Unstaining Al Gore’s good name 2: He is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” and is owed a correction and apology by the New York Times

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"Unstaining Al Gore’s good name 2: He is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” and is owed a correction and apology by the New York Times"

I will examine here the February 24 New York Times article by Andy Revkin to show that Al Gore is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements,” as he was accused.

Part 1 detailed how Roger Pielke, Jr. started all this by repeatedly misstating what Gore had said in his AAAS talk (video here). These indefensible charges would have died on the gossip grapevine of the blogosphere, had they not been picked up by Revkin.

I have written multiple emails to Andy in an effort to get him to clear Gore’s name in print, and he refuses. If he won’t, I feel that someone must for the record and the search engines. If I could clear Gore’s name without criticizing Andy, I would. But I can’t.

My reason for writing this post is simple. Having your reputation stained in print in the New York Times is a very big deal for anyone because:

  • That story is reprinted and excerpted around the planet. It lives on forever.
  • The NYT is the “paper of record,” and thus considered highly credible (though it shouldn’t be).

Let’s look at exactly what Revkin wrote in “In Debate on Climate Change, Exaggeration Is a Common Pitfall” (original links, emphasis added):

In the effort to shape the public’s views on global climate change, hyperbole is an ever-present temptation on all sides of the debate….

Mr. Gore, addressing a hall filled with scientists in Chicago, showed a slide that illustrated a sharp spike in fires, floods and other calamities around the world and warned the audience that global warming “is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.”

Both men, experts said afterward, were guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.

Mr. Gore removed the slide from his presentation after the Belgian research group that assembled the disaster data said he had misrepresented what was driving the upward trend. The group said a host of factors contributed to the trend, with climate change possibly being one of them. A spokeswoman for Mr. Gore said he planned to switch to using data on disasters compiled by insurance companies.

Do you see what Revkin did here?

In Revkin’s original blog post, he fully quotes Gore saying of the slide in question (see minute 7 of the video here):

This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.

But that sentence ain’t damning. So in the article, he writes:

Mr. Gore … showed a slide that illustrated a sharp spike in fires, floods and other calamities around the world and warned the audience that global warming “is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.”

Except, of course, Gore didn’t do that. Revkin is certainly entitled to his opinion as to what Gore meant by “this” but he surely doesn’t know. The only way to find out would be to have asked Gore, but he didn’t do that.

If Gore was somehow trying to overstate the case, why would he been so careful and accurate in his word choice just a little earlier on the video when he said:

It is the view of many scientists that the intensity of hurricanes is affected by the warming issues.

Kalee Kreider, Mr. Gore’s spokeswoman on environmental matters (and a personal friend), explained how the former Vice President works, in an email:

Vice President Gore consults with scientists regularly to try to ensure the accuracy of his slideshow on both the content of the slideshow itself and the language he uses to describe the research. As a layperson he does the best he can to describe complex scientific principals to the broader public about an issue he regards as the most important issue our civilization is facing.

Now let me be very clear here, since some of the comments to Part 1 are trying to rewrite what I said, just as Pielke and Revkin did with Gore.

The scientific literature and many scientists have made a link between global warming and some extreme weather events. It is possible to accurately state what that link is, which I argue Gore has done (see Part 1). It is possibly to inaccurately state what that link is — intentionally or unintentionally. Pielke and Revkin are arguing that Gore was intentionally and obviously inaccurate in how he stated the link at the AAAS. But they have no case. They have to hypothesize what Gore was saying or intended to say because they just don’t know.

If you are going to slam someone for “exaggeration,” let alone multiple “inaccuracies and overstatements,” in the New York Times, it really needs to be based on more than your supposition of what he was trying to say about a complicated subject. This goes double for Gore, who has endured the most brutual assault on his integrity with the charge of exaggeration based on invented quotes.

For instance, Gore has been brutally mocked for the false accusation that he claimed to have “invented the Internet,” when that was not what he said. To see how many false charges of exaggeration have been made against Gore on the basis of things that he just didn’t say, read this article.

Second, Revkin did not identify multiple “inaccuracies and overstatements” in Gore’s case. The only “expert” Revkin links to who did, Roger Pielke, mistated what Gore said (as I showed in Part 1) and — on the basis of his indefensible smear of the reputations of thousands of scientists — the media needs to reconsider whether he is a credible “expert.”

