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This item was posted on January 8, 2009, and it was categorized as Uncategorized.
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Roger Pielke, Jr is a Professor in the University of Colorado’s Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. He focuses on the nexus of science and technology in decision making. I was looking for Pielke to provide some advice to journalists who might be called on to cover climate change in the coming years:

Q: What should we, as journalists who cover the climate change story, be looking for in the next few years? How should we frame this issue so we can avoid getting stuck too long in boxes that keep us from looking at the story from a variety of productive angles?

A: The climate change story is now 100% political.  Science plays a role in it, but there is no separating the science from the politics.  Thus the most important questions will be about politics — US action, EU performance, Copenhagen, etc.  Understanding the different perspectives on the politics will require some effort.  It is not alarmists and deniers, but something far more complicated and nuanced.

 

Q: What pitfalls should we avoid in focusing more on policy?

A: Taking sides.  Climate policy needs more options, not less.  Don’t exclude voices because you disagree with their politics or justifications.  Like it or not people wanting to go slow or not go at all are part of the political scene.  Some even use justifications grounded in non-consensus views on the science.  You are free to report that, but don’t ignore these voices.  Similarly, there are a lot of diverse views on climate policy that are independent of views on the science.  Seek them out, listen to them.  For instance: Why are there critics of cap and trade?;  Why do some people think the EU has failed?;  Why might Obama’s team fail to meet expectations?

There is a view, held by many environmental journalists, that their “beat” is scientists and so often restrict their sources to scientists.  To adequately cover the global warming issue will mean a lot more interaction with social scientists including economists and advocates of various stripes, and understanding these worlds as well.

 

Q: What have we not been covering with regard to climate change that we really should be paying more attention to?

A: Revkin [Andrew Revkin of the N.Y. Times] has done a nice job covering the complexities of science, which don’t always point in one political direction.  For instance, it is true that global temperature increases have stalled in recent years (the IPCC says this stall is only temporary).  The rate of sea level rise has slowed 2003-2008 as compared ro 1993-2003.  2006 and 2007 were the quietest years for Northern Hemisphere hurricane activity in 30 years.  Do these facts change my views on the importance of decarbonization?  No. Is it fair for people to ask “why?” has this happened?  Sure.  Policy can go forward even if the climate evolves in surprising ways. Journalists can help people better understand science, but sometimes this means taking a more critical stance.  See, e.g.,

http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2008/06/17/overheated-claims.aspx

Reporters need to do a better job explaining (not defending) why science is complex and that not everything is known.  Revkin’s views on the complexities of sea level rise are an example of this nuance, and yet, he has had to defend himself against attacks for not always pointing in one direction.  

Nuance is OK.  It is a reflection of the real world.

Reporters could help clarify understandings by asking climate scientists: “What behavior of the climate system over the next 5-10 years would cause you to question the IPCC consensus?”  This would give people some metrics against which to evaluate future behavior as it evolves.

Similarly, you could ask partisans in the political debate “What science would cause you to change your political position on the issue?” This would allow people to judge how much dependence partisans put on science and what science would change their views.  I would be surprised if many people would give a concrete answer to this!!

 

Q: How could we improve our coverage of the science? 

A: Recognize that science is in a very political context.  Forget the “balance as bias” (http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/publications/downloads/boykoff04-gec.pdf ) argument.  Political coverage requires balance, even if the justifications on offer aren’t popular or are even wrong.

 

Q: What is going to be the single most important story to tell in connection with climate change in the next few years?

A: The utter failure of the global climate regime starting with the new efforts of the U.S. under Obama, (and why people who saw it coming were ignored).

 

Q: Have we put too much faith in the peer review system? And should we seek sources outside the usual scientific circles?

A: Peer review is simply a cursory check on the plausibility of a study. It is not a rigorous replication and it is certainly not a stamp of correctness of results.  Many studies get far more rigorous peer review on blogs after publication than in journals.  I use our own

blog for the purpose of getting good review before publication for some of my work now, because the review on blogs is often far better and more rigorous than from journals. This is not an indictment of peer review or journals, just an open-eyed recognition of the realities.

It is hard to say who is outside and who is inside scientific circles anymore.  McIntyre now publishes regularly in the peer reviewed literature.  [Pielke is speaking of Steve McIntyre, whom I would describe as a climate change gadfly; he publishes a blog called "Climate Audit"] Gavin Schmidt blogs and participates in political debates.  [Schmidt is a NASA earth scientist who conducts climate research.] Lucia Liljegren works at Argonne National Lab as an expert in fluid dynamics and blogs quite well on climate predictions for fun. She is preparing a paper for publication based on her work, but she has never done climate work before.  I am a political scientist who publishes in the Journal of Climate and Nature Geoscience and blogs. Who is to say who is ‘outside’ and who is ‘inside’?  Is participation in IPCC the union card?  How about having a PhD?  Publishing in the literature?  Testifying before Congress? 

I don’t envy journalists because there are no fast and ready indications of who is expert on what subjects.  Following rules of thumb too rigorously will likely lead to blind spots and missing out on important aspects of stories.  Journalists have figured this out in

many areas (which is why they read blogs and social networking sites etc.), and I presume the best of them will figure this out for science-related stories as well.

This debate featuring Wigley and Holdren about who is inside and who is outside is enlightening along these lines:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/climate-experts-debating-the-role-of-experts-in-policy-4330

 [Editor's note: Tom Wigley is a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and John Holdren, who is an environmental policy expert at Harvard , was tapped to be President-elect Barack Obama's science advisor.]

