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Yes, the false accusation that Gore was exaggerating came from none other than Roger Pielke, Jr.

By Joe Romm  

"Yes, the false accusation that Gore was exaggerating came from none other than Roger Pielke, Jr."


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And yes, I just re-confirmed with Gore’s office that Pielke is as wrong today in his false claims as he was 2 years ago

Roger Pielke, Jr. has repeated on his website several false accusations against Al Gore from 2 years ago, which I debunked here and here.  His goal is to smear Gore, me, and indeed anyone who tries to explain the science of how global warming is driving more extreme weather.

My apologies to long-time readers for having to go through this again, but I think it’s important to see the tactics and strategy of the breakthrough bunch aka the false narrative industrial complex (FNIC).  In fact, the man who spreads more disinformation and smears more climate scientist than anybody on the blogosphere, Anthony “shout them down” Watts, just reposted some of Pielke’s false accusations, because “Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. … wrote to me and suggested I share this with my readers.”  From there it went straight to the full right-wing anti-science media.  That’s how the FNIC works.  Amazingly, Roger is now bragging about the ability he has to team up with the hard-core anti-science websites and drive traffic to his site.

Only Roger Pielke, Jr. can call the unvarnished truth a lie.  No doubt that is one reason Pielke was included in Foreign Policy‘s “Guide to Climate Skeptics”.  No doubt it is one reason top climate scientists like Kevin Trenberth and Ken Caldeira have called Pielke out for his misleading scientific claims and for his false accusations against climate science experts.

Pielke remains one of the most debunked people in the blogosphere:

Standing against Pielke’s — and Watts’s — effort to sabotage productive discourse on climate science and policy means standing with top climate scientists, with Nobelist Al Gore, and with those trying to explain climate science to the public. I am proud to do so.

One of Pielke’s most famous false claims in 2009 concerns one slide Gore used in his famous PowerPoint presentation.  That false claim led to NYT reporter Andy Revkin falsely equating George Will with Al Gore in an infamous article, “In Climate Debate, Exaggeration Is a Pitfall,” which I debunked at the time.

I am amazed that Pielke would repeat his false claims now — and quote Gore’s office in his defense.  He knows that Gore’s office utterly debunked those charges two years ago, and I assume he must know that I would call Gore’s office to confirm once again that Pielke’s entire characterization is false.  And I did.

The breakthrough bunch — which includes Pielke and Matt Nisbet — have a very specific false narrative about Gore that is essential to their “blame the victim” attacks on environmentalists and scientists.  They want to convince people that environmentalists in general and Gore in particular have knowingly exaggerated the science and purposefully pursued a polarizing message.  It isn’t true, and that’s why I’m going to debunk it again.  I will deal with Nisbet’s false narrative on this later, though it bears repeating that 2 of the 5 original expert reviewers Nisbet chose disputed his attack on Gore.

Pielke also has another false narrative that leads him to smear the name of anybody who merely talks about the fact that

  1. Scientists have been predicting for years that human-caused global warming would lead to an increase in extreme weather events, and
  2. Now scientists and other groups are in fact seeing that increase in extreme weather events and attributing it in part to global warming (see “Why do disinformers like Pielke shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?

As you read the post below, bear in mind that Pielke himself told the journal Nature in 2006, “Clearly, since 1970 climate change “¦ has shaped the disaster loss record.” But don’t you dare say anything like that — or even remain quiet when someone else says something like it — because then Pielke will smear you publicly like he did Al Gore and hundreds of the leading scientists in the country.

Also bear in mind that Munich Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurers, reported in September that its “natural catastrophe database, the most comprehensive of its kind in the world, shows a marked increase in the number of weather-related events.”  It concluded, “it would seem that the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”


So here is the latest counterfactual at rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com reposted by Watts:

I do my best to ignore Joe Romm, but when he blatantly lies about me I sometimes feel compelled to respond. In today’s installment Romm writes:

[The] false accusation that Gore was exaggerating came from none other than Roger Pielke, Jr.

He is referring to the time back in February, 2009 that I called Al Gore out for including a misleading slide in his famous climate change slide show.  Far from being a “false accusation” it was one that Al Gore actually agreed with and responded to immediately — Much to Gore’s credit, he agreed that the slide was misleading and immediately pulled it from his presentation.  Here is what his spokesperson said at the time (full statement at link above):

We appreciate that you have pointed out the issues with the CRED database and will make the switch back to the data we used previously to ensure that there is no confusion either with regards to the data or attribution.

