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Climate Central shifts momentum with new blog on adaptation

By Joe Romm on April 8, 2011 at 3:39 pm

"Climate Central shifts momentum with new blog on adaptation"

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Climate Central is a reliable producer of analysis and reporting on climate science.   As they explain, the idea for CC developed from some large meetings of “leading scientists, policymakers, journalists, and leaders from business, religion and civil society” who “identified a critical need for a central authoritative source for climate change information.”

Later, “a broad group of climate experts later confirmed this need.”  At the same time, other groups “began organizing with the mission to popularize good information about global warming solutions.”  Their tag line “sound science & vibrant media” gets to the heart of what their important niche has been — emphasis on “sound science.”

That’s why it is disappointing to see a new blog, “Frontier Earth,” that isn’t focused on science and isn’t authoritative in the least bit.  Two examples will suffice.

The first piece is headlined, “Momentum Shifts on Climate Adaptation.”  The piece has no discussion whatsoever of the scientific literature on adaptation or the climate impacts we’d have to adapt to. Nor does it examine adaptation policy or even what is happening in the political world.  If it did, it would’ve come to a completely different conclusion.

Instead, the only “evidence” it cites for this new shift is an Economist article from last November, a Dave Roberts blog post from January, and and a Guardian op-ed from last week.  Seriously.

Ironically, the piece cites a 2-year-old piece (!) quoting the late Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider: “Everyone is now talking about adaptation, but for all the talk there’s little actually being done.”  Precisely.

If one were looking for an evidence-based shift in thinking about climate adaptation, then one would conclude that either there had been no shift whatsoever or, in fact, that the likelihood of the United States devoting significant resources to adaptation had dropped with the failure of the climate bill in the previous Congress and the election of a new Congress filled with people who deny basic climate science.

Real adaptation is quite expensive (see Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must).  The climate bill would have generated considerable amount of money specifically dedicated toward adaptation.  It’s failure was a momentum killer for real adaptation.

And it is pretty obvious that people who don’t believe in climate science, who don’t believe humans are changing the climate in ways that scientists can anticipate — knowledge that is obviously the basis of any serious adaptation policy — aren’t going to pony up the many billions of dollars needed for real adaptation.  Quite the reverse.  They have an avowed mission to cut government spending and many of them have specifically targeted planning and adaptation, as I reported over a month ago — see Conservatives oppose adaptation, too, which quotes E&E Daily:

Sen. John Barrasso continued his campaign yesterday to stop the Obama administration from incorporating climate change into federal plans and policies, taking aim at an interagency report released in October that proposed ways for the federal government to respond to increased frequency of severe weather events and other effects of global warming”¦.

Barrasso said that even the climate change adaptation efforts recommended in the report “will kill jobs, weaken our energy security and decrease economic growth.”

So if there has been a momentum shift, it is away from efforts to seriously pursue adaptation.  An objective piece of journalism on this subject would have to at least note these realities.

For the record, I myself started a category on “adaptation” last year with my post “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery:  Rhetorical adaptation, however, is a political winner. Too bad it means preventable suffering for billions.”

But that new category isn’t proof of a momentum shift either.  I wanted to draw a distinction between real adaptation, where one seriously proposes trying to prepare for what’s to come if we don’t do real mitigation (i.e. an 800 to 1000+ ppm world aka Hell and High Water) and rhetorical adaptation, which is a messaging strategy used by those who really don’t take global warming seriously “” those who oppose serious mitigation and who don’t want to do bloody much of anything, but who don’t want to seem indifferent to the plight of humanity (aka poor people in other countries, who they think will be the only victims at some distant point in the future).

In practice, rhetorical adaptation really means “buck up, fend for yourself, walk it off.”  Let’s call the folks who push that “maladapters.”  Typically, people don’t spell out specifically where they stand on the scale from real to rhetorical.

We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering. We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be.

That’s the pithiest expression I’ve seen on the subject of adaptation, via John Holdren, now science advisor.  Sometimes he uses “misery,” rather than “suffering.”

Assuming we stay on the no- or little-mitigation pathway, the primary forms of “adaptation” we are likely to see  are abandonment and triage.  Those are the basic responses to sea level rise and especially Dust-Bowlification.

So it is disappointing to see this misleading, puff piece in an otherwise solid place like Climate Central.  I suppose I do have to mention that the piece was written by Keith Kloor, who I had a run in with a year and a half ago (see “Meet blogger Keith Kloor“).  I have written very little about him since — even as he has continued to misrepresent me and many, many other scientists over and over again, as detailed by physicist Arthur Smith in this analysis.  Interestingly, Kloor famously attacked Roberts on this very subject in October 2009, “More proof that environmentalists can’t chew gum and talk about climate adaptation at the same time comes in this post from David Roberts at Grist.  The cognitive dissonance from this crowd continues to amaze me.”

