31 July 2009

Please Read Climate Progress

It'd sure be nice if people who disagree could debate policy questions based on the merits of the issue. Of course, this is not reality. I have been amused to see Joe Romm, a blogger for the Center for American Progress, find himself unable to respond to the policy arguments that I make, and thus find himself having to instead engage in ever more shrill and personal attacks on me. Most recently he has falsely accused my university of violating my academic freedom by shutting down our blog, Prometheus. They of course did no such thing, and when a reader of both of our blogs called him on it he could not provide the goods (because there aren't any). Does anyone who even remotely knows me think that such a thing would occur and I'd be silent about it?;-) Now Joe says that my positions about climate change are not really my positions, that I am pretending to hold these positions. It is of course much easier to debate someone's views when you just make those views up for them.

To give Joe a bit of a break, he has a role to play for CAP as a bulldog cheerleader for the Waxman-Markey bill. His salary depends upon playing this role which of course explains his about-face on Waxman-Markey and its genesis in the USCAP proposal. The democratic process is full of people on all sides of the aisle who believe that the world is comprised only of us and them and gaining victory over "them" does not mean playing fair, or abiding by the norms of intellectual debate that we in academia find appropriate. It is of course one reason why many people find politics so distasteful. Others like to watch it for the same reason that cage-fights gain a large following -- for some, fights are fun to see, and the blogosphere is no different than anywhere else people interact. The bottom line is that if we academics want to swim in choppy political waters, we have to accept that we can't do so without getting wet.

Joe's increasingly desperate attacks are a good sign that he sees my views as being compelling (or else why attack?) and his inability to confront them head-on a sign that my views are pretty solid. But as with much in the climate debate, things don't work as people would like: Ever since Joe has gone on the rampage about my views, demanding that the media not talk to me and people ignore my views, it seems that my inbox is has been flooded with requests for interviews and to provide commentaries. (Apparently, some in the media don't like being ordered what to do and who to talk to, go figure!;-) Sales of The Honest Broker jump as well. So in the post-modern world of policy debates, you can make stuff up and try to shout people down, but all you really do is draw more attention to their views.

If Joe decides to engage in substantive debate, he is welcome to do so here. If he does not, and wants instead to issue demands to the media and offer what my "real" views are, rather than the ones I actually espouse, well, that is fine by me. I'm pleased for people to read what I write here and also to read Climate Progress (which I strongly encourage) and come to their own conclusions about the arguments that they encounter.


  1. Dr. Pielke,

    The alarmists (and their propaganda arm), long ago informed us the debate was over with respect to the science of climate change. Of course, that is not even close to being accurate.

    It appears as though the same totalitarians are now prepared to inform us that the debate is over with respect to the policy response (and the tiny minority -- as they imagine it -- of dissenters must now be silenced).

    I appreciate the measure of reason you bring to the table -- especially with respect to the relationship between hurricanes and global warming. As you know, your name appears in two citations in this post.

    But, I would (respectfully) still like to see you articulate how you came to conclude that a policy response aimed at reducing CO2 emissions was advisable.

  2. -1-SBVOR

    Thanks. I have discussed this on many occasions on the blog, in articles, and in Congressional testimony. But your question is fair. I'll make a point to address it directly in an upcoming post.

  3. I'm glad to hear this. I've only recently started reading Climate Progress and some of his posts are excellent and thought-provoking. Moreover, I think there is a lot more mutual agreement on some issues than one might infer based upon the level of personal bickering that seems to come almost exclusively from his side of the fence. Of course there is plenty to disagree about, but I hope you continue to encourage people to try to filter out the personal attacks without dismissing his arguments outright. Less fighting and more listening will serve the science policy community well.

  4. First of all, please don't drag mixed martial arts down to the level of politics. ;-) Inside the octogon, all contestants must follow the same explicit rules, and sucess is entirely evidence-based. There's no room for ad hominem attacks when there's a man in front of you trying to knock your head off or choke you into unconsciousness. If only climate policy was that transparent and honest.