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This thing has 57 Comments

  1. Pat Frank
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Steve McIntyre, with Ross McKitrick, has nearly single-handedly refuted one of the three legs on which global warming alarm depends, namely the so-called “hockey stick” of millennial temperatures. He is hardly a climate “gadfly.” He has become perhaps the major player in proxy thermometry. This story has been badly misunderstood, or perhaps misrepresented, by science journalists. It’s become very clear, to anyone following Steve McIntyre’s work, that proxy-thermometry is little more than pseudoscience.

  2. Posted January 9, 2009 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting a comment. A quick response: According to Merriam-Webster online, a gadfly is “a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism.” That is precisely what McIntyre has been for many climate scientists. — Tom

  3. Pat Frank
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Merriam-Webster’s definition is irrelevant, Tom. It’s your contextual meaning that is under review. You clearly meant “gadfly” as a diminutive. Steve McIntyre is far more than that. He has redefined the entire field of proxy-thermometry. That few recognize this fact is due to the political contumacy that subverts the field, and to nothing else. You science journalists have missed one of the most important stories in climate science here.

  4. Mike Lorrey
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Quite so, Tom. The question is, will those scientists continue to attack the man or will they BE actual scientists and reconsider their conclusions based upon the errors pointed out by McIntyre, et al? When you go over to realclimate.org, the consensus opinion over there is to ad hominem and appeal to authority, etc etc. a lot of unscientific and illegitimate debating tactics. When AGW skeptics post comments, Mann et al delete their comments rather than let them post and to respond to them respectfully.

    This sort of behavior has led me to conclude that AGW is a cargo cult seeking to trojan horse a political agenda through pseudoscience.

  5. Posted January 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I am a journalist. My job is to use precise language, and also to cover the issues as fairly and accurately as I can while maintaining an open mind. (And btw, I spoke with Steve McIntyre for over an hour yesterday.) As a journalist, I do my best to get at the truth. Sometimes I get closer than other times. In pursuit of the truth, I can no more ignore what most scientists say about these issues as I can ignore credible evidence casting doubt on any particular finding.

    As for the word “gadfly,” I’m sorry, but as a journalist the definition of any word I use can never be “irrelevant.” If it is, I am not doing my job to report as precisely as I can. I looked up that particular word and made a considered decision to use it because of its precise definition. Perhaps you don’t see him as a “gadfly” because you passionately believe he is right and so many other scientists are wrong. But objectively speaking, McIntyre fits the definition of “gadfly.” He may well be right. But I’m not an expert in this field, and I cannot pick sides. I can only report the issues as I see them and promise that I will maintain an open mind and a journalistically skeptical stance towards any claims.

  6. Phil Howerton
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    As a lay reader of Climateaudit.org for several years, and as a fairly often visitor to realclimate, I have been astonished at the statistical ineptitude of the IPCC “annointed” proxy-thermometry scientific community. Are you aware of the widespread, years’ long refusals to release data, codes and algorithms so that individuals like Steve McIntyre can replicate and/or test their results? Are you aware of the arrogance, the insults, the lies and misrepresentations they have visited upon him? Pat frank is exactly right: you science journalists (and, of course, the popular media) have missed a fascinating and crucially important story; indeed, a great mystery story. Regardless of where you stand vis-a-vis climate change, you collectively owe a responsibility to your readers to report objectively this ongoing saga. Someday, someone is going to write a great book about this and it is going to be a bestseller. The “Seabiscuit” of climate science.

  7. Pat Frank
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Steve McIntyre doesn’t deserve the word “gadfly,” Tom, he deserves the word ‘scientist.’ As a journalist and a wordsmith, you know that words have many meanings, any one of which is determined in situ by context. Your context is clear, and you clearly meant “gadfly” as a diminutive.

    Here’s an example of your precision: “because you passionately believe he is right.” You don’t know my feelings, Tom. Thus, your phraseology there is meant in context to impugn my view as irrational. But I’m a scientist. I’ve read the primary literature on climate modeling and on proxy-thermometry. My opinion is very considered. Steve McIntyre is perhaps the most important scientist today in proxy studies. He’s not a “gadfly.”

  8. Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    The only context I see here is a Q&A of Roger Pielke, Jr., with no commentary or reporting from me whatsoever. So I’m not sure on what basis you conclude that I used the word in any sense other than it’s dictionary meaning. As for my saying that you believe passionately that McIntyre is right, I’m sorry that I made an assumption. But do you not have a “strong belief” (part of the definition of “passionate”) that he is right? It sure doesn’t sound like you’re lukewarm about this.

    Concerning McIntyre being “perhaps the most important scientist today in proxy studies,” that is your opinion. You may well be right, or maybe not. Regardless, any dispassionate, objective outsider looking in certainly would conclude that in relationship to most of the climate science community, McIntyre is “a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism.” Are you trying to argue that he does not stimulate discussion? (Has he not done so here?) Do you really mean to say that he does not annoy the climate science community? Has he not been persistently critical? Come on Pat, that is exactly what he has done. And my pointing it out says absolutely nothing about what I may or may not believe about the scientific issues.

  9. Phil Howerton
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Time to relax. I don’t have a problem with “gadfly,” but I think Pat may have been bitten by one in an earlier life. The important thing, Tom, is that you are reporting the “other side of the story;” something that’s all too rare these days. Looking forward to the report of your conversation with McIntyre.

  10. keith kloor
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Not to beat a dead horse here, but since Tom interviewed Steve McIntyre yesterday, I’d be curious to know if the gadfly characterization came up. Does McIntyre believe the label fits?

  11. Pat Frank
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Someone with intent to be a “gadfly” would set out to cause annoyance and turmoil. The label would then be appropriate. Steve did not set out to cause annoyance or turmoil. He set out to do an audit and then published his findings in accepted fashion. That his work caused annoyance in others does not imbue Steve with gadfly status, unless, of course, we should label ourselves in terms supplied by others.

