Why has a Newsweek economics editor, Stefan Theil, written “basically a condensed version of the climate denier viewpoint”?

Bickering and defensive, Newsweek reporters have lost the public’s trust.

Another week, another staggering journalistic lapse in climate science reporting at a once-great media outlet.

How bad is “Uncertain Science,” by Stefan Theil, European economics editor for the near-dead newsweekly?  I asked Dr. Robert J. Brulle for a comment, and the Drexel University “expert on environmental communications,” wrote me back:

This article is basically a condensed version of the climate denier viewpoint.  Mr. Theil significantly distorts the situation, and grossly fails to ground his story in the actual facts, all to support his biased position.  Obviously, Newsweek doesn’t have any fact-checking capability.  How this counts as journalism is beyond me.

The error-riddled, un-fact-checked article raises far more questions about Newsweek than it does about climate scientists, not the least of which is why the flat-lining magazine would let an economics editor write a major piece on climate science when they have a science editor who follows the issue closely and actually understands the science — an editor who wrote a piece last year that says the exact opposite of what this piece does (Newsweek‘s Science Editor explains why climate change is “even worse than we feared”).

Newsweek‘s credibility on the entire energy and climate issue is hanging by a rapidly melting icicle “” see  Media stunner: Newsweek partners with oil lobby to raise ad cash, host energy and climate events with lawmakers “” while publishing the uber-greenwashing story, “Big Oil Goes Green for Real.” Indeed, their dubious partnership with Big Oil makes this latest climate story doubly problematic.

I hate to spend time debunking yet another nonsensical piece, but so many scientists and others have emailed me to express their shock, that I feel a need to hit the lowlights, starting with the unintentionally self-revealing lede:

Blame economic worries, another freezing winter, or the cascade of scandals emerging from the world’s leading climate-research body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But concern over global warming has cooled down dramatically. In ¼ber-green Germany, only 42 percent of citizens worry about global warming now, down from 62 percent in 2006. In Britain, just 26 percent believe climate change is man-made, down from 41 percent as recently as November 2009. And Americans rank global warming dead last in a list of 21 problems that concern them, according to a January Pew poll.

As Brulle says, Theil and Newsweek clearly have a biased frame they want to push in a piece subtitled, “Bickering and defensive, climate researchers have lost the public’s trust” (see, in contrast, Large majority of Americans continue to believe global warming is real and trust scientists).

But since the piece is devoid of any discussion of the actual science, Theil fails to see the irony.  Indeed, as Brulle wrote me earlier about a bad NYT story that “scooped” Theil, “The NY Times doesn’t need to go to European conferences to find out why public opinion on climate change has shifted”¦. Just look in the mirror.” As Brulle points out, “It is well known in both sociology and communications that public opinion is largely shaped by media coverage.  So the shift in public opinion about climate change is linked to the nature of mainstream media coverage of the so-called ‘climategate’ scandal.”

And yes, bias is the right word here.  Look at the phrase “another freezing winter.”  We’ve only warmed about a degree Fahrenheit in recent decades, not enough to turn January into July. Winters will continue to freeze for a while.

The news is that this winter was the hottest on record globally, but in parts of Europe and the United States it was coolish, though not record-setting, and that does indeed temporarily affect public opinion.  Stanford communications expert Jon Krosnick notes that “One factor that can influence opinion is the perception of local changes in the weather” (see “One more reason that recent U.S. polling on global warming is down slightly“).

Yet as Krosnick has noted of the “Americans rank global warming dead last” claim, “Opinion polls underestimate Americans’ concern about the environment and global warming.”  Krosnick explains

But when asked, “What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?” 25 percent said the environment or global warming, and only 10 percent picked the economy. In fact, environmental issues were cited more often than any other category, including terrorism, which was only mentioned by 10 percent of respondents.

I would also note that a brand-new study by “global market research firm Synovate and international media company Deutsche Welle examined people’s attitudes towards climate change.”  The study was “conducted with over 13,000 people in 18 countries.”  In a news release headlined, “Climate change concern remains high across the globe,” they report the key result (emphasis in original):

The study reveals that the world’s population remains as concerned as ever about the effects of climate change. Across all countries surveyed in the three rounds of research conducted by Synovate, 30% of people in 2010 and 2008 said they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change, versus 29% in 2007.