Al Gore showed some real integrity in trying to get the science more right, something I praised him for at the time.

There is no way to explain just how utterly false this all is in a short post. That’s because three separate things that need debunking:

  1. Pielke’s original false accusation on his blog about what Gore said (debunked here)
  2. Revkin’s spinning it up into a major NY Times article accusing Gore of “exaggeration” (debunked here)
  3. Pielke’s counterfactual history of events, which you just read

If you want the details on #1, I explain here how Pielke started all this by repeatedly misstating what Gore had said in his AAAS talk (video here). These indefensible charges would have died on the gossip grapevine of the blogosphere, had they not been picked up by Revkin.

The key point on #3 is that Gore’s slide (at right, click to enlarge) wasn’t “misleading” — the Belgian group (CRED) who put the data together behind the slide decided to change what they themselves said about the connection between extreme weather and disasters after Gore used it (probably prodded by the counterfactual crowd), as I’ll discuss below.  Gore did not “agree the slide was misleading” — he merely replaced CRED’s slide with other data that indicated the same thing since CRED had changed their tune.  He wrote a Gore-like statement trying to be as diplomatic as possible about all this.  The NY Times itself had actually used the slide in precisely the same way almost a year earlier, and CRED never objected to its use that way.  Indeed, the NYT piece explicitly opened, “We are now firmly ensconced in the Age of Extreme Weather…..  Who do we have to thank for all this? Probably ourselves.”

Kalee Kreider, Gore’s spokesperson, re-confirmed all this to me yesterday.

Finally, as Kalee told me, “removing that slide didn’t change Gore’s view of the science at all” or what he said about the science.  Of course, that is what she told me two years ago.  As Kalee said, Gore had more than enough scientific support for what he actually said, “from the IPCC, the US Global Change Research Program, and Munich Re and Swiss Re.” So every charge Pielke levels in his post is utterly false.


Let’s look at exactly what Revkin wrote in his infamous piece equating Gore with George Will, “In Debate on Climate Change, Exaggeration Is a Common Pitfall” (original links, emphasis added):

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

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

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

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

It is important to see what Revkin did here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kalee Kreider, Mr. Gore’s spokeswoman on environmental matters (and a personal friend), explained how the former Vice President works, in an email (from 2009):

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

The scientific literature and many scientists have made a link between global warming and some extreme weather events. It is possible to accurately state what that link is, which I argue Gore has done (see Part 1). It is possibly to inaccurately state what that link is “” intentionally or unintentionally. Pielke and Revkin are arguing that Gore was intentionally and obviously inaccurate in how he stated the link at the AAAS. But they have no case. They have to hypothesize what Gore was saying or intended to say because they just don’t know — and they never asked him.

Remember, Pielke told Nature in 2006 “Clearly since 1970 climate change (i.e., defined as by the IPCC to include all sources of change) has shaped the disaster loss record” — and Revkin makes him a primary source.  Gore said in 2009 “This is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented” — and Revkin smears him and Pielke smears Gore and everyone who listened to him!

If you are going to slam someone for “exaggeration,” let alone multiple “inaccuracies and overstatements,” in the New York Times, it really needs to be based on more than your supposition of what he was trying to say about a complicated subject. This goes double for smearing Gore, who has endured the most brutual assault on his integrity with the charge of exaggeration based on invented quotes.  For instance, Gore has been brutally mocked for the false accusation that he claimed to have “invented the Internet,” when that was not what he said. To see how many false charges of exaggeration have been made against Gore on the basis of things that he just didn’t say, read this article.

For the record, if you watch the video it is fairly obvious what Gore is trying to say.  He shows a bunch of slides of individual extreme weather events around the world and then sums them up in one big slide.  What he means by “this” is “all this.”

Second, Revkin did not identify multiple “inaccuracies and overstatements” in Gore’s case. The only “expert” Revkin links to who did, Roger Pielke, mistated what Gore said (as I showed in Part 1).

Third, Revkin did not accurately represent what the Belgians said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revkin does not tell the reader that the Belgians had not objected to the use of that slide by Charles Blow in the New York Times in May 2008 to argue global warming was contributing to the trend in weather-related disasters nor that the Belgians had back-tracked on their own attribution of climate change. And as Kalee told me, the Gore team had gotten CRED’s annual report to make sure he understood how CRED itself was interpreting and explaining the data.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bottom line is that Revkin had no case whatsoever.

