OMFG. WSJ Gets Loopy. Me, Too.

The recent IPCC report on the connection between global warming and extreme weather did not make much of a splash in the news.  OK, it was a pretty boring report, but still, I am told the science (some of which was pretty hard to follow) was sound, if overly conservative.

It probably did have one important consequence: sandwiched in the few weeks  between its release and the start of the Durban climate talks, we were treated to Thanksgiving leftovers from the already debunked (repeatedly) “Climategate” e-mail trove of out-of-context, fairly routine talk among scientists.  Even that did not have the impact it did last time around; but, what with the e-mails mined for nuggets that might look damaging when taken out of context, and the Durban talks now going on,  there is a renewed buzz of activity among those who are firmly, squarely, and confidently irrational. Why am I actually surprised by any of this, or that it appears in stark form in today’s Wall Street Journal?  OK, what they are saying is just plain anti-science, but everyone knows that if anything is said often enough in prominent places, a lot people will believe it.

So, how to respond? In my line of work, we are accustomed to examining arguments for either their false premises or for conclusions that do not follow from the evidence or premises. How old school, I know, trying to reason with people.

I was just in the middle of cataloging the confusions, errors, and bad reasoning in today’s downright loopy WSJ editorial about the, um, get ready for this, dying global warming religion. Read it if you have the stomach. You’ll regret it, I promise.

“The Great Global Warming Fizzle: The climate religion fades in spasms of anger and twitches of boredom”

Then, after about an hour of looking at things like storm activity, floods, droughts, temperatures, and some of the connections between climate and weather, I have just become too fed up to continue. There are great bloggers out there who have more patience than I do today, and I will provide their links to the WSJ’s denialism, not just of long-term climate change, but of the short-term extreme weather being experienced all over the globe.

So, for tonight, I have decided to forget about trying to explain why it appears that the evidence relied upon by the WSJ is so much more than flimsy, it actually seems to be misunderstanding even the difference between weather and climate, let alone their connection, or things as basic as how to measure changes in weather during the past few years. Instead of analyzing the WSJ’s ridiculous argument, it seems to me that a change of tone is needed. Maybe not, but I need it.

Which means that all I can muster at the moment is a reprise of a short video I had re-posted a few months ago. It does explain the difference between weather and climate, and the tone seems right. Plus, it is British, so the accents make it sound smarter.



For a more serious piece by David Jenkins on David Frum’s blog about why conservatives should reject the wave of GOP science denial, click here.


The Top 10 Environmental Blogs? Outside Magazine’s Weird List

Oustside magazine has just posted its “Top Ten Environmental Blogs,” and while those listed are very good, there are some omissions that are, in my opinion, well, glaring. Two of the very best environmental blogs, ones which ought to be at, or certainly near, the top of the list, do not even appear on it. Those would be Joe Romm’s Climate Progress and Brad Johnson’s ThinkProgress Green. I will resist the temptation to comment further on Outside’s list, but would be curious to hear feedback from readers of “Say What?”about your favorites.


The Top 10 Environmental Blogs According to Outside

The best environmental blogs, from one-sided political commentators to prolific aggregators and reporters breaking news.

The 10 Best Environmental Blogs

If you think navigating a thick forest using a map and compass is hard, just try making a strategic internet strike to get the latest news on, say, deforestation. You’ll find yourself 20 clicks and 30 minutes deep before you remember that you didn’t come here to discover the hottest eco-inspired baby names. Which is to say, the world of environmental blogs could use some curation. Toward that end, here are ten (well, 11) bookmark-worthy blogs that offer consistently noteworthy, compelling reportage on the environment.It wasn’t an easy list to whittle down, and your own personal favorite may be missing. HuffPost Green, for example, has certainly bolstered its editorial staff and original content, but it’s still a challenge to find and focus on the news amid an onslaught of celebrity posts and OMG headlines. Here are some more honorable mentions: Time’s Ecocentric, which does a good job covering business and energy; RealClimate’s commentary, a blog written by working climate scientists that is can’t miss for climate nerds; Civil Eats, if food is your thing; and Streetsblog, which obsessively covers transportation and planning.The sites we list each cover a range of topics. None are comprehensive, but together they’ll keep you on target as you wend your way through the so-called green blogosphere.10. Grist and Treehugger (Tie)
9. OnEarth Blog
8. The Guardian: Environment Blog
7. Discovery News: Earth
6. High Country News: The Goat
5. The Cleanest Line
4. The New York Times: Dot Earth
3. Mother Jones: Blue Marble
2. Yale Environment 360
1. The New York Times: Green