    Also, I've often wondered why you acknowledge Joe Romm. I had never heard of him until I started reading climate blogs. I sample multiple English language newspapers every day online, and I've never seen him mentioned, much less quoted. Debating Joe Romm is like wrestling a pig - you'll get dirty, and that's about all you'll get.

  5. -2-Roger,


    If you can do so without citing the purely political IPCC, so much the better. Directly cited peer reviewed science is preferable.

    Once done, you can then cite that one source when pesky commentators request it. ;-)


  6. I read ClimateProgress and I understand that CAP supports the administration.

    I read this blog, and I understand that Roger tries to be an honest broker.

    Now that Joe Romm has labeled an honest broker to be an enemy of the state, what does that say about the administration?

  7. -6-Maurice
    It says nothing, as Joe Romm does not speak for the administration.

  8. 7- Dan,
    You may not believe that the Center for American Progress is a surrogate group for the administration.

    But if you believe that Roger is acting as an honest broker in saying that the cap and trade bill is more Byzantine than effective, then you cannot also believe that the administration’s rhetoric about the bill was credible.

    All administrations use surrogates to deliver the hard edged messages. The way that Joe Romm attacks anyone who disagrees with the accepted policy is defiantly a hard edged message.

  9. "Please read Climate Progress"

    No I won't.

    I did read it a few month ago and actually lost several IQ points following it. I refuse to let my brain come in contact with such poor substantive writing ever again.

    The question is: why bother with such an irrelevant schmuck?

    He want really hard any climate policy. He would like people to ignore you. He is failing on both count. Doesn't this make him irrelevant in the debate.

  10. -8-Maurice

    I appreciate the vote of confidence, however, on climate I am as much an issue advocate as anyone else. Climate surely needs honest brokers, but these won't be individual but broadly comprosed, authoritative policy advisory bodies. to date none exist.


    I once had a student in one of graduate seminars tell the class very proudly "I won't read The Economist, because I disagree with their views on free trade". Needless to say, that was a great "teachable moment" for the class;-) Now I tell/force my students to read something they disagree with as much as possible. So stick with it ;-)

  11. 10 - Roger
    “I appreciate the vote of confidence, however, on climate I am as much an issue advocate as anyone else. “

    I understand that you are an advocate and I disagree with your recommended carbon tax. But at least your recommendations are supported by the conclusions you reach, and those are supported from the facts as you understand them. But this blog is as much about policy as science we can debate process without bogging down on disputed science.

    “Climate surely needs honest brokers, but these won't be individual but broadly comprosed, authoritative policy advisory bodies. to date none exist.”

    I enjoy a good argument, so please say something else.

  12. Dr. Pielke,

    These slides suggest you are concerned about balancing economic concerns with what -- in my view -- is a misguided belief that we humans are capable of micromanaging climate change. That alone proves you have more common sense than the average climate alarmist.

    But, tell me:

    1) Has any effort to date to micromanage climate change proven to be even remotely cost effective?

    2) Do you have any comment on this assessment of the cost/benefit ratio of The Kyoto Protocol?”

    3) What do you think of the IEA assessment that the world will have to spend $45 TRILLION in what I am certain would be an absolutely futile attempt to -- in any meaningful way -- alter the course of climate change?


  13. Dr. Pielke,

    On page 16 of this slide set, you present this slide and this slide showing the relationships between GDP, CO2 and energy sources in France.

    It should be noted -- as I did here -- that France was forced into this position by what is essentially a complete absence of any carbon based energy resources.

    The United States, by contrast, is blessed with the most abundant carbon based resources in the world (at least 7 times the proven petroleum reserves of Saudi Arabia).

    Unfortunately, we are also “blessed” with politicians who have rendered us -- according to The Wall Street Journal:

    “the only nation in the world that has curtailed access to its own energy supplies”

    While we should be looking at building more nuclear plants, we should also be taking better advantage of the most cost effective means of generating energy.

    We have options not available to France!