    Better than calling Steve a gadfly would be to call some others rigidly partisan for reacting to a legitimate criticism with recalcitrance and annoyance rather than by gracefully and with integrity changing their deeply flawed methodology.

  12. keith kloor
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Okay, paging William Safire…

  13. RK
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Tom – I hope you have a follow-up with Pielke Jr. on his statement re: the next big story: “The utter failure of the global climate regime starting with the new efforts of the U.S. under Obama, (and why people who saw it coming were ignored).”

    To be fair, I’m sure that journalists don’t have an easy time with this. As Pielke Jr. himself says, the issue has been totally politicized. So we seem to be confronted with a Hobson’s choice of destroying our economy or destroying our planet.

    I think it is way more nuanced than that, but it takes a lot of work to understand all the issues and the biases.

    BTW, re: gadfly: I’d point out that McIntyre was the only person to get a non-professional label. Gavin is an “earth-scientist”, Lucia works in fluid dynamics. A neutral reporting would simply say McIntyre is a “former mining executive” or something like that.

  14. John McL
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    You miss one of the most important political aspects, governments funding research projects according to their relevance to policy. It’s a popular concept among governments because gets away from being a scatter gun that spends (some say “wastes”) money on pointless projects, and of course it can be used to reinforce the government’s position.

    The problem with this approach is that government politics are essentially trying to dictate scientific truths before the scientists have comprehensively investigated all the issues. Unfortunately this targeted funding means that certain areas will be starved of funds (and consequently produce few published papers) but other areas will be overflowing with money and produce a huge pile of papers.

    Take climatology. Governments support the IPCC’s findings and direct research funding accordingly, then the next IPCC report has a greater number of papers to cite and it claims that a human influence is more certain, so governments throw even more money into “policy relevant” areas, and the spiral continues.

    Of course the direct influence on research isn’t the only issue here. Researchers need jobs so when funding is only issued if it conforms to a certain belief who can blame those researchers for not rocking the boat. The number of newly-retired scientists who are skeptical of a significant human influence on climate says volumes about what goes on.

  15. Bob Schaevitz
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I must pile on with Pat Frank. The term “gadfly” is consistently used describe someone such as a crank who frequents public meetings and is almost always argumentative and dismissive in his comments. Of course, the gadfly can often be right, but that isn’t the point. The word is definitely NOT neutral in value, and its use in this context fairly shouts out the writer’s own dismissive attitude. Mr. Youlsman’s protestations to the contrary, hiding behind a “Merriam-Webster” definition actually makes the bias more obvious. Does he really think we don’t have dictionaries or that only “journalists” are concerned with the meanings of words?

    Any fair reading of McIntyre’s website gives the overwhelming impression of someone who bends over backward not to engage in ad hominem attacks, to the point of cutting off commenters to his blog who move in that direction.

    Further, there is indeed implied valuation by the use of credentials and titles (or omission of same), something that is always the last resort of those who have no substantive points to make. One should talk of the merits of the positions taken, not who has taken them, unless of course the person engages in openly political activity such as writing to the president-elect on the social justice benefits of carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs.

  16. Mike Davis
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    McIntire is a statistics analist who has attempted to replicate paleo cllimate statistics and has constantly run into brick walls trying to receive methods and procedures from so called climate scientists.
    That is news that needs to be out and not buried by so called enviormental journalists.

  17. Hank
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Gadfly? “Dissenting voice” would have been nicer, but then again who wants to read nice.
    As a skeptic I don’t feel a need to go further than believing that something is unknown and that certain rhetoric is dubious. If Roger Pielke feels that skeptics are being skeptical simply out of contrariness, when he says that he doubts that partisans could give concrete examples of evidence that could satisfy them in a scientific way, I would say that the evidence for catastrophic global warming that I would look to is rate of sea level rise. To be alarmed I would expect a significant rate of rise, and a good means of measurement (preferably satellite). Ninety-nine years is considered a long term for a lease and that would seem like a reasonable period to expect people could adapt to other than the completely drastic.
    Being skeptical does not mean I am not sufficiently curious about numerical models to not welcome any kind of comprehensive account of the factors involved in climate estimation. How weightings for such factors are arrived at and how factors interact and vary. There are plenty of popular scientific accounts of difficult topics such as relativity, quantum mechanics, chaos, and cosmology to think that an account of climate modeling for an intelligent and interested reader should be doable. The only books I have seen thus far are only sensational and not dedicated to walking through the scientific arguement point by point.

  18. Deep Climate
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    “For instance, it is true that global temperature increases have stalled in recent years (the IPCC says this stall is only temporary).”

    Maybe so if you compare 2008 to 2001. But that’s just a measure of short term natural variation (after all, we’ve just come out of a very strong La Nina year). If you compare the 2000s to the 1990s, you get a very different picture. For a good critique of Pielke’s latest nonsense check out Eli Rabbett at:

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2009/01/baseline-game-ethon-came-flying-in-from.html

    By the way, the National Post is notorious for ptinting misleading “skeptic” pseudo-scientific commentary and has lavished every “skeptic” initiative with lavish praise. National Post also played a key role in advancing the “Bali” open letter of 2007.
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Natural_Resources_Stewardship_Project#NRSP_Activities

    You have started an interesting series. I hope you will consider interviewing Gavin Schmidt of NASA (and realclimate.org) or Tamino of OpenMind.

  19. Zeph
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    @Hank – I agree that an extensive popular account of climate modeling would be interesting. As a software engineer but not a climate modeler, I wonder how feasible it would be to actually present this topic in meaningful depth for non-scientists. Many of the popularizations of relativity, quantum mechanics, etc are really not covered at much better depth than a movie script, alas, failing to distinguish between isolated speculation and consensus theory and focusing on the spectacular and exotic. I would want better than that. I’m afraid climate modeling might turn out to be less than dramatic enough to capture market share in bookspace.

