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Revkin’s DotEarth hypes disinformation posted on an anti-science website

By Joe Romm on February 10, 2010 at 3:07 pm

"Revkin’s DotEarth hypes disinformation posted on an anti-science website"


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Memo to media: If we keep listening to the antiscience crowd and take no action to reduce emissions, we drastically reduce the uncertainty in projections of future impacts and make catastrophic warming the likely outcome.

From the NY Times to CBS News to the Economist to much of the British press, responsible media coverage of climate science has all but ended.  I have some ideas why this has happened and what to do about it, which I’ll discuss later.

But one of the reasons for the collapse is the media’s refusal to draw a distinction between what scientists say based on actual observations and analysis in the peer-reviewed literature and what anti-science disinformers say based on their total lack of knowledge of the science and general willingness to misrepresent the facts or make stuff up. This also allows the anti-science crowd to confuse the media and the public on the issue of how certain we are about the risk of catastrophic climate impacts on our current emissions path, as I’ll discuss at the end.

First, though, former NYT reporter Andy Revkin has posted one of his worst DotEarth pieces ever, “Does an Old Climate Critique Still Hold up?“  Twice he cites the leading anti-science blog WattsUpWithThat, which by itself is incomprehensible for a serious science writer.  You might as well quote Rush Limbaugh or the Drudge Report as scientific authorities, if anti-scientist Watts is a primary source of yours.

The notion of digging up old comments on early drafts of the IPCC reports is a generally pointless exercise.  As one DotEarth commenter notes, “Oh, for crying out loud. [NASA physicst Andrew] Lacis pointed out improvements needed to be made in the draft summary, they were made, end of story.”

In particular, Revkin complains about Chapter 9, “Understanding and Attributing Climate Change,” in Working Group 1 on the Physical Science Basis of the 2007 report:

But after reviewing the chapter myself just now, I have to say that at least one passage  “” as far as I can tell “” did not contain a single caveat and did not reflect the underlying body of evidence and analysis at the time (or even now):

Human-induced warming of the climate system is widespread. Anthropogenic warming of the climate system can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the troposphere and in the oceans.

I have yet to see anyone provide definitive evidence “” with no error bars “” that the fingerprint of human-generated greenhouse gases (or other emissions or actions) is unequivocal. The only thing described as “unequivocal” in the report was the warming, not the cause, unless I really haven’t been paying attention for the last two decades.

Now if you read the Executive Summary of Chapter 9 where this quote comes from, you’ll see the whole summary is caveated probabilistically over and over again.  You don’t have to caveat every single sentence in a summary with as many caveats as this one.  Seriously.

While the warming is unequivocal, the chapter makes crystal clear that:

Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years.

Revkin’s post — and many emails to me from scientists and journalists — have convinced me that it’s time to start over on climate science messaging, which I will do shortly.

The reason I am writing this post, however, is not any of the above.  It’s the staggering update Revkin has:

[UPDATE, 8 p.m.: In an interesting guest post on WattsUpWithThat, Jerome Ravetz, a longtime student of the intersection of science and society, explores the panel's travails and related issues.]

No, no, a thousand times no.

In general, you can assume that if Watts has reprinted a piece, it is filled with anti-scientific disinformation.  It’s kind of like the laws of thermodynamics.  If someone tells you they have a perpetual motion machine, you don’t actually have to look at the design closely to know that, in fact, they don’t.

Now the least Revkin could do is quickly skim this nonsensical piece to see if, yes, it is in fact a perpetual disinformation machine, like all of Watts’ other posts.  It’s just pure anti-scientific garbage masquerading as … well, it’s masquerading as mostly anti-scientific garbage.

I’m not going to waste time debunking it line by line but this should leap out at anybody with the mildest understanding of the scientific literature:

In the course of the development of climate-change science, all sorts of loose ends were left unresolved and sometimes unattended.  Even the most fundamental quantitative parameter of all, the forcing factor relating the increase in mean temperature to a doubling of CO2, lies somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees, and is thus uncertain to within a factor of 3.  The precision (at about 2%) in the statements of the ‘safe limits’ of CO2 concentration, depending on calculations with this factor, is not easily justified.  Also, the predictive power of the global temperature models has been shown to depend more on the ‘story line’ than anything else, the end-of century increase in temperature ranging variously from a modest one degree to a catastrophic six.  And the ‘hockey stick’ picture of the past, so crucial for the strict version of the climate change story, has run into increasingly severe problems.

That partial paragraph probably sets the record for egregious and unscientific mistakes.  The hockey stick, of course, has been more than vindicated by the National Academy of Sciences and subsequent literature, while its critics have been totally uncovered as anti-scientific disinformers.

And this sentence — “The predictive power of the global temperature models has been shown to depend more on the ‘story line’ than anything else, the end-of century increase in temperature ranging variously from a modest one degree to a catastrophic six” — is completely backwards, as I’ve explained to Revkin and CP readers many times.

In fact, the story lines of low temperature rise primarily assume stabilization at low atmospheric concentration levels of GHGs, which requires aggressive action to reduce emissions — action of a kind Ravetz’s essay and Watts in general are trying to defeat at all cost with their disinformation.  The scientific literature is increasingly clear that if one takes no serious action, catastrophic change might best be considered business as usual = highly likely (see M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10°F “” with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20°F and Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!“).

Indeed, we now know the no-action case could be  far, far worse than “catastrophic six” by 2100 — see UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”

The first two sentences alone disqualify this essay and its author and WattsUpWithThat from being considered as reasonable sources in the climate debate:

In the course of the development of climate-change science, all sorts of loose ends were left unresolved and sometimes unattended.  Even the most fundamental quantitative parameter of all, the forcing factor relating the increase in mean temperature to a doubling of CO2, lies somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees, and is thus uncertain to within a factor of 3.

Now Revkin knows full well that this is an outright falsehood, quite an egregious one, actually.  The climate sensitivity has not been “left unresolved” or “unattended” — and, more to the point, there is no support whatsoever for the statement that it “lies somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees.”

In a seminal article in 1956, Plass calculated a 3.6 °C surface temperature increase for a doubling of atmospheric CO2.

As Wikipedia notes:

The standard modern estimate of climate sensitivity — 3°C, plus or minus 1.5°C — originates with a committee on anthropogenic global warming convened in 1979 by the National Academy of Sciences and chaired by Jule Charney.

The literature, as summarized in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment says it is “likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values.”

So Ravetz’s post isn’t an “interesting” piece from “a longtime student of the intersection of science and society,” it is unadulterated bullshit from someone who knows little about climate science — less than what you can find in about two minutes on the Internet, assuming you actually have any interest in the facts.

In fact, Ravetz’s point about the implications in the uncertainty of “the most fundamental quantitative parameter of all, the forcing factor relating the increase in mean temperature to a doubling of CO2″ is also completely backwards.  The possibility we are greatly overestimating the sensitivity is very, very low, whereas the possibility we are greatly underestimating it — and hence greatly underestimating the chances of catastrophic impacts — is quite high.

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

sensitivity big

["2 x CO2" means a doubled atmospheric concentration of CO2]

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

The risks of inaction are all on the high side.  The most probable outcome of inaction now appears to be close to Ravetz’s catastrophic 6°C warming by century’s end.  But the worst-case scenario could see greater warming and sooner.

I can’t debunk this crap as fast as it is being put out and echoed by the status quo media.  But I do promise to try to make sure that most debunking posts goes beyond pure criticism to explain a central point of climate science.  More on that soon.

More about the perpetual disinformation machine that is WattsUpWithThat:


Energy and Global Warming News for February 10: China to create powerful, new national renewable energy center

Q: What do public support for clean energy and global temperatures have in common?

91 Responses to Revkin’s DotEarth hypes disinformation posted on an anti-science website

  1. DavidCOG says:

    I’d always got the sense that Revkin was very reluctantly accepting what the science was saying. It seems, with *twice* quoting WattsUpMyArse – mentioning personal contact with Watts (how cosy!), that he is now showing his true colours.

    > …much of the British press…

    And that’s different to much of the American press? Or Canadian? Or Australian? What’s with the regular Brit-bashing all of a sudden? Aren’t there enough specific, legitimate targets already?

  2. Jezrah Limon says:

    Joy Behar is still defending global warming. Most others, not so much.

  3. Wit's End says:

    JR said “From the NY Times to CBS News to the Economist to much of the British press, responsible media coverage of climate science has all but ended. I have some ideas why this has happened and what to do about it, which I’ll discuss later.”

    You can add to this, the recent polls that show both in the US and UK, more people are doubting climate change science.

    Personally, I think the inevitable conclusions of even a rudimentary assessment of the empirical evidence of climate change effects already in motion are just too excruciatingly painful and terrifying for most people to contemplate.