  14. Read Climate Progress??? No, I will not. Nor do I post any of Mr. Romm's articles on my reference blog. I almost skipped this article, Roger, but out of respect chose to reference it

    Have a good weekend.

    CoRev, editor Globalwarmingclearinghouse.blogspot.com

  15. Hi Roger,

    I usually read much about people with whom I don't with.

    If Joe Romm only had a point of view that differ from mine, it wouldn't be that bad. But, I feel that the little substance, versus the loaded ad hominem attacks of his piece isn't worth noticing him.

    A bit like it is barely worth entertaining the birthers in the case Barack Obama cases. The sad thing is that such a discourse will probably increase the risk for Mr Obama's security.

    On the other hand the republican point of view about health merit reading about and correct the numerous fallacies about canadian health care.

  16. Center for American Progress is headed and was created by Podesta.
    John Podesta was the chairman of Obama's Presidential Transition team.

    If Joe Romm isn't the voice of the administration, harmony is only a phone call away.

  17. I think Joe Romm is still working off the bile from having President Obama select a Nobel Prize winning physicist nobody ever heard of instead of him to be Secretary of Energy.

  18. I have also been on the receiving end of Joe Romm's peculiar behavior with his repeated personal attacks on me at Climate Progress. He even called me a "sociopath" four times in one email.

    Joe is trying to discredit me for having worked at Enron and been Ken Lay's speechwriter, but as it turns out he was the bigger cheerleader for the company than I was in energy matters. I explain this at http://masterresource.org/?p=3617 for those interested.

    I have been told to just leave Joe alone. But he has a wide readership, and by drawing him out, more and more open-minded people will come to see him as part of the climate-change problem, not the solution.

    I certainly do not know anyone on my side of the debate who acts like he does, and I do not think that institutions on the free market side would tolerate what the Center for American Progress does with him. But these are desperate times for climate alarmism and policy activism on all fronts--physical science, political economy, and public policy.

  19. Roger- I appreciate your open mindedness and suggestion to read Climate Progress. However, I have a low tolerance for snark in civil discourse. I like that you are not snarky and regret that some posters on this site have those tendencies.
    If people can't be civil and respectful of people with whom they disagree, frankly, I don't care what they have to say- because for me, the end cannot justify the means. Our country needs to reduce the snark level of civil discourse, in my view, and reading snark builds anyone's tendency to snarkify.
    In my opinion.

  20. Regarding Joe Romm: open debate is desperately needed on the subject of climate change, but I'm never seen anyone 'win' a pissing contest. The reference above to the Obama 'birthers' is appropriate.

  21. Sharon:
    There is a posting currently on Wildfires on Climate Progress (http://climateprogress.org/2009/07/30/climate-change-expected-to-increase-wildfire-frequency-harming-western-air-quality/comment-page-1/#comment-100928 ) that I have contributed to primarily because I have previously looked at temperature data for some of the Western States plus the issues of Wildfires and Mountain Pine Beetles are of general concern. So far the discussion has been very civil though somewhat short of data in some cases. You may want to check how it proceeds.

  22. -21-Bernie,

    Our local “newspaper” did a series on the Pine Beetle issue.

    I summarized my criticism of the series in this post.

    If you care to, feel free to use my posts and/or (obviously) my citations.

  23. -21-Bernie,

    P.S.) Even the climate change alarmists at our local “newspaper” noted that mismanagement by the Forest Service is largely to blame for the current forest fire risk (and the beetle infestation).

  24. SBVOR:
    Thanks. I have a bunch of references on the MPB infestations. However, the immediate key issue involves the temperature record for the immediate vicinity of the infestations. The absence of extremely low temperatures over an extended period of time probably plays a role in the infestations, but given the range of the pests at lower latitudes and lower altitudes it can hardly be the deciding factor. My main concern is that the attribution of the infestations to AGW is a major distraction from determining the actual critical vectors.

