Kerry Emanuel slams media, asserts Lindzen charge in Boston Globe is “pure fabrication”

Worst news article ever published on global warming?

UPDATE:  I emailed MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel about the smear that Richard Lindzen launched at him with the help of a credulous Boston Globe reporter stenographer.  His reply is below.

I’ve been bombarded with emails from folks stunned by a shamefully bad Globe article by Beth Daley, “A cooling trend.”  It certainly qualifies as one of the worst news articles ever published on global warming.

But is it the worst piece ever?  I’d love your thoughts.  The competition for that title is, unfortunately, very tough (see “And the 2009 “Citizen Kane” award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to “¦“)

The piece does have the four horsemen of awful climate journalism:  Dreadful headline, grotesque imbalance (including a staggering choice for “tie-breaker”), a total lack of understanding or even interest in climate science, and a wholly unsubstantiated, near-libelous slur against a leading scientist.

Also, it comes from a newspaper that has been highly regarded (though collapsing fast).  Certainly, one wouldn’t give the award for worst news article ever on climate to a newspaper that routinely prints crap on this subject, say the Wall Street Journal or almost any British newspaper.

This piece, however, has a combination of flaws that are unique, as this screen capture shows:

Where to begin?

Big problem #1 is that, as any reader can see even before getting to the headline, this is filed under “News/Science.” So while it is essentially a twin personality profile — a full-length he-said, she-said — you can’t simply dismiss it as, say, a grotesquely bad piece of non-science journalism, like, say, the NYT magazine profile of Freeman Dyson (see Media stunner: When asked “Does it matter, from a journalistic point of view, whether [Dyson is] right or whether he’s wrong?” his NYT profiler replies “Oh, absolutely not”).

No, the Globe is telling readers that this piece should be considered — and judged — as a science news piece.

Big problem #2 is the headline and subhed.  As I’ve noted many times, a lot of people don’t actually get far past the headline and subhed.  They are skimming the paper, they may not actually be following this issue closely or be very interested in it.  And, of course, in the internet age, the headline is what gets grabbed and repeated.

So a large fraction of readers are just going to see that this is another piece about global warming, how scientist can’t come to a consensus, and heck, maybe it is “cooling” just like the anti-science crowd says.  And that alone makes this piece unconscionable — without even considering the ironic timing (see NASA: Easily the hottest April “” and hottest Jan-April “” in temperature record:  Plus a new record 12-month global temperature, as predicted).

And yes, I’m quite aware that the person who wrote this headline was making a play on words about the relationship between Lindzen and Emanuel.  That doesn’t change the point about the misleading nature of the headline for casual readers.

Big problem #3 is the absurd false balance. Hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel remains highly respected in his field whereas Lindzen has been widely discredited and debunked:

Big problem #4 is the utter lack of understanding in climate science. The notion that the scientific debate is between “you should worry” and “you shouldn’t worry” is just patently absurd.  I’ve said it before many times and I’m sure I will keep saying it again and again:  The scientific literature doesn’t really leave much doubt that if we, say, listened to the people like Lindzen, then we are headed to very high concentrations (and yes catastrophic impacts) with high probability:

Since this egregious Boston Globe is supposedly about how MIT experts view the facts and how how hard climate consensus will be, let’s reprint this figure from a bunch of M.I.T. experts just to make clear what we’re talking about from a risk assessment or probabilistic perspective:


Even Emanuel, like many climate scientists, doesn’t quite understand this either.  Doing nothing sharply reduces the uncertainty of hypothesized catastrophic impacts (see here).

Big problem #5 is the utter lack of interest in climate science. You would never know from this piece that there is a vast array of climate scientists who share Emanuel’s view (or a more dire view), along with all the major scientific bodies in this country, as well as hundreds of peer-reviewed publications in every major scientific journal — but virtually none that support Lindzen’s.  You would never know that because Reporter Beth Daley never quotes a single one.  Not one!

Once again, bad timing on Daley’s part reveals just how uninformed she (and her editors) are:

And yes, it is absurd that Daley framed this “News/Science” story as supposedly being around “one of the world’s most acrimonious political debates” — rather than, say, “our incredibly well established understanding of climate science.”  Please put your head in a vise before reading further.

Seriously, I mean it.  Get out the vise.  Or at least a really strong headband.

Okay, if you’re in a hurry, double up a rubber band.

Big problem #6 is the choice of “tie-breaker” in this he-said, she-said — and what the tie-breaker actually said. So the person Beth Daley picks to break the tie between Emanuel and Lindzen is none other than … wait for it … one of the other people besides Lindzen that Foreign Policy profiled in their “Guide to Climate Skeptics“!!!