Third, this is not an accurate representation of what the Belgians said:

Mr. Gore removed the slide from his presentation after the Belgian research group that assembled the disaster data said he had misrepresented what was driving the upward trend. The group said a host of factors contributed to the trend, with climate change possibly being one of them.

In his blog post, Revkin says that what he published was their “full response.” You can read it here.

But the Belgians don’t say “he had misrepresented what was driving the upward trend.” How could they? Gore never made such a representation. Yes, they imply Gore made a misrepresentation when they write:

Before interpreting the upward trend in the occurrence of weather-related disasters as “completely unprecedented” and “due to global warming”, one has to take into account the complexities of disaster occurrence, human vulnerabilities and statistical reporting and registering….

But Gore didn’t say the upward trend was “due to global warming.” That would be the Belgians putting words in Gore’s mouth. Seems to be a contagious disease.

To be clear: What would have been out of bounds and worthy of criticism by Revkin, is if Gore had said or strongly implied that “there is a scientific consensus that this trend is due exclusively (or even primarily ) to global warming.”

But there is no evidence to suggest that is what Gore believes or even that was the impression he was trying to leave. Again, minutes earlier he was careful to say “It is the view of many scientists that the intensity of hurricanes is affected by the warming issues.” No exaggeration, inaccuracy or misstatement there.

Significantly, the way Revkin has written the piece, some might come away with the impression that Gore was admitting he had done something wrong or had said something wrong when he agreed not to use the slide any more. He was not. Go back and read Kalee’s email to Revkin (here) — or ask Kalee, as I did. And why should he have made such an admission when he didn’t do or say anything wrong?

And this brings us me to my final point: It is almost entirely irrelevant what the Belgians said and did about the slide after Gore’s talk. To make the charge of “exaggeration” stick, what matters is what Gore knew the Belgians said and did before his talk. That should have been made clear to readers.

Revkin does not tell the reader that the Belgians had not objected to the use of that slide by Charles Blow in the New York Times in May 2008 to argue global warming was contributing to the trend in weather-related disasters nor that the Belgians had back-tracked on their own attribution of climate change. And as Kalee told me, the Gore team had been looking for any response by the Belgians to that article.

So Revkin left readers the misimpression that Gore could possibly have known he might have been misrepresenting the Belgian’s data in the first place.

To elaborate — after the Blow article ran, the Gore folks contacted the Belgian research group to get their 2008 report, Annual Disaster of Statistical Review. As far as Gore could possibly know when he used the slide, the Belgians believed what they wrote:

Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one — even if its impact on the figures will likely become more evident in the future.

In other words, climate change is probably helping to create the remarkable rise in weather-related disasters and would likely become more important in the future. That was what Blow had said and had not been criticized for.

Revkin writes in the article, “The group said a host of factors contributed to the trend, with climate change possibly being one of them.” But to be fair to Gore, Revkin should have written something like “The group NOW SAYS climate change is possibly one of them.”

To repeat, when Gore gave his speech, all he could have known is that the group had said in its annual report — which is surely more authoritative than an e-mail — that “Climate change is probably an actor in this increase.”

The Belgians are entitled to change what they “believe” after the fact, but Gore can’t be accused of exaggeration on the basis of some after-the-fact email that somehow revokes their annual report. Revkin makes the Belgian reaction and the word “possibly” seem damning to Gore. But, as I’ve shown, it isn’t.

The bottom line is that Revkin has no case whatsoever.

Contrary to Revkin’s assertions in print, Former Vice President Al Gore is not guilty of “exaggeration,” let alone “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.”

Not only did Gore do nothing worthy of the NYT‘s criticism, but in fact he acted honorably and in the highest traditions of science journalism.

He deserves a retraction and apology from Revkin and others.

AFTERMATH

In my first post on Revkin (here), I (inartfully) pointed out that Revkin was being unfair to Gore by using the word “possibly” to describe the climate link to extreme weather disasters and by not explaining to the readers that the Belgians had backtracked from the use of the word “probably” in the report Gore had seen.

Revkin then wrote an email to me (and other bloggers) that certainly ranks as the most unintentionally ironic I ever received (emphasis in original):

No more time to dwell on this, but tour contortion fails, Joe, because the print/online story says specifically that I was alluding to the group’s reaction to Gore’s slide, NOT to the underlying 2007 report etc.

