofe said by e-mail, reinforced doubts about scientists’ conclusion that global warming was “unequivocal” and most likely caused by human activity.

Nonsense, responded Joseph Romm, a climate-change expert and former Energy Department official who writes about climate issues at the liberal Center for American Progress.

“Ideologues in the Senate keep pushing the anti-scientific disinformation that big snowstorms are evidence against human-caused global warming,” Mr. Romm wrote on Wednesday.

Ah, brave new world, where I can be featured in a front-page above-the-fold NYT story — without the reporter ever having talked to me!  But that is what this blog is for — to engage in the debate — and presumably that’s why they included the active link.

He quoted me accurately, and that is always welcome.  Indeed, my only complaint about these lines is that, as my brother pointed out to me, it should be “Dr. Romm.”  That’s particularly true if we jump to the end of the story, which talks about the blog post of “Dr. Masters” on the subject:

Speculating on the meaning of severe weather events is not new. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and a deadly heat wave in Europe in the summer of 2003 incited similar arguments about what such extremes might “” or might not “” say about the planet’s climate.

But climate scientists say that no single episode of severe weather can be blamed for global climate trends while noting evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes on the Weather Underground blog, said that the recent snows do not, by themselves, demonstrate anything about the long-term trajectory of the planet. Climate is, by definition, a measure of decades and centuries, not months or years.

But Dr. Masters also said that government and academic studies had consistently predicted an increasing frequency of just these kinds of record-setting storms because warmer air carries more moisture.

“Of course,” he wrote on his blog Wednesday as new snows produced white-out conditions in much of the Eastern half of the country, “both climate-change contrarians and climate-change scientists agree that no single weather event can be blamed on climate change.

“However,” he continued, “one can ‘load the dice’ in favor of events that used to be rare “” or unheard of “” if the climate is changing to a new state.”

A federal government report issued last year, intended to be the authoritative statement of known climate trends in the United States, pointed to the likelihood of more frequent snowstorms in the Northeast and less frequent snow in the South and Southeast as a result of long-term temperature and precipitation patterns. The Climate Impacts report, from the multiagency United States Global Change Research Program, also projected more intense drought in the Southwest and more powerful Gulf Coast hurricanes because of warming.

In other words, if the government scientists are correct, look for more snow.

Anyone who reads the whole story will get to read a pretty fair account of what the science says about extreme weather — if they ignore the headline, that is.

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44 Responses to Welcome readers of the NYT’s front-page climate story with the bad headline

  1. WAG says:

    Notice how the “authorities” cited on the skeptic side are Jim Inhofe, Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge – no scientists.

    But it reports as if it’s just two sides debating. Inhofe says one thing, Joe Romm says another – as if the qualifications were equal.

    All people may have been created equal, but that doesn’t mean all people have equally valid viewpoints.

    [JR: Good point. But look at it this way, we have two Ph.D. plus actual research quoted on the science side vs. no scientists on the anti-science side.]

  2. Anonymous says:

    Given how deplorable recent New York Times contributions have been, this was actually at least respectable once you got past the very start.

  3. you says:

    Seriously stop with this nonsense I cant take it any more. You have no idea what temperature the EARTH is supposed to be.

  4. mike roddy says:

    you in #3 said….nothing.

    I’m going to side with James Inhofe. He got jumped on for the igloo and said “can’t you guys take a joke?”. It reminded me that those guys are human, and maybe we can reach his followers better with a little more humor. He is of course just an employee, but I bet he is able to laugh at jokes at his expense once in a while.

    I don’t know about you, Joe, but I get drained and stressed out sometimes. Nobody works harder or more passionately on this issue than you do. Your funny posts are my favorites, especially your sarcastic asides. Don’t forget to nourish that part of you- we’ve got a long journey ahead.

  5. Lore says:

    #3 you says:

    “You have no idea what temperature the EARTH is supposed to be.”