The story of the scientists’ relationship is much more than a curiosity. The fact that these serious-minded colleagues and longtime friends disagree so vehemently highlights the immense difficulty of finding common ground on human-caused global warming. That’s because their disagreements are not just about interpretations of scientific data, but about how they assess the risks, amid the uncertainty over global warming’s future impact.

Their divide mirrors a much larger political split, as the US Senate begins to debate a climate bill written in large part by Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry. All parties to the debate have the same evidence to draw on; their conclusions are another matter. Lindzen and Emanuel’s collision spotlights the ultimate sticking point: What steps should we take, and at what cost? That is: How much insurance against the possibility of catastrophe should a prudent planet buy?

“If these two guys can’t agree on the basic conclusions of the social significance of [climate change science], how can we expect 6.5 billion people to?” said Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado at Boulder professor who writes a climate blog.

Well, actually, given how discredited Lindzen is, this story is mostly a curiosity.

Lindzen apparently doesn’t want any meaningful action at all — much like Pielke (see Finally, Roger Pielke admits he supports policies that will take us to 5-7°C warming or more).  Indeed, I didn’t realize until I read his profile in Foreign Policy’s climate skeptics guide how much Lindzen’s views matched that of the mainstream anti-science crowd (see “The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science“):

His own political leanings are clear (he sees climate advocates as wanting “to roll back industrial society” and an excuse “to redistribute global wealth”).

As an aside, that isn’t the agenda of any climate advocates I know.  On the other hand, if we listen to Lindzen (or Pielke) and fail to reverse greenhouse gas emissions trends rapidly, then global warming guarantees a massive redistribution of global wealth, from those who have money to those who desperately need to build levees, desalinate water, grow food, flee Dust-Bowlification and sea level rise, and on and on and on and on and on (NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe).

But Pielke’s quote is absurd.  Yes, I am aware that Pielke tried to cover himself by throwing in the phrase “the social significance of,” so he wouldn’t be directly equating the scientific conclusions of Emanuel and Lindzen.  But the quote is still absurd.

Since when do we have to wait until 6.5 billion people agree before we act on a global problem of massive social significance?  Somehow we managed to eradicate small pox without the entire planet adjudicating the risks.

More to the point, we managed to save the ozone layer without the entire planet agreeing on the basic conclusions of the social significance of [ozone science]. And yes, the climate change problem is a quantum leap difference in scale and difficulty than the ozone problem.  But the reason we have political leaders — and a key reason they created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — is precisely because it’s not possible for the world to wait for billions of people to become expert in every aspect of science and public health before we act.  As the letter from the 255 NAS scientists put it, “When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.”

As another aside, the “insurance” metaphor is the wrong one.  Insurance pays off when the catastrophe occurs.  We’re trying to minimize the chances of the catastrophe occurring in the first place.  The correct analogy is risk reduction.

Big problem #7 is the shameful near-libelous attack on Emanuel:

Lindzen watched his colleague become a media star with growing unease….

He began to see questionable motivations in Emanuel’s transformation into a scientist outspoken about the possible dangers from global warming.

Emanuel “would tell me that he really felt that it would be a mistake not to take advantage of the issue . . . there is funding . . . it could benefit the department,” Lindzen said in an interview. “I always took a more moralistic view. There has to be a foundation.”

What had been an academic dispute was about to become personal.

Anyone who knows Emanuel — and I got to him a bit when I was interviewing hurricane experts for Hell and High Water — knows that this charge is absurd and utterly beyond the pale.

Really, has journalism sunk so low that a reporter for a major newspaper simply reprints any charge, no matter how outlandish, against a highly respected scientist like Emanuel, with not one single substantiating fact or independent quote?

Shame on Beth Daley and shame on the Boston Globe for running this piece.  They should quickly run an apology to Emanuel.

UPDATE:   Since I have interviewed Emanuel in the past, I sent him an e-mail requesting a quote for the record, responding to this outrageous charge by Lindzen that the Globe stenographer reprinted.  He answered:

“The only group that has really profited from the denial of global climate change is the media, who have a strong vested interest in keeping a debate going. You are correct that I never said to Lindzen or anyone else that we should take advantage of the situation for the benefit of the department; this is pure fabrication.”

One additional point using the Michael Tobis (and Stephen Ban) figure.


Lindzen is on the left hand side of “the ‘debate’ in the popular press” and Emanuel looks to be near where the IPCC is, maybe slightly to the right.  Reality, however, is moving ever rightward from Emanuel.

In a AAAS presentation this year, William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“:

New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected”

Someday the status quo media will get this story right.  But not soon, apparently.

66 Responses to Kerry Emanuel slams media, asserts Lindzen charge in Boston Globe is “pure fabrication”

  1. Lou Grinzo says:

    Someone remind me again why the heck I’m supposed to feel bad over the demise of newspapers? Anyone…?