    So I expect to see more visceral denial, incoherent rage, and frantic fetishism of the consumerist culture, followed by an increase in violence and general breakdown of civil society, the rise of enclaves protected by armed guards, and larger cults of idiots surrounding demagogic figures like Sarah Palin. Then, when the seas swallow whole towns and agriculture collapses, along with our system of transport, people in total despair will start drinking the koolaid.

    This is has already been recorded to have occurred among farmers in Australia, India and other places in the forefront of climate change droughts.

  4. Esop says:

    Excellent points.
    We are seeing the same exact thing happening in Scandinavia. A few weeks of cold temperatures due to the AO and the formerly reasonable mainstream media has been turned into major disinformation outlets for the rapidly growing denialist crowd. I have only seen a single mention of the UAH temperature record for January, among an onslaught of articles claiming AGW to be a thing of the past. One thing is for sure: the denialist crowd must be on good terms with the weather gods, with the spots of unusually cold temperatures concentrated right where the decision makers of the NH reside, while the rest of the globe is scorching with record breaking temps. No one should be entitled to such luck, especially not a crowd with such a vile agenda.

  5. WAG says:

    I agree, it’s time to start over on messaging. But that doesn’t mean just explaining the science more clearly (although that’s a key part). Ultimately, there’s no way to change minds based on facts alone, because the human tendency is to filter out facts that don’t align with our preexisting worldview. The other side can always come up with enough made-up “facts” to create uncertainty that reinforce preconceptions. I do sales & marketing consulting here in DC, and we consistently find that “making the prospect more certain” is a less powerful selling strategy than reframing how they think about the problem.

    Therefore, we need to reframe the debate in a way that a person’s stance on GHG mitigation isn’t ultimately dependent on their views on the certainty of climate science. In a follow-up post, Revkin quoted a response I’d written (Andrew Kent) making this argument, which I myself had stolen from the Economist:

    We can’t be certain whether a doubling of CO2 will ultimately result in 1.1 degrees C or 6.4 degrees C of warming, but we can make a pretty good guess, and the latter end of that spectrum would result in a nightmarish world out of “science fiction.” It seems prudent, therefore, to invest a small amount of GDP as insurance against the risk of catastrophe. (Indeed, as The Economist points out in making this argument, the investment required to curb global warming is less than the world spends on insurance every year). 73 percent of economists and the world’s biggest re-insurance company agree with me.

    The bottom line: Just because we are not certain whether or not bad events will happen in the future does not mean we should not take action to hedge against those risks. By definition, if your condition for acting on greenhouse gases is 100% certainty in the science, then we can never act in time to make an impact.

    Why do I think this messaging is effective? Because I’ve actually talked to someone who said, “I used to not think it was important to do anything about global warming, but I changed my mind after reading the Economist article. Even though I’m still not sure I think climate change will be all that bad, I think it’s probably worthwhile to take out an insurance policy.”

  6. PurpleOzone says:

    I sugar-coated a point on Facebook to Washington area buddies suffering under a deluge of snow (like me). I urge others reading this to say something like “Vancouver take this weather back!”

    Explain that Vancouver is too warm and snowless for the Winter Olympics because the weather pattern shifted — Arctic Oscillation.

  7. lgcarey says:

    How on earth could a guy who is supposed to be one of the country’s best science writers write this sentence: “I have yet to see anyone provide definitive evidence — with no error bars — that the fingerprint of human-generated greenhouse gases (or other emissions or actions) is unequivocal.”?

    A bright kid in middle school ought to know that NOTHING in science comes “without error bars”! Science isn’t about believing in eternal verities, it’s about probabilities and therefore open to correction. I think his statement reveals Revkin’s real mindset – he’s pushing to hold the science to satisfying that oxymoronic standard pushed by the deniers that can never be reached: “scientific certainty”. (Remember the Luntz memo?)

    [JR: Yes, that line is amazing.]

  8. MarkB says:

    If there’s one thing genuinely useful in Revkin’s post, is that he contacted the scientist Dr. Lacis regarding this garbage from Watts and others, and Lacis refuted it. This places Revkin above many other journalists.

    Still, this is overshadowed by Revkin’s other blunders, namely giving credence to a notably silly “guest post” on the Watts blog, as if Revkin didn’t care to fact-check it. This is common with Revkin. Within his own comments section, he awards “Editor’s Selection” to some of the dumbest posts I’ve ever seen, as if he’s either lazily trying to be “balanced” or is genuinely mislead by them.

  9. LucAstro says:

    What a perceptive and interesting article. The problem I see is that in printed media, even in the NYT or the Guardian, too few peoples are scientifically qualified to go to the source directly, that is, to peer reviewed articles, to form their own judgement and then report to the public. What we see instead are distorted views of how Science operates and on its main results about climate change. The IPCC is great in that it provides an interface between the public and Climate Science. Its limit however is that it can only provide a snapshot of the Science of the moment (2006 in the case of AR4!), leaving out the dynamical aspects of a truly evolving Science where a healthy and lively discussion is ever taking place via peer reviewed articles.

  10. Drew Jones says:

    Go, Joe, go! Appreciate any help with better messaging in this area. Keep up the great work.

  11. Andy Revkin says:

    I’ll start with one point of agreement. It’s absolutely long past time for scientists (and advocates) to reconsider their messages if they ever hope to stimulate meaningful change on greenhouse gas emissions.

    I imagine my views of what that message might look like (laid out in many pieces over the years) differ dramatically from Joe’s. Maybe a little mutual Q&A like the one I did awhile back with David Roberts of Grist (http://j.mp/RobertsRevkin) is in order (although I’d have a hard time matching his typing output).

    Now for the issues.

    The points that are interesting in the Ravetz essay are those drawing from his expertise — on the interplay of science and society. There are problems with his interpretation of the science — as there have been with a host of far more prominent folks embroiled in the policy debate over greenhouse gases (with all kinds of views of the climate challenge). But there was enough of interest, to my eye, to warrant having Dot Earth readers give it a look and offer their thoughts. To put some Web sites off limits in terms of linking and the like smacks of a kind of “cover your ears” approach to discourse preferred by those who don’t like the real world.

    [JR: So when Rush Limbaugh says you should kill yourself, that's perfectly fine for someone to link to and say, hey, this is an interesting perspective. Bullsh!t. If you are telling me you can't or won't distinguish between science and disinformation, then why precisely should anybody read your work or anyone you suggest to read? I link to Watts to debunk him -- and rarely because he publishes stuff that is wroth citing. My point, clearly stated, was that based on Watts' history, one should assume something published by Watts is disinformation unless proven otherwise. The Ravetz piece was typical WattsUp crap. I don't "cover" my ears -- I debunk it.]

    More disturbing to me is Joe saying above, in essence, that it’s okay for some sentences in an I.P.C.C. report to be wrong (to not reflect the reality of the underlying science) as long as others around them are right.

    [JR: That is just absurd. The sentence is not wrong. And it is in an executive summary that could not possibly be clearer. The sentence does not use the word "unequivocal" -- you did. Do you actual even read scientific articles, Andy? This is quite standard. As Dr. Hegerl tried to explain to you, "The statement you ask about is the header for a string of likelihood statements that assess studies estimating the human contribution to changes in atmospheric temperatures, surface temperature and ocean temperatures. We felt it was clearest to give likelihood statements for each individual finding summarized right under this header. So the header is, for example, followed by 'Greenhouse gas forcing has very likely caused most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years'. Posting this will avoid the very erroneous perception that we are not giving likelihood statements/qualifiers, which is absolutely not true."

    Andy, you are putting forward a view that is a-scientific.]

    If that becomes the standard, then what prevents a delegate from, say, Saudi Arabia or China from standing up during the next I.P.C.C. governmental review — or the treaty talks — to point out the lack of credibility?

    Just to be sure everyone here understands one detail, which Joe points out above, the only thing concluded to be “unequivocal” in the 2007 assessment was that climate has warmed. Everything else is cast in terms of confidence levels and the like.

    That means that these lines, designed (in an executive summary) to capture attention, are not factual as written:

    “Human-induced warming of the climate system is widespread. Anthropogenic warming of the climate system can be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the troposphere and in the oceans.”

    I’m waiting to hear back from all the lead authors of that chapter (beyond the valuable input from Gabi Hegerl that’s in my post) on whether they disagree.

    Finally, Andy Lacis adds much more context on his past and current concerns with the IPCC in a Dot Earth comment here (with more coming): http://j.mp/LacisIPCC

  12. The Wonderer says:

    I stopped visiting DotEarth several months ago. It’s worse than useless. A damn shame, really.

  13. Ryan_T says:

    Once again, it becomes a matter of whether something needs to be “unequivocal” (which seems virtually impossible) before a summary makes a statement regarding the general leanings of the research. Policy aimed at “meaningful change on greenhouse gas emissions” should be based on scientific probabilities, not clearly bad interpretations of the science. We can start cleaning up the discourse by not spending so much time on every little iteration in the blogosphere that’s not based in reality.