Here’s the key passage:

“Mr. Gore removed the slide from his presentation after the Belgian research group that assembled the disaster data said he had misrepresented what was driving the upward trend. The group said [in this response!] a host of factors contributed to the trend, with climate change possibly being one of them.”

That’s about as clear as can be.

I stand by the need for you to adjust your post.

Otherwise, you’re directly challenging my honesty and integrity (aside from competence, which is for everyone to judge). I didn’t ALTER anyone’s meaning or words.

Fix it.

And I expect that if you post pops up on Huffington or Grist or elsewhere, you’ll make sure the update is there as well.

Irony can be so ironic. If only Andy guarded his subject’s “honesty and integrity” as much as he guards his own.

I did change what I wrote a tad because I wanted to give Andy the benefit of the doubt he never gave Gore.

But you’ll note how Andy had to put a clarifying remark in brackets to make his sentence fully accurate. Hmm. You’re allowed to explain exactly what you meant after the fact for a print article, but Gore can’t do so for far more elliptical remarks?

Andy did in fact ALTER anyone’s meaning — I just had the wrong example. Maybe “alter” isn’t the right word. Andy hypothesized what Gore’s meaning must have been so he could make his case.

Andy directly challenged Gore’s honesty and integrity, but he simply doesn’t have a case that comes close to meriting publication in the NY Times, which I would note has more than 100 times the reach my little blog does.

Andy, the best you can charge Gore with here is not being entirely clear. And if that were a crime, I’m afraid we’d all be guilty, yourself included.

Andy, Gore is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.”

I stand by the need for you to issue a correction and apology.

Fix it.

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24 Responses to Unstaining Al Gore’s good name 2: He is not “guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements” and is owed a correction and apology by the New York Times

  1. Scott Greenstein says:

    wait, didn’t he invent the Internet or something? – I was almost positive it was him.

  2. Gail says:

    Fix it, also.

  3. Maribeth says:

    That’s an urban legend, Scott (http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.asp)

  4. ken levenson says:

    And don’t forget Jayson Blair! ;)

  5. All this hair-splitting is beside the point. Even the worst possible interpretation of Gore’s behavior is that he slightly overstated the position of the people gathering the data, was called on it, and reversed himself. It is hard to see this as newsworthy.

    It is not dissimilar to the criticisms Gore has received in the past. He is trying to make publicly accessible points about risk, so he emphasizes the simpler and more concrete aspects of the bad news, rather than presenting a complete and detailed summary. The latter is the IPCC’s job, not Gore’s. Gore’s job is not an exact science and it is unreasonable to expect every listener to agree with every emphasis made in every presentation.

    In John Mashey’s words (at the above link) “having often had to explain technology to various kinds of audiences [I've done 500 public talks and 1000 sales calls, roughly] if you always talk with all the caveats you use in scientific discourse, you lose a lot of many audiences.”

    At worst, then, Gore bungled one of the many many calls he has to make of this sort. Along with the editing error in AIT, that makes a lifetime total of at least two.

    I guess that means he’s a witch. Burn him! (note for the obtuse: sarcasm)

    What Revkin did wrong only began when he made a mountain out of this particular molehill. The real crucial disaster is in explicitly comparing Gore to the egregiously confused and misleading (and I am being charitable here) George Will.

    Examples are all too easy to spot:

    “Earlier this month, former Vice President Al Gore and the Washington Post columnist George Will made strong public statements about global warning — from starkly divergent viewpoints.”

    “Both men, experts said afterward, were guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements. ”

    and, to my ear worst of all

    “A variety of surveys show that roughly 20 percent of Americans are in Mr. Gore’s camp and another 20 percent in Mr. Will’s”

    What on earth could that possibly mean? It seems to imply that Will’s idiotic ranting is of exactly comparable importance to Gore’s diligent and serious and constant pursuit of a sane, workable, just and sustainable policy in a stable and prosperous world. Perhaps Revkin should take this up with the Nobel committee?

    Mr Revkin is sufficiently informed to know that Gore is basically right and Will is utterly wrong. Constructing the above symmetry from what amounts to a very flimsy scaffolding is not just an insult to Mr. Gore, though it certainly is that.