    I’m not sure what your point is? If you mean that climate is always changing, no one is arguing that point. However, we have for the last several thousand years experienced an ideal environment in which the human race has prospered. It would have been wonderful to have a few more thousand years of the same without us influencing it. Hopefully giving us enough time to get our act together.

  6. Leif says:

    Hay, You, #3: Interesting point. What is the temperature supposed to be? Earth has in fact experienced lots of different climatic states, most of which have NOT been conducive to humanities survival I would add. Some of those climatic shifts have happened with remarkable rapidity. Most long and slow, giving various life forms a chance to evolve or migrate. From humanities point of view, I would contend that the temperature is “supposed” to be within the norm that we have grown accustom to. Mankind has made an extensive investment in cities, infrastructure, water systems, and agriculture to achieve a state of development where we only starve a few million people a year. Science is telling us that all of our investment is in jeopardy with our current course of ignoring global climatic disruption. Science sites sea level rise, Polar ice melt, shifting weather patterns, shifted migration patterns, forest degradation, and much more, (which you prefer to ignore) as evidence. To the best knowledge of current world wide science with ~95% probability, Greenhouse Gases are the culprit and burning fossil fuel with abandon is the cause.
    So you tell me what is the temperature supposed to be? The one humanity has evolved to know and love, or a crap shoot of variability?

  7. Jim Prall says:

    If you need another name on the side of reason, there’s also Bill Nye the Science Guy, who appeared on Rachel Maddow last night explaining in nice basic terms the same overall points Joe makes here in more detail. Here’s a link to a YouTube video of the interview:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYvk1OtI0H0

    CBC Radio this morning had a joke announcement (they always try for one at the start of “The Current”) saying the cancellation of congressional hearings on global warming due to snow closures had led the US Weather Bureau to issue an “Extreme Irony Alert.”

    But seriously, folks! Joe gets this story right here, and good on the NYT for getting that point across, even if there was a bit of balance-as-bias blended in. The climate contrarian arguments-from-snowstorm are widespread, and their occurence is news even if their argument doesn’t hold water.

    As for “what temperature the Earth is supposed to be” – it’s “supposed to be” not forced way out of its recent natural range to which civilization, agriculture and natural ecosystems are already presently adapted.

  8. Dean says:

    The point I try to make about extreme weather events is the baseline they are sitting on. The recent cold snap set relatively few records across the country given its breadth, mostly just a few in Florida, despite all the angst about the cold and our precious oranges (note: I love oranges, I eat one every day, more than apples, and I live in Washington state!).

    But when we had a heat wave in my area last year, many cities didn’t just set records for that day, they set all-time high records for any day of the year. Seattle, to the north of me, beat it’s old all-time high by a full 3 degrees.

  9. Stuart says:

    Joe, good to see you linked in the NYT but I agree the headline writer deserves a snowball in the face. You don’t get much snow during a “deep freeze”.

    I think we need to emphasize that big snowfall events like this are correctly predicted by climate science. Unfortunately to the public eye snow = cold, and this is especially true in places that usually have mild winters.

    Someone mentioned on another thread that the weather gods must favor the deniers and delayers because of the prolonged cold over key parts of the NH – maybe they are testing to see how smart these monkeys really are. :-)

  10. Richard Brenne says:

    You (I’m guessing this might not be your real name) #3 –

    In addition to AGW, you evidently deny the existence of punctuation as well.

    Look at the responses of Lore (#7) and especially Leif (#6), then add to that the fact that the most dramatic climate changes took place over long periods like 100,000 years in the Eocene 55 million years ago and 1,000,000 years in the Permian Extinction 251 million years ago.

    We are making changes that could, if we do nothing as you appear to recommend, be roughly comparable (enough to kill most species off) in just a few hundred years, maybe only a hundred.

    The rate of change is as dramatic as the change itself.