Reuters reports on the study:

“More than two-thirds (68 percent) of the world is concerned about climate change with the South Africans (82 percent) and Brazilians (87 percent) most concerned,” a statement of main findings said.

At the low end of anxiety were Americans on 57 percent and Indians with 59 percent.

Yes, the number of respondents who said they were concerned because they think global warming is part of a natural cycle rose from 4% up to 9%, which led to this amazing headline in some coverage:  “Global warming ‘natural’ for one in 10.”  Again, many in the media are simply desperate to show that climate scientists are on the ropes, that the glass is half one-tenth empty.  But I digress.

Back to Newsweeek.  Dreadful climate reporting, a more aggressive disinformation campaign, poorly worded polling questions, and a coolish winter have combined to affect poll numbers in countries like the UK, Britain, and the U.S.  But we don’t want facts to get in the way of Theil’s thesis, which is laid out in his next paragraph:

The shift has left many once celebrated climate researchers feeling like the used-car salesmen of the science world. In Britain, one leading scientist told an interviewer he is taking anti-anxiety pills and considered suicide following the leak of thousands of IPCC-related e-mails and documents suggesting that researchers cherry-picked data and suppressed rival studies to play up global warming. In the U.S., another researcher is under investigation for allegedly using exaggerated climate data to obtain public funds. In an open letter published in the May issue of Science magazine, 255 American climate researchers decry “political assaults” on their work by “deniers” and followers of “dogma” and “special interests.”

Yes, once again the status quo media blames the victim of the disinformation campaign and dreadful media coverage.

And aren’t you SO glad that Newsweek didn’t Michael Mann by name?  That would have required them to explain that the “investigation” they are talking about is the witchhunt by Virginia Atty. Gen. and Tea Party favorite Cuccinelli — an act so extreme that the flagship newspaper of Newsweek‘s own parent company, the Washington Post (no friend of climate science), lambasted the VA AG (see WashPost:  University of Virginia should fight AG Cuccinelli’s faulty investigation of Michael Mann).  And if they mentioned Mann by name, then even the minimal standards of journalism would have required them to mention that Mann and his work have been repeatedly vindicated by independent scientific and academic inquiries — and that even Newsweek itself was forced to make multiple corrections in a libelous piece on Mann.

But then, other than Begley, Newsweek has little interest whatsoever in actual science.  The story asserts:

This is no dispute between objective scientists and crazed flat-earthers. The lines cut through the profession itself. Very few scientists dispute a link between man-made CO2 and global warming. Where it gets fuzzy is the extent and time frame of the effect. One crucial point of contention is climate “sensitivity”””the mathematical formula that translates changes in CO2 production to changes in temperature.

First off, the dispute does not cut through the profession of climate scientists — a group Theil appears to have very little interaction with.

Second, there is a crucial point of contention on the climate sensitivity.  Is it close 3°C — or is it much higher?

As I’ve noted many times, the possibility we are greatly overestimating the sensitivity is very, very low, whereas the possibility we are greatly underestimating it “” and hence greatly underestimating the chances of catastrophic impacts “” is quite high.

Equally important, we are on a path to such a high emissions level that even in the unlikely event we have a low sensitivity, we are still going to face serious consequences if we keep doing nothing (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F and U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: “Recent observations confirm “¦ the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised” “” 1000 ppm).

For those who missed the Video and PPTs of “The Science of Climate Change” with Dr. Christopher Field and Dr. Michael MacCracken, here is the chart from Dr. Field, who is an expert on the carbon cycle:

sensitivity big

Indeed, the climate sensitivity that is most often discussed by the IPCC and others is the so-called fast feedbacks sensitivity, which basically ignores the slower feedbacks like the defrosting of the tundra, which would release massive amounts of methane and carbon dioxide.  For several article in the scientific literature on that read:

The overwhelming majority of the recent scientific literature has raised concerns that the extent and time frame of human-caused global warming is graver and faster than what the IPCC — let alone most of the media — reported (see “An illustrated guide to the latest climate science“).