  14. Lou Grinzo says:

    The whole thing can be explained by simple economics.

    Media outlets are downsizing and cutting back on science coverage, and they’re under tremendous economic pressure.

    A deep, and often counter-intuitive, topic like climate change comes along, so they go through the following thought process:

    1. Don’t cover it at all. This is a non-starter, as everyone else will be covering it, so we have to or we’ll lose eyeballs.

    2. Only cover the deniers’ side. Seems really risky–there’s that “I See You PP” report, or whatever it’s called, and that Hansen guy (isn’t he the father of a bunch of kids in a music group?) and we could wind up looking like a bunch of idiots. So that’s out.

    3. Only cover the reality-based side of the story. Hmm, this is a problem because a lot of people don’t agree, and we’ll lose eyeballs–mostly to Fox and the other right wingers–something we can’t afford right now. So that’s out.

    4. We can do the “fair and balanced” thing. Let both sides talk. We don’t have to make any hard judgments, which is good because we don’t have/can’t afford to add the expertise anyway, and the controversy will drive up our eyeball count. No matter which side is right, we let ‘em speak, so we’re not making a huge bet on the outcome. Score!

    Option 4, a.k.a. the Arms Merchant Gambit, is where I think more and more media outlets are going. Not in large steps, but sliding sideways, like one of those evening news videos of a driver on an icy road in Georgia.

    As for what Revkin did in that flaming train wreck of an article, it’s stupefyingly weird and very, very sad…

  15. mike roddy says:

    I think that it is correct to decline to give a platform to wattsupwiththat. Regardless of who is paying him, that blog is comprised of relentless attacks on climate science on principle. Worse, the blog manager has zero expertise in the science. Finally, Watts’ grand climate station project, which intended to prove that US weather stations were exaggerating warming due to location, was unequivocally debunked.

    No matter what Watts’ politics are, if someone makes a comprehensive claim based on observations which turned out to be bogus in every respect, he should be referred to as a failure, and nudged to apply for a job as the weatherman for Channel 12 in Lubbock- not provided a forum in the New York Times. Meanwhile, Watts has shifted his attack to Dr. Pachouri, as if false claims about his outside income invalidate the conclusions of IPCC.

    A similar pattern exists with Steve McIntyre. Both he and Watts have been clearly exposed as frauds. Dot Earth’s decision to provide valuable and respectful space to both in the text section is no different than Rosenthal’s quoting Lord Monckton, and is a breach of journalistic responsibility- assuming, that is, that truth is something that is important to consider.

    Andy, I believe that you understand the hazards we face. You could be a very valuable communicator, which is why some of us become so disappointed when you regress to legitimizing people like Pielke Jr., Watts, and many others. These are the people who employ deception in order to delay meaningful action to prepare for our future, and deserve scorn, not dialogue.

  16. dhogaza says:

    Even the most fundamental quantitative parameter of all, theforcing factor relating the increase in mean temperature to a doubling of CO2, lies somewhere between 1 and 3 degrees, and is thus uncertain to within a factor of 3.

    Now Revkin knows full well that this is an outright falsehood, quite an egregious one, actually. The climate sensitivity has not been “left unresolved” or “unattended”

    I imagine he’s talking about the forcing of CO2 doubling alone, without accounting for feedbacks (which yields sensitivity). If not, he’s guilty of confusion.

    However … that doesn’t let him off the hook, forcing by CO2 doubling alone is much more tightly constrained that he says. So if he’s not confused regarding forcing vs. feedbacks, he’s still confused :)

    [JR: You are being far too generous. If he was not talking about the climate sensitivity, then his sentence makes no sense in context. He would be directly comparing apples and oranges.]

  17. Wit's End says:

    After Revkin was interviewed over at 360.yale.edu, I reposted my comment here: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2010/02/simon-shares-popsicle.html

    If we are going to be talking about re-messaging, consider that if Revkin thinks focussing on real-world empirical impacts of climate change (like dying trees) to motivate popular support for action is the wrong approach – as he stated in that interview – well, then, maybe that’s EXACTLY WHAT WE SHOULD DO!

  18. dhogaza says:

    More disturbing to me is Joe saying above, in essence, that it’s okay for some sentences in an I.P.C.C. report to be wrong (to not reflect the reality of the underlying science) as long as others around them are right.

    Revkin believes that the IPCC should write a document that is immune to any effort to quote-mine it?

    My guess is that’s impossible.

    [JR: Indeed. Anyone who reads the executive summary could not possibly be misled as to what the authors mean.]

  19. Bill Waterhouse says:

    Re #12 – me too. I am deleting DotEarth from my web bookmarks. Thinking about cancelling my Sunday NYT subscription too. Mr. Revkin’s (here following stuffy NYT style manual) comment at #11 is simply stupifying. The major focus of the IPCC reports was to explain AWG causation by GHGs.

  20. The Wonderer says:

    Wow. Andy’s comment above is a quick refresher on why I don’t visit DotEarth anymore.

    Yes Andy, “these lines…are not factual as written,” they’re only “likely” factual. Another great example, as FactCheck often does, of getting a little detail correct, but missing the big picture entirely, and not imparting any context to your readers. A well written story would frame this as a minor bone of contention and focus on the accuracy of the whole cloth.

    On the subject of your eschewing WUWT, I’m almost speechless. Not visiting WUWT is like covering your ears because you don’t like the real world? WUWT is a disinformation site run by someone with no grip on the issues of climate change and science, plain and simple. He’s not seeking the truth, he’s only interested in the opposition of those who warn us of AGW. What’s his theory?

    On a related note, I recently read Steve Trackton’s 2009 review of a Heartland Institute conference. Steve is a member of the Washington Post’s “Capital Weather Gang.” I like his description of the crowd and their intentions (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalweathergang/2009/06/as_andrew_freedman_reported_th.html).

  21. “Gegen der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”
    — Friedrich von Schiller

    (“Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

  22. Dana says:

    I thought the DotEarth article was worthwhile just because it allowed Andrew Lacis and Gabriele Hegerl to debunk the Watts article and Revkin’s misconceptions.

    I don’t particularly see the value in essentially advertising a Watts article which is based on cherrypicking one of hundreds of comments on the IPCC Executive Summary alone, which happened to dispute the way the section was formatted. A comment written by a scientist who coincidentally, later argued (correctly) that the lower bound on the IPCC’s range of climate sensitivities was too low (1°C for a doubling of CO2, revised to 1.5°C). He clearly wasn’t disputing anthropogenic global warming or the scientific content of the IPCC report, but merely the formatting of the Summary for Policymakers. Thus the Watts article was pointless, and I don’t see much value in DotEarth drawing attention to it. But at least the DotEarth article gave Lacis and Hegerl the opportunity to debunk the Watts article.

    Revkin’s contribution to the article, aside from contacting the scientists in question, is worthless. Nitpicking that a single sentence in the Executive Summary was not qualified, when it was just a summary/introduction sentence to the several following statements which *were* qualified, is a ridiculous criticism. Claiming that any scientific statement can be made “with no error bars” is just plain wrong.

    The second link (advertisement) of the other Watts article seems ridiculous and irrelevant. If Revkin really wants to discuss “the intersection of science and society”, he should quote the relevant portion of Ravetz’s piece in a seperate column. Instead his readers are simply directed to an article full of scientifically inaccurate statements.

    As for the claim in Ravetz’s article that “the predictive power of the global temperature models has been shown to depend more on the ’story line’ than anything else, the end-of century increase in temperature ranging variously from a modest one degree to a catastrophic six”, this is true. The “story line” is the CO2 emissions scenario. Watts and his followers would have us choose the “story line” which leads to the catastrophic warming scenario. This argument undermines his entire article, and in fact the entire goal of Wattsupwiththat – to force us down a no policy, catastrophic path.

  23. Oh, while this has already been noted above, let me just add my voice in my own way: Per Mr. Revkin at #11:

    Facts are not “balanced,” but neither are they partisan. It transcends my limited understanding to comprehend why or how it should be necessary to observe something so irrefutably obvious. And yet, it evidently is.

    If you are going to engage in an abstract, “aesthetic” appreciation of “ideas” on the equally abstract, aesthetic claim that they are “interesting” — where, evidently, “interesting” is a quality with little or no basis in logic, principles, evidence or facts — then don’t you have something like a journalistic responsibility to say up front that you’ve (1) abandoned all standards of reasoned &/or scientific adequacy for (2) “interestint”?

    Inquiring minds want to know …

  24. Leif says:

    Scientific certainty? I do not believe that you could get one scientist in the world that would say with 100% certainty that if you stepped off a cliff edge that you would die. As pointed out above. However when the probability starts to approach 95+% you are playing with a strong hand and should be stacking the chips on that call.

  25. Jeff Huggins says:

    Big Points

    There seems to be almost a complete lack of focus on what readers actually receive/interpret/understand from reading articles — the real “take away” — versus what words the writer puts onto a page assuming that they will convey what he thinks they convey to him.

