Climate Progress at four years: Why I blog

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books”¦.

I knew that I had a facility with words and a power of facing unpleasant facts”¦.

— George Orwell, “Why I write”

I joined the new media because the old media have failed us. They have utterly failed to force us to face unpleasant facts (see here).

What I have learned most from the success of my blog, from the rapid growth in subscribers and visitors and comments, along with the increasing number of websites that link to or reprint my posts, is that there is in fact a great hunger out there for the bluntest possible talk. It is a hunger to learn the truth about the dire nature of our energy and climate situation, about the grave threat to our children and future generations, about the vast but still achievable scale of the solutions, about the forces in politics and media that impede action””a hunger to face unpleasant facts head on.

Unlike Orwell, I knew from a very early age, certainly by the age of five or six, that I would be a physicist, like my uncle, and I announced that proudly to all who asked.

I knew I did not want to be a professional writer since I saw how hopeless it was to make a living that way.  My father was the editor of a small newspaper (circulation under 10,000) that he turned into a medium-sized newspaper (70,000) but was paid dirt, even though he managed the equivalent of a large manufacturing enterprise “” while simultaneously writing three editorials a day “” that in any other industry would pay five times as much.  My mother pursued freelance writing for many years, an even more difficult way to earn a living (see also “This could not possibly be more off topic“).

Why share this?  Orwell, who shares far, far more in his many brilliant essays, argues in “Why I write“:

I give all this background information because I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in “” at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own “” but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.

And no, I’m not operating under the misimpression that my writing can be compared with Orwell’s. I know of no essayist today who comes close to matching his skill in writing. On top of that, bloggers simply lack the time necessary for consistently first-rate efforts. I’ve written some 3 million words since launching my blog in 2006. Perfection isn’t an option.

Orwell does, however, have the soul of a blogger.  He has a brutal honesty that puts even the best modern memoirists to shame. And he confronts the toughest of truths, which I think is perhaps the primary quality I aspire to at, a quality captured in the label that Rolling Stone gave me, “America’s fiercest climate-change activist-blogger.”  Orwell asserts, “Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose.”

I see more than four great motives to blog, at least for me. But let’s start with Orwell’s:

(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death….

Inarguable. At least Orwell notes that “Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists.” I make no pretensions to be a serious writer.  I’m not certain that bloggers are journalists.  I think we are, however, journal-ists.  What is a (web) log if not a journal?

(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement….

I dictate all of my blog posts directly onto the PC using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. For me the sound of a good phrase, the pleasure of a headline that works, is immense.

(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

Even more so with a blog.  In the event we don’t avert catastrophic global warming, I do hope that the reporting and analysis in this blog, which evolves over time, will be of use to those trying to understand just how it is that, as Elizabeth Kolbert put it, “a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself.”  It will be a great source of bafflement to future generations, and I suspect that as they suffer through the misery and grief caused by our myopia and greed, a literature will emerge aimed at trying to understand what went wrong, how we did this to ourselves.  Perhaps will help.

(iv) Political purpose. “” Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

Orwell goes on to say of himself (emphasis added):

By nature “” taking your ‘nature’ to be the state you have attained when you are first adult “” I am a person in whom the first three motives would outweigh the fourth. In a peaceful age I might have written ornate or merely descriptive books, and might have remained almost unaware of my political loyalties. As it is I have been forced into becoming a sort of pamphleteer.

His always careful word choice is telling.  The Wikipedia entry on “pamphleteer” asserts, “Today a pamphleteer might communicate his missives by way of weblog“¦.”

Orwell explains the source of his evoluton:

I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing. But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article, if it were not also an aesthetic experience….   The job is to reconcile my ingrained likes and dislikes with the essentially public, non-individual activities that this age forces on all of us.

I couldn’t dream of saying it better than that.

And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally.

I also blog for at least two other reasons.

Peace of mind:  I would be unimaginably frustrated and depressed if I didn’t have a way of contributing to the task of saving a livable climate, a way of responding in real time to the general humbug and sentences without meaning and purple passages of those who wittingly or unwittingly spreading disinformation aimed at delaying action on climate change.  I hope the comments section on the blog serves as a similar outlet for readers.

Personal growth:  The act of trying to explain the science and the solutions and the politics to a broader audience forces me think hard about what I’m really saying, about what I really know and don’t know.  The rapid feedback and global nature of the blogosphere mean that I get to test my ideas against people who are exceedingly knowledgeable and articulate.  Through this blog I have interacted with people from every walk of life, with widely different worldviews, from many continents, whom I never would have otherwise known.  And all from the basement of my home, occasionally with my daughter by my side.

It boggles the mind that I have a profession that did not exist even a decade ago, but that is, in many respects, precisely what my father did, precisely what I never expected to do.

I first became interested in global warming in the mid-1980s, studying for my physics Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and researching my thesis on oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. I was privileged to work with Walter Munk, one of the world’s top ocean scientists, on advanced acoustic techniques for monitoring temperature changes in the Greenland Sea.

A few years later, as Special Assistant for International Security to Peter Goldmark, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, I found myself listening to some of the nation’s top experts on these issues. Even a generation ago, they knew the gravest threats that would face us today. They convinced me that global warming was the most serious long-term, preventable threat to the health and well-being of this nation and the world.

In the mid-1990s, I served for five years in the U.S. Department of Energy.  As an acting assistant secretary, I helped develop a climate technology strategy for the nation.  Working with leading scientists and engineers at our national laboratories, I came to understand that the technology for reducing our emissions was already at hand and at a far lower cost than was widely understood””if we had smart government policies to drive those technologies into the marketplace, policies which included putting a price on carbon dioxide pollution.  More recently, I worked with some of the nation’s leading corporations, helping them to make greenhouse gas reductions and commitment plans that also handsomely boost their profits.

After my brother lost his Mississippi home in the Hurricane Katrina storm surge and asked me for advice on whether or not he should rebuild there, I started interviewing climate experts for what turned into my previous book, Hell and High Water.  Our top climate scientists impressed upon me the fact that the climate situation is far more dire than I had realized, far more dire than 99 percent of opinion makers and politicians understand.

I made a decision I would not pull any punches — I would get “political” as Orwell defined the term. I joined the Center for American Progress in 2006 because it had become the cutting edge think tank for both policy and communications on progressive issues. I began part time, posting on this blog once a day.  As readership grew and became a leading voice on energy and climate issues, I began posting more. Now I’m a full-time blogger, writing several times a day and also featuring guest posts from some of the best writers and thinkers on the subject.

