Romm Versus Revkin, Round 279

Joe Romm, the self-appointed climate journalism watchdog, goes bananas over this story by Andy Revkin. After a meanering 2,400 word critique, Romm hands down his judgment in bold:

Revkin should retract this entire piece.

At least he didn’t demand that Revkin apologize to humanity. That’s (climate) progress of a sort.

But seriously, if anyone wants to get all lathered up over the real conundrum, this is the essential part from Revkin’s piece that should keep climate advocates awake at night, not the issue of temperature variability:

At best, said Robert J. Brulle, a sociologist at Drexel University, global warming remains an abstraction for many people.

“It does not have the direct visual or emotive impact of seeing seabirds covered in oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill,” he said.

7 Responses to “Romm Versus Revkin, Round 279”

  1. Deep Climate says:

    Keith,
    I don’t think you and I read the same piece by Romm. Sure, the one I read had Romm’s characteristically over-the-top rhetoric, just like the one you read.

    But “meandering critique”? Right at the top of the piece that <i>I </i> read there were two inaccurate statements quoted from Revkin. And guess what? Both of those egregious errors have since been corrected in Revkin’s piece. (I do hope the corrections made it into print – I still don’t know).

    Sure, it’s hard to convince people of the urgency of climate change. But Revkin’s confused analysis of short-term temperature trends only lends comfort to contrarian spinmeisters like Patrick Michaels and Marc Morano. Revkin’s confusion, which mirrors that of other sincere but misinformed journalists (yes, that includes Fred Pearce of New Scientist), is part of the problem.

    Based on the two articles, I would say Revkin is the nicer guy, but that Romm has a much better understanding of climate science. No contest on either score.

    See:
    http://deepclimate.org/2009/09/25/nyts-andy-revkin-backtracks-but-not-nearly-enough/

  2. Deep Climate says:

    Keith,
    The silence is eerie. Aren’t you at least going to acknowledge that you missed Revkin’s two most egregious errors and that Romm was the first to point them out?

    You and Revkin should be thanking Romm, as hard as that it is for you to swallow, especially if the corrections made it into the print edition (I still don’t know whether they did).

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    I haven’t seen the corrections, but I’ll take you at your word. So? Does that negate the thrust of Revkin’s story? I doubt it.

  4. Deep Climate says:

    Keith,
    I disagree with you, but I won’t repeat all the arguments here. You can read my post if you’re interested in following up. The two corrections were needed, but the story’s  thrust is problematic with or without the corrections.

    So … you read both Romm and Revkin, but didn’t notice the two obvious discrepancies that I discussed?

  5. John Fleck says:

    In the sturm und drang over this story, I’m puzzled over the lack of credit given to Revkin for what journalists call the “nut graph” – the summary paragraph at the top of the story that explains what it’s all about:

    “Scientists say the pattern of the last decade “” after a precipitous rise in average global temperatures in the 1990s “” is a result of cyclical variations in ocean conditions and has no bearing on the long-term warming effects of greenhouse gases building up in the atmosphere.” (emphasis added)

    Clear, unambiguous, and precisely the core message that those of us who care about climate communication ought to applaud.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    But John, you’re reading the story in context, which is the rational approach.

    Those with political or ideological agendas much prefer to isolate and accentuate certain passages; hence we have seen Morano applaud the story and Romm et al damn it (partially, and illogically, because Morano lauds it). 

    Both sides conveniently ignored the nut graph you pointed out.

  7. Deep Climate says:

    John, Keith,
    That paragraph still misses the point. For example, in the NASA GISTemp, the 2000s rose more relative to the 1990s than the 1990s did relative to the 1980s.

    The paragraph is still discussing trends *within* each decade. But the the point is that such patterns might give a misleading impression of the long term trend (especially when spun by the likes of Patrick Michaels and Marc Morano). The fact is that the *long term trend of observed global surface temperature*, by any measure,  stands higher today than it did at the beginning of the decade, and that global warming continued during the 2000s relative to previous decades. Thus it is misleading from a statistical point of view to refer to a “pause” or “hiatus” (much less “cooling”) in recent years. That paragraph does nothing to clear up that general confusion that permeates Revkin’s piece.

    As far as I can see, Joe Romm understands this issue better than Andrew Revkin.

    But I was happy to see that NYT published John Broder’s re-examiniation of the so-called “suppression”  of Alan Carlin scant hours after I suggested Revkin should do so.

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