    By doing so from the platform of the Times, Revkin deliberately and consciously sacrifices his duty to inform to his desire to produce the sort of pseudo-balance that his editors and readers crave. He should know better, and I have a hard time believing that he doesn’t. That being the case it is an act both both craven and reprehensible.

    Revkin’s apologizing to Gore is a nicety that I’m sure Mr. Gore would forego, but his taking the trouble to set the record straight is far more important. In my view Revkin owes himself as well as the rest of us a very serious public reconsideration of his behavior.

    It is the only way that Revkin can extricate himself from the ethical company of the most reprehensible participants in this whole sorry travesty of public discourse that we have been calling the “global warming debate” for two decades now.

    My admiration for Revkin both as a reporter and as a human being has been so thoroughly erased by this affair. I wish for all our sakes that he would see how this column is so extremely unethical, and try to correct the damage.

  6. Tom Yulsman says:

    Michael:

    The readers here might like to know why you think that calling Andrew Revkin evil — as you did in your blog in at least two places — helps advance the cause of getting off carbon. Please explain.

  7. Tom Y., the reason I think Revkin’s behavior is evil is expressed above. I’ll repeat it:

    Mr Revkin is sufficiently informed to know that Gore is basically right and Will is utterly wrong. Constructing the above symmetry from what amounts to a very flimsy scaffolding is not just an insult to Mr. Gore, though it certainly is that.

    By doing so from the platform of the Times, Revkin deliberately and consciously sacrifices his duty to inform to his desire to produce the sort of pseudo-balance that his editors and readers crave. He should know better, and I have a hard time believing that he doesn’t. That being the case it is an act both both craven and reprehensible.

    My hope is that Revkin will address how he was tempted into fabricating this absurd equivalence between Gore and Will, and begin the process of examining why the press, rather than examining the facts, always splits the difference. It’s a slender hope, to be sure.

    Failing that, I would at least hope to bring to people’s attention the prospect that an objective press is not necessarily the one that always aligns with the exact center of gravity of pre-existing opinion, and that the facts of the matter should in principle have some influence on how things are discussed. I think that’s constructive.

    Also, there is the larger issue of the future of journalism itself, a hot topic these days. I think the likes of the Times and the Post should take into account the fact that they are no longer necessary instruments of modern civilization. If they want to continue to have some influence on our lives they ought to pay attention to the quality of the information they are shipping us.

    Perhaps the bilgewater they have been shipping us, which conservatives consider liberal and liberals consider conservative, could in fact be neither. It just might be pusillanimous drivel which gets no real ideas on the table whatsoever.

    On that view, the newspapers must repair themselves or be replaced. That means that they need to align themselves with the facts, some of which will be convenient to one party or the other, and not pursue some imaginary and incoherent middle which appeals to advertisers and does nothing for the subscribers. After all the advertisers will be unimpressed once the subscribers go away.

    When I was a kid journalism was presented as a heroic enterprise, but it doesn’t seem to be living up to its billing. It’s not heroic to say “both sides are exactly equal to with a hair’s breadth” when one has amassed overwhelming evidence that one side is basically right and another side is either lying or repeating lies they have been sold. Keeping your evidence to yourself in such a circumstance in the name of “impartiality” is dishonest and shabby and cowardly and selfish and wrong.

    Of course I could be wrong. It could be that Revkin is not as smart as he looks, in which case no evil is involved, but it would still be very disappointing.

    I hope that answers your question.

  8. Tom Yulsman says:

    Well, actually Mike, that doesn’t really answer my question. I asked why you think calling Revkin “evil” will actually help advance the cause of getting us off carbon. Tell me how demonizing an award-winning reporter who has written thousands of mostly good stories is going to help us accomplish one of the biggest transitions in human history.

    Mike: How does one story in a 30-year career qualify Revkin as evil? Are you saying we should ignore the impact he has had on public understanding of environmental issues such as climate change?

    Would you say that I am evil too? Since Andy is evil and is going to help cause the deaths of millions of people because of one 800-word story he wrote, to the extent that I enable him, doesn’t that make me evil too? (Oh, and did I mention that I receive emails from Marc Morano. THE HORROR!!!)

    Mike, are all reporters who have ever made the mistake of false balance in their coverage of climate change evil?