    However, the real challenge would probably be the politicization of the topic, compared to quantum theory et al. People would be scouring it for ammunition. I am somewhere between amusement and dismay at how often untrained lay people feel they can grasp a complex scientific subject in half an hour of reading a popular account, to the degree that their opinion holds at least equal weight with scientists specializing in the field. Ah well, it would be an interesting topic to understand better anyway (I don’t have a big axe to grind either way on the subject of climate modeling).

  20. Posted January 9, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Tom – If you’re going to use the “gadfly” definition consistently, it pretty clearly must be applied to Roger as well. “Gadfly” is certainly not the only thing Roger does (and to be clear, I am a fan of Roger’s academic as well as gadfly work). But neither is “gadfly” the only thing Steve does. To single out that part of Steve’s public life and use it as the label is a value-laden choice.

  21. Gadfly
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Just for fun, google “climate yulsman”.

  22. Mark_T
    Posted January 9, 2009 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    I don’t consider McIntyre a gadfly. In my view, he’s just meticulously verifying some of the work done by the IPCC. He seems to me to be more of a reviewer (and an unpaid one at that).

  23. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    I do think that the term “gadfly” is value-laden, but perhaps not in the sense that some commenters here take it to be. Some journalists wear the gadfly label with pride, such as I. F. Stone — “I have gone from pariah to gadfly and, if I live long enough, I will become an institution” — whose book, “The Trial of Socrates” chronicles the experiences of the first gadfly.

    So if Steve McIntyre is in the gadfly stage of evolution from pariah to institution, that would not be such a bad thing ;-)

    So if John F or Tom or anyone else wan’t to call me a gadfly, I would mind the label at all; there are worse role models than I. F. Stone and Socrates in the body politic.

  24. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    But more importantly, as much fun as it is to discuss Greek philosophers and such, doesn’t anyone want to discuss the provocative and interesting comments of the interviewee? ;-)

  25. googler
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Gadfly above – thanks, 5th hit was new to me (CEJournal 30Dec08) and suggests Tom has a strong personal opinion. Tom – have you tested your position (whatever it may be) against the relevant contrarian arguments? I’d have thought that is the best compliment you can pay a Gadly!

    re: the issues – I’d like to see a journalist pick up on the doubts some of Steve’s work has raised about peer review, data integrity etc etc. I’d be very pleased to see someone write to all the Institutions who have positions of support for the IPCC asking what work was undertaken by whom in their institute prior to arriving at their posn. of support.

    re: the interview with Roger – I’d appreciate clarification of:
    “A: The utter failure of the global climate regime starting with the new efforts of the U.S. under Obama, (and why people who saw it coming were ignored).”

    What is meant by “The utter failure of the global climate regime..”?

  26. keith kloor
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I’ll take the bait, Roger. I have long admired your agile mind in the climate change debate. Your published works and talks (which I have heard at AAAS and at CU over the years) has broadened my own thinking on the solutions aspect of the issue. So I was disappointed in some of the simplistic, pat statements you gave Tom during the interview.

    For example, isn’t it a bit premature to predict Obama’s approach will be an “utter failure.” After all, the guy isn’t even President yet. Can you provide some basis for this prognostication?

  27. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Googler,Keith-

    Thanks for the questions. And yes that one sentence was meant to provoke a bit more than provide a comprehensive analysis. I see that it worked ;-)

    My expectation of utter failure has to do with putting the US (and the world) on a policy course that will in fact lead to slowing growth in global emissions, and then a reduction in emissions. I received an email from a reporter soon after Tom posted this up about this same sentence asking if I meant that the US would not participate in a global agreement or the world would fail to reach an agreement at Copenhagen.

    If success means simply reaching an agreement at Copenhagen, then sure, I expect that there will be success. But if success means actual emissions reductions (and not accounting games), then I expect “utter” failure on this count. I’ll be the first to admit that these are just predictions and we’ll have to wait and see for the data to come in. Fortunately there are some near-term targets, like 2020 so we can soon assess progress. But even with data in, people differ on judgments of success and failure. Differing evaluations of the EU experience speak to that.

    But if the focus of Obama’s efforts are cap-and-trade and long-term targets and timetables, then I’ll go out on a limb and predict that these policies may well do many things, but one thing they won’t do is meaningfully lead to emissions reductions.

    It probably won’t be from a lack of effort or sincere concern from Obama and his team, but because the wrong policies have been backed, as has happened in Europe, and that is the story that I encouraged Tom to look into.

    Obama is probably going to be the victim of some bad timing for climate policy evaluations. It seems likely that both US and global emissions will slow a bit in 2008 and 2009, as the economy slows. But to the extent that stimulus packages stimulate the economy could very well come roaring back in 2010 and beyond. If so this will be a great success of Obama’s economic policies, but it also means that carbon dioxide emissions will come roaring back as well. I can anticipate Obama’s critics showing emissions growth under GWB vs. that under Obama. Both will be due more to happenstances of history than climate policy, but this is exactly my point.

  28. Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Q: What is going to be the single most important story to tell in connection with climate change in the next few years? A: The utter failure of the global climate regime starting with the new efforts of the U.S. under Obama, (and why people who saw it coming were ignored).

    I don’t understand this answer, but I’m very interested in the question. Could someone more familiar with the context share some insight? Many thanks.