  25. "a reader of both of our blogs called him on it"

    Like Sharon, I prefer civil discourse over snark and worse, so I am happy to be of some use, Roger. Unlike Sharon and others, from time time I make an effort to keep in touch with what people all around the spectrum are saying, though I am certainly not a regular reader of Romm.

    Very well said about choppy political waters.

  26. Rob Bradley says, "I certainly do not know anyone on my side of the debate who acts like he does, and I do not think that institutions on the free market side would tolerate what the Center for American Progress does with him."

    Come on, Rob, beauty may be in the mind of the beholder, but the right has always played a highly policized and personnlized game on climate policy; just look at Marc Morano, Stephen Milloy, Chris Horner (and the whole NRO "Planet Gore" corner at NRO), and Noel Shepherd at NewsBusters.

    "But these are desperate times for climate alarmism and policy activism on all fronts--physical science, political economy, and public policy."

    Sure they are, and not merely for the left. In any case, the right bears a great deal of responsibility, for refusing to provide any leadership over the past decade - except leadership on ending wars on terror, gays, enviros and our pocketbooks, which is one of the reasons we now have Dems in charge - while engaging in an orgy of self-righteous pork-barrel for their own special interests, which even now are being fed at the public trough. Good job! Maybe the right needs to hire Bob Luntz back again to give us more strategy memos of the same kind?

    Like you, I`m hoping that "more and more open-minded people will come to see [rent-seeking of all kinds - including by Old King Coal] as part of the climate-change problem, not the solution. But since surely you agree with me, maybe you`d care to share with the rest of the open-minded people here your reasons for BANNING me from commenting at MasterResource?

    And inquiring minds would like to know if they are the same reasons you gave to your co-bloggers (Chip Knappenberger, Tom Tanton, Marlo Lewis, Bob Murphy) for pulling the plug in the middle of the public conversations that they were engaging me in on MR.

  27. Bernie, thanks much for the map to non-snark items of interest. I will visit snarky sites if guided to specific places..

    That discussion, however,seems somewhat off the point when I put on my adaptation hat. We know that fires are more of a problem than in the past.. partially because we spend LOTS more money fighting them. This is due to some combination of 1) lots more people living in the woods, 2) fire suppression, and 3) global warming. Should we spend our energies parsing which is the main and which are the secondary components (which may vary by geography, ecosystem, social system ,etc.) or should we think about things like "if fires are getting more frequent, bigger and more expensive, do we need to fundamentally change our policies and actions for this new world, or should we just do more of what we are already doing?"

    Or perhaps these "is climate change the reason" discussions are more philosophical (how many angels can dance on the head of a pin), than pragmatic (how can I become more angel-like in my life). Yes, it is Sunday which is probably why the spiritual analogy came to mind.

  28. Romm at his finest:


  29. Sorry, Roger I tried to read it but the inanity of his writing is... well lacking substance.

    You would think that someone would explain the inaccuracies found in the video.

    I find it interesting that Eli rabbet (Josh Halpern) seems to be a regular poster there. It gives "a lot" of credit to his own blog.

  30. Sharon:
    My basic point is to focus on clarifying the logic and data behind assertions that a particular outcome is due to a generalized and not specifically local cause - like Global Warming. Mountain Pine Beetles are a real problem as are forest fires. These "problems" are not the issue - the issue is how to identify a cause that is amenable to a meaningful solution.

  31. -24-Bernie,

    Regarding this thread at Climate Progress…

    Are you allowing the alarmists to paint you into a corner of their choosing?

    I have submitted the following comment in the above thread. We’ll see if it is published or not:

    1) Has anybody noticed that the cited “study” has been submitted for peer review but has not yet passed peer review? Heck, I can’t even read the draft report. I get a font error when opening it.

    2) There is reasonable evidence of a correlation between temperature cycles and MPB infestation cycles. The specific geography is irrelevant. Expand the scope to North America and…

    A) Here we have the climate-alarmist-in-chief admitting that:

    “1934 is the warmest year in the contiguous states”

    B) Here we have evidence that the MPB infestation of the 1930’s was more widespread than the current infestation. Click here for the relevant excerpt.