Precisely one person at Newsweek seems to understand that — their science editor, as I noted above, who actually talks to real climate scientists and reads the scientific literature, and wrote last year:

Among the phrases you really, really do not want to hear from climate scientists are: “that really shocked us,” “we had no idea how bad it was,” and “reality is well ahead of the climate models.” Yet in speaking to researchers who focus on the Arctic, you hear comments like these so regularly they begin to sound like the thumping refrain from Jaws: annoying harbingers of something that you really, really wish would go away….

“The models just aren’t keeping up” with the reality of CO2 emissions, says the IPY’s [International Polar Year’s] David Carlson. Although policymakers hoped climate models would prove to be alarmist, the opposite is true, particularly in the Arctic.

The IPCC may also have been too cautious on Greenland, assuming that the melting of its glaciers would contribute little to sea-level rise….

But estimates of how much carbon is locked into Arctic permafrost were, it turns out, woefully off. “It’s about three times as much as was thought, about 1.6 trillion metric tons, which has surprised a lot of people,” says Edward Schuur of the University of Florida. “It means the potential for positive feedbacks is greatly increased.”

In an insightful observation in The Guardian this month, Jim Watson of the University of Sussex wrote that “a new breed of climate sceptic is becoming more common”: someone who doubts not the science but the policy response.

But why let accurate scientific reporting by your science editor get in the way of a nifty anti-scientific, error-riddled tract by an economics editor?  Theil — and the senior editors who approved this piece — turn the science on its head to spin this amazing conclusion:

None of this means we should burn fossil fuels with abandon. There are excellent reasons to limit emissions and switch to cleaner fuels””including an estimated 750,000 annual pollution deaths in China, the potential to create jobs at home instead of enriching nasty regimes sitting on oil wells, the need to provide cheap sources of power to the world’s poorest regions, and the still-probable threat that global warming is underway. At the moment, however, certainty about how fast””and how much””global warming changes the earth’s climate does not appear to be one of those reasons.

Ahh, the reductio ad absurdum, the last refuge of bad journalism.  The letter from NAS scientists that Theil must have read since he used it in the article (as evidence that scientists were bickering and defensive!) points out:

All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

Ironically, if we actually did “burn fossil fuels with abandon” for the rest of this century, that would give us the closest thing you could get in science to certainty of inevitable catastrophe, so even Newsweek‘s reductio ad absurdum was written absurdly.

Of course, Newsweek decided to mention only the letter (but omit the crucial parts) and not the far more important NAS report that was just issued, or else they might have been forced to acknowledge what, say, the Los Angeles Times did in its reporting:  “In a sharp change from its cautious approach in the past, the National Academy of Sciences on Wednesday called for taxes on carbon emissions, a cap-and-trade program for such emissions or some other strong action to curb runaway global warming.

So what explains the catastrophically bad Newsweek piece?  Let me off for several explanations.

1)  As noted, they have cozied up to Big Oil  to find alternative funding sources: Newsweek since 2007 has sold advertising packages to the oil industry’s biggest influence group that included the right to co-host forums on energy issues.”  See also TPM Muckraker on this, “Newsweek And Oil Lobby Team Up To Host Climate Change Event With Lawmakers.”  I do think that influences the perspective of reporters —  see Newsweek gets duped by Big Oil.   How else to explain the piece by Rana Foroohar titled “Big Oil Goes Green for Real” with greenwashing lines like “So how should we take the spate of new green announcements from the world’s major oil firms?”  Sounds doubly naive these days, no?

2)  Newsweek‘s top competitor is, of course, Time magazine.  And Time has made a name for itself as one of the few major popular media outlets that consistently gets the climate science story right.  So little sister has to differentiate herself from big sister.  I had made this point in my book Hell and High Water.  One magazine published a 2006 cover article with a science-based warning emblazoned in huge letters, “BE WORRIED.  BE VERY WORRIED.  Climate change isn’t some vague future problem-it’s already damaging the planet at an alarming pace.”  Even back then, Time noted, “Most people aren’t aware of the broad scientific consensus on warming.”   That same week Newsweek published an article that extensively quoted the anti-scientist disinformers, claiming “to be fair, neither side has a monopoly on hot air in this debate,” falsely equating one or two mild overstatements by advocates of action on global warming with major campaigns to deny the science entirely and delay action indefinitely.