  29. DWhite
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Deep Climate: I kind of hope Tom does interview Tamino. The level of insult and bile the man spews out at every opportunity should open a few eyes. Eli would be good, too, especially if you’re a fan of snarky ad homs. Certainly it would help people understand the kind of viciousness people who don’t toe the AGW party line are exposed to. Compare Tamino’s and Eil’s site to McKintyre’s, and see who comes off as the more professional.

  30. Posted January 10, 2009 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting that Roger Pielke says:

    “Obama is probably going to be the victim of some bad timing for climate policy evaluations. It seems likely that both US and global emissions will slow a bit in 2008 and 2009, as the economy slows. But to the extent that stimulus packages stimulate the economy could very well come roaring back in 2010 and beyond. If so this will be a great success of Obama’s economic policies, but it also means that carbon dioxide emissions will come roaring back as well.”

    While John Whitehead over on env-eco and Joe Romm on climate progress, are mud wrestling over Richard Stavins’ aside in the New Yorker:

    “When I presented Jones’s arguments to Robert Stavins, a professor of business and government at Harvard who studies the economics of environmental regulation, he offered the following analogy: “Let’s say I want to have a dinner party. It’s important that I cook dinner, and I’d also like to take a shower before the guests arrive. You might think, Well, it would be really efficient for me to cook dinner in the shower. But it turns out that if I try that I’m not going to get very clean and it’s not going to be a very good dinner. And that is an illustration of the fact that it is not always best to try to address two challenges with what in the policy world we call a single-policy instrument.”

    Clearly either Roger and Romm are correct and the problems are so linked that you can’t attack one without affecting the other or Stavins and Whitehead are right and you HAVE to attack them separately.

    Still, you gotta wonder about people like Pielke who do their best to see that there is no significant action taken to deal with greenhouse emissions and climate change and then decry others for failing.

    Oh yes. Gadfly.

  31. Deep Climate
    Posted January 10, 2009 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Roger,
    I do disagree strongly with this statement:
    “For instance, it is true that global temperature increases have stalled in recent years (the IPCC says this stall is only temporary).”

    I do not see evidence that this so-called “stall” represents a departure from the upward trend of the last 30 years.

    In fact, the linear trend from 1979-2008 in all the global temperature data sets is *higher* than that from 1979-2000, even though the short term trend from 2001-2008 in isolation may be flat or slightly desecending. See, for example, this graph of the UAH TLT global temperature trend.

    The phenomenon of an overall trend lying outside the range of two sub-segment trends is well known in statistical literature. In extreme cases, both sub-segment trends can be of opposite direction to the overall trend (Simpson’s Paradox), although that is not the case here.

    Morover this “true” statement is explicitly rejected by at least two of the surface data analysis teams (NASA/Giss and Hadley Center). At the very least, it must be recognized that this is a highly contentious assertion and would not be endorsed by most climate scientists.

  32. Posted January 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures continue their inexorable rise, some skeptics will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the laws of physics don’t apply to the atmosphere.

  33. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Deep Climate-

    You don’t disagree with me, I don’t see any evidence that the stall represents a departure from IPCC projections.

  34. Posted January 11, 2009 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman says

    “I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures continue their inexorable rise, some skeptics will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the laws of physics don’t apply to the atmosphere.”

    Which clearly says that they are not skeptics, they are denialists. Whatever it is, they’re agin it. Those openly in denial are easy to spot, it’s the <a href=”smiling lomborgs that you have to think about.

  35. Posted January 11, 2009 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I have an aversion to using the term “denialists.” It was invented — I do not find it in my dictionary — to draw a parallel to Holocaust denial, but the two things aren’t even remotely comparable. I grew up with people who had numbers tattooed on their arms — they were Holocaust survivors. So I refuse to trivialize their lives by using this phraseology. “Skeptic” is good enough for me.

  36. Posted January 11, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman says

    “I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures continue their inexorable rise, some skeptics will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the laws of physics don’t apply to the atmosphere.”

    Which clearly says that they are not skeptics, they are denialists. Whatever it is, they’re agin it. Those openly in denial are easy to spot, it’s the smiling lomborgs and the I’m on your side Pielkes that you have to think about.

    Roger always manages to err on one side. This is a pretty good indicator or his strategy. Let us consider a recent example (besides the interview above, thanks to Tom Yulsman) Look at the graph Roger posted to show that there has been a halt in the rise of global temperature anomalies. The graph is designed to show that IPCC predictions are high over the period 1990 to the present. To give this impression Pielke started the IPCC predictions from a high point which he labeled 1990 (first IPCC report)rather than setting it at the normal 30 year average. This moved all the predictions above the measurements.

    But wait, there is more. As one sharp eyed commentator put it

    “if RP started his graph in 1989 and had used the same zeroing convention …most of the GISS values beyond 1990 would fall above the IPCC projection rather than below it as in RP’s graph.

    But I just realized something.

    The IPCC projections started at the beginning of 1990 and the observed temperature data RP shows (for GISS, for example) is for the end of 1990.

    In other words, RP made an(other) error.

    He should actually should have started his graph using the data values for end of 1989 (not end of 1990).

    The data swings upward by almost 0.2 deg C from end 1989 to end 1990. (At end of 1989, for example, the GISS temp anomaly value was 0.2 (vs 0.38 at end of 1990) )

    Though the offset is different, you can see the uptick in temperature over that year clearly by looking at Tamino’s graph here.”

    In other words, the premise of much of the interview is, let us be polite, you could grow plants with it {See especially Ike Solem’s comment at the last link about another example of Prof. Pielke playing the baseline game).

  37. Posted January 11, 2009 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman says

    “I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures continue their inexorable rise, some skeptics will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the laws of physics don’t apply to the atmosphere.”