It is relevant who the author of this Climate Central post is mainly because Kloor is a stalking horse for Roger Pielke, Jr., who has long been downplaying mitigation as a climate strategy vs. adaptation, testifying to the U.S. Senate back in 2002, “if a policy goal is to reduce the future impacts of climate on society, then energy policies are insufficient, and perhaps largely irrelevant, to achieving that goal.”  #FAIL

And if you don’t think he’s a stalking horse for Pielke, then take a look at this comment Kloor wrote on his Climate Central post:

You’re right to point to the Nature paper by Pielke, Jr. et al (which I’m familiar with) as a notable omission in my post.

But as you know from reading me at Collide-a-Scape, I’ve devoted lots of space to the views and work of Roger and some of his colleagues on that Nature paper.

I plan on continuing to do that here at Frontier Earth. In fact, look for a discussion on Roger’s new book, The Climate Fix, coming up soon.

And thanks, as ever, for your incisive contributions to the dialogue.

KMN.

I hope Climate Central does not push Roger Pielke, Jr. (as opposed to real climate science).  I’m familiar with the meetings that lead to the formation of CC, and I don’t think that was what they had in mind at all.  Arguably Climate Central was set up to respond to the kind of anti-science and anti-scientist disinformation Pielke puts out on a regular basis, which has made him one of the people most debunked by climate scientists and others (see Foreign Policy’s “Guide to Climate Skeptics” includes Roger Pielke, Jr. and links therein).

COST-LESS NUKES

The second Kloor post that isn’t focused on science and isn’t authoritative in the least bit is “The Nuclear Option.“  It is hard to believe someone could write 800 words on the role of nuclear power in dealing with climate change and never once mention cost!  The piece does not actually site any scientific or technical literature, but focuses mainly on the apparent nuclear conversion of George Monbiot.

I’m personally quite open to including new nuclear power as a contributor to reducing CO2 emissions if it could be as cheap as most of the alternatives.  Heck, I include it as a possible wedge in my analysis of “The full global warming solution: How the world can stabilize at 350 to 450 ppm.”

But I also try to publish as much of the actual cost numbers and analyses as I can, to make clear how limited nuclear’s role is likely to be for the foreseeable future (see “Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve?“)

Can you imagine someone publishing an article on solar or wind power as a climate strategy and never mentioning cost once?

Cost is the fundamental reason why the nuclear Renaissance in this country died before the Japan disaster (see my recent post “The Nukes of Hazard” and the 10/10 post, Exelon’s Rowe: Low gas prices and no carbon price push back nuclear renaissance a “decade, maybe two”).  It must be the basis of any serious discussion of new nuclear power in market economies.

These two posts tell you all you need to know about “Frontier Earth” — and why it is disappointing to see Climate Central’s start a blog that isn’t focused on science and isn’t authoritative.

To be clear, the rest of Climate Central continues its mission solidly.  I have relied on their work a number of times here at CP and recommend it to others.  I look forward to seeing a serious discussion of real adaptation and “resilience” (whatever that means — it needs to be defined clearly) and abandonment and triage grounded in science the way the rest of CC is.

This post has been updated.

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29 Responses to Climate Central shifts momentum with new blog on adaptation

  1. Richard Brenne says:

    Can’t comment! Large unidentified glowing orb in sky in Portland! Going outside to stare!

  2. Michael Tucker says:

    Yes we have “a new Congress filled with people who deny basic climate science.” And they do not care two sh#!%s for anyone’s health or wellbeing. They will not spend for adaptation! They will not spend to allow us to live with the current crappy environment!

    “We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering.”

    Mitigation – off the table

    Adaptation – Will never happen.

    Suffering & misery – That seems to be the favorite of our political leaders.

  3. Is this yet another attempt — doomed to fail, no doubt — to achieve climate action through ‘compromise’ or ‘bipartisanship’ or some sort of ‘peace treaty’?

    And speaking of which, why are so many otherwise intelligent people so easily enamoured with the false promise of ‘compromise’ or ‘bipartisanship’ or ‘climate policy peace’? It’s almost like a weird sort of Stockholm Syndrome.

    frank

  4. catman306 says:

    Right after suffering & misery comes sabotage, revolution and reprisal. See French Revolution.