  2. Arthur Smith says:

    The article does mention a letter to the WSJ from Emanuel which I hadn’t seen before – it’s online here. Did it get printed? Did it get anywhere near the play of Lindzen’s error-filled op-ed?

  3. Drew Jones says:

    Thanks for the brutal honesty and diligent argumentation here, Joe. Keep it up!!

  4. Dontattackthereporter says:

    You’re wrong to attack the reporter here. Attack the skeptics. You have no idea what editing-editors this piece was subjected to.

  5. Stepshep says:

    @Dontattackthereporter If the reporter files something as news many readers take for granted that what they are reading is fact and do not double-check claims made in articles. It is the reporter’s job to get the truth across and this article fails to do that miserably. So yes, attack the reporter, the editors, and the skeptics. They’re all pushing a false message.

  6. jyyh says:

    @dontatackreporters, no, i dont know what the editors were subjected to and there’s your journalistic ‘freedom’.

  7. Ben Lieberman says:

    Dear Dontattackthereporter,
    Actually Beth Daley has already started to compile quite a track record. In March of this year she wrote an article on eroding public confidence in global warming in which she wrote that Robert Watson feared a bias toward warming among scientists without telling readers that Watson actually has said that ” In many cases, the IPCC is very conservative in its statements.”
    For the Globe Story see:

    On Watson’s views see:

    Do you, Dontattackthereporter, think that Ms. Daley’s earlier article accurately reflected Watson’s actual views?

  8. Richard Miller says:

    The article is the 4th most emailed artice on the Boston Globe website as of the night of May 16th. More stunning recklessness on the part of the press.

  9. John Hollenberg says:

    I took a chance and read the rest of the article without a vise handy… BIG mistake! Take it from me–when Joe says you need a vise, you better get one.

  10. Eric Steig says:

    Hey, I don’t see what’s wrong with what R. P. Jr says.

    I mean, when my 4 year old says ‘I’m not going to bed, I’m not tired’, and his mom says ‘yes, you are tired, and it is way past bed time’, I always take a neutral stance. I mean, how do I know whom to believe? They are the experts!

  11. Mona says:

    We have to bombard this reporter. CC all the other addresses I have here so her editors know just how lazy and irresponsible this piece is. Just highlight any one or two points made in this article.

    Send your email to all these people:,,,,,

    My favorite part is where it says “Is there a risk or not?” Even Richard Lindzen would tell you there’s SOME risk, you idiots. Ugh.

    If you want to do more, join the Climate Rapid Response group on Facebook. (You have to request to join; it’s a closed group).

  12. Jeff Huggins says:

    You know, of course, I hope, that The Boston Globe is owned by The New York Times Company.

    I’m starting to think, more and more, that there is a very big problem at the top.



  13. Karen S. says:

    There were once thousands of independent media, but now five giant corporations own nearly 100 percent of US media: Time-Warner, The Walt Disney Company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Viacom and Bertelsmann. All are conservative. Today there are more than 7000 US cities that don’t have their own daily newspaper. There was once a federal policy that required broadcasters to present controversial issues of public importance fairly, honestly and equitably. The Fairness Doctrine was introduced in 1949 and abolished in 1987 with the help of the Reagan Administration, when challengers said it violated free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. After 2000, the rules on personal attacks and political editorials, where the broadcaster had to notify and send transcripts to the people who were being attacked, were abolished, too. There are few controls or accountabilities except individual reporters and corporate ethics. Whoops, I said corporate ethics, didn’t I? Perhaps Dontattackthereporter will explain why real investigative journalism is democracy’s totemic endangered species.

  14. prokaryote says:

    Implement a scientific based news – media coverage rate system?

  15. Ryan T says:

    I posted these Lindzen links in a comment on the article:

    I don’t know if it’s a temporary glitch, on my end or theirs, but the comments suddenly refuse to appear.

  16. Stephen Watson says:

    @Dontattackthereporter: “You’re wrong to attack the reporter here. Attack the skeptics. You have no idea what editing-editors this piece was subjected to.”

    Is that one from the “I was only following orders” school of thinking? The rather excellent film “Thank you for smoking” looks as this very humourously.

  17. SecularAnimist says:

    Jeff Huggins wrote: “I’m starting to think, more and more, that there is a very big problem at the top.”

    There is no longer any reason to pretend that this sort of thing is accidential, or a “journalistic lapse” by one reporter, or a reflection of some vague tendency by the media towards reporting “controversy” because it sells.

    The corporate owners of the USA media are today, and have been for a generation, knowingly and deliberately and systematically colluding with the fossil fuel corporations to deceive the American people about AGW, in order to delay and obstruct the urgently needed rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.

    They are criminals. Period.

  18. ken levenson says:

    worrisome to see Pielke Jr. metastasizing…

    In a Tea Party world, up is down. I never thought we could repeat the Fall of Rome – yet it looks like we’re about to do them one better.