A key goal of my blog today is to save you time. There is far too much information on climate science, clean energy solutions, and global warming politics for anyone to keep up with.  And the status quo media simply puts out too much analysis, most of it quite bad.  And yet everyone needs to follow this issue, needs to have an an informed opinion on the most important issue of the decade and the century.

The terrific commenters on this blog bring facts, links, nuance — and even reasoned push-back — to what gets written here.  You often direct me to a breaking story or study I haven’t seen, giving me the jump on others in the blogosphere.  You are a key reason Time magazine named Climate Progress one of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010.”

The ultimate reason that I blog is because it’s not too late.  Just because the catastrophic climate changes we are headed toward will probably be irreversible for hundreds of years or longer, that doesn’t mean they are unstoppable.

We are going to adopt the clean energy strategies described on this blog. That is a certainty. But the question of our time is, will we do it fast enough?

Humanity has only two paths forward at this point.  As President Obama said in April 2009, “The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.”  Either we voluntarily switch to a low-carbon, low-oil, low-net water use, low-net-material use economy over the next two decades or the post-Ponzi-scheme-collapse forces us to do so circa 2030. The only difference between the two paths is that the first one spares our children and grandchildren and countless future generations untold misery.

As I wrote above, if I have learned anything from the blog, it is that there is in fact a great hunger out there to face unpleasant facts head on.   And that is possibly the most reassuring thing I have learned in the past five years.  Thank you all for that!

This post was revised for my book, Straight Up, with the help of two of the best editors I know:  Todd Baldwin, of Island Press, and Ethel Grodzins Romm.

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67 Responses to Climate Progress at four years: Why I blog

  1. Bruce says:

    By George, that was good.

  2. Lou Grinzo says:

    This post reflects my own motivations and thoughts on the matter so perfectly that it’s almost scary.

    Thank you, Joe. I’m suddenly painfully aware that I don’t say that enough, so please consider than one a partial settlement of my debt.

  3. Randy Olson says:

    I think the key phrase, which you mentioned near the start is, “the bluntest possible talk.” You might consider that for a book title some day. Or maybe a television talk show. It has a nice ring to it. And it makes me think of the few hyper-sensitized days following 9/11 where the grand facade of television fell aside as talk shows and their producers were too much in shock to remember how to do their normal phoniness. Programs went unscripted, hosts talked with a lack of self-awareness, and for a few shining moments television showed that the idealistic vision of Edward R. Murrow really wasn’t a complete impossibility, only too much of an oddity. But then everyone in TVland slapped themselves back to “normal,” the phoniness resumed, and we returned to a world blanketed by noise. It’s a world in which very few can be heard, but you have shown that it is possible, simply by speaking bluntly. And that is inspiring.

  4. John Mason says:

    Why I blog is a great question! Here’s some thoughts from here.

    (i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death….

    Agreed. That’s human nature. Longfellow put it well, something like this:

    “Lives of great men all remind us
    we may make our lives sublime
    and departing leave behind us
    footprints in the sands of time”

    (ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement….

    The natural world is something I have constantly strived to get back to when the system strives to push us ever further from it. My weather-diary tries to remake the connection, too: I love writing about what is all around me!

    If I had a “why I blog” moment, this was it, in an email received a few years back: “I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading your storm-chasing accounts and looking at your great photos. I’m virtually housebound now after having motor neurone disease for 4 years now, so I have to wait for the storms to come to me now. But they are few and far between in Nottinghamshire so reading your accounts is the next best thing.”

    (iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

    Likewise, I think it is vital to record in detail all of the political debating (and less savoury activities) that have emerged as the result of the findings of climate science. A lot of history will be written about this in future – assuming some of us make it through!

    (iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense.

    It has to be wide, indeed! However, if some people are prepared, via political opposition to science, to risk the future of generations to come, then it behoves others to get involved and fight this selfish short-termism, which is counter to national interest, at the very least in the medium to long term.

    Peace of mind: I would be unimaginably frustrated and depressed if I didn’t have a way of contributing to the task of saving a livable climate….

    Geology has been the basis of much of my work to date but I want to shift course into climate ASAP!

    Personal growth: The act of trying to explain the science and the solutions and the politics to a broader audience forces me think hard about what I’m really saying, about what I really know and don’t know…..

    I have worked in interpretation of science for a few years: it is an extremely satisfying use of time, even when it is frustratingly difficult (depends on what is being explained) – John Cook and friends over at Skeptical Science have done sterling work in this field and again it is something I’m hoping to get more involved with here in the UK. In some ways my weather-diary this past ten years has been a practice-run for that.

    We need both the objective interpretation and the astute political analysis in equal measure in this battle. We may not win 100%, but there will I am sure come a point where few will find fault in what we are collectively doing and many will be angry at the attempts to delay and obfuscate: the longer it takes for that point to arrive, the more will be angry and the more intense that anger will be.

    Cheers – John

  5. Ed Hummel says:

    Thanks very much, Joe. I stumbled onto Climateprogress about a year ago after looking for some websites that would give me the latest research on Climate change without having to go looking through all the journals every day. I am a coordinator for a local Climate Action group here in central Maine and I give talks, classes, and attend discussion groups to get the word out on the severity of the climate problem to a public which is basically clueless as to what is coming. This is a very conservative part of Maine and it is very difficult to fight the garbage put out by the disinformers which is almost seen as gospel by the average person around here. I do have a little bit of credibility since I’m a retired meteorologist and science teacher who still has a little home forecasting business on the side. So, in order to stay on top of everything that I should know, I find your blog to be the best thing that has happened to me in the last year (at least as far as the climate problem is concerned!). Thanks again for doing an extremely valuable service and I only hope that this blog becomes well know to as many people as possible, since it’s looking more likely that only a TRUE grassroots revolt by an outraged citizenry is going to cause the powers that be to do anything that really matters in the next few years as people such as Jim Hansen and Bill Mckibben have lately been concluding. This blog in particular has become essential to that end!!

  6. Wit'sEnd says:

    Thank you from the depths of my heart. I came to learn about climate change because I could not understand why trees are dying. From your blog I learned that so much more is being destabilized, and we have an urgent threat that we ignore at our imminent peril. From the commenting community at your blog I followed uncountable fascinating links to research, news, and books, and I have met the most marvelous people, on line and in person, who have the courage to confront the terrible danger posed to our species – and indeed most other species – by our heedless and selfish and stupid squandering of fuel.

    Thank you JR, and keep blogging. The earth needs you.