    Which clearly says that they are not skeptics, they are denialists. Whatever it is, they’re agin it. Those openly in denial are easy to spot, it’s the smiling lomborgs and the I’m on your side Pielkes that you have to think about.

    Roger always manages to err on one side. This is a pretty good indicator or his strategy. Let us consider a recent example (besides the interview above, thanks to Tom Yulsman) Look at the graph Roger posted to show that there has been a halt in the rise of global temperature anomalies. The graph is designed to show that IPCC predictions are high over the period 1990 to the present. To give this impression Pielke started the IPCC predictions from a high point which he labeled 1990 (first IPCC report)rather than setting it at the normal 30 year average. This moved all the predictions above the measurements.

    But wait, there is more. As one sharp eyed commentator put it

    “if RP started his graph in 1989 and had used the same zeroing convention …most of the GISS values beyond 1990 would fall above the IPCC projection rather than below it as in RP’s graph.

    But I just realized something.

    The IPCC projections started at the beginning of 1990 and the observed temperature data RP shows (for GISS, for example) is for the end of 1990.

    In other words, RP made an(other) error.

    He should actually should have started his graph using the data values for end of 1989 (not end of 1990).

    The data swings upward by almost 0.2 deg C from end 1989 to end 1990. (At end of 1989, for example, the GISS temp anomaly value was 0.2 (vs 0.38 at end of 1990) )

    Though the offset is different, you can see the uptick in temperature over that year clearly by looking at Tamino’s graph here.”

    In other words, the premise of much of the interview is, let us be polite, you could grow plants with it {See especially Ike Solem’s comment at the last link about another example of Prof. Pielke playing the baseline game).

    Apologies for the last two bad html comments. Tom, please remove them. This one should be readable (a preview function is needed Sunday mornings)

  38. Pat Frank
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Roger P. wrote, “I don’t see any evidence that the stall represents a departure from IPCC projections.

    Nothing represents a departure from IPCC projections.

  39. Deep Climate
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Roger,
    In this graph, you show 2008 temperatures anywhere from 0.3 deg. (RSS) to more than 0.4 deg (UAH) *below* the IPCC 2007 projected trend; indeed, virtually all the temperatures from 2000 on are shown below the trend line. This is clearly nonsense, and appears to be the result of improper baselining.

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/2008-temp-update.jpg

    If the linear trend line for 1979-2008 is *higher* than that for 1979-2000, how can you say there has been a “stall” in “global temperature increases”? When did this “stall” begin? Note that in my original I referred to a “so-called stall”, so I disagree with you that there has been a stall in warming in any relevant sense, other than expected interannual fluctuations.

    Tom,
    I, too, am not comfortable with comparisons to holocaust denial. And I don’t generally use the term “denialist”. However, I also think that most users of the term have in mind a parallel to the deceptive “Big Tobacco” PR campaigns to deny the science establishing a link between smoking and cancer. IMHO, this is a valid comparison; see, for example, the role of APCO Worldwide and other PR professionals in the activities of the Calgary-based anti-Kyoto group Friends of Science.

    http://sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Friends_of_Science

  40. Raven
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman says:

    “I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures continue their inexorable rise, some skeptics will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the laws of physics don’t apply to the atmosphere.”

    I would revise that to say:

    “I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures *fail to rise as predicted*, some *alarmists* will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the *observed data is wrong and the climate models are still right*.”

    The discussion over the recent stalled temperatures is a good example. If one approaches the data with the attitude that the climate models must be presumed to be correct until proven otherwise then one can say that a 10 year stall in temperatures does not disprove the models.

    However, if one treats the climate models as an unverified hypothesis then a 10 year stall in temperature does cast considerable doubt on the reliability of the models.

    As a science reporter, you could contribute to the discussion by emphasizing that the ability to predict the future is the only measure that counts when it comes to determining whether climate models are useful and that it does not make a difference how many people “believe” that the models are correct if the data does not support that claim.

    Also, when it comes to reporting financial results for companies we have long recognized the need to have external auditors who independently verify the claims of management. And we have also discovered that relying on auditors who are not truely independent does lead to finanical scandals like Enron. Given the stakes in the climate debate I think it is essential that the performance of climate models be constantly audited by people who are independent of the groups who develop the models. A proper audit would also require that the datasets used to verify the models are similarily audited.

    I realize that the idea of such audits will be firmly rejected by the people in charge of the models but such objections only illustrate why such audits are absolutely essential if these models are to be used to drive public policy decisions.

  41. googler
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    re: Roger, January 10, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for clarifying. Your reply tends to suggest a need for other ways of reducing CO2 emissions? I wondered if one of the aspects of bad timing you referred to is a potential public reevaluation of the role of CO2 in climate and the current IPCC view of projected temperatures? Also – do you think that less abstract measures such as max. CO2/kWh and stricter and wider minimum energy efficiency legislation have anything to offer?

    re: Tom, January 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    Thanks for responding – Which laws of physics are you referring to? I guess your reply makes it clear that you believe temperatures are on an inexorable rise. What work have you done to arrive at that position? I’d still suggest that there is a story of public interest and benefit asking the same question of the many supporters of the IPCC’s conclusions.

  42. Hoi Polloi
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Interesting to see that Eli Rabett with his comments proofs exact;y what the AGW apostles would do. All we have to do is waiting for Tamino’s comments to make the circle round.

    My computer model predicts that it won’t be long until the Gadfly is transferred into a Nemesis.