    C) Here we have evidence to suggest that, just in the last 10,000 years of the Holocene, the planet has been through quite a few periods considerably warmer than the last decade.

    Thus, if MPB infestations are correlated with warmer periods, it stands to reason that there have been many, many MPB infestation cycles just in the last 10,000 years.

    3) Like all things in nature, MPB infestations are cyclical events. The only thing unusual about this one is that the Forest Service has created an unprecedented banquet for the MPB. Click here for the facts on that.

  32. Roger #28:
    Does Mike Hulme's book really address the kind of thing that pervades Joe Romm's site?

  33. -30-Bernie,

    The “meaningful solution” is obvious:

    Nature has cycles. We cannot control them. We have almost no impact on them. We can only adapt to them.

    (See my previous post from today -- assuming, as I believe will be the case, it is published).

    Maybe the closest thing to anything good to come from Obama’s so-called “stimulus” bill was funding for cutting dead lodgepole pines in our area. There is -- finally -- one heck of a lot of logging going on in our area around Steamboat Springs, CO.

    Beetle killed wood has a bluish tint around the outer rings. Many find it quite desirable. I know several who have deliberately chosen beetle killed pine for their homes.

  34. SBVOR-

    Please don't get hoodwinked by that old knowledge claim "Forest Service mismanagement causes big fires".

    In the past 100 years, when fire policies were developed, many people felt that loss of life and property to uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) forest fires were a bad thing.
    For example, the "Great Fire of 1910" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_1910, when the Forest Service was just a tiny bureaucratic sprout and could hardly have been responsible,

    burned 3 million acres and burned several towns to the ground. A big fire is serious and very scary even with the technology we have today to fight them (e.g. Hayman 2002) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayman_Fire.

    The knowledge claim I am contesting hers is that it was the desire to "protect timber" that lead to fire suppression policies,and indeed that was a factor but so was protecting human life and property - and not allowing fires to get so big that they are uncontrollable.

    If you were driving down the road and saw a small fire in dry brush, are you likely to say "this area looks like it needs a fire.. I'll drive by and hope no one gets hurt if I just leave it to get bigger."
    What if you were responsible for firefighters' lives? Even today, when we have state-of-the 21st century technologies, people are trying to do prescribed fires and wildfire use, communities and individuals have reasonable fears about their safety.

    The worst that the people of the time, and the Forest Service could be called is probably "overprotective", which to some extent has backfired.(sorry for pun).

    Also I note that we seem to have wandered a bit off the Joe Romm topic. I bet through the summer we will get a chance to discuss this fire thing again.

  35. -34-Sharon F.,

    To deny that misguided so-called environmentalists played a role in the undeniable mismanagement by the Forest Service would qualify as willful ignorance.

    To deny that the other concerns you mentioned also played a role would also qualify as willful ignorance.

    Again, our local propaganda rag would never concede to any failings on the part of environmental extremists. But, that blind spot aside, they did a pretty good job of reporting on the various other failings of Forest Service management. Click here for the entire series.

    Today, recognizing the mistakes of the past, the Forest Service is more inclined -- when life and property are not endangered -- to allow fires to burn themselves out (as nature would have it).

    Where lives and property are at risk, controlled burns are used where they were not before. Both policies take us closer to restoring the circumstances under which the various species in these environments evolved.

    Additionally, home owners are being educated as to how they can reduce the danger to their property in the event of a forest fire in their area. Taking personal responsibility is never a bad thing (except in blue counties).

  36. SVBOR
    OK, can you tell me what the other failings of FS management were? Couldn't quite pull out of lengthy articles.

  37. On fires, as Randal O`Toole at Cato has acknowledged, climate change and bureaucratic mismanagement have both contributed to the scale of fire problem (and of the concomitant "blank-check" budgetary problem).


    "Both policies take us closer to restoring the circumstances under which the various species in these environments evolved."