    Effective communication is about the message and meaning that the receiver of the communication receives (understands), NOT about what is blurted out. A writer knows what he wants to write. The words and the millions of papers distributed are not necessary in order for the writer to “get” what he is thinking. The reason that writers — at least good ones — put words on a page, to be distributed to readers, in millions of papers, is to convey understanding to readers. What matters, in the end, is what readers understand.

    The media seem to have forgotten that. More often than not, writers seem to be caught up in their own worlds. Have the media noticed, yet, that the public is not “getting the message” with sufficient understanding and verve to help us responsibly alter our course?

    AND, ALSO, the media seem to have entirely forgotten why they are (presumably) important and special and necessary, i.e., the role that they are supposed to play, to help the public achieve the genuine public good. In other words, to effectively serve the public good.

    So, we have writers — including award-winning ones, apparently — who say and do things that strongly indicate that they have lost sight of their role to EFFECTIVELY serve the public good, and who have also gotten themselves into thinking that what really matters is what is written, not what is finally understood by the readers.

    What are journalism schools up to, these days??

    Joe, after reading this latest article by Andy, I wrote some comments at The Observatory (CJR). We should pour comments into The Observatory and/or somehow connect with Curtis Brainard to find out what, if anything, CJR is doing to urgently and dramatically improve the state of journalism today, pronto.

    I am hopeful that you have some good ideas. My only good ideas, on this particular topic, these days, is that I should stand outside the offices of The New York Times with a loud bullhorn and a big sign. But, unfortunately, living on the West Coast, that won’t quite work. On my next trip to New York though, I’ll certainly try to do whatever I can.



  26. MarkB says:

    “However … that doesn’t let him off the hook, forcing by CO2 doubling alone is much more tightly constrained that he says.”

    Yeah I caught that. 3 degrees of forcing would be extremely alarming.

    Andy writes:

    “There are problems with his interpretation of the science — as there have been with a host of far more prominent folks embroiled in the policy debate over greenhouse gases (with all kinds of views of the climate challenge)”

    I think Joe’s point is that perhaps you should point out the “problems with his interpretation of the science” if you choose to link it. It’s not at all about “covering your ears” to the “real world” as you put it. It’s about being consistent about moving the material from ears/eyes to brain (processing) to pen (communication). I think your post illustrates that you do an inconsistent job of this – commendable at times but highly lacking at other times. In particular, your statement that begins:

    “I have yet to see anyone provide definitive evidence — with no error bars — ”

    is not only fallacious (as others have commented…you might as well say Einstein’s Relativity statements were bogus), but seems like a nice logo for a T-Shirt sold at Watts’ political blog.

  27. Andy Revkin says:

    I’ll simply reiterate that the following statement from the chapter summary (not just a “header”) is not supported by the IPCC Working Group 1 report. I’d like to hear from any author of that report who can cite the underlying science supporting these definitive (unequivocal) words (key words capitalized):

    “Human-induced warming of the climate system IS widespread. Anthropogenic warming of the climate system CAN be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the troposphere and in the oceans.”

    Waiting…. (both here and at Dot Earth)….

    [JR: Wow! You do realize that it would be impossible to apply this absurd standard to anything you wrote or anything newspapers publish or indeed the scientific literature. FYI, "CAN" is most certainly not an unequivocal statement.

    And I repeat it would be impossible for anybody who read the executive summary to be misled, that is, it would be impossible for anyone to read into those sentences what you are attempting to read into them.

    If your standard is -- no one can write a sentence that, when ripped 100% out of context, could possibly be misinterpreted by someone -- well, count me out and I doubt you have ever written a single news article that could meet that standard.]

  28. MapleLeaf says:


    “One thing is for sure: the denialist crowd must be on good terms with the weather gods, with the spots of unusually cold temperatures concentrated right where the decision makers of the NH reside, while the rest of the globe is scorching with record breaking temps.”

    I was just mentioning that quirk to my wife the other day. It is really quite bizarre.

    Andy Revkin,

    Nice of you to drop by. Have you considered doing a piece on this:


    or this


    Please do not develop a blind spot for what is really going on here, a well orchestrated misinformation campaign and affront on science being aided by the media. I thought that you were better than that. This is far too important a matter to continually entertain fallacious notions put forth by those in denial or with ulterior motives.

    There are good scientists out there, please speak to them first about the science. Lately you seem to have been doing the opposite, and that is most disappointing.

  29. 24, MarkB, “you might as well say Einstein’s Relativity statements were bogus.”

    Interesting, and apposite example. There is a lively, and genuinely scientific, argument that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is mistaken. These folks are very much in the minority — a substantial body of researchers in gravitational cosmology don’t even know they exist. But unlike the climate change deniars, those who challenge the “Standard Model” of cosmology are engaging in and publishing REAL research in the peer-reviewed literature.

    This is, in fact, my favorite example when discussing a genuine, vs. an entirely fabricated, scientific controversy.

  30. MapleLeaf says:


    Are you familiar with the “fingerprint” work done by Santer? He is the scientists to speak to.

    Also, as for the warming being widespread, all you have to do is look here:


    or here,


    or here,


    Also, read the paper by Murphy et al. (2009, JGR-A), about how the earth has been in an energy imbalance since the fifties and this is mostly attributable to the increase in anthro GHGs.

    Also, go to http://www.skepticalscience.com for an impartial look into all things climate.

    The information (supported by the literature and observations) is there all to read Andy.

  31. MapleLeaf says:

    Sorry Joe, just posted a message with too many URLs for Andy Revkin to read…..hope that you decide to post it.

    Andy, regarding the anthro fingerprint on the warming. Speak to Dr. Ben Santer. Also read Murphy et al. (2009, JGR-A).

  32. Ozzie Steve says:

    On messaging – where on earth did you guys get the idea that you could win an argument, or change someone’s mind, by calling them nasty names (deniers, anti-science etc) and refuse to allow them to participate in the debate (the one that’s being rapidly lost)?
    Read the tea leaves people, its not working. You need a better communications plan than them (big evil) and us (we who own the high moral ground therefore deserve to prevail).

  33. Dano says:

    Huh. The corporate media is singing their advertiser’s tune louder and more frequently as ACES voting approaches. Who knew?

    I wonder if the corporate rulers would like EPA regulations rather than gaming a trading system (albeit I’m sure they are preparing their 5-year delaying lawsuits as we speak).



  34. Ryan_T says:

    It seems to me that the preponderance of evidence (which is again what counts) supports the statement that “human-induced warming of the climate system is widespread”. But I would still like to know from Mr. Revkin: If the goal is really to “stimulate meaningful change on greenhouse gas emissions”, how does simply propagating arguments rooted in misinformation or disinformation help us accomplish that?

  35. fj2 says:


    You have to realize revenue from automobile transportaton advertising pretty much supports the media.

    We have just seen this type of influence with the effect of the insurance industry on improving American health care; with regards to the environmental crisis it is on a pervasively much larger scale.

    Civilization and the world’s major industries are deeply entrenched in autombile transportation including insurance, finance, oil, electronics, media, and advertising industries.

    There is a clear path to extremely positive change which is at best scarcely understood or articulated.

  36. Ryan_T says:

    Ozzie, I have no problem with anyone “participating in a debate” in an intellectually honest manner, and I agree that unsubstantiated labels and accusations should be avoided. But from what I’ve seen, descriptors like “denier” (i.e. one who consistently “denies” the conclusions found in the scientific assessments and the position statements of the world’s research institutions) or “anti-science” are often earned.

  37. One interpretation:

    What Revkin appears to be objecting to is the use of simple indicative sentences without the usual scientific qualifications (which come later in the Executive Summary). He appears to be so afraid of and impressed by the storm of anger and delusional thinking from the denialists that he is constantly trying to view papers such as this through their eyes, who are looking for the smallest opening to undermine the IPCC and climate science. In this way, he gets unmoored from the data and starts to view this as a PR failure by the IPCC.

    The IPCC’s packaging of its findings is a fairly minor though as we see not inconsequential issue. What has been lost at Dot Earth is a sense of proportion and a sense of reality.

    Would that scientists could focus on just relaying and interpreting the data and most adults in our society could handle it! Apparently Revkin sees his role as that of a cushion or an “area of compromise” between those who deny the validity of the data that keeps on piling up and those who are trying to study it and deal with it.

    It is not science journalism as much as acting as a professional interpreter for the hysterical pseudo-scientists and science cynics that are holding their hands over their ears and eyes, while yelling at the top of their lungs.

  38. Ben Lieberman says:

    As an historian who teaches courses on the Holocaust I understand the problems with comparing agw denial with denial of genocide, but at the same time no student in any of my classes would ever resort to using a source that denied the very reality of the event. It is incredible that we have come to the point where a journalist with the paper of record will use a denialist blog as a source and defend the practice. Does working for the Times mean never having to say you’re sorry?