  7. David Smith says:

    Great post Joe. It would be great if, from time to time, you could get others (active with AGW issues)to create similar, personal posts about why they do what they do. I think it would be useful in motivating others to take action.

    Thanks, again for all your efforts.

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    Joe –
    A friend wrote me the other day , and asked what I was doing. My reply lately has been, ” Watching the world Burn down “. I do “blunt” pretty well myself.

    To the end of seeding tips that others miss, I suggest you add a category of “species response”. Into that, place reports of just what plants and animals are doing to respond , things like this :

    Coffee threatened by beetles in a warming world

    A tiny insect that thrives in warmer temperatures — the coffee berry borer — has been spreading steadily, devastating coffee plants in Africa, Latin America, and around the world

    It has been my experience that the deniers , can’t spin Humbolt Squid showing up in Sitka, Alaska, or pine beetles eating the Canadian lumber supply.

  9. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Most of the time I think that I do not make much of a difference. But every now and then and idea that I try and float actually gains traction. I have no idea if it was my initial push or even if mine was the first push. I have asked questions that were not answered, but changes happened, posts happened.

    Joe on the other hand has a much bigger audience and is making a difference. Somehow, sometime a critical threshold of public opinion will be reached and the deniers will be seen in the same light as the flat earthers.

    Without the effort of bloggers like Joe it is certain that the weight of public opinion would move too late to save a climate suitable for our civilisation. Keep trying; who knows which idea will turn viral and finally tip the weight of public opinion so convincingly that even the teabaggers will take notice.

    Even if our doom is already sealed, I would rather put it off as long as possible.

  10. Leif says:

    “When dissent becomes impossible, revolution becomes inevitable.” Marten Luther King.

    A humbled Thank You, Joe and Commentators, one and all.

    Two Palms UP,

  11. Peter Mizla says:

    Great Blog

    lots of incredible information-I have learned much and recommend to others.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Finland –
    Another signal of the bugs are doing the adapting first :

    Rising temperatures could boost populations of harmful insects

    Researchers have noticed a new phenomenon among moths in Finland, which could prove bad news to the country’s agriculture and forestry in the future.
    Entomologists have noticed that with increasingly warm years, the number of generations that moths go through in a single season has increased.

  13. Eric Normand says:

    I have been concerned about man made climate change for years, but it wasn’t until Tennessee, the state in which I reside, was devastated by an extreme flood earlier in the year that I became aware of this site. The story was completely blown off by the mainstream media, but upon a few Google searches on extreme deluges, this site came up. I sent Joe an e-mail about what had happened in Tennessee and he immediately began covering the story, first by reposting a blog article I had written on the disaster, and then posting several other blogs on the event in the following weeks.

    I now return to the site regularly to continue my education about the dire threats now facing civilization and refer others to it regularly as well. Climate Progress, Huffington Post, and a few others are on a short list of the only places one can find real and honest journalism in the world today. Thanks for making a difference.

  14. Tim L. says:

    Thanks much, Joe. It’s good to remember the “Why,” as we too often get caught up in the “Whats” and “Whos.”

    FYI, Frank Rich takes the creepy Koch brothers head-on in today’s NYT:

    It’s important to keep turning a light on to these cockroaches, as we can’t let them remain hidden in the shadows to get away with their dastardly funding of climate disinformation groups.

  15. weseethroughyou says:

    a kind of haiku:

    i don’t care
    that 9/11
    was an inside job
    b/c the sky is falling
    how Orwellian

  16. John Mason says:

    Not an exact Clerihew senso stricto, but close enough to be worth attempting:

    The climate denier
    Finds his pants are on fire
    But he merely changes gear
    To another cherrypicked year

    Cheers – John

  17. Colorado Bob says:

    An 11 year set of maps of the beetle kill march across in British Columbia from the Provincial Forest Service –

    The Aqua satellite pass over British Columbia 8-16-2010

  18. Bill W says:

    Well done, Joe, well done! And thank you so much for the excellent work you do (and the work of others you post).

  19. Colorado Bob says:

    Eric @ 13 –
    I saw a number the other day from Nashville that put the damage at 2 Billion dollars . CNN doing a story on the Opry reopening. I was wondering what local media are reporting on the cost ?

  20. Leif says:

    GREAT LINK on Pine Bark Beetles. Colorado Bob, @ 17. A “must see” for the world.

    I sent the link to the NY Times.

  21. Wit'sEnd says:

    Hi Colorado Bob – Here is what the USDA Forest Service has to say:

    “Possible impacts of ozone on forest species include reduced growth and vigor, reduced seed production, and increased susceptibility to insects and disease.” – USDA Forest Service

    Numerous published scientific studies have indicated that vegetation is more liable to succumb to insects, disease, fungus, and extreme weather when it is already debilitated by ozone. Trees of all species, not just pines affected by beetles, are dying, all over the world. I keep a list on my blog of all the different species that have been identified as dying, coniferous and deciduous, and all the causes their death is mistakenly attributed to by scientists who can’t see further than the nearest bug.

    Compare the overall picture to AIDS. AIDS victims die from complications like pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma, but we all know, the real reason is AIDS. Vegetation exposed to intolerably high levels of tropospheric ozone is certainly dying from attacks by insects, diseases and fungus, but hardly anybody knows, the real reason is ozone.

    It would be an excellent idea to identify the underlying cause for tree “decline” – the euphemism that American foresters employ to disguise the fact that they are dying at a rapidly accelerating rate – so that we can do something about fuel emissions.

  22. Prokaryotes says:

    “The ultimate reason that I blog is because it’s not too late. Just because the catastrophic climate changes we are headed toward will probably be irreversible for hundreds of years or longer, that doesn’t mean they are unstoppable.”

    Copenhagen emissions targets ‘not enough to avert catastrophic warming’

    Emissions cuts proposed by the world’s leading countries fall far short of what is needed to prevent catastrophic global warming, according to a study released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate change summit.

    Even if countries adopted the most ambitious targets that each has put forward, the global average temperature would still rise by 3.5C by the end of the century and make large parts of the world uninhabitable.

    Yvo de Boer said: “Copenhagen must be a turning point. The scientific community has told us we have 5 to 10 years to turn an upward emissions trend into a downward emissions trend.

  23. Mike Roddy says:

    You are making a huge difference, Joe, as much as anyone I can think of. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough, but I, like you, see no choice in the matter- even though whatever difference I may be making is tiny indeed.

    It’s been especially heartening to move here from a timid and compromised blog and seen that someone else shares my outrage, and isn’t afraid to express it. Commenters here have picked up on your spirit, and shared the knowledge we have picked up here and become driven to learn elsewhere.