    And one last question Mike: Are you a supporter of nuclear power? Barack Obama is. But aren’t nukes evil? As you surely know, nuclear power produces wastes that can be — and some argue, will inevitably be — processed into nuclear weapons that can kill millions in one explosion. So Mike, please tell us: Is Barack Obama evil too?

  9. jorleh says:

    This Revkin is more and more incoherent. I would say, the man does more harm to our species than some Inhofe.

  10. If Al Gore walks on water, Revkin reports “Al Gore can’t swim”

  11. Gail says:

    A funny Richard Pauli! Tom Y., I hardly think that Michael Tobis is basing his assessment of Revkin on ONE article. Revkin is constantly presenting the two sides of the “debate” as having equal merit, which is why I stopped reading .earth a long time ago. It simply infuriates me that the NYT, which I once revered, gives such an enormous platform to a complete (can I say dick in these comments? Can I? Oh good) dick. But I do so want to thank you for mentioning Michael’s blog, of which I was unaware until now, and have since bookmarked.

  12. ken levenson says:

    Dot Earth has served the NY Times terribly on many levels.

    On the one hand it ghettoizes this existential issue’s coverage. Adding insult to injury it also seems to have lowered the standards for its coverage too.

    To top it off, the preponderance of deniers that comfortably hang out at Dot Earth always bothered me…it stinks. (It’s just a baby step above Tierney.)

  13. afrjc says:

    The main irony in the two posts is that Romm presents himself as something of an expert on rhetoric.

    These posts seem to me to be accurate enough to the facts, I think Romm is probably right on the merits. But are these posts rhetorically tone-deaf on a massive scale? Oh yeah. The fine analytical points Romm makes are buried in a sea of back-and-forth that only scholars willing to count angels on the heads of pins could be motivated to follow.

    Central points. Stated succinctly. No repetition. In no more than, say, 300 words. Or, rhetorically speaking, there’s no hope of persuading.

    Hard to do? Yes. Essential to making the case for anyone not already in the choir (including Revkin)? Almost certainly.

    At the very least Joe — get an editor. Or if you can’t afford one: learn to love your own words less and cut (ruthlessly) before you post things like this. Otherwise what’s the point? You make yourself look like a fanatic and lose readers and convince no one. That’s the rhetorical harsh reality.

    You’re smarter about rhetoric than this.

    [JR: Thank you so much for this comment, as it gives me the chance to make several points.

    First and most important, all you can do in 300 words is make some unjustified assertions. That is what Pielke did and that is why Revkin did. Yes, it takes a lot more words to unstain someone's name than to stain it.

    Second, I have tried in emails of 300 words to persuade Revkin he was wrong. Didn't take. From my perspective, Revkin did a bunch of little things wrong that added up to one big thing wrong.

    Third, rhetoric applies primarily to verbal (i.e. oral) persuasion, where inflection and mannerism and emotion play such a prominent role. Second, Repetition is of course a core element of rhetoric, so I don't understand your comment at all.

    Fourth, the first post was perhaps too long, but I really wanted to get all of that in one place so the second post could focus on the New York Times article. I could have divided the first post into two different ones, but I just didn't think Pielke merited that. I greatly appreciate the many people who seem to have waded through it -- as Monday had more visits than usual.

    Fifth, the blogosphere is a permanent repository, so I wanted these posts to be comprehensive should anybody search on this subject.

    Sixth, having dealt with Pielke before, what he likes to do is say something indefensible, and then when you criticize him, he claims he says or meant something different -- and then he cites links which he claims to support him, but they don't. It takes a fair amount of time to thoroughly debunk him. And, of course, if you leave something out of your debunking, he trumpets that as vindication.

    Seventh, I get like 10,000 visits a day, so it can't really be said that I have a mass audience. I have an audience that expects that if I make a very strong charge, I back it up solidly. That's why they come. Pielke has a different audience. Revkin has two audiences -- in print and in the blog. They are very different and I think go to the heart of some of the issues he is having.

    Finally, your line "I think Romm is probably right on the merits" is all I was going for -- not for impressing people with my pithiness. But I appreciate your criticism and will strive to do better.]