  19. Elmo says:

    Introduction to Journalism in the 21st Century teaches that:

    Fact is that which enough people believe.

    Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

  20. David Smith says:

    Which is worse, government control of the media or corporate control of the media?

  21. Mike #22 says:

    Would be interesting to add a third axis, time, to the Tobis (and Ban) figure. The slice above would be 2010.

    The right hand peak is made up of science/scientists who are largely in agreement. The left hand peak isn’t. Resolving the left hand peak into discrete components would be neat. Serial liars, carbon clubbers, cornucopians, Wattsonians, Becknuts, etc.

  22. mike roddy says:

    SecularAnimist has it right. Pretty much all American media outlets are totally disgraceful, and beyond hope. The national dialogue is being controlled by whacked out hillbillies who run oil and coal companies, greed crazed financial executives, and brain dead recipients of unearned income from securities and trust funds. Truth is just not a player.

    I repeat my earlier suggestion for a national newspaper, to eventually expand to a TV network. Early hires would be Seth Borenstein, Frank Rich, Matt Taibbi, Rachel Maddow, and Joe Romm. Instead of looking at USA Today in hotel rooms and the New York Times at Starbucks, make sure that this new organ is distributed everywhere, and that the financial backers are willing to lose money for a few years. Murdoch did this with USA Today, while he was getting the public addicted to celebrity news and jingoism.

    This paper- whose bigger audience would be online- would of course be supported by ads, but any advertising from fossil fuel companies would be declined. In fact, telephone calls from them would also be declined. Global Warming would be an ongoing topic, dominated by actual scientific coverage. The Letters to the Editor section would be expanded, and feature regular contributors like James Hansen and Gavin Schmidt.

    This paper will have to have a sense of humor, too. We will need it to overcome the dark side.

  23. mike roddy says:

    Ken Levenson:

    If you read Gibbon, Spengler, and Toynbee on the fall of Rome, the parallels will jump out at you.

  24. Tony Noerpel says:

    Karen S. #13

    Thanks. Good comment. Is there a couple of books or web sites which have the details of this type of information which you can recommend?

  25. Mona, here is what I just sent to those at the Globe listed in your comments:

    Dear Boston Globe,

    I am quite disappointed by Beth Daley’s recent article titled A Cooling Trend. Although the title is about the cooling of the relationship between two friends, it might be perceived by the general public as describing global climate trends which are certainly warming rapidly. The first four months of 2010 are the warmest on record and 2010 is likely to end as the warmest on record. The evidence for warming is essentially everywhere – air, ocean, ice, and the biosphere. Please see: for many such illustrated examples.

    Furthermore, Ms. Daley in the article subtitle (and in the article itself) refers to a “debate” regarding whether there is anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and she also writes “…shows how hard climate consensus will be.” According to the IPCC (2007):

    “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is
    very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    Since 2007, there is not a single international scientific body that holds a dissenting view and several have strengthened their position regarding AGW and the difficulties of adaptation to a rapidly warming world. See: for more information regarding the consensus.

    You owe it to your readers to provide balance when there is in fact balance. With regards to AGW, a proper balance would be more like 95% support Dr. Emmanuel’s position while 5% support Dr. Lindzen. You certainly would not show a 50/50 balance to round earth vs. flat earth, would you? By using Dr. Pielke, Jr. (not a scientist) as the “tiebreaker” between these two men shows that the article is making no attempt to be fair to the scientific consensus. Instead Ms. Daley should have used peer-reviewed journal articles as the honest broker. To date there is not a single article in a major science journal that refutes the IPCC (2007) conclusions. Instead, mush of the newest research shows that the climate is changing more rapidly than reported by the IPCC – ice is melting faster, seas are rising faster, and emissions are outpacing the worst-case scenario projections.


    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    My Global Warming Blog

    P.S. I also reguested to be included in your FB group.

  26. Anne says:

    My email message to Globe staff:,,,,,,

    date Mon, May 17, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    subject Strong objection to “A Cooling Trend” 5-16-10

    To Boston Globe reporters, editors, managers:

    The article printed yesterday, A Cooling Trend — — is one of the most egregious pieces of journalism I’ve seen in a long time.

    I wish to echo each one of the allegations and criticisms made by climate change blogger Joe Romm, link here:

    The Boston Globe should print a full retraction and a heartfelt apology to Kerry Emanuel. It should also take Roger Pielke Jr. off of its list of neutral climate change experts; Pielke is a denialist and should be recognized as such.

    Please respond to this note with a full response to each of Romm’s points, and either print a retraction or explain to me your justification for refusing to do so.

    Thank you,


  27. mike roddy says:

    Good letters, Scott and Ann. I hope the Globe publishes them.

  28. Ben Lieberman says:

    What is the email address for the Globe’s Editor, Martin Baron?