A Real Scandal (or two, or three)

OK, now that Climategate 2.0 is being summarily and properly dismissed (see the media coverage  here and here), there is a story journalists might want to pursue. The real “climategate” scandal that Rep. Ed Markey is calling upon Congress  to investigate: Cyber-theft, intentionally spreading lies as the Durban talks approach, and the continued harassment of honest, reputable scientists.  Below is a good summary of some background about what we have been following the past few days, and where, in an ideal world, attention would now turn.


Click here to read “The Real Climategate Scandals are Piling Up.”

(Re-posted yesterday (11/23/11) at ThinkProgress Green, it is a piece by Stephan Lewandowsky, Australian Professorial Fellow, Cognitive Science Laboratories at the University of Western Australia. This post was originally published at The Conversation)


Swift Boat Sinks: In Surprise Move, Journalists Debunk Deniers

Follow-up to yesterday’s post:

After the Associated Press and Washington Post hastily released thoughtless dispatches that took yesterday’s smear campaign at face value, journalists are now, surprisingly, beginning to occupy journalism.

After posting an early heads-up to the Fourth Estate not to take the baloney released yesterday too seriously (Memo To Media: Research First, Then Report On Climate Emails), Jocelyn Fong at MediaMatters later explained how the AP and Washington Post stories were so amateur (Media Already Botching Reports on Hacked Climate Emails). I went to sleep a bit depressed, but woke up to find much better coverage by the Post, the BBC, the New York Times, Time, Politico, and others.

Peter Sinclair’s blog has a nice summary of the turnaround in in “Bad News for Deniers: Grown-Ups Weigh in on E-Mail Leftovers.” It is reposted below, including the BBC video, posted on YouTube by a disgruntled denier.


But first, in a related story for which we should give some thanks this week, Brad Johnson at ThinkProgress Green informs us that Rep. Ed Markey is calling for a congressional investigation into the e-mail theft and re-release:

Markey Calls For Intel Investigation Of Unsolved Climate Hacking Incident | Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) has called on the United States intelligence community to uncover the Climategate hackers who stole emails from climate scientists and released them in advance of two major climate negotiations. “This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the international climate talks for a second time, and there has not been enough attention paid to who is responsible for these illegal acts,” said Markey. “If this happened surrounding nuclear arms talks, we would have the full force of the Western world’s intelligence community pursuing the perpetrators. And yet, with the stability of our climate hanging in the balance with these international climate treaty negotiations, these hackers and their supporters are still on the loose. It is time to bring them to justice.”


From Climate Denial Crock of the Week
with Peter Sinclair

Bad News for Deniers: Grown-ups Weigh in on Email Leftovers

November 23, 2011

The Journalistic first-stringers are starting to react, and climate denialists don’t like it – note the title of the snippet from BBC above, posted on youtube, apparently by a disgruntled climate-conspiracy crank – “AlJaBeeba Does Climategate 2″.
Hmmm, I’m guessing the anti-muslim slur is a clue, once again, as to the intellectual strata we are dealing with…..

24 hours in, one thing that’s different from round one, 2 years ago, is that scientists, bloggers and journalists on the side of reason have become organized and ready to respond to these guerilla attacks, and within hours of the first release, there was a major, organized push-back on the web, with top level scientists weighing in and putting out-of-context material in perspective.
It appears that the rapidly-jelling mainstream perspective will indeed be guided by the maxim “Fool me once…”

OK, now I can go pick up my turkey.