  39. paulm says:

    The guy is a jabbering blabbering lonnie. Good thing he left the NYT.

  40. Doug Bostrom says:

    Applying Andy’s logic more generally, scientific publications should not feature abstracts because abstracts are misleading, lacking as they do the full supporting content of their respective articles.

    It’s a shame how tough we find it admit when we have committed an error. After all, it’s just a blog post.

  41. Ozzie Steve says:

    Disingenuous Ryan_T. “Denier” has been deliberately used to align AGW sceptics with “holocaust deniers” for some time. Other similar smears include allusions to “big tobacco”, “big oil”, “flat earthers” etc. The point is, this type of attack only serves only to offend and distance the audience that needs to be won over.
    As I said, the proof of pudding is that the debate is being lost. Take Lord Monckton who is winning larger and larger audiences for his sceptical arguments – he is scrupulously polite. I have watched a debate where a media inexperienced climate change scientist resorts to subtle name calling only to look completely foolish, and the debate with it.
    While propaganda certainly works, like science, it requires expertise to be convincing. Those without those skills should stick to solid well reasoned, polite and rational argument. This will the have the most chance of changing minds and winning arguments.

  42. GFW says:

    I hope Andy Revkin is still following this thread, because I have one simple question for him.

    Is there unequivocal evidence that smoking cigarettes causes cancer?

    I would suggest that any reasonable definition of “unequivocal” applied to any reasonable study of the evidence would say “yes”, even though it is never possible to attribute any single case of cancer to smoking.

    I would further suggest that the human fingerprint in global warming is just as unequivocal.

  43. What a great excuse to dig up “phlogiston” again… the theory is called defunct (but not debunked!) It is a notion that there is a substance within all matter – “phlogoism” – that was released during combustion.

    The point is that this is no longer covered by science journalists… well because it does not fit well with known science, and is a waste of their time and energy. There are plenty of contentious stories – plate tectonics still has its detractors. But we don’t hear much about them. AGW denialism deserves the status of footnote along with flat earth, eye-beams and luminous aether.

    Although one idea deserves resurrection… the magical belief in an open Polar Sea was popular in the mid 1800′s. It held that the North Pole area, would be revealed as ice free. Perhaps time to revive that one; maybe trade places with Revkin denialism.

  44. Dan B says:

    Andy Revkin’s purpose seems askew. What underlies most deniers and hardens their beliefs is a fear that their way of life will be threatened – words like commie, socialist, and names that imply that Al Gore is a loser are pretty clear.

    The challenge for most people who believe the IPCC report (and believe things are moving more rapidly and frighteningly towards accelerating and irreversible climate chaos than the IPCC predicts) is to take our eyes off the threat long enough to focus on a clear vision.

    Andy Revkin isn’t engaging Watts readers in anything that will allay their real motivation.

    If he were saying that we are moving, kicking and screaming, into a new clean energy era that will be the biggest economic growth engine. The entrepreneurs of the 21st Century will transform our buildings into healthier and massively efficient producers of energy. The engineers of the 21st Century will transform our automobiles into the cleanest machines on the planet. The policy makers of the 21st Century will create a modern transportation grid that will revolutionize the way we do business and increase the options for how we play.

    Get a discussion going on that track.

    And please, Andy, don’t nit-pick scientific writing. The end result is the Emperor goes naked because, horrors, a stitch was out of place.

  45. The Wonderer says:

    Great, Andy is taking a stand! He has a bone to pick, and would like to argue that it is only likely that the statements are true and not absolute.

    Take me to the universe where the argument is between the AGW likelyists and the AGW certainists. Beam me up now.

  46. Ryan_T says:

    Not “disingenuous” at all, Ozzie. Although I personally try to avoid it, I question whether many of those using the word “denier” are trying to “align AGW sceptics with “holocaust deniers””, and how many observers immediately leap to that association. Even with rational discourse, the really dedicated contrarians (is that better?) don’t appear to be the ones we can win over. They simply move from one discredited argument to another, without ever giving an inch. There’s a difference between them and a true skeptic who poses serious questions about some aspect of the science.

  47. Robert says:

    Joe said it best as quoted here,
    “you can’t or won’t distinguish between science and disinformation”

    And below is my best if you will indulge me this rerun!

    The SCAM of HAM!

    Words not written, half truths said,
    spin it right then go left.
    In his search for truth an balance
    he’s been found a little wobblin,
    not unlike a bad gyro-compass?

    Speak to Truth or be the Lobby;
    what really matters, is it just to sell hard-copy?

    What to do; polarize or popularize,
    speak the truth or spread lies?

    Push half truths plus all the spin;
    now lean left and then back again!

    Confusion draws a mighty crowd;
    now we’ll watch the sales rebound.
    Keep the kettle at a boil,
    and suck in all that revenue from big oil!

    What could be cheaper
    then to quote a biased speaker,
    or get a few to ‘duke it out’
    so we hear … the people shout!

    ‘He said, she said’ what could be easier!
    Quote them all, It’s so much sleazier!

    No recrimination of the denier/lie
    or rumored tails devoid of fact.
    Print ‘out of context’ is worth a try
    to thread the needle to feed the pac!

    The oft repeated farcical spin,
    If someone said it, bring it back again.
    Be it hype or simply tripe,
    he does not hesitate to recite.

    It’s very slick to Cherry Pick
    or just haul back an through a Verbal Brick.
    Opinionated on Global Cooling,
    who’s he think he’s really fooling?

    Quote the Hoaxer
    as he redefines blind.
    Bought an paid for,
    has he lost his mind?

    What’s your purpose where is your point,
    if your increase in sales
    kills off the whales!

    The Crisis looms like no other.
    Have your way to the endless summer!

    Journalism’s call is to seek the source of light.
    Where did ya get the idea to go left and then spin right!

    For some it’s fun to push the spoof
    but most understand the Code of Truth!

    Conduit of noise or window of light,
    isn’t it thee command to offer real insight?

    In the mind of Rev an all his kin,
    Truth will always
    remain his spoof!

  48. SecularAnimist says:

    To expect anything other than corporate propaganda from the corporate-owned media is silly.

    When someone is prepared to pay The New York Times more to tell the truth about climate science than ExxonMobil is prepared to pay them to lie about it, then things will change.

    It’s really as simple as that.

  49. Dave McK says:

    I have found this article and the comments most instructive and enriching.
    There really is no debate, here.
    There is rich irony is the topic (not the title) itself.

  50. Ozzie Steve says:

    Ryan_T – Dr Robert Manne is a leading Australian public intellectual who often enters the climate debate. Here he explains the use of the “denier” tag for use against sceptics and contrarins (this is a better descriptoin I agree):
    “Scepticism is in general, as it should be, a positive word, denoting scientific or humanistic curiosity and in particular the presence of an open mind… Denialism, a concept that was first widely used, as far as I know, for those who claimed that the Holocaust was a fraud, is the concept I believe we should use.”

  51. Rockfish says:

    Just listen to yourselves! The MSM does not report science. They report news, mostly when it is couched as entertainment.
    You ( and thus is coming from a hard core left of liberal friend) have completely lost the messaging war. Nobody cares about the science. Sorry, but true. We are stck with the clumsy albatross of “global warming” you hung around our own necks decades ago when we thought appealing to science would suffice. We were wrong.
    Global warming is a late night punch line too easily teed up by any joker who sees snow out their window. It doesn’t matter if we point out they are wrong. NASCAR nation is still chuckling.
    We need to give up on the myopic obsession with 2 deg C or 350 ppm and get a better message. We need to talk about “climate chaos” or whatever a well meaning Madison Ave exec will donate their time to invent.
    We are losing this battle for navel gazing.

  52. SunMan says:

    Here is another aspect of the messaging problem:

    The pro-science climateprogress.org supporters don’t have a summarized, talking point method of defending science.

    I read Joe’s posts, then try to figure out how I’m going to condense into a few talking points, Joe’s points so when I encounter a denier or write a letter to the editor, I can quickly summarize and not lose the reader’s or listeners interest.

    Fact is, this is not simple stuff to defend as most people don’t understand the difference between climate and weather, and have no idea what statistical probability entails vs. a hard fact.

    heck… people don’t even understand that “nature’s laws” are constantly being tested and evolving theories.

    So what I want, what I believe we need, is that one page talking point summary… updated when news warrants, but some place we can go and print off a one page summary to use to educate, defend science, and offer people links to more information.

    Blogs like Joe’s are wonderful, incredible… but they lose the general population in less than 5 seconds of reading.

    It’s much easier for them to understand the FUD propaganda than real science.

    Why can’t that be changed? Simplify and make us a one page “Science Defence Guide”


  53. MapleLeaf says:

    Dear Andy,

    It would be nice for you to acknowledge some of the (mostly constructive) feedback that you have received here at ClimateProgress.