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

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

What I wrote two years ago is still true:  Gore deserves a retraction and apology from Revkin and others.


Back in 2009, Pielke not only attacked Gore for supposed “blatantly” misleading the audience with “scientific untruths,” but he attacked every single member of the audience for not objecting:

And of all of those scientists in attendance, here is a list of those who sought to set the record straight on blogs and in the media:

OK, I couldn’t find any, but if you know of any such reactions, please share in the comments”¦. But as the non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths shows, the misrepresentation of climate science for political gain has many willing silent collaborators.

So for Pielke the entire audience of three thousand scientists are “willing silent collaborators” in the “misrepresentation of climate science” because of their supposed “non-response to Al Gore’s in-your-face untruths” shows.

But this string of “in-your-face untruths” doesn’t exist. Please listen to the video yourself and try to find them.  Remember, we aren’t talking about one or two ambiguous word choices here. You need to find a bunch of blatant in-your-face untruths.

In fact, the blatant untruths are all by Pielke in his effort to smear any scientist or journalist or climate expert who dares explain the growing scientific evidence that humans are changing the climate and making the weather more extreme in ways scientists have been warning about for many years.

The case is becoming more rock solid — see Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment and links therein.  Again, as Munich Re, which has the most comprehensive natural catastrophe database in the world, reported last year, “the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”

Pielke and the entire false narrative industrial complex can’t stomach the scientific reality — so they attack the messengers with blatant untruths.

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32 Responses to Yes, the false accusation that Gore was exaggerating came from none other than Roger Pielke, Jr.

  1. PeterW says:

    So what’s the solution to people like Pielke and his fellow compatriots in disinformation? The corporate press have demonstrated they have no problems with people constantly lying and smearing others. This has been going on for decades and nothing seems to stop it. In fact, it gets worse every year.

    As far as I can tell there are only 4 possible ways to fix this.
    1) The press wake up and fact check and then goes after the liars.
    2) The Senate (because lord knows the House won’t) bring people like Pielke in front of a committee to challenge their lies.
    3) Funding for the organizations that support people like Pielke are cut.
    4) Funding for the press, who amplify the lies is severely reduced.

    1 seems really unlikely if history is any judge. 2 could happen but the press would probably ignore it. 3 yeah right, it would be nice but I just can’t see it happening.

    No it seems to me the only real target is the mainstream press that are so central to this problem. So how do you change or get rid of the MSM?

  2. Dave says:

    I get the fact that his father was a climate scientist, but Junior is a policy wonk rather than scientist (unless you count political science as a meaningful discipline). It is embarrassing how much influence Junior has been able to exert on policy by playing games.

    Gore kicking is prominently featured in that wretched Nisbet report for which Pielke served as a reviewer. I am sure that is a coincidence…

  3. Eli Rabett says:

    Jr. is a policy wonk, only if you are not a policy wonk. He has specifically not been invited to join the Poly Sci Dept at Colorado and is not a member of any of the major political science collaborations on climate change. What he is is a great self promoter

  4. Richard Brenne says:

    I was very disappointed during a recent lunch with long-time hydrology head of the USGS Robert M. Hirsh when he dismissed Gore completely. (He was also dismissing NOAA and people like Tom Karl who he mentioned by name and I found that repugnant also.)

    At that lunch Hirsch said many great things about hydrology, but the best and most accurate thing he said about atmospheric science was that “Kevin (Trenberth) knows three times order of magnitude (or 1000 times) as much about atmospheric science as I’ll ever know.”

    After it came out I asked Kevin about the accuracy of “An Inconvenient Truth” and he felt the science in the film was all quite sound, only questioning that there could be a misunderstanding about sea level rise, with Gore focusing on what 20 feet of sea level rise would look like (without saying anything about when that might happen).

    I respect scientists like Kevin because they seem to me to want to know the truth about all the various facets of atmospheric science, while Pielke Jr. seems to me to be more of a professional arguer, most interested in winning his argument. That is more in line with being a political scientist, and by the way at his January talk in Portland during a lengthy introduction that appeared to come from Pielke’s own bio, there was no mention of his being a political scientist or social scientist, and anyone listening closely (as I was) or less closely would have assumed he was an atmospheric scientist, like Kevin. He is not.