3)  Relatedly, a collapsing news magazine needs a new spin.  Slate noted a few weeks ago in a piece titled, “Newsweek Has Fallen Down and Can’t Get Up”:

The 30-year debate in the journalism reviews, among industry analysts, and over beers between reporters about the fate of the newsweekly category was settled today by Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham, who announced that he wants to sell Newsweek. If the infinitely patient and hideously rich Graham can’t see a profitable future for the money-losing magazine, that future doesn’t exist. The category has finally gone to mold and will, in another 30 months or 30 years, advance to putrefaction.

In a CP article from 2 years ago, that you can find in my book, Straight Up, “Media enable disinformer spin 2: What if the MSM simply can’t cover humanity’s self-destruction?”  I quoted Newsweek editor Jon Meacham:

“I absolutely believe that the media is not ideologically driven, but conflict driven. If we have a bias it’s not that people are socially liberal, fiscally conservative or vice versa. It is that we are engaged in the storytelling business. And if you tell the same story again and again and again – it’s kind of boring.”

The real story doesn’t have much conflict: It is the growing scientific (and technological) understanding that if we don’t sharply restrict greenhouse gas emissions soon, we face catastrophe.  How boring!  We gotta jazz it up with some anti-scientific he-said/she-said controversy

This all may help explain why Newsweek‘s has published this and other dreadful stories energy and climate stories.  But nothing can excuse such consistent journalistic lapses.  Thought it pains me to say so because I grew up reading Newsweek, I don’t think anyone who cares about science or energy or the world’s children and grandchildren should mourn the now-seemingly inevitable demise of this once great publication.

This post has been updated.

cover in huge letters, “BE WORRIED. BE VERY WORRIED. Climate change isn’t some vague future problem””it’s already damaging the planet at an alarming pace.”

42 Responses to Why has a Newsweek economics editor, Stefan Theil, written “basically a condensed version of the climate denier viewpoint”?

  1. ChicagoMike says:

    Thanks for another thorough debunking, Joe!

    I might take issue with this line, though: “The real story doesn’t have much conflict”

    You rightly mention earlier that the real conflict in the scientific community is between scientists who think unmitigated global warming is going to be really bad for us, and those who think it is going to be catastrophically bad for us. Maybe that’s a conflict narrative that the media could get people’s attention with.

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    Alaska fire danger climbs as fuels reach ‘historical maximum’ dry level

    The fire threat is growing across most of Interior Alaska from the Tanana Valley east to the border as we continue to see extreme conditions for so early in the season.

    There’s those words again ” extreme conditions “.

  3. Colorado Bob says:

    Are the only thing these folks have ever generated.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Hey Joe

    I agree: This stuff from the media has just got to stop. As is the case with BP, most of the media won’t change unless there are consequences for not changing, so I’m wondering when (now, probably) it will be helpful just to stop buying bad journalism and stop watching bad TV news.

    After reading your first several sentences, I decided not to read the article itself or even the rest of your piece. I got to the sentence where you mentioned that it’s a waste of your time to have to debunk this stuff, and that’s true. That’s the frustrating part. That’s why we need to somehow figure out a way to encourage the media to improve, or experience deep economic consequences if they don’t.

    Just as it’s a waste of your time to have to debunk this stuff (and I agree with you on that, although I understand why you still need to do it, in your role), (but) for the same reasons it’s also a waste of my time to have to read your debunking of the piece. I realized that it’s not gonna do me any good — and I have better things to do than — to read the article itself and to read your debunking of the article. This is no offense to you, of course. But, it highlights why the media are wasting the time of lots of people.

    It also suggests this: The media will keep doing this stuff, and you will keep wasting your time debunking it, and I will keep realizing that I need not read either the article OR your piece, and so forth, until there are real economic consequences to the media organizations who do this or to the writers who write this stuff. The wasteful cycle continues. The misinformed or bad writers are in “the driver’s seat”, if this cycle continues. That’s the problem. The solution is not to stay in that cycle and tie up half of your time debunking bad stuff, as it continues to be written. The solution must get us out of that cycle — must get us beyond it.