    There has been much talk about WUWT– the day the WUWT blog is considered, even perceived, to be a source of credible science, then that is the day the science is has lost. Watts has millions upon millions of hits a year on his site. I honestly did not think that it would come to this, but it has, and I have no idea how we turn around the backlash that has been fabricated by those in denial about AGW.

    And make no mistake, it has been carefully orchestrated and fabricated. I had no idea that journalists were typically so gullible, journalists like Pearce, Rose, Rex Murphy and now it seems, even you Andy. I would argue that while this is dark days for science, it is even darker days for journalism. I hate to say it, but you guys need to do a lot of soul searching.

    Someone mentioned Monckton, sorry the truth is is that he is an outright fraud and liar. Scientists have gone though his slides from talks he has given and in almost every one he distorts, cherry picks, manipulates, and misrepresents the data and science. Monckton and Watts and other self-styled ‘skeptics’ are so popular b/c they are telling people what they want to hear (and to those not educated in this complex field their arguments can be compelling)– that there is really “nothing to worry” about, that AGW is all a conspiracy. Well, actually there is a problem, the evidence is everywhere. Climate scientists do not wish AGW to be an issue (there are plenty of other interesting facets of our climate system to study other than AGW, and scientists’ salaries are for the most part not paid by government grants ), but we are not going to bury our heads in the sand because the news is bad.

    Andy, if you really want to contribute and take the high road, help the real scientists get their message across (they are not trained or equipped to do that). Public education is a huge issue here, but recently you have been doing more to muddy the waters than anything, if this is intentional or not on your part only your conscience knows. But you cannot expect to flip flop and feel like you have to entertain every crazy out there, and in the process not harm the good science. We scientists do not have an agenda, honestly we are geeks who only care about the science, it is that simple. In contrast, it is blindingly obvious that Monckton, Watts and McIntyre do not have any interest in advancing the science. If you insist on fawning on them, and substituting the legitimate science with their pseudo-science, then history is going to paint you in a very poor light.

    Yes, the IPCC have made some mistakes. They have gotten the message, loud and clear–they will address the issues that have recently come to light and there will be changes. So instead of being obstructionist, and beating them into the ground, be constructive and help society by educating them on the science on what the IPCC has achieved.

    Please read John Mashey’s and DeepClimate’s facts and evidence on how the GOP and FF industry and radical right have conspired to obfuscate, delay and derail progress on addressing and even mitigating AGW. There is an excellent story there, something of real substance, either your will get it or someone else will, but there is a gem of a story there. It is time to start asking the skeptics some really tough questions, doing some digging and placing them under scrutiny, and holding them to account. Why? Because their arguments do not hold water, they live in a world of rhetoric and opinion, and if we are expected to believe them and place our future in their hands, then we had better be pretty damn sure that we are making decisions about our future based on something other than than speculation, rhetoric and misinformation.

    If you editors won’t let you run with this, then go it alone. You have a name and experience and will make out just fine.

    A closing thought, someone eloquently stated recently, at the end of the day we humans will get the climate that we deserve. What climate do you choose Andy, that of McIntyre et al. or that predicted by the collective knowledge amassed by science over a period of almost 115 years and which continues to advance?

    Take care and best of luck.

  54. Doug Bostrom says:

    Ozzie Steve says: February 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    “Take Lord Monckton who is winning larger and larger audiences for his sceptical arguments – he is scrupulously polite.”

    You’re sadly misinformed, if you believe that. Christopher “Lord GaGa” Monckton is on record leveling defamatory, slanderous remarks at various persons having in common that they at safe remove from his presence and are thus unable to reply. This is rudeness of the most base kind.


    “I think the United Nations Climate Panel is now a busted flush. For instance, Rajendra Pachauri, its chairman, Sir John Houghton, its former chairman, and a number of other people associated with it, are now under formal criminal investigation in the United Kingdom for filing false accounts of a charity known as TERI Europe of which they are all trustees. For the last three years they have under-declared their income of that charity saying there was less than ten thousand pounds income each… We’ve now discovered they were getting income certainly in the millions and this wasn’t being disclosed.”


    What is it about Lord GaGa and his title that is so weirdly attractive to the credulous? Some sort of atavistic forelock tugging impulse, presumably.

  55. dhogaza says:

    Applying Andy’s logic more generally, scientific publications should not feature abstracts because abstracts are misleading, lacking as they do the full supporting content of their respective articles.

    That is such a great point … brilliant, thanks for it.

    But even without it, extending Andy’s “point” more broadly, no scientist can ever write a paper that might contain a single sentence that can be quote-mined to misrepresent her views … because if she does so, the quote-miner is not at fault, it’s the scientist who didn’t foresee being quote-mined.

    Andy has delved into creationism-credibility range here … (quote mining being pretty much their favorite tactic).

    Andy … denigrating quote mining should be what you are about, rather than suggesting writers do the impossible, writing words that can’t be taken out of context.

    Fight the evil, not the competent.


  56. Tom Wearling says:

    Hi, I am new here and wanted to get the climate change discussion from the proponent side. However, after reading these comments I think I’ll move on. They strike me as unnecessarily angry and dismissive of any but their own point of view. And there is unwarranted rudeness. ‘

    I agree with Ozzie Steve (February 10, 2010 at 9:03 pm) – civility is important in any discussion. The name calling and vexation are more in line with children slinging mud.

    I’d like to think the science here is correct. But its defenders seem so filled with anger – I have my doubts.

  57. dhogaza says:

    I’d like to think the science here is correct. But its defenders seem so filled with anger – I have my doubts.

    Hey, if you want to see anger, come tell us the earth is flat. Or that it’s only 6,000 years old.

    And afterwards, say “oh, I got angry responses! The earth must be flat and only 6,000 years old and … germs don’t cause disease and smoking will double my expected lifespan!”

    Be logical. Follow your fallacy to its bitter end.

    (psst please *do* lead your life counter to science every day of your life from now own, because … I’M RUDE! Science is a crock, I’ve proved it by being … RUDE!)

  58. dhogaza says:

    I’d like to think the science here is correct. But its defenders seem so filled with anger – I have my doubts.

    Also … I’d like to think you’re sincere, and not a concern troll, but … naw, you’re a concern troll.

  59. Leo G says:

    Purpleozone @ 6 –

    Regarding the Olympics in Vancouver, it is just a local mountain, where the boarding events are being held that is missing some snow. Don’t worry though, they are bringing snow in from up the valley. The main mountain of Whistler is up the coast a couple of hours and has had record snowfall this winter. Of course all of the indoor events are not affected.

    Yes, El Nino has had its’ regular effect on us here in the Canadian tropics, but in a very real sense this warm winter could not have come at a better time, as the highway from Vancouver to Whistler will be a much safer route this year for all the atheletes and fans.

    And to be honest, Vancouver and the West coast of B.C. usually have very limited snowfalls in the winter. I think that it has something to do with being right on the ocean….

    Thanx for your concern though.

  60. Dave McK says:

    Is anybody going to address Revkin’s single, contestable question?

    ““Human-induced warming of the climate system IS widespread. Anthropogenic warming of the climate system CAN be detected in temperature observations taken at the surface, in the troposphere and in the oceans.””

    I would appreciate somebody actually putting a finger on it because I’m having trouble seeing this signal in charts of temperatures and CO2 especially.

  61. Barry says:

    Andy, if the climate science IS right just imagine how deeply angry and frustrated billions of suffering people will be in coming decades.

    They are going to be far harsher critics of your work than anyone today is. The full arc of your work from science reporter to tabloid “controversy” narrator is fully archived on the web for generations to come.

    Do you think people in a hopelessly deteriorating future caused by our endless delay on halting climate pollution will be kind and forgiving of the prominent voices that caused or advocated that delay in the face of such strong probabilities of harm?

    Of course all that will only happen if what the climate science is very likely to happen actually does happen.

    So, nothing to worry about, right?

    Carry on with your Clintonesque hair splitting of “it depends on what the definition of IS is” as part of the manufactured delay and doubt effort to mask the larger story of very probable harm.

  62. Dan B says:

    Leo G.

    Thanks for putting a positive spin, and I do mean “SPIN” on the dramatic changes in weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest.

    I wish you a job in Hell – predicting how to provide dependable water and hydro power and salmon runs and live trees in B.C.


    P.S. Do you have children? Start praying for them.

  63. Dan B says:


    Thanks much for the preview of the latest line of attack.

    “Climate Scientists are wrong because they’re so impolite.”

    Unfortunately we know your tricks – attack on their strengths. The public doesn’t buy attacks on scientists for long.

    Also it’s unfortunate that we can’t seem to get to some agreement – we all care about our children, and the state of the planet we bequeath them.

    If I worked for a major international oil company I’d be terrified of my shareholders. If I worked for a major Chinese, or Danish, or German renewable energy technology firm I’d be full of kisses for my investors.

    Get on board or sink beneath the waves of progress. Join us. We’re really nice people who care deeply about the future we leave for our children.