  5. Roger Gram says:

    Andrew Revkin has quoted Roger Pielke, Jr in no less than eight blog entries this year alone. Revkin clearly considers him an expert on all aspects of climate change. Very disappointing.

  6. dano says:

    The first Big Lie about Al Gore was that he claimed to have invented the internet. This lie was itself invented by the so-called journalist Declan McCullagh, a libertarian and shill for the Cato Institute, who also happens to write for CNet. McCullagh has turned from dogging Gore about the internet to mocking Gore for his climate change stance.

    McCullagh is proud to have started the whole character assassination of Gore, and seems to enjoy continuing it.


  7. JOE: Broken Link

    Joe, you wrote in the essay above:

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

    Unfortunately the link you gave is no longer working.

    Please replace with:

    The Press vs. Al Gore
    How lazy reporting, pack journalism and GOP spin cost him the election
    Posted Nov 26, 2001 12:00 AM

  8. Peter M says:

    McCullagh is an employee of CBS News- if the Wikipedia bio is correct. This says something about CBS News, and the entire MSM, which are prostitutes of the special interests.

    As for Revkin using Roger Pielke, Jr. as an ‘expert’ for climate science- he has a degree in Math (BA) MA in Public Policy Ph.D In Political Science. What makes him a climate expert? Is this is Revkin’s idea of someone he and NYT can get ‘expert’ scientific data about global warming?

    If Revkin had a NYT interview with JR, Hansen or Mann, Revkin would get facts- not misinformation to print in the Times- to confuse its readers, and keep the money flowing in from Exxon-Mobile and other pimps the Times counts on for revenue.

  9. Mike Roddy says:

    Pielke Jr. is truly one of the most dishonest characters in the whole climate change discussion. He has neither scientific credentials nor much grasp of the data, and certainly has no inclination to express what little he knows accurately.

    This suits the purposes of the oil and companies very well. Now that bizarre characters like Monckton and Watts are becoming more discredited, Pielke fills an important niche.

    Why Andy Revkin gives Pielke Jr. any credibility at all is a mystery. I don’t think Andy is corrupt, and he knows more about the science than Pielke. The charitable explanation is that Andy is just not very bright, and “been on the climate beat for 20 years” does not excuse verbal smokescreens and factual carelessness.

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    CP readers: Eli Rabett, who commented at #3 here, is the world’s leading Pielkologist. It takes a keen intelligence and a somewhat twisted sense of humor, both of which Eli has in abundance, and he also happens to be an excellent scientist.

    We need the humor especially. Otherwise, listening to the Pielkes of the world drives you insane after a while.

    I highly recommend Eli’s rabettrun blog, too.

  11. Susan Anderson says:

    Roger Gram, I’m a regular a DotEarth and I assure you it is way more than 8 times.

    Recently I got a rocket from Andy Revkin for pointing out that his free-form insult of Gavin Schmidt as prounouncing outside his field applied to RPJr more than to GS. Subsequent insults of Trenberth and Emanuel went unanswered as well as the GS broadside.

    The only thing I can think of is that they are friends seeking comfort in the storm. We do tend to be a little free with our insults and opine against a wide range of stuff that might be regarded as solutions for one reason or another – we are particularly hot under the collar about nuclear.

    Sadly, Andy Revkin can be quite sound on the science, but lately he is angrily pushing against anyone who hews to the state of the art in climate science unless they are extremely moderate.

  12. Susan Anderson says:

    that’s RPJr free form insult, not AR’s. Facts otherwise as stated, and great thanks to Joe Romm for all the clarify and facts. I am now better informed and will use the info.


    see comments 1, 5, and many others. Ike Solem at #12 is particularly cogent on “content-free smear”.

  13. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #9: Having been on the climate beat for so long seems to be exactly Revkin’s problem since his stance is more or less consistent with the state of the science near the start of his career. (Scientists of the timer were certainly worried about the possibility of disastrous outcomes, but had little proof.)

    It’s a well-known psychological phenomenon that people are reluctant to change the view of reality they adopted in their 20s, and Revkin seems to be an extreme case (since he is undeniably acquainted with the subsequent overwhelming scientific evidence contradicting his view). Max Planck famously said (words to the effect) that new ideas in physics achieve consensus adoption not because believers in the prior idea become convinced, but because they ultimately die off. Some other famous person gave the advice (paraphrasing) “Be careful what you let into your brain, for you will have a very hard time getting it out again.” So, so true.