    I wonder, how many people, at this point, read your detailed pieces that debunk the pieces of others that are misinformed? Although I understand why you need to do it, as long as that cycle continues, we need to realize that debunking misinformation doesn’t really get anywhere, especially in the case of debunking misinformation that is “old stuff”. (If new science comes out, and if that new science is misinterpreted and miscommunicated, then debunking that adds information, but all the old stuff is tiring and doesn’t get anywhere.)

    This, of course, is not at all a critique of what you are doing. Instead, it’s to say that we have to find a way to actually (and substantially) reduce the misinformation. Indeed, we have to find a way, a way that matters to the media folks at the top of their organizations, to encourage them strongly to change their ways. Here, we aren’t talking about the writers. Instead, we are talking about the Rupert Murdochs and the Bill Kellers and etc. of the world. We need to prompt change at THAT level. Otherwise, the rest of us simply waste time spinning in circles. In fact, although I hate to say this, many of our behaviors must look like “spinning in circles” to those folks at the top in the media. I don’t want to do that any more. I think we need to do a better job of getting OFF of the merry go-around that some of these other folks are causing to rotate around.

    To be clear, although I appreciate that you have to write these things, I realized that it does me no good to read them. Another badly misinformed article leads to another debunking of that badly misinformed article. I (and most of us, I would assume) have better things to do. So, how do we actually discourage — with real consequences — the writing of this misinformed stuff? That’s the question.

    Cheers and Be Well,


  5. Leif says:

    Fairbanks weather: Predicted highs.
    Today… 77
    Tues…. 74
    Wed….. 75
    Thur…. 80

    That is just short of the Arctic Circle folks.

  6. Colorado Bob says:

    Leif …..
    To paraphrase …
    I can hear the permafrost thawing from my house.

  7. Stephen Watson says:

    Why someone as obviously intelligent as Dr Brulle can say “Obviously, Newsweek doesn’t have any fact-checking capability.  How this counts as journalism is beyond me.” is beyond me. Some journalism may be partially factually based but speak to anyone with personal experience of journalism and you will see at they get the facts wrong almost every time. Most of the time it never gets noticed …

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Leif …..
    It goes way to the east as well …… Ottawa just set a new record for the warmest May day ever.
    Soaring temperatures smash city weather records
    ……….. “What you see is what you’re going to get,” he said.

    “It’s likely to be, our models are showing, warmer than normal. You can never tell with precipitation, it’s always a tough call, but we’ve had the warmest winter on record, the warmest spring on record and now it looks like it’s non-stop. ……….

  9. Could this also be part of the general trend of economists having a tendency to downplay the reality of climate change? You see this tendency also in the debate over Peak Oil and Limits to Growth in general. It’s as if, now that Malthus “has been debunked,” in their minds, they simply cannot imagine a market failure of the scale of any of these events (climate change, fossil fuel scarcity, food scarcity).

    Of course, to a classically trained economist, admitting such a heresy would be tantamount to a religious person renouncing his or her god. It doesn’t seem like reason is the relevant motivator here.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    Hundreds die in Indian heatwave

    Death toll expected to rise as India faces record temperatures of up to 122F in hottest summer on record

  11. John Hollenberg says:

    Thanks for the debunking, Joe. A good article to refer to when someone claims that Newsweek has the “real” story.

  12. prokaryote says:

    Colorado Bob, #2 ” – There’s those words again ” extreme conditions “.”

    Extreme Conditions Today.

    Storm kills 142 in Central America

    Heat Wave In Northern India Kills Hundreds

  13. prokaryote says:

    May 31, 2010 10:25 a.m. EST

    Allahabad, India (AHN) – Hundreds have died as a result of a heat wave in northern India. The country is experiencing its hottest temperatures ever recorded.

    “This is the highest-ever maximum temperature in the state capital since 1840 when the first observatory was set up at the Viceregal Lodge here,” said Manmohan Singh, Director of the local Meteorological Center.