  29. Mike #22 says:

    (22) Mike Roddy, so instead of the process we have now which is newspapers and broadcasters expanding into on line content (and showing off their multiple weaknesses), reverse that by having the best on line content plus broadcast journalism ported over into the newspaper format. I would read that. Mostly on line of course. I would even pay for it, especially if it were honest all the time.

    If it were published once a day that would save a lot of time for those of us who spend too much time poking through the news and blogs for current information. The constant flow of information tends to bury the important stories, so we end up checking stuff all the time just to make sure we see it going by. With this newspaper, a person would know that if it wasn’t on the front page today, it will be tomorrow. Or one could just scan back through a week’s front pages. So just publish once a day. For example, several times lately I have been googling for some piece of information or other, only to find it went by on CP a few weeks ago and somehow I didn’t see it.

    Editorial talent, honesty, accountability and integrity could be built in up front, as opposed to the situation we have now. So much of the on line content from traditional news organizations is slanted or just wrong. Clearly a lot of the fake controversy over global warming census is just to get readership–on line and off–because the newspapers desperately need cash. Using contributors who have already demonstrated the value of their work and would still be funded by their current work gets around that issue. Publishing on line is cheap.

    Having a newspaper format on line that really looks and acts like a newspaper would be an improvement over most sites. The web designers love their pop ups, moving advertisments, high res color layouts, targetted by IP address tat; I am distracted by it all. The Kindle is tapping into that I think. Drilling into the content would of course lead to standard internet material.

    How would you build a talented editorial board–is a new web model possible? How would you build in honesty, integrity, and accountability?

  30. Wit's End says:

    I just came across Terry Tamminen, who wrote “Lives Per Gallon,” and was interviewed on the movie “Blind Spot.”

    I think you should add him to your list, Mike Roddy!

  31. MarkB says:

    Pielke Jr. needs to reprhase…

    “If 99 scientists can’t agree with a refuted scientist with industry ties and a clear ideological slant, how can we expect 6.5 billion people to?”

    Back to the basics of scientific consensus:

  32. PurpleOzone says:

    Nobody’s going to write a story about fixing the ozone hole — no conflict.

    I overheard in a coffee shop a long history of the last 30 years by a Reagan devotee. He got to global warming as a myth and then explained “It’s like the ozone hole — when do you ever hear of that now? After all that fuss?”

  33. PeterW says:

    Someone should stick a microphone in the face of Beth Daley and ask her to explain herself. The press need to get a bit of their own medicine if you ask me.

  34. mike roddy says:

    Mike #22,

    I’m glad my idea interested you, since I like your comments here. The choice of columnists and reporters would be a judgment call, as would the editorial board. It’s hard to find people who haven’t sold out, but they are out there. And I like your idea of the online version driving the print one, since it’s better to start lean and mean than expect to buy newspaper racks and printing contracts. If things keep trending toward the Net, a print version may not be needed.

    Somebody should write a business plan. We shouldn’t have to settle for the Huffington Post- whose contributors are constantly grumbling about not getting paid- or Alternet, which is just a consolidator. Propublica is too staid and humorless. And as long as we’re stealing Rich from NYT, let’s get Krugman, too. The reporters can work out of their homes- giant newsrooms are way outdated, another reason newspapers aren’t making money.

    I’m too much of an unknown amateur to get anywhere with this myself. Maybe Joe or someone else can provide a contact, and he probably knows a few Soros types, too.

    Gail, thanks, I’ll check out Tammimen. There are actually a lot of talented writers and reporters out there, who would love the chance to actually make a living at it and keep their integrity. The market and the talent are there. All it takes is an angel investor, with deep pockets.

  35. Well, well, well. We have yet one more so-called “journalist” treading down the path already well beaten by the New York Times. Beth Daley has joined the ranks of the disgraced stooges of Big Oil. Congratulations Beth!

    And the article is complete with the usual cast of go-to characters like the infamous Roger Pielke, Jr.

    I keep wondering what the real experts in his field actually think of him and his vapid pontifications.

    Who are those experts, anyway? He’s the only who is ever interviewed by the fossil-fuel-industry, bought-and-paid-for MSM.

    This article was a textbook piece of psychological warfare put out by the Climate Denial Machine.

    It is too disgusting for words.

  36. RE: #17

    SecularAnimist, you are absolutely correct!

  37. jwishart says:

    Did anyone else notice how Lindzen denies the link between cigarette-smoking and cancer and the severity of acid rain? These examples show that this is a person whose entire M.O. is to be contrarian and to doubt the consensus whenever it doesn’t fit his narrative. It was also interesting to note that as he became more conservative (finally becoming a Republican), his denialist viewpoint strengthened. The article was terrible, but I think it also shows how little credibility Lindzen actually has.