  24. Jeff Huggins says:

    In Touch With Human-ness and Human Responsibility

    I applaud Joe and his efforts, and I’m also a big admirer of Orwell. Bravo and thanks to both of them!

    That said, I’d like to offer a thought or two about my reaction to what Joe has shared, and what Orwell shared long ago, in a way that relates to something that more people should understand.

    It’s easy for people to get an impression, and stick to it, that goes something like this: “Thank goodness there are people like Joe, James Hansen, Bill McKibben, and some others who find it necessary, for some reason that they try to explain, to speak out and try to change things in positive directions. Rare individuals, they! I wonder what’s in their DNA that’s not in the DNA of most of the rest of us?”

    The “thank goodness” part of this view is correct, of course. And the “rare individuals!” part is correct too, although this need not be so. But, the rest of this sentiment (expressed in the prior paragraph) is a bit misleading and, to a degree, amounts to an excuse. It’s the part that sometimes amounts to, “I’m glad they’re doing it, because I can’t do it, or it’s not my job to do it, or it’s not in my DNA to do it, or if they’re doing it, I don’t need to do it.”

    Put another way, I think that people like Joe, Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben, and etc. are deeply in touch with their human-ness in the sense of intuitively understanding, and deeply feeling, the healthy empathetic responsibility that humans ought to feel for each other, for future generations, and indeed for other species as well. Indeed, as you can tell from reading Joe’s story and Orwell’s story, they can’t NOT speak out or NOT do whatever it is they can do. Something in them compels them to speak out. They FEEL their empathies and responsibilities AS humans TO humankind.

    It’s a bit as though they are walking down a path and see a child drowning in a lake. They can’t NOT jump in to try to save the drowning child. They feel compelled to try. They feel a human responsibility to try, and to try hard!

    Why am I saying this? Because we should all be feeling that same human responsibility. I understand, of course, that many people here feel that responsibility, but I’m talking more broadly: all scientists, all responsible adults, all self-respecting members of the media, ALL of us.

    I think it’s a mistake, and an excuse, for people to think that Joe, Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben, and etc. are just particularly brave, as if they would love to jump into a cave and wrestle with Grizzly Bears. Similarly, it’s a mistake and an excuse to think that they have “DNA” that most other people don’t. Similarly, I think it’s a mistake and an excuse to think that some people have jobs that call for them to speak out for the sake of humankind and that some other people have jobs that protect them from having to exercise their own natural human responsibility to do so.

    In a nutshell, two things:

    First, Joe and Jim Hansen and Bill McKibben probably aren’t people who would prefer to fight with Grizzly Bears in caves. Instead, they are people who feel the human responsibility (toward other humans, future generations, other species) that we should ALL be feeling. They are IN TOUCH WITH healthy human-ness and with an intuitive feeling of human responsibility. Although by saying the following I’m not trying to take away from what they are doing, as it’s impressive and appreciated, I would say that we shouldn’t think of them as Unattainable Supermen. Instead, we and the public (other scientists, the media, and the public) should think of them as feeling what we should ALL be feeling as healthy humans, and as exercising responsibilities that we should ALL be exercising as healthy humans. They are doing what normal healthy humans should be doing, at this point, in expressing themselves strongly. To the degree that other people aren’t doing so – and most aren’t, unfortunately – THAT’s the problem.

    Second, given the stakes involved, there is hardly a job on the planet that can validly excuse a person from his or her GENERAL and DEEP human responsibilities to humankind. There is hardly a job on the planet that can validly say, “In THIS job, one is excused from the general human responsibility to speak out clearly and responsibly and to help humankind transition to more healthy, responsible, just, and sustainable ways”. Scientists are humans and retain their responsibilities as humans, and views of “science” are misled that believe that the enterprise of scientific inquiry can excuse someone from her or his basic human responsibilities. The same goes for journalism. Being a journalist doesn’t excuse a person from her or his broad human responsibilities. Indeed, journalists and scientists have, if anything, more responsibility to humankind because of those roles. Academics too. A good number of academics (with many, many exceptions of course) seem to think that their responsibilities end in the classroom. They don’t speak out beyond the classroom.

    Of course, many, many businesspeople are dropping the ball Big-Time, but I’ll save that for another time.

    Shortly, I’ll post a comment regarding the Russell-Einstein Manifesto that seems relevant to this thread as well.

    Thanks again to Joe. Bravo! My point here – in case it hasn’t been clear – is that many more people, in the full range of disciplines, should be speaking out sincerely, emphatically, and responsibly, like Joe and some others are doing. We should consider it human to do so. We should consider it a part of basic human responsibility to do so.

    We shouldn’t see them as Superhumans, going above the call of human responsibility. Instead, we should understand them to be fulfilling the call of human responsibility. Most of the rest of us (including most in the media, and including most scientists, and including most of the rest of the public, including me also) are falling short of the call of human responsibility.



    [JR: Jeff, thanks for this. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have this platform. I don’t view anything I do as especially brave or beyond the call of duty, but I agree with you that the duty we have to our children and countless future generations is one that extends to anybody who understands what is coming.]

  25. Chris Winter says:

    Joe, this biographical essay is very worthwhile reading, and also inspirational. Thank you.

    And I agree with Jeff Huggins: Your words are definitely making a difference.

  26. Chris Winter says:

    Bruce wrote: “By George, that was good.”


    A side note: Peter Ward’s latest book, The Flooded Earth, has a scenario in which “Hurricane George” features prominently.

    I doubt that Ward chose this name at random, and I don’t think he was referring to Orwell; I harbor the strong suspicion that he had a different George in mind. ;-)

  27. Jeff Huggins says:

    An Example From Two Smart Folks (And Nine Others)

    Two fairly smart folks – Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell – along with nine other smart folks, issued what is now often called The Russell-Einstein Manifesto in the 1950s.

    All climate activists should, in my view, read the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. It’s short and very good. I think we need a MOVEMENT like it.

    One of several things that, in my view, needs to take place (much more so than is the case presently) is that genuine, highly respected, highly credible thought-leaders in relevant disciplines should convey the message – through words and actions – that it is not only acceptable to speak out strongly regarding climate change, but that it’s a human ethical, intellectual, and professional responsibility to do so!

    For example – just as an example – consider what could happen if a group of folks like Joe (Romm), Jim Hansen, Dale Jamieson, Donald Brown, and Naomi Oreskes wrote a compelling, to-the-point letter that, along with additional signatures (e.g., Paul Ehrlich, E. O. Wilson, Peter Singer, Henry Shue, and etc.), could help bring about much more confidence and energy in the scientific-ethical-intellectual-humanitarian community to speak out and “do something” for goodness sake!