    At least 260 people are dead, thousands more have sought medical treatment at hospitals. Many of those seeking treatment are suffering from heat stroke or food poisoning.

  14. Lou Grinzo says:

    Christopher: Speaking as a card carrying economist and longtime energy and enviro geek who’s been screaming about peak oil and climate change, let me say: Please paint with a narrower brush. While you didn’t fall into the “all economists are evil morons” trap, you’re pretty close.

  15. prokaryote says:

    The heatwave has also caused numerous blackouts and water shortages. The heatwave is expected to get worst before it gets better ahead of the anxiously awaited monsoon season.

    Temperatures are predicted to top 120 degrees in the next few weeks. Experts say it isn’t the sheer heat that is killing people its the heat combined with immense poverty. 80 percent of the victims of heat waves live below the poverty line.

    There is some fears that this year’s heat wave could be as severe as those in 1998 and 2003 when 2,541 and 1,210 deaths, respectively, were reported.

  16. prokaryote says:

    In Jemen is also a heatwave which brought power outages – people started riots because of this.

  17. Tony says:

    Thanks for the great article. I always wish to take issue with the sentence “the real story doesn’t have much conflict.” There actually is a whole lot of conflict in the climate change tale – the conflict between the rapacious resource-use of the Global North, and the impacts of that use on the Global South. This is clearly a war between the dominant minority of the affluent, who refuse to give up their climate-changing ways, and the subjugated majority of the poor, who are most definitely on the short end of the stick.

    Quite an epic conflict, too.

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    Shorter review of the Newsweek article:

    oil company propaganda.

  19. climateprogressive says:

    Re – Christopher Mims #9

    I think more generally, “limits to Business As Usual (BAU)” provokes this reaction: as you say it is viewed as heretical by many classically-trained economists, who are just as detached from the natural world (the pretty blue one, the one we need to work properly in order for us to just survive) as are some religious extremists.

    If anything, this is a battle of ideologies, on the one hand science, on the other anti-science, which is perhaps why it is as bitter and prolonged as any religious sectarian struggle throughout history. The obvious difference this time being that the stakes are way, way higher. We cannot afford to lose and, ironically, as they do not know it, for the sake of higher life on Earth, BAU cannot afford to win!

  20. Doug Bostrom says:

    prokaryote says: May 31, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Those stories about heatwaves remind me of the recent study looking at human physiology and our ultimate ability to cope w/high temperatures.

    Covered at Skeptical Science, here. I thought Joe did a piece, too, but can’t find it.

    Point is, it seems likely we’re going to see a gradual statistical uptick in events exceeding our ability to maintain our physiological thermal homeostasis long before or even if we never see regional shifts into permanent inhospitable wet bulb regimes.

    [JR: A post is coming.]

  21. prokaryote says:

    climateprogressive, 18# ” – If anything, this is a battle of ideologies, on the one hand science, on the other anti-science, which is perhaps why it is as bitter and prolonged as any religious sectarian struggle throughout history. The obvious difference this time being that the stakes are way, way higher.”

    This time science and religion are both in consensus when it comes to conservation and sustainability of our environment.
    In fact most people want climate action and the anti-science crowed presents just a small group. Nevertheless this group has it’s influence from our oil habit/addiction and this circumstance makes them one of the most powerful forces in our society. But they are blinded from the oil dependency and their buisness model.

    People affected need to realize that they have a future once they adopt to the situation and create accountability for our situation.

  22. CW says:

    The European Parliament surveys public opinion on its work.
    February ranking for priority items:

    1. tackling poverty and social exclusion (44%)
    2. consumer and public health protection (35%)
    3. climate change (34%)
    4. combating terrorism while respecting individual freedoms
    5. others

    On #3, highest country response was from Sweden @72%, Slovenia 61%, UK 27%, lowest was Lativa @10%.

  23. CW says:

    A new Nanos Research poll finds that Canadians think that global warming should be the top priority (both first and second choices) at the G8/G20. The poll also finds that Canadians think that Canada’s place in the world is weaker on climate change than any other issue covered.