    Mike, I usually agree with you, but Inhofe is a U.S. Senator who has done and is doing everything in his power to deny climate change and delay desperately needed measures to address it. You’re absolutely right that humor in the right context is important, but in relation to Inhofe his grandchildren will suffer so deeply as all grandchildren will, that I’m afraid his unrelenting efforts will only lead ultimately to tears of bitterness, not mirth. When Inhofe sees the light and lightens up (I’m not holding my breath in this lifetime), we will too.

  11. LucAstro says:

    It seems that the debate is going in cycles: one week deniers say that that global warming is real but not manmade, the next, if it happens to snow or to be unusually cold where one lives, then deniers will say that there is no such thing as global warming. What is never said (but fits the data) is that most media have a hidden agenda of maintaining confusion and doubt about AGW. They can only operate and think at the level of their ideology, leaving out Scientific inquiry and skepticism when it suits them.

  12. Barry says:

    Senator Inhofe’s humour seems to me like an attempt at a “get out of responsibility free” card.

    All the ring-leaders of the manufactured doubt campaign know that a day of reckoning is coming. They understand the climate science error bars are very small. They know the probability of nasty climate disruptions is high.

    And most definitely they fully understand that extreme weather events will very likely be increasingly frequent and more damaging. That is exactly why they try to spin these weather “postcards from the future” so relentlessly.

    The captains of the campaign to preserve the profits from unconstrained-pollution from fossil fuels have their lifeboat strategies planned out. They aren’t stupid. It is the rest of the crew that is going down with the ship.

  13. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Read the story three times, still couldn’t find any identification of the “independent climate EXPERTS” who are supposed to disagree with Dr. Romm and Dr. Masters. Does Broder think Inhofe, Drudge or Limbaugh are experts or is he just willing to accept on faith their assertions that their views are supported by some climate scientist somewhere? That’s lousy journalism – talk about relying upon unnamed secondary sources! I’m certainly glad the scientific viewpoint was published but, my God, what a sloppy overall story.

  14. shannon smith says:

    It is a deep freeze. All the hundreds of thousands that lost electric power are well aware what a freeze is like. The sun will appear and melt the snow. Of course CO2 will not melt any ice.
    Snow is awesoome at Whistler for the games and I see Cypress 1 mile from the Pacific is hoping for snow. That japanese current is a warmer even for Seattle.Thank God most people that were stranded in cars were not driving electrics. Electric heat lasts about 15 minutes.

  15. Dennis says:

    The question I ask is: will we get nonsense headlines during a summer heat wave?

  16. Lou Grinzo says:

    shannon: Thank you helping us to demarcate exactly where the reality distortion field is and how high it goes. We will update our maps accordingly.

  17. dhogaza says:

    If you need another name on the side of reason, there’s also Bill Nye the Science Guy, who appeared on Rachel Maddow last night explaining in nice basic terms the same overall points Joe makes here in more detail.

    Rachel Maddow starts that off with a *great* illustration of the “value” of anecdotal evidence. Something nearly everyone in the country can understand, since nearly everyone has a least a passing familiarity with the game of hoops.

  18. Wit's End says:

    I would rather have a flawed story that links to ClimateProgress, than no story.

    Congratulations Joe!!

  19. Wit's End says:

    Okay Mike Roddy and others who agree humor is good, here is Steve Colbert via HuffPo, who “rips Fox News For Using Snowstorm to Deny Global Warming!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/11/colbert-rips-fox-news-for_n_458075.html

    “Using the same rationale as Fox News, Colbert couldn’t help but point out that, due to it being nighttime, the city was covered in darkness. “Based on this latest data, we can only assume that the sun has been destroyed.” Who’s to blame for this “forever-night”? Gore, of course.”

  20. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Yup,

    Despite what the pro polluters are saying, record snow is not the same as record cold.

  21. mark says:

    thanks very much.

  22. Nordic chick says:

    Warmistas
    Can’t have record snow and record heat concurrently

    [JR: Do you have any idea how anti-science that statement is? Aside from the fact that you have conflated two different sets of facts I presented.]