    RP Jr., on the other hand, is just a self-promoting opportunist. Who knows what his real views are.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The denialist industry doesn’t mind how you accomplish your task, to confuse the public over the reality of anthropogenic climate destabilisation, just that you do it. The rewards are pecuniary and egotistic-some like the pay, others the attention, some both. The aim remains the same. To protect the economic interests of the fossil fuel industry, the greatest industry and the most gigantic repository of wealth in history, and the locus of US power through the US dollar global reserve currency system, which is underwritten by the oil trade being denominated in US dollars and maintain the absolute global dominance of market capitalism and the neo-feudal system that it has, inevitably and intentionally, spawned.
    I’d hope that Gore is thick-skinned. He is certainly on the side of the angels in his environmental work, and one trusts that attacks by dishonest, hypocritical and opportunist homunculi simply reinforce his confidence in his task. However, the central question now, the one that must be answered if humanity is going to survive the next few decades, is why are some people so wicked as to condemn even their own children to horror and premature death, all in pursuit of pecuniary gain, pathopsychological satisfaction and the lust to dominate others. Unless we answer that question which arises and has arisen throughout history in so many circumstances, we are stuffed. What are the roots of human greed, destructiveness and indifference to others?

  15. Peter M says:

    The Denialists have a well ‘oiled’ campaign of disinformation, smearing of those who they perceive as a threat to the powerful well monied interests of American capitalism.

    The global interests in maintaining the status quo are to not be underestimated either.

    It seems however, no matter how successful they have been over the last 5 years of confusing the public, bribing the Media and politicians their message eventually will be exposed.

    From the data we all see, positive feedback’s in the arctic are kicking in far quicker then most scientists predicted 4-5 years ago. Once the arctic is ice free- or nearly so, those feedback’s will accelerate. We are at most a decade away from more profound changes in mid latitudes.

    Increased weather catastrophes, causing economic loss and human suffering will become harder to explain from the ‘Denial Industry’.

    I am sure they will not roll over and play dead- but their fraud will be exposed in time-

  16. MarkF says:

    “Finally, as Kalee told me, “removing that slide didn’t change Gore’s view of the science at all” or what he said about the science. ”

    Why did Al Gore change anything, in response to this person? Isn’t that just feeding the fire?

    and although nobody could do a better job of evisceration than Joe,
    why does Al Gore leave it to Joe Romm to defend Gore?

  17. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Mulga #14. A major part of the answer to your question can be found on http://www.thelightonthehill.com and I have previously referred you to Participative Design for Participative Democracy, Emery M (Ed), 1993, CCE ANU. I have also discussed some of the effects of these genotypical organizational design principles on human behaviour in these pages, namely DP1 = competition, self interest; DP2 = cooperation, care for the common good, ME

  18. Richard Brenne says:

    Mulga at #14 asks “What are the roots of human greed, destructiveness and indifference to others?”

    Materialism. Many hunters and gatherers appear to live a kind of step by step spirituality, feeling that everything is alive, animated, has a right to live and can bless others, including themselves. There are nothing but limits to growth in the material world but no such limits in the spiritual, moral and ethical universes, including the latter two subscribed to by atheists.

    Fear. Fear that if I share with one additional person, there might not be enough for me.

    Status. We’ve set up a society, centered in U.S. culture, that is so superficial that one dollar buys one unit of status, almost no matter how it is earned. So the game is to grab as many of those units of status as possible, regardless of how many you have to oppress or exploit to do so. The most wealthy, powerful and greedy (these often overlap in the same individuals most running society) are so consumed by this game that they are blind to virtually everything else.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Richard #18, I recall something Marx said about relative ‘status’. He observed that a man might be quite happy sitting in his hovel amongst other hovels, but should someone erect a slightly grander hovel, he would be reduced to feelings of inadequacy and despair. I’m actually at a bit of a loss here as I possess very little desire for material possessions, prefer greatly living in a small house, hate grand hotels and prefer old, cosy, ones etc. I’ve never owned a car and prefer walking or catching public transport. I’m all for a decent sufficiency in things. Those afflicted with ‘affluenza’, the disease of conspicuous over-consumption, must, I think, be suffering from dreadful feelings of personal inadequacy in their manic desire for stuff. I’m sympathetic to their fate, but where it is driving us all over the environmental precipice, my sympathy must reach its limit. For me ‘status’ ought properly be bestowed on one by others, depending on one’s behaviour and character, not by some accident of birth or through the febrile accumulation of money and possessions.

