Romm: Global Warming is the Only Correct Answer

Just for kicks, here’s my revisions to the opening paragraph in this Climate Progress post:

Another week, another New York Times article Joe Romm post on extreme weather that fails to stretches climate science to simplistically connect the dots to global warming for the public.  The NYT Romm blew the Arizona wildfire storyThey He blew the Dust Bowl story.

And now, “one of the most influential global-warming blogs on the Internet” (according to Time magazine) has blown the Southwestern drought story. As Romm has so often reminded us, the media is remiss when it doesn’t connect disasters such as Australian wildfires and Russian heat waves to global warming. (The same goes for Arab revolts.) So, predictably perturbed at this NYT story, Romm titles his post:

NY Times Asks Why “Horrible” U.S. Drought “Has Come on Extra Hot and extra Early.” Their Answer is…La Nina, Of Course!”

Well, actually, that’s what NOAA’s David Miskus says in the NYT story:

A strong La Niña shut off the southern pipeline of moisture.

And, as I pointed out yesterday, that’s also what Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman reported in his WaPo’s Capital Weather Gang blog:

The drought was caused in part by La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which altered the main storm track across North America, helping to steer storms across the northern tier, leaving southern areas desperate for rain. Although La Nina has waned, there are increasing signs that it may redevelop this fall or winter, according to the latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center.

But if you absolutely, positively must mention global warming when discussing the Southwestern drought, Freedman shows us how to do it in a responsible fashion, in his next passage (my emphasis):

However, La Nina wasn’t the only force behind the drought, says [Marty] Hoerling, who leads a group of climate change attribution sleuths at NOAA. For now, though, the co-conspirators remain unknown. Although climate science research shows that droughts are likely to become more intense and more frequent in a warming world, particularly in the Southwestern US, observational evidence does not yet show clear trends in drought conditions in the U.S. to date.

Hoerling says his quick analysis led him to conclude that climate change has not played a major role in this event. “This is not a climate change drought by all indications,” he said, adding that this view does not in any way refute the fact that global warming is occurring, either.

Joe Romm, for all his blustery criticism of journalism, could take some pointers from an actual climate journalist like Freedman.

13 Responses to “Romm: Global Warming is the Only Correct Answer”

  1. Dean says:

    While Romm adds a lot of bluster to his posts, as any political operative would, the more general point is that while the AGW signal has not yet emerged from the statistics for most of these types of events, the likelihood of an eventual connection is worth discussing and keeping in people’s minds – regularly.
     
    Using statistics to prove the AGW-extreme weather connection is kind of like epidemiology. The tools probably miss a lot of connections.
     
    Given the nature of extreme events, seeing that signal unequivocally emerge is going to be the last, and probably by then anticlimactic, aspect of the issue. For those who accept the broad science behind AGW, and the 4% or so extra moisture in the atmosphere, the connection is pretty obvious.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    “…the likelihood of an eventual connection is worth discussing..”

    I’m not averse to that at all. (Look at what I bolded in Freedman’s post.) I just think there’s a more credible way to go about it.

  3. Dean says:

    If you go to the US Climate Extremes Index website and go to the plot designer and choose the warm season (as opposed to all year or winter, etc) and the PDSI (Palmer Drought Severity Index), there appears to be a trend to me. This is over 100 years.
     
    I think the trend is much more pronounced when plotting only over the warm season than all year. While the trend is less pronounced or not visible for other choices of seasons, in none is it reversed.
     
    I do not know what the issues are in such seasonal choices, nor do I know what kind of statistical significance there is in the trend that I see. But this only reinforces the validity of discussing the potential connection for those who don’t think so.

  4. jeffn says:

    What makes this so funny to the rest of us are two indisputable points:
    If it were wet in the Southwest right now, there is absolutely no question that Joe Romm would be claiming that the wetness was irrefutably connected to AGW. In other words, he clearly doesn’t care what the headline is as long as the headline problem is attributed to man.
    Secondly- because point number one is so obviously true, nobody pays attention to the claims anymore- noting that the Romms of the world will say the opposite tomorrow.
    So, back to how folks like me “lack information.”

  5. Dean says:

    Jeff – Who knows, maybe the southwest monsoon will lead to flash floods, and yes, Romm and others will point to it.
     
    The point here is that AGW is really climate change and many types of climate change aside from warmth can help to make the case. It is not a simplistic process in which one way is proof and the other disproves. The most likely evidence against AGW is to have no change over the decades.
     
    Doubters may use this to hang their hat on, but supporters of AGW science have long said that extremes in both directions will occur in different places, so this is nothing new. And it is why some of us prefer the phrase Climate Change as it is more accurate in general than Global Warming.