    (Sorry, my enthusiasm got carried away in those last few words, but you get the idea.)

    Such a movement needs a “starting place” and a clear statement, and OOMPH, and passion. The starting place needs to have its own critical mass, as a starting point, so that it can gather more critical mass as more and more people subscribe, so to speak. Right now, as far as I can tell, the “world of voice” (as covered in the media) is highly fragmented, all over the map, entirely individualistic and individuated, and largely drown out by the deniers, confusers, naysayers, distractions, and business as usual. Another college football season is coming up for all of us to enjoy – Go Bears! – even as we continue to mess up the climate and remain fragmented in our approaches!

    The Russell-Einstein Manifesto brought together immensely respected thought-leaders from a range of areas, including the sciences and philosophy-ethics. We need something like it, and much much more.

    In any case, I’d suggest reading these two things (at the links below). One is the Russell-Einstein Manifesto itself. The other is a bit of history about the Manifesto and the process it led to.

    The Russell-Einstein Manifesto

    A Bit of the History

    Will someone do this, please? Joe? Dale? Jim? Donald? Naomi?



  28. Anonymous says:

    “As I wrote above, if I have learned anything from the blog, it is that there is in fact a great hunger out there to face unpleasant facts head on.”

    Except where it matters, in the halls of government and coroporate power. I was born in 1954. I’m glad I won’t be around in 2054.

  29. Leif says:

    Well said Jeff.

    It is important to note as well that as talented as the likes of Joe and the others mentioned, they to suffer from inadequacy. Sincerer effort and practice pays big dividends.

    I recall a wise man’s teaching from many years ago. There are four things that prevent a person from becoming a man of knowledge. Fear, clarity, power, and old age.

    Two Palms up,


  30. Chris Winter says:

    Joe wrote: “What I have learned most from the success of my blog, from the rapid growth in subscribers and visitors and comments, along with the increasing number of websites that link to or reprint my posts, is that there is in fact a great hunger out there for the bluntest possible talk.”

    Indeed. I think that has always been true, for most people. Think of what Harry Truman said of his detractors: “I never gave ’em hell. I just told ’em the truth, and they thought it was hell.”

    Ayn Rand and her works are admired by few people these days. But I remember Atlas Shrugged favorably, and a big part of the reason is the character of Hank Reardon. Although in that novel he was out of favor with the establishment, the common people, the proverbial blue-collar workers, respected him because, as one put it, “He talks straight.”

  31. Eric Normand says:

    Colorado Bob @#19

    The original assessment of damage to Nashville’s private sector was put at 1.5 billion. This was e adjusted to 1.9 billion about a month after the storm, but this damage is only for Nashville’s private sector, excluding damage to bridges, roadways, government buildings etc., and fails to include damages to the other 45 counties that were also deemed disaster areas. The local media has yet to talk about the total damage assessment statewide. The original assessments of damage to the Opryland structures were put at 75 million.

    Also noteworthy, and again missed by the national media, is the fact that we received a second major deluge just two weeks ago. While not as catastrophic and widespread as the flood of May 1st and 2nd, there was significant flooding in multiple counties with total damages yet unknown. Perhaps what is most noteworthy is the extreme rainfall we received in a short period of time (up to 8 inches in a 12 hour period). Again, the storm had some similarities to the storm we had in May. I wrote a brief report a couple of days after the storm (Tennessee Receives Its Second Major Deluge 2010) which can be viewed here

  32. Aaron Lewis says:

    Physicists are thinkers, but there is no reason to think unless you tell others what you have thought. Thus, teaching and writing ARE a part of the job of every physicist.

    As RP Feynman often said, the most important part of science is not to fool yourself. I very much fear that most of modern (climate) science is fooling itself that climate change “won’t be too bad.” JR is one of the very few that does not fool himself, and does not try to fool his readers and students.

    There are US Government agencies that I thought were simply doing science as they saw it, but in light of some of their recent reports and analysis, it is clear that they are engaging in self censorship. (To appease the idiots?) Particular agency guys have been dismissing AGW events with the pat phrase, “Natural Variability.” This has become the worst feedback loop that we face. The Idiots say, “It is not so bad” (because the agency said, “It was not so bad.”) And, the agency says, “It is not so bad.”, because that is what the idiots want to hear.

    Well it is bad, and it is later than they think. Since the days of the Army Air Corp, our model of Northern Hemisphere weather has been that cold dry air flowed south from the Arctic at low altitudes, picked up heat and moisture, rose, and flowed back to the Arctic at high altitudes where the moisture precipitated out and as the air cooled and sank to repeat the process. At the core of this old weather model was the unusual condition of “moist” air sinking (as it entered the Arctic), because in general, moist air rises. Last summer, there was enough warmth and moisture in Arctic air as a result of sea ice melt that moist air was able to flow south out of the Arctic at high altitudes. This is not natural variability, this is categorically different. This means we need a new weather paradigm if we want to predict weather over the next few years. Global warming is giving us a new weather machine, not sometime in the future, but now.

    Mother Nature just had the new weather machine out for a test run last summer.

  33. Prokaryotes says:

    Global Warming is a National Security threat the number 1 problem in our lifetime and following generations.

    People which play down the threat and actively preventing action are a national security threat.

    We Are at War!

  34. Prokaryotes says:

    In war with us and Nature – which we challenge. We need to stop poisoning the air we breath and start sucking carbon back from the air and sequester it (BECCS).

    There is no other way to solve the crisis!

    We need to stop burning fossil energy immediately!

  35. Joe,

    You continue to be one of my heroes because you tell it like it is — unlike many others who see what is coming but do not speak publically about their fears.

    History will look back and view you as one of those that foresaw the calamity and dared to warn the rest of us who, instead of listening, put on our ear muffs.

    [JR: Well, it hardly seems heroic to me to read the scientific literature, talk to the top climate scientists, see their talks when possible, follow the data as it is reported by leading institutions, and then report on that. But I greatly appreciate you and the other commenters who make this is such a rich experience for the readers.]

  36. DaveFinnigan says:

    An open letter to all the organizations and individuals concerned and working on climate change issues.