The new e-mails appeared remarkably similar to the ones released two years ago just ahead of a similar conference in Copenhagen. They involved the same scientists and many of the same issues, and some of them carried a similar tone: catty remarks by the scientists, often about papers written by others in the field.

A string of investigations following the 2009 release all came to the conclusion that scientists had not manipulated data to support their findings, though some of the reports did criticize them on minor points, such as failing to share their data or to respond properly to freedom of information requests.

Michael E. Mann, a Pennsylvania State University scientist who wrote or received some of the e-mails, said they showed the opposite of any conspiracy, demonstrating instead that climate science is a vigorous enterprise where scientists were free to argue over conclusions. “Scientists rely on the ability to have frank, sometimes even contentious discussions with each other,” Dr. Mann said in an interview Tuesday. “Science requires that.”

In one of the e-mails, Raymond S. Bradley, director of the Climate System Research Center at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, criticized a paper that Dr. Mann wrote with the climate scientist Phil Jones, which used tree rings and similar markers to find that today’s climatic warming had no precedent in recent natural history. Dr. Bradley, who has often collaborated with Dr. Mann, wrote that the 2003 paper “was truly pathetic and should never have been published.”

Dr. Bradley confirmed in an interview that the e-mail was his, but said his comment had no bearing on whether global warming was really happening. “I did not like that paper at all, and I stand by that, and I am sure that I told Mike that” at the time, he said. But he added that a disagreement over a single paper had little to do with the overall validity of climate science. “There is no doubt we have a big problem with human-induced warming,” Dr. Bradley said. “Mike’s paper has no bearing on the fundamental physics of the problem that we are facing.”

Some of the other e-mails involved comments about problems with the computer programs used to forecast future climate, known as climate models. For instance, a cryptic e-mail apparently sent by Dr. Jones, a researcher at East Anglia, said, “Basic problem is that all models are wrong — not got enough middle and low level clouds.”

Gavin A. Schmidt, a climate modeler at NASA, said he found such exchanges unremarkable. He noted that difficulties in modeling were widely acknowledged and disclosed in the literature. Indeed, such problems are often discussed at scientific meetings in front of hundreds of people.

Of the new release of e-mails, Dr. Schmidt said, “It smacks of desperation.”

Washington Post – Capital Weather Gang:

The “new” emails (not new in that they are from 2009 and earlier) – while trumpeted by some climate skeptics as “spectacular” and draining life from the manmade global warming movement – mean little substantively from a scientific standpoint, just like the set that preceded them.

The climate skeptic blogosphere has been quick to cherry pick certain snippets from the emails they claim show dissension within the climate science ranks, perhaps to demonstrate scientists may express more doubt about their confidence in the science in private than they do in public.

Time – “Climategate 2.0: A Weak Sequel” –

Otherwise the new batch of emails seem to add little to what was raised two years ago. Climate scientists—especially when you quote selectively from emails they think are not for public viewing—can be hypersensitive to criticism and clannish. Within the climate science world, there are clearly differences of opinions on aspects of climate science, on the certainty of models and on the confidence we can have in any sweeping assessment of global warming. Those differences come out in the emails, sometimes very bluntly—but that to me isn’t evidence of some kind of international conspiracy, but rather the not always pretty process of science and collective decision-making happening in real time.

Here’s an example: in the Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin quotes one of  the hacked emails:

An official from the U.K. Met Office [Peter Thorne], a scientific organization which analyzes the climate, writes to the Climate Research Unit’s then-director Phil Jones at one point: “Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary […]”

Later, the official adds, “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”

That might sound bad, although again, this appears to be part of a back-and-forth. But as Jocelyn Fong of the liberal press watchdog group Media Matters writes, these emails were sent in February 2005 and were discussing a first draft of what would become part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment. The final version of the chapter the two scientists were quarreling about seemed to reflect Thorne’s concerns, and cited his research several times. Isn’t that what this process supposed to be about?

Politico -”Scientists Scoff at Stolen Emails”:

Climate skeptics see gold in the latest batch of stolen emails from a British university server, purportedly showing that scientists colluded and propped up their data to demonstrate that greenhouse gases are changing the planet.