  20. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Richard Brenne #18, material is phenotypical, one of the symptoms. Then you have to ask from whence comes the materialism and this leads you to the genotype, ME

  21. PurpleOzone says:

    First, I suggest that “Gore’s office utterly refuted” (or “debunked”) gives a clearer impression of what you mean than “Gore’s office utterly falsified those charges”.

    Second, I do not understand Revkin’s infatuation with Pielke. He misses no opportunity to quote him. Pielke behaves like an advocacy lawyer, raising off-the-mark unscientific points that are hard to parse logically and scientifically. His points sow confusion, I suppose they are intended to.

    Third, I think Revkin has a reasonable confusion about how statistics and science operate, rather than a fossilization of his 20something self. Think of (primary) lung cancer: ~95 % of those who contract it smoke cigarettes. So you can say there’s a correlation but not causation. It turns out that the remaining 5% are due to inhaling ‘second hand’ smoke. But you still cannot attribute one person’s case to tobacco; cancer might be provoked by something else. Similarly Revkin, and much of the media are fixated on not attributing an extreme weather event to global warming, because they’ve been trained (by scientists) to say one event is “weather” not “climate”. And climate scientists themselves are reluctant to overstate, one Mississippi flood does not prove global warming. Now, too much extreme weather is going on — at least that’s my non-expert opinion. Research articles are appearing that do the statistics to demonstrate the significant effects of (the current amount of) global warming. The media hasn’t caught up; the rubric that one event is not proof is still entrenched in their heads. And I’d guess that most lay people, even science writers, don’t understand the power of statistical ensembles in modern physics and chemistry.

    To summarize the long-winded discussion above, much more communication is needed to get the point across that our climate is ALREADY deteriorating (changing). I did not expect it would so soon. When I was young eons ago, I was told that global warming would be a problem for my “grandchildren’s old age”. It started happening in my Dad’s old, old age.

  22. tomfarmer says:


    I’d be grateful for a little more on how “counterfactual” might relate to the FNIC. Also mentioned above the “breakthrough bunch” and I can’t say I believe in so many coincidences.. is there in your view some or deliberate interplay of these terms in practice.?

    [JR: This Grist piece is a good place to start.]

  23. Richard Brenne says:

    Mulga (#19) – Great points as always! And congratulations on never owning a car! You are most truly a part of the solution, unless you’re always sitting alone driven around in the back of a Hummer stretch limo, which I somehow doubt (more like a regular stretch limo I’m sure).

    The American Gonzo Journalist Tom Wolfe and a slightly less gonzo French philosopher (Buehler?) both feel that what motivates everybody to do everything all the time is status. That seems a little extreme, but I’d buy “most people to do most things most of the time.”

    So to me we have to use every tool in our toolkit. Gore and most others (even these good guys) want to use greed, but I’d be most cautious about this. Greed, the free market and technology are what largely got us into this mess, so as I’ve said before thinking that they’ll also get us out of it seems a little like drinking to forget that one is a drunk.

    But status can be a positive. I’ve lived in my home town and current home of Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado and Santa Monica, California and because each have progressive elements and those are the elements I tend to hang out with, I get status for walking, biking and taking alternative transportation (which I also prefer) and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

    (By the way, each of those three are called “The Peoples Republic Of. . .” by conservatives, which tips one off to a rather good place to live. Funny how the original Peoples Republic, China, is now kicking the other capitalists’ asses at their own game. And in less than a tenth the time, like a few decades instead of centuries.)

    Here along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers as well as the other places where the salmon run (though they usually prefer swimming), anthropologists think that these were among the world’s richest hunters and gatherers, because most such folks needed to migrate to follow food sources while in this case the food migrated to them.

    Among these folks (whose land I’ve helped steal) the primary means of wealth distribution was the completely voluntary potlatches, where the richest got the most status for giving away the most. Now in America and similar societies the rich have to be dragged like George Clooney out of the boxcar in “O Brother Where Art Thou” to pay taxes or redistribute their wealth in any other way.