  6. EdG says:

    5. Dean. Methinks you qualify as a “climate change attribution sleuth,” or to be more precise, an ‘AGW attribution promoter.’

    I make that distinction because 1) AGW and ‘climate change’ are, in reality, two different things; and 2) a “sleuth” suggests you would be looking for a link when clearly you already see it everywhere. 

    So, let me rephrase your statement:

    The point here is that climate change is really climate change and many types of climate change aside from warmth can help to make the case that the climate always changes. It is not a simplistic process in which one way is proof and the other disproves. The most likely evidence against climate change is to have no change over the decades – but that NEVER HAPPENS because the climate always changes.
     
    Or to put it another way, if AGW causes everything then what is the difference between AGW belief and a religion?

  7. EdG says:

    Keith – Great post you have written here. I agree. This desperate attempt to claim that ‘AGW causes everything’ is the kind of common-sense-defying wolf crying that is rapidly eroding the  credibility remains in the AGW camp.

    If AGW causes everything it also causes nothing. 

  8. Dean says:

    @6
     
    Ed – Please feel free to continue to rewrite what I say so that it doesn’t mean what I wrote if it suits you. Somebody else will be paying attention.

  9. thingsbreak says:

    You cite Freedman pretty positively, but:
     
    Andrew Freedman – “New York Times Publishes a Searing Drought Story, But Completely Misses the Climate Change Angle
     
    Is Freedman really making that much of a different point than Romm? I’m not sure I agree, Keith.

  10. thingsbreak says:

    I don’t see much of a difference between Freedman and Romm (on this issue), and neither does Freedman, apparently:
     
    “when it came to providing readers with a thorough understanding of the drought’s causes, Severson and Johnson left out the elephant in the room “” global climate change, and pinned the entire drought on one factor, La Niña. For this, it was overly simplistic, and even just downright inaccurate.”
     
    “The fact that the Times story detailed both the drought and the record heat accompanying it, yet left out any mention of climate change, was a particularly puzzling error of omission. Hoerling, for one, pointed to the extreme heat seen during this drought as a possible sign of things to come, as climate change helps produce dangerous combinations of heat and drought.”
     
    “Texas had its warmest June on record, for example, and on June 26th, Amarillo, Texas recorded its warmest temperature on record for any month, at 111°F. According to the Weather Channel, parts of Oklahoma and Texas have already exceeded their yearly average number of days at or above 100 degrees, including Oklahoma City, Dallas, and Austin. The heat is related to the drought, because when soil moisture is so low, more of the sun’s energy goes towards heating the air directly.”
     
    “It’s unfortunate that the Times story, which was a searing portrayal of how a drought can impact communities that are already down on their luck due to economic troubles, did not include at least some discussion on climate change. As I’ve shown here, and climate blogger Joe Romm has also pointed out, there was ample evidence to justify raising the climate change topic in that story, and many others like it. After all, if the media doesn’t make an effort to evaluate the evidence on the links between extreme weather and climate change, then how can we expect the public to understand how global warming may affect their lives?”
     
    Now, lest Keith or anyone else believe I am jumping to Romm’s defense- no.
     
    I have had a consistent opinion that these kind of “gotcha” posts by Keith are awful, regardless of who or what “camp” they’re aimed at. I object when he does it to “skeptic” or mainstream science or “green” side alike. This is just another reminder why.

  11. Paul Kelly says:

    Whoever the deniers are, Joe Romm is the best thing that ever happened to them. He started his blog in 2007.
     
    A poll released today says acceptance of climate change as an existential threat has fallen more than 20% since 2007.
     
    What will it take for advocates to realize the ineffectiveness of their message is due to the message itself, its framing, its spokesmen, its partisanship and its  absolutism.

  12. Keith Kloor says:

    Paul (11),

    I don’t think it’s accurate to conflate Joe Romm’s blogging with any downward poll numbers in acceptance of global warming. The larger public has no clue about Romm and the decline you point to is attributable to a number of factors, the biggest being the economic collapse/recession.

    That said, what you assert in your last graph makes total sense.

    EdG: It’s time that skeptics, who don’t all like to be grouped together with the Monkton/Morano crowd, recognized that blanket terms such as “the  AGW camp” effectively do the same thing. Sure there are activists (Romm) and spokesmen (Gore) that are quick to make disaster/global warming connections, but climate scientists by and large (with the exception of maybe Kevin Trenberth) are much more circumspect.

    Here’s a related piece in Salon that trods this ground.

  13. Keith Kloor says:

    TB (9):
    Just got around to reading that Freedman piece in Climate Central. That quite a turnabout from what he wrote a day earlier in his WaPo blog. I might have more to say on it later in the week. Meanwhile, I’ll say this much: I don’t find the the two pieces intellectually consistent.

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