    Don`t look now, but it seems we have a radical enviro on our hands here, dedicated to an at-any-cost, but futile, effort to maintain the environment at some "ideal" parameters!

  38. SVBOR
    The logical extension of your argument is that people shouldn't build houses in forests in the first place and that would solve the problem.:)

    What I'd like to know is how do we catch these arsonists that are setting off most of the fires? The fuel load wouldn't be so problematic if there weren't so many unnatural sparks.

  39. SBVOR:
    I don't think I am allowing myself to be painted into a corner. I do not think some of the comments at ClimateProgress warrant responses from me.

    One of the things that triggers my attention is the attribution of a general cause to a specific event, as in Global Warming leads to MPB infestations. I can readily believe that a spate of winters with no sub -30 C temperatures allows the critters to build to a critical mass - but it is still important to provide the data to show that there have in fact been a spate of winters without sub -30C temperatures. For that you need proximate temperature records with daily minima. There are some micro-cliamte studies that have been done, but many articles provide no relavant specific temperature data.

    I appreciate your comments and your references to earlier infestations. Your more general comments on temperature patterns, though broadly true, are less on point. We avoid theories based of humors, fluxes and phlogiston by being very specific and operational in our models of cause and effect. I find grand theories with minimal specific data in science, economics or sociology problematic - and mere hand waving. I think that is what makes me a skeptic.

  40. -39-Bernie,

    I completely agree with your “show me the data” approach. And, the failure of the alarmists to so much as provide recent temperature data substantiating the lack of -30F temperatures is pretty glaring.

    But, we skeptics can employ both the “show me the [nonexistent] data” approach and the “I have other data to dispute your alarmism” approach.

    Whether we are talking about the relationship between temperature cycles and MPB infestation cycles or the relationship between temperature cycles and forest fires (or both), my view is that:

    1) Any set of temperature data that does not extend at least as far back as 140,000 years ago -- to the climatic optimum of the previous interglacial warming period -- is critically incomplete.

    2) We can use the localized Vostok data to get a general idea of how global temperature cycles have unfolded over several interglacial warming periods and how current temperatures (at Vostok) compare to previous perfectly natural interglacial warming cycles (at Vostok).

    In particular, we can use the Vostok data, along with the previous MPB infestation data, to debunk the alarmist assertion -- oft repeated on NPR -- that the current MPB infestation is utterly unprecedented throughout all of history and is entirely due to AGW.

    That is why I included Vostok data in my Climate Progress comment.

  41. "debunk the alarmist assertion -- oft repeated on NPR -- that the current MPB infestation is utterly unprecedented throughout all of history and is entirely due to AGW."

    While exaggerated assertions deserve to be attacked, true "skeptics" are careful not to attack strawmen and to avoid ad homs. Those who like to focus on strawmen and extreme cases such as this (while ignoring the obvious role of obvious warming, and failing to distinguish between human history and paleo-proxies) and to label those they disagree with "alarmists" are akin to those whom the villify, by casting aside reason in favor of partisan struggle.

  42. TokyoTom:
    Hopefully, I am just a "true" skeptic - I always get a kick out of the Missouri State Motto.

  43. Romm explains why he lied about why it was that Prometheus was shut down:


    [JR: It was a snarky comment designed to get a rise out of someone who had viciously misrepresented what I had written in order to smear me -- a smear that deniers like Morano reposted. Are you defending what Pielke did? Just curious. More thoughts in response to the next comment.]

    Joe then says:

    "When Pielke apologizes for his gross misrepresentation and smear of what I wrote, then I'll be happy to say Pielke's "explanation" of what happened to Prometheus is what everybody should believe."

    An astute reader then asks Joe:

    Franklin Barrett says:
    August 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    OK! Thanks, Joe. I am eager for the facts.

    So you say you “have received a number of emails from first hand sources (on background)”.. wouldn’t that sort of evidence be worth citing up-front?

    And can you clarify how Pielke, Jr apologizing for his post would compel you to … change your mind about the facts?