  38. john atcheson says:

    Someone has to kill this notion that scientists somehow profit from taking a “pro-climate change” stance.

    First, there’s a hell of a lot more money available to iconoclasts and deniers. Second, any scientist who allowed money (or ideology) to influence his or her conclusions would soon be so discredited that he or she would have no clout within the scientific community — sort of like Lindzen.

    We should arrange a massive write-in campaign to the Boston Globe demanding that they adhere to the science.

  39. Chris Winter says:

    PurpleOzone wrote:

    Nobody’s going to write a story about fixing the ozone hole — no conflict.

    I overheard in a coffee shop a long history of the last 30 years by a Reagan devotee. He got to global warming as a myth and then explained “It’s like the ozone hole — when do you ever hear of that now? After all that fuss?”

    It’s the failure of memory. That Reagan devotee does not remember all the hard work that led to the Montreal Protocol, and the additional hard work that followed to develop and deploy safe substitutes for CFCs.

    “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”

  40. Matto says:

    I don’t think it’s enough to continue to just discuss amongst ourselves what claptrap these types of stories are. We need to each take a moment that we otherwise would spend here complaining about it and use it to write those who actually publish this nonsense as Anne did:,,,,,,

    I would perhaps go even as far as doing this once or more daily until the paper publishes either a correction or retraction of the article or even publishing a full column rebuttal by Joe.

  41. Yeah, it is really cooling off — the satellite temps are simply staggering!

    2010.05.15 near-surface temp was 1.41 °F higher than last year on same date

  42. john atcheson says:

    Just sent the following to the Globe — had to to keep my head from exploding:

    To the Editor:

    The article by Beth Daley, “Cooling Trend,” (May 16) violates nearly every canon of journalism. The headline is misleading; it is placed in a section on hard science — despite the fact that it is a personality-driven puff piece; it is sacrifices accuracy and truth for faux balance and sensationalism; it posits a debate which does not in fact exist; and it cites as a tie-breaking expert in a scientific debate a man with no scientific training.

    One wonders how the Globe could have allowed such a pathetic mockery of journalism to have passed through its editorial screening — until one discovers that it is among the most e-mailed articles from the Globe in several months.

    So now, we know. Truth is nothing more or less than a popularity contest at the Globe. No wonder it is failing.

    John Atcheson

  43. Aaron Lewis says:

    Is somebody keeping an “official” list of denialist tracts and apologies that we can vote from bad to worse? :)

    The problem is not teaching climate science. The problem is that climate science is hard and does not offer any comfort. When denialists offer comfort in authoritative tones, then many people abandon the sharp edge of rationality. Moreover, people are willing to pay for (emotional) comfort, even if the promise of such comfort is supported by no more than an authoritative manner and a kind voice.

    This is not about science. This is really an emotional appeal. Is it truthful? No more so that some very effective emotional appeals by TV evangelists that are very effective and which raise a lot of money. We have politicians running for office that make emotional appeals that are not based on fact. We understand that they are lying through their teeth in the way that politicians do, and yet people send do send money.

    Why should we hold a newspaper run by a corporation to a higher standard? Corporations run media outlets to make money. Media outlets say whatever brings in the most net revenue. The law that most affects them is the Golden Rule. (The man with the gold writes the rule. Do we really expect politicians to write laws that require the truth? No, politicians revel in “Freedom of speech!”)

    What the corporations running media outlets have forgotten is that by telling the truth they can have a higher and more stable net revenue.

  44. Karen S. says:

    Joe: I pushed the submit button and my comment disappeared. Here it is again.

    Tony requested sources on the media consolidation issue, and here they are:
    Read Ben Bagdikian’s The New Media Monopoly (google it, he has a web site.)
    Plus the Media Reform Information Center has a lot of material and links at:
    Plus, an synthesis white paper I just finished, at:

  45. Heraclitus says:

    For the Mikes above – if you get this rolling can you make sure it’s international please! Perhaps a joint international section and then separate national ones? We wouldn’t want to be left out here in the provinces. I’d be willing to pay plenty, certainly more than I do for the sorry excuses for newspapers that we have on offer at the moment.

  46. MiMo says:

    Mike Roddy: USA Today is not owned (and was never owned) by Rupert Murdoch. In the US Murdoch owns the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal.

    US newspapers are mostly owned by (for-profit) newspaper companies: Gannett, Media News, GateHouse, New York Times etc..

    Media conglomerates like Times Warner, Disney, News Corp, etc. usually do not own newspapers – the only exception I know is News Corps (Murdoch)

  47. Chris Winter says:

    This could have been a good article. Beth Daley has the writing skill. Unfortunately, she flunks out on science literacy, for the reasons Joe mentions. I’ll just look at a small part of the article.

    Lindzen watched his colleague become a media star with growing unease.