  43. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Deep Climate-

    The figure of mine that you point to has nothing to do with baselines. It is a comparison of observed temperatures with the projected IPCC trend. The choice of starting date in 1990 is the IPCC’s not mine, though of course you could choose other starting dates. To compare the evolution of actual temperatures with a trend line starting in a particular year you set the first year to zero and then see how things evolve from there. For comparison, if your mutual fund manager tells you that you can expect about a 7% average return and you want to see how your performance compares with that average, you would produce a graph just like I did. If your mutual fund manager said that your below market returns actually reflected improper baselining, you might find another manager ;-)

    Starting in 1990 the IPCC has said that temperatures would increase by about 0.2 degrees per decade. So over 18 years that increase would be approaching 0.4. However all four datasets show 2008 temperatures about equal to or just above 1990 values, so yes they are 0.3 to 0.4 in fact less than the trend line. That is not nonsense, that is just what the data show through 2008.

  44. Bob Schaevitz
    Posted January 11, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman: “I suspect two things are for sure: A) If over the longer term temperatures continue their inexorable rise, some skeptics will find some other pointed arguments for why B) the laws of physics don’t apply to the atmosphere.”

    This is the statement of a “journalist”? It’s possibly the most emotion-laden comment of the entire thread! You could have said: “If over the longer term temperatures continue to rise, those who doubt AGW will clearly need to revisit their arguments.” But your actual statement is just a sneer. The only thing it lacks is name-calling. Oh, I forgot about “skeptics.”

    The irony is, I would assume you have no real idea of what those “laws of physics” are, as the entire climate modeling exercise consists of multivariate curve-fitting supported by data mining, based on piss-poor data at that. Climate is not a physics issue, it’s systems issue, and climate models perform about as well at their job as economic models do at forecasting the economy. No, actually, they’re worse. Climate models cannot even replicate the past, which is the lowest bar of any simulation model.

  45. Deep Climate
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Roger,
    The IPCC projection baseline in AR4 was *not* the single year 1990; it was 1980-1999. Therefore, your graph should have shown all trend lines and annual anomalies in the various data sets relative to that baseline as zero.

    As 1990 was a relatively warm year in most data sets, proper baselining would tend to move the annual anomaly data sets higher relative to the true IPCC baseline (and the trend projections). It would also show different 1990 anomalies for the various data sets, of course.

    Now 2008 would still be below the IPCC 2007 trend line, but many others would be above in most data sets (e.g. 2005).

    If you can’t or won’t revise your graph accordingly, I’ll do it for you when I have time later this week.

  46. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Deep Climate-

    The figure I produced has all 4 IPCC reports on it, and they are all scaled to 1990 to allow an apples to apples comparison of trend predictions and actual temperatures since 1990. You can of course scale them differently than I did if you’d like, or start in a different year, or do any of a number of different things. As you say, it won’t change the fact that recent years are running below IPCC trend.

    If you want to look only at the 2007 IPCC, then you should start the prediction in 2001 and compare the data with that baseline. This has been looked at in depth by Lucia Liljegren at her blog.

    Feel free to follow up on our blog as I probably won’t be checking back on this thread.

  47. Roger Pielke, Jr.
    Posted January 12, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that you can see the same figure through 2007 with the observations plotted against a 1980-1999 baseline here:

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/admin/publication_files/resource-2592-2008.07.pdf

    The trends are with respect to a 1990 baseline.

  48. Posted January 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Some good points are made in the interview (e.g. the need to report on “diverse views on climate policy that are independent of views on the science”), but I disagree with Pielke when he suggests that journalists should ‘teach the controversy’. (“Forget the “balance as bias” (http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/publications/downloads/boykoff04-gec.pdf) argument. Political coverage requires balance, even if the justifications on offer aren’t popular or are even wrong.”)

    This is highly surprising in light of the reference provided by Pielke, which sais that the press’s adherence to balance “contributed to a significant divergence of popular discourse from scientific discourse” and lead to “biased coverage of both anthropogenic contributions to global warming and resultant action.”

    For scientific issues that have political implications, it is all the more important that popular reporting leads to a convergence, rather than a divergence, of popular and scientific discourse. Otherwise political suggestions would be made on the basis of scientifically indefensible ideas, which would likely not be good for society as a whole. (see eg http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/climate-skeptics-out-of-touch-with-reality/)

    Unfounded opinions, which have long been proven wrong, should not be continued to be reported. Smoking and health effects, anyone? Thank goodness we moved beyond that. Such opinions don’t contribute to a better understanding of the issues, let alone to better policies. They tend to delay better policies, which for some may be the reason for putting them forward in the first place.

    The most important advice to journalists covering climate change, or other scientific issues that have political implications, is to stay close to the scientific consensus on the topic: The relative weight that ideas get in the popular press should not be much different from the weight that the same ideas get in the scientific arena. That way, the public will get to know what the best available knowledge is on the topic. An individual who thinks he or she knows better than the vast majority of scientists is heartily invited to have their ideas tested in the scientific arena. But reporting on them as if they have equal merit as the accumulation of decades of research by thousands of scientists is not the way to go. I hope that the media will move beyond that sooner rather than later, so we can move on to discussing policy options instead.

  49. Posted January 15, 2009 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Roger, IF the global temperature anomalies had no noise, then you might have a point starting everything at the high point in 1990 (but as dc pointed out, even there Roger picked up the wrong end of the stick). Next, Roger digs out his nature comment where the baseline for the projections in 1990 is set properly. . . well.

    That, of course, raises the point about why Roger played the baseline game in the first place. Of course, if you audit the figure he now points to, you find that everything has a common baseline EXCEPT the IPCC 2007 projection which is displaced about 0.05 oC ABOVE the others and does not extend back to 1990, but only to 2000. Of course, to the eye, that looks like a worse fit to the temperature anomaly record. If you move it down, as Eli has now done you can see that the 2007 projection overlays the 2001 projection.

    Honest broker, or three card baseline player. Can’t you just see Roger on the street in downtown Boulder with a cardboard box, a set of crayons and some graph paper looking for some action?