  23. Berbalang says:

    Considering that I have yet to have to shovel the driveway this Winter, I find all the media reporting about “Snowmaggeddon” rather surreal on a number of levels. I guess our part of the country has been lucky in that the snow we’ve gotten has tended to melt off the streets fairly quickly (usually by noon) and the temperatures have not been extremely cold. We may even make it through the Winter without it going below zero.

    Thinking about it, the heaviest snow storms have tended to be in March and the most destructive one in recent memory was on the first day of Spring. Could these snow storms be the start of Springlike weather?

  24. Brewster says:

    “Can’t have record snow and record heat concurrently”

    Why not?

    It’s the record heat in one place that evaporates the water that then freezes to make the record snow a little further down the line.

  25. Doug Bostrom says:

    Nordic chick says: February 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    “Can’t have record snow and record heat concurrently”

    What we have here is a failure to communicate, honestly. Though I can’t say “Nordic Chick” is sincere because I don’t know her, the generic remark points to a possible huge gap in understanding.

    When “normal” people talk about heat, they’re speaking of sensible heat, the kind we like to feel when we’re warm and snug, or when we’re “too hot”.

    When scientists are talking about heat or warmth in the context of climate, they’re talking of energy content, wholly different than snuggly heat.

    Something can gain energy, yet still feel cold, it’s that simple. And the air can gain energy, yet still be able to freeze water and still feel cold.

    So yeah, it does not snow when it’s warm, not warm like we like it in our homes. But it can certainly snow even as heat content of the atmosphere increases and the atmosphere becomes warmer.

    To a scientist liquid nitrogen is warmer than liquid helium. To the rest of us they’re both bloody cold, and we’re right, but the scientists are still correct too.

  26. Leif says:

    Nordic chick, #22: “.. Can’t have record snow…” Why not? Please pay attention. The world average temperature has increased not quite 1C, Not even two degrees F. That means that over the course of the last ~50 years, If your “today” winter temperature is normally 25F, before global warming your “today” temperature would be about 23F! Both days quite cold enough to make snow. The kicker is that even warmer “cold” air can hold more water vapor to condense. Another is that much of the moisture is transported from the warmer seas south and west. On the west coast we call that effect “atmospheric rivers.”

  27. Leif says:

    Correction above: If your “today” winter temperature is normally 25F, before global warming your today temperature would be 27F … Sorry folks, Senior moment.

  28. Andy says:

    re: You’s comment.

    That’s silly. Of course we know what temperature the earth is supposed to be. The global average temperature varies little from year to year or century to century. Since the end of the last ice age the average global temperature has varied less than 3 degrees C. It is amazing how the ups and downs experienced at different points on the globe even out to provide a consistent yearly average temperature. This isn’t simply a fluke of chance however. Our earth’s oceans and ice caps act as massive climate stabilizers.

    A drop of only 8 degrees C plunged the earth into a frigid ice age. This temperature drop was initiated by incredibly slight changes in the amount of sunlight falling on the northern hemisphere during the summer season. It was amplified by feedbacks such as decreases in carbon dioxide and increases in albedo (ability to reflect light – more ice = more albedo = cooler earth), until places like New York in the US were buried by two mile thick ice caps.

    A rise of 6 degrees C will cause the earth to become a hell hole of deserts and incredibly hot and humid jungles where it rains almost constantly. Sea level will rise from the melted ice caps until it is 200 feet higher than today. Do you know the elevation of your city? That could become the question on everyone’s lips one day.

    How do we know? Because like the ice ages, hell earth has happened before. About 55 million years ago massive volcanic eruptions spewed out huge amounts of lava and carbon dioxide. The increase in carbon dioxide caused feedbacks which further warmed the earth.

    We are well on our way to achieving that state again. Is that a good thing? Do we know what the temperture of the earth is supposed to be?