  5. Steve Bloom says:

    Well, Joe, the other science journalists CC previously brought on board, Andrew Freedman and Michael Lemonick, both have pretty strong tendencies toward the sort of mushiness Kloor manifests, so I can’t say this is a huge surprise. I suspect Kloor’s main selling point was a proven ability to draw eyeballs to a blog, in considerable part via posing provocative questions to which he himself lacks the answers. But trying to be constructive, how about a post here to brainstorm suggestions for what CC ought to be doing instead?

  6. Raul M. says:

    See Earthbeat Radio 3/29/11 show for info
    On the new gov. Program to pay for nuclear
    Plant construction in Ga. Seems there is
    More to know about nuclear energy.

  7. Steve Bloom – can you define “mushiness” so I can understand what you mean? That word itself is a bit too mushy for me. You can find many of my climate pieces for washingtonpost.com at http://www.capitalweathergang.com/freedman.

  8. Tony O'Brien says:

    Just how do you adapt to 300 million armed hungry citizens?

  9. Steve,

    I meant to also say that I would love suggestions on what you and others here think Climate Central should pursue, in addition to our many ongoing programs/initiatives. You can contact me offline or reply here too.

    Cheers,

    -Andrew

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    There are three credibility flags here- Kloor, Pielke Jr., and, especially, support of nuclear power. Joe pointed out nuclear’s high cost- way more than wind, for example- but there are many other problems with it, too. Ten year construction time lines, limited uranium, siting and entitlement issues, disposal- you get the picture. Nuclear is a stalking horse for coal and gas, both of which look good in comparison. And Climate Progress readers know all about Pielke and Kloor.

    That’s three strikes. Climate Central, you need to take a good look at yourselves, and think these issues through. As things stand now, you have no credibility with serious people.

  11. Anna Haynes says:

    Among Climate Central’s supporters is “George Mason University“; which could cover a lot of territory, from the Koch-funded Centers to independent, no-strings funding.

    A couple days ago I asked C.C. for more info about GMU’s support, touching on what sort of influence what part of GMU has had (or not) on what part or aspect of C.C..
    Mr. Freedman has assured me it’s coming.
    (I did ask for a fair amount of detail.)

    [JR: Well, the funder list is pretty credible.]

  12. Mark says:

    Personally, I’m sufficiently afraid of the unknown warming in the pipeline due to various feedbacks that I don’t care all that much about cost. Do ____everything____, ASAP, and its still far cheaper than reducing carrying capacity to less than half the people we now have.

  13. Anna Haynes says:

    (…so some delay in responding is expected and acceptable)

  14. Shelly says:

    This talks about the science of adapation —

    “Science ‘is key to community-based adaptation’”

    http://bit.ly/flbAlM

    I’m glad Climate Central is focusing on adaptation. The focus should be on adaptation now because it’s clear our government has bailed on the topic. It’s too late to stop climate change, especially with a government that won’t fight for important things. They don’t listen to reason and they don’t care about the future. They spend 27% of their time taunting each other. The other time seems to be spent on how to make more people miserable.

    [JR: We agree that science must be the basis of adaptation or any climate response strategy (which, again, is precisely white mitigation should be the primary strategy). But there is no doubt that we are stuck with considerable climate change that people will have to deal with through some combination of adaptation and misery and abandonment and triage.

    The question is, How precisely is real adaptation possible "with a government that won't fight for important things."? I agree that in a world where governments don't act, the public needs to be informed as much as possible about likely climate impacts. But absent science-based government action, the likeliest response of people to things like sealevel rise and Dust-Bowlification is abandonment, which I suppose counts as adaptation.]

  15. Leif says:

    So, Andrew Freedman, if you are going to talk about adaptation, just who’s projections are you considering and planning to adapt to? Will it be main stream science and rational scientific as well as military projections with real international cost benefits factored?

    OR

    Denier projections with fossil fuel fudge factors in which case it looks like BAU with … “mushiness Kloor manifests”…

    It is either, “Houston, it looks like we got a problem” in which case timely intense mitigation is still the most cost effective response, or we do not have a problem, in which case why are you wasting folks time.

    That is my definition of mushiness, Andrew.

  16. dhogaza says:

    Shelly:

    I’m glad Climate Central is focusing on adaptation. The focus should be on adaptation now because it’s clear our government has bailed on the topic. It’s too late to stop climate change, especially with a government that won’t fight for important things. They don’t listen to reason and they don’t care about the future

    Concern trolling, or ignorance, which is it?

  17. dhogaza says:

    Andrew:

    I meant to also say that I would love suggestions on what you and others here think Climate Central should pursue, in addition to our many ongoing programs/initiatives. You can contact me offline or reply here too.

    Paying a semi-denialist like Kloor to write on your blog is sort of the opposite of any suggestion I might make.