But just as a similar 2009 document dump mattered little in unraveling the scientific consensus on global warming, the 5,300 new emails and other files that surfaced on a Russian computer server Tuesday inspired little worry among researchers that the fact of human-caused climate change is in danger of being undermined.


Breaking Story: Climategate Redux? (Nah, Broken Story, Except for the Theft, the Smear Campaign, and the Upcoming Press Coverage)

Here we go again. Wat are the headlines going to look like? “More Damaging E-Mails Shed Doubt on Climate Science” or “Discredited Attempt to Cast Doubt About Climate Change Recycled by Thieves in New Smear Campaign”

In a concerted effort to confuse the public about firmly established science and discredit the highly reputable and honest scientists who collectively wrote it, e-mails have been hacked, snippets of perfectly ordinary backchat have been taken out of context and posted online. They are no doubt very busy preparing the story at Faux News and the Murdoch outlets. Wondering how the mainstream media will react this time.  Scant attention was paid to the fact that last time, in 2009, the stolen e-mails and accusations turned up no evidence whatsoever that challenged the scientific findings. Jon Stewart and Comedy Central appear to have been one of the few “news shows” to have noticed this:




This comes just on heels of the recent IPCC report about the connection between climate change and extreme weather, which played it awfully safe in making its claims.  And just before the talks in South Africa.

As the story is developing today, it turns out  that much of the material surfacing on the internet is recycled from 2009.  The Union of Concerned Scientists has just issued a statement which includes this (click here for the full statement):

WASHINGTON (Nov. 22, 2011)—In an apparent effort to discredit climate science, hackers again posted stolen emails from leading climate scientists online today, just days ahead of a United Nations climate meeting. According to the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, the emails released today are part of the same batch that was stolen from the university years ago. Only some of those emails were released in November 2009. Since then, multiple investigations exonerated scientists who had their emails stolen of misconduct.

“These leftover emails should be met with a collective yawn,” said Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Scientific Integrity Program. “It’s time to condemn the real perpetrators in this story: the hackers who stole and released university property. The hackers and their allies are resorting to desperate measures to distract the public when our focus should be on how to respond to climate change.”


Check back tomorrow for more.  In the meanwhile, see these posts from:

Jocelyn Fong at MediaMatters here

Brad Johnson’ at ThinkProgress Green here

Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones here


Unfreakingbelievable: Score Another One for Congressional Climate Deniers

Congressional Republicans have killed a reorganization at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that would have created a National Climate Service, the purpose of which would have been to make scientific information about climate available in one place, like NOAA’s National Weather Service.

NoAA was not seeking any funding to do so, and that the reason for the reorganization was that it is attempting to meet an overwhelming demand for the data through e-mail requests and other unwieldy means.  It seems to be precisely the dissemination of scientific information at the core of GOP objections.

See today’s Washington Post for the story.  Here are a few snippets:

“’Our hesi­ta­tion,’ Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) told Lubchenco at a hearing in June, ‘is that the climate services could become little propaganda sources instead of a science source.’

At the same hearing, a key opponent to the service, Rep. Ralph M. Hall (R-Tex.), said he recognized that ‘certain climate services can provide value.’ But he fretted that the reorganization would ‘severely harm vital research at NOAA.’”

In September, Hall’s tone turned decidedly less friendly. As chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he launched an investigation of NOAA. Hall claimed the agency was operating “a shadow climate service operation” without congressional approval.”


°See two excellent pieces about the earlier incarnation of this story (last June) by Jocelyn Fong and Ben Wolfgang at MediaMatters here.

°Also click here to see the language of the recent resolution and other details at Brad Johnson’s ThinkProgress Green (earlier today)


Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, wrote an opinion piece and call to action worth reading.  See it, and a video illustrating what we were both writing the other day,  just below.

Also, some have asked for more specific information about voter suppression at the state level. Read the report from NYU’s Brennan Center here and Scott Keyes post on ThinkProgress (10/31/11 ) here.

Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, just published an opinion piece and call to action on exactly this topic.  Read it here.

Also see (below) the video he mentions.



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