    Yes! Not too hot, not too cold. Just as it is today. Just right!

  29. Leif says:

    Still garbled: If your “today” winter temperature is normally 25F before global warming, your current “today” temperature would be about 27F!

    Last attempt. Going out and dig in the garden. Current temp. 53F in Seattle.

  30. Brewster says:

    Almost as warm as Greenland, Lief.

  31. Brewster says:

    Ooops – I apologize for the spelling, Leif.

  32. dhogaza says:

    Not really a beacon of light, I’m afraid – he says that the “data manipulation” scandal “disgusted” him and was a breech of “scientific ethics” (I may be mangling his words slightly, but not the meaning).

    Wrong. The stolen e-mails have been mined for snippets that *sound bad* when taken out of context, in the same sense that creationists have “proved” that Stephen Jay Gould “didn’t believe in evolution” and therefore was lying when he wrote his popular books on evolutionary biology (or when doing his research, for that matter).

    Dylan does a pretty good job of explaining that a 1.3F anomaly doesn’t mean it will stop being cold, and that warmer air will evaporate more sea water, I’ll give him a B on that part.

    But the fact that he’s bought into the lying denialist crap about the integrity of science coming from Mann, Jones, Briffa etc forces me to give him a D overall.

  33. Russell Swan says:

    Concerning what the Earth’s temperature “should be” or what it is “supposed to be”….. It should be exactly what it is, ever was or ever will be. Earth’s temperature is forced to be what it is by applicable physics. It will change as the physical parameters that tug at temperature in a never ending tug of war vary, a case of dynamic equilibrium between myriad competing, opposing forces. Currently, man’s activities are moving the balance point to a new temperature equilibrium. As always, it is just a matter of physics. The exact same basic physics that have always determined Earth’s temperature.

    [JR: UPDATE — This comment needed some clarification, and we got it.]

  34. Russell Swan says:

    Joe, sorry if I didn’t make myself clear. I agree with you on everything. Man’s activities are increasing the atmospheric concentration of CO2 which is altering the energy balance at the top of atmosphere. The basis for AGW is entirely due to this energy imbalance or radiative forcing, which is itself a consequence of an enhancement to the greenhouse effect by the introduction of long lived greenhouse gases.

    [JR: Your post was confusing, since it is a standard spin of the anti-science crowd, that there is no “ideal” temperature, so why should we be so worried about changing it.]

  35. Russell Swan says:

    Life in general has been a geological force, and man has become an extreme example. By two billion years ago, life had created a toxic atmosphere, one enriched with a poison…oxygen. In less than a couple hundred years man will have seriously altered Earth’s atmospheric composition, again threatening life’s ability to adapt. The inanimate Earth has no “ideal” temperature, but humans and many of today’s living things do. The Earth’s temperature will change if it is forced to and we are forcing it to by altering some of the same physical parameters that have always moved climate. We are causing premature, disruptive climate change.

    I hope that is better :)

    [JR: Ah, now I understand.]

  36. climate undergrad says:

    Revkin uses another obscure headline, but provides legitimate content!
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/12/nasa-scientist-adds-to-views-on-climate-panel/

    Quoting Andrew Lacis in the article:

    “There is a great deal of irony in this basically nonsensical stuff, some of which I find rather amusing. The global warming denier blogs, where this issue first came up, seem to think that I was being critical of the I.P.C.C. report in the same way as seen from their perspective, and, as a result, I have received e-mails from the denier crowd hailing my remarks and commending me for “speaking up” on this important topic.

    Little do they realize that the basic thrust of my criticism of the I.P.C.C. draft was really to register a clear complaint that I.P.C.C. was being too wishy-washy and was not presenting its case for anthropogenic impact being the principal driver of global warming as clearly and forcefully as they could, and should.”