  50. Thom
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Tom Yulsman wrote: I have an aversion to using the term “denialists.” It was invented — I do not find it in my dictionary — to draw a parallel to Holocaust denial, but the two things aren’t even remotely comparable. I grew up with people who had numbers tattooed on their arms — they were Holocaust survivors. So I refuse to trivialize their lives by using this phraseology.

    Tom, please explain how you KNOW why the term denialist came into the lexicon. Are you some sort of trained etymologists, or are you — as I suspect — just making things.

    Just the facts, please.

  51. Posted February 28, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Thom:

    Contrary to what you say, I do not make things up. And I have to say that you are living in deep denial if you think people use the term “global warming denier” or “denialist” without implying a parallel to Holocaust denial. In fact, some people do not just imply it. They state it outright, such as Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman (http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/02/09/no_change_in_political_climate/):

    “I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.”

    She’s certainly entitled to her opinion. But having known concentration camp survivors, and being keenly aware of the history of genocide, I just find the comparison appalling.

    Moreover, the label “denier” is thrown around with abandon to include people who actually believe that global warming is real, is caused by humans, poses significant risks, and demands urgent action. An example is my colleague Roger Pielke, Jr. In this case, the term is used to belittle and demonize Roger because the people who use it do not think he is fully on their side.

    This isn’t about trying to find solutions. It’s about us versus them. It’s about blue versus red. It’s about the same old tired partisan politics that many people, right and left, are hoping will come to an end. But based on my experience in this blog, I’m not holding my breath.

    Lastly, it is true that we are almost certainly in for some really rough times ahead as a result of climate change. And hundreds of thousands of people may die over time. But many hundreds of thousands of people will die from hurricanes, floods, and epidemics tied to poor sanitation in a much shorter time frame. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t done nearly enough personally to help prevent that. And I suspect that many people who throw around the term “global warming denier” as a dagger aimed at people they simply disagree with haven’t done enough either. So in this case, we all acknowledge that this terrible problem exists, yet we stand by and do very little while many die. What does that make us? What term do you suggest we should use to describe our collective, shameful neglect of our fellow human beings?

    Why do we focus so much on demonizing people who do not believe the same things we do instead of working together on the things we do agree on?

  52. Thom
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Tom, so you now admit that you don’t “know” why or how the term was created, but it is your “opinion” that it was invented to draw parallels with the Holocaust. People who question your opinion are “are living in deep denial.”

    Thanks. That’s all I really needed to know.

  53. Posted March 1, 2009 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Thom:

    As I said in my previous response to you, I do not make things up. I am a journalist and I check everything out. The comparison between “global warming deniers” and “Holocaust deniers” has been made explicitly on many occasions. I offered the example of Ellen Goodman, but perhaps you didn’t have time to read that part of my response. You might go back and have a look.

  54. Thom
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Again, Tom. I’m gonna’ ask you the same question. How do you know that the term denialist was “invented” [your words] to draw parallels with the Holocaust? Not “used” as you point out in the column by Ellen Goodman, but actually “invented” as I suspect she picked the picked the phrase up from somebody else?

    I hope you can grasp that there is a distinction between the two words since “your job is to use precise language.” I hope you can also understand that finding examples of use is not the same as finding evidence for cause of creation.

    The first time that I have ever come across anyone using the term climate change denialist to draw parallels with the Holocaust was Roger Pielke Jr. I was both intrigued and a little disgusted as he then began some ham handed attempts use documented genocide as a shield for his blogging missteps. However, I was not at all surprise to find Marc Morano later singing the Pielke chorus in yet another ridiculous press release.

    So again, how do you “know”? I can respect you if you say that it’s your opinion. I can even see that point of view. But what evidence do you have for knowing that it was “invented” for that particular reason?

  55. Posted March 8, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Thom:

    Okay, uncle. Strike “invented.” Replace with “used.”

    Yes, people like Goodman “use” the term “denialist” to draw parallels between skepticism toward anthropogenic climate change and Holocaust denial. Either way — “use” or “invented” — I find the term offensive, and so do quite a few other people who believe global warming is a deadly serious problem.

  56. Thom
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    People use it that to draw parallels and you are offended. That’s fair. Your opinion that it it was invented to make people think about the Holocaust is still a possibility. I think that these issues are difficult if not impossible to prove. How do you show intent when it comes to the development of slang?

    I’m a pretty smart person. I have good ear for language. And I never made any such connection until RPJr began bleating the assertion for his own political purposes. Which makes me think it was all post hoc analysis. Really a poor way to make a case.

  57. Posted March 12, 2009 at 1:24 am | Permalink

    Tom, I have to say I’m with Thom. I participated in the discussion at RPjr’s when he floated the holocaust denial meme, and I have to say that – despite an interest in climate change going back decades- I had never seen the term “denial” used in a sense meant to establish an equivalence with holocaust denial.

    I had thought that it was used mainly to refer to the psychological phenomenon of being “in denial” of something, in which case one becomes more passionate about something because being mistaken would cause too much cognitive pain.

    A quick Google search does come up with a usage in a Mother Earth article by Bill McKibben, where he uses it expressly to refer to pundits, perhaps self-deceived, who are put to convenient use by the powerful fossil fuel interests to protect their returns on investment (certainly an “undeniable” phhenomenon).
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2005/05/climate-denial

This thing has 3 Trackbacks

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    [...] a comment » The Center for Environmental Journalism (CEJ) recently posted an interview with Roger Pielke, Jr., an authority on (as CEJ calls it) “the nexus of science and technology in decision making”. The [...]

  2. Posted January 15, 2009 at 6:05 am | Permalink

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  3. Posted January 21, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

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