    I think that in response to Copenhagen and the failure of the US Senate to act, we can agree that it is time for a climate summit where all ideas are considered. This summit should take place in a single geographical location not simply in a virtual sense as is already being undertaken by Please when someone calls the summit make it not just for the environmental leadership and people at HQ of the various organizations, but for those of us who have been working in the field as well. We are the distributed intelligence that will bring the new and actionable ideas to the table. And yes there are new ideas that have not yet been considered. It is time for brainstorming and a new start, not simply for repetition of our established positions and programs. I suggest we make this a US/Canada meeting to start and then bring in other countries and points of view after we know where we stand.

    This meeting is for those who accept the science of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). Those who deny we have a climate problem are not invited and must remain silent or they will be ejected from the meeting. This meeting is for non-profit and for-profit entities and individuals working on climate change issues. This will take a five day week with sleeves rolled up and everyone in attendance for the entire week. I would imagine hundreds or more than a thousand people might attend and we need to be ready for that eventuality. People care about this issue. They have ideas and opinions and need a voice.

    First we need to do something that has not yet been done, overall strategic planning on the mega-scale. “Failure to plan means planning to fail.” Years ago individual organizations jumped into action without this critical planning step and that is why we are in the mess we are in right now, without any progress toward a positive vision or shared values – because we did not specify and broadcast the vision or the values. Let me enumerate the missing steps, which in effect become the plan for the week. This outline is distributed in advance to everyone so they know what to expect and come prepared:

    1. Vision, Values, Purpose – We need to align our vision and our values first. Don’t just say “Everybody knows this!” because they don’t. We are singing off different sheets of music now. Once we agree on our vision and values we should look at each of our purposes within that structure. What are our individual and group reasons for existence? What are we trying to achieve and why, and how does each group fit into that overall vision? What sub-visions are there and how can they fit into the larger vision? Are there sub-visions we cannot accept or encompass? Day 1 – Morning

    2. Mission and Grand Strategy – Then we work on our missions and grand strategies as they fit under the overall vision and various sub-visions. What do we do well and what do we like to do, and how will we achieve our organization’s specific vision? We outline for each other’s sakes our competencies and our capabilities that permit us to carve out our specific piece of the entire puzzle. If at the end of the day we find that there are missing pieces or missing players we seek them out to make sure we have a complete team to enact our overall vision. Day 1 – Afternoon

    3. Strategic Excellence – Then we move forward with a unified brand, a positioning statement, and a loosely assembled structure for ongoing cooperation that we agree encompasses our vision, our values, our purposes, our strategies and our missions. Brand identity and adoption is not to be taken lightly. It determines the messaging which follows and it is on this day that we must agree to stand together or fall separately. Day 2 – Morning

    4. Coherent Messaging – Out of these steps comes our framing. Out of the framing come our coherent messages. Martin Luther King did not say “I have a nightmare.” Enough doom and gloom has now been spread. It is time to create positive messages about the future we wish to obtain and the excellent outcomes for our industrial, commercial, residential, agricultural, communication and transportation and educational systems and for the entire society and culture on the way to that positive future. The most effective theme might not be “Be very afraid!” It might be “Be very hopeful.” Certainly our face for the public needs to be one of positivity and progress, “change they can really believe in.” We have lost half or more of our potential audience through terrible messaging. People buy hope and a bright future and that pushes the fear into the background. Day 2 – Afternoon

    5. Long-term Objectives – Then we map out our long-term objectives that are measurable and tied to quantitative or qualitative mileposts along the way so we can know if we are moving forward, and how fast. We make a plan and we agree to keep our messaging coherent in the steps toward those objectives. Day 3 – Morning

    6. Short-term Objectives – Then we come up with strategies to achieve short-term objectives or targets and we specify the resources required to meet those objectives. We work together on a plan to prioritize those objectives and to help distribute the resources we have and/or to identify or raise additional resources to meet those short-term objectives. Day 3 – Afternoon

    7. Action Plans – Next we come up with action plans which are tied to the vision, support the values, complete the purposes, recognize the missions and strategies, include the coherent messages, maximize coordination of our separate and shared capabilities and competencies, and fit the long-term and short-term objectives of our various organizations. There will be some overlap, but not competition for adherents or “customers.” We are one team with lots of different players with different activities all headed for one agreed upon set of visions and values. Day 4 – All day

    8. Tasks and measurement – Finally, after we have done all of the above, we do what everyone has been doing from day 1, we come up with actions, specific tasks that fill the days of the people working to effect change. It is contended that for all the right reasons we have previously gone straight from fear based messaging to random actions designed to quell the fear. In some cases these actions have served simply to exacerbate the fear. The desire to “Do something” has meant we have not done the necessary preparatory tasks outlined in the previous seven steps. Only after we rethink the problem with a structure like the one outlined above can we come up with actions, resources and dollars sufficient to achieve success. Then we move forward, measure our achievements, keep asking what?, how?, when?, where? with what resources? and we stay in close touch, and meet annually to insure we are covering all the points in our overall plan to meet our pre-determined vision. We head toward solutions, not simply away from fear. Day 5 – All day

    9. Anticipated results – If we do this as outlined above we will succeed and mankind has a chance. If we fail to do this we will fail to solve this biggest of all problems ever faced by humankind and we will have consigned future generations of people and half the species of animals and plants to oblivion. I do not want that on my conscience, do you? Lets put in one week to save the Planet.

    Please keep me in the loop. I think I can be helpful as we do this because I have served as consultant at the national level in big culture change projects in several developing countries, where we worked together with a similar process to reduce family size from over 5 kids per couple to under 2 in less than a single generation. I just want to help get the job done right from this point forward. I have cut off my little piece of this puzzle, working together with Cool the Earth, Green Schools Alliance, Green My Parents, and others on programs with elementary and middle schools students and their parents and teachers. I want my work to make sense in a context that recognizes, utilizes, and values my contribution.

    As this idea proceeds, please keep the power of our distributed intelligence always in mind and use Open Space conferencing There should be no speeches or presentations from the podium or expert panels, just start each half day with a working sessions with a moderator and then let breakout sessions be designated, run and selected by participants. Let the forum decide the agenda each day. Those who are in charge of the environmental movement now and have gotten us this far along the path can be invited to attend our summit as equal participants and “keynote observers.” From this moment forward, we need to learn to trust the process and to let ideas triumph. Please let existing organizations pay and let in for free those who are volunteers with ideas, but are not being paid to work in this field.

    RE: Summit Meeting on Climate Change

    When I sent out the suggestion above for a summit meeting to 52 addressees, within a few moments I got back a reply from Steven Zuckerman director of the Next-Gen Expo He will announce in West Palm Beach at his Expo in October that Next Gen will be sponsoring two Summit Meetings in 2011 organized as suggested in the proposal, one in New Jersey on April 30 and May 1 and the other at Folsom Field Club House in Boulder on June 4 and 5 and the ensuing week. He agreed to follow the suggested format and to find a place that is environmentally appropriate to hold the event, not a hermetically sealed conference room.