    Lacis then touches a topic that has been discussed here. That is, how much should climate science be dumbed down so policy makers and the American public can understand it, without sacrificing the scientific credibility. He says,

    “To me, the Executive Summary discussion seemed to be an unnecessary “dumbing down” of the science, as if operating on the theory that the ability of policymakers to understand technical issues can never be underestimated. It is my view that policy makers (at least the ones that matter) will actually understand the technical aspects of global warming, and if they don’t, they will seek out someone on their staff to explain it to them. I think that policymakers would want to see the science of global warming stated as clearly and explicitly as possible, irrespective of the technical level at which it is presented.”

    Revkin then offers his own plea to the IPCC to help them avoid “setting land mines for itself” which is weird. Its like saying, “you could do more to make sure I can’t spin this in a weird way.” But at least he quoted a climate scientists without citing an ‘equally important viewpoint’ from a weatherman.

  37. Zach says:

    FYI, this article is discussed here – http://trueslant.com/stephanfaris/2010/02/12/this-time-the-climate-deniers-are-right/ – generally defending the NYT article. I commented on it on that story and don’t want to repeat myself.

  38. Yosemite Steve says:

    yes, that wierd “but” that did not make any sense drove me crazy! hard to believe that sentence was written by a professional writer nor that it was read by an editor.
    But shouldn’t the whole article miswritten around a clearer ‘but’? What i mean is that the “he says/they say” meme ought to have been written more clearly as “politicians deny the science, *but* scientists explain that no, the politicians are talking nonsense”. Maybe the writer made that point in his way, but there seem to be way too many people out there who have a hard time understanding that the science is clear. Certainly the important linkage to understand is that the costs of dealing with these snowstorms (plus huge and loss of business costs) are just the start of very, very large costs we are just beginning to see.

  39. Zach says:

    Re: 38; I mean to post that comment on a different story; apologies.

  40. Yosemite Steve says:

    Zach, wrong article, your link relates to a different NYT article than the subject of this blog post and discussion here.

  41. Mike#22 says:

    (typo-extra “an” in the 2nd paragraph, should be “what is”?)

  42. GeorgeA says:

    Sadly, the NYT article’s headline (who need an article) just provides more ammo for the denialosphere: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703382904575059270348147154.html?mod=rss_Today%27s_Most_Popular

    In the question of what is “weather” versus what is “climate”, is there any arbitrary length of time that could be used to distinguish them? My guess is that the public finds statements similar to “climate is measured in decades” to be too vague in distinguishing the two. In a fashion similar to an economic recession being defined as “negative economic growth for at least two quarters”, does there need to be a (yes, arbitrary) time period when a series of trends/events becomes climate? Black and white thinkers often need firm boundaries to assist in their judgments.

  43. Ivan Carter says:

    Probably too late for Broder to see this, but two small word changes make this far more accurate. (Each in caps as originally appeared).

    “Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.

    BUT SOME independent climate experts say the blizzards in the Northeast no more prove that the planet is cooling than the lack of snow in Vancouver or the downpours in Southern California prove that it is warming.”

    ‘But some’ in caps above should simply be removed, or changed to a “and most.”

    Agree Joe with the he said/she said thing re “two sides” in particular. People can have differing opinions as to degrees here, but there really aren’t “two sides” as if the idea of whether we are either affecting or very likely to be significantly affecting the earth is some sort of actual scientific debate. The first sentence of the article even uses this “two sides” theme.

    Also think Broder could have done a much more solid job with explaining, or at least trying to, that snow and temperature are different issues. Those two have become intertwined, and of course play into the terribly misleading “deep freeze” headline further. Do temperatures in Washington in January indicate support for skeptics of climate change? Even aside from the fact that a month in one geo region is irrelevant, it doesn’t make much of a case even short term, since temperatures are not that wildly frigid. The snow is simply a precipitation issue, which again does nothing to undermine climate change consensus (and as you point out, is in fact very consistent with it.)

    The article still somewhat commingles the two, and this likely leads to a lot of further confusion among many readers who are not as up familiar with all of the intricate details and science of the issue.