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Why can’t Roger Pielke just admit he was wrong?

By Joe Romm  

"Why can’t Roger Pielke just admit he was wrong?"


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Pielke is just wrong. This is NOT semantics. Let’s keep this simple.

energy-intensity.pngIn his post attacking Grist, Pielke used this chart of energy intensity to argue, “the world experienced a long period of carbonization of the global economy, followed by an extended period of decarbonization beginning in the second half of the 20th century, and as our commentary argued, today the world is recarbonizing.

That is analytically wrong. Even using Pielke’s own definition of ‘decarbonization’ (which isn’t the IPCC’s or anyone else’s I know of) to make his case, Pielke would have to show a chart of carbon per GDP, not energy per GDP.

Obviously carbon per GDP can go in a completely different direction than energy per GDP. If Pielke’s analytical mistake isn’t crystal clear to anyone reading this blog, please let me know.

So my problem with him isn’t semantics. Pielke’s argument is simply wrong. His analysis is flawed.

Rather than answer this point of mine, he wrote a post accusing me of “Dissembling” and “misdirection,” of being “dishonest” and the like.

I can’t ignore Pielke, because the media and others listen to him. But, henceforth, I will endeavor to eliminate all adjectives, verbs, and nouns (and even adverbs) anyone might take offence to in future posts. I will not question his motives. I will not call him “misinformed” or accuse him of making stuff up, even when he uses such attacks against me. I won’t even call him a Delayer. All of that stuff confuses the simple issue of his being wrong. Please point out to me any lapses.

But I will continue to point out where he is wrong, because this debate is simply too important to let incorrect analysis drive policy. I will return to that point tomorrow.

‹ Plea to Roger Pielke and Breakthrough Institute: Stop the misinformation about decarbonization

Maryland Global Warming Plan Killed By Job Loss Fears ›

7 Responses to Why can’t Roger Pielke just admit he was wrong?

  1. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    The following post shows how significant Joe’s objection is:


  2. Joe says:

    But the post does not contain a simple admission that Pielke was wrong. It does show what Pielke might have argued had he not put up the wrong chart.

    But the right chart doesn’t make his case so much for him.
    Carbon intensity has been dropping for decades. I’ll post on this shortly.

  3. Dano says:

    I’m on neither side here, as I’ve objected to Roger’s careful redefinitions many times, and the parboiled hyperbole by our guest I object to as well.

    All extremes are error. The reverse of error is not truth, but error still. Truth lies between extremes. — Cecil

    As I’ve said before, it is pointless to gin up silly arguments with people who are going in your general direction.

    Now, Roger may want to start later and go 25º to the right of Joe, but you don’t help direction society by silly adolescent screaming about how having a different opinion means you are completely wrong and you need to be “debunked” and “refuted” and yada.


    The effect is the same as delaying by other tactics.



  4. elbarto says:

    Joe, respectfully I think you are getting a little semantical. Energy intensity, carbon intensity, decarbonisation all seem pretty irrelevant when the more likely scenarios presented by the IPCC all point to increasing total GHG. That is the problem, not intensity. Even worse when you realise actual total emissions are towards the high range of IPCC projection.

    I think the IPCC definition of decarbonisation is also wrong. To me, decarbonisation means are reduction in total fossil consumption. That is what needs to happen, what do we need to do to achieve it?

  5. Ted Nordhaus says:


    Joe Romm promises to forswear slander, ad hominem attack, guilt by association, and conspiracy theory henceforth. How about starting with an apology to all those whose reputations you’ve sullied and names you’ve dragged through the mud over the last few months, Joe?

    If Joe indeed sticks to his pledge all that should remain is misinformation, misrepresenting the arguments of those with whom he disagrees, and semantic hairsplitting when called on aforementioned misinformation. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere. Fake it till you make it, Joe.

    For a primer on how to parse Joe’s disingenuous attacks, we’ve posted a helpful guide to the new environmental politics of personal destruction at:


  6. Teryn Norris says:

    Joe, it should now be clear to your readers just how much you’ve misrepresented Pielke’s work. Why should we conclude that your attempt to paint Pielke as ignorant represents anything but malicious intent?

    It’s not rocket science to draw the link between historical levels of energy and carbon intensity. If there was one error Pielke made, it was assuming that his words wouldn’t be twisted and exaggerated by you.

  7. Paul K says:

    Ted Nordhaus,
    Joe Romm, by his own repeated declaration, is not an environmentalist and should not be referred to as one.