    He says that man-made emissions are a small factor in climate change and doesn’t agree that global warming poses a worrisome threat; and his water vapor theory is not the only reason. “The evidence as I see it says that the risk is so small,’’ he said in an e-mail. “We are proposing trillion dollar solutions to a problem that is much less serious.’’

    He began to see questionable motivations in Emanuel’s transformation into a scientist outspoken about the possible dangers from global warming.

    Emanuel “would tell me that he really felt that it would be a mistake not to take advantage of the issue . . . there is funding . . . it could benefit the department,’’ Lindzen said in an interview. “I always took a more moralistic view. There has to be a foundation.’’

    I had to read the second paragraph twice to be sure that the “He” referred to was Lindzen and not Emanuel. There is so much else wrong with that paragraph that I won’t bother to enumerate its faults. They are standard Lindzen cant, long debunked.

    The third paragraph pegged my irony meter.

    And if, in the fourth paragraph, Lindzen is not putting words in Emanuel’s mouth, I’d like to see a source for that quote. “There has to be a foundation,” Lindzen says. Too bad his foundation crumbled years ago.

    Unless, of course, he meant the Heritage Foundation.

  48. Doug Bostrom says:

    Those of us writing letters to editors and reporters should remember, you need to produce a shift in the consciousness of your reader, not a sense of shame.

    The reason this article could be created in the shape it took is because the author does not understand how science is conducted. Until the author experiences a improving shift in consciousness about what science is, she’ll simply dismiss your letters as more argumentation; right now she’s quite bereft of any means of pinning down relative merit.

    It’s along the same lines as trying to explain to a white person what it’s like to be pulled over by a police officer while driving black. There’s a large gulf of missing awareness here, not easily bridged.

  49. David says:

    What I’d like to know is why Pielke, Jr. appears in so many articles about climate change when he isn’t even a climate scientist?

  50. #38: Someone has to kill this notion that scientists somehow profit from taking a “pro-climate change” stance.

    I did so in two detailed blog posts. See:

    Taking the Money for Grant(ed) – Part II
    Taking the Money for Grant(ed) – Part I

  51. RE: #47

    Dear Doug,

    Sorry, I must disagree with your theory that the writer of that article wrote it badly due to a lack of scientific understanding.

    That article included all of the favorite talking points put out by the Climate Denial Machine and used all of their same psychological tactics sure to manipulate the reading public.

    This was done purposefully — it was not happenstance.

  52. Oh, and lest I forget — the writer of that article should be shamed!

    All of these who aid and abet the fossil-fuel industry’s manipulations should be named and shamed until it stops!

  53. Ryan T says:

    Slightly cynical me continues to wonder if such pieces get exactly the attention today’s media want (that is, any attention at all). When I see sub-par reporting and write to the editor, I make it clear that such material makes me less likely to read them in the future. The fair, substantive reporting is what has me coming back.

  54. Mike S says:

    I loved the globe article. Good to see both sides.

  55. Bill W says:

    I just found a good resource for finding out what news outlets are owned by which corporations (although unfortunately you have to choose the media conglomerate and then see what they own, rather than choosing the outlet and finding out who owns it). Here’s the link:

  56. Doug Bostrom says:


    This was done purposefully — it was not happenstance.

    Entirely possible, you make some observations in support of that conclusion but we can’t really know.

    Without any particular hard evidence other than legions of other shallow, personality-driven stories akin to the one at hand I still think most articles of this sort are written by authors immersed in the fuzzy world of purely human affairs, largely oblivious to the possibility of knowledge transcending personal opinion.

    Wretchedly tired old saw, but cliches exist for a reason: “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” I’d amend that to “what can be explained by ignorance” and by ignorance I mean the innocent, circumstantial, non-pejorative brand, neither benign nor evil. I don’t think it’s possible that so many journalists could be actively compromised, yet it’s certainly feasible that these same people are not fully trained to be able to perform their primary function of informing the public.

    Just as chiding a journalist who is actively hostile to facts is a waste of your time, so is scolding someone for not behaving as if they knew better when they actually don’t; both approaches are failures. Improve the odds of your time not being wasted by taking the opportunity to teach.

    In my opinion… :-)

  57. Michael Tucker says:

    It is all about sowing confusion. If the American people can remain confused about the issue of global warming, the DO NOTHING proponents have a much better chance of stopping all attempts to pass climate change / green energy legislation. They are looking to establish enough ‘reasonable doubt’ so that the majority of voters will not be motivated to make big changes in CO2 emissions.

    I don’t think the science deniers should worry too much about legislation. Without support from our Chief Executive I don’t think the current bill will go anywhere this year. So far, President Obama does not seem particularly motivated to give the bill active support.

  58. I appreciate the attention to my graphic.

    I agree with the suggestion that a time dimension would be interesting, but please note that the graphic is purely schematic and somewhat subjective. I have not proposed an objective way of measuring and plotting the information.