  24. prokaryote says:

    ” – Those stories about heatwaves remind me of the recent study looking at human physiology and our ultimate ability to cope w/high temperatures.”

    This indeed, is very concerning – besides the other implications.


    Heatwaves: Causes, consequences and responses

    Researchers Present Study on How Global Climate Change Affects Violence

  25. Doug Bostrom says:

    Here’s BP preparing to leverage doubts already encouraged by media:

    BP clashes with scientists over deep sea oil pollution

    BP has challenged widespread scientific claims that vast plumes of oil are spreading underwater from its blown-out rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The denial comes as the oil giant prepares for a new operation to put an end to the worst oil spill in US history – which could see the leak get worse before it gets better.

    The company’s challenge to several scientific studies is likely to put it further at odds with an increasingly angry Obama administration, which has accused it of playing down the size of the leak in an effort to limit possible fines.

    BP’s chief executive, Tony Hayward, said it had no evidence of underwater oil clouds. “The oil is on the surface,” he said. “Oil has a specific gravity that’s about half that of water. It wants to get to the surface because of the difference in specific gravity.”

    Hayward’s assertion flies in the face of studies by scientists at universities in Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, among other institutions, who say they have detected huge underwater plumes of oil, including one 120 metres (400ft) deep about 50 miles from the destroyed rig.

    Same basic technique as is used with anthropogenic climate change, for that matter now salt in food.

    Industrial-strength PR feeds and fosters cultural dementia.

  26. Jim Eager says:

    Re: “[Northern India] is experiencing its hottest temperatures ever recorded.”

    This is not good. Seriously not good. And it’s not even June yet.

    Besides the now waning El Nino and the start of solar cycle 24, there is another factor in play this summer that no one seems to acknowledge:

    In the wake of the prolonged global recession industrial aerosols have undoubtedly been reduced globally through normal attrition and reduced replacement emissions, resulting in lower levels of sulfuric acid aerosols.

    These aerosols reflect a portion of incoming sunlight back out to space, thus acting as a negative forcing, or cooling, that has been masking part of the existing enhanced greenhouse effect from elevated greenhouse gas concentration.

    As a result, I suspect this year can not help but set a new global temperature anomaly.

  27. john atcheson says:

    I don’t think fact checking is the issue. Rather, I believe facts have become irrelevant.

    The media’s creep to the right has been progressing for at least two decades now. It is fed by two main forces: first, media ownership has been consolidating the field and it is now controlled by seven large corporations; second, as the MBA mentality has taken over, media organs attempt to have mass appeal to maximize their market. So they represent “both sides” even when one is composed of people with bats in their belfry.

    There are other forces — the idea that being iconoclastic is popular (it’s certainly feathered Bjorn Lomborg’s nest) or that controversy sells.

    But in the main it is the death of a real journalistic canon that has destroyed it.

  28. Lore says:

    john atcheson:

    A very astute observation. In the midst of an evolving media market confused by the new technology, actual facts take second place to what ever is deemed appealing to an ever fickle market of viewers and readers. The truth is at once, boring and scary, both of which do not sell advertising.

  29. Doug Bostrom says:

    Highly recommended essay on journalism’s relationship to this story, by retire Globe reporter Ross Gelbspan:

  30. BBHY says:

    Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post, which has not been at all helpful with coverage on climate change. So I don’t find this at all surprising.

  31. Pavol says:

    It seems to me quite strange that many of you are “supporting” the global warming by showing on how many places there is a heat wave but in the same time crying foul when other side is trying to support their case by current cold weather on other places. For example, now we have had a very cold May this year.

    [JR: No, what people here talk about are the myriad blowout temperature records being set. The “other side” as you call them, the anti-scientist disinformers, hype cool weather in winter that isn’t even record-breaking.]

  32. MapleLeaf says:

    After reading Dr. Romm’s critique of the article in question is is much worse than I originally thought. They are clearly trying to sow the seeds of doubt.

    How long can the media keep up this charade? I sense desperation on their part. What should have been a “good year” for the contrarians and denialists (after SwiftHack and all), has turned out to be anything but, especially as worrying metrics from the real world are becoming impossible to ignore. People will hopefully come around quickly.