    [snip]

    Unless, of course, his collide-a-scape blog is just a toy he designed to destroy whatever credibility he might’ve had back in his days as an editor (note: not writing his own shit).

  18. jyyh says:

    Richard Brenne, lol.

    Basic fail of democracy is that the ‘shiny happy people’™ always vote for more sunshine and then you get drought.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I believe that we have as much hope of ‘adapting’ to what is coming as the dinosaurs had of adapting to their changed world, probably less. Unless the language of ‘adaptation’ is joined at the hip to an even stronger emphasis on mitigation and rapid decarbonisation, then it’s a complete waste of time. In any case it is already proving impossible to keep up with all the synergies emerging from the interaction of rapid anthropogenic climate destabilisation, other ecological collapses, resource depletion and economic instability leading to geopolitical conflict, let alone be at all confident that we can muddle through.
    As oil prices head ever higher, driven by the increasing gap between supply and demand, a new recession in the West is inevitable. The situation is made worse in the US by the declining dollar. Huge waves of credit created by Bernanke et al to keep the financial rent-seekers’ rackets afloat, are sloshing through the world’s asset markets, igniting inflation and producing mass hunger as commodity markets are pushed higher and higher. The crop failures caused by climate destabilisation make the situation worse. The peasants revolt, and in the Middle East, this sends prices yet higher. The more holes that the masters plug in the dyke of elite plutocratic kleptocracy, the greater the pressure builds. In India, in a little black swan moment that ought to have come as no surprise to any acquainted with the true nature of that country’s caste-based kleptomania, a mass movement is stirring, incensed at the rampant, gargantuan corruption of that ‘market miracle economy’ and its insatiably avaricious and tiny ruling elite. Of course, as any Australian indigenous will tell you, black swans are the rule, not the exception, and they have sixty thousand years of experience to attest to that.

  20. Adam R. says:

    Kloor, feh: the epitome of the concern troll. No matter what happens, he’ll smugly say “I told you so!” to both deniers and climate hawks.

  21. Gill Bates says:

    If scientists discovered an Asteroid heading towards Earth, would Republicans say it was a hoax ?

  22. Steve Metzler says:

    Adam R. has it. Once I saw that Keith Kloor is the author of this new blog, I didn’t even bother to read the article. He’s possibly the most prominent AGW concern troll out there.

  23. dhogaza says:

    Richard Brenne says:

    April 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Can’t comment! Large unidentified glowing orb in sky in Portland! Going outside to stare!

    And 24 hours later it’s returned to whatever alternative universe it was visiting from.

    Back to being grumpy!

  24. Anna Haynes says:

    Dhogaza, it’s down here in California today; thank you for sharing.

    > how about a post here to brainstorm suggestions for what CC ought to be doing instead?

    I think this topic would make for a good weekend “focused thread”…

  25. LucAstro says:

    Thanks for your independent evaluation of Climate Central. I just removed it from my browser. A great substitute is The Climate News Daily http://paper.li/climatenews
    It is a truly daily source of information (unlike Cimate Central) and is even humoristic at times. It also attempts to be international in scope.

  26. OregonStream says:

    1. Adaptation responds to current losses.
    2. Mitigation responds to future losses
    3. Adaptation plus future costs is more expensive than mitigation,
    4. Adaptation without mitigation drives procrastination penalties to infinity.

    - J. Willard Rabett

  27. Horatio Algeranon says:

    Credible Incredability
    – by Horatio Algeranon

    John Q. P
    Should listen to me
    I’ve proven my incredability
    By saying lots of goofy things
    Like “Warming’s bunk”
    And “Pigs have wings.”

  28. Anna Haynes says:

    Re my above (#11) “I asked C.C. for more info about GMU’s support, touching on what sort of influence what part of GMU has had (or not) on what part or aspect of C.C…” – got a “no influence” response from Ben Strauss (CC interim exec. dir.), which I’ve put into a SourceWatch page for Climate Central.
    (which also cites this blogpost of Joe’s.)

  29. Anna Haynes says:

    Steve Bloom #5, your assessment “Andrew Freedman…pretty strong tendencies toward the sort of mushiness…” doesn’t seem to match this post from Freedman – Congress turns a blind eye to climate science
    (“…how far off the rails we’ve gone in public discourse of climate science and policy…From a scientific perspective, the amendment’s language was rather benign….The fact that it failed by a vote of 184 to 240 (three Democrats were among those who rejected the amendment; one Republican supported it) signals the depth of the problem that scientists, environmental policy advocates, environmentalists, and others face in pushing for climate change action at the federal level. A majority of one chamber of the Congress just does not agree with the conclusions of most publishing climate scientists. This is a remarkable turn of events…”)