  64. Barry says:

    Leo G (#55) you must not be actually living anywhere near Vancouver if you think this is a normal winter.

    It has already set the record as the warmest January ever just down a bit in Seattle (only records I’ve seen published so far). Not even a single day was below normal in the entire month.

    In Victoria plants are blooming a full month earlier than normal according to records kept by people who have been gardening the same spot for decades.

    Of course there is snow in the high mountains far above the traditional snow line. The climate shift with snow that has been occurring throughout BC in recent years is that the snowline is rising and the snow melt is happening sooner. There are detailed maps and data showing how much earlier the rivers and creeks of coastal BC are peaking over the last few decades. Even the mighty Fraser is warming steadily year by year and peaking sooner, by weeks.

    So just because the high mountains are still cold in the dead of winter isn’t cause for dismissing rapid climate shifts that have been documented for years in BC. Both the land and oceans are changing too rapidly in BC for many species to handle already. And this winter has been yet another abnormally warm one.

    How people can flippantly take comfort in any of this is beyond me.

  65. Dave McK says:

    I live on the island, Barry, and confirm that it’s been quite mild in temperature and also wind.
    This has meant burning very little firewood so far this winter and is most agreeable.
    The trees here are likely never subject to lack of water, so their rings probably would show strong variation due to temperature and cloud cover – they’d probably be better proxies than tree line specimens subject to extremes of other variables.
    I keep thinking I should at least take photos before I break the sections up and throw them in the fireplace…

  66. Mim says:

    What has happened to Andy Revken? On the same day, Elisabeth Rosenthall and Revken both gave credence to hysterical shock jocks talking rubbish. The NY Times seems to be going to the dogs. Is business for the Times that bad that they need to change their readership profile and offer puerile tabloid material?

    The worst of it is that Revken, instead of acknowledging his mischief, tries to justify it. I had hoped that he would be informing the public not feeding the scammers and distracting ordinary people from the real issues. (My mind is imagining all sorts of reasons why he has sunk so low.)

    At this point, I might as well join the party and say that down here we’re having a remarkably cool summer for a change. Instead of being 2.7C above the 1961-1990 30 year average like last year, this year the average maximum and minimum for January was only 1.6C above that average. I admit late spring was a tad warmish, with November average maximum 5C (9F) above the 30 year average, and December was a bit higher as well.

    Yes, it’s just local climate (more than just the weather). When, for more than a decade, each month’s maximum and minimum average temperatures are so much hotter than the long term average it does bring it all home, so to speak.

    I truly hope that one day soon blogs will move away from attacking scientists and science and start to discuss what’s being done and what we can do. I figure that one of the main reasons people latch onto attacking the science is because it makes them feel more in control.

    If more of us talk about action and policy then it might empower people by letting them know they can make a difference without having to turn off all the lights and ride bicycles in blizzards. And just maybe more people will start to act like sensible, rational human beings once more.

  67. fj2 says:

    #59 Mim: “without having to turn off all the lights and ride bicycles in blizzards.”

    riding bicycles in blizzards can be fun. people pay good money for this type of stuff! and, there are simple solutions on a similar scale that can make this type of stuff practical transportation and much better than current methods.

  68. fj2 says:

    The United States of America is fully capable of winning a unilateral war against climate change to the betterment of both the people and industry of this country and the people of the world at large.

    Of course, it would be better if it were to be a highly functional multi-lateral effort.

  69. Daniel Romm says:

    NYT article today illustrates poor reporting. “Ideologues in the Senate keep pushing the anti-scientific disinformation that big snowstorms are evidence against human-caused global warming,” Mr. Romm wrote on Wednesday.
    While true, John Broder in his article “Climate Fight Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze” does not write about any of Dr. (not Mr) Romm’s articles including concomitant with the snow storms, record temperatures in the southern hemisphere, record global temperatures. Mr Broder merely writes that one can’t make a conclusion about global warming with one point in time, implying that the temperature globally has been lowered with the east-coast storms. Mr Broder’s writing makes it seem as this argument is just a shouting match, instead of a slam-dunk.

    [JR: Hey, bro, first comment?]

  70. David Smith says:

    Isn’t it beside the point, whether we have AGW or just GW from some other cause? Arguing about who’s to blame provides little benefit. What ever it’s cause, the problem and its solutions remain the same, don’t they? If the planet is getting warmer, we must increase its ability to cool itself in order for the system to remain as it is (or was). It seems that the best most natural solution involves GHG emissions control.

  71. Tom Wearling says:

    I said: “The name calling and vexation are more in line with children slinging mud.”

    dhogaza said: “(psst please *do* lead your life counter to science every day of your life from now own, because … I’M RUDE! Science is a crock, I’ve proved it by being … RUDE!)”

    Thank you for confirming my statement.

  72. Chris Dudley says:

    Joe in #27,

    It is the word ‘detected’ that contains the required nod to uncertainty. Attribution studies are what detect the anthropogenic component of warming and they do so at varying levels of certainty. That most of the recent warming was found likely to be owing to anthropogenic causes in the TAR and very likely in the FAR counts as detections in both cases. It is a better detection in the latter case. We can say that it is a virtual certainty that some (rather than most) of the warming is anthropogenic in origin so the statement in question is very bland (it didn’t say ‘most’ as elsewhere in the report).

    Andy is being completely ridiculous here but there is no reason to argue about what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. He’s picked out the wrong words to concentrate on.

  73. Neal Heidler says:

    A recurring problem with what has been published in the NYT is that the reader is never given a any sense of which sources of information are high quality, not-so-high-quality or terrible (e.g.; Christopher Monckton in Elisabeth Rosenthal’s piece http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/science/earth/09climate.html?hpw ,which I assume was in the print edition and was linked to from the NYT homepage yesterday and today under “Science” ).

    Roger Pielke Jr. has been quoted repeatedly, (perhaps more than anyone?) by Tierney, Revkin and Rosenthal. Why is that?

    Anyway, as a regular reader of the NYT science pages and science blogs I think it’s fair to say that one couldn’t possibly figure what the heck is going on with climate science by reading this collection of junk. It’s a confused mess that doesn’t reflect what is happening with the science.

  74. Leo G says:

    Well Hello Climate Progress.

    Dan B. and Barry, sorry if I implied that GW is not happening. Was not my intention. I just wanted people to know that the Olympics here in Vancouver are going to happen, though the boarding events (my favourite) will probably be not to good, as rain is forecast for still sometime. I was reacting to the falsehood that the WHOLE Olympics were not happening because of lack of snow on one event hill. Kinda tired of reading and hearing that meme from all over.

    Barry, we have a place in Princeton, so no need to tell me about the winter changes, the average snow fall is down, but the temps are up.

    I have lived in Van. my whole life, and aside from last year, where we had snow and very cold (for Vancouver), I can only remember a couple of years in the sixties and seventies, and maybe one in the eighties that were as “wintery” as last year. I did not get into the temps from this last Jan. because I wasn’t talking about climate, but about the Olympics. Probably not the forum to do this in….

    Dan B. yes I do have children. Thanx for being concerned for them.

    I try to do my part for the planet through my job, I happen to install high effeciency hot water heating systems. Trying to make each BTUH count. Speaking of which, I have to go now and do some service work on a couple of these boilers today.

    Have some fun out there!

  75. SunMan (comment #53) is on to something. We need to come up with that one page “Science defense guide”. Part of the problem here is that we’re arguing about specific specious claims, but it’s harder to do a careful debunking than it is to make up such claims, so we’re always falling behind (Joe and I had the same experience in debunking the crazy notion that the Internet would use half of all U.S. electricity in ten years, back around 2000. We finally won, but it took years).

    If instead we focused on educating people about what the scientific process is and why we believe its results then maybe we’d make better headway. For example, instead of obsessing about whether some East Anglia scientist wanted to keep a point of view out of the IPCC report (which is what the media focused on) we should point out that this point of view was actually NOT kept out of the report-instead, it was cited and critiqued. The process worked, even though the individuals who sent those emails made some intemperate and ill-advised comments, and that’s what we should expect of a well developed scientific process.

  76. mike roddy says:

    Maple Leaf, #29:

    Excellent comment. Dot Earth and the New York Times as far as I can determine have never discussed the obvious and proven links between climate change deniers and fossil fuel companies. This is a serious abdication of their responsbilities as journalists.

  77. Neal Heidler says:

    Maybe this is too cynical, but I have thought, after noticing that the most rec’ed comments at DotEarth tend to be those from denier/sceptic folks, that if Andy stopped being equivocal, linking to wattsupwiththat, etc., that he would lose over half of his regular readers; they’d write him off as a “warmist” and give up on him completely.

  78. Barry says:

    As the saying goes, the only things CERTAIN in life are death and taxes.

    For everything else, humans make choices based on PROBABILITIES.

    We are a species and society that has thrived by daily evaluating the “error bars” in just about everything we do.