    I found the offending article surprisingly readable. Lindzen is an interesting though problematic character and this approach was not a bad way to discuss him. The apparent misattribution to Emanuel makes the whole thing much more serious and disappointing.

    On the other hand, the deferring to R Pielke Jr as the neutral arbiter was, far from being amazing or head-asploding, entirely predictable, unimaginative and, frankly, shallow. Pielke, like Lindzen, occupies a unique and problematic niche in our predicament. But though Lindzen and Emanuel surely believe their disagreement is mostly about science and evidence, the arbiter breezes through and changes the subject to topics of more interest to journalists.

    Many people try to classify RP Jr as a denialist but I think that is incorrect. RP Jr’s mission is to shift the terms of the discussion away from the biological and physical aspects of our predicament to territory which journalists find more amenable, that of politics. He practically says as much in his response to this article on his blog. So, of course Pielke was called on to wrap up this shallow, cookie-cutter Boston piece. Who better to shift the discourse away from the actual, physical planet we are disrupting?

  59. Bara says:

    To those who are writing letters to the editor, the length limit is 200 words, subject to “condensing,” so you might want to choose your own edits!

  60. Xavier says:

    Thought the author did a decent job of presneting the fact that there is another side to the theroy of global warming.

    I know that most people are aware that there are those who are skeptical of that theroy. However, I think that the fact that it is a prominent scientist who does not conform. This tears at the concensus argument as proof of GW.

    The truth is that there are many such scientists and they are begining to speak out. Labeling them and crying for their silence through legislation is no answer. Encouraging debate through skepticism is a healthy thing in science.

  61. Ryan T says:

    “Debate through skepticism” has been going on for decades now, and the consensus (which does not mean complete agreement) is well-reflected in the literature and position statements of the world’s scientific organizations. Those often held up as “skeptical”, whether “prominent” (is that a form of merit?) or not, seem to have presented little to nothing scientific in support of their position that has held up.

  62. Ben Lieberman says:

    Xavier–you do know that virtually all climate scientists reject the notion that there is another side. If someone in your family had the terrible misfortune to have a serious illness and 98 percent of all physicians with expertise in that illness advocated a particular course of treatment would you ignore them? Would you think that your neighbors should have the right to prevent your family member from the recommended treatment? Surely, that would not be the case.

  63. Roger says:

    After getting away from it all for a few days to enjoy the quiet wonders of nature, we were SHOCKED to see “A cooling trend” as the cover story of the Boston Globe when we returned!

    Beth Daley wrote a similarly bad article on the eve of Cape Wind’s approval. I don’t have it in front of me, but I remember writing to the Globe to complain that something like 10 percent of the writing was what I would call neutral, about 55 percent seemed to favor those fighting the approval, and only about 35 percent favored the supporters.

    As others have indicated above, it is very sad (given what’s at stake) but true that the profit motive has become THE force that drives it all. There’s a “big business” Frankenstein money monster in our midst!

  64. Tony Noerpel says:

    Karen S. #44

    Thank you


  65. Mona says:

    I gave e-mail addresses for the reporter and editors rather than the letters-to-the-editor address, since most papers only publish letters from their circulation area. But let’s bombard them with LTEs anyway, even if we’re not near Boston:

    Ben, there’s no e-mail address listed for Baron in the Globe’s contacts, but try In fact, everyone who already sent a letter should send a copy to him, too. Thanks for pointing that out!

    And again, I’m trying to assemble a crew of people to do this every time this happens, so if you want to help, search for Climate Rapid Response on Facebook and request to join.

  66. Mark says:

    I received a response from the Boston Globe to my letter protesting this article. Here is the response.

    “Thanks for taking the time to write. I realize the article deeply displeases you, but I did want to pass on Beth’s thinking as she framed the piece. Here, in her words, is what she was setting out to do.

    I’ve written extensively on manmade climate change in the last six years, in fact have won numerous national awards for doing so, including being named a Pulitzer finalist for my work on it two years ago. In the last year, however, it has become clear there is a huge disconnect between the scientific consensus, which is great, and the vigorous public/political debate on the issue. The debate is not so much whether manmade climate change is happening (it is) but the extent of how bad it will be for mankind. There is uncertainty on this subject.

    My goal for the story was not to talk about the science, for once, but illustrate how people’s assessment on risk from the same evidence can dictate their views. And what better way to tell it than through Dick and Kerry’s friendship over time as climate science has evolved. It can be easy to dismiss Lindzen – but the fact is he represents a point of view that has huge credibility in the public eye (just look at the polls). Ignoring that is irresponsible.

    I realize this is not going to change your mind, but I offer it in the spirit of what I hope is useful dialog.

    Christine S. Chinlund
    Deputy Managing Editor / News Operations
    The Boston Globe