    If somehow we could all listen to Merrelyn and organize ourselves along the lines she suggests without hierarchy, we’d all be a lot better off and so would every other living thing in the world.

    I think changing our consciousness and the values of society so that status is given for kindness, caring, compassion, empathy and generosity instead of for the material wealth that mostly indicates their opposites would be the cat’s pajamas, or at least fur.

  24. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Richard Brenne #22. You can change your consciousness all you like and make every effort to change the values of the society around you and I can tell you right now, you’ll fail. Dead Cert!

    I know this pop psychology is the fashion over there but it has no track record of making sustainable change. Sorry, but thats what the data says.

    The first genotypical design principle is encoded into so many legal documents that underpin our organizations and institutions that you have to seriously understand it and its effects, and then, you have to educate to get a decision to legally replace it with the second principle to restore what Mulga rightly calls sanity.

    See my response to Alec’s wonderful effort under that thread. Thanks, ME

  25. Gorky says:

    @Richard Brenne, Mulga. I would like to share a personal experience with you. I come from a state in India which is under communist rule for 34 straight years (you read it right, 34). And I am 26. From my childhood I have only seen poor getting poorer and rich political leaders getting even more rich. There is absolutely no voice for common people. Communism isn’t working here.

    Society without hierarchy will remain as an utopian concept as long as there is greed. And I feel that greed is in human gene.

    Only if we have a very simple community based society, we might slowly get rid of greed. But that will require a reboot of current social structure .. and current way of life. That is my belief.

    – Gorky

    p.s. My aunt used to be great supporter of communism. She gave me the nickname, Gorky.

  26. Gorky says:

    Especially for Mulga:

    I also feel that there should be some kind of wealth redistribution. However I find three fundamental questions unanswered:

    1. Who all would be in charge of the redistribution? Who decides whom?
    2. What do we do about the inevitable suspicion of people that there is some inequality in the distribution?
    3. What do we do when faced with the discontent from a professor who is unhappy that the drunk wife beater next door got the same share as he did?

    We had a land redistribution in our communist state (literally) … and it didn’t work out.

    – Gorky

  27. Eli Rabett says:

    Should be FNCC (False Narrative Communications Complex) AKA the Pielkesphere.

  28. Pete Dunkelberg says:

    I don’t know that the old Max Planck story (# 13) is sound. IIRC Planck made an off hand remark at a meeting, probably jokingly. Many years later, I think someone did a study to find out. It turned out that older, well established secure scientists more readily change than new guys. All IIRC – only Eli would know.

  29. Richard Brenne says:

    Merrelyn (#24) – Your first two paragraphs sound deeply disrespectful to the views of others, violating what I thought was your very first principle.

  30. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Richard #29. Let me make an analogy: there are many views about climate change but one basket of them is held by those who are scientifically illiterate, influenced by the deniers or who are the deniers. Then there is the view that is based on sound science.

    You are entitled to any view about anything but your expressed view about how to change human behavious falls into the first basket above. I thought this was a blog that was dedicated to good science, i.e. backed by accumulating hard evidence. That’s what I mean by the words, ‘track record’ and ‘data’.

    I am not expressing my personal views in this forum, I am writing about what good science says about human behaviour and how to change it, ME

  31. Thanks for the link, Joe. For my specific posts on RPJr:


    (There’s a positive one in there that I probably need to correct, btw.)

    The one where I detail how RPJr misrepresented me, in order to claim that I misrepresented him, is here:


    And I agree with #10: rabett.blogspot.com is the place to go for scientific refutation of RPJr. Me, I’m just typing stuff.

  32. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Dear Gorky,(or may I call you Maxim?). I believe hierarchies are inevitable. They exist everywhere in Nature, and certainly also in humanity. They are mostly unfair, like the hierarchy of physical attractiveness that so centrally determines one’s life opportunities. Hierarchies can serve humanity and human societies, I believe, or bedevil them. I dream of a hierarchy of virtue arising in human affairs, where prestige, eminence and political power accrue to the most humane, compassionate, wise and farsighted. At present, the hierarchy established by market capitalism is one where the criteria for success are greed, ruthlessness, indifference to the fate of others and egomania. I don’t believe in absolute equality, preferring diversity, but I strongly insist that the strong, the gifted and the lucky ought to help the less fortunate all the days of their lives, and not, as many of the lucky ones do now under capitalism, exploit, intimidate and terrorise the weak.