    IMHO, what agencies and the IPCC need to do is provide high profile quarterly updates on the state of the oceans, cryosphere and ocean.

    Anyhow, many thanks to Dr. Romm for taking the time to address another shameful piece of “journalism”. I used to, for the most part, hold journalists in high regard, the last year or so has forced me to revisit that position. Most unfortunate. History is going to be very harsh on certain journalists of willfully partaking in the misinformation machine and war on science.

  33. Mark Shapiro says:

    Doug Bostrom @ 29 —

    Thanks for the link to Ross Gelbspan’s latest. It is excellent as usual.

    Two nuggets from Gelbspan’s piece:

    1) The Koch energy empire and ExxonMobil spent more than $30 million over the previous three years to discredit climate science.

    2) Koch Industries, coincidentally, is now bankrolling a swarm of lawsuits against Cape Wind – another fact which has received scant coverage.

  34. Raul says:

    A Cracker45 Said on Tampa Tribune reader comments
    denial is a great place to live until the tarballs
    start rolling in.

  35. Leif says:

    [JR: No, what people here talk about are the myriad blowout temperature records being set. The “other side” as you call them, the anti-scientist disinformers, hype cool weather in winter that isn’t even record-breaking.]

    I would add that even record cold as we saw in Mongolia this winter and killed over 4 million livestock can be attributed to global warming in that increased energy in the system intensifies all aspects of local weather.
    Global Climatic Disruption. The new normal…

  36. climateprogressive says:

    Re – 36: Leif

    Agree with your last sentence. I’ve always thought “Climate Change” far too bland a term. Climate Disruption/Climate Destabilisation far better fits the bill IMO.

  37. Doug Bostrom says:

    Mark Shapiro says: June 1, 2010 at 9:54 am

    2) Koch Industries, coincidentally, is now bankrolling a swarm of lawsuits against Cape Wind – another fact which has received scant coverage.

    Yes, a revelation to me yet hardly a surprise. Still nother possible topic for Joe to highlight. Can Craig Ventner produce Joe Romm clones? We need more Joe.

    Koch is particularly annoying because it’s closely held, does not need to suffer from the arguably innate psychopathy of a publicly traded firm.

  38. Ron Broberg says:

    prokaryote: In Jemen is also a heatwave which brought power outages – people started riots because of this.

    I’d be careful of attribution. See also:

  39. prokaryote says:

    Hard to say, what drives what …

    Unrest in Yemen over food shortages, will U.S. and its allies act?

    Demonstrations are taking place in Yemen over a 50 percent cut in food rations. More than 250,000 Yemenis, displaced by a conflict in the north between the government and rebels, depend on food aid for survival.

    The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to reduce rations because of low funding from the international community. If new funding is not found, WFP programs may come to a total halt.
    WFP has also been forced to reduce or cut food aid programs in other parts of Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the entire world.

  40. prokaryote says:

    Three week blockade of South Yemen brings starvation and violence

    As Yemen’s blockade on southern Yemen enters its third week, stocks of food, medicine and oil have dwindled to dangerous levels. Prices have skyrocketed and already malnourished children bear the brunt of the military action.

  41. prokaryote says:

    “Reports indicate a heavy military mobilization including tanks and armored personnel carriers. As during the Saada war, a total media blackout is in place, often accomplished by the arrest of southern journalists. An American journalist was expelled from Yemen last week after visiting Yafee, a center of southern resistance.”

  42. prokaryote says:

    Foreign investments remain largely concentrated around the nation’s hydrocarbon industry.

    The latest addition to Yemen’s list of World Heritage Sites is the Socotra Archipelago. Mentioned by Marco Polo in the 13th century, this remote and isolated archipelago consists of four islands and two rocky islets near the Gulf of Aden. The site has a rich biodiversity. Nowhere else in the world do 37% of Socotra’s 825 plants, 90% of its reptiles and 95% of its snails occur. It is home to 192 bird species, 253 species of coral, 730 species of costal fish and 300 species of crab and lobster, as well as a range of Aloes and the Dragon’s Blood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari). The cultural heritage of Socotra includes the unique Soqotri language.