    People don’t say: “I’m not going to buy fire insurance until I’m certain, with no error bars, that my house will burn down.” They don’t insist “I’m not going to tell my kid to not smoke until I’m certain, with no error bars, that smoking causes cancer.” They don’t require more than “most likely” in their error bars for personal or societal actions to avoid harm.

    The essential climate question is whether a well-funded, willingly-parroted “manufactured doubt” campaign can get society to not act on the high-probability of harm in this case.

    Revkin’s piece is part of the “fog of war” in this attack on the simple truth that climate science “error bars” show a very high probability of serious harm from further delay.

    All this is going to be crystal clear in the very bitter future the “error bars” say is quite likely.

    Again, I just can’t fathom why smart and knowledgeable people are so willing to take the huge personal gamble by participating in what they know is a high-profile feeding of the manufactured-doubt machine. Would they gamble even one paycheck on a spin of the roulette wheel that thousands of scientists said they had a greater than 90% chance of losing?

  79. Leo G says:

    though I am new here, may I make a suggestion for a Talking Point? It seems to me that the biggest worry of most people who follow the blogs (most all understand that it has been warming) is the cost of energy if the carbon based fuels are discontinued soon.

    Maybe more articles on the progress of the green energy markets. Just a week or two ago, there was a good article in some paper about how as wind generation starts to add more power to the grid, the weaknesses of this type of generation, i.e. – need wind, cannot be counted on, etc, becomes moot. Stuff like that.

    IMO to keep on bashing people with the bad scenarios is starting to be ignored. It is now time to move from the pessimisson and move to the profund benefits of the green energy, i.e., spend a bit on insulation, save money for the rest of the homes life. By a high mileage car, save money for the rest of the cars life.

    As in my business, I have to sell the benefits of these costly to install, effecient systems. How do I do this? Appeal to the customers pocket book! If you can get people to look down the road, and see that by doing things that will naturally save energy (cut carbon use) and put the money in their account for the kids college education, etc. it becomes a win/win scenario.

    Just a suggestion from Hell. :)

  80. Arthur Smith says:

    For those looking for a 1-page summary of everything and anything on climate, Skeptical Science is the place to go:


    It now even has a free iPhone app (click on the “Available in the App Store” link). John Cook has done a wonderful service with this website, and all completely on his own volunteer time and initiative.

  81. Ivy Bear says:

    Why is the focus solely on the IPCC? Global climate science is not limited to the IPCC. Plus, the IPCC report is now two years old and misses the latest climate science findings. I prefer the publication: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States by the U.S. Global Change Research Program:

    On page 13, you can read the findings:

    Key Messages:
    Human activities have led to large increases in heat-trapping gases over the past century.
    • Global average temperature and sea level have increased, and precipitation patterns have changed.
    • The global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases. Human “fingerprints” also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice.
    • Global temperatures are projected to continue to rise over this century; by how much and for how long depends on a number of factors, including the amount of heat-trapping gas emissions and how sensitive the climate is to those emissions.

    This sounds pretty certain to me. Does Mr. Revkin dispute this also?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    Ivy Bear

  82. Ric Merritt says:

    I have been a 7-day NYT subscriber for decades, and have followed Dot Earth with (decreasing) interest since the beginning. Andy, if you are still reading: I don’t endorse every point from your critics, and I don’t reject every detail of your comebacks. But, in summary, they are right and you are wrong. You are giving prominent play to viewpoints that are full of bile, distortions, and misjudgments as dangerous as any that have ever been made on earth. You give off an air of being unconconscious of this context. If you are doing that in an effort to reach the previously unreachable, I don’t think it’s working. Please consider a change. If, in any large part, this results from institutional pressure, find another outlet. Your brand would probably support a switch.

    A previous commenter referred to what the dregs of the so-called skeptics “deserve”. What they deserve is surely to see their grandchildren suffer horribly and founder, while the grandchildren of those of us whom they are preventing from sensible actions thrive. But the dim light of morality tells us not to wish this sort of fate on our worst enemies, and the uncertain light of reason doesn’t reveal a practical and reliable course leading to that Old-Testament-style outcome, so we abandon that all-too-human thought. I am all for talking to anyone (e.g. leaders of N Korea, Iran, Milosevic or the Soviets in their prime) if it helps. The moral principle, at bottom, is the same as negotiating with a child kidnapper: we maneuver on uncertain ground in hopes of a greater good. But I don’t think you are politically talented enough to pull off that kind of rapport with the anti-science fringe and still get something done. If that’s your game, give it up. And if you have no “game”, and you’re playing it straight, why the lack of judgment and context? Please don’t even bother to reply without a thoughtful answer to that last question. And if your answer is that you indeed supply the proper doses of judgment and context, I’m giving up on you.

  83. Doug Bostrom says:

    Leo G says: February 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    “As in my business, I have to sell the benefits of these costly to install, effecient systems. How do I do this? Appeal to the customers pocket book! If you can get people to look down the road, and see that by doing things that will naturally save energy (cut carbon use) and put the money in their account for the kids college education, etc. it becomes a win/win scenario.”

    Yes, go for green, as in cash. We all love it.

    My son and I spend some time last year putting together a solar domestic hot water system. We’re in Seattle, so getting all hot water via solar is hopelessly expensive; this system only reduces electrical consumption as opposed to eliminating it. Nonetheless, the system we built is tidy, easy to reproduce, has two moving parts and does not use glycol. Looks like a skylight. Over the next 10 years it’ll save some $1500 of electricity. It’s an investment with a mediocre return but zero risk.

    Other than Anchorage any other U.S. metropolitan area will see better ROI. We’ve got the worst weather and cheapest electricity of any large city in the contiguous U.S. We put this system in here partly as an experiment to see what was possible in these conditions and lo, it works.

  84. Ivy Bear says:

    Another statement without “error bars” –

    American Association for the Advancement of Science, December 9, 2006

    The scientific evidence is clear: global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now, and it is a growing threat to society.

    Does Mr. Revkin dispute this too?

  85. re: comment #48

    Dear Robert,

    Well said.

    But I will say it better.

    Andy has been for Andy throughout.

    He stirs this all up to draw more traffic to his blog.

    Environmental journalist — NOT!

  86. re: comment #54

    Dear Mapleleaf,

    You wrote:

    “Andy, if you really want to contribute and take the high road, help the real scientists get their message across (they are not trained or equipped to do that).”

    I am sorry to have to tell you, but you just do not get Andy’s strategy.

    That is the very last thing he wants.

  87. Wit's End says:

    @78, and 87.

    Precisely! Dot Earth has always been about Andy, not climate change. It’s a disgrace, and the reason I stopped to subscribing to the NYT altogether.

  88. Robert says:

    Hi MapleLeaf [#54],
    I reread your comments with great interest as you have a great way of organizing your presentation with clear and concise statements.

    “The day the WUWT blog is considered, even perceived, to be source of credible science, is the day the science has lost.”

    Oh yes, this is the world turned upside down! It is my thought that the typical denialist is really a person hiding in costume. They are [and it is not my intention to make this political but I see no other option] often Libertarians that care not a wit about truth but their whole mission is deception and the end game win! That win for them is a Utopian world free from all government. Or they are the typical Repugnuts who also see that the end justifies the means! Their poisoned minds are very willing to sacrifice our children’s well-being if they can reclaim the seat of power!

    We are probably fooling ourselves when we think they are just the misinformed! Truth be told, by now most folks have taken the side that fits their comfort zone! Their defense mechanism kick in and on go the blinders! Maybe we must call it as it appears. Balderdash [keep it clean] from the twisted of this earth!

    They claim, eyes that see
    and ears that hear
    yet a mind so closed,
    there’s much too fear!

    The quality and the quantity of the comments by people such as yourself are so very much appreciated. You and so most of the others are putting out such a very high caliber of input that complements Dr. Romm’s prolific work!
    Thank you.

  89. Shar says:

    Regardless your opinion on WUWT it doesn’t change the fact that the site has 10X the traffic of this one. [snip]

    [JR: That would be your first and last falsehood. If we go by Alexa, WUWT simply doesn't have anywhere near 10x my traffic -- indeed, we are often quite close in page views, according to them, not that they are more reliable than any webstats comparison program. But more to the point it is exceedingly difficult to compare our readerships -- I have 25,000 subscribers who mostly don't show up in page view stats. I also get my stuff reprinted in widely read sites like Grist, whereas Watts doesn't actually do a lot of originally writing -- he mostly reprints stuff.]

  90. 90. Shar says:

    WUWT … has 10X the traffic of this one

    What is it about the fallacy of the argumentum ad populum that deniers love it so? Regardless of whether that claim is true on not (and Joe’s inline shows that the claim is extremely questionable), 20,000,000 lemmings running off a cliff does not make running off a cliff a good idea.

    It does rather seem to highlight the extremity to which deniers will go in order to abandon any pretense of critical thinking, much less logic.