  14. Pierre-Emmanuel Neurohr says:

    Gore Pulls Slide of Disaster Trends

    (Title chosen by Mr Revkin -or some other Times editor, no big difference)

    Gore does NOT pull TENS OF SLIDES OF DISASTER TRENDS

    Title that, who knows, could be chosen by a Bangladeshi journalist whose family’s security is directly “threatened” by “rising sea levels caused by climate change”, as the now famous CRED states.

    It adds that “global warming is furthermore expected to increase the occurrence of natural hazards and epidemics over the next century”, the kind of things that, in poor countries, often means death (“Thirty Years of Natural Disasters 1974-2003: The Numbers”, D. Guha-Sapir, et al., 2004).

    The emphasis put on that one slide, even if it were correct, tells us a lot about most US’, Europeans’, etc. -the wealthy’s- culture: our chosen lifestyle is going to kill them, but just not yet. So there’s no reason to exaggerate, is there?

    I wonder how you would react if things were somehow the other way around, say, if a Bangladeshi scientist was showing tens and tens of slides proving that their chosen lifestyle is going to result in the killing of thousands of Americans, and a Bangladeshi journo would point out: “wait, there’s one slide that isn’t right”.

  15. Tom Y: I didn’t say Revkin was “evil”. I said the column in question was.

    (By the way, I answer to Michael or “mt”, not Mike, thanks.)

    I am not sure where the balance of Revkin’s efforts lies. I have appreciated much of his work in the past. To me, though, this one disaster alone seems to go a long way to outweighing the positive effects of his better reporting.

    However, I am not especially interested in which way St Peter will direct Revkin when he shows up at the pearly gates. I am much more interested in whether the major media will get off their compulsive difference-splitting and resume their responsibilities of taking the facts of the matter into account when discussing controversies.

  16. lgcarey says:

    Thanks to Michael Tobis for his very thoughtful post. Not to pile on, but I have certainly become thoroughly frustrated with Revkin’s behavior. I would by no means claim that he personally is “evil”, but I would agree with Michael that his choice to structure his story on Gore and Will was indeed an evil choice.

    Revkin is one of the few reporters who is thoroughly familiar with the details, history, development, timeframes and personalities involved in global climate disruption, and also with the horrendous risks posed to all humankind by the crisis and the very, very pressing timescale (e.g., serious droughts and water shortages due to disappearing glaciers and snowpacks maybe just around the corner, but surely not further away than a decade or so). Accordingly, he (yet again!) indulged his very obvious habit of crafting a story which strongly implies (a) that the two sides are roughly equivalent in credence and scientific support and (b) that the issue is essentially POLITICAL rather than a matter of PHYSICS (though he always carefully avoids actually stating this). What is evil about this presentation of false equivalence is that it is thoroughly misleading to casual observers (like me, until recently!) who look to the “paper of record” to figure out what issues are of real concern — a lot of those folks would have the bejeebers scared out of them if Revkin consistently told the story straight, instead of falling back into the same kind of “he said, she said” reporting, looking to convey faux balance. Occasionally he actually hits the nail on the head, but this is usually followed shortly by yet another adventure in fake equivalence. I don’t know what the deal is with Revkin, but on balance he is probably doing more harm than good. The whole Gore/Will thing was revolting.

  17. Hmpf says:

    I don’t think it’s about demonising Revkin; it’s about making clear that what he *did* was wrong in the strongest of senses. There are different degrees of ‘wrong’; sometimes it’s necessary to make clear that an act is not just wrong in an everyday, we-all-make-mistakes kind of way. Not every ‘wrong’ is also strongly wrong in a moral sense, so when something is, you need a word to indicate it.

    (Note: doing something evil does not make a person evil. We are all capable of doing evil.)

  18. afrjc says:

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for the reply — I do appreciate your thoughtful replies to peoples’ comments, mine included. And yes, important to be right on the merits.

    Thanks

  19. Florifulgurator (Germany) says:

    Despite this and other annoyances I still admire and appreciate Andy Revkin.
    His workload is amazing. As is the volume of his contacts to scientists: I guess on no other blog than his you can find so many quotes or life comments by real scientists. (Alas there’s also lots of denialists there – but what would you expect at such a place?)
    The dilemma/challenge is: 1) To keep that job at that paper. 2) To reach an audience as wide as possible. 1)+2)=3) Have maximium impact.
    Joe Romm may concentrate on preaching details to the choir.
    Andy Revkin’s job is a bit different.