    He will be creating a wiki at Next-Gen where we can discuss these events.

  37. Prokaryotes says:

    Thanks Jeff #27, great to bring this Einstein-Russell letter up, makes a great blueprint for message @ all humans.

    Hope is illusory!

    They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly.

  38. richard pauli says:

    Kudo Joe ! And so many thanks for all that you do.

    So are there any hockey sticks in your viewer data?

    Care to share any numbers? I know that statistics are very private and guarded information, but how about some percentages?

    Like what percent of readers are DC area based?
    What percent come from .mil ?
    What percent view from foreign countries?

    Just curious. And not sure you can measure it, but how many people read the postings and then read the comments too? It might be how long do people linger on a page?

    Thanks again for everything.

    [JR: I might do that analysis sometime. My IT folks don’t really believe most of these stats that much. And Alexa is a joke. You can check out my unique visitors at — and of course I do publish the subscribers, since that number is generated elsewhere, but even it fluctuates more than makes sense.]

  39. Eric Normand says:

    Great post Jeff! I was unfamiliar with the Einstein-Russell letter, but agree that it was prolific for the moment facing humanity in 1955, and that a similar manifesto and movement is just as badly needed at this moment.

  40. peter whitehead says:

    Your blogs should be recorded on a memory stick and put on the moon in a large obelisc so that future visitors to our dead planet will see that not everyone failed to notice what was going on. Bury it in Tycho with a magnetic field to mark it. Aplogies to Arthur C.Clarke

  41. jcwinnie says:

    And, we know who the tougher editor is.

  42. Anne says:

    I think. Therefore I blog.

  43. As a writer I have some sense of the work this site entails. It’s a quite remarkable institution; many many happy returns!

  44. homunq says:


    “The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party” (Koch brothers):

  45. As a freelance enviro writer completely agree with Bill (#43). Making a living while telling the uncomfortable truth is a challenge on many fronts. Don’t forget Orwell lived in poverty much of his life.

  46. Leland Palmer says:

    Thank you for your efforts, Joe.

    It’s people like you an Bill McKibben that give me hope, that we can indeed turn the corner on this problem, in the face of greed and denial.

    We have to succeed at this, for the sake of present and future generations, and the sake of our beautiful complex biosphere.

    Earth has the only life we know of in the universe. We may in fact be the only intelligent life in the Universe, we just don’t know.


  47. Leland Palmer says:

    Whoops, hit the wrong key. Continuing:

    It’s all too precious to risk.

    Please carry on.

  48. fj2 says:

    Several years back I’d seen Joe Romm at a couple of Columbia University Earth Institute’s “State of the Planet” events which it holds every two years and was terrifically impressed as perhaps on of the top one or two in the field of advocacy for real action on climate change.

    He has not let us down.

  49. David Ferrell says:

    I had been thinking for several years that when it got to the point where we were having spring like warmth and cumulus convection in the region of the North Pole in summer, that’s when we’d know we were in real trouble with global warming. From news reports leaking out of the Arctic since the summer of 2009, it looks like something of that kind is actually starting to happen….

    What will it be after a couple of hundred years—alligators, ferns, palm trees populating the coasts that encircle the Arctic Ocean, recalling the Eocene warmth around 40 million years ago?

    Aaron Lewis (#32) supplies an interesting angle on this development when he writes:

    “Last summer, there was enough warmth and moisture in Arctic air as a result of sea ice melt that moist air was able to flow south out of the Arctic at high altitudes. This is not natural variability, this is categorically different. This means we need a new weather paradigm if we want to predict weather over the next few years. Global warming is giving us a new weather machine, not sometime in the future, but now.

    “Mother Nature just had the new weather machine out for a test run last summer.”

    Looks that way. Under the hot sun which blazes down on the North Polar Region around midsummer—temporarily supplying more time-integrated (total) solar radiation to this part of the world than any other, much of it now being absorbed by the ice-free open ocean—atmospheric warmth and moisture from rapidly melting Arctic sea ice provide a powerful water-vapor feedback to amplify Arctic warming and “lock in” the changes, making them irreversible (at least for the next thousand years) unless we can quickly get CO2 back down into the range of 300-350 ppm. Can major out gassing of methane from melting permafrost on land and the seafloor around the continental margins be far behind?

    It looks like the 3-million year-old Arctic Ocean ice cap really has passed its tipping point for irreversible meltdown.

    Yes, Aaron, it is later than those caught up in the feedback loop of self-reinforcing ignorance think. Much later.

    Thanks for the insight.

  50. Sailesh Rao says:

    Congratulations on the anniversary! However, on the advocacy side, I feel that this site does not go far enough. I believe that the pressing problem before humanity now is averting mass extinction and prolonging Life as we know it for our children and grandchildren and not just mitigating climate change. We can arrest climate change by fixing the energy infrastructure, but averting mass extinction requires a change in human behavior and culture. The ocean is dying and the forests are dwindling as the human footprint on earth keeps expanding under the present, dominant consumer culture and switching to renewable energy sources won’t halt the extinction. That needs human awakening to a new found respect for all life forms, which is sorely lacking at present.

  51. Byron Smith says:

    Thanks Joe, keep it up!

  52. catman306 says:

    It’s humbling to be in such company. Thanks, Joe and The Commenters! (sounds like a rock band)
    The music that you make shakes our civilization to its very core. There’s no human future without your songs, no human future without your words. As the music builds to a crescendo, others will feel the beat and join in. Our songs need better hooks, worded melodies that people can’t get out of their heads.

    Civilizations are not reality. Science studies reality. Therefore civilizations have only limited use for science. The radio stations are not going to play your music until the last possible moment. Day after tomorrow.

    Thanks again!

  53. Allen Robinson says:

    It might be useful for Joe and responders to cite AGW-denial-to-belief conversion experiences (as they occur, if they occur) from friends and acquaintances to public figures, like Los Angeles skeptical libertarian Dr. Michael Shermer in his June 2006 Scientific American column at:

    Personal and public conversion experiences might encourage both deniers or fence-sitters to reconsider and believers to inform.

  54. Being one of the early new media voices to get the word out on Global Warming, over 20 years ago… when “new media” was a telephone “ActionLine”. [Here is the world’s first Global Warming PSA from 1988: ].