    I have found myself yelling at Andy e.g. for linking to Luboš’ BS blog, for citing Lindzen or Michaels, etc. etc. But then methinks it is part of his mission to try to engage these people, not piss them off immediately. Quite a tightrope to walk.

  20. Steve H says:

    Yes, Revkin is the best climate journalist reaching a mass audience, and for that we should be thankful. But my oh my is he a sensitive little cuss! My hunch is that he doesn’t get to react forcefully to his editors, so he’s taking it out on you. If he is writing for such a mass audience, he had better understand that are many readers, like Joe, that will be critiquing every single word in every single sentence. He shouldn’t be pandering to our crowd, but he should be treating criticisms with much more respect. I find his response to Joe quite irresponsible, and it only makes our crowd push back harder when Revkin grants more leeway to deniers than he does to realists. Like Flori above states, he’s stuck in the middle. But if he doesn’t get grief from our side, then his writing will drift even further to the dark side. Keep it comin’ Joe!

    Oh, and Gore’s a politician, and Will’s a journalist. One is supposed to be held to the highest standard in print, while the other’s speeches are understood to be coming from a politician that will, by sheer nature, be somewhat unclear on matters such those Revkin wasted so much ink on. Perhaps this was more an attempt at equating the truthiness of journo’s to politicians? That’s even more despicable!

  21. re florifulgulator’s tightrope:

    Yes, that’s the charitable interpretation, but once in a while he has to move forward, else what’s the point of Revkin being on the tightrope in the first place?

  22. Paul says:

    Joe, thanks for doing this. You might also add that refuting this nonsense on Gore will serve to undermine future use of this incident by Roger Pielke Jr. as an “Honest Broker” talking point.

    That’s why Tom Yulsman is here complaining.

    Nice try, Tom.

    By the way, Tom…..why is it that the only person using the term “evil” in connection with Andrew Revkin is….Tom Yulsman?!

  23. afrjc says:

    I know day-old posts are ancient history on the web, but one more thought re: rhetoric and the effectiveness of posts like this.

    Joe ends his reply to me by noting that all he was aiming for was a result I said he achieved, i.e., “I think Romm is probably right on the merits.” I don’t take those words back, I think he probably did.

    But I did intentionally include the word “probably” in that original statement. I think its importance may not have been fully recognized.

    The point was that while I think Joe probably wins the argument on the merits the posts are so stream-of-consciousness and bloated, so clearly not edited for greater organization, clarity, succinctness, etc., that it is genuinely difficult to tell whether Joe wins or is just, well, a crank. That’s the real worry about good information that’s poorly presented — that it can lose occasional readers and critics who can’t or aren’t willing to tell it from run-of-the-mill crankery. And it presents real obstacles to even those (me?) who would really like to know and generally give Joe’s insights the benefit of the doubt.

    There were (as I read it) two points to the two posts: (1) to call Revkin out on yet another in the genre of false-equivalence articles and (2) to do the hard and detailed work of detailing how and why the equivalence really was false. Both were worth doing. But neither was done as effectively as they could have been given the excess verbiage, poor organization, and rambling nature of the posts.

    (I grade papers — I recognize these posts as falling into the sort “Paper written by an otherwise ‘A’ student who wrote at the last minute, didn’t proofread adequately, didn’t organize in advance, and ended up with a ‘B-’.” ‘B’ students who try to do this really fall on their faces. If Joe wasn’t an ‘A’ student there’s no way I could even have said he ‘probably’ wins on the merits.)

    I suggested aiming for 300 words and no repetition. Joe says that can’t be done given the second goal I mention above. OK — so organize and split the posts. The first goal could have been accomplished better in succinct stand-alone post with links to detailed support — 300 words or less. The second could have been done better with more care, organization, and editing. Longer would be OK, but better organized.

    I don’t want to be too harsh here. Joe, you and your site do a lot — a lot — of good. But there are these unfortunate instances where blogging through dictation software (http://climateprogress.org/2007/07/29/the-best-voice-dictation-software/) really does get in the way of achieving what I take to be one of the blog’s primary goals — the communication of important information.

    Anyway, thanks again for your efforts and responsiveness. You already said you’d “try harder,” and I believe you — so no reply really necessary. Just thought I’d add a bit about “probably.”