    Its heartening to see just how the chorus of voices has grown, along with the tool set. Concerns about ‘preaching to the choir’ have guided my outreach focus to the ‘mass media’ tool of online tv -in the new, new media. But blogs do play a vital community engagement role. Thanks and congrats.

  55. darth says:


    Thanks for writing this blog. I’ve been reading it since the beginning and I check it several times a day to see your latest posts.

    The depressing thing I feel these days is that it seems even talking about climate change amongst people I work with/see every day seems verboten. Denial-ism seems to be even more common today than when you started this four years ago. It does seem to correlate very strongly with libertarian politics.

    How bad will things have to get before people stand up and take notice? How many more years of Beck rallies will be have to endure?

    Keep writing Joe, at least it gives me hope when I read you and all the good commenters here.

  56. Omega Centauri says:

    I usually comment when I find some detail that I think needs correction. So I probably come off as confrontational. But, in fact I just want to help with the effectiveness, and education of us all. Keep up the good work. You clearly are a prodigious worker.

  57. Tony Havens says:

    It is thanks to writers like you, that have inspired people like me (I have followed the climate change debate and energy shortage news for the last fifteen years) to take action to try and safeguard the future of those nearest and dearest to them.

    In my case, after living in China for 18yrs – and working in a field that allowed me to observe at close hand the shocking change to the regional environment, I decided to take Lovelocks advice; I moved my entire family to New Zealand two years ago. No regrets.

    Please keep up the good work…

  58. Kenneth Larsen says:

    Well said, Joe. More power to you, who remind us what is possible for all of us!

  59. Daniel Ives says:

    Thank you, Joe, for being a trustworthy, credible informer on climate science and energy. I consider this blog (due to your citations to peer-reviewed science and your political experience) to be my #1 source for tracking climate and energy issues. I also enjoy it when you call out a disinformer or a media outlet and set the truth straight. I’m looking forward to reading “Straight Up” because I can’t get enough of this issue and I truly like your style. Keep fighting the good fight (without pulling punches)!



  60. Andy says:

    Joe, just wanted to let you know (along with everyone else) how much I appreciate this blog. It is the best resource on climate science and politics available online, and I point others to it often. Thank you for your efforts on this site.

    The information and commentary you post here is one of the key “fuels” to my fire for climate change action. That fire is still growing, but is rapidly becoming a life-pursuit, due in no small part to your work here.

    So, most sincerely, thank you.

  61. Karen S. says:

    One more kudo on the pile, Joe–thanks for making a difference. The pen (or electron) remains mightier than the sword as long as the internet remains the home of free expression.

    If one stitches all the indicators together: corporate control of 95% of the media, brazen corporate influence on elected officials, disinformation campaigns against science, a lean towards irrational and intolerant theocracy in the US, an ever- increasing sense of being surveilled, a rising sense of fear and powerlessness by ordinary citizens (symptoms being apathy, anger and polarization, all of which are being exploited), plus inexorable overpopulation and depletion of resources, then could it make sense to conclude that some whose wealth insulates them from the rude world have decided that climate change is the ultimate antidote to overpopulation?

    Because environment, and now specifically climate change, is one of the largest limiting factors on corporate growth and wealth, the efforts to tamp down public unrest (unless it’s a certain kind of unrest sanctioned by the news organizations who donate to certain political parties) seem to be growing more obvious. There is no benefit to the status quo if the people wake up to climate change. The reasons why major coverage of the Copenhagen summit and most important climate stories since then are nonexistent here in the US are complicated, but to me it boils down to this: the ones in control don’t want us to care, therefore to know. The sooner more people realize this, the better. Blogs like this one are rare and critically important. Keep blogging.

  62. Kenneth Larsen says:

    Have you Seen Walter Russell Mead’s statement on his blog about why the environmental movement has been ineffective during the last year on moving the status quo on climate change? Among other things, he says, “The political, cultural, business and scientific establishments stand firmly behind global warming today — just as they once stood firmly behind Robert Moses, urban renewal, and big dams.
    They tell us it’s a sin to question the consensus, the sign of bad moral character to doubt.
    Bambi, look in the mirror. You will see Godzilla looking back.”

    It is here:

    What do you say to his argument that the green energy and climate change movement appears to ordinary people as if it is going against the initial guiding spirit of the environmental movement and evoking emotions antithetical to the roots of the environmental movement?

    [JR: One of the most laughable arguments I’ve ever seen. Hard to believe anyone on the planet takes that man seriously. I’ll was planning to do a post on him, but this makes it a must.]

  63. David Ferrell says:

    Kudos to Joe Romm and ClimateProgress for having created and maintained what has become the definitive all-in-one clearing house for the best ideas, insights, information, breaking news, and commentary the Web has to offer about the greatest challenge our species has faced, man-made climate change.

  64. Al Tekhasski says:

    Joe, I am wondering, you call yourself as “physicist”. However, I cannot find any of your publications in peer-reviewed literature, except one conference thesis (1986) on underwater acoustics (known to cause massive whale beachings). Could you elaborate on your credentials in physics, and in climate “science” in particular?

    [JR: Try again. Please tell me where you think I have misrepresented myself. In any case, my bio is on this website and on the web itself for all to see.]

  65. Prokaryotes says:

    Al Tekhasski question is irrelevant. Joe Romm could be the pope, an anonymous blogger, a computer program, etc. – as long the data published is based on the science.

    On a sidenote, why not make registration for comments on CP a requirement and get rid of all the trolls in the process?

  66. WhatAin'tUpWitDat says:

    RE: comment #64. Were I to encounter in the peer-reviewed literature a conference thesis on underwater acoustics (known to cause massive whale beachings), I think I would be on safe ground in assuming that its author must be a physicist, no less. Underwater acoustics is a rather technical subject, not for your ordinary Joe. To identify such an author as at root other than a physicist would be misleading, wouldn’t it?

    Such identification would not, of course, preclude anyone so identified from being quite a few other things as well, such as an expert communicator of climate science and its associated public policy issues. Climate science, after all, is primarily the physics of atmosphere, oceans, and ice sheets on the blue water planet we call “Earth.” Climate scientists pursuing active research in their field, which may take them on expeditions to remote places like Greenland and Antarctica, usually don’t have much time to communicate with policymakers and the public. Specialists are needed for that. You don’t have to be a rocket—er, climate scientist to get involved in these communication issues, but a solid background in physics is recommended. Does that explain anything?

  67. fj2 says:

    64. Al Tekhassi

    Definition of a physicist:

    Definition of an expert: